Decisions, Decisions…

As most of you know I recently lucked my way into a 1979-vintage Colt Commander that has not been subjected to the customizer’s knife. Of course, I will change that. I plan to give it a full treatment to enhance the good points of the 1911 platform while minimizing any less-than-stellar characteristics. One area of concern is the sights.

For decades sights on handguns were more of an afterthought than a useful tool. A blade—often just a nub—up front and a groove on the frame were considered adequate by those who thought handguns should be pointed and not aimed. Target shooters were the first to get more visible and later adjustable sights on a handgun. The original GI sights on the 1911 pistol are rather rudimentary. Younger folks with good eyes can make a go of them, but it’s a tough row to hoe and dang near impossible for us “mature” folks with our equally mature eyes.

On my Series 70 that was rebuilt by the old King’s Gun Works in Glendale, California, I had the rear-sight dovetail filled and re-machined the slide to accept a Smith & Wesson K-frame rear sight. Along with the blade front sight and both fitted with tritium dots, I can make them out pretty well. But on the Commander I neither need nor want an adjustable sight. I just want sights that can be seen by an old flatulent.

Wayne Novak rules the roost for 1911 sights now. More than 2 million of his LoMount Carry sights have been installed. I have Novaks on two other 1911s and really like them. They are easy to pick up when I’m in a hurry, accurate, don’t hang up on anything during the draw and just about bomb proof in terms of durability. So it is a no-brainer that I will be equipping my Commander with Novaks, but then the question begs: which one?

I am not much of a tinkerer anymore. No longer do I rush out and play with every new widget that comes into the gun world. I am too busy shooting or hunting to spend countless hours—and dollars; we gun writer types don’t get everything for free—removing and installing new gadgets. Mostly I operate on the mantra: PTFT—Pull The Freaking Trigger. I found out a long time ago that sending bullets downrange does more to increase one’s effectiveness and accuracy than some widget. But then a buddy who is also a 1911 aficionado—as well as something of a tinkerer—asked me whether I had tried Novak’s Ghost Tritium Dot sight. Of course I hadn’t, though I seem to recall hearing of it. He has a couple of 1911s and let me borrow one to check out this sight. It’s always better to test drive before you buy.

Both of these are Novak sights. The one on the left is the Ghost Tritium Dot sight while on the right is the more commonly seen three-dot sight.

Both of these are Novak sights. The one on the left is the Ghost Tritium Dot sight while on the right is the more commonly seen three-dot sight.

Last week I took his Ed Brown 1911 with the Novak Ghost Tritium Dot sight and shot it side-by-side with my Ruger SR 1911 in the lightweight Commander style, which has the more conventional Novak White Dots rear sight. The idea behind the Ghost Tritium Dot sight is that with the large, semi-circular rear sight with a single dot at the bottom it will be easier and quicker to pick up the sights, especially when you are in a hurry (like a gunfight) and/or when there is less-than-optimal lighting conditions.

I ran a few magazines through each pistol at a silhouette target at 7 yards and found I was getting vertical stringing of my hits from about belly-button to the top of the sternum with the Ghost Tritium Dot sight. This did not jive with my expectation that I might have windage issues with this sight. I pressed the trigger as soon as I saw the two tritium dots in the middle of the silhouette, and, obviously, I was not paying enough attention to whether the top of the front sight was even with the top of the rear sight. Training would cure this ailment.

However, shooting the Ruger with the more conventional three-dot rear sight showed that I wasn’t acquiring the sight picture any faster with the Ghost Tritium Dot sight. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been shooting the regular three-dot sight so long that I have adapted fairly well to it. Anyway, I’ll be sticking to the regular three-dot sight with tritium for my Commander.

I am sure that many will find the Ghost Tritium Dot sight useful for their carry gun. But for me, I did not find a measureable increase in speed that would justify me spending a lot of training time learning to pay closer attention to the top of the front sight and its positional relationship with the rear sight.

This in no way is meant to diss the Ghost Tritium Dot sight. If anything can be learned from my experience here it is this: Whenever possible, try to “test drive” a gun or accessory before you buy. You’ll spend less money, and you will be a more informed consumer. And that’s a good thing.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”

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