When it comes to modifications or upgrades to your handgun, there are few changes that can make as immediate and dramatic a difference as a new set of sights. How well you can hit your target depends on how well and how quickly your brain can identify that you are properly aimed and ready to break the shot.
How many times, when using a traditional three-dot sight picture, have you paused while trying to determine if the front dot is really perfectly centered between the two rear dots? Depending on the specific sights involved, I do this a lot — and I can feel myself slowing down as I concentrate more and more on the whisker-thin difference between the sights. And the truth of the matter is that unless you’re trying to hit a 6” plate at 50 yards, those differences will be indistinguishable on the target.
XS Sights has been offering an alternative to the traditional three-dot sight picture for some time. Called the “Big Dot Night Sights”, they consist of an oversized front dot and simplified rear sight that has only one mark — a vertical post.
I tested this alternate sight combination by installing the DXT2 model sights with a yellow front dot on my XD-S Mod.2 OSP 9mm. They are also available with an orange dot. They are available for most handguns, including the full line of Springfield Armory’s XD series of products. To make this a test relevant to today’s handguns, I chose to put them on my XD-S OSP and then co-witness with the red-dot optic.
Sight Installation Tools — The Building Blocks
But first, the sights must be installed on the handgun. One option is to get your gunsmith to install them for you. Some gun shops will even offer installation services (maybe discounted or free if you buy them there). And then there is the DIY method, which is the route I always take. I’d like to offer some tips, suggestions, and cautions if you are considering installing the sights yourself and are not yet experienced.
You don’t have to have expensive and elaborate tools to change pistol sights. It can be accomplished with very simple hand tools — if you know what you’re doing. Here’s the rub: As the sophistication of the tool decreases, the skill of the installer must increase. You can change a car tire on the side of the road with the flimsy jack and lug wrench provided in your trunk — but that’s not the same experience as doing it with a hydraulic lift and an air wrench. You get my point.
Some years back, I invested in a very good quality sight tool because in my business I have frequent need to swap sights. There are tools available at nearly every price point from $50 to $500 or more. I don’t advise the hammer and punch method unless you are extremely experienced or willing to ruin your sights and/or slide. That said, the process is the same regardless of the tool.
How to Install XS Sights on XD-S: Step-by-Step
Obviously, this process starts with the removal of the old sights. If they are the factory sights, expect them to be very tight. Be sure there is no set screw holding the rear sight. Springfield XD-series pistols use a dovetail mount for both front and rear. The sights should be drifted out in one direction and drifted in, in the opposite direction.
Typically, I like to remove from left to right, and install from right to left — this is the most common industry practice. It might be a wee bit easier this way, since parts have usually been installed that way previously — but the big reason is so that you only scrape the finish on one side of the dovetail. Appearances count.
When you have removed the existing sights, it’s a good idea to measure the widest part of the base of the old and new sights, to ensure they are the same size. Also, inspect the dovetail cuts in the slide for any damage and give them a quick cleaning.
Installing the new sights is really simply a reversal of the process, but there are a couple of things to be careful with. Hand-start the sight into the dovetail as far as you possibly can. Examine it carefully to see it is headed in straight and level. If it is not, make the adjustments now — once you apply pressure to it, damage can be done quickly. Use a slow and steady technique. Getting a bad job done faster is almost never the goal. If you do insist on the hammer and punch method, use a punch with a tip that will not damage the material or finish. Wood or nylon are ideal.
Once you think you’re centered — measure. Pro tip: the best way I’ve found to measure is to use a good, straight edge that is tall enough to reach the top of the sight when the slide is on a flat surface — place the straight edge flat against the slide and use it for your outside-to-outside measurement against the sight. Done from both sides with a caliper, it will tell you if you are centered.
Range Testing the XS DXT2 Big Dot Sights
Once the sights were installed, it was time to get this pistol to the range and shoot it! The proof of a set of sights lies in how well you can shoot your gun with them. With the XS Big Dot set, it was clear immediately that I was going to like them! There is something about the configuration of these sights that makes centering your handgun to the target as intuitive as pointing your finger.
From tee-ball through golf, we are used to putting the ball on the tee. The brain seems to take much more naturally to this configuration than it does to the puzzle of aligning three dots. Dropping that huge front dot onto the small “tee” on the rear sight is simple, fast, and very effective.
The design of the rear sight is also very helpful. The shallow “V” shape naturally guides the front sight to center, and yet never completely hides it when it is off center. With Tritium in both front and rear (a non-Tritium rear is optional) you get the same quick sight picture in darkness.
The elevation of the sights is very near that of the original sights on the XD-S OSP, and these XS sights co-witness perfectly through the installed Crimson Trace red dot. For me, this is a must-have for a carry gun with a mounted optic.
In fact, while shooting the XD-S with the new XS sights, I found myself picking up the Big Dot faster than the electronic red dot. The other good news about their size is that they will fit your existing holsters. These are excellent sights that work perfectly on the XD-S OSP. If I need to test another set of sights on an XD-S, I’m going to need another XD-S, because these are staying on!
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