Quantcast
  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

1860 Colt front sight question

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by BCRider, Jun 6, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    On the Colt open top guns the front sight sits in a woodruff keyway and the sight blade has a rounded base with the high point back at the rear edge.

    The issue with these guns shooting high is legion and most suggest a longer front sight. And so I'm playing around with mine to remove them in preparation to make up new inserts.

    But while drifting them back out of the keyway I noticed that the rear high point of the blade is politely raising itself up as the sight blade is drifted back. So it occurs to me that for small amounts this method might well be the way it was intended to adjust the sights for minor to medium amounts of elevation change.

    I'm still going ahead with making blades up that are about .06 to .07 taller. But now I can see that I'll have an option for slight changes to the elevation once I'm in the ballpark.

    Thoughts on this? Or am I simply re-discovering something that is so commonly known that it simply isn't mentioned often?
     
  2. mykeal

    mykeal Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    5,147
    Location:
    Michigan
    Never heard of it myself.
     
  3. jgh4445

    jgh4445 Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Messages:
    884
    Location:
    South Alabama
    My 1860 (Uberti) has a slot for the front sight that runs front to back at the end of the barrel as opposed to a horizontal dovetail. I too would like a taller front sight but I'm not sure how the factory sight comes out. With a pair of pliers I suppose.....
     
  4. rondog

    rondog Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Messages:
    6,801
    Location:
    Commurado
    I think you may be on to something there, BCRider. If drifting the blade towards the rear causes the rear of the blade to rise, I'd have to give it a try and fire a cylinder or two. You may have just solved your problem! And it may have been designed that way all along.
     
  5. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    Jgh, the slot is a rounded "woodruff" keyway slot. I easily removed mine by just tapping it out with a pin punch and hammer. Start from the front or back and strike forward and down. Mostly forward. You'll see the sight blade move down and into the keyway at the punch and up and out of the slot at the other end. It doesn't matter if you use the punch from the front or back.

    As you do this you'll see what I mean about how easy it would be to move the slight a little back and forth to change the elevation over about a .04 to .05 amount.

    Rondog, it's enough out that I think I'll make up a couple of new blades that start out over tall and still file them down to get close. But it gives me options for fine tuning for sure.

    I was going to do the job tonight. But some friends called to meet them for coffee. I'll be doing this job in the next couple of days and testing it early next week. I'll take pictures of the sights and post them for all to see, point and chuckle.... :D
     
  6. jgh4445

    jgh4445 Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Messages:
    884
    Location:
    South Alabama
    I see exactly what you mean! Dumb me didn't know what a woodruff keyway was! I'll really be interested in your test results! By the way, I did the calculation for sight correction, ( error in inches {6} divided by the distance to the target in inches{900} multiplied by the sight radius in inches {10 with the hammer back} and came up with a front sight that needs to be .067 inches taller. That would correct my 6 inches high at 25 yards problem.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  7. rondog

    rondog Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2007
    Messages:
    6,801
    Location:
    Commurado
    I don't have a BP revolver with a blade, both my 1851's and my Walker have brass pins/posts, with a notch in the hammer for a rear sight. But this is encouraging! I've never been able to hit squat with them, so maybe they can be tuned.
     
  8. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    I've got an 1851 in .44 that has the brass pin style front sight. That one is next. Like yours it shoots WAY high.

    Ah heck.... I took a moment after I typed that first line and dug out the 1851. The pin is a short cone with a rounded tip. So nothing to grab. I was filing two flats on it to give me something to grab with the pliers and the sight just jumped right out from the pressure. It's a simple small pin that is merely pushed into place in a very shallow flat bottom hole.

    I'm afraid tha a taller pin in the same style is merely going to get bumped and fall out too easily. So I'm going to come up with something more like a short version of the Remington 1858 style sight that has a bigger foot which I can soft solder into place. I'll obviously need to clean away the blueing on the spot where the solder has to stick.
     
  9. BigG

    BigG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    7,081
    Location:
    Dixieland
    Why not just aim low?
     
  10. Jim K

    Jim K Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    17,706
    It might be possible to adjust the elevation of an 1860 sight that way, but it was not intended by Colt. Those sights were inserted into the rounded slot and forced in under pressure to swage the sight into the hole; they were not soldered as many folks believe. If the sight is loosened as mentioned, it will have a good chance of flying out and being lost. I suggest adjusting the aim rather than trying to move the front sight.

    (FWIW, the cone type sights were installed by cutting a short piece of soft brass wire, dropping it into the hole in the barrel, then using an arbor press with a cone shaped insert to force the brass into the hole and shape the cone at the same time. They, too, are held only by the swaging of the brass, not by screw threads or solder.)

