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Painting Gun Sights - How To

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by wbond, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member

    Intro to Problem:

    My Firestorm came with fantastic sights that work well in twilight. My Ruger SP101 came with good sights for daylight, but they were useless in twilight because the front sight was black.

    In the recent past, I bought every brand of sight paint and they all were lousy. Not bright enough, not good enough coverage, etc. I bought spray paints from a paint store that had great color and one even had great coverage, but none had enough durability. Model paints can have great yellows and oranges, but aren't durable enough.



    Then I realized that the maintenance people at work use finger nail polish to color code keys. It holds up on a bundle of keys with all keys bouncing around against each other every day for years. The keys only need repainting about once a year. Ureka!


    Solution - Finger nail polish is the best gun sight paint and it's cheap.

    I used Loreal finger nail polish to paint the front sight bright orange. This is more highly visible than any of the orange sight paints I ever tried. Model paint is also good for high visibility, but is not as durable as finger nail polish. I like Loreal (bought at Walmart) because it's one of the most durable brands of finger nail polish according to beauty advice gal I consulted.

    Loreal has the brightest orange of any brand I've seen. Loreal also makes a bright yellow. I used orange because it works well in daylight and twilight. I suppose yellow would be better for twilight, but I don't think as good for daylight. Actually, I'm not sure about the yellow. I know the orange works great.


    How to Paint Sights - Step By Step

    I used a new, clean toothbrush and 99% rubbing alchohol to clean the front sight before painting it. The trick is to buy some finger nail polish thinner before you start to clean the brush (I learned the hard way). It took me 6 tries to get it right, but it looks factory done now.

    If you screw it up, wipe it off with toweling paper, then repeat the alcohol toothbrush scrubbing. Then start over.

    Also, it is imperative that you keep the lid on the bottle when not using it. This stuff gets tacky in about 30 seconds at room temperature in humid weather.

    The trick is to use a very thin coat and then let it dry 30 minutes. Then use a second thin coat. If you get lumps, you used to much and/or messed with it to long. You can only work with it about 20 seconds before it gets tacky and then lumpy. The thinner will be needed to clean lumps from paint brush.

    The best idea would be to clean the sights with alcohol and a new toothbrush yourself, then let a chick paint the sight for you. They are finger nail polish experts. I learned the hard way. I should have hired an experienced young lady to paint the sight for me. However, I'm now a wiz at painting gun sights. I'll bet I could paint finger nails now too.

    That Loreal stuff is considered expensive compared to other brands of finger nail polish, but at $2.95 a bottle at Walmart, it's dirt cheap compared to buying official sight paint. Loreal is also better than any commercial, official gun sight paint.


    How to Properly Use Hi-Vis Painted Sights When Shooting

    The sight painting is intended for shooting at twilight, and in daylight when a dark background is behind target. In daylight with a light background behind target, I can still see the orange front sight fine (which is why I didn't use yellow or white).

    After dark, DO NOT look at the sights because the muzzle blast will blind you. You probably couldn't see the sights in the dark anyway no matter what color they are painted.


    What About Tritium Sights (these sights glow in the dark)

    I think glowing night sights (like Tritium) are a bad idea because looking at sights in the dark will result in muzzle blast blinding you. After dark, forget about sights and just look at target and point shoot.

    Besides, Tritium only last about 5 years. Also, it's radioactive. Do you really want to be carry that around on your body all the time? Lastly, I'm told they don't glow enough to be helpful in twilight. So why bother?


    What about fiber optic sights?

    They're great on my rifles and I love them. However, I don't like them on handguns because I know they are a snag risk when I draw. A ramp front sight that angles flush into the barrel is best on a handgun, in my opinion. That doesn't work for fiber optic sights. That's why I like to paint my front ramp sight, unless it's already painted.


    What about laser sights and gun mounted little flashlights?

    These work well for shooting accurately at night. However, they also reveal exactly where you are to the enemy before you've ever fired a shot. All they have to do is aim at your glowing gun. Think about it. It's not stealthy. These tools are helpful to your offense, but I think very damaging to your defense. These are a literally a beacon of light telling everyone where you are at night.



