Tritium is a self-contained, autonomous light source that does not require batteries, does not have to be charged like phosphorus night sights, and is exceedingly tiny.
Tritium sights are required on every contemporary pistol used for law enforcement, military, or self-defense. We know they brighten in the dark, keeping the sights visible at night, and we know it’s because of a chemical known as tritium.
It is so vital that numerous sights offer a wide range of goods and designs, but the tritium is the unifying factor.
In the optic, Tritium is delivered in a little glass vial containing Phosphor. As a result, when Tritium reacts with Phosphor, it emits light. Although it does not produce much light, it produces a glowing appearance that may be noticed in a dark area.
Understanding Tritium Sights
Tritium sights are a type of night sight that uses the radioactive isotope tritium to emit light. Tritium is a hydrogen atom with two neutrons, making it slightly heavier than regular hydrogen.
It is also radioactive, meaning that it decays over time, emitting electrons. These electrons interact with a phosphor material in the sights, causing it to glow.
Tritium sights are popular for use in firearms because they are always visible, even in total darkness. They do not require any external light source, such as a flashlight, to work.
Tritium sights are also relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They can be purchased for most types of firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
However, it is important to note that tritium is a radioactive material. The amount of radiation emitted by tritium sights is very low, and it is not considered to be a health hazard.
It is still important to handle tritium sights with care. Do not disassemble them or expose them to heat or open flames.
Tritium sights typically have a half-life of 12.5 years. This means that after 12.5 years, half of the tritium in the sights will have decayed. The sights will still work after this time, but they will not be as bright.
Composition And Functionality
Tritium sights consist of three primary components:
Front Sight: The front sight contains a small vial of tritium gas encased in a protective housing. This vial emits a faint, continuous glow in low-light conditions.
Rear Sight: The rear sight typically features two dots, one on each side, that align with the tritium dot on the front sight. These dots help shooters quickly align their sights in the dark.
Sight Housing: Both the front and rear sights are securely mounted on the firearm’s slide or barrel using sturdy materials like metal or polymer.
The key to tritium sights’ functionality is the radioactive isotope tritium, which emits beta particles and low-energy electrons as it decays.
These particles excite phosphor material within the vial, causing it to emit light. This natural glow doesn’t rely on external light sources and can last for several years.
How Do You Set Up Tritium Vials?
Putting tritium vials in sights is a simple operation, but it is critical to take caution and follow safety requirements while working with radioactive chemicals.
The following are the general procedures for placing tritium vials in sights:
- Tritium vials
- UV-activated adhesive
- Tools like screwdrivers and tweezers
Step-1: Safety Precautions
Before you begin, ensure you are in a well-ventilated area, and consider wearing protective gloves and safety goggles. Keep the tritium vials sealed until you are ready to use them.
Step-2: Prepare the Surface
Ensure the surface where you plan to attach the tritium vials is clean, dry, and free of any oils, debris, or contaminants. You may need to use acetone or a similar solvent to clean the surface thoroughly. Allow it to dry completely.
Step-3: Prepare the Tritium Vials
Carefully inspect the tritium vials for any damage or leaks. If a vial appears damaged or compromised, do not use it.
Step-4: Apply UV-Activated Adhesive
Dispense a small amount of UV-activated adhesive onto the surface where you want to attach the tritium vial. The exact amount will depend on the size of the vial and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Be precise to avoid excess adhesive, which can interfere with the glow.
Step-5: Place the Tritium Vial
Using tweezers or a similar tool, gently pick up the tritium vial. Be cautious not to touch the tritium material with your bare hands, as direct contact should be avoided. Place the vial into the adhesive on the surface.
Step-6: Align and Secure
Ensure that the tritium vial is correctly aligned according to your aiming needs. Some vials have specific markings or features for alignment purposes. Press the vial into the adhesive gently to secure it in place.
Step-7: Exposure to UV Light
Once the vial is in position, use a UV light source (such as a UV flashlight) to expose the adhesive. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended UV exposure time. Typically, this can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. The UV light activates the adhesive and ensures a strong bond.
Step-8: Cure the Adhesive
Allow the adhesive to cure fully. This usually involves letting it sit undisturbed for a specified period, as indicated by the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions. It may take several hours or more, depending on the adhesive.
Step-9: Test the Tritium Sight
After the adhesive has cured, you can test the tritium sight in low-light conditions to ensure it is functioning correctly. Tritium sights should emit a glow-in-the-dark light without the need for an external light source.
Step-10: Clean Up
Dispose of any waste materials, such as used adhesive or cleaning supplies, according to local regulations and safety guidelines
Why Charging Tritium Sights is Necessary?
Charging tritium sights isn’t necessary at all. Tritium is radioactive, and it glows constantly. There is no way of “charging” it. It has no electricity involved. What is involved is a radioactive solution that glows.
What you need to do is change the tritium sight. Whenever you see it’s not glowing anymore and dimming down in the middle of a shooting session, it means that the solution of that tritium stick is wearing down and you need to change it. The only way to cure that solution is to change the glowing stick like the way I mentioned above.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Necessary To Charge Tritium?
No, it is necessary to charge tritium sights, they are not battery-powered. They have a life expectancy of around 10-12 years. After that, they will start to dim down. When that happens, you will need to change the tritium vials.
Why Isn’t The Tritium Tube Glowing?
Since tritium is radioactive, it will shine whether or not it is exposed to light; nevertheless, its capacity to glow is limited by the material’s radioactive half-life. This implies that as Tritium ages, its capacity to shine diminishes until it no longer glows at all.
Is Tritium Ever Extinguished?
Tritium is a naturally occurring radioactive hydrogen isotope that is frequently used to light up a sign without the use of batteries or energy. Tritium exit signs will shine for more than ten years without the use of energy or batteries.
Yes, tritium will extinguish with the given time. Not instantly. But after a decade or two surely.
Do Tritium Sights Require Light?
Front sights made of optical fiber and gold or brass beads aid in focusing light from externally, but we now have something better – tritium night sights. These sights glow in the dark and do not require an external light or power source, nor do they need to be charged with one.
Finally, because Tritium sights are self-luminous, they do not require charging. Tritium is a radioactive element that decays and emits beta particles, which stimulate phosphors and give constant light. This procedure can last for many years, allowing Tritium sights to be lighted without the need for external power sources.
Nevertheless, the illumination of the Tritium sights may decline with time, therefore they must be replaced on a regular basis to guarantee appropriate lighting for shooting in low-light settings.
Also, Tritium sights should be handled with caution because they contain radioactive substances and should not be damaged or consumed.