Sights 101

"Sights 101"

Welcome to Novak’s® “Sights 101”


            The following information was specifically assembled for you to begin your education about sights, mounting methods, installation, and other useful tips. We have tried to keep this as simple as possible with a little humor, yet informative enough to aid in your endeavor to replace, upgrade, and customize your handgun sights to enhance your needs and/or self-defense mindset. 

The information contained herein, is an accumulation of working knowledge, experience, observations, and general opinions from our 35+ years in business. It is presented so you can form your own conclusions and is not intended to be the “all knowing” advice. Please understand that even if you have all the best tools, you still need to be properly proficient in using them. Please seek out proper professional training from a pinnacle resource like Gunsite Academy and be very leery of the latest “tactic-cool” marketing fads and “internet commando” drivel.

Ownership, Use, and Carrying Firearms

 As an American citizen, owning, using, and carrying a firearm is your Constitutional Right, but it comes with great responsibility and absolutely must be tempered with humility. Using and carrying a firearm is a very serious and consequential decision. Once you fire a bullet, it can never be taken back. We need you to remember that if you have any doubts about carrying or using a firearm, you need to think it through wisely and methodically. Even defense in the gravest extreme, could result in serious legal, civil, and psychological consequences long after the incident. You are the one that is responsible for determining the answers and conclusions to these questions for yourself. Do not let anyone talk you into something you are not ready for, especially with such serious consequences. Whether you choose to or not, it is your inalienable right, and making that decision is yours alone.

 If you decide to carry or use firearms, we implore you to learn the proper mindset to handle, store, carry, and use your firearm in a safe, law-abiding, and responsible manner. This will provide the confidence and empowerment of knowing how to handle yourself properly should the need arise. Keep up with proper practice drills and your general awareness… but not to the point of becoming neurotic or being perceived as a crazy. Development of the correct mindset, proper skills, and reliable tools can be time consuming and somewhat expensive, but if you would ever have to use them, it will be the best time and money you ever spent. There is nothing more important than protecting or defending yourself and/or your loved ones. Remember…. you are the one responsible for your safety and wellbeing, not the police or some other government institution. If you have any doubts about that, just review some of the cases that were brought before the Supreme Court of the United States for that reason.

Learning About Sights         

The information about sights is divided into sections to help you locate answers for your questions or specific needs. The sections have information that will help you to understand the process of selecting and identifying different sights, heights and styles, models available for different handguns, and the installation process. Due to the number of sight styles and handgun models, some styles will not be available for all the different handguns. 

While we hope the information contained herein will answer most of your questions, but if you are unsure about something please feel free to email us at We have always believed that the only dumb question is the one that was not asked. We hope that you find this information helpful and thank you for choosing “Genuine Novak Sights®”.

Identifying Genuine Novak Sights

            This section will help you to identify actual Novak sights and their corresponding dovetail cuts. Our distinctive functional design and styling has led to numerous substandard imitations and confusing false marketing aimed at the consumer. Genuine Novak Sights or officially licensed Novak sights are all marked with our registered trademark (NOVAK'S) either on the side, top, or underside of the sight. If there are no markings it is a copy being fraudulently presented as one of our products. At the end of this section, please review the lists of companies that use genuine Novak sights and those that perpetrate cheap imitations. Any other companies purporting to have “Novak” or “Novak Style” sights are peddling cheap imitations. We do not sell to or authorize any of them to use our trademark, copy of any of our sights, or use any of our information.

