Replacing front sights on S&W revolvers (Can I install a new front sight???)

Posted by George on 2nd Sep 2016

We get asked this question a lot.  "How hard is it to change a front sight" on a S&W revolver.  "Can I do it?"

The answer ranges from for sure you can to maybe to probably not.  And here's why I sat that.

You will find 3 type of sights on a modern S&W revolver.

  • Pinned
  • Spring Loaded 
  • Dovetail

Let's look at these from the bottom up.


Look at a picture of a dovetail front sight (Fig 1).  

All you need to do is using a punch made of brass or hard plastic to force out the old dovetail sight.  So you need a method to hold the revolver and a hammer to hit the punch with.  A vice with brass jaws or leather padding will hold the work.  A SMALL light weight hammer (not a framing hammer) will work the punch.  Can you do this?  You need patience and to go slowly.  Let the weight of that small hammer to the work no force at all.

UPDATE:  Let's all remove the dove tails from right to left as you're holding the gun in a shooting position.  And then install the replacement from left to right.  If you push the dovetail clean through you will just be opening up that dovetail cut and eventually it wont hold the sight in place.

Installation of the new sight is just the opposite of removal.  I bet you can do this one.

We now have Red Fiber dovetail sights HERE

Our green fiber also fits these sights.  At this point we are asking the customer to do the installation of the green fiber.


                                   Figure 1 Simple Dovetail Front Sight found on V-COMP revolvers

Spring Loaded:

Let's look at a spring loaded front sight (Fig 2).

There is an internal spring and pin that holds the sight in place.  Pushing the sight to the rear clears the front portion of the sight so that it can be rocked up to exit the revolver.  Replacing the sight is just the reverse.  Insert the new sight, push the sight to the rear against the spring and when clear lower the front of the new sight into the gun.

Some hints to make this a bit easier.  You can push the front sight against a wooden object (work bench is OK Kitchen table is NOT) to break it free and slide it to the rear.  Also when the old sight is our put some oil (any type) into the spring area to keep is clean and rust free.

Can you do this?  Yes and if you don't use the kitchen table (infuriating the wife/girl friend/mother) it should all work out well.

The spring loaded front sight has a pin hole on the side and a spring hole in the front.


                                                          Figure 2 Spring Loaded Front Sight


                                                                Figure 2A Spring loaded partially installed

I bet you could change a spring loaded front sight.


Let's look at a pinned front sight (Fig 3).

This sight is held in place with the pin that goes right through the sight.  Replacement sights are NOT pre-drilled.  A new sight will be blank, is inserted in the gun and then drilled using the existing holes in the barrel as guides.  

Changing goes like this:

  1. Holding the revolver firmly use a 1/16 diameter punch to drive out the old pin.  DO NOT USE A FRAMING HAMMER.  All that will do is bend the punch.  Use a small hammer and let the weight of the hammer drive out the pin.
  2. Clean out the slot where the old sight was mounted.
  3. Test fit the new sight.  You need to get the new sight to fit well before the next step.
  4. Make sure the new sight fits well.
  5. Holding the new sight in place, drill through the hole in the frame and the new sight.
  6. This previous step should put fear in your soul.  Drilling on your revolver!!!
  7. Reinsert the pin and go shooting.

Can you do this one??  Perhaps not.  Gunsmiths charge between $25 to $80 to perform this work.


                                                                       Figure 3 Pinned Front Sight

Here's my back yard method for drilling out pinned front sights.  I do NOT do this commercially.


You will find a Mini Mill (not CNC), a vice, Padded jaws (not shown), a small drill holder and a helper (also not shown).  I hope you can see just how much setup this takes.  If you did this for a living you could justify more fixtures.

You've got to hold the gun plumb level and square, hold the front sight tight to the barrel, line up the drill and drill perpendicularly through the new front sight.

Can you replace a pinned front sight?