This is approximately how the sights appear to someone with presbyopia—the eye cannot focus clearly on the front sight. However, the Snake Eyes aperture rear can help to “pick up” the front sight more quickly than with standard open sights.
When younger and still immortal, it amused me no end to see the “old guys” shooting bullseye pistol while wearing bifocals. A shooter would tip his head up and down, up and down over his extended arm, focusing first on the target and then on the pistol sights and then on the target again through the bifocal lenses before finally letting the shot go.
Now that I’m edging closer into that “old guy” classification, it isn’t so funny; there’s no denying that my eyes are not picking up the sight picture as quickly as they did at age 30. The problem is presbyopia, the loss of the ability to focus at closer distances, and it is something nearly everyone will experience with aging—there is no prevention or cure. Just as with other parts of our bodies, our aging eyes begin to lose flexibility, making it difficult to focus, for example, on pistol sights and barrel mounted rifle sights.
Doing the bifocal-bobblehead dance is not a good option for NRA Action Pistol, IDPA, IPSC or other fast shooting, so what can we do other than hang up our guns? Perhaps we can borrow sights from High Power and Vintage Military Rifle competition. Specifically, why not try mounting aperture rear sights on our pistols?
Normal, youthful eyesight can focus on the front sight.
“The whole purpose of the Snake Eyes aperture sight is faster target acquisition,” said Dead Ringer Marketing Director Chase Rohlfsen. Though intended for quick defensive shooting rather than for competitive shooting, Rohlfsen agreed that Dead Ringer’s Snake Eyes might help mitigate the problem of presbyopia and he provided loaner sights to test the theory.
Updating Old Technology
Aperture sights on pistols is not a new idea, and in the past they have not performed well enough to become common. What makes the Snake Eyes different is the use of what appears to be a fiber optic ring. According to Rohlfsen the material is not a true optical fiber, but as far as the eye is concerned, it may as well be. The brightly colored orange or green ring seems to allow the eye to pick up the sight aperture somewhat faster than a blued metal ring. The ring’s inner edge is also “indexed” at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock with pointed protrusions to aid in centering. Because it is intended as a combat sight, both front and rear sights have tritium dots for low light conditions. And the aperture sight is very rugged, as Rohlfsen demonstrated by hammering it against a steel countertop and then using the countertop to vigorously cycle the pistol’s slide a few times.
Aperture sights on rifles work because our eyes and brains want to see the target in the center of the aperture. We attempt to align aperture sights with the target naturally. And because we look through an aperture sight, not at it, we don’t need to focus on it. But aperture sights on rifles are only inches from the eye; will they still work when held at arm’s length on a pistol?
The Snake Eyes front sight is .051 inch taller than the Glock factory sight.
I mounted the Snake Eyes on a Glock 19C and took it out for some informal shooting and local action pistol competition. Changing the Glock’s rear sight was a simple matter of drifting out the existing sight and drifting in the Snake Eyes sight. Changing the front sight, of course, required only the Glock front sight screw tool. The center of the Snake Eyes aperture is higher than the top of the “issue” Glock rear sight, so the front sight is necessarily taller as well. Even so, with the Snake Eyes front and rear sights installed bullet impacts at 15 yards were a couple inches lower than with the issue sights because of the sight picture necessarily used (below).
Test and adjust
Just as with any other equipment change in competition, it takes time to adjust to something new, and the Snake Eyes is no exception. Aligning the three sight dots is fine for good eyesight, though it obscures the target and raises the top edge of the front sight above the center of the aperture. Holding the top of the front sight post in the aperture center may work better for High Power Service Rifle and Garand/Springfield rifle competitors accustomed to that sight picture. Also, presbyopia makes attempting to align the (blurred) dots just as time consuming as aligning post-and-notch sights, so the “Service Rifle sight picture” is pretty much required to take advantage of the Snake Eyes’ benefit of speeding up (blurred) front sight acquisition.
The key to the Snake Eyes is the light-gathering plastic insert that acts like a fiber optic to clearly and quickly delineate the sight edges even though they may be out of focus.
At 15 yards the Snake Eyes sights shot pretty much to point-of-hold (six o’clock on the black dot, the lowest group in the target photo), whereas the Glock factory sights shot about six inches higher (center group). The highest group in the photo is the result of shooting a combination of Glock factory front and Snake Eyes rear sight in an experiment to raise impacts a bit. (For your reference, the Glock factory front sight on this pistol is .179 inch tall, the Snake Eyes is .230 inch tall.)
Swinging on steel targets left and right, the wide ring posts of the aperture eclipse the target briefly; but it’s not really a problem when shooting with both eyes open, and even with one eye closed it seems it wouldn’t matter much after some practice.
Dry firing, informal “drills” at the range and followed by competition, the aperture sight did not help bring the front sight into focus. However, it appeared to do what I’d hoped: eliminate the extra time needed to find and precisely align the front sight with a rear notch caused by presbyopia preventing a front sight focus. The reason appears to be because the entire front sight is exposed in the open aperture, compared to the standard sights where much of the front sight is “hidden” behind the rear sight blade. The end result is that the eye can “pick up” and align the front sight more quickly with the Snake Eyes.
Because the Snake Eyes replacement front sight is slightly taller than the Glock’s “issue” sight, impacts will move. Groups, top to bottom: Glock factory front sight with Snake Eyes rear; Glock factory sights; Snake Eyes front and rear sights.
I asked other action pistol shooters to evaluate the Snake Eyes. Comments were generally positive, though some had caveats. One, a combat pistol instructor, thought it does, indeed, provide faster target acquisition but felt the ring, index marks and dots make the sight “too busy.” Another, a 55-year-old who wears bifocals, agreed on both faster target acquisition and an improvement in front sight acquisition, but said he was not comfortable with the Snake Eyes simply because it is “unconventional.” An eyeglass wearer liked the Snake Eyes but felt he didn’t need it. We all agreed that it would take time and practice to get accustomed to the Snake Eyes sights, but that it could benefit some shooters.
So, that’s what it comes down to: subjective opinion. An objective approach – perhaps comparing the scores of 10 matches using standard sights with the scores of 10 matches using the Snake Eyes sight – might show whether there is improvement in speed, but any conclusion would still not be definitive, as higher scores might be simply a matter of practice or other factors.
Changing the Glock’s sights requires only a hammer, drift and the Glock front sight screw tool.
Again, the intent of the Snake Eyes design is faster target acquisition in self-defense situations. But if presbyopia is taking the fun out of your pistol games and you’re not ready to call it quits, the Snake Eyes is worth a shot.
Dead Ringer makes Snake Eyes sights to fit Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield Armory and other pistols. MSRP is $125. For more information visit www.deadringerhunting.com.