Earlier this week I taught a private lesson for a student that brought two guns: a SIG 365 with the SAS sights, and a SIG 320 with a red dot and properly co-witnessed backup iron sights.
The SAS sights sit very low to the slide, and have a very short sight radius.
The rear sight is a circle, with the “front sight” a dot, giving a sight picture looking like this:
Earlier this year I had one student bring a gun with the SAS sights to class, and that person had significant difficulty using them when pressured to shoot with any speed, or find the sights when bringing the gun to the eye-target line from a ready position quickly (as required in the Texas License to Carry course of fire). This private lesson student was a high skill level shooter, former law enforcement officer, who started out shooting the SAS sights fairly well when we started with the 5×5 drill from our Top 10 drills.
As we continued into the more difficult drills in the Top 10, moving back to 7, 10 and 15 yards, his performance with the SAS sights deteriorated quickly. We checked the gun’s zero by benchrest group shooting at 25 yards, and found that the SAS sights were hitting 8″ left, and his best group was 6″ wide. By comparison, he shot a 2″ group at 25 yards using his SIG 320 with red dot sight. The solution for the SAS sights would be to drift the entire SAS sight assembly over. After some dismal failures on drills at 7 and 10 yards, we opted to put the 365SAS away and switch to the 320 with red dot for the remaining drills of that lesson.
The SAS sights seem to appeal to people that aren’t skilled or knowledgeable about shooting or carrying. They think that regular sights, which are easier to see, will “print too much” or snag on clothing, or they plan on using the 365 as a pocket gun, with no expectation that they will ever need to hit a target at farther than 5 yards. It’s true that the majority of self defense incidents occur at close range, but even in those situations, the threat may be moving, obscured behind cover, or there may be a family member in between the shooter and the threat. So the ability to shoot with precision should be considered essential.
Similarly, those that aren’t skilled or experienced at shooting often fail to understand that sight radius – the distance between front and rear sight – affects a shooter’s ability to aim. The farther the sights are apart, the less small errors in sight alignment affect the alignment of the pistol with the target.
Most carry permit holders never shoot their guns from benchrest at 25 yards to check their zero. Had the 365SAS my recent student brought belonged to one of those people, and they had needed to make a shot past 7 yards, the difficulty in using the sight, combined with the gun’s inadequate factory zero would have led to a “negative outcome” (to use Claude Werner’s phrase). Missed shots most likely, injury or death to the armed citizen possibly. My private lesson student had been carrying that gun as his daily carry pistol, having no idea that the point of impact at 25 yards was nearly off the target at that distance. Regardless of the gun and sights used, all carry guns need to be properly zeroed. (The best way to properly zero is from benchrest, not two handed standing, as shooting errors can cause the shooter to adjust to compensate for errors, not mechanical alignment.)
As part of the lesson I had the student shoot our Three Seconds or Less Test using both guns. He shot a barely-passing 14/20 using the 365 with SAS sights, from open carry, knowing that the gun shot to the left and attempting to correct for that on the precision shots at 7 yards, and a solid 19/20 using the SIG 320 with red dot sight and backup irons, from concealment.
That performance gap illustrates the difference in capability equipment provides, in the hands of a good shooter with skills far beyond the typical carry permit holder. In my opinion, the SAS sights, even when properly zeroed, are not a viable alternative to traditional sights, or a projection laser, or a red dot sight w backup irons, even on a pocket gun.