How Long Do Tritium Sights Last? What You Should Know

how long do tritium sights last
Alfred Mendoza

Are you having a hard time shooting accurately in low-light situations? Adding tritium sights will help you aim better. 

The question is – how long do they last? What are the factors you have to consider before getting a new set of night sights for your gun? Let’s find out.

Replaced sights like tritium sights are composed of tritium gas, a hydrogen-3 radioactive isotope installed for visible lighting.

Tritium is an energy source for self-lumination wherein it emits electrons, and when interacted with a phosphor material, lights are released. 

Our team recommends this as an ideal pistol night sight. These sights are a reliable illumination source when in dim light settings to supplement human night vision.

Simple, durable, and portable night sight, it shines bright when used in total darkness.

tritium sights

How Long Do They Last?

The tritium inside the vial has a half-life of 12.32 years. Per year, the decay rate of tritium is 5 percent [1], making the radioactivity of the isotope reach its half-life of 12 years. Thus, it has a shorter half-life than other radioactive elements. Over the years, it emits less radiation than phosphorus in an excited state. 

For gun night sights, a lesser amount of tritium is used, and since the function is visible under dim lights, the usable life will be longer with a four to five half-life range until it becomes dead.

Factors That Affect Tritium Sight’s Lifespan


Brand Quality

Many night sights producers claim that they offer the brightest sights with the understanding that your purchase is dependent on glow intensity. With several brands and styles available, it boils down to your preference, of course.  

However, for more prolonged use, our experts suggest getting a brand that gives a high level of tritium due to the 5 percent per year decay of this gas.


Since tritium is an independent light source, it needs no batteries or charger, and it does not have a switch to control the energy usage of the front sight and rear sight. Technically, tritium works even when exposed in half as bright as the daylight. However, it will consume minimal energy.

The point is, the tritium sights’ lifespan is affected by the usage of the night sights. A dark room that gives a maximum glow of front sight and rear sight will give the tritium sight the utmost usage that can affect its lifespan.

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With tritium’s half-life of 12 and ⅓ years, the brightness will be as half as it was at the start, but not all colors have the same lifespan. 


The human eye can easily pick up this color. It is universal for guns because it maximizes the glowing of tritium vials. It lasts 12 years, the longest compared to other colors because of its natural color.  


The eye also recognizes this color easily. The limitation of this color is its reflective nature. Since it is light and bright, it can strain the eye if the shooting is longer than usual. The lifespan is also 12 years.


Orange is slightly below in terms of ability to pick up. It is less reflective and less easy to focus when aiming at a target. It helps you desire precision due to the contrasting colors. This color lasts up to 5 years only. 

The tritium itself does not glow but only excites the phosphor, and the color degrades faster than the tritium affecting its life span.


No, tritium night sights are not dangerous because the tritium is placed in a vial. In addition, if the vial is broken or damaged, our researchers noted that a tritium molecule could only travel 6 millimeters. The radioactive charge will be inactive, so there is no risk for radiation poisoning.

You can make the tritium glow brighter in low light. Unfortunately, you cannot charge tritium as it is self-powered. However, you can use UV or a foil reflector to make them shine bright.

Yes, you can still use a dim tritium sight. The vial of the front sight may be hazy, and it would be hard to see unless very dark, but shining UV will help it shine. With UV, the difference in brightness of the old tritium and a new one is barely noticeable.

Final Thoughts on Tritium Sights

Adding tritium sights gives you increased precision in aiming and hitting the target, especially at nighttime. In addition, leveling up the factory sights will gain you familiarity and muscle memory over a long period of usage. 

Tritium sights are an intelligent choice to level up your gunfight, whether it’s a new purchase or an upgrade.



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