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Things to know about replacing rear sights on 1911s
It's not uncommon for folks to go into the task of replacing sights on their 1911 pistol with assumptions made from past experience of changing sights on their Glock, SIG, Beretta, S&W or other pistol and thinking that those experiences will carry over to a 1911 without further complications. Actually, there is very little that carries over. First, let's recognize that there are usually two different sight cut principles involved - the simple sight cut having a dovetail with a floor and two angled sides (like, say a Glock) and a complex sight cut having a dovetail like the simple sight cut, but with flat horizontal surfaces adjacent to the dovetail, before and/or behind the dovetail, as well as multiple level horizontal surfaces connected by angles, radiuses or vertical cuts (like, say a Springfield Range Officer). So the first sight replacement experience someone might have, might be with one of those pistols named above having a simple sight cut. Bear in mind that there are very few of the aforementioned brands like Glock, Sig, etc, slides are made by anyone other than the original manufacturer (although Glock and SIG are starting to be the exception here) and because there is only a slide manufacturer involved, they manage to cut that simple sight cut with pretty good consistency. Some of them add a little feature at each end of the dovetail cut to widen the mouth of the dovetail making it easy to start a new sight into the dovetail. Another thing that sight makers build into their products is a "crush pocket" in the bottom of the sight's dovetail. These two things allow you easily start a new sight into the dovetail and then as you crank on the sight pusher, the bottom of the sight can collapse as it's muscled into the dovetail. Rarely does the installer have to measure anything or pick up a file. The sights are often only held tightly by the center third of the dovetail. Not really a bad system for a mass-market gun, so long as you stick with the simple sight cut principle. In the 1911 world there are dozens of companies world-wide making these pistols. Adherence to dimensional tolerances in sight cuts from one to the next is sad, as there are no industry standards in force. This is compounded by the fact that they are cutting their slides to mount one of a large variety of sights made by many different sight manufacturers, again who aren't held to dimensional standards, other than what it takes to get their low bidder, import sight mounted on the 1911 manufacturer's slide. So long as the slide maker and the sight maker come to an agreement, they typically care little about their product fitting any other companies’ sight or slide. Some of these import, low-bidder sight makers care little about how their sight fits a sight cut, so long as it doesn't fall off. It doesn't matter if you can slip a business card between the sight and slide. So, when you as a aftermarket sight manufacturer recognize how much tolerances can vary, you realize that you have to make your sight with dovetails sized slightly oversized. You can always file material OFF, but you can’t file material ON! Another consideration is how nicely you want the replacement sight to fit to your slide. This means that the dovetail has no gaps other than small corner chamfers and the flats of the bottom of the sight sit tight against the slide with the minimum light gap possible. Fitting a 1911 sight requires a careful installer having the skills and tools to measure dovetail widths and depths accurately on both slide and sights, calculate how much material needs to be removed from the dovetail on the replacement sight and accurately file the excess material from the right places. Additional measuring, filing, test fitting and inspection as the sight starts to fit into the sight cut will need to be done. Constant checking for interference must be done as the fit comes closer and those spots where hard contact appear must be clearanced, even outside of the dovetail on other places on the underside of the sight. Also, the installer needs to be able to work with the new sight without scratching or mauling the outside finish, or the sight will have to be reblued when the fitting is complete. I’m not writing this to discourage you from installing a new sight on your 1911, just to inform you that there’s more to it than shoving a new sight onto your S&W M&P using a sight pusher. If you need help with having a professional installation done for your rear sight, fitting and installation services are available from Harrison Design, starting at $55, if you send us your slide with the old sights still installed.
Guide Rods - Full Length vs. G.I.?

Sure to draw fire from every camp on an internet gun forum is the debate of which is better, a short G.I. style guide rod, or the upstart Full Length Guide Rod? Everyone seems to have an opinion, many of which are absolute and rabid. I would like to discuss the pros and cons of each and then I'll weigh in and the end of this post.

The short USGI style guide rod was what John Browning designed into the 1911 pistol way back when. Those old salts who were serving our country back when Uncle Sam issued M1911 A1 pistols to the troops were trained in the Army Method of Field Stripping, became indoctrinated and can do it in their sleep. Anything that disrupts that system is a blight to humanity in their eyes. Cries of "FLGRs are too hard to take apart or put together" ring out across the LCD screens of computers far and wide. The FLGRs have several different methods of take down, from tool-less like the ones I sell to designs that require a hex key or a paper clip and may require a fairly simple machining modification to the spring tunnel of your slide. The bottom line is all of these systems are useable and almost anyone is dexterous enough to service them. It's just a question of there being enough benefit perceived to justify the minor effort of learning how to manipulate the system of your choosing.

But before we go down the rabbit hole of discussing each method of takedown, let's visit those pros and cons.

The USGI style guide rod


1) It is simple in construction and it works adequately to keep the recoil spring running in a mostly straight line compression stroke.

2) The take down method is reasonably simple and once you've done it a time or three, you should have it down pat.


1) The spring plug can be easily lost if your finger slips off of it while the spring is under compression. The spring has enough force to launch the plug quite a distance or if launched into someones eye or teeth, a trip to the medic may be in order. In all fairness, the same Con exists for FLGR systems that do not capture the plug while it's under compression.

