Pistol Sighting Options: If I Only had $200 to spend

A discussion in a facebook group recently got me thinking. One of my friends whom I always like talking shop with was asking about night sights for the Beretta PX4 that I’ve had for several months. I explained that I purchased some Trijicon HD sights for it, but upon inspection, noticed they were about the same dimension as the factory sights (no precision improvement), and the bright orange front sight insert looked about the same as the hobby paint home-job I had done myself. I returned the sights and saved $150. I didn’t see the incremental increase in utility from 3 tritium vials for $150. Granted, not all factory sights are as good as the ones on the PX4 (looking at you Glock), but I think the usual “YOU MUST HAVE TRITIUM ON A DEFENSIVE GUN” mantra might need to be reevaluated. Or at least considered on a case by case basis.

We then talked about lasers for the PX4, which started getting my wheels turning about choosing between fancy sights, or fancy lasers.

To further make me question my stance on tritium, one of my mentors, Paul Sharp, uses narrow fiber optic sights on his duty gun. So do several other of my meat-eating door-kicking buddies. This flies in the face of common advice. “The fiber will break and you won’t have a front sight”. Well, almost no one I know uses their gear more than Paul, and if they work for him… who am I to dismiss his findings? Besides, if the fiber falls out, you still have the steel cage it sits in, so you’re not totally S.O.L. AND FO sight sets also are less expensive at $50-75 depending on maker.

So I asked myself this question:

After nearly 10 years of taking self-defense and shooting very seriously and about 500 hours of training and countless hours of practice, if I only had $200ish to spend on a sighting system for a pistol, would I choose Tritium night sights, or a (used) laser module?

I’ve been thinking about it. My conclusion is that hands down I’d choose a laser.

T.U.G.

Why Not Tritium?

  • If you only have enough light to be able to use your tritium, then you don’t have enough light to identify your target. This can be very bad. What then follows is that you must have enough light to identify your target. If you do have enough light to identify your target, then your tritium becomes less critical because you can see the outline of your sights. All pistols should have a source of white light near them. Whether it’s carried in a pocket, in a nightstand, or mounted to an accessory rail. Just don’t use the rail mounted light to ID targets, only for shooting. Greg Ellifritz talks about WML issues here. 
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This is you in no-light and with tritium sights.
  • In dusk/transitional lighting, even if your fiber optic front sight (or bright paint) isn’t clearly visible, you still have the silhouette of the sights to be able to make hits. So tritium isn’t the only solution here.
  • For me, the most useful part of the tritium sights I’ve had experience with has been the large white/orange/yellow plastic that generally surrounds the tritium itself. Once again, this can be replicated on factory sights for pennies.
  • One definite plus is that in pure darkness, the little glowing tritium vials allow you to visually acquire the pistol from the nightstand. I, however, have a 3 year old, and this isn’t an option for me, so it’s not that helpful.

Why A Laser?

  • They don’t punish you for being threat focused in an adrenalized state. If you lack the discipline/training to bring your focus to the front sight during a shooting, seeing the red spot on the target area allows rapid shooting.
  • Awkward shooting positions are made easier.
  • Increased hit chance in transitional light areas (0ver iron sights) where the target is otherwise confirmed as a shoot.
  • Allow those with poor eye-sight a way to make precision hits.
  • Retention shooting accuracy improves (from a compressed ready, or a “2”)
  • Less dedicated shooters require less practice to be able to make good hits, assuming their trigger control issues are sorted out. I’ve seen this with several shooters who had trouble with iron sights for whatever reason, but rapidly improved when a laser module was introduced to the mix. Since my wife might have to use my gun to shoot someone off of me in a home invasion type scenario, I’d like to give her the best possible chance of not shooting me in the process.
  • As Claude explained to me, the way to use the laser is not to hunt for the laser on the target, but rather to present the gun in a normal fashion and use whatever you happen to pick up first, sights or laser dot.
  • Downsides: Batteries. Yeah, but hopefully the stigma of needing batteries for sighting systems has gone down since everyone has a red dot on their rifle now. Set a google calendar reminder and change them every 6 months. Besides, if the laser fails, you still have your iron sights. Practicing with the laser off, simulating battery failure, is also important.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_QQbX9jW4Y]

 

Closing

I know I’m not the first person to say lasers are worth your time. I was just posting the hypothetical about making the resource constrained decision between tritium and a laser. Next time I have access to a range and I can shoot at dusk/dark, I’m going to take a selection of pistols with different sighting setups (irons, fiber optic, tritium, and lasers) and on a timer record multiple repetitions of shooting from various ready positions, and with shooters of various skill levels. I’m pretty confident the numbers will show I’m on the right track. I’ll report back.

