Are luminescent sights a best kept secret...

Are luminescent sights a best kept secret...

This is a discussion on Are luminescent sights a best kept secret... within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Of course sights are a application dependent item. E.g. most competitors use FO sights; seems like most SD experts recommend either night sights or plain ...

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  1. #1
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    Are luminescent sights a best kept secret...

    Of course sights are a application dependent item. E.g. most competitors use FO sights; seems like most SD experts recommend either night sights or plain sights. I'm talkin' iron sights here, not electronic.

    My first encounter with luminescent sights was on my Beretta PX4. I thought they were cheap excuses for night sights - kind of a no-man's land between night sights and FO sights. I had limited experience with my PX4 sights because the luminescent dot dropped out of the front sight and that was the end of that.

    Then I traded for a new Hk P30L - guess what? It had luminescent sights! I thought why would anyone put lunimescent sights on a gun that costs over $900

    I took the gun to the indoor range and started shooting. I immediately notice how well I could see the sights. I had not 'charged' them in anyway, or so I thought, more on that in a minute. I figured I was seeing the sights because they were near white, and big, kinda like how Glock sights show up.

    Slowly, I began to realize it was more than just a white dot. The sights had a yellow tint and were very distinct. I shot my standard eval drill as well as I ever have, and realized it was actually easier.

    As I shot with the sights more and more, I realized something was going on that was special with these sights. They were picking up charge somehow, and I was lovin' it!

    One night I gave the sights a really quick burst of light from my Fenix PD31 LED tactical light. I mean just a wink on front and rear. The sights looked like three, rich green lights. They were brighter by far than any night sight I have ever seen.

    It would be good at this point to emphasize I'm just getting to know these sights, so I have a lot to learn yet.

    Here are some pics I made this morning. First, uncharged sights outside in the shade. The sun is low in the sky and bright but I'm in deep shade. Here's what the sights look like by just walking outside - oh, it's harder to line up sights with one hand while lining up a camera with the other, so the sights aren't necessarily aligned, but the point is to show the illumination characteristics of the sights rather than demonstrate my impeccable manual dexterity.

    And we all do realize that pics rarely reproduce what and how the eye sees. While we're at it, I'm holding the gun away from the camera simply to avoid a sharp focus on the rear sights and a blur on the front - I hope that worked!

    So just out of the house:



    Ok, so what about bright sunlight? Well, bright sunlight charges the sights! Take a look. You can actually see the green glow of the front sight:



    OK, now, back inside. Remember I have not done anything but have the sights in sunlight. Here's a pic in reasonable room lighting, i.e. details very clear to the eye, but not quite up to a 'fully' lit room:



    Those green dots do show up don't they!

    Here's a pic in more subdued light:



    At the range, indoor range that is, I notice the sights pick up charge from the flourescent lighting. Not nearly as bright as in the pics, but enough to get a very distinct sight picture. I've always shot from a sight profile, if available, rather than 'dots', but I notice now, I'm putting that dot on the center of the target instead of profiling.

    It's hard to find details about luminescent sight characteristics without out sifting through a bunch unnecessary, uninteresting technical literature. All I want to know is, how long do they stay charged, the discharge profile, and does charging them longer, make them brighter or make them last longer? Also, what is the lifetime in charge discharge cycles or shelf life for that matter?

    Well research and engineering intuition answered the discharge profile thing – it’s exponential as I expected it to be. Don’t have specific times yet, but exponential means it discharges very quickly to a certain level and then discharges much slower at the lower levels. I think that’s a good thing. The sights are almost too bright at full charge. So they dim quickly to a more useable level and stay there for a long time. I’ve charged mine before going to bed and could still see them, in the dark, hours later.

    They charge to a maximum level, again my engineering intuition, says that once they reach that level, further ‘charging’ will have no effect on brightness nor decay characteristics. How’s that, did that sound just a little engineery?

    HK doesn’t know a whole lot about the sights yet, but have been told by Germany that the luminescent sights were as durable as Tritium sights. I have only an idea what they mean by that. Does it mean they have a ‘half-life’ the same as Tritium? Do they mean they are as rugged as Tritium? HK couldn’t address if more frequent charges and discharging affected overall lifetime.

    Summary:
    Well, no sight is going to be everything to everyone for every situation. But my sincere impression right now is they come as close as anything. They show up when night sights don’t; they show up clearly and distinctly in higher light level giving a similar benefit as FO sights. They have large enough dots to be picked up quickly.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but night sights have a problem. The all green Tritium front and rear sights emit the same amount of light. Since the rear sight is significantly closer to the eyes than the front sight, they appear brighter to the eye. I notice that and find that makes it difficult to pick up the front sight sometimes. What about luminescent sights, don’t they do the same thing?

