Sign up to receive insider tips from our Master Gunsmith!
Most semi-auto handgun manufacturers offer a sight changing tool to fit their pistol slides. The tools make the job of changing sights much easier and much quicker, without damaging the sight or the slide. These tools can be quite expensive, so it is important that enough sights of a particular model are changed to warrant the expense of the tool.
These tools grip the slide by the slide rails and a “Sight Pusher” allows the old sight to be pushed out and the new sights to be pushed into place, perpendicular to the axis of the slide. This allows for precise location of the new sight. Using the sight tool also protects the night sight from damage. Night sights have delicate iridium cartridges that may be broken by striking the sight during installation. (Always check the sights for proper function prior to installation.)
Bear in mind, the manufacturers often change the dimensions of the slides and sights have different heights and contours. Usually, when the slide dimensions are changed, a new sight tool must be purchased. This is because the older tool does not accommodate the new slide design. However, most sights fit in the “Sight Pusher” part of the tool.
In the time before these tools existed, the usual method for changing sights was to firmly hold the slide in non-marring vise jaws and drive the sights out of the larger side of the dovetail with a brass or soft punch. Then, reduce the height of the new sight (by stoning or filing the bottom of the sight) until the sight will partially enter the dovetail. Then, the punch is used to drive the sight into place.
If the old method is used on night sights, extreme caution must be observed.
Be aware, some sights are made of soft steel and the surface on which the punch is used can suffer damage. Better quality sights are made of hardened steel. Reducing a hardened sight’s height to fit in dovetails is accomplished by using a diamond stone on the bottom of the sight.
Sight changes can be very lucrative for a gun shop. If properly done, sight changing will bring repeat business and happy customers.