The Underwear Gun (T.U.G.)

…police say the pair started demanding money, something the 28-year-old said she didn’t have. That’s when one of the attackers allegedly picked up a kitchen knife, turned on the stove, and put the blade in the flame.

“And then four separate times burnt the 28-year-old female, burnt her face, both of her arms and her stomach,” Small said.

Still she refused to speak, so the crime went further.

“Then picked up the 28-year-old’s two-year-old daughter and threatened to kill the daughter if she didn’t say where the money was,” Small said.

Source

Home invasions are one of my biggest fears when it comes to armed confrontations. I think it’s because they occur inside the most comfortable and trusted shelter we have, our homes. Where you should be able to go into condition white and turn off your vigilance and recharge your batteries. A place where you kiss your child good night shouldn’t be the place that you have to fight for your life. But alas, there are some people on this planet that don’t feel that way. In fact, the kind of predator who breaks into your home when he knows you’re there is a special kind of dangerous.

Burglars are one thing. Those guys don’t necessarily want to interact with you in your home. They want to get in and out with as much loot as possible, as quickly as possible. Home invaders are scary because they know you’re home, and they still want to come in. As a result, I have taken several precautions to prepare for this. In fact, I suppose several of my posts so far have been dedicated to topics that all tie back to defending from home invaders. I mentioned in another article that I carry a gun inside my house. This article will outline the requirements I have for an ‘underwear gun’, the gun I chose for the job, its accessories, the drawstroke for T.U.G., and some of the drills I do with this gun.

Jack Black and I get down like this.

Mission: Choose, outfit, and always carry a pistol meant to be worn around the home.

The requirements I had for an underwear gun:

  • Must be reliable
  • Must be able to be securely held in drawstring sweat pants or exercise shorts, no holster required
  • Be lightweight enough to not pull said shorts down
  • Because I don’t want to wear a holster and I carry a loaded gun with a round in the chamber, double action only or DA/SA is required
  • Be able to find something for less than $325
The Dusk Till Dawn crotch gun was never put on the market, so I needed another solution.

The reliability requirement is obvious. I have no requirement for minimum caliber size for T.U.G., only that it be reliable when I need to use it. As an aside, don’t take my (or anyone’s) word that your gun is reliable. You have to know this for yourself. Small guns (due at least in part to the tight angles that ammo has to feed from magazine to chamber) tend to be very ammunition sensitive. Some ammo will work, others just won’t. You should run a few boxes of your chosen defensive ammo in your underwear gun before you even start to call it reliable. Small guns can even vary in reliability within the same model. It sometimes only matters what month the gun came off of the assembly line.

No Holster!

There is a short list of accessories that allow me to satisfy the second requirement depending on my choice of guns:

  • Universal Clipdraw – Semi-AutoThis is the universal clip draw. I wouldn’t use this on a Glock or any striker fired gun with a loaded chamber. I’d only put it on double action guns, or guns with safeties. It can also be used to replace a flimsy flashlight clip with a very beefy spring steel clip.

  • DeSantis Clip Grip – This is a cool set of grips that has a flare of material on the right side of the gun which can go over the belt and keeps the gun secure inside the waistband. It’s a great update to the Barami Hip Grip, which felt like greased soap and didn’t fill the hand very well. The DeSantis grips are legit, though.
Barami Hip Grip
  • Techna ClipThis is nearly identical to the clipdraws, but they are made for the newer generations of small framed pocket guns. This is what I have on my LCP. They also make left handed versions, which is good for those that need it.

