As a gun owner on a tight budget, I suffer the dilemma of either buying a "new" used gun, upgrading my current ones, or having enough cash to buy ammo. Being the thrifty person I am (translated mistakenly as "Cheapskate" by the wife), I often resort to creative alternatives when feeling necessity’s sharp pinch. The most recent challenge was to inexpensively upgrade the iron sights on my firearms to improve my "broadside of a barn" shooting ability to the modest goal of hitting within the black on a consistent basis. Purchasing new sights and paying for a gunsmith to install them was not a viable option with my present cash flow. A DIY project was in order.
I first tried painting dots on my gun’s sights. I found myself less than satisfied with the results. My clumsy artistry spoiled the aesthetics of my guns. After mulling about it, I came up with a better method.
You’ll need the following materials:
A 1/16″ hole punch. These can be purchased in craft stores.
- Bright colored florescent labels with a coated finish.
- Round toothpicks
- Acrylic floor polish.
- Cheap hobby brush (Not pictured, but you know what they look like)
Punch out a lot of holes from the desired colored label. I like bright green myself. Open the bottom jaw of the punch and pull out the round punched dots. Between static electricity and residue glue from the label, these can be a bit tricky to extract. Lay them on a white piece of paper to make them be easy to see.
Separate the white backing from the punched-out dot by sliding it off using a toothpick. Pick up a colored dot with the tip of the toothpick. If you have trouble picking up it up, roll the tip of the toothpick on your tongue. Spit makes a great temporary bond to hold the tiny dot on the toothpick.
With another toothpick, apply a tiny spot of superglue on the iron sight where the dot will be placed. Don’t rush — It will take a good 2—3 minutes for the glue to dry, plenty enough time to apply the dot. If you have too much glue on the sight, use the corner of an index card to soak up the excess. Careful not to glue the card to the sight! Put the dot on the glue spot. Until the glue dries, you’ll have enough time to slide the dot into position. The goal is to align the dots on either side of the "V" slot evenly.
Wait until the dots on the glue completely dry. Get the hobby brush and paint floor polish over the dots with a thin coat. Don’t gloop it on. Repeat with several more thin coats, letting each application dry in between. Acrylic polish is pretty tough stuff — it will help preserve the dots from wear and tear.
Here’s the end result for my Ruger MK II:
Neat, no? I first experimented with dots on my .22 H&R Sportsman’s 999 break-top revolver. They held up fine after thousands of rounds. The same went for my Ruger. I recently put dots on my Star PD, SKS, and several others with positive results. For my S&W Model 10, instead of a dot, I cut a thin strip and applied it to the ramp of the front sight. Works great. Looks good too.
Forget about using fluorescent paint. I never found the results worth the effort. This inexpensive trick will never replace the quality of Tritium or fiber optic sights, but for casual shooting I find it a great improvement over hand-painted efforts.
Ron Shirtz [send him mail] is a transplanted Californian teaching Graphic Communications in Northern (Not “Upstate”) New York. His hobbies include arranging deck chairs on sinking ships, tilting at windmills, and being fashionably late.