    They can, but you have a choice. You can charge the front sight brighter than the rears! All you have to do is control the intensity you charge the sight with. E.g. with my Fenix PD31, and I have Surefire, Streamlight, and Insight handhelds, my choice by far is the Fenix PD31. Anyway I set my Fenix to a lower intensity level, hit the rear sight for a second, switch to maximum intensity with two taps of the rear switch and hit the front sight for a second – goal achieved just that easy. Of course it helps to have a multiple intensity flashlight like the Fenix PD31 – it’s all I carry now. I also have the Fenix PD32, but I do NOT like the intensity control on it. It’d be pretty difficult to use under pressure.

    And one last word about charging to different intensities. This option will likely be more noticeable when the sights are first charged. As they decay in intensity, I think, again engineering intuition, they will even out some – not completely, but some.

    Clearly I’ve got a lot of work to do regarding these sights – I’d better go shooting without delay. Today will bring my round count for the year to 11,750 – the things I do for this board.
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  2. #2
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    Good stuff, but..... how do I apply this to my Glocks?
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  3. #3
    JD
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    My HK45 has them....I am of mixed feeling of them.

    You'll find that when you have long range sessions that the front sight get cruddy and the rear sight stays clean so you start having trouble focusing on the front sight with those two big yellowish/green dots that close to your face.

    A lot of people don't like the HK45/P30 sights, I've gotten good results with them but think I would still prefer the Heinies.

    As it is now I typically black out the rear dots every couple of weeks, need something more substantial than a Sharpie...maybe some flat black model paint.

    I've always found the three dot sights to be too busy and in the case of these sights it only gets worse as you shoot unless you stop to wipe the crud off the front sight.

  4. #4
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    I have phosflorescent paint on my glock sights. It shows up really well... just like your pics... when I remember to shine a light on them first.

    I've been trying to decide whether to stay with the paint or get different sights. Still undecided.

    I got the paint from the Glo-On company, which advertises on this site

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    I put a Mepro big dot on my SP101. Makes all the difference, light or dark.


  6. #6
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    Philly Boy - here's something for your Glocks and most anything else you have...

    Nitesiters Handgun Night Sights

    Personally, I think they're the greatest invention since sliced bread, and they will amaze you with the much faster aiming ability once you get used to using them. I've tried a number of good laser sights on a couple of my SD handguns and ended up tossing them in my drawer full of other expensive failures because they're too bulky, have to be switched on, and I found myself very slow on the aim because I was having to look down range (even at close distances) trying to find the laser spot instead of quickly point-shooting my first shot and sighting in the following ones.

    Even though point-shooting involves a lot of regular practice at instantly making eye/hand alignment, it's amazing how much better the three dots (or "U" rear / dot front) provide a much faster "automatic" weapon alignment even during fast point-shooting because your eye can't help but catch the bright 3-dot array regardless of the brightness or darkness of ambient light conditions.

    One of the biggest reasons I became practiced at point-shooting many years ago was because, more often than not, the amount of ambient light and/or position of the sun made it almost impossible to see or distinguish standard iron pistol sights well enough for any kind of fast and dependable sight picture. However, the luminescent dots will quickly spoil you after you take a little time to get used to quickly bringing them up to your line of sight because eye/hand alignment of the 3-dot array soon becomes almost automatic - and much faster than trying to get a sight picture through an open notch (or hunting for a lazer spot on your target) in unfavorable light conditions.

    I've heard there are places that will drill and inlay the dots into many different sights (for a nice hunk of change), but these will work very well and let you decide if they speed up your aiming in any light like they did for me. They serve no real purpose for target shooting, but for quick-draw SD applications, I've found them to be very valuable.
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    Night sights can be useful. The only issue I have ever had in night shooting is being to quick and confusing the front sight with one of the rear dots, throwing me off to the left or right. For this reason I like either no night sights or just the from illuminated.

    Those stick on sight look like a good option. I may try those.

    Good post Tangle. I have always wondered about those sights.
    With a charge, do they last all night?
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    I made the mistake of buying night sight paint from the same company that makes Duracoat. The glow lasted all of about 15 minutes and then total black. Complete waste of time and money unless you have time to charge the sights with a bright LED flashlight before you have to point your gun at anything.

    Meprolights or Trijicons.....everything else goes very dim, very quick. Waste.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonker1986 View Post
    I made the mistake of buying night sight paint from the same company that makes Duracoat. The glow lasted all of about 15 minutes and then total black. Complete waste of time and money unless you have time to charge the sights with a bright LED flashlight before you have to point your gun at anything.

    Meprolights or Trijicons.....everything else goes very dim, very quick. Waste.
    I completely agree here...Trijs or Meps for me, too!
    The paint for gun sights is a wasted effort...if you were dependent upon sights at the wrong 'dark' time, you'd be up the creek without a paddle.OMO
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    Distinguished Member Array matthew03's Avatar
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    Germany has some kind of crazy regulation and HK can't use tritium vials, so no real night sights. They are stuck using glow paint instead.

    At least this is what I've read somewhere along the way.

  11. #11
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    That may be true for paint; but there are other options for luminescent (non-paint based) sights. I'll put my lumies up against any night sight for the first 30 minutes and they'll be brighter. After that they'll be about the same or a little brighter for a while.

