How to improve your fiber optic sights for FREE, thanks to Strike Industries

fiber

Earlier this year, Strike Industries emailed me the above photo and asked  if I could guess what they had done to make the fiber optic sights on the right brighter than the standard factory fiber optic sight on the far left (with the black mark underneath it). I had a few courageous guesses, but I was wrong, and the answer is far simpler than any of my guesses.

Think back to high school science when they taught you about angle of reflection and Total Internal Reflection. As you increase the angle of light hitting a transparent boundary (like glass) less light travels through the boundary and more light is reflected (up until the Critical Angle is reached where Total Internal Reflection occurs and all the light is reflected back).

Strike Industries experimented with fiber optic sights (light pipes) with angles cut into the end of the pipe which increased the angle of light as it bounced through the pipe. As you can see above, it works!

1

Light loss is reduced even further because an increased angle of internal reflection decreases the frequency that the light hits the light pipe, so even less light is lost.

2

They also experimented with different cross sections, and adding foil or reflective paint to the underside of the light pipe.

3

Strike Industries shared their research with us because they want to encourage folks to experiment with these techniques. Their experiments concluded that this concept does not help much indoors, possibly because artificial light is a lot less diffused, but outdoors it is very effective.

Light pipes can be purchased cheaply online. I have seen them selling for $2.60/meter (3.2 ft), which is enough pipe for about 40 front sights. Good luck experimenting!



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


Advertisement

  • JaredN

    Brighter is not necessarily better.

    I actually swapped out a green fiber optic tube on my competition gun for a red fiber optic tube. The green was just too bright. As a result, it visually bloomed, preventing me from seeing the top of the actual sight blade. That prevented me from getting the most accuracy when I needed to for tight shots.

    I found the same problem with a gold bead front sight. With a bright sun behind me, the gold bead is too bright, blooming in my vision and preventing proper sight alignment.

    • Interesting I’ve never heard that about a brass bead front sight. I normally use TruGlo Tritium/Fiber Optic.

      • Dakota Raduenz

        Ever shot a shotgun?

    • Core

      I prefer black sights so I can focus on the light gap on the front sight blade over the target.

    • bigbob

      for what its worth,,,,, I use ivory front sight blades on my target pistols. It absorbs the light and doesnt bloom and get bigger in the sun

    • Brazos Custom Gunworks has a clever FO sight design, the MicroDot, that should eliminate FO bloom for taking precision shots. The light pipe is recessed behind the face of the sight so you are only seeing the FO through an aperture when aiming at longer ranges. At close ranges, you can simply “shoot out of the notch” to catch the full bloom of the FO.

  • Phillip Cooper

    One thing I’ve always wondered-

    Why is noone simply drilling out the factory plastic sights on, say, a Taurus, and installing a tritium capsule bought off of DealExtreme, for example?

    Yes, you’d need to be somewhat accurate with your drilling. But I used to make 1/35 scale miniatures and drill out the barrels of the small arms to make them look more realistic- that’s MUCH more tedious than a 1 or 2mm hole drilled in a block of plastic.

    • Blackhawk

      I’ve done similar to paintball/airsoft guns before using glow in the dark powder. Drill a hole, put some powder in, and seal it with a drop of super glue. I’m sure a tritium capsule would be even easier.

      • Phillip Cooper

        OK, so apparently it’s not a bad idea. I’m going to have to order some of these, then. I’ve been thinking about this idea for years, just never tried it.

        • verbracity

          Could you post a cheap source for them?
          Could not find on dealextreme.
          thnx

          • Phillip Cooper

            I’ll try to remember to look for another source. They’re all the rage amongst the mallninja paracord keychain EDC crowd. Apparently their gear isn’t right if it doesn’t glow in the dark.

            DX used to be rife with the things.

  • flyingburgers

    If they’re using the fluorescent plastic shown, their results indoor are probably not due to the lightpipe. “Day-glo” plastics work by having a pigment absorb high-energy blue and UV light and re-emit it at a longer wavelength. Indoor lighting does not have the blue and UV emissions the Sun has, so it won’t appear as bright. The effect may be non-linear too, becoming more efficient the brighter the light is, but don’t quote me on that.

    • wzrd1

      Human vision is non-linear, it’s logarithmic.

      • Grendel Medlord

        Don’t you tell me how to live my life!

  • Drill

    SCIENCE!!

  • Dr. Obvious

    Ok maybe it’s just late, but what do I do to get a brighter sight?

    • ConservativeSurge

      Something about take a high school class on Total Internal Reflection then take what you learn and experiment with light pipe.

      • Cymond

        Yeah, this isn’t a very good how-to guide. I don’t recall learning about Total Internal Reflection in high school, but I took chemistry rather than physics, and they only brushed over optics in the general science classes. I apprciate this information, but it’s like seeing a chunk of research without seeing the conclusion.

        From rereading the info several times, I think you can improve the sight’s performance by undercutting an angle on the lower-front of the light tube.

    • jpcmt

      Yeah, I didn’t catch it either. Too much whiz bang talk in there. They coulda just said “cut at a certain angle” or something. I always melted the end protruding out so it would snug up to the hole its in and then press on it so its a little bigger than the tube itself..and also it makes it mirror smooth which I think makes a difference.

    • smalltowndude

      I know, right. What are all them diagrams supposed to be telling me?

  • Captain Obvious

    The explanation is somewhat convoluted but from what I gather if you cut the fiber optic at a more open/shallower angle, it allows more light through it. In my experience you turn the open angle up and not down as shown, it gathers more light and thus is brighter at the other end.

    • UpChuck.Liberals

      The light is reflected off of the angle, not gathered by it, as shown.

  • Swarf

    So where do I get this light tube by the meter deal? A Google search doesn’t turn up anything obvious, but maybe I’m using the wrong search terms.

    • wzrd1

      Couldn’t find anything in a ten second search, as it’s late and it’s tax day tomorrow, I’ll fart around with it tomorrow, when I’ll have minutes available.

  • Actually, I think the angled cut fiber optic rod has been patented by Wilson Combat. The reflective undercoat is covered as well.

    https://www.google.com/patents/US7627976
    https://www.google.com/patents/US8189967

    The night sight version was discussed here at TFB several years ago. Folks may recognize Doug Olson’s name from his work at Qual-a-Tec, Knight’s Armament Company, and most recently, Surefire.

  • AlDeLarge

    I have to wonder what a cone shape, convex or concave would do.