Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trijicon Night Sights - Beretta M9A1 Installation

There comes a point in your life when you realize that you just need to pony up and get some glow in the dark night sights installed on your self defense pistol.  For the last couple of years, this Beretta M9A1 has been my bedside gun, range gun, concealed carry gun, and backup to my AR-15.  As it has seen a lot of holster use and wear, it has seen more than it's fair share of treatment from the Birchwood Casey PRESTO gun blue pen to cover up scars and restore scratches from use.  This gun has seen quite a few rounds down the pipe, and most recently was used in my youtube video demonstrating the futility of banning high capacity magazines.  Used by new and experienced shooters alike, this gun has been ever faithful and has functioned without malfunction in every environment she has been subjected to, most notably the dusty conditions of the Utah desert.

As I have no intention of relegating this gun to safe queen status, I decided to send it out and finally get Trijicon Night Sights installed.  Since I do not have the tooling, or expertise to drill out my front sight and install a tritium lamp, I farmed this work out to someone else.  The company I used to do this work is Trijicon's authorized installer, Tooltech Gunsite.  The process of installation, for a Beretta, includes drilling out the front sight and installing the Night Sight lamps into it.  Then it is a simple matter of drifting out the rear combat sight and installing the Trijicon rear sight in it's place.

The process was pretty easy.  First, I completed the order form, which included pertinent information about the weapon, my address, payment option, and exactly what work I wanted done while it was away.  Since the entire weapon does not have to be shipped, I field stripped the gun, and packaged the slide only.  I placed the frame, barrel, magazine, recoil spring, and guide rod into a couple of plastic bags and stored them safely at my house.  I recommend getting insurance on this when you ship it because without a slide, a Beretta frame is pretty useless.

The slide had a two-week turn around.  I received it about 15 days later, and to my chagrin, UPS knocked on the door, and just left the gun on the front porch.  Tooltech did buy insurance for it for the return to my house.  I hate UPS though.

The wait, and cost were worth it.  My  wife actually sent me a couple pictures on my phone before I saw it in person, and it looks fantastic.  The bright white ring around the tritium lamp is highly visible - much more so than the standard dot that the weapon came standard with.  Target acquisition is faster and easier with this setup.  It appears that in order to get the night sight installed, Tooltech drilled all the way through the front sight, installed the lamp, and applied this black resin compound to keep it in.  I imagine this is pretty tough stuff.  If you're wondering if the resin is solvent resistant, you can rest assured that it is, but prolonged contact is not recommended due to the adhesive bonds to keep the sight together.  Fortunately, these areas don't require much cleaning, and the use of some Hoppes #9 oil and a quick wipe will due.  Trijicon actually recommends a bit of water to flush them out if needed.

The rear sights are a straightforward process of removing the rear combat sights and installing the new ones.  It was nice of Tooltech to send my old rear sights back with all the documentation, receipt, warranty information, and the care & maintenance card.  While I highly doubt I will be reusing my old sights on this gun, I could utilize them on my other Beretta 92 FS, if I so desired.  It's the same awesome story for the rear sights, as there are two highly visible sight rings, and the tritium gas lamps in the center.  My wife calls them robot eyes.  While I do not have a micrometer to verify at the moment, it appears that the rear sights rings are a bit smaller than the front ring.  Furthermore, when I punch the gun out to full extension, the three dots appear to be the same size.  Since the front sight is hanging out nearly 5 inches ahead of the rear sights, I'm forced to conclude that the front sight is likely larger than the rears, and this is a very good thing.  The sight body is all metal construction.  The tritium gas lamps are housed in an aluminum tube, and a sapphire window is used so you can see the glowing tritium in complete darkness.

If you think you are seeing a few too many glowing dots in this picture, you are correct.  I took this picture in total darkness on top of my deep freeze chest freezer.  The light reflected off the lid for the camera.  No matter though.  You can see the outline of the gun somewhat clearly.  I must point out that I used Photoshop to lighten this picture considerably.  Otherwise, you'd be staring at a few green dots against a field of total blackness.  One question my colleague at work asked me is "Do you have to expose them to light for them to work?"  The answer is no.  Tritium (3H) is a radioactive isotope of Hydrogen.  It contains one proton and two neutrons.  Naturally occurring tritium is very rare.  Tritium has a half life of about 12 years, and Trijicon warranties their Night Sights to last about that time.  After the twelve years is up, the tritium illumination begins to degrade and the night sights will eventually dim.  It's not difficult for Trijicon to replace the lamps in your existing sights for a nominal fee at that point.  Better than batteries, you never have to worry about your sights being on.  Let the tritium light your way in the darkness.

Now, I should clarify that because these sights illuminate in total darkness does not mean they are so bright that you lose your night vision.  In fact, the green color choice is so because of two things: the human eye sees green better than any color, and it remains brightest longest.  When a room goes from full light to total darkness, it takes my eyes about a second to see the tritium night sights.  If I use my weapon-mounted flashlight, I may lose the sights while it is use momentarily, but they come back quickly, especially if I use my light properly and only illuminate for a moment to identify targets.  My attached video, below, demonstrates this quite effectively.

Overall, I'm happy with this decisions.  Trijicon Night Sights will vary on cost, depending on what firearm you have, and what it will take to get the sights installed.  After all shipping costs, I think mine rand me in the neighborhood of $175, and was worth every penny.  My weapon went from being not so great in the dark to totally capable.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I've wanted night sights for along time, but couldn't find the 'right' answer. Can't wait to try it on my INOX!