Sights for your 1911
Selecting a sighting system for your 1911 that best fills your needs can become a frustrating experience, until you learn the ins and outs of what's available. There are more choices on the market than ever before and most of what's out there is worthy of consideration. The trick is to figure out what works best for you. Because Everyone's vision is different, one sight may not work as well for you as another; or you may find one design that truly works better for you than the rest. Try out all of your buddies’ guns. You may be able to mark off a number of things from your list of possibilities without spending a cent. Modern sights for 1911 pistols are divided into two categories, "fixed" and "adjustable". Fixed sights are typically have no moving parts, are rugged and durable and are sometimes considered as being a little difficult to adjust or re-adjust for different ammo. Adjustable sights are less durable, having many small parts; but are easily adjusted and re-adjusted. Both have their place on a 1911 pistol, depending on its intended use. Regardless of what sights you order, when you receive your pistol, the front and rear sights will be zeroed and secured with Loctite, unless instructed to do otherwise. The classic notch and post configuration will be the pattern discussed in this article.

Fixed Rear Sights

Harrison Design Extreme Service Sights
I manufacture several rear sights intended to offer the best design attributes possible to my clients. My sights have many familial features common between models. All of my sights feature a flat blade, horizontally serrated at 50 lpi. All of my sights feature an enlarged square notch, typically sized to .135” x .135”. I feel these dimensions allow enough light into the sight picture without going so large as to become hard to make accurate shots with. I believe a square notch is preferable to any other configuration. My impression of others that I’ve tried tend to take my focus off of the front sight and target to look at the rear sight. All you should see of your rear sight in your sight picture is it framing the front sight. Harrison Design Sights are all manufactured with machine radiused corners and edges straight from the package, to be comfortable in handling, carry and operation. All Harrison Design sights have squared fronts to allow one-handed operation of the slide.

The HD-001 Extreme Service rear sight for the 1911 pistol fills a unique need in the firearms marketplace. It allows the owner of an existing 1911, equipped with a low mounted BoMar BMCS rear sight, the option of replacing it with an extreme service fixed rear sight with features better suited to tactical and self defense use. This is accomplished by the unique two-piece design, which allows the HD-001 to be mounted in both the "Deluxe" box cut as well as the "Standard" open cut. The rugged hidden lug joining the dovetail base to the sight body makes this sight more than adequate for hard-use service. Sharp, snaggy corners have been eliminated by the fully radiused design. The forward face of the blade has a squared-off shoulder that allows properly trained personnel one-handed operation for malfunction clearance. Faster target acquisition is possible, thanks to a wider rear notch, allowing more visible light into sight picture. The sight’s design allows a minimum of .030" windage adjustment in each direction, creating the ability to correct for roughly 3" of error at 20 yards. CNC machined from bar stock and Made in the USA! Available installed on your custom pistol as well as from the Harrison Design web store.

The rugged HD-002 Extreme Service fixed rear sight is available plain black as well as Night Sight variants. It fits 1911 slides machined to mount the LPA adjustable rear sight as used by Springfield Armory (all except TRP Operator) and other 1911 manufacturers. The HD-002 is CNC machined and incorporates the most desirable features in a 1911 rear sight. The rear blade is serrated 50 lpi to reduce glare and reflection. All edges and corners are machine radiused for handling, carrying and operational comfort. The front face of the sight is squared to allow one-handed operation. The notch dimensions are .135" x .135" to allow adequate light into the sight picture, assuring a rapid sight acquisition and alignment. The HD-002 has quickly become a favorite for use in custom 1911 installations; due to it's good looks and balanced proportions. CNC machined from bar stock and Made in the USA! Available installed on your custom pistol as well as from the Harrison Design web store.

