XS Sight Systems Big Dot Tritium Night Sight
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

September 26th, 2002




Lately, I have been carrying the new Smith & Wesson 342PD .38 Special as an everyday pocket gun, when not packing something larger. It has become my "always with me" gun. It is light, reasonably powerful, and instantly ready, should it be needed. I keep it stoked with five Plus P Glaser Safety Slugs for optimum performance against two-legged predators. There was only one thing really lacking on the little Smith, and that was the factory sights. While the rear notch sight is adequate as supplied from the factory, the front sight disappeared in low-light conditions. For a personal defense weapon, I think that night sights are a must. If a person is to need a handgun in a defensive situation, the gun must be readily accessible and easy to use accurately.

Accuracy in a personal defense weapon (PDW) is different from accuracy in a target pistol. A PDW must place its shots on target, up close and fast, usually at a range of less than ten yards.  The front sight needs to be clearly visible in any light condition. A person is much more likely to need a handgun for self defense at night. Predators greatly prefer to operate under the cloak of darkness, so a PDW that is suited only for use in the daytime is only ready when one is least likely to need it. So, to make the little lightweight Smith & Wesson a truly perfect pocket gun required a better front sight.

About two days after placing a call to XS Sight Systems, a package arrived containing one of their unique Big Dot Tritium night sights. XS Sight Systems (formerly AO Sight Systems) has always been at the forefront of highly useful and unique sight systems for rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Having used their products before, I knew that they would have a solution for the little J-frame thirty-eight.

I donít know how much time and money was spent on thinking up the name for the Big Dot, but it describes the new sight perfectly.  The sight consists of a large white dot of about  5/32 of an inch in diameter set into the rear face of a blued steel front sight. In the center of the white dot is a small tritium insert. The tritium insert glows in the dark to give a visible reference point, and is very effective even in the lowest light conditions. If you can make out the silhouette of your target, you can easily index the firearm in the right direction. In good light conditions, the large white dot is easily visible against any background.

I tested the Big Dot Tritium sight in several light conditions, and the effectiveness of this sight in almost total darkness has to be experienced to fully understand the usefulness of the product. A shooter can leave both eyes open, place the front sight quickly on target, and fire the revolver. If you have a handgun that you carry for personal defense, take it outside or in a dark closet and try to find the front sight. Even in a parking garage in the daytime, it is hard to see the sights of a handgun against a dark background.

The XS Big Dot is easy to install on the J-frame Smith. The front sight pin is drifted out, the factory sight removed, and the new sight installed in its place. Mine required a bit of file work, but after a few strokes and five minutes, the new sight was in place. A new hole must be drilled to accept the factory roll pin, and requires a very small drill bit, which is not included with the Big Dot sight, but should be readily available at your local hardware store.

Check out the XS Big Dot Tritium, and other innovative products online at:


The set number for the sights tested is RV-0001N-3.

If you carry a small frame revolver for personal defense, I strongly suggest that you install, or have your local gunsmith do so, an XS Big Dot with the Tritium insert on your gun. In this case, it is an item that can literally be a lifesaver.

Jeff Quinn

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XS Sight Systems (formerly AO Sight Systems) offers the "Big Dot" Tritium insert front sight for small-frame revolvers.



Author's S&W Model 342PD .38 revolver is a great little gun, with the exception of the lack of "night sights". Author believes no serious defensive handgun should be without such a sight, and the XS Sight Systems product is easy to install as can be seen in the following photos.



The factory sight's pin is drifted out with a punch.



The factory sight is lifted out, and the new XS "Big Dot" sight is put into place.



The new XS sight is pinned into the barrel shroud, and looks right at home. Inexpensive and easy to install, the XS Sight Systems "Big Dot" sight can immeasurably increase your chances of surviving a life-or-death encounter.