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Old 10-22-2017, 04:00 PM
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Converting Plain Iron Pistol Sights to Three Dot Sights



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Hey Gang- Time for another overkill description- this time it’s about how I mod pistol iron sights!

I recently acquired a Sig Trailside for my kids to shoot, and it’s quite accurate. I’ve been shooting iron sights for over 40 years. My kids (daughter 9, son 12) are just learning the ropes shooting pistols.



The Trailside comes from the factory with black irons and a rather wide front post.
While I have no trouble with this sight configuration, I do find fiber optic and three dot sights easier to use and experience more consistent aim in my hands.
My kids definitely struggled with plain irons with a wide front sight
post. The subtle nuances of shooting irons and how to visualize the sides of the front post to avoid inducing yaw are not the easiest concepts to impart. My kids are used to rifle iron sights which often feature a smaller front post which is made to look even smaller as a result of the larger sight radius, allowing for more precise aiming, especially for new- or younger, less experienced shooters.

My solution for all black irons, especially those featuring a wide front post, is to convert the existing irons to a standard 3-dot system.

Doing so is relatively easy and inexpensive, and when done properly, produces a very clean, professional looking result that dramatically reduces target/sight acquisition time while also allowing for a much more precise point of aim than plain irons.

OK- here comes the WARNING and DISCLAIMER.

I’m about to use the words “Dremel”, “Drill” and “Pistol” in the same paragraph. If you are not confident, competent, and adept at working with power tools, STOP HERE. This post is for those DIY enthusiasts who like doing things themselves and believe it’s physically impossible to own “Too many tools”, lol.

Gunsmiths love nothing more than charging customers to repair damage they created themselves when they “read about it on the Internet“ and Bubba’d a perfectly sound pistol that didn’t NEED modification in the first place. This mod is about preference, not necessity.
In many cases, the sights on a pistol can be improved simply by swapping them out.

In this particular case- and with several others I’ve used this method on, the front sight was a fixed, non removable part which was literally milled or cast into the barrel or slide.
This means that if you screw this up, you may well end up ruining a perfectly serviceable firearm.

Soooo, without further ado-

Modding Pistol Iron Sights into a 3-Dot System.

In essence, what I’m doing here is drilling 1/16” dimples into the front and rear sights and filling the dimples with white acrylic nail polish- effectively creating a 3-dot sighting system.
The method I’ve developed for doing so works quite well; I started doing this 20 years ago and have used this method on several pistols since then.


First off- Drilling dimples:
Materials-
*.5mm, 1mm, 1.5mm, and 1/16” FRESH/Sharp Carbide drill bits.

*Variable speed Dremel with Mini Jacobs style hand chuck.

*ExActo knife with #11 blades

I start with a .5mm drill bit in a Micro Jacobs hand chuck on a Dremel.
I drill to a depth just beyond a conical dimple, so there is an ever-so slight side wall to the dimples.
Then I step up to a 1mm bit, drilling slowly and adjusting the position to perfectly center the dimple by offsetting or flexing the bit to make fine tune adjustments to center. Next I step to 1.5mm and finish up with the slightly larger 1/16”. These are EXTREMELY tiny drill bits, and it’s crucial to use very sharp carbide bits, working carefully starting at low speed with the pistol firmly locked in a padded vise in good lighting conditions. Working under magnification helps; I’m uniquely equipped in this regard with 1.5X and 2.5X Surgical Loupes- a simple pair of 1.5-2X reading glasses or magnifying safety goggles would suffice and cost around $10.

After drilling the appropriate dimples, carefully debur the holes using an Exacto knife, #11 blade.

The items used in this next step are critical-

*FRESH opaque white acrylic nail polish.

*A 3cc Luer Lock syringe.

*27 gauge hypodermic needles.

*100 and 800 grit sandpaper OR medium and fine dry honing stones.

*Q-Tips & Micro Tip Applicators, OR:

*A Pick/awl and lint free fabric.

*Acetone or Rubbing alcohol.

