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:


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.


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.


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,



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Rescuing the Model 15-4 Smith and Wesson

In the back of the gun shop, a classic piece of American engineering waited to be recognized.  There was no box or paperwork. The little revolver was used by a police department or maybe prison staff. All we know is that the department got new semi-auto pistols and this one had to find a new home. Luckily someone who has been fingerprinted and background checked from here to the moon had some spare change and nothing better to do that weekend. And so the little revolver had a new home…


But we had to take it apart to see what we were dealing with. Oh dear. That looks like rust. A lot of rust. But underneath the rust, there is potential…

15-2And so the little revolver got cleaned. And cleaned again. Then brass brushes and very fine steel wool was applied…


Some parts were better than others…


But the surgeons kept at it with Kroil and powder solvent….and lots of patience….


When it was clean, it was obvious the little revolver had some rough machining marks courtesy of a hung over S&W employee some time in the mid 1970’s. But the chief surgeon had seen this before and knew how to stone the parts just the right way….


And when the little revolver was put back together, it was so happy it produced a group that wasn’t completely horrible. Unfortunately the front sight is damn near an optical illusion due to an amateur attempt at modification. But the surgeons might be able to fix it in the old school manner by filing a dovetail and pouring resin in to make a front sight insert. But that will be a story for another day….


Safe and Happy Shooting,


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Thoughts on Paris by Larry Correia

Here is an interesting take on the Paris attacks by Correia.




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UniqueTek Micrometer for Dillon XL 650

A few years back, during an ammo shortage, I broke down and bought myself a Dillon XL 650 reloading press.  After some research, watching many videos on the web, and watching the DVD that came with the press, I managed to actually produce some ammo.

Dillon 650

There’s something very satisfying about making your own ammunition.  It isn’t just about saving money.  It’s also about accuracy.  I’ve got a Del-Ton that seems to like the 55gr Hornady pushed by 25 grains of Varget, and loaded inside a brand new Winchester case and Winchester primer.  This group was repeated several times at 100 yards.  Just a plain ‘ol Del-Ton with a Primary Arms 1-4x scope.

Sub minute

I punched out the quarter with one of my .22 rifles but have it there for scale…just in case the tape measure wasn’t enough.  The only problem was that it took some tinkering to get the Dillon to throw a consistent 25 grains.  It kept wanting to throw 24.7.  What really annoyed me was the powder bar adjustment bolt.  Here’s what the factory powder bar adjustment looks like:

Dillon powder bar copy

Photo credit: https://www.dillonprecision.com/content/p/9/catid/3/pid/23601/Dillon_X_Small_Powder_Bar

Yes, that’s a hex head bolt there on the end of the powder bar.  Turning that adjusts the amount of powder that is dropped in each case.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Dillon products.  But I don’t love this means of adjustment because you just sort of have to “feel” it turn a little bit, and it’s an inexact science to say the least.  As it turns out, there is a fix for this made by a company called UniqueTek.

UniqueTek produces an accessory called the Micrometer Powder Bar Kit.  The micrometer allows precision adjustment for the powder bar and allows the reloader to have some frame of reference when changing the powder charge.  Here is a link to the product in question.  At $70 it isn’t exactly cheap.  Lucky for me one of my wonderful in-laws asked what I wanted for Christmas and this appeared under the tree.  They didn’t really know what it was but they are good sports and got it for me anyway.  I hear people complain about their in-laws and it mystifies me.  Mine are great.

So now I have to install it based on the four pages of instructions that come with the micrometer.  Here are a few pictures of the meter just after I put it together.  It comes with some Loctite 609, and I strongly suggest doing as they say and giving it a full 24 hours to set.

Powder bar bottom

Powder Bar Marks

Here’s the micrometer installed in the Dillon powder dispenser.  Though the numbers on the dial are upside down (something that UniqueTek clearly makes note of in their literature) one can still see it well enough to make small incremental changes to the powder charge being dispensed.

Micrometer installed

On a side note, I personally choose to reload with bare feet.  I also have a plastic chair mat to stand on.  The last thing you want while reloading is a spark from static electricity.  Also, I always keep track of each and every primer.  I’ve never had it happen to me, but I’ve heard a few stories about “finding” a lost primer with the vacuum cleaner.

Safe and happy shooting to you and yours,


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North Carolina Shooting Sports Games – 2 Gun Rimfire

The State 2 Gun rimfire match was held yesterday at the Durham Rifle and Pistol Club.  For the first time since I started participating in these matches 3 months ago, I finally had my equipment squared away.  It took some time and effort, but it was completely worth it.