    I weekly target practice, speed shoot, and practice drawing and speed shooting in the daylight, twilight, and in the dark. Speed drawing and shooting in the dark at a man-size-shape black target is my favorite practice. Shooting at a black target in the dark hones combat skills. However, so does shooting in twilight and daylight. The sight paint is needed for twilight shooting and sometimes daylight shooting when the background is dark.

    With painted sights and practice in all conditions, a person becomes well rounded and ready for just about any lighting conditions. This has helped me a lot.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2006
  2. Janitor

    Janitor Senior Member

    I like to try and use colors that don't occur in nature, or in most bad guys clothing -

    I don't recall the brand name on them, but my neighbor gave me a couple large felt tip markers that are filled with paint. The one in the photo was a first attempt. Since then, the sight had been redone using a coat of white under the, pink. As far as duribility is concerned - when I redid this particular sight - I had to use carb cleaner to get the one coat of paint off.
  3. Biker

    Biker Well-Known Member

    I've always used fingernail polish on my sights. It also works pretty good in place of Loc-Tite.;)
  4. 1911 guy

    1911 guy Well-Known Member

    I raid my wifes nail polish, too.

    Bright red for the rear sight, white for the front.
  5. Soybomb

    Soybomb Well-Known Member

    Green tritium will be half as bright as it was at the beginning in 12.5 years. No radiation escapes the tritium vial. If you did break the vial open there wouldn't be enough to really penetrate your layers of dead skin. I would advice against chewing a mouthful of tritium vials, but short of that theres absolutely no danger to them. I also think they're helpful in twilight and dark and I would urge you to try them before dismissing them, but either way I wanted to give the other info out.
  6. Kramer Krazy

    Kramer Krazy Well-Known Member

    Testor's Model Paints

    I use Testor's flourescent green model paint for the front sight and white on the rear sight. The front I just brush on with a fine brush, but the rear sights, I use a toothpick and paint the edges to get a white "U". It really works well and holds up very well to Hoppe's #9 and gun oil. I prep the surfaces for paint by using a Q-tip dipped in lacquor thinner. Once the paint dries, I hit it with a little bit of oil to replace what the lacquor thinner took off.
  7. robertbank

    robertbank Well-Known Member

    Here is a tip I got from a friend in Texas you might want to try. He suggested I use a primer coat of refridgerator toouch up paint first. Once it dries then apply nail polish on the sight. The primer coat of paint is used to adhere to the metal surface. Apparently the nail polish coat then sticks to the primer coat better. When I do my next touch up I am going to try this method. Seems to me it should work better than just applying nail polish on the metal.

    Stay Safe
  8. superpelly

    superpelly Active Member

    Ok, my 1st post. Ok this is a long process but the end result is pretty cool. I used some red glitter (very very very tiny red glitter) and some clear finger nail polish and a magnified glass helps. You line up the glitter on the tip of your sight drop some clear polish on it. Do this process about 4 times and the sight seems like it sparkles. Even in low light it seems to sparkle. ;)
  9. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member

    Very Interesting

    Obviously there are other ways to skin the cat.

    With regard to using primer on metal before finger nail polish:

    You can do that if you want to. However, I've found that finger nail polish works very well on metal as long as the grease and other contaminents are removed. That's why the prep scrubbing with a toothbrush and alcohol. The alcohol must be 90% or greater alcohol. I prefer 99% alcohol, which I buy at Safeway. Why alcohol? Well honestly laquer thinner would also work well I think, but alcohol is less poisonous with less fumes. Also, I have a huge supply of 99% alcohol at work because we use it to clean computer circuits and printer cartridges. As long as the alc is 90% or higher, it leaves no residue behind. i.e. - no mineral residue or other contaminents.

    I think laquer thinner would work just as well to clean the sight before painting. Paint thinner (mineral spirits) should not be used because it leaves a greasy residue behind. However, could laquer thinner or paint thinner harm the gun finish?

    The maintenance guys at work use finger nail polish to mark their keys and they never clean or degrease the keys first, yet it seems to work anyay. They also aren't using as good of a stuff as Loreal, yet it holds up for them on their keys.

    So I think using high-end polish with proper cleaning and prep would be best, if you're going to try the finger nail polish method. However, it might even work without proper prep since it works that way on keys.

    I've never tried Tritium sights, but the guys and both gun stores I frequent don't recommend them.
  10. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member

    To Janitor re pink front sight:

    Neat. I think hot pink is a great color and Loreal has that too in finger nail polish. I bought bright orange, bright yellow, and hot pink.

