I have had several occasions to see and handle XS Sights, in particular their “Big Dot” front sight and I will admit that at first I was a little underwhelmed. The sight and sight picture were not in keeping with any sighting style I had shot with in the past. Even though the system offered some promise I couldn’t see how it anything substantial over a traditional sight picture. Then I had a chance to work with several handguns fitted with them at Khyber Training’s annual 1-Inch to 100-Yard conference in Nevada. On the live fire range there were multiple drills against variable sized targets at unknown distances and under lighting conditions that varied from dimming light to night. In the low light the XS sights did everything I expected from night sights. The Big Dot front sight was easy to see, and easy to align on every target. Hits were consistent at distances out to twenty feet. The Big Dot made each shooting drill and test I could work up it a snap to perform. But the biggest and most pleasant surprise came when a shooter offered to loan to me his J-frame sporting a Big Dot front sight and what XS Sights euphemistically refers to as an unauthorized modification. In lieu of the their traditional V-style rear sight this J-frame sported a distinctive U-shaped rear channel cut into the rear of the top strap. To align the snub the Big Dot is put on the target and the rear sight straddles under the Big Dot. After five quick snap shots at various targets I had only a one word reaction. WOW! I found that the natural alignment of the Big Dot on the target and the U-channel was stunningly quick. Were the shot-groups bulls-eye tight? No, but I was not trying for bull’s eyes results. Were the shot-groups gun-fight tight? Yes, in fact better than that. The shot-groups at the speed I was pushing the sight alignment were wonderfully smaller than I could have expected. I did note that when shooting in the night and working with a preferred jaw-line style flashlight technique that I had to cant the snub slightly inboard to avoid casting a shadow into the U-cut channel, but the cant was so shallow it was almost instinctive. By the time I had run out of ammunition they had to pry that snub out of my hand or more acutely pry that snub with those sights out. I will definitely be applying the Big Dot XS sights and U-cut channel grove to several of my personal protection snubs and at least one of my teaching snubs. For long range shooting the XS may have its limitations. The actual proof or disproof of that will have to wait for a detailed range test. But under stress-drills and force on force exercises, I think the XS Big Dot site advantages sell themselves and on a self-defense gun, this XS Sights can be a literal life saver.
Most snubs could benefit from improved sights. Even the snub’s biggest fans can agree that with few exceptions the sights on contemporary snubs range from barely adequate to awful. Many snub sights are too small for acquiring a fast sight picture even in good light. Early model Colt Detective Specials used to be the exception but that changed after Colt adopted a gradual ramp-style front sight blade that will “gray out” just as readily as most modern snubs do. Additionally there are far too many snubs with sights that won’t hit to point of aim without some attention by a competent gunsmith. Fortunately there are several options for improving the situation. The first is to train to shoot the snub using various alternative sight pictures such as Stanford-, Cooper-, Ayoob- and Cirillo-styles. Regrettably none of these sight picture options completely address the core problem of inadequate fixed sights. Fortunately there are several first rate aftermarket front sights and front and rear sight sets that can improve the snub’s sight picture situation. Two of these include XS Sights Systems’ Big Dot sights and D&L Sports J-frame Smith and Wesson sights.