1911 Rear Sight Installation (Novak style cut)

The freshly installed rear sight.

1911 Rear sight installation (Novak style cut)

Aftermarket sights are a common upgrade on 1911 pistols.  We decided to install Heine Ledge sights on our Series 80 Stainless Officer’s ACP.  The rear sight we ordered will fit a Novak style rear sight cut.  This type of cut is was developed by Wayne Novak for his excellent LoMount sights.  A measured drawing of cuts required to install these sights can be found here.

In this case we are installing a Heinie Ledge rear sight.  However, a wide range of sights are available to fit this cut.

Brownells provided the following tools and parts:

The following documents the process we used to install our sights and is presented for information purposes only.

The factory rear sight on our Colt Officer's ACP pistol.

The factory rear sight on our Colt Officer’s ACP pistol.  we strip the slide prior to machining.

In addition to a milling machine, we will use the following tools to install sights.  Dovetail files (bottom), solid carbide endmills (lower center left), carbide dovetail cutters (upper center left), calibers (top), edge finder (upper center right) and a brass and plastic drift (lower center right).

In addition to a milling machine, we will use the following tools:  Dovetail files (bottom), solid carbide end mills (lower center left), carbide dovetail cutters (upper center left), calipers (top), edge finder (upper center right) and a brass and plastic drift (lower center right).

A nylon drift is used to remove the rear sight.  Note: on factory colt guns, there is a slight taper in the sight and it should be drifted from right to left (opposite of picture)

A nylon drift is used to remove the rear sight. Note: on factory colt guns, there is a slight taper in the sight and it should be drifted from right to left (opposite of picture)

 

The slide is secured in the mill vise and a 3/8" carbide end mill is used to cut the top of the slide behind the pre-exsisting dovetail to the same depth as the factory dovetail cut.

The slide, resting in parallels, is secured in the mill vise and a 3/8″ carbide end mill is used to cut the top of the slide behind the pre-existing dovetail.  This cut will be the same depth as the factory dovetail.

 

The rear of the slide is now cut at the appropriate depth.

The rear of the slide is now cut at the appropriate depth.

 

A edge finder is used to locate the rear of the slide.

A edge finder is used to locate the rear of the slide.  Our edge finder has a .200″ diameter, so the edge is .100″ from this point.

 

A 1/4" solid carbide end mill is used to rough out the dovetail.

A 1/4″ solid carbide end mill is precisely positioned from the rear of the slide and is used to rough out the dovetail. We make this cut about .010″ shallower then the final depth of the dovetail.

 

The dovetail cutter is set to the appropriate depth (.125" lower then the rear shelf we just cut) and the cut is made.

The dovetail cutter is set to the appropriate depth (.125″ lower then the rear shelf we just cut) and the cut is made.

 

The finished cut.

The finished cut.

 

A safe edge file is used to break this corner.

A safe edge file is used to break this corner on the top rear edge of the dovetail. This file has two safe edges (no teeth) and one face that cuts.  This keeps the file from removing material where you don’t want it to.

A 65 degree file is used to fit the rear sight.  This file has two safe edges (no teeth) and one face that cuts.  This keeps the file from removing material where you don't want it too.

A 65 degree file is used to fit the rear sight.

This is our shop made drift.  We use it to start sights.  It is a piece of 3/4" round high impact plastic turned down on one end.

This is our shop made drift. We use it to start sights. It is a piece of 3/4″ round, high impact plastic, turned down on one end.

The sight is drifted into place.  This sight, like many has a slight taper in the dovetail.  The narrow end of the taper is driven in first.

The sight is drifted into place. This sight, like many has a slight taper in the dovetail. The narrow end of the taper is driven in first.  Our shop made punch drifts the sight most of the way.  A narrower, brass punch is used to finish driving the sight into place.  The set screw is then tightened.

 

The freshly installed rear sight.

The installed rear sight.