    Jim
     
  11. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    One of my uses for these guns is to try some classic bullseye target shooting and cowboy action. Both sort of require that the sights are useable for the smaller bonus targets or for getting decent bullseye groups. And considering that they would still shoot high even with the standard 25yard pistol target and a "proper" 6 o'clock hold that's pretty bad. And holding lower with no sighting reference isn't useable for a good group.

    Jim, likely you're right. But I'm going to keep it in my back pocket of tricks as one of those things that can be done in a fix.

    Not to worry about the fit. My new taller blades will be sized to suit and be as snug a fit going into place as the old ones were to take out. If by some miracle they do come loose I'll either stake them in or lock 'em down with a bit of Loctite.

    The taller pin style sight of the 1851 will need to be at least soft soldered though. At almost double the height to make it workable relying on just swaging into place would leave it too vulnerable.
     
  12. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    OK, I've just finished making new front sights for my two 1860's. I made them up to be about .07 taller than stock with the intention of trimming them at the range with a file. Following trimming I'll dress the blades up to restore the shape and touch up the blueing.

    First of all the tools used. These are by neccesity rather primitive at the moment since I'm still labouring with my retirement shop renos. So no power tools other than lights were used... :D

    • Hacksaw
    • Coarse and fine files
    • A small sharpening stone for final thicknessing and flattening the sides of the blades
    • Dial caliper
    • Hammer and brass punch
    • OK, I lied, I used my drill press to drill the hole in the jig for holding the blade. But an electric hand drill would work as well.
    • And most important of all that every so handy "third hand" my big metal vise.

    For the first one I made the mistake of tapering the upper blade before I sized the keyway portion. That was a BIG mistake since it made doing the delicate work of sizing the key area very difficult. For the second one I smartened up and worked up the thickness of the keyway "foot" first. Then I made the quickie jig shown to hold the sight by the key area while I tapered and shaped the blade. This method worked out FAR BETTER!

    Steps for doing it the second way;

    From some 1/8 inch thick flat bar cut a strip that is 0.42 wide by whatever the width is. For my sights the radius of the foot of the sight matched perfectly, near as I could tell, to a 3/4 diameter washer I had handy so I used the washer as a filing guide to profile one end of the 1/8 stock.

    Next is to measure and thickness the key area. I used the coarse then fine file, measured a lot and when it was close I stoned it down to flatten the area. Chamfer the edges with the stone and test fit into the barrel's keyway often until it just bites rather than wobbling around. Check both corners of the foot area and stone until you can get the same "bite". Once you can push it in to get it to wedge that start and it'll hang there you've got a good sizing. But check with the caliper to ensue the middle area is the same dimension as the corners. Stone a little more if needed. You want it to be the same all along.

    With the key/foot area done the fussy bit is over. But how to hold it for filing the upper blade? I didn't want to ruin my files by skating them over the hardened vise jaws so I made up the quickie clamp jig shown from some 1/4x1 mild steel bar I had handy. The picture should make it pretty obvious how to do this.

    With the blade held I filed the sides down evenly to get the tip of the blade down to around .05 inch. I removed the jig and blade from the vise and sighted to check for even tapering and a centered top edge by eye. But I've done this sort of work long enough that I trust my eye for seeing this sort of shape. If you don't trust yourself then file the upper edge smooth and mark it with some felt pen as a dye and scribe lines to guide yourself.

    I also filed the blade so that the forward part was a little narrower than the back at the same time I was tapering the blade from base to top. That way I wouldn't see any possible glare.

    Once the tapering was done I filed the side profile with a light touch to avoid grabbing and ripping the blade out of the fixture.

    The sharpening stone was then used to just barely dull off the razor like edges lightly. The idea to leave them square while removing the cutting edge quality. Don't ROUND them. Just break the corner so that you can barely see the slightest line of light reflected.

    Cold blue, oil then install. To install the new sight I started the rear of the sight's foot into the muzzle end of the keyway. Then using a brass punch and holding both the punch and blade at the same time I tapped the front of the blade mostly back but with a down angle as well and the blade just went down and rocked up to sit in the slot. With the fitting described above the one sight felt the same going in as the old one did coming out. The other needed slightly stronger taps to keep it moving.

    Now the pictures. First is the original sight and keyway. Second is the new sight being held in my jig. The blade has been tapered already and the side profile is just starting when I remembered to take a picture. You can see the taper to the front I put in while also tapering to narrow the top by the angles of the file cuts in the jig. Next is the new blade and old blade for comparison. Finally the new sight installed and ready for testing.

