February 10, 2022
Red dot sights are popular, but that doesn’t mean reflex sights make sense for every handgun and every handgun owner. Many shooters prefer the compact size, toughness and value of using a quality set of iron sights. And, in truth, a good pair of night sights is often just as versatile as a reflex sight—at a lower price.
XS Sights is one of the leading manufacturers of iron sights for defensive pistols, and its DX family of “express sights” are uniquely designed to provide fast target acquisition in any light conditions.
The term express sights was originally coined by dangerous-game hunters who found that a wide, shallow, V-shaped rear sight and a large dot front sight were an effective option for stopping dangerous game at close quarters. The setup works just as well for defending yourself against two-legged predators.
Both the DXW2 and DXT2 come with wide express-style rear sights. The V-shape design is ultra-reliable and far less likely to hang up in gear or clothing than traditional square- notch rear sights.
DXW2 sights come with a tritium lamp in the front sight and a white stripe in the center of the rear express sight, so aligning the sight is simply a matter of “dotting the i.” DXT2 sights feature a similar layout, but they also come with a tritium lamp in the rear sight stripe for accurate sight alignment even without any ambient light.
“DXT2 tritium night sights offer a crucial defensive advantage over traditional notch and post sights,” says Zackary Kinsley, marketing and product manager at XS. “The Big Dot front and open rear of the express sights present a great field of view downrange making them fast to acquire.”
The DXW2 night sights, Kinsley says, offer the same front sight and defensive advantages as the DXT2s and still give you a visible alignment point but offer a lower price.
There are two front sight dot options available for the DX family of sights: Standard Dot and Big Dot. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call these front sights “big dot” and “really big dot,” for even XS’s Standard Dot is larger than conventional front sight dots. The standard white front dot on Glock’s factory sights measures 0.085 inch wide. The XS DX Standard Dot, by contrast, measures 0.140 inch wide while the Big Dot version’s front dot spans a whopping 0.188 inch.
What XS’s oversize front dots offer is a natural point of aim in any light. If you ever find yourself in a violent encounter, that oversize glowing XS dot gives you a simple reference point: position the glowing dot at center mass, fire, and you’ve got a good chance of stopping an attacker.
“The equation is simple,” Kinsley says. “Reduce the focus points on the rear of the pistol and make the front index point on the muzzle as prominent as possible.”
Both the Big Dot and Standard Dot are comprised of inner and outer rings. The inner dot, which is tritium powered, provides round-the-clock illumination. The outer ring of the front dot sights features a colored photoluminescent ring. Color options for the photoluminescent outer ring include orange or yellow for Big Dot sights and green for the Standard Dot.
These colors weren’t chosen by accident. The engineers at XS studied the visible spectrum and how different colors impact our vision. Orange (called Optic Orange by XS) is the easiest color for our eyes to see in full sun while Optic Yellow offers better contrast in low light.
So why Optic Green for the standard front sight? Surface area. The larger Big Dot sights offer more surface area than the Standard Dot, and it’s easier for the eye to pick up on those colors with the larger front sight. The smaller standard front sight needs color contrast, and Optic Green provides that versatility.
I tested XS Big Dot front sights with both Optic Yellow and Optic Orange photoluminescent rings. And, as the XS engineers claim, yellow is brighter and easier to see in low- light conditions than orange, and in full sun orange is better.
I mounted the DXW2 with an Optic Orange Big Dot front sight on a Glock G19 and tested in a full range of light conditions. In bright, full sun the orange does offer a can’t-miss front sight option that focuses the eye where it belongs and is an ideal option for making close, fast shots using the flash sight picture method. The Optic Yellow Big Dot, which I mounted on a Glock G17, was a DXT2 sight with tritium rear stripe. Yellow is easier to see in low light but not as clear as Optic Orange in bright light.
Understand that “not as clear” doesn’t mean invisible. The Optic Orange sight functions in dim light, and when conditions get too dark for the photoluminescent ring the tritium lamp becomes visible. If the front sight has been “charged” (the photoluminescent outer ring, has been exposed to light) the whole dot glows a brilliant yellow-green color. Even in the most challenging scenarios like being in a dark room and aiming toward bright light—such as being in a dark house and facing a backlit intruder—the tritium lamp is visible.
The Big Dot’s limiting factor is that the express sight layout isn’t as precise as a smaller front dot, to which I say if you have to stop an attacker at stabbing distances, who cares how well your gun performs at 25 yards off a sandbag. XS recommends Big Dot sights for personal defense ranges—say seven to 10 yards and in. If you want to shoot farther (say 15 to 20 yards), then XS suggests the Standard Dot, but for practical defensive shooting, I’d say the Big Dot serves very well. They can even be used in competition.
“Several XS employees are 3-gun competitors,” says Kinsley. “They all use these defensive sights during competition. Though they are not designed for this purpose, the guys and gals rely on them because they are easy to see and align under recoil.”
Mounting XS DX sights isn’t particularly challenging, but the angled design makes it easier to use a sight-pusher tool than a hammer and punch. Additionally, XS suggests that after you remove the rear sight from the dovetail and clean the sight channel, you file the sight to fit by running the sight over a file and then placing it in the sight channel. Don’t get crazy with the file or you may find you’ve made the sight’s base too small for the dovetail. I speak from personal experience when it comes to filing to fit.
The XS DX sights I tested in the two Glock pistols carry suggested retails of $132 for the DXT2 and $111 for the DXW2, which is considerably less than you’ll pay for a red dot optic. What’s more, the DX’s large front dot and express-style rear sight is quite possibly the best option in iron sights for real-world personal defense applications.