Years ago, the folks at XS Sights caused quite a ruckus on the internet when the introduced their Big Dot sights. Now they’ve upped their game with introduction of the XS DXT2 Night Sights.
Since the beginning of time, when station wagons roamed the earth, pistols have been equipped with the traditional notch and post sights. The rear sight is a squared-off or “U-shaped” notch while the front is a vertical post. The idea is simple. Look through them so that the front post is centered in the rear notch and both line up with the target.
That sounds simple, right? It is. Sort of. For maximum precision, you need to worry about alignments in two dimensions.
The post itself has to be centered in the area defined by the rear notch laterally. That ensures your shot doesn’t go right or left of where you intend. Second, the top of the post needs to be perfectly aligned with the top of the notch area on the rear sight. This ensures that your shot doesn’t land too high or low.
With some practice, that approach works just fine. Bullseye shooters knock the centers out of targets at 25 and 50 yards with regularity. However, when used in high-stress defensive situations, it takes training and concentration to use sights in this manner.
The human brain insists on focusing on the threat, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Defensive handgun training and practice is supposed to condition one to tear their eyes off of the looming threat and focus on sight alignment. As for all of those fine vertical and horizontal alignments of notches and posts, well, that’s difficult in a life or death situation.
The stir caused by the introduction of the XS Big Dot sights resulted from a new approach for handguns that was based on an age-old idea used on older guns like lever action rifles. Instead of using notches and posts, the front sight is a large “bead” while the rear sight is a shallow v-shaped ramp.
To line them up, you set the circle inside the “V.” The internet screamed things like “You can’t shoot with precision!” and “How am I going to make precise head shots at 325 yards?”
We’ll explore those claims to see whether the Big Dot sights are precise. We’ll also note that in a self-defense encounter, the more important factor is shots on target – fast. Hold that thought for a couple of hot seconds.
Of course, there’s quite a bit more science involved in the new XS DXT2 Night Sights than a simple dot and “V.”
Speed and Front Sight Focus
The whole point of the dot and ramp approach is speed. The front dot is huge, 0.188 inches in diameter. To put that in perspective, the white dot on the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 pistol factory front sight shown here was originally 0.081 inches. The original entire front sight body was just 0.137 inches.
The idea of the giant dot is that your eye can’t miss it. As you raise the gun to target, it’s just there so the acquisition speed is fast.
Alignment with the rear sight is also fast. Rather than having to center a post vertically and horizontally in a rear notch, you drop the big ball in the bottom of the “v.” There is a vertical post (white in daylight conditions) so you can also think in terms of setting the ball on top of the post, forming an “i” shape.
Last, the big dot is designed to be highly visible, even if you are focusing on the target, as will be the case in a defensive encounter. If you aim traditional sights at a target five or ten yards away and then take a hard focus on the target itself, you’ll find that traditional notch and post sights get lost in a blurry jumble.
When you try the same exercise with a Big Dot sight, you’ll see that dot clearly, even while focusing on the target itself.
Lighting Condition Transitions
The DXT2 uses layers to provide consistent visibility as you transition from light to dark conditions. Think of going outside into a house or building. Yellow or Orange paints on the dot provide high-contrast visibility in bright daylight conditions.
That “paint” is also photo luminescent, so it collects and stores light energy when you’re in bright conditions. As you go into dark, that material glows for many hours. This covers “in between” light conditions where there is not enough ambient light to clearly see normal paint, but too much for the Tritium inserts to glow visibly.
The XS folks even include a design trick to maximize this effect. The front sight surface is convex, like a contact lens pointed back at you. That maximizes the light-gathering surface area for the photo luminescent material.
Last but not least, the center of the Big Dots contain that Tritium vial of radioactive goo that glows for years and years. The rear sight includes a vertical line under the point of the V-notch that contains Tritium, so in dark conditions you can set the round dot on top of the post to align the sights.
