Installing a bead on a shotgun barrel

While most sporting shotguns lack the intricate sights associated with rifles, most have some sort of rib and/or bead present. Installing a bead on a plain shotgun barrel is a fairly simple task that can be performed with only a few hand tools. In this post, we’ll be installing a steel bead on a plain shotgun barrel.

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the disclaimer:

The contents of are produced for informational purposes only and should be performed by competent gunsmiths only. and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

For this project, I ordered the following tools from Brownells:

Perhaps the most difficult part of installing the bead sight on a shotgun is making sure that it is on the top of the barrel. A few degrees off in either direction and the shooter will definitely notice. To address this, Brownells sells a special tool known as a top dead center punch. This punch has a hardened steel center punch located in an aluminum v-block with a level. To use it, I mount the shotgun with the receiver in the vise and make sure it is level. Next, I move the punch towards the end of the barrel where I’d like to locate the bead. Finally I tap the punch to mark where I need to drill.

Note the mark on the barrel from the punch. This will guide the drill bit. Shotgun beads are available in a number of sizes and styles. In addition to various thread sizes, the beads are available with or without a base, and in different colors made from different materials. I prefer to use a larger bead, made of steel with a 6-48 thread. I find these are easiest to install and work well for a wide range of applications. Obviously, the drill and tap used for the installation need to match the thread of the bead you plan on using. You can find a wide assortment of shotgun beads here.

I like to drill holes in plain barrels like this with a cordless drill. Over the years I’ve found it provides superior results to holding the barrel in a mill or drill press. If you are worried about drilling straight through the barrel wall and into the other side, you can place a wood dowel in the tube.

Now the threads can be tapped. I use a tapered tap held in a small tap handle. It is critical you have the tap held perpendicular to the axis of the bore.

In many cases the bead will have to be trimmed to length. I like to use this screw trimming tool from Brownells. Simply screw the bead in until the amount you need to remove is protruding through the other side.

Then you can either file or grind the bead (or screw) to length.

Finally the bead can be installed. Triple check to make sure it isn’t protruding into the bore.