*A Fresh Black Sharpie.

First off: A little pearl of shop/ gun cleaning wisdom: you know those little hard reach places that ALWAYS collect grit, like extractor grooves? Or the rim pocket in a bolt? Or especially under that darn extractor hook? Haven’t you always wished that you had the perfect tool that can get in those tight little spaces making cleanup a breeze? Maybe something like a 6 inch wooden dowel that features a conical taper in the wood with a tight spun pointed cotton Q-tip end!?!?!?

Now imagine that you could get 1000 of those little tools for around $25 and they are single use, disposable?

Look no further, click on this link:

Puritan 6" Tapered Mini Cotton Swab w/Wooden Handle - 826-WC (Box of 1000) @ $24.99 Free Shipping w Prime Nembership




I sand or hone the tip of a 27 gauge needle to create a blunt 90 degree end. Debur the barrel of the needle at the tip using the tip of an intact needle, inserting the beveled tip of the new needle into the barrel of the one you’re prepping and rotate both ways to debur. Smooth/debur the outside with 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper or a fine honing stone. (Don’t use OIL)

Mix nail polish THOROUGHLY. I usually FIRMLY affix the securely closed nail polish bottle perpendicular to a large drill bit with multiple layers of electrical tape in a figure 8 configuration.
Then chuck it up in a hand drill or I prefer to use the drill press and spin the poop out of it for a minute or two. From this point forward, for brevity I will often refer to the nail polish as “paint”.

Firmly mount the slide/pistol in a padded vise in a vertical position with the sight and dot surfaces parallel to the ground.

Draw about 1/4-1/2cc nail polish into the syringe, then lock on the prepped needle firmly. You can use a larger gauge needle to draw the nail polish into the syringe.

Have solvent (polish remover or rubbing alcohol) and plenty of Qtips ready at hand. I also have plenty of 6” “Micro tipped applicators” which are basically pointed cotton swabs that are small enough to enter and thoroughly clean out the dimples.
You can also use any type of small pointed pick or awl and lint free cloth to clean out the dimples. Having materials to efficiently clean out the dimples is important because there’s a learning curve here- you WILL mess up the paint application and need to clean up and start over, likely multiple times at first. Cleanup/reboot is quick and simple.
Be sure to confirm the surface on the pistol/ materials you’re applying the acetone to are not going to be damaged.... if it’s all metal, it’s all good. Polymer? I use rubbing alcohol instead of acetone and it works fine.

When you’re ready, have a paper towel in your off hand and squeeze a tiny drop of nail polish out and wipe clean. Then insert the tip of the prepped needle into the dimple and very slowly and gently inject as you retract the needle from the dimple.
As it fills, a “bead” of paint will form. When it’s JUST right, stop injecting and pull the needle up and away VERTICALLY off of the bead. Retracting to the side will leave a misshapen bead or pull a string of paint onto the wrong surface.
When you get this step right, it will leave a tiny hemispherical bead of acrylic nail polish standing proud of the drill hole. When this dries, it will shrink (hopefully not TOO much) to form a round bead that looks like an installed bright white button.
You can also use less paint and pull up with the paint level/flush with the sides of the hole, or slightly concave. If you want the finished surface to look flat/flush with the surrounding surface, you need to apply SLIGHTLY more paint so it sits proud when wet- it WILL shrink as it dries.

It takes a little practice- and it really helps a lot to do exactly that. Take a piece of scrap metal, drill and debur a series of 1/16” dimples and perfect your injection technique. This will afford you an opportunity to try several bead styles so you can decide which type of bead you like best before you commit to the project. The nail polish will literally take 24 hours to fully cure due to the thickness of the material and amount of solvent that needs to evaporate off as it sets.

If you mess it up, no worries- clean it out and start over.

Touching up the area with a black Sharpie before and after injecting can help ensure sharp contrast to the sights. I usually run over the holes with a Sharpie an hour before I start so the ink fully dries-that way the organic solvents in the paint don’t cause the ink to bleed.