HD-001 / HD-002 / HD-004/005 Night Sight info
The HD-001, HD-002 and the upcoming HD-004/005 sights are available in two different Night Sight versions, either T-1 (one lamp mounted below the notch for an “over/under” picture) or T-2 (a lamp on either side of the notch for a three dot picture). Harrison Design Night Sights feature Deep Dot Lamps from a concept originated by my friend Ned Christiansen. Deep Dot lamps are genuine Trijicon tritium lamps that are installed approximately .080” below flush with the sight blade. Mounting the lamps this deep allows you to see the dots when aiming the pistol, just as well as ever, but limits the cone of ambient glow when either in the holster, at low ready or when aiming that an opponent might see and use to locate you. Standard lamps are green for maximum brightness and longest half-life.

The HD-001 and HD-002 will often regulate with the OEM front sight, or with new installations in the range from .170" to .200", depending on the pistol.

HD-003 Retro rear sight
One of the hottest rear sight designs on the market is the Retro rear sight. Originated by my friend Ted Yost with design improvements by Harrison Design, the Retro fills the need for a fixed rear sight to fit in the standard USGI spec rear sight dovetail. The Retro has a flat 50 lpi serrated rear face, radiused corners and a .135” x .135” notch size. It does everything that more expensive sights do, while fitting the dovetail that came on your pistol. It typically will match up well with a .175” to .190” tall front sight. Available installed on your custom pistol as well as from the Harrison Design web store.

HD-004 /005 Extreme Service rear sight
Now all of the superb design attributes of the Harrison Design Extreme Service rear sight have been melded with the popular Novak mounting cut. Finally your Colt, Springfield, Baer, Wilson, Nighthawk and other popular pistols with the 65-degree x .500” dovetail size can wear an Extreme Service rear sight. It will be available in two heights, .325” (HD-004) and .375” HD-005) to service any length of pistol or degree of barrel fit. They will be available in plain black as well as T-1 and T-2 Night Sight variants with Deep Dot lamps. Available late fourth quarter 2010.

Other fixed sights to consider
Other popular fixed rear sights are the Novak LoMount and the Heinie Slant-Pro. Wayne Novak of Parkersburg, WV designed and manufactures the Novak Lo-Mount rear sight. It is installed as OEM standard on many factory pistols like the Springfield Loaded models and Smith & Wesson autos. It has been closely copied on other pistols such as Les Baer and Wilson Combat. The "wedge-shaped" profile and beveled corners and edges of the Novak Lo-Mount make it a very "carry-comfortable" sight. The notch is of adequate size at .125" wide by .105" deep. The notch is situated in a "shadowbox" like recess in the rear blade giving it good protection from damage. Novak's Lo-Mount rear sight is available in either plain black, or a three-dot pattern of either white dots or tritium lamps. One other very nice feature is that Novak also makes a "tall" version of this sight that is approximately .050" taller than the standard sight. This tall version was developed for use on Officer's ACP-length guns but is also found on longer guns that have had match barrels fitted that now shoot a little lower than they did originally. Several sight manufacturers make a copy of the Novak sight or a version of their sight to fit the Novak dovetail.

The Heinie Slant-Pro is another popular rear sight, designed and manufactured by pistolsmith Richard Heinie of Quincy, IL. The Heinie rear sight features a large flat blade that is serrated at 40 lines per inch. The rear notch is machined to .125" wide by .125" deep, but is available in larger widths at extra cost. The machining required for mounting is different from any other sight, i.e. once your slide is cut for a Heinie, nothing else will fit it. The Heinie sight is rounded and beveled for concealed carry use, although maybe not as comfortable as a Novak, for some people. Heinie makes a rear sight with his blade's characteristics married to a base that will fit the ubiquitous Novak sight cut. Heinie makes a version of the Slant-Pro to fit Kimber rear sight cuts, both fixed and adjustable.

