S&W Model 15 Front Sight Insert Install

The little revolver was a nice shooter but the front sight was difficult to see.  As mentioned previously, this was due to an amateur effort to modify the front sight.  It is possible it was damaged accidentally, but it seems deliberate as it resembles an attempt to drill a hole.  It looks to me as if the drill bit slipped and they gave up on it and tried to cover it up with paint.  So here is what I was dealing with:

Before1before2before3

The sight picture was simply unacceptable.  As it turns out, there is a “fix” for this that involves the right materials, some time, and no small amount of bravery on my part.  I’m no gunsmith.  But considering how bad this was, I didn’t think I could make it much worse.

So I got a few things from Brownell’s, such as acrylic, powdered activator, and some orange dye.  Since I didn’t have any files, I ended up ordering one flat file and one triangle file for this project.

The first step was to cut a dovetail or notch in the front sight:

FS 1FS 2FS 3FS 4

Now that the notch was complete, I mixed the acrylic, orange dye, and powder activator together per the instructions provided by Brownell’s.  I then used some plastic shims to make a form to pour in the acrylic compound.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. If you don’t have some parallel jawed vice grips, this is a bit rough.  I ended up cutting some plastic pieces and simply super gluing them to each side of the front sight blade.  This made a form that would allow me to pour in the acrylic.  Ideally, the acrylic should set up in about 30 minutes.
  2. In addition to figuring out it was best to super glue the plastic pieces to each side, I eventually realized that this material shrinks quite a bit.  So what worked best for me was to put the gun in a steep angle in the vice, with the butt of the revolver sticking up and the barrel angled downward.  Then, so that enough of the acrylic material will sit in the form, I put another plastic piece across the front of the sight blade.  The instructions suggested using a two sided “dam”, but it turned out that I needed to make a three sided dam in order to hold enough material.
  3. Making an anchor hole is a really good idea as that will keep the sight insert from sliding from side to side.  Here’s a pic of me drilling the anchor hole.

driling

As some others have observed, getting the right consistency of the acrylic compound is difficult.  I found the best way to do it is to make it about the consistency of motor oil first. Dab the acrylic compound in the dovetail/form you made until the bottom of the dovetail and your anchor hole is full of the compound.

Here’s a pic of the sight when almost full of compound.  Unfortunately, this attempt was a failure and, as I just mentioned, I ended up adjusting the angle of the revolver in the vice.  I also added the third plastic piece across the front of the sight.  You really do need to put in more of the compound than you think.

Forms 2

I should mention that this process takes time.  It takes time to file the front sight dovetail, as this is very hard steel.  The type of file you pick is also important because that dictates how fast it cuts.  I believe the file I chose was the #2 grade.

Once it is set up, you can file down the excess compound.  It bears mentioning that mine took a lot longer than 30 minutes to be ready to file.  I also opted to put orange sight paint on it to make it even more visible.  The compound, when dry, is a lot lighter than when it is wet.

FS5

As you can see, this isn’t a perfect job.  The front of the insert doesn’t have a very good shape to it.  The cut is more of a notch than a dovetail, and that might mean I have to grind it out and repeat this process again.  That said, it seems it is in there pretty good.  Since I had some trial and error, I ended up having to grind out the dried compound a few times and start over.  Now that I know the solution, I think the next time I do this it will go a lot smoother.

This is still a lot better than it was, in my opinion.  I can actually see the front sight now.  If all else fails, I will take it to a gunsmith and have them file the front site blade completely flat.  Then, on the raised portion of the barrel, have them machine a dovetail that is the size needed to accommodate a conventional front sight. That might even allow a sight with a tritium insert to be installed, so long as the sight is the right height.  There’s a third option that is often done to these revolvers.  The barrel can be machined such that a front site insert can be dropped in and pinned in place.

This revolver was inexpensive and rusty, but now that I have a sight picture, it is turning out to be a decent firearm.  I don’t have much in it, even after buying the materials and tools for this project.  Even if I end up going a different route with the front sight and get it addressed by a professional, I think this little project was worthwhile.

Safe and Happy Shooting,

SOTG

 

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