I believe that getting the right equipment is a never-ending process, but it seems to me that there are some modifications that are completely necessary.  For example, having decent triggers in both the rifle and pistol is extremely important.  I spent most my free time in the 30 days since last match building range carts, targets, and modifying my pistol and rifle.  Unfortunately that didn’t leave me much time to practice.  But that’s okay.  Thus far I’ve placed 8th in my first match, 6th in my second match, and 4th in the match yesterday.  All signs point to moving in the right direction.

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s match.  First, here’s a shot of the range buggy in action

Range Cart In Action

Here’s Stage 2.  It’s a pistol stage that requires one to shoot the right and left plates first, then the middle plate.  Hitting the middle plate stops the clock.  This was my worst stage, as the best I could do was 1.6 seconds.  The better shooters could do it right at 1.0, which is pretty dang quick.

Stage 2

Stage 3 was a very interesting rifle stage.  There were three shotgun shells.  Each was inserted in the contraption.  The colors of the shotgun shells corresponded to the colors of the plates.  The idea was to start with the rifle laying on the table with the safety on.  You had to lay your hands flat on the table to start.  At the sound of the buzzer, you had to hit one of the three paddles revealing a colored shotgun shell.  Whatever color the shell was corresponded to the no shoot target.  So if you got blue, for example, you had to hit the green and white plates.  The stop plate was the cross shaped plate in the middle, which of course was shot last.

Stage 3 Too

Stage 3

One of the hardest parts was telling the difference between the light blue plates and white ones.  Stage 4 was also interesting to me.  It was a pistol stage that required you to hit the yellow targets twice and the white ones once.  The tricky part was the stop plate.  If you hit the pink one, it added seconds to your time as a penalty.  It was difficult to remember NOT to shoot at the thing in the middle.  You had to hit the white part of the target to avoid the penalty.  This tripped up quite a few people.

Stage 4 Pistol

There was also a “drag race” stage.  This happened to be Stage 5.  There was some very fast times on this stage, with a few people averaging 5 shots from the ready position in less than a second.

On the right you can also see a bit of Stage 6, which was mostly single shot plates, with one double tap thrown in the mix.  They were partially obscured with cardboard.  I didn’t find that stage to be that difficult, and since I was focused on the match and repainting targets/scoring/etc., I did not take pictures of every stage.


Stage 1 was a rifle stage.  The blue plate had to be shot twice, but it could not be shot in succession.  Therefore, you had to shoot the two white plates to the left, then the blue plate, and then the white plates to the right.  One could also choose to shoot in reverse order, and go from right to left.  Either way, one had to make sure to hit the black plate to stop the time.  If you shot at the black plate, and hit the pink plate instead, your time stopped but you did not get a time reduction bonus of 3 seconds.  Therefore it was very important to hit the black plate.  My first attempt I hit skipped the blue plate and had to hit it in succession, which killed my time.  The next three strings were clean.  Making mistakes like that can cost you if you aren’t careful.  On each stage, they throw out your worst string.  The key is to stay consistent as you can, and don’t make many mistakes.  And if you do make mistakes, just make them one time per stage.

Stage 1

If you ever decide to shoot a rimfire match, there are two things that you can do as part of your preparation that will help immensely.  The first is to make sure you really clean your guns so that they function reliably.  If you swap out a part to upgrade the gun, make sure it still functions very well.  A light strike, or failure to extract or eject, can cost you.

Whether you shoot optics division or iron sights, it is also very important to zero your optics or sights.  Sometimes there are very small targets that require you to hit them accurately.  That black plate on Stage 1 was pretty small.  I had my rifle zeroed for 25 yards, and these plates were a bit closer.  Fortunately for me, I aimed right at the center of the plate, and the round landed on the plate every time, which meant I got the -3 second bonus.  But the rounds hit a little bit low.  I would have been better off to aim a little higher on the plate or re-zero my rifle for 15 yards.  It worked out okay, but the margins are very small.  The difference between 1st and 4th place was 3 seconds.  The difference between 3rd and 4th place was 0.26 seconds.  When the margins of victory are that small, one mistake or penalty that counts against you can knock you completely out of contention.  One is always better off to slow down and shoot accurately than to get in a hurry and make a few costly mistakes.

Safe and happy shooting to you all,


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Der Osten – “The East”

Bodo had long blonde hair and tight black jeans (long before they came back into style).  He was exactly what you’d picture a 20-something German guy would look like in 1994.  Which makes sense, because it was 1994.  He was a very nice fellow, but rather quiet.  He was also one of the people in charge of us, so to speak.  So what do I mean by “us”?

There were about 37 of us.  All American exchange students living with German host families for the year.  All about 16-18 years old.  All of us a long way from home.  So it was up to Bodo and the rest of the chaperones to keep the drinking and debauchery to a dull roar.  Not a small feat, considering the constitution of our group of intrepid travelers.

