08:57 – I’ve been thinking about night sights, not just for the AR-15, but for the Mini-14, our shotguns, and our pistols and revolvers. There are a lot of options available, ranging in price from $10,000+ for a top-quality, current-generation night-vision or thermal imaging scope, down to the $100 to several hundred dollar range for decent quality tritium- or LED-based illuminated sights. I don’t think I’ll go with any of those. I don’t want something that requires electric power, and even the junk Chinese tritium sights are costly.
I think we’ll go with the low-tech phosphorescent paint method. A small dab of this stuff is more than sufficient to allow one to see one’s front and rear sights in the dark. Amazon actually carries quite a selection of these paints, including some that are marketed as for gun sights. They all rack up some bad reviews, almost all of which criticize either the brightness or the persistence of the glow. I don’t think that’ll be an issue at all.
The real issue is that these reviewers have probably never experienced darkness. As a teenage amateur astronomer, my back yard was sometimes so dark (on the edge of a town of 30,000+) that I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. When we had a group observing, there was always the danger of walking right into a telescope or another person. It was really, really dark. Nowadays, there are no places that dark east of the Mississippi. Even the most remote locations in the eastern US have enough sky glow that a fully dark-adapted person is in no danger of running into another person or tripping over someone else’s gear. But in a widespread power failure, the eastern US will become completely dark, other than light from the moon and stars. In that kind of darkness, even a minor glow is more than enough to align one’s sights.
So I decided to make my own field-expedient night sights by putting a small dab of phosphorescent paint on the sights of our weapons. I’ll make the stuff up right here in the sink, by adding some of this stuff to a bottle of Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails nail polish or some similar carrier. Exposing it to sunlight or an LED flashlight for a few seconds should suffice to activate it well enough to work for several hours to overnight in really dark conditions. If the glow does get too dim, I can simply reactivate it with a flashlight, shielding my eyes to prevent loss of dark adaptation. Better yet, I’ll hit it with one of my UV flashlights, which won’t cause any loss of dark adaptation even if I look directly at the beam.