XD sight removal with a arbor press.


November 20, 2012, 08:26 PM
I'm getting into gun smithing a little bit. There is a need in the area for someone to do small jobs with a fast turnaround. I will be taking the Glock Armorers course in Jan.

I mentioned this to the LGS and he asked me if I would do sights and part replacements for his customers. He also asked if I would replace XD sights. I have been reading about how hard they are to remove, mainly due to poor milling. There are lots of tricks to removing them but putting it in the freezer overnight isn't always the best way to do things.

I'm very mechanical. I'm a master plumber, and have been working with my hands since I was young.
I would like to know if a press would work for removing these sights? If so how big of a press would I need? I've been looking at presses and the 3 ton arbor presses look like they would give me the feel and touch I would need. Do I need one that big? Would a 1 ton do the job?

I plan on getting a MGW sight tool as well, but I don't want to be breaking those trying to get the sights off.

What sort of punches or drifts would be best for using in the press? Brass seems too soft for press work.

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November 20, 2012, 08:50 PM
Maybe, maybe not.

The problem I had was with the front sights.
It would take an industrial strengh sight pusher to even wiggle one without it springing sideways or breaking.

The outer edges of the front sight dovetail base is tapered off to match the slide curve.
So there is nothing to push or beat on except the blade.
If you break the blade off, you are up sheep creek without a paddle.

See this:

If you aren't trying to save the factory front sight?
Just use a Dremel cut-off wheel and slice it down the center almost to the slide dovetail surface.

You can pluck it out with your fingers then.


November 20, 2012, 09:10 PM
I had read about cutting down the middle to remove the old front sight. It seems that people have very mixed results when installing sights on XD's. Some say the front or rear comes off ok and other have a heck of a time with it. It seems like the QC isn't very good and they are all milled to non-exacting tolerances.

Maybe a hammer and a brass punch is the best tool.

The brass stock you cut was to fit inside the slide to support it from crushing?

November 20, 2012, 11:46 PM
As a general rule for drifting or changing sights you should use plastic, brass, steel, hardened steel in that order. Most things can be done with the plastic and brass, but some are boogers and steel is needed. Can't really say anything on the arbor press as my gunsmith just puts the slide in a vice and uses punches to get sights in/out.

November 21, 2012, 04:59 PM
Before you invest in an arbor press. You will be bending or breaking slides with a press so its wise to know how much it will cost you when it happens.
Sorry for the sarcasm but most experienced smiths will advise against using a press for this job.
We machined a piece of steel with "slide rails" that we clamp in a vise to hold the slide over the entire length of both rails. The we use a steel punch shaped to fit the dovetail and the sight and a hammer to remove the sight. Most of the time the sight is re-usable if required. We do 4 or 5 a week this way.

November 21, 2012, 05:16 PM
That is a very good point. I really don't want to damage anyone's gun. From what I'm reading a good punch and vise are really the best tools for the job. I really like the steel with slide rails for holding the slide. Would you make another one and sell it to me? I also like that dove tail shaped drift.

November 21, 2012, 05:27 PM
All I have to add is that according to my 'smith, my XD front sight was a "cast-iron... pain in the..." to get off. HE did use a punch from what he told me.

November 21, 2012, 05:51 PM
What did he charge for that?

November 22, 2012, 05:26 PM
I've broken two different sight tool removing a set of XD sights, and ended up relief cutting them. An XD is the one gun that I will refuse if it comes in for service. There are companies that specialize in it, and I would rather them handle it.

November 23, 2012, 01:36 PM
I've seen some recommend heating the slide. Will a mapp gas torch damage the finish? I wouldn't want to heat it up much just enough to cause a little expansion of the slide material. I know heating it up too much will take the temper out, so I would just want to use a little heat. Will it cause discoloration on a SS slide?

November 23, 2012, 01:57 PM
Not unless you heat it smoking hot.

But unless you are trying to burn out Lock-Tight, it won't do any good anyway.

The sight dovetail will expand just as much as the slide dovetail, as they are both made out of steel and expand at the same rate.

The result is zero change in tightness, and a slide too hot to to rest your punch holding hand on while driving out the sight.


November 23, 2012, 03:30 PM
I'm getting into gun smithing a little bit....
No disrespect intended but you are wading into deep water here. Your questions and ideas suggest that you have little or any knowledge of what is involved nor do you have the skills necessary.

I will be taking the Glock Armorers course in Jan.
While interesting this will teach you zero about "gunsmithing" (i.e. how to remove XD sights).

I'm a master plumber...
Few if any of the skills of the plumbing trade are transferable to working with guns.

Gunsmithing is an involved, complicated profession that is not easily or quickly learned. Being "mechanically inclined" is certainly an asset and will help you immeasurably, but it is not a substitute for experience and skills learned through doing. While I admire and applaud your interest and enthusiasm I do want to caution you that this endeavor could be a bad experience for both you and your clients. Just take heed of what others are telling you here.

November 23, 2012, 05:06 PM
I do want to caution you that this endeavor could be a bad experience for both you and your clients. Just take heed of what others are telling you here.

I hear exactly what you are saying. I know asking questions is a good way to reveal your ignorance, but I find it is the best way to learn. I have no misconceptions of where I really stand skill wise. I'm just looking to fill a hole that is needed in my area.

In my experience, while heating two metals that are the same will cause them to expand at the same rate, this still can "break" them free.
I would have to be cooled down first to be able to be worked on.

I have been reading and talking to many people so as to learn what I can. There is a lot of bad advise out there and I appreciate being able to bounce ideas off you guys. Everything I ask here I have read or been told is a good idea. Scary huh! lol I just watched a guy use an air chisel on his XD sights on youtube!

Any reading you guys know of that would help would be appreciated. I'm not looking to be a full fledged gunsmith. I just want to be able to help people change their sights, triggers, and such. It would be a real jump for me to ever do a trigger job on a 1911 or get into milling parts. Some day...?

Anyway, thanks for the honest advise. It's good to have people that will keep you grounded!

November 23, 2012, 06:06 PM
To roll it up and cut to the heart of it - On this particular gun with its specific quirks, the best advice is to tell the customer IN WRITING that his original sights WILL be destroyed in removal due to the way that they are fit and get his signature on the ducument to protect yourself. If he won't sign, hand the gun back to him. Protects you, protects him.

November 23, 2012, 09:01 PM

Better to destroy the front sight by cutting it then destroy the slide by banging on it with a punch & hammer half a day!!


November 23, 2012, 09:27 PM
I do like your attitude and hope you don't think I am raining on your parade.

As far as heating is concerned... understand that XD sights are difficult to remove because the dovetails are very tight. This is a mechanical adhesion and not a result of rust, age or loctite. RC pointed out correctly that heating will expand both sight and slide and will do nothing about the fit of the sight. It may very well mess with the finish and, if you get it hot enough, can impact the heat treat. Listen to RC... he's been there (and back):)

November 23, 2012, 10:47 PM
I don't mind a little rain ;-)

I see what you are saying about the dovetail being tight. Everything I ever hadto deal with has some form of corrosion, rust or just plain old poop holding it together! This is clearly a different animal.

If you guys don't mind I'll be coming here for info or help more in the future.

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