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Gun enthusiasts have been debating over gear preferences for years. One such discussion is about sight selection. The two most popular choices for replacement sights, especially for handguns, are tritium and fiber optic sights.
Both parties have a huge fan following, with people arguing about their pros and cons. However, in reality, tritium and fiber optics excel in different roles and tasks. For instance, fiber optics works amazingly in daylight, while tritium sights are ideal for the nighttime.
Thus, the question shouldn’t be “which is better?” Rather, it should be, “which is right for your needs?” This is the best way to upgrade your gun just the way you want.
If you’re confused between both, this post has an overview of fiber optics and tritium sights and their pros and cons to help you reach a verdict. Let’s go through each.
Fiber optics are made of transparent strings of plastic or glass. One string is super-thin, like human hair. However, the optical fibers in manufacturing gun sights are wider than usual.
The feature that makes optical fiber popular is its speed and range. It can transfer light to as far as 200 miles per second, making it a top choice for telecommunications.
When it comes to gun sights, the technology channels light pretty impressively. Fiber optics is almost reflective. It illuminates instantly by absorbing all the light hitting it. Because of this, the material is visible in varying lighting conditions.
Fiber optics come in a wide range of colors. You can get it made in any tone, but green and red are the most common for gun sights.
Now you may wonder which color to go for. Try different colors and see which is bright enough to give you a clear sight picture. But generally, staying true to green or red for maximum efficiency and accuracy is recommended.
An optical fiber’s length doesn’t pose any significant impact on its efficacy. Instead, gun sight manufacturers focus on the width dimension. So, when trying out different handguns, focus on the width rather than the length.
However, there is a downside to it. Wide fiber optics give you a good sight but typically obstruct the object you’re aiming at.
If you’re not lucky enough to have 20/20 eyesight, you may struggle shooting with a fiber optics gun.
Fiber optic sights are not like ordinary night sights. They don’t generate illumination on their own. Instead, they glow when the light from their surroundings hits them. That is why fiber optics work amazingly in broad daylight.
A fiber optics sight is suitable for the daytime when the sun is blazing. The more intense the sunlight, the brighter the light will glow. As a result, it will also give a good and clear sight picture.
Fiber optic sights are ideal for sport shooting. The sight’s small diameter rod offers precise shooting, while the rod illuminates in external environments.
Tritium is a hydrogen isotope (3H) that rarely occurs naturally. Instead, this radioactive material is mostly made artificially for illumination purposes.
Radioactivity is quite dangerous, and it can even destroy towns. But fortunately, tritium has relatively low energy. That makes it less harmful to humans but quite beneficial for lumination in guns.
Tritium sights work just like a glow-in-the-dark toy. You have to expose them to a light source, and they will start generating their own light.
Tritium does so through a phenomenon known as beta decay. It releases electrons that react with a phosphor material to produce light. The generated light is bright but not strong enough to affect the shooter’s night vision.
When searching for tritium sights, you may have encountered the term “tritium half-life.” Ever wondered what that is? It is time a radioactive isotope takes to become half of its initial value.
For instance, tritium’s half-life is estimated to be around 12.5 years. That means a tritium sight will start emanating light half as intense after this time period. But this doesn’t indicate that the light will become useless. Instead, it will just get a little dim.
That’s why tritium sights can never be a permanent solution for firearms. No one can actually estimate the potency these instruments have.
Like fiber optics, tritium sights also come in multiple colors. If your main focus is on elongating the lifespan of your tritium sight, you must choose the color accordingly. That’s because every color degrades differently.
For example, green tritium is an excellent and safe choice for dark environments. In addition, it is very durable, with a lifespan of 12 years. On the other hand, yellow tritium is also a good choice as it’s bright but comparatively dull than green. Yet, its lifespan is also 12 years.
If you’re shooting at great distances, yellow tritium can cause strain to your eyes.
Tritium also comes in orange. But it’s hardly used in guns as it’s less reflective and doesn’t allow the shooter to focus on the object in front. Orange tritium also has a relatively low lifespan of about 5 years.
Tritium sights work best in darkness. These are exceptional low-light night sights, making them ideal for defensive shooting. Moreover, their prominent footprint sight facilitates the shooter in quickly locating the front view.
They are the ideal choice for defense firearms to help the shooter shoot accurately at the target.
The best part is that tritium sights can be continuously illuminated, which is why they are also available in glow-in-the-dark clocks and wristwatches. You may also see them in exit or emergency signs and glow sticks.
As you can deduce, fiber optics and tritium sights are efficient for different situations. While the former works during the day, the latter is ideal for the nighttime. Fiber optics are less expensive, while tritium can be heavy on your pocket.
So, which one do you think is better? Well, the answer comes down to your requirements.
Ask yourself whether you’re going on a shooting adventure or want an everyday weapon. Then, go through the pros and cons of each sight and make the right choice.
If you’re still clueless, here are a few factors to consider in order to find your answer:
Regarding the price, fiber optics are less expensive than tritium sights. A little reminder: the former are transparent strings of plastic, while tritium is a radioactive isotope made artificially for illumination.
On average, a fiber optic sight will come at almost half the price of its counterpart. So, if money is your concern, you should go for the fiber optic one.
Fiber optics require a considerable amount of light to work, while tritium sights generate their own illumination. But don’t forget that tritium’s luminosity can degrade over time. It will become less effective in a few years, mainly because it continuously glows.
If you keep your tritium sight in a drawer for years and take it out, you may find that its magic is gone. In the worst-case scenario, it may not even work entirely.
On the other hand, fiber optics sights don’t need previous exposure to work. Also, the material doesn’t degrade over time.
The comparison between both sights ends at versatility. Fiber optics refracts light from the environment to give you a good view. But if you’re in dark surroundings and want to draw your firearm, you won’t be able to reap its full benefits. That’s when you’d need a tritium sight.
When it’s daytime, the scenario is quite different. The tritium light won’t be noticeable under the sun, while fiber optics one would give an intense light.
Your right type of sight depends on your requirements and risk assessment. The debate comes down to the time of the day and your budget. Fiber optics are affordable and great for the daytime, while tritium sights are expensive and ideal for the nighttime.
If you don’t like your gun sight to degrade over time, don’t go near the tritium ones. However, tritium can be the right option if money is not your concern and you’re okay with spending more on a perishable sight.
But what if you want a sight that has the efficiency of tritium but the affordability of fiber optics? In that case, you can easily find sights incorporated with the best of both worlds: TFO (Tritium Fiber Optic) sights.
TFOs are bright both in the daytime and at nighttime. Of course, they might be expensive, but they are definitely worth it.
Fiber optics and tritium sights have distinctive properties, making each an excellent choice for different purposes.
Fiber optics sights work wonders in the daytime and refract bright, luminous light. That creates a clear sight picture for the shooter. On the other hand, tritium sights are ideal for the nighttime. They generate their own light, but it degrades over time.
Your final purchase decision must depend on your budget and requirements.
If you don’t want to spend much but want a long-lasting and efficient sight, go for a fiber optics one. Conversely, tritium is ideal if you’re willing to spend a few more bucks on a glow-in-the-dark sight.
Featured Image Credit: Guy J. Sagi, Shutterstock
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Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.
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