Adjustable Rear Sights
Adjustable rear sights are normally adjusted by turning a screw to move the rear blade side to side for windage changes or up and down to change elevation. Once set, it's not uncommon to leave the settings alone for years. Adjustable rear sights can be subdivided into two groups, fully screw-adjustable and those that are screw-adjustable for elevation and drift adjustable for windage. The Bo-Mar BMCS is the original fully screw-adjustable rear sight that all others must measure up to. Others have joined the marketplace with similar sights; often fitting the same sight cuts as a Bo-Mar does.

The "Grand Dame" of adjustable sights is the Bo-Mar BMCS, which celebrated it 50th birthday in 2007. Bo-Mar Tool & Manufacturing Co. is located in Longview, TX and is owned by Bob and Mary Korzeniewski. The Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight was originally developed for pistols competing in bulls eye pistol matches. It was mounted in a rather high fashion in the original rear sight cut, requiring a really tall front sight. As the new sport of combat shooting evolved, pistolsmiths of the day started mounting the BMCS lower into the slide to enable a front sight height that was more reasonable and the provide a more durable and protective mounting. The BMCS is one of the most durable adjustable rear sights on the market. It is also the most widely copied. Some of the copies are good products and some are of lesser quality. The BMCS features screw adjustability for windage and elevation with fine, repeatable clicks on each screw. The blade is serrated at 50 lines per inch on the lower portion and the notch measures .110" wide X .090" deep. The blade is available with the top corners either square or beveled and in plain black or with a tritium bar below the notch. Sad to say, but as mid 2007, BoMar went out of business and all existing stock has been sold out.

Kensight makes a clone of the BoMar that has been used as OEM equipment by several top 1911 manufacturers. They also have a version having a slightly deeper rear notch, which I have used and like a lot. I consider this to be a satisfactory replacement for the BoMar BMCS.

A holdover from the early days of combat shooting is the Smith & Wesson adjustable sight from their "K" frame series of revolvers. The S&W K sight makes a nice compact adjustable sight when low mounted on a 1911. It's blade and notch are not as prominent as the others mentioned and it's mounting is less durable than a sight with a dovetail mount. To make the installation, the windage body of the sight is either "buried" in a cut that aligns with the original dovetail, or the original dovetail is welded up (or otherwise filled) and the new body cut is made at the rear of the slide. It's a must that an extra shear pin and/or larger mounting screw be installed to help absorb the forces exerted on the sight's mounting on top of a reciprocating slide. For these reasons, the S&W K sight has pretty much fallen from favor with aficionados of the 1911, although it's occasionally seen on very cool "retro" guns. The blades on S&W pistols are so thin, that they aren't suitable for installation of tritium lamps, combined with an auto pistol installation. Blades are available in plain black and with a painted white outline.

John's Picks
For an adjustable sight, it's hard to beat a Bo-Mar BMCS style sight in a deluxe box cut mount. It is available from Kensight and all it takes is a screwdriver to adjust it. The Kensight DAS & Novak Extreme Duty are maybe worth considering if you have a gun already cut for a Novak and you want to add a degree of easy adjustment. Both require a really tall front sight. Both have a multitude of wee small parts to break. I'd suggest that you try them out on a friends gun first to see if you like the sight picture.

Adjustable vs. Fixed
Some people will have adjustable sights installed on their carry gun, but I personally wouldn't. The possibility of breakage goes up with adjustable sights, due to the small parts involved. The harsh reciprocating motion of a slide can take its toll. Don't get me wrong - they don't fall apart after six months or a few years, but the potential is there for an adjustable to fail; where is not with a fixed sight. The up side is that should it fail, it's not likely to stop the function of the gun. It may get a little tough to shoot the eye out of a gnat at fifty yards, but the gun will probably still function. And don't think that adjustable sights are the only ones that can break, you may find your fixed rear sight having moved way off to the side of the slide one day. You need to check it's position and periodically give is a hard push to see that it remains still. If you can move it, the easy fix is a drop of loc-tite in the dovetail. Front sights can break off and can walk out of their dovetail too. I like to use loc-tite and a 1/16" roll pin on my front sight blades.