How to Set Iron Sights on a Rifle

by Jeremiah Blanchard
Older rifles have traditional iron sights installed.

Older rifles have traditional iron sights installed.

All weapons need sights in order for the shooter to precisely acquire a target. Numerous sights are available for firearms such as optical scopes, fiber-optic sights, illuminated sights and iron sights. Traditional rifle sights are known as iron sights. These sights are set into place via a dovetail groove cut into both the rear receiver and the barrel. In order to set iron sights in place on a weapon, some basic gunsmithing knowledge is required. This process can be used for both the front and rear dovetail iron sights.

Unload the weapon completely. Visually inspect the weapon to ensure that no live ammunition is present.

Place the weapon into a padded gun vise. Lock the vise down tight and ensure that the barrel and receiver are accessible to work.

Hold a brass punch on the left side of the sight. Tap the punch lightly with a hammer to drift the old sight off.

Apply gun grease to the dovetail groove. Slide the new sight in at the left side of the weapon.

Hold the brass punch on the left side of the sight. Tap the sight into position on the rifle.

Test fire the weapon to ensure that the sights are positioned accurately. Adjust the sights by drifting left or right until proper line of sight is achieved and the bullets are landing on target.

Items you will need

  • Padded gun vise
  • Brass punch and hammer
  • Gun grease


  • Take the rifle to have a dovetail grooves cut to correspond to the dimensions of your iron sights, if grooves are not already installed on the weapon. A competent gunsmith or machinist can perform this task.


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

Photo Credits

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