Why mention Bodo specifically?  I mention him because I owe him a beer and a debt of gratitude.  He pulled back the curtain and gave me a rare, unfiltered look at how things really were.  Here’s how it came about.

Remember that this was not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen.  The Cold War had just come to an end.  But the evidence of what life was like in East Germany was evaporating quickly.  We were in Berlin for a week, visiting the Reichstag, the Brandenburger Tor, and many other sights.  At one point, the exchange program had arranged for us to see a show in a theater.  It was called Jazzlegs, and was much like a show in Las Vegas might be.  There was dancing, singing, elaborate costumes, etc.  The vast majority of us were enjoying it.  I wasn’t in that particular majority, so was glad to get a break from it during intermission.

About a dozen of us were all standing together, watching some sort of rope gymnastics in the lobby.  It was impressive.  I watched them climb a rope two stories tall and do all sorts of intricate twirls.  It occurred to me that Mr. Crash would have broken his neck just trying to climb the rope.  Eventually the gymnasts finished their routine and the show was about to start back up again.  Just then, Bodo came around and started talking to some of us.  He walked up to me and quietly said “Would you like to see the real East Berlin”?

Damn right I would.  About eleven of us managed to sneak out of the theater.  Bodo led us to the U-Bahn, which we rode for what seemed to be a long time.  We finally got to the stop, and emerged from the subway.  It was much darker than any other part of the city we’d been to.  Abandoned Trabants lined all the streets, presumably disposed of in favor of better automobiles.  The buildings were all non-descript concrete towers, devoid of character or color.  There seemed to be dozens of these buildings around us.  These were the utilitarian housing projects of East Berlin.

Concrete Block

Photo credit: http://classroom.synonym.com/happened-eastern-europe-after-collapse-communism-6287.html

We ducked into one of the buildings and climbed the stairs.  I forgot to ask if there was an elevator, but I got the impression the building didn’t have one.  Bodo gathered us together when we reached the right floor.  He asked us to be respectful and polite, knowing that we wouldn’t dare behave otherwise.  After 6 months in a foreign country, in the days before the internet and cheap phone calls home, we were used to being on our own.  One of the first things you learn is: when in doubt, keep your mouth shut.

Bodo knocked and an older gentlemen answered the door.  I don’t believe the fellow was given any prior warning that his living room was about to be invaded by American kids, but to his credit he welcomed us in with a smile.

Bodo introduced us.  There was another man there who appeared to be Russian.  He didn’t speak any English, and Bodo ended up acting as an interpreter for much of what was said.  I took a place on the couch with five other kids and we sat and listened to the Germans talk.  Bodo asked the gentlemen to tell us what it was like living in East Berlin while the Stazi was in control.  The Stazi was responsible for domestic security and surveillance for the German Democratic Republic, or GDR.  They were essentially the KGB of East Germany.  The gentlemen who lived in this apartment began to tell us what it was like.

He confirmed a story I had heard about kindergarten children being tricked into revealing their parents had committed illegal acts.  At the time, it was illegal to watch West German television programming, even though the stations could be received in East Germany.  German television has a long standing tradition.  At approximately each quarter hour (and sometimes during a commercial break) a clock would appear on the screen for a few seconds.  I guess the theory is that it was convenient to show the time and I suspect many people also used it to set the time on their wall clocks.  The clock that appeared on the West German channels was round.  The East German one was a (supposedly more modern) square.  The kindergarten children would be asked to identify the shape of the clock on television.  Was it a circle or was it a square?  The kids would answer the question and confirm that the clock was a circle, and unwittingly doom their parents to punishment by the Stasi.

This interesting gentlemen, whose apartment we’d invaded, also played the guitar and sang a few songs for us.  Since it was so difficult to talk to your friends and neighbors about the general state of affairs under communist rule, one had to be creative.  This gentlemen performed songs that had themes that were anti-communist.  The songs used symbolism so it wouldn’t be so obvious.  I remember one song was about a carnival horse that pulled a wagon.  Apparently, the Stasi caught on to this fellow’s political beliefs and kept a close watch on him.  They did this through agents, but also via this man’s neighbors.  They watched his moves and informed the Stasi as to his activities.

I was sitting there on his couch and couldn’t help but notice two very large ring binders on the coffee table.  I thought they contained family pictures so I asked about them.  The old gentlemen smiled and explained, through Bodo, that they were not photo albums.

For many years, the Stasi collected information about this man.  When the wall finally fell, a mob broke down the doors of the Stasi buildings in East Berlin.  At some point, the man also went into the buildings to find his surveillance records.  He found them.  What I was holding in my hands weren’t photo albums containing pictures of family and friends.  What I held was physical evidence of the betrayal of friends who were in fear of the Stasi.

