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XS Sights R3D 2.0 Night Sights: Tested

Evolving its original three-dot pistol sights, the R3D 2.0 Night Sights from XS Sights offers enhanced daylight and low-light capabilities, improved corrosion resistance and easier installation. Using the Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher we prep a set for review and head to the range for testing.

XS Sights R3D 2.0 Night Sights: Tested

Pairing a bright Glow Dot front with tritium-powered rear dots, the R3D 2.0 from XS Sights is ready for action in any lighting condition. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

Any pistolero worth their salt has heard of XS Sights of Fort Worth, Texas, and most will have done business with the company. Long known for its Big Dot handgun sights, XS offers a comprehensive selection of high-visibility firearm sights — including rifle and shotgun offerings — build for hard use. The most prolific category is the company’s tritium-powered pistol sights, which includes the DXT2 and DXW2 Big Dot arrays, as well as notch-and-post sets like the R3D three-dot sights, F8 vertically aligned two-dot sights and the Minimalist Night Sights series which pairs a bold, illuminated front with a black, serrated rear.

New for 2023, XS Sights is improving the R3D design and has introduced the R3D 2.0 Tritium Night Sights. The most notable change is to the rear square-notch-style unit. First, the self-luminescent tritium-powered dots are larger than those on earlier models, and they now have a black PVC ring to give the lamps a more defined outline. Too, the machined steel sight body now features rear-facing serrations to help reduce glare in bright conditions.

The R3D 2.0 sights also sport a new finish. Both the front and rear units are CNC machined from steel which, like any metal, can show signs of rust over time. Degradation is often accelerated in warm, humid conditions as well as by daily carry near the skin which can be a challenging, often sweaty, environment for metal finishes. To combat corrosion and reduce maintenance requirements, XS changed the metal treatment to a black nitride finish more robust than the black oxide finish of the previous generation.

New and Old R3D
Comparing the original R3D, top, with the new R3D 2.0, bottom, the biggest change is the serrated rear sight with larger tritium lamps. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

The front sight is largely unchanged, save the finish. It still consists of a tritium lamp surrounded by a photoluminescent Glow Dot ring. Offered in green or orange, the 0.145-inch wide front sight is designed to be bright and quick to visually acquire. The arrangement is also ideal for low-light environments since the tritium dot is always illuminated and the Glow Dot earns its moniker after absorbing ambient light. In the company’s video introduction for the R3D 2.0s, it is noted that the color formulation for the orange Glow Dots has been enhanced for improved brightness in daylight conditions.

Finally, the rear sight’s dovetail was reengineered to be easier to install via a pronounced lead-in edge. Essentially, one corner of the base is relieved to make it easier to insert into the slide’s sight channel. The R3D 2.0 rear sight also features a crush zone to reduce the force needed for installation. These evolutions make sense given the recent focus by XS Sights on improving end user experience and facilitating at-home DIY sight installation, further demonstrated by the company’s recent introduction of Inline Sight Pusher tools.

XS Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher
The Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher from XS Sights makes rear sight installation a breeze on Glock pistols. The locking wedge is simple and secure and index marks on the brass pusher bit facilitate perfect sight alignment. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

At the time of writing, R3D 2.0 Night Sights are available for the most popular Glock and Smith & Wesson pistols, with SIG Sauer, HK and CZ options in development. Prices range from $132 for standard-height sets to $143 for suppressor-height sights.

Installation and Testing

To try out the R3D 2.0s for myself, I ordered a standard-height set for a Glock 19 with the new orange Glow Dot. Initial inspection of the sights confirmed excellent craftsmanship, bright tritium illumination and a clean, even nitride finish. It was immediately clear that the new treatment was more durable than the black oxide of the original R3Ds. I had on hand unused samples of both, and the older sight seemed to collect marks and dings rather too easily by comparison.