Front Sight Visibility
One of the big benefits to the dot and “v” approach is that the rear sight doesn’t hide the front. With notch and post sights, the sight body on either side of the rear not will obstruct your lateral view, and maybe hide the post, until alignment is correct. With the Big Dot, the front sight always rests on top of the rear, so it’s never hidden from view.
The XS Sights DXT2 sights are available in two colors, Optic Yellow and Optic Orange. Both are intended to provide improved contrast on targets in daylight conditions over standard white-dot sights.
The reason for both color options is that every human eye is different and color perception varies. Some people view the yellow naturally while others see the orange. I’m an orange guy myself.
You’ll also find that the yellow versions performs better in dark conditions while the orange is optimized for daylight. Of course, both offer transitional and dark condition performance; they just vary in their dark / light performance tradeoffs.
How to Install The Handgun Sites Without Special Tools
The XS Sights are designed for user installation if you have a few basic tools. For this installation example, we’ll assume you don’t have an expensive sight pusher tool, so we’ll do it the “manual” way. With a few dollars in tools, you can upgrade your own pistol with little trouble.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A bench vise
- A sturdy brass punch (a steel one will damage your gun and the sights)
- A hammer
- Duct or masking tape
- A gunsmith file or an EZ Lap Diamond Hone and Stone
- If you’re installing these sights on a Glock, you’ll need a driver to loosen the front sight screw that’s inside of the slide, but XS includes that for Glock sights.
Most general-purpose vises have rough edges on the clamping surfaces. Since you don’t want to foul up the slide on your nice pistol, there’s an easy fix. Get a small strip of aluminum from your local hardware store and cut pieces that approximate the size of the vise surfaces.
Using masking or duct tape, fasten them to the vise jaws and you’ll have perfectly smooth surfaces to grip your handgun. The aluminum is softer than steel, so it won’t gouge steel parts, but the tape is a big help to protect finish. In the photos here you’ll see I also applied some duct tape to the slide to be extra careful.
Place the slide in the vise so you the front sight area is centered and high enough that you can access the lower ledge of the sight base.
Using the brass punch, you’ll want to drive the side out of the dovetail mounting area. Most pistols allow the sight to move either way, but if you drive from right to left, that will probably cover most pistol configurations. There are some manufacturers that insert and remove sights from the left side only.
Be sure to place the punch on the base of the sight, not the side of the sight body where the dot is.
This Smith & Wesson took a lot of work to remove the original factory sight. Rather than gentle taps, you might have to whack the punch with a hammer forcefully to get it moving. Be careful! This is the reason you want to use tape to cover metal surfaces and those aluminum vise inserts.
The rear sight comes out much easier on the M&P pistol. Using an Allen wrench, loosen the locking screw in the rear sight base and repeat the punch process you used for the front sight. Be careful sliding the old sight out as it holds a spring-loaded firing pin block plunger in place. You don’t want that flying across the room.
Now that you’ve removed the original sights, use some gun cleaner (not oil or CLP, but a true degreaser) to thoroughly clean the dovetail sight cuts on your slide.
Now we’re ready to install the new sights. Mount the slide in the vise again so the front sight cut is in the center area of the vise. Using finger pressure only, test fit the new front sight. If you can push it about half way into place, you’re good to go. Skip the next step.
If the sight is too tight to get it half way into the dovetail, you must file some metal off the bottom of the sight base. Unless you absolutely have to, don’t file the sides of the sight base.
Rubbing the sight (base down and flat) on the file or honing tool will remove a bit of material from the bottom which ever-so-slightly brings the sight base dovetails closer together. Go slow, file a few strokes, wipe off the sight, and test fit. When it will go halfway into place, you’re ready for the next step.
Put a drop or so of the included red Loctite in the dovetail cut in the slide and push the front sight as far as you can by hand.
Then, using the brass punch, gently tap it until it’s centered on the slide. You can also put a tiny bit of Loctite on the edges of the sight base so it leeches under the base.
After a few minutes, wipe off any excess.
