For ages, the bead sight has been the standard of generic shotgun sights. The bead sight itself goes back to the 1400’s. Somehow, they have stuck around on shotguns. Perhaps because for most of what shotguns are used for, a bead sight is enough. We aren’t really all that interested in what shotguns are mostly used for though. What we are interested in is what shotguns can give us as defensive tools. For our application, improved sighting systems are really handy.
Yes, We Have to Aim
Even though the ranges that defensive shotguns are typically employed at are what most would consider short, they still require some amount of aiming to take place to score the best hits. A standard bead sight, while it can be done, isn’t doing the shooter any favors. It is small, hard to see in poor lighting, and on many guns, the point of aim and point of impact does not match with a bead sight (looking at you Mossberg). While perhaps “adequate”, a regular bead sight is far from optimal. When all the chips are on the table, we don’t want to find ourselves too far away from optimal.
Manufacturers Must Hate Us
The problem of course is that still, many shotguns intended for that defensive or duty use role just come with a bead sight. Even the good ones, still just come with bead sights. While Rem Arms list an 870 with rifled sights, I have yet to see one in the wild. Mossberg offers a few models of their 590 with ghost ring sights, but they are scarce these days, and massively overpriced when they do show up. There are aftermarket solutions, but they require relatively expensive custom work.
The Cost-Effective Solution
We need a compromise answer. Something that is reasonably priced, easily applied, and better than just a plain bead sight. XS Sights’ Big Dot epoxy on bead sight is that answer, although still not a perfect one. I am usually not a huge fan of XS’s product catalog, but their big dot sights seem to work well enough on a shotgun. At least better than a normal bead sight. It gives us significantly improved visibility, and for guns with POA/POI issues the XS bead is usually tall enough to at least minimize the problem.
How It Works
The XS epoxy on bead sight mounts to the gun over the existing bead with the use of some type of high-quality epoxy that is up to the installer to pick. The directions actually recommend JB Weld, but not being an expert on epoxies, I imagine there might also be some other options available. I know what everyone is thinking, so this just gets glued onto the barrel? How can that possibly be durable?
I have two shotguns with XS epoxy on Big Dot bead sights. One with the sight designed for Remington’s pedestal bead, and the other for bead sights mounted directly on the barrel. I shoot my shotguns more than the average bear and have not had issues with either coming off in the normal course of shooting. I know a few other people who also use the XS Big Dot bead sight for their shotguns, and they also have not had issues with sights falling off of their guns either. It is probably safe to say that as long as you don’t use the muzzle end of your shotgun as a hammer, the XS Big Dot is likely secure enough.
The sights install easy enough. For a bead sight mounted directly to the barrel, just test fit to ensure the XS bead will fit over the factory brass bead, degrease the area where the sight is to be mounted, apply your favorite sticky stuff, and set the XS bead over the top of the factory bead. Some guns, like Mossbergs, will require the factory bead sight to be replaced. Fortunately, XS knows this too and includes a new brass bead to replace the factory bead on Mossbergs. If your shotgun is something other than a Mossberg, you may have to source a replacement brass bead depending on what the manufacturer is using from the factory.
For Remingtons with factory pedestal bead sights, the installation is much the same. Verify fit, clean, apply epoxy, drop the XS bead on top. One caution on the Remingtons though. There is not much to index the XS bead off of to verify it is applied straight. The XS bead can twist and turn on top of the pedestal. Take extra care to ensure it is applied correctly in the initial phases because it will be a pain to fix later.
In my experience, the XS bead is good for accuracy out to 30-40 yards. Once we get too far beyond that distance it becomes difficult to get a sufficiently precise sight alignment and sight picture for reliable hits on an 8” or so target. The good news is that inside 25 yards is where we want to be any way with a shotgun, and that will address 95% of the problems we are likely to see anyway. The bad news is there are still limitations, and if you need more from the gun, a more complete solution is likely what you need. The XS bead sight is a quick and easy way to give our basic, bare-bones shotguns a capability boost, but it isn’t the end all be all.