The tremendous amount of misinformation and false advertising has caused a lot of confusion with our brand. It has been a major issue for both Novak’s and consumers since there are many cheap and inferior clones of our sights from both foreign and domestic makers. Some of the major problems caused with the unauthorized copies or blatant rip-offs are: the dovetail cuts are not the same; the sights are of poor quality; and overall incorrect sizing. Other issues have been the lack of understanding the design and poor cosmetic appearance. This has lead to a lot of buyer's remorse and animosity toward us on the part of consumers when they have been duped into thinking they are getting genuine Novak Sights. We understand that it is disheartening and upsetting to spend your hard earned money on what you thought had quality and value. Then after the purchase you find out that you are unable receive technical support or having the option to upgrade and/or personalize them because they were presented fraudulently. The main reason we are presenting this information is to help you to be a better-informed consumer and get the best value for your money. We endeavor to help and support the consumer, firearm manufacturers, and the gunsmiths that use Genuine Novak Sights to insure that the sights are correct and installed properly. 

The most common problem with the knock off sights and sight cuts is that Genuine Novak Sights will not correctly fit the knock off dovetail cuts. The first issue is the depth of the dovetails are usually too deep or too shallow. If it is too shallow, the sights stand up off of the slide, which creates a condition in which the dovetail will open up from the repeated flexing that occurs from operation of the slide, then becoming loose, moving, and falling out. This will detract from a good sight picture and dirt, debris, spare mags, cats, etc., can get under the sight. If it is too deep the sight will be loose, will not lock into place, and eventually work its way out. The second issue is that the dovetails tend to be too wide for the rear and too narrow for the front. If the cut is too wide the sight slides through the dovetail and is hard to keep in place. If the cut is to narrow, fitting the sight becomes a marathon job and then something gets damaged out of frustration or just trying to force it into place.

Another major issue with cheap imitation “Novak style sights” or so-called copies of “Novak dovetail cuts” is that the placement on the slide is either too far back or forward. This causes the Genuine Novak Sight to stick out past the end of the slide or sit too far forward leaving the ledge on the slide exposed. Some would say it is not a big issue, but we believe it presents an atrocious appearance and comes without pride of workmanship and ownership.

All of these problems stem from the effort to mislead consumers into believing they are getting a Genuine Novak Sight, while they are getting a cheap, inferior knock-off. This disingenuous behavior exhibits no concern for integrity, disrespect for the consumer, extremely poor quality control, and a total lack of understanding of how and why correctly fitting the sights is so important. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but no imitation or any flattery is worth betting your life on.

The lists below shows companies that use our sights and those who choose to use or make imitations. We will update this list as often as possible to keep the information current. Thanks to all of our customers past, present, and future for choosing Genuine Novak Sights! We look forward to supplying you with the best possible products now and in the future.

Last Update: April 2016

Companies that currently use Genuine and/or Licensed Novak Sights

Colt – Genuine fronts and rears

Ruger – Licensed rears and genuine fronts and rears

Remington – Genuine fronts and rears (R1 Carry models only)

Taurus – Licensed rears

S&W – Genuine fronts and rears (1911 and M&P pro series only)

Lionheart  – Licensed fronts and rears

Cabot Guns – Genuine rears

Christensen Arms – Genuine fronts and rears

Double Star – Genuine fronts and rears

Ithaca – Genuine fronts and rears

Inland Mfg – Genuine fronts and rears

Republic Forge – Genuine fronts and rears

Remsport Mfg – Genuine fronts and rears

Stealth Arms – Genuine fronts and rears

Cylinder and Slide – Genuine fronts and rears

Tussey Custom – Genuine fronts and rears

Harrison Designs – Genuine fronts and rears

Jacob Grey Custom – Genuine fronts and rears

JRJ Custom Pistols
 - Genuine fronts and rears

Companies that currently use unauthorized imitations of Novak Sights and/or dovetail cuts

Springfield Armory

Sig Sauer


Dan Wesson / CZ

Rock Island Armory / Armscor

Heckler & Koch

Iver Johnson

European American Armory / EAA


American Tactical Imports / ATI

Metro Arms

Citadel / Legacy Sports

Eagle Imports Inc./American Classic/MAC/LLama

Les Baer

Ed Brown

Nighthawk Custom



Uselton Arms – UA

Companies that currently make unauthorized imitations or misrepresent as Novak Sights


Fusion Firearms



Aro-tek ltd.