XS Gunsmith Front Sight Tool
Forget those cheap, tough-to-use Glock front sight tools. The XS Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher includes a steel tool with a checkered handle and magnetic head to keep ahold of those small sight screws. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

After preparing the host gun’s slide, I opted to use the XS Sights Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher ($200) for installation. I’ve found the new tools to be brilliant, simple and effective for installing new sights — even those not from XS — on to Glock pistols. Both the Gunsmith Series and the DIY Series ($150) sight pushers feature a durable cradle, a polymer non-marring locking wedge, and a brass bit with index lines to help precisely center the rear sight. The Gunsmith version includes one extra brass bit – each bit is rated for between 50 and 100 installations – as well as a steel Glock front sight tool with a magnetic head to prevent dropping the small front sight screws. The front sight tool is exceptionally well made and doubles as the sight pusher’s lever arm — it, alone, is worth the $50 upcharge in my opinion.

Besides the small form factor, secure slide fit and precise adjustments, the final great benefit of an XS Inline Sight Pusher is its ease of use. Because the pusher screw and bit are directly in line with the rear sight dovetail, the strength required manipulate the tool is greatly reduced. It’s a very efficient design that, paired with previously described sight features, makes installing new sets of XS Sights quick and easy.


Gunsmith Sight Pusher Handle
The front sight tool also doubles as the lever arm for the Gunsmith Series Inline Sight Pusher. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

With the new sights installed I was off to the range to confirm I’d zeroed them correctly and to get a feel for the arrangement in action. I was very pleased when my first shots at 7 yards confirmed I was aligned for A-zone accuracy, and even happier when I transitioned to the smaller headbox target and holes appeared exactly where intended. While still up close, I worked from the draw and had no issue finding the front sight during rapid presentation. In fact, I found I was naturally shooting sooner from the draw and faster on my follow ups than I expected with a new sight arrangement, but it’s a credit to the intuitive design and brilliant front dot.

My long-held iron sight preference has been for a bold front paired with a blacked-out rear. The three-white-dot arrangements of so many factory pistols really turned me off to multi-dot arrays. With all the aiming references being the same size and color, I found them to be crowded, imprecise and unhelpful for developing a front sight focus. So, prior to trying the R3D 2.0s, I had some concern that the larger, more-defined rear dots might clutter the sight picture or distract focus.

R3D 2.0 Installed
Both the front and rear sights are CNC machined from steel and feature a durable black nitride finish. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

I needn’t have worried. The Glow Dot front is unmistakable, and I found the rear dots to be subtle yet helpful indexes. As I mentioned, these sights were surprisingly fast for me, and I shot very accurately with them. Plus, unlike any white-dot arrangement, the XS sights are optimized for use in low and transitional lighting.

Recommended


Conclusion

Not surprising given my affinity for a bold front sight, I like the XS Big Dot and I’m a fan of the express sight concept as a whole. For dangerous game and predators of the two- and four-legged variety, my requirement is an easy-to-find aiming point so I can hurry up and get to work. Speed and accuracy in a deadly confrontation are imperative and express-style sights are proven to deliver.

Still, I’ve always been more comfortable with the precision of notch-and-post iron sights for my pistols. I like the reassurance of aligning multiple index points as described in the old pistol marksmanship adage, “Equal height, equal light.”

R3D 2.0 Rear Sight
The author was worried the rear sight's enlarged dots would clutter the sight picture. In fact, the orange front clearly stood out — its remains plainly visible even with the hard rear-sight focus of this photo — and the rear dots added a subtle but effective aiming index. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

With the new R3D 2.0 Night Sights, XS has developed a best-of-both-worlds solution. The slightly enlarged front sight, illuminant in any environ, is exceedingly quick to acquire during presentation and sure to visually standout against any target or backdrop. It’s also capable of great precision when the front post is centered within the rear sight’s square notch and the three effulgent dots are marshalled into line. No, they aren’t built for bullseye accuracy at extended ranges, but they are built for speed and will easily hold tight to the A-zone within 25 yards. More importantly, they offer shooters confidence and versatility as might be required in a self-defense scenario and, in that role, the R3D 2.0 Night Sights are among the best I’ve tested.

Sound Off

Do you have a favorite iron-sight setup? Any experience with the XS Inline Sight Pushers? Let us know at gaeditor@outdoorsg.com , and us “Sound Off” in the subject line.

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