2) Some pistols feel a little "crunchy" during cycling of the slide which is due to the spring coils rubbing on some sharp corner inside the tunnel or dust cover area because the guide does not control the spring completely like an FLGR does.

The Full Length Guide Rod

PROs -

1) Once assembled, you may notice smoother cycling due to the rod controling the recoil spring during it's cycle. You are more likely to notice it during hand cycling than you are while firing the pistol.

2) Using a FLGR adds between 1 and 3 ounces of non-reciprocating weight in the front of the pistol. These figures are for Gov't Model FLGRs; Commanders weigh less. This added weight may dampen muzzle flip slightly. Opinions vary on this.

CONs -

1) You may hear of FLGRs coming apart, like a rod unscrewing from a flange, or a two-piece rod coming apart. This is pretty much a case of cheap, poorly made parts. A good quality S/S FLGR doesn't have a tendency to unscrew.

2) The chief complaint about FLGRs is just that the user just doesn't like having to learn a different method of field stripping. Then they crank up the sirens about how it does nothing and John Browning would've put it there if he thought it should be there. They make noises about not being able to field strip their gun in a combat zone if it had a FLGR in it.

What do I think?

I think that you should use which ever system you are happiest with. Try both with an open mind and see if you find any benefit of one over the other. Buy a spare spring plug and put it in your range bag.

I have used both designs and been happy with both. I never had one break of either style, or come apart during use. I take 1911s apart like a Hi-Power, so I don't launch many plugs across the shop or into the weeds. Topic for another blog right there.

I do find that FLGRs cycle smoother and flip just a touch less. But once I got used to a change, I never missed the old system and don't remember ever switching back.

Last word on FLGRs - Mine are one piece S/S that will not fall apart. You take them apart just like you do a USGI system.

Like my hero Forrest Gump - "That's all I got to say about that".

Hammer materials - "In The White" vs. Stainless Steel

I would like to buy one of your hammers in carbon steel, in-the-white".

Would it match a stainless steel 1911?  

What coating does it have?  

If there is no coating is there a rusting concern?

Thanks for your help,



The bare carbon hammers look just like the stainless steel hammers. Look at the pictures on my web store of versions where I offer both materials.

“In the white” is generally used to describe bare carbon steel having no preservative finish other than a film of oil. The thing to remember is that the finer the surface finish and the harder the heat treat, the more resistant to rust it is. If carbon steel hammers are used in a salt water environment or by someone with continousouly sweaty hands, they will be more easily rusted unless more frequent maintenance is done, such as wiping down with an oily cloth.

For years these carbon steel hammers were the only material available and almost everyone shooting USPSA/IDPA matches used them. The only people that had rust on their hammers were the ones who neglected their equipment, put the gun away in a rug until next months match, did zero maintenance and they generally only had any evidence of light surface rust on the exterior parts of the hammer. They were also the folks complaining that the hard chrome finish on their guns had rusted!

Stainless steel is basically carbon steel with a higher content of chromium in the alloy and it has no preservative finish either.  The thing to remember is the name, it is Stain-Less  steel, not stain-proof steel. You can definitely rust stainless steel given enough neglect.

Last thing to remember is that rust is not the kiss opf death. It is removeable. Finding a little rust is not a death-knell for the part. A little oil applied will stop the rust right there. It’s not too much of a big deal to remove if you want to clean off some surface rust on a part that’s staying bare. And finally, if you put it away in your gun safe with other guns that have a blued finish, if will not rust anymore or any quicker than the blued guns if all are wiped down equally with an oily rag.

Hope this info is helpful to you making a decision.

Best Regards,

John Harrison

Trijicon HD vs. Standard front night sight on a Springfield 1911


Hi John,

I have a Springfield 1911 that I hope to put a set of night sights on in the near future.  I get confused with the options for Springfields or Novak cut.  Not sure what exactly I'm supposed to pick.  My ideal set would be either a HD yellow outlined or a regular white outlined front night sight and a single tritium dot rear.  Thanks for any help.

Sincerely, "A"


All Springfield 1911s with dovetail front sights have a dovetail that is a size unique to Springfield 1911s. The  Springfield dovetail is deeper than a Novak and a little wider front to rear, with a 60° angle rather than a 65° like Novak uses. As long as you buy a "Springfield" front sight, it will mount in your dovetail. Others, such as Novak, can possibly be adapted in some cases.

Trijicon only makes the HD front sight for 1911s in a Novak pattern dovetail, which is about .004” shallower than the Springfield cut. I have been able to make a satisfactory adaption of them to Springfield slides by making a shallow cut on the top of the slide from the front edge back to the rear of the sight blade, just deep enough to give the slide's dovetail depth the same dimension as the HD sight to be installed. I use my milling machine, but it’s conceivable that someone could do it with a file – just not me! The small cut is covered up by the HD sight's blade, once installed. After I have the sight fitted, installed and centered in the slide, I drill a 1/16" hole for a vertical roll pin from the top of the sight blade down through the top of the slide, matching the factory hole. I then remove the sight, degrease, add LocTite sleeve retainer to the dovetail and the roll pin hole and do a final assembly.

