For years I have had a problem at the range. When I tried to focus on the front sight post it would quickly go blurry and so would the target. Not seeing the sights and the target tend to have a negative effect on accuracy. I spoke with my optometrist (who thankfully is also an avid shooter) he diagnosed this as presbyopia. As the eye ages it loses the ability to focus on close objects. I have since converted all of my rifles and some of my larger pistols to use optics but that was proving difficult with concealable pistols.
I tried several different types of high visibility sighting systems and none of these solutions worked for me. Every time I tried to focus on the front sight my sight picture would go haywire. I recently purchased a Smith and Wesson Performance Center 9mm Shield that shipped with fiber optic sights which Sadly, did not resolve my issues. I researched many possible solutions and decided to try out the Trijicon HD Night Sights. I replaced the stock Shield fiber optic sights with the HD’s. The HD front sights are sold with both an orange and yellow insert. I opted for the orange insert as it was easier for me to see.
The HD Night Sights are designed specifically for rapid target engagement at close range. As a member of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in the mid 1990’s we regularly practiced this technique which the Army teaches as Reflexive Fire. Put simply the shooter brings the pistol up to the firing position and focuses on the front sight. As soon as the front sight is lined up with the target the shooter fires. This technique takes practice and proper instruction, but it offers the benefits of speed and a high probability of shots on target at close range under stressful firing conditions. Nick Irving (also a former member of the 75th Ranger Regiment) has an excellent article on front sight focus drills.
I tested the sights with traditional aimed fire and they were definitely more difficult to sight on distant targets. The wider U notch and photoluminescent (glow in the dark) front sight made close engagements much easier but were a definite drawback when it came to long range shooting. The Performance Center Shield has a 3.1” barrel designed for close engagements so the HD sights are a perfect match. The rear sight is serrated which is supposed to cut down on glare. In practice I did not notice a huge difference when compared to other types of black finish.
The Tritium-Phosphor Lamps are some of the brightest I have used. Green tritium lamps are backed by Trijicon for 12 years from the date of manufacture. The reason for this number is simple; tritium has a half life of 12.32 years meaning It will loose half it’s brightness every 12ish years. Plan on replacing night sights every decade or so. Shooting with the HD sights in the dark is very easy; Line up the three green dots and squeeze the trigger.
I went to my local range and rented a standard M&P Shield 9mm that was factory equipped with night sights. Under standard range lighting conditions you can see that the HD front sight is very easy to see. This results in very rapid target acquisition. With the Trijicon HD sights I can finally shoot without worrying about my sight picture. Mike 1 presbyopia 0. As an aside, for all the young people who are reading this and making old jokes, as my father used to say “your time will come”.
Guest Author – Mike Anderson served with Attack Company, 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment for 2 years in the mid 1990’s. After leaving the Army I have transitioned to the technology industry. I am an avid shooter and outdoorsman. I enjoy adapting technology to the outdoors. My wife and our two children reside in Lake Stevens Washington where every fall I coach youth football.