Your 1911 handgun has built-in iron sights, which are pretty accurate but are not reliable when aiming in the dark. To solve this issue, most 1911 pistol owners opt to replace the sights with something more reliable in low-light conditions.
Luckily, there are many sights in the market, and you can choose the one that will provide a clearer image of the target even in the dark. This post includes the steps in the removal and the replacement of the new sights.
The process of changing sights is divided into two parts. First is the removal of the old front sights and installation of the new sights for your 1911 pistol. The second is the replacement of the rear sight.
1911 Front Sight Replacement Directions
The front sight’s primary function is to help the user aim at the target accurately. Replacing the front sight is not as easy as you think it is. You need to exert force to loosen and remove the front sight. Below are steps on how to do it.
1911 Front Sight Tool:
The installation manual is always included in the sight package. It contains the instructions on removing the old sights and replacing them with the new ones. You will be guided on which direction you will apply pressure as you remove the sights. But before you proceed with the process, you need to prepare the tools required to remove and replace the sights.
You can use any screwdriver but make sure it will fit into the tiny set screw found on the rear side.
Brass punch set
Brass punches do not damage the slide when removing the old sights. The tool may leave a residue. Removed it by using a small drop of oil and a coarse brush. If you prefer steel punches, it may create gouge marks that affect the appearance of your pistol. We suggest using a good brass punch set as it contains plastic punches, which makes it handy.
With regards to hammer, you might be needing not just one type of it. It depends on the strength of your existing sights fixed on the slide. Most of the brass punch set includes the hammer. But in case it does not have, you have to find one. You also need a full-size hammer and a huge rubber mallet if the brass hammer cannot do the job of removing the sights.
1911 Front Sight Removal:
Step #1 – Put Some Oil and Remove the Slide
Put some oil on both sides of the front sight. Let the oil get inside by removing the slide from the vice and setting it on its side.
Step #2 – Clean the Oil Remains
Using a rag or towel, wipe the oil remains on the slide before continuing with the next step.
Step #3 – Push the Sight
Get your brass punch and place it on the lip of the front sight, and use the brass hammer to push the sight on the other side. If it did not move the sight, apply the punch and hammer on the sight’s left face instead of placing it on the left lip. Make sure the vice remains nice and tight while doing the hammering.
Step #4 – Clean the Brass Marring
Once you have removed the front sight, clean the brass marring remaining by the punching process with a wire brush.
1911 Front Sight Installation:
Before you start the installation process, make sure you have the right front sight for your slide. It will help if you broaden the slide’s dovetails. It is a safe practice to change the cheaper part.
Step #1 Placing the Slide in the Vice
Place the slide in a padded vice, line the vice jaws using a sheet of paper, or mask the slide with tape to prevent the slide from getting marred. With a sanding file or stick, carefully break or reduce the edges of the dovetail on slight and sight. This makes it easy for the sight to start into the dovetail and, at the same time, prevents the dovetail from cutting up the sight while installing.
Step #2 – Install the Front Sight
Try installing the front sight if it won’t fit inside the dovetail, narrow the sight dovetail by filing the sight bottom. Measure the slide from top to bottom of the cut dovetail, so you will know how much you need to file. The difference will tell you how much you need to remove without worrying that you might overdo the filing.
Step #3 – Insert the Sight
With a clean and chalked eight-inch file, lay it on the workbench. Hold the front sight between your index finger and thumb. Slowly pull the sight towards you. Keep the file and sight flat and even. After 2 or 3 passes, inset the sight until it is halfway the slide’s dovetail.
Step #4 – Drive the Sight In Place
Use a non-marring punch to drive it in place. Be careful on using any tool to make sure it would not mar the sight or the slide with a misaligned tip or hammer blow.
1911 Rear Sight Replacement Directions
The removal of the old sight is the most challenging part of changing it. You need the mentioned tools to complete the job. You have the option to remove it on your own or let the professionals do it for you.
1911 Rear Sight Tool:
You will be using the same set of tools you used in removing the front sight tool – hammer, brass punch set, and screwdriver
1911 Rear Sight Removal:
Just like in removing the front sight, you need to exert force to remove the rear sight. Since you will be using the same tools you used in removing the front sight, you already know how to use them.
Step #1 Unscrew and Remove the Firing Pin
Using the screwdriver, unscrew the rear sight. With the use of a narrow, pointed tool, push down the firing pin from the slide. If needed, apply pressure on the small notch found inside the slide. Continue pressing on the pin from the outside rear of the slide.
Apply force on the pin to remove the back piece. Slowly push the small mechanism found inside the slide to force the pin to pop out. Ensure the slide’s rear should be near and directed towards the towel. This will protect you from getting hit by the pin as it comes out forcefully because of its spring. It might shoot out across the room.
Step #2 – Position the Slide in a Vice
Place the slide in the vice to hold it tightly as you remove the front and rear sights. Make sure it is tight enough so it will not move once you start pulling the sights.
Step #3 – Removing the Rear Sight
In removing the rear sight, you need to disengage it from the slide in a left to right motion, looking from the rear of the slide. Using the brass punch set, punch the rear sight from its left side. You can use the brass hammer together with the punch set to remove the rear sight. If the regular hammer doesn’t work, you can use the full-size hammer.
When the back sight starts to move to the right, you will notice a spring positioned underneath the sight. It will pop out as the backsight is moved towards the right. Remove the spring as you will be replacing it also once the sight is removed.
Step #4 – Clean the Back Part of the Slide
After removing the rear sight, you will see a sticky material on the mold and slides. It is the stuff that binds the sight and the slide. After cleaning the slide, you will notice the brass punch residues left during the process. Clean the rear part of the slide with a wire brush and some oil. It will be good as new.
1911 Rear Sight Installation:
Make sure that the setscrews are backed out completely. If you choose a trapezoidal-style rear sight, remove material at the bottom of the sight. If the back sight overhangs the slide behind the dovetail, measure the slide height above the dovetail base. Measure the sight height from the bottom of the dovetail to the overhang. Create more clearance. File the flat part of the overhang to make the sight fit.
Changing sights on 1911 is not easy. Some choose to let the professionals do the replacement for them. But, those who prefer to do it by themselves hope this how to change sights on 1911 will help you. Before you start the process, make sure you have all the tools on hand. Also, never change the sights of a loaded 1911. If you want to share your ideas or questions about sight replacement on 1911, feel free to comment below.