With a double action gun, and an on-board clip to keep it from falling down my pants, I’m in business. You could technically do this with any gun you wanted if you always wear a belt, but my requirements limit the size of the gun I can carry. Which brings me onto my next point.

The weight and size envelope matters. I want something that I can carry in exercise shorts or sweat pants around the house. As a result, I am limited to a pocket gun (mouse gun), usually in a caliber less than or equal to 9mm.  This is my favorite chart for getting an idea of what I should expect when I go to handle different pocket guns. I also satisfy the next requirement by simply looking for a DAO gun in the list.

My last requirement is easy enough to meet. I had my short list of guns that I thought would work, kept an eye out on the used market, and waited for something to pop up.

I have had a KelTec PF9 (9mm), a Smith 442 (.38spl), a Taurus PT22 (.22lr), and now a Ruger LCP (.380) to fit this role. After selling the PF9 to fund a M&P shield, and selling the Taurus to my dad as his underwear gun, I am left with the J-frame and the Ruger. Due to weight and magazine capacity, I find myself carrying the Ruger most often.

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Accessories

  • Techna Clip as mentioned above
  • Crimson Trace Laserguard– I think lasers are a great addition to any gun, especially one with sights as small and difficult to see as the LCP (gen 1). I also am fond of a laser that comes on when forming the full firing grip. It also has the benefit of allowing one to turn the laser off if one trains to relax that middle finger, as situation dictates. Lasers won’t make you control your trigger better, so you’ll still need to do the work.
  • Hogue Handall Grip Sleeve – This makes the grip of the gun just a little bit fatter. This allows a more hand filling feel, as well as a less cramped trigger pull.
  • GARRISON Grip Extension– This cool mag extension allows me to get all of my fingers on the gun. The tail of the mag extension also serves as a hook to keep the grip of the pistol right at my pants line. Without it, and the gun only has one point of contact at the clip, and can roll behind the pants (great for when you require the deepest concealment).image_6

Teeny Weeny Drawstroke

The drawstroke of a gun as small and deeply concealed as the LCP has to be modified a bit in order to build a full firing grip before presenting the pistol. Here’s how I do it:

  • Index the muzzle of the pistol through the pants with your middle and/or ring finger, and your thumb’s pad to the rear of the tang.
image_7
Note: my shirt is tucked so you can see what’s happening. Really, the thumb is used to swim under the shirt material and then indexes on the tang.
  • Press in and up with your middle/ring fingers and slide the pistol up as you slide your thumb behind the pistol.
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The photos were taken with a potato. Excuse the poor quality.
  • Pinch the pistol between your thumb and index finger to lift it high enough to get your fingers wrapped and complete the drawstroke as normal.
image_13
This is what the pinch looks like. The pinch is what lifts it high enough to form the full firing grip.

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Ammunition

This article gave me some ideas about .380 ammo selection. I had previously been using ball ammunition, because I was concerned about penetration and feed issues. I will be buying a few boxes of the top two he mentions in the article to try out.

Training/Drills

Surprise! Nothing is different here. I do what I do with all my other pistols. Dryfire and drills.

Issues Specific to the LCP

In such a small package, the .380 is a snappy little beast. I’m personally good for about 50-75 rounds before El Snatcho gets me and I fatigue to the point of diminishing returns. The hogue and grip extension mitigate this a bit, but only a little. This is an argument for a KelTec P32, or a .22 in a similar sized package. The sights on the LCP are just little bumps on the slide (sights on the gen2 are much better). I routinely make hits at 15 yards into the head box of an IDPA target (sans laser), but it took work. Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s only a bad-breath distance gun. Gain competence, and you will gain confidence. The trigger, like most all tiny double action guns, isn’t great. But again, dry fire and meaningful range time will allow you to work around this.

In Closing

I have had T.U.G. in its current configuration for about a year. This gun gets a lot of carry and shooting time (about 30% of my range time). T.U.G. in addition to allowing me to be armed around the house, makes a great grocery run gun, dog walk gun, gym gun, jog gun, and a wonderful Non-Permissive Environment gun. I always carry as large a gun as I can, and sometimes that gun is T.U.G.

May we always shoot home invaders in the face.

Protect the Brood,

Defensive Daddy.