Sight Types and Styles Explained

            Novak’s® offers the broadest selection of premium quality sights in the industry. This provides individual shooters with the best, fastest, most accurate sight picture based on their personal sight style preferences. Remember, it is what will work best for you, not for what someone deems is the best for all. We value all of our customers and want to give you the best possible tools to help insure you win the encounter, while hoping it never occurs.

Front Sight Styles

The different basic styles available for front sights are plain black, white dot, tritium dot, fiber optic, brass bead, and 14kt. gold bead. The various front sight types will aid in the shooters eye being attracted to the front sight. The front sight is the focal point in aiming a handgun, the rear should be slightly blurry and the target should be slightly blurry. Try not to shift your focal point back and forth. When that happens, most shooters will move the muzzle out of alignment without noticing and it slows down the sight alignment process. The front sight should have the most “eye catching” feature that works for you in the environment or task it will be applied to, thus providing for an ultra fast and accurate sight picture.

Rear Sight Styles

There are different styles of fixed and adjustable rear sights available. The styles are plain black, white dot, white bar, tritium dot, tritium bar, and fiber optic. There are also different rear sight notch styles available as well. They are standard notch (.125”), wide notch (.145”), super wide notch (.170”), ghost notch, “U” notch (.145”), and the “VU” notch. The sight notch is the opening in the rear sight that the front sight is placed into or viewed through when sighting. The main thing to remember when selecting a rear sight is that it should not overwhelm the front sight. If the rear is more eye catching than the front, you will have a harder time finding the front sight quickly. This must be applied and determined by you, your visual acuity, and how you perceive the sights. It all depends on your ability to differentiate between the front and rear. The best advice we can give is to Keep It Simple and Straightforward (K.I.S.S method); it is hard to get a fast and good sight picture in a high stress situation, especially when tenths of a second matter. Sometimes the best thing is a simple, to the point configuration. Be cautious of so called “industry standards” and “added features”, you may be getting what is perceived as more, but in the end is actually less useful and cumbersome. All of this information is for you to disseminate for yourself and your particular needs. As always, we will be here to assist if you have any questions. 

Sight Styles Explained

All of the front and rear sight styles available will likely lead to questions and concerns. Let’s learn about the different styles and their characteristics. This may help you in choosing a sight style.

Plain Black Style Sights

The first style is a plain black. The rears will be just black around the sight notch, which is excellent for allowing your focus to go to the front sight. This is an ultra fast and very simplistic sight alignment process. However, when paired with a plain black front, which may be fine in bright conditions, the front lacks some attraction to draw your eye. That combination is near useless in dim or dark conditions. Another drawback would be the lack of a rear reference point in dark conditions. Although defensive ranges are usually greatly reduced in dark conditions, a tritium front would be reference enough to make hits on target at those ranges.

White & Tritium Dot or Bar Style Sights

The next style would be dots or bars, with some minor differences between white and tritium in type. Dots seem to be the current standard today. While dots are an okay sight picture, it does have major drawbacks. The rear dots tend to overpower the front and your focus shifts to the rear allowing for confusion when aligning the dots. Bars tend to be more useful due to the shape difference with the front dot. The opposing shapes make it easier to discern front from rear, but there is one possible draw back and that is the bar has a larger surface area that may have a tendency to draw more focal attention to the rear. However, your conditioning to focus on the front dot, allowing you to reference “overtop” of the bar, negates this.

 These same rules will apply with tritium dots and bars, except in low light conditions. Confusion of the three dots in low light can cause the front dot to be the dot outside of the two rear dots, if there is limited or no visual reference to the sight notch. With dot over dot configurations, the front dot tends to be lowered below the rear dot because the average human brain perceives it as seeing double and tries to automatically correct that perception. This tends to happen under periods of high stress, and is where the bar rear is superior.

