Shop made front sight 1911

  • Last Post 29 January 2023
MarkinEllensburg posted this 29 January 2023

Some years ago I decided that my 1911 needed better and adjustable sights. At the time my only opting was to hand cut the dovetails. My first foray into metal smithing. My results were less than ideal but with the addition of a shim I was able to get the front sight to stay in place. Over the years it worked loose and the unsightliness was really bothering me. Having since adding to my shop a small lathe and mill I decided it was time to fix it. Ordered a new oversize sight from Brownells and a HSS dovetail cutter thinking it would make it through this job and hopefully a few more. I first setup a piece of scrap in the milling vise and did a trial run cutting a dovetail. It was darn near perfect. The dovetail int the slide not so much. By the time the sight would go into the dovetail it was too high. I failed to notice that the sharp corners on the cutter were not sharp any more. Rats! Cyber shopping once again, this time for the carbide dovetail cutter. Now not only must I clean up the slide cut, that was already oversize but must also make a new sight that would fit.

In the middle of this project I needed to make a vise stop so that when I took the sight blank out to test fit I could put it back into the vise in the same location so as to not have to dial it in each time. There is a huge difference between hobby grade vises and the much more expensive machine shop vises, Kurt being one brand. Simple vise stops that work on Kurt will not on a bargain hobby import vise. Since my vise jaws are not tall enough to clamp on them I decided to drill and tap a row of precision spaced holes along the flat beyond the fixed jaw. Had to take a trip to the hardware store for m 6x1 set screws to act as plugs so the holes don't fill up with chips under normal milling. With that done and ready for the sight milling I then gave the slide may attention. In looking at countless w-i-p 1911 gunsmithing posts on a couple of forums it dawned on me that I really should make a plug for the barrel channel so that I didn't distort the slide as I was setting it up for milling of the dovetail. Finally done with making fixtures I milled the dovetail in the slide. Absolutely night and day difference a carbide cutter makes!

Although not perfect. I am pleased with the results. Pictures in order I hope.



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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 29 January 2023

love it !! ... and looks pretty good ...

and congrats ... that is not an easy first project ... 

good quality high speed tools usually cut pretty well ... perhaps you ran into a nasty piece of steel ...

let me know if you need some bar stock ...  good alum  or eze cut  steel.. i got tons of it ...  and somewhere in the back a good Kurt vise ...


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Aaron posted this 29 January 2023

I am drooling. If I had another life to live, I would be a machinist. Very nice! Thanks for the pictures too.

I stopped into a Tool & Die shop last week to have a sizing die faced where I had ground 40 thou off it to drop the shoulder on resized cases. The shop owner gave me a tour of the place. I might as well have been on an alien space ship. Explain to me how a metal cutter cuts metal with a heated wire. There was some cutter/miller/big honking thing that cuts precision holes of multiple shapes with a wire I think. Like I said - alien to me.

With rifle in hand, I confidently go forth into the darkness.

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foesgth posted this 29 January 2023

Nice work!  I am about to embark on a similar project.  I have a single action army clone with fixed sights.  The sights are so far off to the right I can't even hit the paper.  I turned the barrel as much as I can.  I am going to cut a dovetail and install a new front sight.  I hope mine comes out as good as yours.  

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 29 January 2023

wire cutter machines work by " un-welding " the metal.  they can be very accurate ...  fresh wire is fed constantly ...

they are great for cuttijng odd shapes in mold inserts ...  

we had a shop wire sink offset slots in collets so we could make 90 degree fuel fittings single chucking in a lathe.


if you liked that you should check out a water jet machine ...


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