The JohnO DIY High Visibility Front Sight
by John O. Stewart
I like a red/orange accent on the front sight to make it more visible and quicker to pick up.
Depending on the type of sight, I use one of two methods.
For a standard sight with a depression in the sight blade, I fill the indentation with paint. My current preference is Birchwood Casey “Super Bright” fluorescent red. This is evidently no longer available, but there are many options. Check hobby/craft stores.
For a night sight, I cover the blade with red/orange tape. I first make a hole in the tape (a very small hole punch works best) then place the tape on the sight. I use a sharp hobby knife to trim the tape to the sight and then seal the edges with colorless fingernail polish.
Finding the right tape was difficult. The best I’ve located thus far is the red fluorescent made by that I located at an auto parts store. The tape has to be tough and resistant to stretching, but flexible and not too thick. It should also stick well. The kind I’m using has an integral white backing which is important for maximum color brightness on a black sight blade.
I’ve tried painting around the night sight window, but have never had any success and paint on a flat surface is very vulnerable to any contact with the holster, clothing, etc. The paint in the depression is protected and the tape holds up well. You may be able to tell that the tape in the photo has started to show some wear at the top edge, but that doesn’t affect anything because I focus on the red when shooting quickly at close ranges.
The specific process I use to attach the tape on a night sight works as follows:
I cut a piece of tape with the backing about 1/4″ square or a bit larger. One side should be the manufactured edge of the tape.
I hold the tape next to the sight blade with the manufactured edge down against the bottom of the blade and touching the slide.
This is a judgment part: with a fine felt-tipped marker, I mark a dot on the tape at the level of the center of the tritium dot. What I’m trying to do is mark where I need to punch the hole. You can hold the marker just over the tritium window, position the tape in place, and then touch the tape with the marker. Left/right doesn’t matter at this point because I’ve left the tape oversized and will trim it to fit later.
After marking the dot, I center a 1/16″ hole punch over it and with a light tap of a hammer, cut through the tape and backing. Check then to see if positioning the tape on the front sight blade centers the hole over the tritium window. If not, do it again. Some up/down misalignment may be okay. You’ll either have a small gap at the bottom of the sight blade that’s not covered by the tape, or the tape will extend too far down. In that case you can trim the extra tape off the bottom.
Once you’re happy with the fit of the tape on the sight so the tritium window is not covered, press the tape in place for good adhesion. I degrease the sight blade first, but depending upon the night sight, don’t use a strong solvent like acetone. I find that isopropyl alcohol works okay and doesn’t seem to damage anything. I use the flat of my fingernail or something similar to press the tape in place. I press along the edges of the sight blade so the tape rolls over the edge a little bit.
Once I’m satisfied with the position of the tape, I trim around the sight blade with a new, sharp hobby knife blade (X-Acto blade) or razor blade. The secret here is to use the blade edge, not the sharp tip. Lay the blade against the surfaces of the sight blade and use a back and forth “sawing” motion to cut the tape as close to the edges of the sight as possible.
When the edges of the tape are trimmed flush with the edges of the sight blade, I seal them with colorless fingernail polish. There are probably other sealers that would work as well, but fingernail polish is easy to find, has its own brush, and is durable.
I’ve tried, by the way, cutting the tape to fit the sight blade before affixing it, but that doesn’t work nearly as well as the above method of leaving it oversized and trimming it after applying. Cutting a small piece of tape and then punching a hole in it almost never works. It’s much better to have a large piece of tape so the area around the hole is supported.
John O. Stewart is a retired US Army warrant officer who served as both a counterintelligence agent and CID agent (criminal investigator). He currently works for a small rural Colorado sheriff’s office and performs extra duties as firearms instructor and armorer. As armorer, he has acquired particular knowledge of SIG Sauer handguns. The challenges of limited facilities and budgets to him as an instructor have prompted his development of numerous innovative and low cost firearms training plans and programs.