The two opposing shapes of the bar dot configuration, represent a preprogramed condition that we all have learned from birth and practiced since. The first condition is the sun and the horizon relationship, which would distinguish between the dot (the sun) and the bar (the horizon). Secondly is signing your name on the line or placing a period at the end of a sentence. That conditioning came from the old grade school teachers who would reinforce it by saying “the period goes on the top of the line, not below and not in the middle of the line”. This preconditioning we received is a great thing to take advantage of, but it will still depend on your perception of your sight picture and what works for you.

Fiber Optic, Gold, and Brass Bead Style Sights

Let’s move on to fiber optic, brass bead, and gold bead sights. The fibers tend to be great for daylight and attract the eye with their brightness and your preferred color. Although in some cases, it may be too bright or overwhelming if fiber is on both the front and rear. Another draw back with fiber is it is fragile and always seems to come out at the worst time. It is also poor in low or unnatural light conditions because of the short lengths of the fiber, but it is usually more visible than white dots.

Remember that fiber amplifies existing light and it is not a self-contained light source like tritium. Fiber also tends to be affected by some solvents, oils, and will degrade overtime. The good news is that the fiber can quickly and easily be replaced if you have spare inserts. Brass and gold beads are great options for high visibility, not quite as bright as fiber, but will last as long as the pistol or longer. The key difference between them is the brass is less expensive, will need to be cleaned and brightened from time to time, and is not quite as bright as gold. Gold beads tend to reflect slightly more light in low light conditions. If you can identify your target positively, you can see the gold bead.

Rear Sight Notch Styles Explained

You next need a basic understanding of the different notch sizes and styles. This is all personal preference when choosing the size and style. It is very heavily dependent on how you perceive your sights, your visual acuity, your shooting ability, and the task that the pistol is going to fulfill.

The notch size needs to be large enough to quickly acquire the front sight, but not so large or poorly defined that the sight is not easily evenly spaced in the center of the notch. The larger open space in the notch can make sight alignment difficult for pinpoint accuracy at distance, but it is quicker and easier to acquire the front sight. Less open space helps with evenly aligning the front and rear sight, but it is difficult and slower to acquire the front sight.

The largest notches are great for close quarters shooting and moving targets, but make precise shots very hard to accomplish until the your skill level and ability increases. The .145” wide notch is the middle of the road and by far the most commonly used of our notch sizes, but we do offer the .125” and .170” sizes because everyone needs to determine what will work best with their visual acuity and the conditions and tasks where they will apply them.

The four notch styles we currently offer are the most commonly sought styles. We have made a multitude of notch styles over the years in just about every configuration imaginable. While the rejected notches may have been very unique, they did not provide any significant proven benefit or improvement to target acquisition or accuracy. What we consistently observed with the rejected notches was the overwhelming fact that they added to sighting confusion from beginner through highly experienced shooters. We still experiment and test different notch styles. However, we only offer the four current styles, in certain sight models only, as described below.  

-The square notch seems to be the industry standard and is available in different sizes. It is the easiest to use, least problematic, and most commonly preferred by far. 

-The ghost notch, which is a large half circle notch, is an excellent moving target and close quarters type notch, but it can be difficult with placing pinpoint accurate shots. 

-The U notch is basically the same as the square notch. It allows some individuals to align the sights quickly, but others tend to have a focus change while not realizing they are trying to align the bottom of the notch and the dot on the front. This causes a slightly low point of aim point of impact for most individuals. 

-The VU notch is a specialized notch that blends the benefit of the ghost, square, and U notches. While it has performed well for certain individuals, it does share some of the same drawbacks as well.

   This explanation of the styles and notches might have made it seem more difficult to choose. However, do not get discouraged. You now have a basic understanding of all the different options. This should have been helpful for you to begin to determine what will be the simplest set up to use for your needs. Select what will be the simplest notch size and style that will benefit you – the K.I.S.S. method. It is hard to go wrong if you go with what is simple and what you think will work best for you.