The rear sight on the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 was easy. Make sure that the Allen Screw is fully up in the sight body and slide it into place.
I didn’t need to do any filing on the rear sight, I was able to get it started by hand and tap it into place using the punch.
Be careful to make sure the plunger underneath is positioned correctly. When the rear sight is centered, tighten the Allen screw by hand.
Your pistol is now ready for zeroing, so take it to the range along with the remaining Loctite, brass punch, hammer, and a couple of Q-Tips to clean up excess Loctite.
The Allen screw alone won’t hold the sight in place very long, so as you’re test firing, make sure it stays tight. If your shots are impacting left of your aim point, loosen the Allen screw and drift the rear sight a bit to left.
When adjusting the rear sight, you move the sight in the opposite direction from which you want the bullet holes to move, or stated differently, towards the direction of the missed shot impact points.
If you’re hitting to far left, move the rear sight to the left, if you’re hitting too far right, move the rear sight to the right.
When you get it perfect, put a tiny seam of red Loctite on either side of the sight base so it will leak into the dovetail cut. Clean up the excess with a Q-Tip, but not so thoroughly that you remove it all. You want some to ooze between the sight base and slide.
Don’t do any more shooting after this final adjustment – the Loctite needs to dry for a couple of hours.
XS DXT2 Night Sights Range Test
So, after all this sight science and installation, what was the end result in terms of shooting performance?
First and foremost, the front sight literally leaps into view. It’s huge and the orange version I chose is highly visible against dark, light, and washed out target backgrounds. Compared to the white dot factory sights, we’re talking night and day.
The other thing I noticed is that these tend to operate a bit like aperture sights. With a rear aperture and front post, your eye and brain automatically center the top of the post in the aperture. With the front dot and rear “V” ramp, your eyes and brain tend to rest the dot right in the bottom of the “V.”
This wasn’t a conscious thing. I just noticed that as I focused on the front sight, my brain moved things ever so slightly until the dot rested in the “V” and directly on top of that vertical post underneath.
I did some test shooting from distances ranging from three to 25 yards. I shot everything with time limits per the standard FBI qualification standards because I wanted a bit of time pressure to prevent me from acquiring slow and precise sight pictures.
For at least half of the shots, I started from a low ready position, raised the gun to target, and fired as soon as I had a good sight picture. I wanted to exercise the “getting on target” part of the shot routine. The other half of my 100 rounds I shot as a quick follow-up second shot, again to see how the XS Sights settled back on target after recoil.
It was much easier (for me) to shoot faster with good precision. While you can make precise shots with these type of sights, that’s not their primary purpose. They’re built for defensive use, where getting shots into a small area fast is the name of the game.
Shooting side by side with traditional steel sights (ones with a similar bright orange dot like the DXT2s), I was able to get sights on target and holes in paper in the desired area faster. This was most noticeable at the 15 and 25-yard distances where simple point shooting wasn’t feasible to get hits on the target zone of the FBI QIT-99 qualification targets I was using.
I used the same two targets for 50 shots with each pistol and at the end, after a collection of three to 25-yard shots, I had a smaller group overall with the XS Sights. Interestingly, it was easier for me to minimize the vertical dispersion with the XS DXT2 sights than when using standard iron sights.
In fact, my only flyer with the DXT2 sights was my very first shot using them when I had a 25-yard shot land ever-so-slightly outside of the target zone. Once I got the hang of them, the rest fell into a decent grouping from all ranges.
The bottom line was this. I had to work less to find my sights and get them on target. As for precision, my end results, under a bit of time pressure, were actually better than those with a standard sights pistol that I fire regularly. Keep in mind that my eyesight is not near what it used to be, so perhaps I am seeing a bigger benefit than some of your youngsters might.
The new XS DXT2 Night sights are currently available for all Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P Full-size and Compact models, Smith & Wesson Shields, SIG SAUER P Series (P320, P226, P229), Springfield Armory XD Series, and the FNH FN509. The MSRP on all current models is $132.00.