    I chose to use the orange, but I think the pink would have been as good or better. Likely hot pink is best.
  11. Janitor

    Janitor Senior Member

    Well ... I'm not positive that it's the best, but certainly it's the best of the colors my friend supplied to me. He had an orange, but it wasn't a really bright one or I may have tried that first.

    But, at the end of the day, the pink works really well for me. Very easy for these tired old eyes to acquire.
  12. Judah Ben-Hur

    Judah Ben-Hur Well-Known Member

    Funny that I just got on to this site and seen a post about painting sights. Deja vu!

    I just got done painting mine about an hour ago. Both of my Colt's "lost" their white dots recently. I forgot to get some white paint to use as a background for the "lost" ones so I only did half of the rear sights. They only have one coat on them right now. The paint I used is for lures & jigs - Blaze Orange & Yellow Chartreuse. Got it from Dick's Sporting Goods chain here in the East. It dries really fast, its thick, and is really bright. I painted them with a toothpick.

    Time will tell how they hold up to powder, oils, etc.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 1, 2006
  13. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member


    A yound lady I met today told me the finger nail polish would be more durable if I used finger nail polish precoat, or prebase, or whatever she called it. I'm going to call it primer.

    I can't remember what she called it, but it would make it more durable and last longer she says.

    So to do this: after cleaning the metal initially, then paint with the primer, let dry (I assume). Then paint with the finger nail paint itself.


    There is also an after coat that can be used for greatest hardness and durability. I forgot what she called it. "Gloss coat" I think. However, I would not recommend using this because you wouldn't want a sight that shiny.


    I did NOT use the primer nor the gloss after-coat. All I used was the finger nail paint itself and it's holding up dandy. I expect it will last several years. If I ever have to redo it, next time I'll use the base coat, or primer, or whatever it's called. That can be bought from the same places that sell the nail paint.
  14. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member

    To Judah-Ben Hurr

    Your painting method sounds good. Actually, the way you describe the properties and behaviour of your paint, it sounds just like finger nail paint. Possibly the same stuff marketed to fishermen under a different label?

    How glossy is your lure paint?

    I think fingernail polish is also the same or similar stuff used to paint cars, except they call it laquer paint. Anyone know?
  15. Judah Ben-Hur

    Judah Ben-Hur Well-Known Member

    It is very glossy. The yellow moreso than the orange. Both bottles say it contains: methyl isobutyl ketone and xylene. :confused:

    I didn't want to go out and buy fingernail polish if you know what I mean. Thought I better stick to the fishing supply area and not wander off. :D
  16. Biker

    Biker Well-Known Member

    I just raid my wife's junk drawer.:neener:
  17. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    Ditto. And her white nail polish is brighter and more durable than whatever the hell Walther used for their sight dots.:D
  18. wbond

    wbond Well-Known Member

    To Ben-Hurr

    Wasn't that the famous chariot driver?

    Anyhow. Why wouldn't you want to buy fingernail polish? Don't be so insecure. In fact, how can you be insecure and call yourself Ben Hurr?

    I had a lot of fun doing it. I picked out the hottest chick in the place and asked her for some finger nail polish advice. She flashed her sexy dimples at me more than once.

    I should have asker her out. But honestly, she was so hot and friendly that I was to shocked to think of asking for her number. Yes shocked. How often are super hot women also super friendly? Not often in my experience. But when they are, shwing!

    You can have a lot of fun asking women to help you shop for finger nail polish.

    I did the same thing with leotards. I needed some black cotton leotards to make dust filters for the computers at work. So I had to go to Target's women's section. I figured as long as I'm going to embarrass myself, I may as well have as much fun as possible. I asked the hottest chick I could find for advice on picking out leotards. Now that was fun.
  19. Judah Ben-Hur

    Judah Ben-Hur Well-Known Member

    Since the weather is getting a little warmer around here, I've decided to go out thong shopping. I hope the hot chick is on duty. Don't know what I will do if she wants me to try it on. Maybe prance around the store a bit. Hope I don't get it on backwards in all the excitement. Wish me luck! :eek:
  20. HiWayMan

    HiWayMan Well-Known Member

    I use "tequilla sunrise" on the front and some godawful neon green color on the rear sight. The contrast works well for me.

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