Understanding Sight Heights and Adjustments

            This section will help you to understand point of aim/point of impact and its basic relationship to the components of the pistol. This is a very simplified explanation of how adjustments can be made, without all the mathematical calculations, technical data, and ballistic information about a specific firearm.  This is for basic comprehension and estimated adjustments. There are a lot of differences from firearm to firearm and caliber to caliber because of so many variables. This should provide a basic guideline of what to expect and hopefully enough information to allow you to easily estimate corrections.

The Relationship of Components

The primary factor to understand is the relationship between the sights, lockup of the barrel (when the slide is completely forward in battery ready to fire), and the ammunition used in the pistol. There are many more factors to understand, but all you will need is a basic concept of this relationship. The alignment of the sights and the angle of the barrel locked up must intersect at the actual point of impact at the desired range. How the barrel locks up in the pistol and shoots will determine the height of the sights and where they will need to be set. Generally, low lockup barrels will tend to shoot high since the barrel is pointing at an upward angle from horizontal and a high lockup barrel will tend to shoot somewhat lower since the barrel is at a lower upward angle or almost level. If the barrel lockup is repeatable to the same position, then the pistol should consistently shoot to the same point of impact with the same ammunition. Now that the points of impact are grouping within the same small area, they can be adjusted to the point of aim by changing front sight height and/or drifting the rear sight. 

Ammunition can play a large factor in point of aim/point of impact. The different manufacturers, bullet weights and types, powder type and charge can affect the point of impact. This usually will change the elevation more than the windage. We recommend finding quality ammunition you like and stay with it. Please carefully select your ammunition, do not purchase ammunition that produces higher pressures than what your pistol is rated for and it was made by a reputable manufacturer. Always follow the pistol manufacturers recommendation on ammunition and maintain your weapon properly – including cleaning, inspection, and spring changes at recommended frequencies.

Adjusting Elevation

            When adjusting for elevation, the first thing is to know how the height change affects the impact of the shot. We use the front sight as the main adjustment for zeroing elevation. The reason for this is that it is far easier and more cost effective to do. This provides the ability to easily make a custom height from a blank front sight. If the pistol is shooting low, then the front sight will need a shorter height blade and if it is shooting high it will need a taller blade. For example, if a pistol is shooting low, the muzzle of the pistol will need to be raised up to bring the point of impact to the point of aim. The reduction in height of the front sight will allow this change to occur. A simple way to remember how to adjust elevation by the front sight blade height is: Taller sight for Impact Down and Shorter sight for Impact Up.

            The only time we use the rear sight for elevation change is when it is an adjustable sight or the change in height is so great that the front sight would be to short to be visually useful. When using an adjustable sight, the rear should be set in the middle of the range of adjustment, and then the front can be tuned for POA/POI. This allows for even maximum use of the rears up and down adjustment capability. Taller fixed rear sights are only needed when the front sight will be so short that it is near useless. This usually occurs on sub compact pistols, pistols engineered with unusually high lockups, odd sloping slide top angles, or poorly produced pistols that are out of design specifications and tolerances.

            There are several different ways to calculate what measured amount of front sight height change will be needed. The best and only way to be exactly zeroed is by shooting the pistol and having a large number of different height test front sights to try, which is not feasible. Instead of going over all the methods, here is a general guideline for height adjustment. A change of .010” in front blade height will usually translate into about ¾” to 1” at 25 yards with a 4” or 5” pistol with the majority of calibers using standard velocity ammunition. Shorter barrel length pistols (around 3”) will tend to move about ¼” more due to a shorter sight radius (distance between the from and rear sights). Some small calibers in pocket type pistols will move about the same, but at a range of only 10 to 15 yards. While this is nowhere near a perfect guide, it gives the layman shooter a gross estimate of how much would be needed to make the change and is usually enough for adjusting pistols. The number of standard front sights in various heights usually will cover the vast majority of corrections needed. The available option of making a custom height front sight insures that the pistol can be zeroed, but it is an extra charge and is not returnable.

