Sights For Old Eyes
Written by Steve Moses, in Section Safety And Education
The ability to clearly see the front sight of the handgun goes a long way towards being able to shoot accurately and with speed. The bane of many older shooters is a medical condition called Presbyopia, which is the normal loss of the ability to focus on close range objects (such as pistol sights). As I understand it, it is primarily caused by the lens of the eye losing elasticity and becoming more rigid. Accurate sighted fire with the handgun with normal sights calls for simultaneously seeing the rear sight, the front sight, and the target in sufficient detail.
Even when we are young it is normally not possible to obtain a sharp focus on all three, but as we age it becomes much more difficult. Without going into a lot of detail in an attempt to explain something in medical terms which I do not fully understand, it is simply not easy for many aging shooters to obtain a satisfactory focus on the rear sight, front sight, and target even with progressive corrective lens. I am aware of competition shooters that will wear glasses or contact lens that correct the dominant eye for near distance and the non-dominant eye for distance. This can work great for the range, but not so great for concealed carry while we go about our everyday life.
I recommend that we train with the same handgun sights and eyeglasses using the same prescription (if any) that we would use for everyday carry. To my way of thinking, I will have enough going on if forced to use a handgun to defend myself without having to also deal with avoidable vision issues. I still believe that it is critically important to be able to see my sights. For me, the answer is obvious: I need a front sight that is visible enough that I can still see it even with less than perfect vision under relatively low-light conditions.
As a long-time defensive handgun instructor, I know that the ability to see the front sight superimposed over the desire point of impact is critical to success. About five years ago, my shooting started to diminish noticeably even though I was still continuing to train at the same pace. As time went on, I found it harder and harder to see my front sight, especially in low light. I managed to qualify on all drills in the Rangemaster Handgun Instructor and Advanced Handgun Instructor courses, but it was an enormous struggle as I could not easily track my heavily blurred front sight during courses of fire that required multiple rapid shots. At 25 yards I could not even see where the top of my front sight was when aiming at an 8” black bullseye.
Earlier this year I had cataract surgery (mine was complicated due to prior RK and Lasik surgeries), and when I went back to the range, I discovered that my front sight had reappeared. Within a couple of range sessions, I was shooting better than ever simply because I could see my front sight and track it in recoil again. This really drove home to me the importance of being able to see the front sight in order to shoot well, which makes sight selection especially important for aging concealed carriers.
My choice for sights is the Ameriglo Pro-Glo Tritium front sights. The front sight contains a tritium lamp and buyer’s choice of a bright orange or luminescent outline. Outline shapes are either circle or square. I couple this with one of their black rear sights, typically the version with rear serrations that reduces glare in bright sunlight. I am not sure how much value the tritium insert adds for most concealed carriers, but both the circle and square outlines are money. As I understand it, both Ken Hackathorn and Dave Spaulding were largely responsible for the development of these sight systems, and it shows.
I do not wish to suggest that older shooters will necessarily be able to see these front sights in sharp detail, but they should be able to see them much better than plain black sights. Front sights with a fiber-optic insert are an option, but as the light fades so does their visibility. Slide-mounted electronic red-dot sights are also an option, but there is a distinct learning curve when it comes to using them effectively, and at the distances in which concealed carriers are typically assaulted such red-dot optics likely offer no significant advantage the majority of the time. I do think that the popularity of quality red-optics will continue to grow in the years to come and they certainly have their place in the hands of certain armed professionals who willingly go into harm’s way.
In summary, aging eyes get a significant boost from high-visibility front sights like the Ameriglo Pro-Glo tritium front sights. There are other sight makers like Trijicon who make similar sights that should work as well. It is up to the concealed carrier as to whether they want a plain black rear sight or one with tritium inserts (I prefer the plain black). Regardless of make or model, a reasonably visible front sight that I can pick up in low light goes a long way towards making me feel that if I am forced to protect myself that I will not end up shooting the proverbial “shot in the dark”.
This article first appeared on CCW SAFE By Steve Moses