Blick vom Dach des ehemaligen Dienstgebäudes des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit (MfS) in der Normannenstraße in Berlin auf das dazu gehörende Haus 18, aufgenommen am 06.11.2009. Berliner Projektentwickler haben das Haus 18 als mögliche «Event-Location» für sich entdeckt. Zusammen mit seiner Geschichte, die sich vor 20 Jahren zum Topthema in den deutschen Nachrichten entwickelte. Haus 18 war jenes riesige Gebäude, in das wütende DDR-Bürger am 15. Januar 1990 zuerst stürmten, als sie die Berliner Stasi-Zentrale besetzten. Hier zerfledderten sie die ersten Akten, warfen Honecker-Bilder aus den Fenstern, traten Türen ein und sprühten «Tod dem Stasi-Pack» an die Wände. Foto: Soeren Stache dpa (Zu dpa-Korr.:

Photo credit: http://cdn3.spiegel.de/images/image-95136-panoV9-hlju.jpg

He encouraged me to look through them.  Inside were lots of written notes that I couldn’t quite understand.  Some seemed to be accounts of conversations people had had with this fellow.  Others seemed to be drawings, one of which appeared to be a diagram of the layout of his home.  So much of the man’s life was in these binders…so many private things that were no one’s business but his own.

It drove home a very important lesson to me.  For the first time, I truly understood the importance of liberty.  I understood the consequences of allowing government to become too powerful.  I realized, for the first time, how precious our Constitution is and the importance of the protection it provides for us.  And I also realized how much that I, and many others, had always taken it for granted.

Eleven American kids sat in that living room and heard this man’s story.  An enormously valuable lesson was bestowed upon each of us that night.  What each of us got from that experience varied.  But as for me, I was never the same.

We walked back down the dark, quiet streets, making our way back to the U-Bahn and the youth hostel.  I never once wondered what happened in the second act of the show.

We saw the real East Berlin.

Here’s the whole gang, minus yours truly.  I was sitting up in the window sill, wrapped up in a blanket, with a bad cold, sipping from a dwindling fifth of Jack Daniels…looking down at my friends while they took this picture.

Berlin Newspaper pic

In Liberty and Freedom,


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Fried Cabbage

by Studentofthegun

Sometimes it is important to stop and remember just how lucky most of us are.  I know I’m very lucky as I’ve been blessed with some modicum of success.  My home is clean most of the time, even if it doesn’t look exactly like a magazine spread from Pottery Barn.  It is a safe place, with plenty of light and plenty of other comforts such as food and soft beds.  I have a pretty good idea where the next several meals are going to come from.  For all of these things I am grateful.

When I was growing up, entertainment was a lot different that it is now.  There was no internet.  My neck of the woods did not get cable television until after I went to college.  It also happens to be a place that struggles economically.  It is in fact one of the worst areas in the United States to search for a job; at least according to Forbes.  Despite all that, it will always be home to me, even though I am forced to make my living elsewhere.  I visit when I can.

It wasn’t completely destitute.  We did manage to get a grand total of three television stations (actually four if the weather was just right).  However, we usually chose other ways to entertain ourselves.  We told stories.  Not fictional accounts, but things that really happened as best we could recall them.  This tradition continues today at some point each holiday, when we all convene at my grandmother’s house.

Here’s a story that my grandmother has told many times over the years.  It happened during the Great Depression.  Back in those days, the family was very poor and was barely able to feed themselves.  They did have one seasonal food source: cabbage.  It was prepared by chopping the cabbage up and frying it with a little grease in a cast iron pan.  Side items were not common, outside of a few eggs here and there.  Fried cabbage was had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

During this period of cabbage abundance, one of my relatives (who was a young able-bodied fellow at the time) worked at a lumber mill.  The lumber mill workers would bring their lunches in plain brown paper sacks and pile them all together until it was break time.  My relative had been eating cabbage for many days and had all he could stand.  One day, while walking to work, he decided that he was going to rush over to the lunch bags and make sure he picked someone else’s bag.

The lunch whistle blew and the young man rushed over to the lunch bags.  He picked up several of them and chose the one that was the heaviest.  Hoping that it was full of food, he ran into the woods, imagining that it might be a quart of hearty stew…anything other than cabbage.

He finally stopped running and sat down to discover his prize.  He opened the bag…and saw that it contained a hammer and a few walnuts.

Somewhere, back at the mill, a very happy worker was enjoying a meal of fried cabbage.

Being grateful and content with what one has does not mean that one is devoid of ambition.  It doesn’t mean that one is complacent.  It’s simply the recognition that someone, somewhere else, would gladly switch places with you.


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