Adjusting Windage

            Making adjustments to move the point of impact left or right should be done with the rear sight. The front sight should be centered and pinned into place on the slide to insure that it is secure. The rear sight has a setscrew that will have to be loosened before and adjustments can be made. To make the adjustment you need to move the rear sight in the direction you want the impact to move. For example, if your impact is left of point of aim and you want in to move to the right, you need to drift the rear sight to the right. An easy way to remember this is: Move the rear sight in the direction you want the impact of the round to go.

            The impact change from the movement of the rear sight is about the same amount as the height impact change with the front sight. Every .010” of rear sight movement will move the impact approximately 1”. Pistols with a shorter sight radius will move about ¼” more. We recommend that you make a fine pencil mark on the slide and the sight to keep track of the movement. Some of our current production sights have windage reference marks that translate into .010” of movement from the valley of the mark to the peak of the mark.  

            The only time the front sight would need adjustment for windage would be if there is a issue with the lockup, location of the barrel, ammunition, or the pistol in general. Once a front sight is pinned, it cannot be drilled and repined in a new location. Do not try to drift the front sight once it is pinned, it will do damage to the sight and/or the slide. If the front sight has to be adjusted for windage, please consult the manufacturer or competent gunsmith.

Novak Sight Dovetail Basics

            The first thing you will need to learn about is the dovetails on the sights and the dovetail cuts on the slide. This is pretty basic, the “male” portion of the dovetail is on the sight and the “female” is the dovetail cut on the slide. The key to a good installation is determining the interference between the slide dovetail and sight dovetail. That is where the basic part ends. It takes time and whole lot of patience when learning about dovetails. Do not expect to be an expert or capable of cutting dovetails once you read the information below, this is only a start to understanding the entire process. This is not meant to be a guide to make dovetail cuts, but only to understand what is involved in the process. Receiving proper technical training and having the proper equipment is a must for attempting to machine your slide.

 Understanding the basic fitment of dovetails is key. The male portion must have the same angle as the female portion. Novak’s uses what we refer to as a 65° dovetail angle, this is the angle of one side of the dovetail cut. If you refer to the included angle between the two sides of the dovetail cut it is 50°, which it is all the same, just presented differently. This may be confusing so please notice the diagram showing the difference between the two presentations.

 Correct fitment is key in ensuring that the sights stay on the slide and do not come loose, move, or fall out while shooting. The size of the dovetail on the sight (male) must be slightly larger than the dovetail cut on the slide (female). For example, if the rear sight dovetail is .495” theoretical point to theoretical point (tptp) which is an outside dimension (OD) and the dovetail cut is .495” tptp which is an inside dimension (ID), with the depth of the cut being correct for both, the sight will just slide through the dovetail cut smoothly with no wiggle room. This type of fit is known as a slip fit, which is wrong for a handgun.

There needs to be some interference to the fit. The sight has to have resistance when being driven into the dovetail, but not so hard that damage is done to the sight or the slide during the installation. Conversely, if the dovetail on the slide is oversized, there are only two methods that can correct this issue. The first one is having an oversized dovetail on the sight and the other is peening the slide dovetail to make it smaller. Peening the dovetails is not the optimum way to do the install, but is acceptable if the only options are to weld or replace the slide.The Novak front and rear dovetails have been discussed as to their true sizes. The following paragraphs will explain the size and how to measure them.

