In my latest adventure I tested an XS Sight Systems 24/7 Big Dot sight for my Glock 22. Since the name of this product can be a mouthful, we’ll call the sights simply XS sights for the rest of the article. The bright tritium front and rear sights dramatically improved my shooting, and I suspect will work for a large sector of the law enforcement population.
XS sights differ from standard sights by their shallow notch rear sight and huge front dot, which consists of a prominent white outline and a tritium center. While most pistol sights require the shooter to center the front sight into a notch approximately the same width as the rear, the XS Sights product emphasizes the front sight, causing the user to do exactly what they’re supposed to do: steer the gun from the front.
A few years ago, one of my coworkers showed up on the range with a set of unusual sights on his Glock 23. At that time they were called Ashley Express Sights. This name came from the designer Ashley Emerson and the concept of the express rifle. An express rifle is a tool used for dangerous game. Usually a two-barreled rifle for powerful cartridges, they are designed for short range encounters that a small percentage of hunting thrill seekers actually enjoy. The sights from this type of rifle naturally transitioned to defensive handguns and carbines.
The company had changed names several times, eventually transforming into XS Sight Systems. The original design is essentially the same, with a few new models and refinements. XS Sight Systems is a product of American entrepreneurship and its reputation for customer service and quality control is well established.
We will likely never know the complexity of the human brain; however, we do know that our subconscious is constantly attempting to make sense out of patterns, connect data and mitigate our sensory input. As a military shooting instructor who constantly studied stuff like this, I was faced with a unique challenge when my unit was given the mission of training hundreds of soldiers in M16 marksmanship during ramp-ups. One group of soldiers was having a problem centering the M16 post in the aperture, then placing the post on the target. Aligning the post is called “sight alignment” and putting the equation together is “sight picture.”
I taught them to take advantage of what their brain did naturally, which is mentally steering things into “dress right, dress.” I told them to look through their sights at the blank sky. The brain does the rest. A few hundred dry fires at the sky really worked for them and their scores improved.
When someone unfamiliar with XS sights first picks them up, alignment seems like an unlikely goal. There is way too much space in that dished out rear sight to shoot with any degree of accuracy, right? Wrong. The XS sights allow the shooter to see the front sight, which is a little hard to disregard. The brain does the rest.
Having talked to dozens of officers, I know that training takes over when shooting under extreme stress. During “fight-or-flight,” the visual periphery closes down to the direction of the threat. With the shallow V in the rear, there is a little more daylight around the front sight, which might allow for quicker target identification and tracking moving targets.
The XS Sight kit came with all of the tools for installation, including a thread-locking compound. It took me longer to get my old sights off than to permanently install and align my XS sights. The design of this product allows for end-user installation and adjustment. The sights I replaced are a lot more expensive than (and not nearly as beefy as) my XS sights. They are windage adjustable and look good on my Glock 22. Despite the illusion, they are actually fairly low profile and fit in all of my holster products.
At the range, I started with some quick controlled pairs. At contact distances, the Big Dot covers the A zone. XS Sight Systems instructs the user to place the front dot on the target. I did, and all my shots were hits. Out to about 10 yards, this formula worked for me. The company also instructs shooters to align the target with the top of the dot for ranges at the 25 yard line and greater. I didn’t. I didn’t need to. I put the dot on the target as before and proceeded to keep all my offhand shots inside a 4-inch circle at 25 yards. Really, if anyone has a complaint that the entire front sight covers the target, he or she is shooting the wrong target. It is supposed to cover the target.
Full disclosure: My Glock 22 has a Lone Wolf .357 SIG barrel, which is a drop-in upgrade for this model. The other day I loaded it up with Load-X 124-grain rounds and proceeded to bench rest a 15-round magazine at 25 yards with all rounds touching. In other words, this gun will do anything we expect from a handgun. I like this barrel and I like options. (Note to iPad viewers: You will have the opportunity to see me fooling around with failure drills and controlled pairs using full velocity rounds in the September iPad issue of LET. Search “Law Enforcement Technology” in the iTunes store or App Store via your iPad to download the free editions.)
I think the best application for the sights is the one quality I rarely see mentioned or discussed. These sights give the shooter a serious edge in low light. First, the Big Dot is a mile wide silhouetted in the beam of my flashlight. Second, the huge V encourages the kind of shooting that will keep the officer in the fight: Both eyes open.
Here’s the bottom line: XS Sight Systems 24/7 Big Dot Sights are designed for engagements, not target shooting. I believe they will give officers a slight advantage with their duty gun.
Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif. He has a bachelor’s in criminal justice and an master’s in online teaching and learning. Bertomen has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org