My Springfield Armory XD’s all came with “traditional” notch-and-post 3-dot sights. They certainly work, but I wanted to try something else. I ended up putting a set of XS 24/7 Express Big Dot sights on one of them, but it hasn’t worked out for me. I was able to try a couple handguns with a red fiber optic front sight and an all-black rear sight, and that seemed to work well for me, so I’m currently in process of getting the XD with the XS Sights changed to use some Dawson Precision sights (red fiber front, fixed all-black rear). We’ll see how it works out.
What made the Dawson’s, at least when I tried them, work so well for me was the red fiber optic was like a bright beacon and my eyes couldn’t help but focus on that front sight. That’s exactly what you want in your sight picture. You generally have 3 things in your path of view: rear sight, front sight, target. Your eyes can only focus on one of those things, so they need to focus on the front sight (Kathy Jackson over at Cornered Cat has a nice write-up on this). One additional thing is that you don’t want other things in your sight path to distract you. Thus the plain and simple all-black rear sight. When you have 3-dot sights, now you have 3 dots to have to sort out in your head. It may be easier if your front dot and rear dots are of different colors (some do this), or some people paint the front post a bright color. Whatever works, the key is distinctive contrast so your eyes find that front sight.
One additional thing about 3-dot sights is there may be confusion about what to line up. Do you line up the top edge of the front post with the top edge of the rear post? Or do you line up the 3 dots? Depending upon your particular sights, when you line up one, the other may be slightly misaligned. Allowing for a simple sight setup means there’s less to juggle — let the front sight draw your eye, let the rear sight just be passively in your sight picture, one thing to line up (top edges), off you go.
So a couple days ago I took a Sharpie to the rear dots of my other XD’s and blackened them out. Yeah it’s not perfect, the black’s aren’t quite the same black, and your depth perception can still pick up the recess of the dots, but they are far less distracting now. My eye goes right for the white dot on the front post, and there’s a lot less clutting the sight picture up. I like this.
I should have done that a long time ago. Well, better late than never.
Updated: As I write this update, I’ve had the Dawson sights on for quite some time. For me, they work great. The notch size and post size are good in relation to each other to give you a clear amount of airspace when lining up the sights. The sights are also very crisp and sharp, so again the sight picture looks very crisp and sharp. The rear sight, being plain black, stays out of your way… it’s there in your field of vision, but it doesn’t draw your eye nor distract you, but it’s around for as much as it needs to be for a rear sight. The red fiber in the front sight is, as I said, a bright beacon. Your eye can’t help but get pulled to it. It helps you find the front sight quickly so you can get on target faster. It’s just a clean sight picture and it does the right things for your eyes to allow you to shoot faster and more accurately. I’m quite sold on this setup.