Tritium sights are essential for any modern pistol intended for military, law enforcement, or self-defense usage. We know they shine in the dark, allowing their proud users to see clearly at night, thanks to a chemical called “tritium.” Their light is generated by electrons, which produce a radioactive decay of tritium over time, allowing the phosphor to glow as a light source.
However, how long do tritium sights last? This article will discuss how long they work for and factors that affect the lifespan of a tritium night gun’s sight, so read until the end.
What Are Tritium Sights?
Tritium sights are made of tritium gas, a hydrogen-3 radioactive isotope for optic lighting. Don’t be startled by the word “radioactive,” as tritium’s radiation isn’t strong enough to harm you.
Tritium’s energy source is intrinsic, meaning it doesn’t need to be exposed or charged by light to work. The tritium light lasts as long as the radioactive material’s decay process continues.
Even if you holster your gun or store it in a bedside drawer, you’ll find the tritium sights glowing when you take it out. When there is enough ambient light, the glow of tritium is undetectable. Therefore, tritium sights appear to be regular dots during daylight.
On top of that, the learning curve for a tritium night sight is relatively short. There is no getting used to switches or buttons and no added weight to tamper with your shooting style. This is essential because any fancy modification to your gun introduces a new degree of complexity and risk.
Simplicity is essential for precise shooting. It also aids in reducing reaction times in stressful situations.
How Do They Work?
So, how do you manufacture a softly glowing light source that fits into typical iron sights, lasts for years, and doesn’t require any power?
You go radioactive!
Tiny capsules with tritium gas make up these self-illuminated night sights. The capsule is then covered with phosphorus, which combines with the radioactive electrons emitted by the tritium. This creates the soft light that self-illuminated items are known for. It’s usually a pale green tint, but it can also be blue or orange, depending on the phosphorous coating.
As a result, there’s no demand for a power source. The sights glow for years, and that light is always there when you need it. Moreover, the light is dim enough not to obstruct your night vision or be noticed by the enemy. And since it’s a frigid light, there’s no way it’ll show up on thermals.
However, the thought of bringing a radioactive source close to your face may be concerning to some people. The tritium is in a capsule, so the amount of radiation you are exposed to is very, very low. With that being said, traveling overseas exposes you to significantly more radiation.
Even if the capsule breaks and you are exposed to tritium directly, it does not penetrate the human skin deeply and is eliminated by the body within a few weeks. Simply put, self-illuminated night sights based on tritium are an excellent choice for simple, safe, and lightweight night shooting.
How Long Do Tritium Sights Last?
Have you ever heard of the term “half-life?” It refers to the time it takes for an isotope’s radioactivity to drop to half its initial value. The half-life of the tritium in the vial is 12.32 years, during which beta emissions are down by half.
To put it another way, the brightness of the tritium night sight decreases over time as you use it. Tritium decays at a rate of around five percent each year, resulting in a half-life of 12 years for the isotope’s radioactivity.
As a result, its half-life is shorter than other radioactive elements. Since it doesn’t use any electricity, the light will keep glowing for the entire length of the radioactivity process.
Factors Affecting the Life of Tritium Sights
Various factors can affect the longevity of tritium sights, including:
Whether you choose a tritium night sight or a thermal sight, the most crucial factors are optic quality, thermal night sights, and electronics. This combination of electronics and sensors is critical in determining the sight’s overall performance.
Other considerations, particularly in the case of thermal sights, are the device’s resolutions and the size and characteristics of the optics. Of course, with so many brands and designs to choose from, it all comes down to personal preference.
Generally, tritium rifle sights are robust and long-lasting, and you can use them for months. But there’s a strong link between their usage and durability.
A dark environment with a high front and back sight glow will demand the most out of a tritium sight, shortening its lifespan.
Which Hue of Tritium Is the Most Visible?
The color and size of the light produced may vary. Green is usually the brightest color, whereas red is the darkest.
Is It Safe to Use Tritium Gun Sights?
A tritium night sight lying on a person poses no threat. Tritium, a radioactive element used in glow-in-the-dark watches, night sights, and exit signs, emits only weak beta particles.
What Is the Amount of Tritium in a Rifle Sight?
A typical rifle sight contains roughly 0.012 curies of tritium, human-made. Tritium is created in a nuclear reactor or accelerator by hitting hydrogen with neutrons.
Is Tritium Prohibited?
Tritium doesn’t generate light. Instead, it activates phosphors, producing light. Due to U.S. rules on radioactive substances, tritium is prohibited in certain parts of the United States, including California. Makers of such products require specific authorization to incorporate tritium into their products.
Does Tritium Lose Its Brightness?
Tritium is radioactive, so it’ll glow whether or not it is exposed to light. Nevertheless, the material’s radioactive half-life limits its capacity to glow. This implies that as tritium ages, its potential to glow will deteriorate until it eventually stops glowing altogether.
How long do tritium sights last? Well, in a nutshell, a 12-year-old tritium sight should be about half as bright as a brand-new one. With that being said, a dim light is not a substandard product, as it results from tritium degrading over time.
Tritium night sights have a lengthy and dependable track record. Many gun owners appreciate the value proposition they bring to the table, mainly because they provide excellent night vision without any undue intricacies.