View Full Version : Rear sight swaps on SA Rugers...

Jim March
February 24, 1999, 12:13 PM
This is connected to a discussion I'm having on "Cowboy" regarding having a top-notch SA Ruger built. Gunslinger seems to know these guns REAL well, I'm extremely grateful to be able to thrash out details of a customized piece with somebody who clearly knows what they're doing. And I'm pretty sure I'll be dealing with him for most if not all of the mods in question.

The one thing that doesn't seem to be common on customized Vaqueros/Blackhawks is addition of a TRUE rear combat sight...I mean a fixed two-dot setup in Tritium such as would be common on a 1911 or Glock or whatever.

BUT: I'd like it mounted further forward than stock, and the rear upper part of the topstrap rounded so that the thumb doesn't "snag up" on the hammer in speedwork. Freedom Arms sets up their adjustable-sight models in this fashion, you can actually fan 'em if you wanted to, in stark contrast to a Ruger adjustable-sight model.

I'd like to know how much bux a gunsmith charges to do this sort of swap on, say, a factory fixed-sight DA revolver such as a fixed-sight K-Frame? Second, does anyone know if it'd be easier to start with a Vaquero's "SAA-type small rear sight channel" and carve a dovetail in it, or start with a Blackhawk and do a sight as a replacement for the factory adjustable sight but set "further forward" and then round the upper rear of the topstrap?

Jim March

Daniel Watters
February 24, 1999, 01:16 PM
From looking at the Rugers, I think that you'd have a problem with topstrap thickness if you moved a rear sight much further forward.

I'd say you have three choices:

1) Go with Vaquero and install the tritium vials in the factory fixed sights.

2) Install S&W tritium sights on a Vaquero frame. The cost would be $100 for the sights themselves and at least $218 for the machining required on the Vaquero frame. There would be extra cost for adapting the front sight insert.

3) See whether the Meprolight tritium sights for the GP100/Super Redhawk with fit the Super Blackhawk. The cost would be $140 for the sight set, but you'd still have to find a way to adapt the front sight.

Jim Stroh at Alpha Precision might be willing to work with you.


Best wishes,


Jim March
February 24, 1999, 04:04 PM
"From looking at the Rugers, I think that you'd have a problem with topstrap thickness if you moved a rear sight much further forward."

Daniel, that's quite true on the Vaquero. On the Blackhawks and other adjustable-sight models the main body of the rear sight rests between two "rails" that protect it from movement and at least some "impact adjustments". If you pull the rear sight completely you've got these two "walls" running along either edge of the topstrap into which you could cut dovetails. The sight would then form a "bridge" between the two rails, which isn't great unless you "fill in that gap" with something liquid that can harden. Solder would do, perhaps brazing, or even a super-strong epoxy resin like JB-Weld or the "Magic Sculp" epoxy putty I use sometimes. Sounds crazy, I know, but once the whole "gap" area between the "rails" and under most of the new sight is filled in and smoothed it can be painted black.

And you could adjust the rear sight height to match the stock front sight.

But...would this work?

Jim March

Daniel Watters
February 24, 1999, 07:05 PM
Well, if you insist on installing a dovetail rear sight, it looks like the Novak Lo-Mount for the Colt .380 might fit your needs. The sight width is narrow enough to fit on the top strap while the dovetail appears to be deep enough to eliminate the pivot pin hole, while not so deep as to hamper frame strength.

As for filling in the frame slot, fit a piece of metal into the slot and hold it in place with a screw into the hole for the original elevation screw. Depending on the placement of the Novak sight, the rear blade might be long enough to obscure the screw head from view.

As for filling the slot with epoxy, YUCK! If you want a nice custom handgun, don't do a half-assed job.

By the way, Hamilton Bowen has a single-action revolver on his portrait page in which the rear sight has been repositioned. I suspect some serious rewelding and reshaping took place.


Best wishes,


February 24, 1999, 11:37 PM
I'm confused. Exactly why do you want a combat sight on a single action? What will be the purpose of this gun?

Jim March
February 25, 1999, 01:44 AM
Agreed on the epoxy, except the stuff *can* be sculpted to a smoothness rivaling ivory.

In this pic:
<a href="http://bowenclassicarms.com/port/50%20ae%20lightweight.JPG">Heavily modified Blackhawk (in .50AE)</a>
It's clear he started with a blackhawk, "filled in" the factory sight channel, rounded the back and cut a dovetail.

This is VERY cool, but expensive. It occurs to me I could take a factory adjustable sight, cut the rearmost chunk off, add metal just ahead of the vertical screw then cut a dovetail into that. Then narrow the dovetail portion of the sight so it fits in between the stock topstrap rails. Do it right, you'd still have vertical adjustment, although you wouldn't have the leverage or range of adjustment as stock.

Hell, grafting the stock sight to a modern rig is something I could do with a dremel, a drill and some creative hacking. And if I screw up, the gun itself isn't harmed a bit. Hey, I could even get the windage dead right on the stock sight, add the combat sights ahead of it, line it up based on where the stock sights are...chop the stock rear end off last...if I get the height a bit off, leave the vertical screw in.

I want to be able to take LONG range shots with this baby. For me, "outline shooting" just hasn't been working out, I just plain use sights. It's something about my eyes, or vision processing gear, or whatever. I've learned to take a quick sight picture and get off an accurate shot...but what it amounts to is, there's a very limited number of self-defense situations I train for or feel I can deal with.

If it's a close-range mugging with a non-gun, I'm going to "immediately comply", go for what he thinks is a wallet, and set off a minirevolver in his face drawn from the front right pocket. If he's got a gun and I think I can grapple with it, I'll take a shot. Anything "longer range" I'm going to head for cover as priority #1! Then I'm gonna make 'em "charge defended cover", I'm gonna line up sights and plink at 'em until they're dead, in flight or they nail me.

Given how I shoot, SA versus DA isn't a major issue. Accuracy and good sights matter...and if that rear sight is forward enough, I'd get the "first quick strike" ability that the stock "rear overhang" Ruger setup partially chucks out. Remember, I've got a Single Six .22LR/.22Mag already, I've got some clue how these handle for me.

That custom Blackhawk rig's sights or the adjustables on a Freedom Arms are *exactly* what I've been looking for.

Jim March

Daniel Watters
February 25, 1999, 08:14 PM
Here is another idea. Stick with a Vaquero, but utilize an interchangeable front sight set-up. (This runs about $184 from Alpha Precision.) You could have one front sight set up for your hunting load, and a second for your self-defense load.

I think this will offer much cleaner asthetics (not too mention cheaper) than anything we have discussed to date.

Best wishes,


[This message has been edited by Daniel Watters (edited February 25, 1999).]

Jim March
February 25, 1999, 09:14 PM
Ya...but...it's the Vaquero REAR sight that's the biggest problem. The front sight needs some orange paint maybe, other than that it's fine.

I'm willing to modify a factory rear sight myself...the more I think about it, the more I think that's what'll actually happen.