DIY Optic Gunsmithing

Add a Red Dot Optic to Your Pistol

This is a hand tools only DIY job. All you need is an aluminum or brass punch,
a file and the proper base plate for your optic. A bench vise helps too.

Drop In” should always have an asterisk* next to it. Yes, many parts are marketed as “drop in,” and many do just that. However, given the vast array of pistols like the 1911, revolvers and GLOCK clones, slight modifications should be expected with any off-the-shelf part. If you plan accordingly from the start, you’ll be better prepared and less frustrated.

Usually it’s just a few strokes of a file or stone. Each part can be unique and require different amounts of “tuning” but one thing is universal — go slow. I see it all the time, a new part ruined by the owner who was just too eager to make it fit. Sometimes all that’s needed is removal of metal the thickness of copy paper — that’s two thousandths of an inch. Patience pays.

Here Greg has installed the new EGW base in the existing Colt factory
rear sight dovetail. If you’re careful, this is a safe DIY upgrade.

Can You Add A Red Dot Yourself?

One great DIY for your pistol is adding an RMR style optic. They’re easy to see in all lighting conditions and can improve speed and accuracy. George Smith at Evolution Gun Works (EGW) in Pennsylvania offers mounts for over 25 makes of handguns compatible with Trijicon, Viper/Venom, FastFire and Docter mounting standards. Here, I’ll install a Venom optic mount on a Colt 1911 with Novak rear sight.

First, be sure to unload the pistol and remove all ammo from the work area. After field stripping the pistol, you must remove the rear sight from the slide. A bench vise allows me to hold the slide firmly while I use a soft metal drift to hammer out the rear sight. Use leather pads cut from an old belt between the vise jaws and slide to prevent damage and be careful not to squeeze the slide to point of bending. Yes, this can happen!

For the drift punch always use something softer than the sight material, like brass or aluminum. If the sight has a set screw, remove it first. Some heat may be required if it’s glued in place, but usually slow turning of the proper Allen key works fine.

Tap the factory sight out with the drift and hammer. Start slowly, then increase force until the optic moves. Once it starts moving continue until it clears the slide dovetail. The hard part is over. Since we’ll be installing the EGW part in the existing dovetail, you can always return the pistol to the factory set up so save the sight.

After mounting the base to the slide, you simply mount the optic to the base with included Allen screws.

Time to Opti-cize!

Next clean the factory dovetail of glue, grease and dirt. I like to dry fit a new part before I do anything else. Most times the part should fit. The EGW part is aluminum, and that makes fitting easy using hand tools. On the first try my mount started into the slide dovetail easily. It moved about 1/4″ into the slot with finger pressure from either side. This is good. I want a fairly tight fit so the optic won’t shift during recoil.

I use an aluminum drift, just a small scrap of aluminum rod about 4″ long. I like to wrap one end in duct tape to prevent scratches on my new part. Since this was close to fitting I just used a small hammer to tap it home. I like the Brownells 3/4″ gunsmith hammer with a brass head on one end and nylon on the other.

Once again tap with increasing force until the optic base in the middle of the slide dovetail. You can use a pencil to mark the middle of the slide and the middle of the base and then hammer into place until the lines meet.

The kit includes setscrews for the base to secure it in the slide dovetail. I give it a little shot of brake cleaner and add a dab of (red) LocTite # 271. Now the Venom optic is held on the base with two Allen screws and four positioning studs. For these screws I’ll use low strength #222 purple LocTite for easier removal when changing batteries.

Pretty straightforward, eh? Now go forth and DIY upgrade!

For more info:, Ph.: (215) 538-1012

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