One other thing you need to know is that the HD front sight won’t work very well with your factory rear sight. The HD front sight is .025" wider than the original front sight, so you'll need to widen the notch in the rear sight out to between .160" and .170", depending on the length of the gun and how much daylight you want in your sight picture. I offer most of my Extreme Service rear sights with a .170" wide U-notch for use with the HD front sight. You'll find that on a 3" gun like an EMP, the .170" is a must. On a Gov't Model, the .170" works fine, or if you want to go the custom sized notch route, as narrow as .156" is fine.

Another note - if you look at Trijicon's web site, you'll see that they make an HD-XR front sight that has the same day-glo painted ring and tritium lamp on a .125" width sight blade. A great idea, but they don't make it for dovetail pattern that adapts to a 1911 at this time.

So if you want to jump through the hoops to get the HD sight on your Springfield and you aren't put off by altering your slide (if you later put a "Springfield" front sight on it, there will be a small gap underneath the blade), then what you need to order is a TRJ-CA128FY-175 for a yellow ring, or a TRJ-CA128FO-175 for an orange ring, along with the appropriate Harrison Design tritium rear sight.

If this is more than you want to tackle, let Harrison Design do it for you. All we need is your slide and 2-3 weeks to do it in. Hope this helps!

Best Regards,


Seeing the Sights

I have been in bifocals for the last 10 years or so. I've already done all of the things to my personal guns that I recommend to help your sights be more visible, but over time, the front sight was getting a little blurry and all I could do was tip my head back so I was looking through the bottom of my bi-focals. Not a great way to have to shoot!

Recently, I had my eyes examined and started talking with my ophthalmologist about not being able to get a clear focus on my front sight. I explained about tilting my head back and how this was not conducive to shooting. She was not a shooter, so it went over her head. But after I said, "you know, the front sight is about the same focal distance as I have with my computer screen and I have the same problem with the computer", she told me that I might benefit from a pair of “computer glasses”. I had brought in a blue plastic non-gun and she let me "aim it" while looking through the "Better or Worse machine" (you know the one!) until we tweaked the front sight into sharp focus.

In addition to new conventional bi-focals in my "street glasses", I had a second set of glasses made up with "computer lenses" in the top 2/3rds of the lense. That made an enormous improvement in my ability to see me sights! The computer lenses are between my upper and lower bifocal grind in power and I can now see my front sight like I did when I was a young man. So you might look into that too!

I also had a set of ballistic grade shooting glasses made, since I knew what kind of result I could expect. I had always been a little concerned about shooting with non-ANSII rated glasses, if something catastrophic happened. So I made the leap and contacted Decot Sports Glasses for a set of their "HY-Wyd" shooting glasses. A very knowledgeable lady named Laurie helped me and talked me through the options and took my order. A couple of weeks later, a package arrived from Decot. I am very impressed. I ordered the glasses with a set of clear lenses and a set of tinted lenses for outdoor use. The frame is durable, the lenses interchange easily. The kit included a rugged case, lenses cleaning cloth and solution. They convinced me to not do bi-focals on the shooting glasses and I'm glad I did. I can see well enough looking down to do everything that I need to without having the change in lense power which causes me to have to sometimes stop and refocus when I look down using the bi-focal computer glasses.

You can reach Decot Sports Glasses at

Update - 2020

I have been using both sets of the special glasses that I had made and I am delighted that I can see the sights like I did when i was a young man. One truth has come to me though. While these glasses work great shooting a handgun, they aren't anything I can wear on the street. So I am still doing my practicing with my street glasses and an HD front sight with a wide U notch rear sight. But the shooting glasses are on my noggin when I'm test firing customer guns, shooting IDPA matches or plinking.

Fitting a trigger so the sides of the shoe don't get scuffed in normal use.
Advanced tips for keeping your trigger from having the sides get scuffed by the frame.
What do you think of using glow-paint to help you see your sights?
Q: I have a Beretta 77 that I use for general plinking and self-defense. As I've grown older, I have a harder time seeing my sights. Can you help me? What do you think of using glow-paint to help you see your sights? A: You should certainly give it a try. It's not permanent, so you won't damage the gun. I'm 64, near-sighted with bi-focals and have been a life-long competitive hand gun shooter; so I think I have the "I can't see my sight" thing pretty well figured out. On most small concealable.........
Selecting an "All-Around" set of sights
Q: I’m not satisfied with my factory sights. They are hard to see and I don’t shoot very well with them. I’d also like to have night sights if I make a change. What do you recommend? A: Since it's not feasible to change to different sights every time you want to do a different shooting job with your pistol or shoot in different lighting environments, it's smart to figure out what features give the best utility for any use you need to employ your pistol to do.
How to Select the correct Firing Pin Stop for Your Pistol
Sometimes in manufacturing parts, to cover all applications, the choices can be a little daunting. The harmless little Firing Pin Stop (FPS) is just such a part. Below, I'll attempt to break down the part numbers in a way that will make it easy to select the right FPS for your 1911.