One of the best parts about owning a firearm, is customizing it for your needs. Some people get a bit excessive adding attachments to their weapons that are overkill or redundant. However, oftentimes people wonder about the best way to maintain accuracy when firing their weapon in low light. So, should you have night sights or a flashlight on your pistol? Night sights offer the best opportunity for improved accuracy with minimal impact to the contour of your weapon. However, a flashlight can offer increased visibility of your target, but alters the shape of your weapon causing increased bulk. Ideally, you would have both attachments, but this can be difficult for everyday carry.
First I’m going to discuss the purpose of each platform, because although it seems clear often times people believe these attachments serve the same function. Next I’ll get into the cost and availability of each. Finally, I’ll discuss the advantages, and disadvantages of both glow in the dark night sights, and pistol mounted lights.
Night sights, also known as Tritium sights, or glow in the dark sights are integrated into the iron sights on your pistol. Typically, there are three dots that match the sight profiles, two on the rear and one on the front. In normal light, either artificial or natural, those dots appear white. However, in night time, or in low light conditions the dots glow a fluorescent green.
The dots allow for proper sight alignment when aiming and/or firing your weapon. These sights do not illuminate or make clear your target, but instead ensure you are not breaking your wrist when aiming, or other shooting technique errors.
Purpose of Flashlight
Unlike Tritium sights, the purpose of the flashlight is to illuminate your target to improve your field of vision in low light conditions. Flashlight attachments for you pistol offer minimal assistance when aiming. The target area is in front of the muzzle, and while there may be residual illumination that can assist with aiming it is not the primary purpose of this attachment. Some of these attachments have multiple settings that can also disorient a would be attacker, and offer varying degrees of illumination.
Cost Comparison of Night Sights vs. Flashlights
While both of these attachments are typically aftermarket parts, sometimes firearms will come with Tritium sights from the factory. However, if you’re investing in enhancements for your pistol, you’ll be shelling out some dollars for a quality product. Your pistols’ model and the brand of night sights, may impact the cost of the accessory. Furthermore, if you only equip the front or rear site it can cut down on your costs.
Tritium Sights Cost
One of the most popular brands that provides Tritium sights is TruGlo. Ordering from TruGlo website directly, you can expect to pay roughly $90 for a set of front and rear sights for most Glock models. However, you can find a cheaper set elsewhere, and a set of front and rear sights will run you roughly $45 – $70 dollars.
If you’re looking for a complete listing of Tritium sights provided by TruGlo and the available models for the best prices check out their page on Amazon. While front (or rear) sights may be available for individual purchase, I recommend getting a set since you need both for this type of sight to be effective.
Pistol Light Cost
Now that you know roughly what quality night sights go for, let’s examine what you can reasonably expect to pay for a pistol flashlight. However, before we get further along, it’s worth noting that many pistol lights come equipped with various features that can impact their cost. Things like built in lasers, integration with your pistols’ trigger, select-able modes can all affect the pricing of the pistol light. As with anything, brand can also impact the price of your flashlight.
Lower end models of pistol lights will run you roughly $20-$30. Middle of the road and higher end pistol light models will cost between $50 – $150, with some models exceeding $200. While this can seem excessive, flashlights that attach to your pistol can serve multiple purposes. Tritium sights serve only one function, which can account for some of the difference in cost.
Should you look to purchase both night sights and a pistol light, you can expect to spend about $175 for a quality setup. If you’re looking for a quality product then I highly recommend the Streamlight TLR-1 available on Amazon, and featured above.
Considerations When Selecting Attachments
When selecting your low light setup, you’ll need to take into consideration a host of factors. It’s important to know what the make and model of pistol you own, and whether it is full size, compact, or sub-compact. Your options may be limited based solely on the model, or sizing, or a combination of both.
Accessories like pistol flashlights also require your firearm to be equipped with a picatinny rail in order to be attached. If the light you choose interacts with your trigger, then ensure you have a safe action style trigger.
Advantages of Night Sights
Night sights are great for enhancing your ability to properly aim in low light conditions. Glow in the dark sights are effective in both low light and regular light conditions, because of the contrast in both situations. When in normal light, the white dots on your night sights contrast with the black of the rear and front sights. However, in low light and no light conditions, they are the only thing visible, and aligning the three dots is even easier without any visual noise to complicate things.
Unlike other attachments, there is no need to change out any batteries on your night sights. There is no maintenance for these sights, you set and forget them. Another benefit of glow in the dark night sights is that they won’t interfere with your everyday carry needs. The contour of your weapon doesn’t change much, if at all, when swapping out your stock sights for glow in the dark sights. Because night sights don’t alter the shape of your weapon, it’s much easier to select a holster that will work with your pistol.
Disadvantages of Glow In The Dark Night Sights
The list of disadvantages of night sights is minimal. One disadvantage is that these sights are not easily swapped out, you’ll need gunsmithing tools in order to remove them. However, because of their multi light application, you really shouldn’t ever need to remove them and replace with the stock iron sights.
After a little research, I did find that night sights do have a half life of 12 years, so you may need to replace them eventually. Furthermore, the glow in the dark sights will get dimmer as time passes. With no way to re-charge night sights, replacement is your only option.
Advantages of Mounted Flashlights
Pistol lights are great ways to illuminate your target in low light conditions. A mounted flashlight will not assist with proper sight alignment, but it will ensure you know what target you are aiming at.
Many pistol mounted flashlights also come with multiple settings. A strobe effect on your flashlight will disorient and possibly blind an assailant, while still providing you a clear view of your target. Furthermore, some versions of gun mounted flashlights offer a red dot, which will help correct your aim, which offers similar benefits to glow in the dark sights.
If you’re fortunate enough to integrate with your Glock trigger, there’s no need to keep your light on until you’re ready to fire. This simplifies your aiming, so you don’t need to use your non-dominant hand to control the light. Furthermore, flashlights are relatively easy to remove from your picatinny rail system, should you choose to concealed carry and not need it.
Disadvantages of Pistol Mounted Flashlights
While having a mounted flashlight is an advantageous accessory to have in your arsenal, it’s not without its’ limitations. First and foremost, is the maintenance involved with a mounted flashlight. A pistol light requires checking the lights’ battery at regular intervals to ensure proper function. Any integration with your trigger is another potential point of failure and you’ll need to monitor any associated wires to prevent fraying, particularly if you carry concealed with your mounted flashlight.
If you carry concealed, then fitted holsters are probably out of the question if you opt to attach a flashlight to your pistol. Of course, you can choose to remove for concealed carry purposes, which is relatively easy. If you leave your pistol mounted flashlight attached while concealed carrying, you need to account for the change in shape the accompanies this choice. In all likelihood, you’re holster choices will be limited to a belly band or shoulder holster setup.
In an ideal world, you’ll have both glow in the dark sights as well as a mounted flashlight. A mounted flashlight provides a quick and easy way to illuminate your target. Furthermore, it can be detrimental to the vision of an attacker you are targeting. Unfortunately, unless your mounted flashlight has some kind of integrated red dot, it will not assist with aiming your weapon. Night sights provide a subtle non-intrusive way to help correct your aim in low light conditions, but do not help you identify your target.
You’ll need to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each platform and compare it to your needs, particularly when concealed carrying. Hopefully, you’ve found this article informative and should you need clarification, or have questions, please leave a comment below.