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Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Gunday Product Reviews: the Snake Eyes Dead Ringer Sight

This is going to be a long review, so hold onto your hats folks...

Early in the year, I received a set of Snake Eyes sights from Dead Ringer for test & evaluation. This review has been a long time in coming, for various reasons:
  1. The sights are not easily mounted on a pistol. (More on this later.)
  2. I wanted to see if the ghost ring on the back of the slide would interfere with concealed carry and/or drawing from concealment. In order to test the concealed carry portion, I perforce had to carry it for an extended period of time. I daresay that 7 months of carry qualifies as a "long term" test. 
  3. I had picked up several bad shooting habits that I needed to overcome.
Now, I plan to address every single one of these points, but in this instance I'm going to skip ahead to a "good part" and do that before I get to the nitty-gritty.

A Newbie Review

I have a friend, Ian Ng, who lives in California and who is interested in gun ownership. However, due to California being, well, California, he had some difficulty in getting to a range in order to test-fire pistols to see which ones he like. Being a proper gunnie, I told him that if he ever found himself in Florida, I would take him shooting at my local range and he could shoot all of mine.

As it so happens, Ian was in my neck of the woods on May 22, and thus I had the privilege of taking him shooting. One of the guns he fired was my Glock 26 with the aforementioned Dead Ringer sights. I'll let him tell the rest of the story:
On my first real trip to a range*, I was given the opportunity to fire a Glock 26 with a Series 3 Snake Eyes sight from Dead Ringer, amid a field that also included a Ruger Bearcat (.22 LR single-action revolver), Kel-Tec PMR-30 (.22 Magnum semi-auto), S&W Bodyguard (.380 semi-auto) and Ruger LCR (.357 Magnum revolver).
As a very novice shooter, it wasn't surprising to find my groupings all over the place. I mean ALL OVER the place: high and left, low and right, low, really low, left, high right, hey a bullseye, low right, low left, did that even hit the target, right, high, high left. You get the idea.
Among other newbie mistakes like anticipating or dropping the wrist, I had to really work at lining up the posts on all the other guns and never really felt I had a good steady read on the target.
The Snake Eyes sights on the Glock made it really easy. I bought the gun up and there was the ring. Center the post and I was done. I found my focus was stronger and there was a lot less fuss around lining up my shot. 
I shot this gun in the middle of the field, so it was neither my first nor last for the day. My shooting sherpa noted that I was much tighter and closer to the center when using the Glock with the sights, with almost every shot inside the 9 ring. After that I went back to punching out a checkerboard on the target. 
Obviously, I'm not a practiced shooter who would have trained on and gotten used to the standard sights, so I have no idea what it would be like to transition to the Snake Eyes. As a novice, though, I like them a lot and would be looking to get a set myself when I purchase a gun. 
* I had previously gone twice to tourist ranges in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but that's another story for another time. Suffice it to say, they weren't good learning experiences.
This experience is rather common. When I went shooting with Da Tinman and Snooze Button Ronin in the spring, I asked each of them to shoot my pistol and tell me how they liked it. Both of them were enthusiastic about its accuracy and ease of use, and Tinman expressed a desire to buy one and refit it to a 1911. Noteworthy, perhaps, is the fact that neither of them carry Glocks -- Tinman carries a Ruger SR9c and Snoozy carries a Boberg XR-9.

I think this information is relevant: when I first used the Snake Eyes sight, I needed several trips to the range to practice with it before I could use it effectively. I am not sure if I simply had picked up bad habits along the way (which is likely) or if Glock shooters need time to adjust to the new sight picture. Perhaps both. However, I think there is at least some truth to the latter, as I am 3 for 3 when it comes to people without preconceived notions shooting my gun and loving the Dead Ringer sights.

Mounting the Sights

This was an adventure in itself, as the product states (both on the website and product packaging) that the "Rear Sight is a press fit application and should be done by a professional gun smith to avoid potential harm to slide or sight". 

My thinking -- and remember, dear readers, why I call myself a Useful Idiot -- was that I could ask my buddy the Glock Armorer down at the Friendly Local Gun Shop to put the sights on and save myself the cost of a gunsmith. When I called him and asked if he'd do it, he was more than happy to oblige -- "I've got a rear-sight removal tool, should be a breeze!" -- and so I went over. 

