5 Types of Pistol Sights & What They Do

You can't hit what you can't see.

posted on August 24, 2022

There's a lot of jargon associated with handgun sights, but the good news is that Smith & Wesson's pro shooter and brand ambassador Julie Golob is here to break it down into simple English in this installment of #GUNSMARTS. The plain truth of shooting is that it's essentially hand/eye coordination. For many of us, the "hand" part is easy—learning a good grip usually doesn't take long—but the "eye" part can be tougher. You can't shoot what you can't see, and that's where your handgun's sights come in.

There are five basic types of sights. The first is iron sights, and most handguns are shipped from the manufacturer with them. (Some microcompact concealed-carry handguns lack them, but that's a separate question.) Acquiring a good sight picture is a matter of lining them up both side-to-side and top-to-bottom. Important as it is for beginners to understand how to do that, for some of us, iron sights are just too slow.

The next fastest and simplest solution are fiber-optic sights. These don't emit their own light, although they will appear to glow whenever there's light present. These are located on your gun in the same place as iron sights, and should be used the same way. The third option, and a step up in both speed and versatility, is the "night sight." These are usually treated with tritium, which is radioactive (but in tiny amounts less than you'll find in a smoke detector). That means you don't need any light at all to line up your sights.

Then there are the non-integral sights: laser sights and red-dot sights. Both are perfect for people who are struggling with farsightedness or other vision issues. The difference between the two is that laser sights actually project a dot onto your target itself, whereas red-dot sights put a dot in your sight picture. Whatever your level of skill or desire, there's a sighting system for you.


Deering Deer Running
Deering Deer Running

Hunting Dilemma: When the Deer Crosses the Property Line

You shot a deer and it ran onto the neighbor’s property. Now what?

Stay Afloat, Stay Alive—Wear Your Life Jacket!

Spending time on the water this summer? Even if you are an experienced swimmer, there's never an excuse not to wear a life jacket.

4 Rules of Camping Etiquette

June is National Camping Month. But no matter what time of year you decide to camp, it’s always important to be a good neighbor.

New for 2023: Weatherby Model 307 Series Rifle

The introduction marks the 78-year-old gunmaker's first new center-fire rifle action in more than 50 years.

Happy Trails: Quick Tips for a Safe Day Hike or a Backpack Trip

Follow these smart hiking tips so your enjoyable outdoor adventure does not turn into a rescue operation.

The Armed Citizen® June 2, 2023

A man forced his way into a house of female residents in Austin, Texas—but it didn’t end well for him.

Women's Interests

Get the best of NRA Women delivered to your inbox.