When doing the rear sight holes, do one and let it dry before working on the other.

The finished product- when dry, produces a nice glossy white bead in the dimples which lasts for years
You can also use this process to freshen up original three dot sights that have faded or are dingy from grit and solvent over years of use.

I tried to get some pics to show what the final result looks like, sorry for the crummy cell phone pics:

Cheers!

DrGunner









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  #2  
Old 10-22-2017, 05:09 PM
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NICE! A MUCH needed improvement to a great pistol!
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Old 10-22-2017, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by FlysAlot View Post
NICE! A MUCH needed improvement to a great pistol!
Thanks! And you didn’t tell me how well made these little babies are...
the design, with the grip frame and barrel all milled out of a single billet!
The steel is so strong that I dulled 3 tool steel quality carbide drill bits just getting the front sight dimple started. And this thing can SHOOT! I didn’t bring any rest equipment yesterday, and it was kinda windy. Shooting from a chair with a folding camp chair in front of me to rest my wrist on, it shot some VERY respectable groups at 25 yards, and that was with the OEM unmodified black irons.
When I saw my son struggling with the sights, I took some of the day-glo adhesive back target material used on Birchwood Casey Shoot-n-C targets and cut out three tiny triangles and stuck them on the sights. He went from a shotgun pattern to nice 2-3” groups instantly.

Can’t thank you enough, Flys. I didn’t even know what a “Trailside” was until you “sold” us this one.

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Old 10-22-2017, 09:37 PM
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That is outstanding!! I love my Trailside but many times wished those sights were a bit easier to see, especially if the target isn't well lit or light in color. What a great idea, and great execution.
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Old 10-22-2017, 11:06 PM
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Excellent idea.
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Old 11-10-2017, 08:44 PM
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Talking beautiful job

but I am not a mechanical type much, so I resort to the night siters stick on colored dots. I have done my own 3 dot sights using them, and they hold up well.
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Old 11-11-2017, 01:04 PM
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My Combat Commander has 3 dot sights.
If I ever get the nerve to part with it for a brief period of time............it will get cut for a Bomar and be all black.

3 dots and me don't get along.

Maybe on a combat rig (still don't like 'em on mine).

Anything that gets hunter or shot for target...........black only.

YMMV
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Old 11-11-2017, 01:05 PM
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Nice score on the Trailside.
Like an idiot I let one slide by about 6 months ago
Price was pretty darn good too
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Old 11-11-2017, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CD2 View Post
My Combat Commander has 3 dot sights.
If I ever get the nerve to part with it for a brief period of time............it will get cut for a Bomar and be all black.

3 dots and me don't get along.

Maybe on a combat rig (still don't like 'em on mine).

Anything that gets hunter or shot for target...........black only.

YMMV
I can fix that ‘un fer ya.... it’ll take 60 seconds with a black Sharpie!
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Old 11-11-2017, 04:31 PM
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Problem is.........impact is set to hit with dots........not top edge of front sight.
So blacking out still doesn't fix it.
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Old 11-11-2017, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CD2 View Post
Problem is.........impact is set to hit with dots........not top edge of front sight.
So blacking out still doesn't fix it.
That’s a tough deal when irons are fixed and POA is right on top of the post. I prefer my target pistols to hit about 2-3” up from the post on a 6 O’clock hold at 25 yards.
I can’t remember how many pistols I’ve knocked out the rear sight and upgraded to Pachmayr adjustable.
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Old 11-12-2017, 06:56 AM
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My Commander has a Novak style rear, but not a Novak.....Colt did/does silly stuff sometimes

So there's been no easy sight swap (at least the front is dovetailed). Kinda like a Kimber........the existing rear dovetail will work for a Bomar, just have to cut for the rest of the sight.

Gun sees 230gr SXT or equiv only.
I want that impact right at the top edge of my front sight.

Hate the sights, gun shoots VERY well..........so have tolerated for 20 plus yrs LOL.
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