The original sights came off without a hitch. The new front sight likewise went on without trouble. The rear sight, though...  well, as it turns out, it's just a smidge too wide for the sight tool he owned to get its arms around. 

I shan't detail the hijinks required to get the rear sight mounted and trued... but just to make conversation, did you realize that the Snake Eyes sights are made with "100% military-grade metals"? I don't know what that means, but I assume it means some kind of steel alloy.  Know what's softer than steel? Copper and/or brass heads on a machinist's hammer

I mean, I'm just saying

Obviously I would never endorse such a course of action. It might break the gun or the sight. 

Carrying It Concealed

I have carried my Glock 26 with Snake Eyes sights mounted to it for over 7 months now.  I have carried it under coats and under t-shirts, tucked into shorts and sweatpants and even jeans. I have carried it in the winter, the spring, and the summer.

Not once did I ever have a concealment or draw problem with the ring sight. 

It's simply not as large as the illustrations make it out to be (see picture), and its rounded form did not snag on my clothes. I also never had a problem with drawing it from underneath my cover garment. 

I can't speak for anyone but myself, of course. Perhaps some enterprising idiot will find a way to catch it on their clothes, but this idiot didn't. 

Shooting With It

Let's be honest here:  I have terrible eyesight. I'm nearsighted as heck, I have astigmatism in both eyes (and will probably need bifocals in a few years), and while I'm neither legally blind nor the bearer of Coke-bottle lenses, I will never EVER have 20/20 vision, ever. I think my personal best is 20/30. 

So on a purely personal level, I love the aesthetics of the Snake Eyes sight. It's a big fiber-optic ring that picks up ambient light from everywhere and naturally channels the eye toward the front sight. Finding the center is easy, as the fiber-optic has four "compass points" indicating the center, as well as two high-visibility dots to either side. (If you have the night sight version, these dots are tritium and glow with a brightness that's visible even in shadow.) The front blade also has a high-contrast dot on it. 

In other words, it might as well be a flashing neon "LOOK THIS WAY DUMMY" arrow on my pistol. And because I am a dummy when it comes to shooting, I'll take all the help I can get. 

I shot this today at the range.
20 yards, no laser, just the Snake Eyes sight.

The problem with these sights, as I mentioned earlier, is that they take some practice. I was used to finding the front blade within the U-notch of the back sight, and while I loved all the visual freedom of the ring, it took me a while to figure out exactly how to make it all work. I think the root of my problem was that I allowed myself to get distracted by the dots and arrows, and spent too much time trying to perfectly center the front blade that I neglected everything else, including proper grip and trigger pull. 

Eventually, I realized that I needed to focus on just the front sight and not worry so much about the indicators in the back.  By concentrating on putting the front sight on my target, the rear just naturally floated into place and I started to shoot much more effectively. 

In other words, I needed to find my zen center and realize that there is no spoon -- or in this case, that there is no rear sight -- and by ignoring it on a conscious level my unconscious mind would automatically center it. This, I believe, is why Ian and the others had such an easy time with it: by not being Glock shooters, they had no preconceptions on how the rear sight needed to behave, and so it snapped into place for them. 


Do I recommend this product?  It depends. 
  • If you are a new shooter and you are having problems getting on target, or if you have bad eyesight that is hungry for more light and visual cues, then I recommend this product -- just make sure you have secured the services of a gunsmith to install it for you. 
  • If you are perfectly happy with how your pistol shoots, then the time needed to learn to shoot pistols ghost-ring style isn't worth the effort. If your pistol is largely a safe queen, then I would say it's not worth the expense. 
  • But if you have picked up some bad habits and want to overcome them, then I enthusiastically recommend the Snake Eyes sights. Perhaps I am letting my own biases color my opinion, but I feel that these sights will highlight every mistake you make and drive you to correct your form. 

FTC Disclaimer: This product was given to me for free for testing. I was not paid to write a good review. If I didn't like I would have given it a poor rating, like other reviews I have done. Don't you have real crime to investigate?

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