    Night sights have intensity problems. That 10 years often quoted is the half life. That means in 10 years they will be half as bright as they were new. But, it also means they've been dimming all along and there's nothing you can do about it.

    Lumies can be refreshed easily, work in complete darkness and help in bright light too.

    I'm not trying to sell them, I'm still working with them too. But I can tell you this; I can take my brand new Sig Lites to indoor range and I don't get any help from the Tritium. OTOH, my lumies are unmistakeably more visible than plain or night sights.

    As for dirt accumulation, wouldn't it be a problem for any colored sight or Tritium sights? I have a dirt problem with my M&P front sight and it's neither a lumie or a night sight.

    I have seen the dirt problem though, but it took a lot of shooting to make a difference and then it can be cleaned quickly. Still dirt accumulation could be an issue in competitive shooting.

    Here's a close up of my lumie after 100 rounds:

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    Member Array Eaglebeak's Avatar
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    I've found the same good qualities that Tangle mentioned, and the lumies are in no way comparable to the sight paint which is lame and lasts only a few minutes at best.

    At least for me, getting "used to" the lumie dots was to change the way I generally focused my eyes on iron sights during a quick draw, raise, and fire that would normally be required for a fast SD response. Just as the weapon came up to the aim point toward the target, my eye would be initially focused on the rear sight notch to quickly try lining up the front sight for a sharp "sight picture" on the target - while the target itself wasn't the main focus of view during the initial sight alignment process.

    However, since the lumie dots are readily visible even in bright sunlight, my initial eye focus is on the target instead of the pistol sights. Just as soon as the pistol rises to the aim point position, the three lumie dots come into my field of vision and are quickly and easily aligned without shifting my eye focus off the target. Once again, they aren't for precise target shooting; but for a quick SD point/aim/shoot, they beat the heck out of regular iron sights in any light conditions.

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    VIP Member Array zonker1986's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matthew03 View Post
    Germany has some kind of crazy regulation and HK can't use tritium vials, so no real night sights. They are stuck using glow paint instead.

    At least this is what I've read somewhere along the way.
    silly Germans. No wonder all my ancestors were crazy.
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    JD
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    Quote Originally Posted by matthew03 View Post
    Germany has some kind of crazy regulation and HK can't use tritium vials, so no real night sights. They are stuck using glow paint instead.

    At least this is what I've read somewhere along the way.
    That's true, but there are after market sights available from Heinie, Trijicon, etc. and now that some of the guns are being made in the US, they are turning up with factory installed Trijicons.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tangle View Post

    ...

    As for dirt accumulation, wouldn't it be a problem for any colored sight or Tritium sights? I have a dirt problem with my M&P front sight and it's neither a lumie or a night sight.

    I have seen the dirt problem though, but it took a lot of shooting to make a difference and then it can be cleaned quickly. Still dirt accumulation could be an issue in competitive shooting.

    My issue with them isn't so much that the get dirty, of course all sights are going to get dirty, the issue becomes when they get dirty enough so that the front sight is "duller" than the rear and the rear becomes harder to track. Making the rear darker helps negate this issue. The front sight I really don't have an issue with and in terms of night sights in general getting dirty, the odds of me firing over 100 rds at night (or whatever # of rounds is required) to obscure the tritium vial is pretty slim and I can live with that.

    But what happens if the front sight is obscured and then does not receive a charge when needed? Say you're taking a night course and shooting a lot, then go to recharge your sights, then you have to clean it and charge it...

    Any way, so far I'm ok with what's on the gun, 10-8 is working on releasing so products for the HK 45 (sights are compatible with the 30) and I can't wait to see what they come out with for a rear. I'd like to see some options other than the Heinies for a wide notch rear sight, and a brass bead front to go with it would be nice too.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JD View Post
    ...My issue with them isn't so much that the get dirty, of course all sights are going to get dirty, the issue becomes when they get dirty enough so that the front sight is "duller" than the rear and the rear becomes harder to track. Making the rear darker helps negate this issue. The front sight I really don't have an issue with and in terms of night sights in general getting dirty, the odds of me firing over 100 rds at night (or whatever # of rounds is required) to obscure the tritium vial is pretty slim and I can live with that.

    But what happens if the front sight is obscured and then does not receive a charge when needed? Say you're taking a night course and shooting a lot, then go to recharge your sights, then you have to clean it and charge it...
    But again, what if the front night sight is obscured? Wouldn't that be the same problem? And, I don't know but what charging the lumie is an advantage. Before you go into dark danger, you'd charge the sight, then look at it to see if it's ready - kinda the equivalent of press checking. However, if a night sight is obscured unless we check it as SOP we could go into the dark thinking we have a front night sight when we don't.

    I guess it's like I said in the OP, "...no sight is going to be everything to everyone for every situation."

    I think we're both thinking about the same about the Hk lumies, I like them, but I still think the final 'word' remains to be seen.
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