September 24, 2013
By Gus Norcross
One of the most common gunsmith tasks is sight installation. Many iron sights are simply pressed into dovetails in a pistol slide or on a rifle barrel ramp. Removing and installing them requires proper tooling if you don't want your customer to think you hired a drunken Wookiee to do it. Unsightly dents and dings on the sight and/or the slide are bad advertising and unhappy customers probably won't be back.
It is sometimes necessary to beat sights with a brass punch, but pressing rather than beating them in or out is less likely to damage parts. Sight tools are available for many modern pistols like Glock, SIG Sauer and Beretta, and I especially like those from MGW available through Brownells.
MGW sight movers are heavy duty tools designed for professional armorers and gunsmiths and can be used for sight installations or simply tweaking a rear sight for windage correction at the range. The downside to the MGW tools is cost — a hundred bucks or more — but if you work on a specific brand of pistol very often, the expense may be worth it.
I have tried "universal" tools with limited success, and many prefer brand-specific models when available. Glock sells its own factory sight movers in two sizes but keep in mind they are designed for the factory rear sights with angled sides and may not work with some aftermarket sights.
One of the handiest sight pushers I've ever used is the tool from Williams Gun Sight for the dovetailed front sights on rifle barrel ramps. This slick device makes swapping out front sights on your favorite Marlin or Winchester a snap. I've used it more than any other sight tool in my drawer.
I confess I have a weakness for nice tools, so it's easy for me to justify paying a hundred bucks for one of the beautiful MGW sight movers, but the average gun owner can simply have a local gunsmith do his sight installation for a fraction of the cost of buying the tool.
A selection of sight movers Norcross rounded up in his shop. The two Glock factory tools are on the left with three MGWs in the center and a Williams tool at top right. He prefers brand-specific tools.
Removing a Glock Sight
Removing a Glock factory rear sight. Clamp the tool on the slide and turn the handle in the appropriate direction. Using a dedicated sight pusher will give much better results than pounding with a punch.
Williams Sight Tool
The Williams sight tool installing the dovetailed front sight on a Marlin ramp. If you do a lot of work on iron-sighted hunting rifles, this tool will be well worth the expense, Norcross says.