Remember when you first learned to shoot a gun and your instructor (or dad) told you to check your sight alignment one last time before pulling the trigger? It was sound advice – a lesson you probably use every time you go to the range. But what about if you can't see the sights very well? What if they are too small, too dark, too hidden? Now you have a problem. But there is a great solution.
For argument's sake, let's assume that your overall eyesight is fine, either on its own or because you wear the appropriate corrective lenses. So your eyes aren't the problem. However, if they are, we recommend seeing your local optometrist because no sights are good enough to correct bad vision.
Do you struggle picking up the sights or simply want to make sight acquisition a little easier? In that case, one solution is to replace the gun's factory sights with ones that glow on their own (think tritium night sights) or fiber optic sights that use ambient light to improve visibility.
HIVIZ Sights is a company that specializes in fiber optic – or as they call them, LitePipe – sights that replace your existing sights by simply sliding into the factory slots atop the slide.
For my test, I only requested a front sight for my S&W Shield, which is my EDC, because I wanted to compare how the factory rear sight and the HIVIZ front sight worked together. So the model they sent me was the M&P Shield LiteWave Front Sight. HIVIZ makes sights for a wide selection of firearms, from pistols to shotguns, so chances are they have the model you need.
Installation was super simple. Once I worked the factory front sight out of the dovetail, I used a rubber mallet and small hole punch to insert the HIVIZ sight. After a few minor alignment adjustments, it was all set. Installation took maybe 10 minutes. Installation goes much faster if you mount the gun in a vice for stability, which I did. It would be much harder with the gun on a table or workbench.
Unlike cheaper fiber optic sights, the HIVIZ chassis is all metal, making it less prone to breakage during installation and everyday use and less likely the fiber optic insert will work its way out over time. I mounted the sight on my gun over a year ago, and through many draws and reholsters and shooting nearly 500 rounds, the sight has not budged. On the contrary, it has remained rock solid the entire time.
One tiny feature that might at first seem inconsequential but isn't is the anti-glare ridges on the shooter's end of the sight. Shiny black metal can cause visibility issues in bright sunlight, especially with the sun directly overhead or behind you, making sight acquisition difficult. These tiny ridges reduce reflection and keep the sight more visible.
After installation, I took the newly sighted gun downstairs to our indoor range and rattled off a box of 9mm. Because it's an indoor range, it's a bit dark in places, including right at the bench, thanks to ballistic walls on either side. But with only a dim overhead light, the green HIVIZ sight lit up plain as day. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't switch the rear sight, only the front, to see the contrast. While the original rear sight is perfectly adequate for most conditions, it was nice to see the big green dot out front.
Fiber optic sights as a category have become so popular that many factory guns now come with them. Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center series, for example, includes both front and rear fiber optic sights as part of the upgraded package.
If you're not a fan of HIVIZ’s default green insert (which happens to be their logo color, too), fret not. Red and white LitePipes are included in the package. I didn't try switching them out because I like the green because it shows up the best for me, but it's nice to have the options.
At $34.95 from HIVI’Zs website, these are some of the least expensive replacement sights on the market. Yet they seem to have the same level of quality as many of the more expensive options. ~ David
· HIVIZ interchangeable LitePipe front sight
· Includes green, red, and white LitePipes
· All metal construction
· LitePipe diameter, front sight 0.090
· Factory height front sight 0.160 X 0.125 wide
· Replacement LitePipe Handgun version # 5
· Limited lifetime warranty under normal conditions and proper use of firearm
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."