    As I suggested the work is fussy because of the size of the part. But with some patience and careful work with the files it's not a hard project.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  13. mykeal

    mykeal Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    5,147
    Location:
    Michigan
    What is an 'electric hand drill'?
     
  14. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,378
    Location:
    Cody, WY
    A fully articulating hand held drill press. Sub-compact versions are also made by Dremmel.:neener:
     
  15. 72coupe

    72coupe Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2008
    Messages:
    913
    Location:
    Iowa Park, Texas
    Nice job. I need to do the same thing to my Dragoon but the site blade is much thinner on it and would need to be much taller. The Dragoon shoots more than 12 inches high at 25 yards with a 6 o'clock hold.

    It did shoot 6 inches right but I fixed that by judicious filing of the hammer notch.
     
  16. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    If the rear sight V's on the Italian reproductions are faithful copies of the originals I'm pretty sure that the intent was to sight in the guns after purchase by filing out these notches to both increase the ability to actually SEE the darn things while at the same time adjust for windage issues. The notches as supplied are simply too small and lightly made to be taken seriously.

    My range trip to sight in these new front blades will also include a small triangle file to open the hammer notch up to something more useable.

    On one of my '60's a previous owner did just that. They opened it up to an actual square notch to a size more normally seen on modern guns. It's a delight to use and far quicker to acquire a sight picture. So once the V is widened out and set up for windage my intent is to use a small flat jeweler's file with the flat faces ground off so it only cuts on the edges to convert the V to a U.
     
  17. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    I'm old enough to remember when "eggbeater" like hand powered drills were still commonly sold. So it was common to differentiate between the hand powered and electric hand drills. Every so often I slip back and include the "electric" part despite the fact that the only place anyone finds the old hand powered ones anymore is junk boxes in flea markets.... :D
     
  18. mykeal

    mykeal Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    5,147
    Location:
    Michigan
    Actually, you'll find a hand drill in the top drawer of my wood tools box. As for the 'electric' version (Dremel rotary tool or otherwise), I'll admit to having one, but it's out in the garage, not in my workshop.
     
  19. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Messages:
    7,754
    Location:
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    Then you likely know what a "brace and bit" is and how to use it. We ARE old, aren't we.... :D
     
  20. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,378
    Location:
    Cody, WY
    I have a full set of "two" braces and bits in my shop that my grandfather used as a master wood worker. Granted they are covered by a thin layer of sawdust but they stay there on the wall as a reminder of how things used to be done. I've actually used the brace and bit a couple of times and it just reinforces to me how much skill it took to create some of the things that he made. I still haven't figured out what a couple of the jigs he made were for unfortunately but I've used others as patterns to make my own for things like finger joints on a modern table saw.

    I believe that it was mykeal that once reminded me that a Dremmel can turn a gun into a paperweight in less time than it takes to say "OOPS!!" I wish I could remember the exact quote as it was one of those aha revelations to me.
     
  21. mykeal

    mykeal Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    5,147
    Location:
    Michigan
    Don't recall the exact words, but that pretty much sums it up.

    Brace and bit - something to do with a horse or mule?:D
     
  22. Gaucho Gringo

    Gaucho Gringo Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    1,041
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I have all those old tools, plus two boxed sets of "Yankee Screwdrivers" with wood handles, a couple of drawknives, a spokeshave and an assortment of planes. All this stuff is older than I am(62) and all has come down through the family. Old lead pots for pouring babbit bearings, railroad track anvil and a 10" jawed vise round out the tools.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  23. jgh4445

    jgh4445 Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Messages:
    884
    Location:
    South Alabama
    BC, hate to hijack this tool thread, but did you get to test the front sight? My Uberti came with a front sight that looks amazingly like the one you fabricated. Mine didn't have the little brass sight like yours did. As a matter of fact, I ordered an extra front sight from DGW that was for an 1860 Army and they sent the tiny little brass one. Mine does have the Woodruff key way just like yours. Let me know how the test went. Mine still needs to be taller and its every bit as tall as the new one you made.
     
  24. Jim K

    Jim K Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    17,706
    Hi, BCrider,

    If you have access to an arbor press or even a vise, you can make a die with the inside shaped like your front sight, taper and all. Then you can cut the taper on the sight first, and still exert pressure to force the sight into the slot and make sure it stays there.

    Jim
     
  25. Jaymo

    Jaymo Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2010
    Messages:
    3,530
    I bought an old Stanley eggbeater hand drill for $2.00, at a yard sale.
    The original cordless drill.
    I have a couple of hand drills that are not electric or manually powered.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page