Tritium Sights and How to Use Them

Oak City Tactics

Moderator
Moderator
#1
There was a notable IG post the other day labeling Tritium pistol sights as out dated and less than useful. While I think it was made somewhat tongue and cheek, some may have taken it to heart. I wanted to take a moment to illustrate where tritium sights are meant to be used. I agree that when activating a pistol mounted light there is no need for tritium. The light will backlight your irons perfectly. The space for tritium is in transitional lighting. Matt Graham from @grahamcombat best described it as “maximizing yourself in the dirty light”. It’s that place where you can see them but they can’t see you. Now sure you could turn on your weapon mounted light but then you have just leveled the playing field. Now you can see them “extra good” but they can see where you are too. At my previous agency, a murderer, cornered in the dark found himself unable to see the officers confronting him. Without a RDS on his rifle the officer had to rely on white light to illuminate his sights when the suspect pointed his weapon at them in the darkness. That white light activation was all the bad guy needed to pinpoint them close enough for a hit with a shotgun. Both survived but some pellets struck home. Chuck Pressburg from @presscheckconsulting told a similar story on Primary and Secondary of fighting in the dark with a PKM equipped foe and how he saw the advantage Tritium would have had over his Fiber Optic pistol sights in that moment. What Tritium sights are is a passive aiming device no different than those NVG settings on your RDS. Sometimes with a near peer you want to be able to shoot passively without announcing your position with a burst of IR energy. Let’s also not forget the poor souls still working at agencies that don’t have weapon mounted pistol lights or RDS for pistol or rifle. Unfortunately that demographic while not popular on IG is still many tens of thousands of officers across the nation. In the included photos I can completely see the suspect and his weapon but it was too dark to make out my sights against the backdrop because of the transitional light. The Tritium sights make that shot an easy one for me however. From the suspects point of view, he sees nothing but darkness. If I activate my weapon light he knows right where to find me at the bottom of those 1000 lumens. I’d rather maximize myself in the dirty light with my passive aiming system. We live half our lives in urban transitional lighting. #fact. Tritium sights still absolutely have a place and purpose. Know where that is and know how to use them in that dark place.
 

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shoobe01

Regular Member
#3
There was a notable IG post the other day labeling Tritium pistol sights as out dated and less than useful. While I think it was made somewhat tongue and cheek, some may have taken it to heart. I wanted to take a moment to illustrate where tritium sights are meant to be used..
Seen this come up several times in the last couple years. No. Not tongue in cheek. Plenty of folks saying they are utterly useless, a few verging on saying they are actively counter-indicated, in one way or another.

Aside from all your points— and the general concept that most low light is low light not abject darkness — I also find and have taught that tritium helps orient the gun even if you will soon have white light, flare, are waiting for them to shoot, etc. Tritium + momentary white is faster IME than just white light even though during the moment of aiming you are backlighting.

I even have tritium on my RDS pistols (and many of my carbines) as a backup since it's zero weight or complexity and not much money in the grand scheme (plus I am a tinkerer, often just replace tubes with graymarket tritium vials myself, etc)