The Novak LoMount® rear dovetail size is .495” tptp x 65° at .125” depth. The depth, also referred to as the “base”, is the thickness of the dovetail on the sight and how deep the dovetail cut is on the slide. The .495” base has always been our original dovetail for the Novak dovetail cut. The theoretical point to theoretical point measurement (tptp) is an actual .495”. The dovetail size measurement must be made over pins and the proper calculation done to get the size, this is the correct way to measure the size of a dovetail. Placing calipers on the edges of the dovetail to measure our sights is incorrect. We purposefully removed the sharp points for ease of fitment reasons. The depth (or base) of the dovetail is .125” from the pocket area to the bottom of the dovetail and the depth of the cut from the pocket on the rear of the slide to the bottom of the dovetail.

Over the years, due to limited cutter size availability, certain manufacturers variances, milling machine run out, gunsmith “oops” and dovetail damage, we have offered a slightly larger dovetail that compensated for oversized dovetail (“OD”) cuts. The oversized dovetail required hand fitting to the individual cut so it would go snug and stay securely. While we still offer limited styles in some of these OD dovetail sights, we will be eventually discontinuing them.

The Novak front dovetails are available in two sizes, .330” x 65° at .075” depth and .330” x 65° at .060”depth (or base), however these are not the actual dovetail measurements. The fronts are commonly referred to in those sizes because the early front dovetail cutters where .330” in size, so the name kind of stuck. The actual true measurement of the front dovetails are .342”x 65° x .075” base and .342”x 65° x .060” base or in short .075” base and .060” base Novak fronts. 

The next critical part is what we refer to the “points of contact” issue. If there is any light showing through the underside of the sight there is a chance of it “opening up” the dovetail and becoming loose from the repetitive cycling of the slide. The front sights, which are more prone to becoming loose, need the five points of contact to minimize this from happening. The five points are the front underside of the blade, both angles of the dovetail, the bottom of the dovetail, and the rear underside of the blade. Having contact with all five of those points and having the roll pin installed, as an added protective measure, will keep the front sight in place under the most extreme conditions and help prevent fatiguing or opening of the dovetail cut.

 The rear follows basically the same rules, but use four points of contact and a setscrew to secure it. The four points for the rear are: the front angle of the dovetail (this is a larger surface and has a larger heavier bearing area to hold it from deforming), the bottom of the dovetail, the rear of the dovetail, and the underside of the back of the sight also known as the “pocket”.

If you have any doubts or issues, do not get discouraged. We have seen manufacturers, life long machinists and gunsmiths have issues with installing the first set or so. It takes some time and experience to be able to get that “just right” fit. If you are not sure about installing them yourself or someone else doing it, we provide the service of installing the sights and we only warrant our installation – no others and no exceptions. If someone other than us installs them improperly, it is their problem to resolve with you, so please be certain that they do quality work that you will be satisfied with.

Installation Types – ** Please read this entire section **

            There are basically three types of installations done on handguns we make sights for: they are “Direct Replacement”, “Minor Machining”, and “Machine Dovetails for Front and Rear”. The sections below will help to explain the basics of sight dovetails and the process for each method of installation. It is not hard to install sights, but there is a learning curve to doing it and mistakes can be very expensive and disheartening. If you are even a little unsure of installing any sights, please have it done by a competent professional to avoid any unwanted damages.

 Again, we do not recommend any installers other than ourselves. Improper installation of our sights will void the warranty on them, absolutely no exceptions. If any damages where done to the slide, that would be the problem of whom ever tried to install them. Please be certain that you are comfortable with the installer and or methods of installations before making any changes. At Novak’s, we stand behind our installation of our sights, we make the sights and we know the best and correct way to install them.

  A Special Note on Tritium Sight Installation

            When installing tritium sights it is important to understand that the tritium vials inside the sights are made of glass. When installing the sights, extra care should be taken to avoid any impacts or applied force being made in the area of the tritium vial. All sights only should be installed by using the dovetail portion of the sight as the driving surface. This will allow the sight dovetail to have the installation force applied inline with the slide dovetail.

