How to Change Sights on a Rock Island 1911

Explore America's Campgrounds

The Rock Island Armory produces a variety of 1911 pattern semi-automatic pistols, similar in design to the M1911 issued to U.S. military troops from 1911 to 1985. The most common Rock Island 1911 is chambered in .45 ACP, and has fixed front and rear sights. These sights are drifted onto the weapon frame via a dovetail groove at the front and a Novak cut at the rear. Changing Rock Island 1911 sights can be accomplished with a few gunsmithing tools.

Items you will need

  • Padded gun vise

  • Brass punch

  • Hammer

  • Gun oil

  • Replacement sights

  • Target

Remove the magazine. Pull the slide to the rear. Visually inspect the weapon to ensure that no live ammunition is present.

Secure the pistol in a padded gun vise. Ensure that you can access the sights to work on them.

Place a brass punch onto the left side of the front sight. Lightly tap the punch with a hammer to drift off the front sight from left to right. Repeat this process for the rear sight.

Apply gun oil to both the front and rear grooves. Apply only a light coat.

Set the new front sight onto the dovetail at the left side of the slide. Position the brass punch onto the sight and tap lightly until the sight is positioned in the center of the slide. Repeat this for the rear sight.

Load your weapon and fire a few shots at a target to check your sight placement. Fine tune your sights by drifting both left or right -- if needed -- until your shots land on the target bull's-eye.


  • Never attempt maintenance on a loaded firearm.
  • Never point a Rock Island 1911 at anything that you do not intend to shoot or kill.


  • You can use a white wax marker to mark the position of your factory sights prior to removing them. This will help to line up your sights after you put the new ones on.
  • A universal sight pusher can also be used to remove rear sights.
Gone Outdoors