Most factory pistols come with the cheapest, most horrible sights you could possible imagine. The M&P is better, in this regard, including a set of steel, 3-dot style sights. But, we can do better than that!
I was very happy to see the M&P arrive with serviceable sights. They’re somewhat similar to (I think?) a Novak rear sight with a plain, smooth front sight post. The front sight measures .130″ wide, which the notch in the rear is .140″. This really doesn’t give you much in the way of “light bars” (i.e. the light that you see on each side of the front sight between it and the rear sight). Light bars are important the aiming process. You want them to be roughly 50% of the width of the front sight – your brain will tend to line them right up for your that way, regardless of the width of the front post and rear notch, if you get the light bars right, you can shoot the sights.
They arrive in a 3 dot configuration. I’m not really a fan of 3 dot sights, personally (to some extent, this is a personal taste thing, but I shoot better with plain irons…), so some sight black can fix that situation pretty well.You can see in the picture to the right roughly what they look like, but in practice, you have less light bar on each side than the picture implies (it’s tough to take a good picture of sights with an iPhone camera – sorry about the quality, there). In fact, there’s almost none. It would be more difficult than necessary to shoot the factory sights quickly and accurately.
I shot the factory sights for a couple hundred rounds, and they’re OK – just OK. I didn’t feel the immediate need to replace them before firing a shot, like I do with Glock factory sights, but I still felt the need for something more precise and intuitive, and with a little more versatility for carry purposes.
Dawson makes a wide variety of replacement sights for quite a number of pistols on the market. I’d had a chance to handle these sights installed on a Glock in the past, so I knew roughly what to expect in terms of quality and the sight picture. I also knew that they’d have the features I wanted in a set of sights for carry and for competition.
In order to get the right mix between light bars and front sight width, I went with a .115″ wide target front sight, and a .145″ wide rear notch Charger sight. This gives you the sight picture you see at the top of the post (I did a better job with that one – that’s pretty much what the sight picture looks like behind the gun). The front sight is a middling width – wide enough to pick up quickly and easily, but narrow enough to retain precision on smaller targets. The rear sight is sized to then create the right light bar width, and also to have plenty of room to see the front sight, even if the gun is lined up just a bit off. This turns out to be a very intuitive arrangement. They point easily and line up without effort on the target.
The Charger rear sight was engineered to be a carry/duty sight and has a couple of interesting features that help in that role. The first is the 90 shelf on the front edge of the sight. This is useful if you have to manipulate the gun one handed – you can use that edge to catch on your belt or a pocket to rack the slide for purposes of reloading the gun, or to help clear a jam. Dawson’s also serrated that front edge, which helps give it a little more bite against whatever surface you use it on. Compared the factory sight, the Charger is easier to employ in this fashion. In addition, the Charger is a beefy sight. It’s built tough to help it survive use as a charging handle, and should be capable of taking a lot of abuse.
The rear edge of the sight is smooth. Normally, I prefer a serrated rear sight – at least for competition purposes. The serrations reduce glare on the sight blade, especially when coupled with some sight black. I wasn’t sure how a smooth rear was going to work out. In practice, though, I didn’t have any problems with it and, if anything, it seems to help provide some contrast with the serrated target front sight. Instead of having fine detail on the rear sight blade that my eye can focus on, it just skips past the rear sight entirely and locks onto the front sight.
In terms of visibility in low light, I carry light with me anyway, so I’m not too worried about finding my sights in most situations. However, you can get these sights with tritium inserts. You have to bump up to a .125″ front sight width, though. If Dawson made a .155″ rear, that would also give you a similar set of light bars.
I had Dawson install these sights, but they’re pretty easy to do yourself, too. Dawson includes a front sight pusher punch with the front sight, and a nylon tipped punch to drift the rear.
All in all, the Dawson Charger sight set beats out the factory sights pretty nicely. They’re a simple, low maintenance option for carry or for competition.