There are two main reasons for installing all sights in this manner. First, using the front sight blade as the driving surface to install the sight can cause the tritium vial to fracture or shatter allowing the tritium gas to leak off. There is only an approximate minimum of .025” of metal covering the vial and any slight dents or damage to the blade can destroy the vial. Secondly, it is possible the blade can be bent or broken off if it is being forced into place aggressively when not fitted properly. This can also cause damage to occur to the dovetails as well. Both reasons will void the warranty on the sight and the tritium vial. Please be extra diligent when installing or having them installed. Any installation not performed by Novak’s will void the warranty if any damage is done during this process.   

Installation - Direct Replacement

            These sight models, (usually referred as DCR type sights by us) will fit into the existing dovetails on the factory slide. This is true with the majority of these sight types with a few exceptions, which fall into the minor machining class. The first thing to remember is that there is a tolerance to the factory dovetail cuts and the replacement sights. The majority of the time, the sights can be installed without any minor fitting on the dovetail surfaces of the sight. Sometimes they will need minor fitting to get the interference fit desired, which is usually a couple of minor file strokes on the rear portion of the sight dovetail.

Absolutely Do Not File on the slide dovetails… the sight dovetails need to be fit to the slide dovetails. It is okay to start to fit the sights and then have to back them out to relieve a little more material to get them to go on. Make sure to take your time, go slow, and do not remove too much material so they slide right through the slide dovetail. If too much material is removed, the sight or dovetail will need to be modified by peening or purchasing a new sight.

There are some basic tools that are required to change your sights:

Small hammer, bench vice w/ padded jaws, heavy card stock, 65° dovetail file or appropriate angle dovetail file, one 3/8” and one 1/2" diameter sections of aluminum round stock approximately 6" long, drill press with vice, 1/16” drill bit, 1/16” punch, aluminum blackener, and the correct size hex wrench.

            Do not attempt to install the sights unless you are completely confident that you are capable of doing so without damaging your pistol or the sights. If you damage any of the items, it will void the warranty on the sights and possibly the pistol. We offer our professional installation service and it includes the warranty on the installation and sights. If we install the sights, it is our problem/expense. If you or someone else installs the sights, it is your problem/expense.

 The following instructions are a basic guide on how to complete the task of installing the sights. Before attempting any work, unload, clear, and disassemble your pistol. Then remove the recoil spring assembly and barrel from the slide.

            To install the sights, first tape the sides of your slide with masking tape to prevent scratching. Place the slide in the vise between brass or aluminum smooth jaw protectors and cardstock. Position the slide so the sight you will be working on is located in the middle of the vise. Do not over tighten the vise, this will crush the slide and it will not go back onto the pistol’s frame. Make sure that the sight dovetail will clear the vise jaws when drifting the sights off and on the slide.

            Loosen any retaining screws or drive out any roll pins on the sight. Take a piece of the card stock, fold, and place between the sight base on the opposite side of the ejection port and the aluminum drift. (** Note: Do not place the drift on the front sight blade – it will damage the sight. Drift only on the base of the dovetail of all sights. Also, do not use steel punches to drift the sights. **) Drift the sight off of the slide toward the ejection port side. Please beware of any firing pin safety plunger that may be under the sight and remove carefully so not to loose any parts or damage them. They will need to be reinstalled with the new sight.

Clean any Loctite or debris from the slide dovetail. Take the replacement sight and start it into the slide dovetail from the ejection port side. Depending on how hard the sight starts to go in the dovetail, it may require some very minor filing of the sight dovetail so it will have a decent amount of resistance while being driven in. If there is too much resistance, the sight and/or the slide dovetail can be damaged on installation. If too little resistance, the sight can move in the dovetail when the pistol is fired. Center the sight in the dovetail or into the position where the old sight was located.

For Rear Sights: Tighten the setscrew and Loctite 290 (green) can be applied to the dovetail for added assurance. Wipe any excess Loctite off of slide before it dries. (**Use extra caution when applying Loctite if there is a firing pin safety plunger. Make sure that the Loctite does not enter and interfere with its operation.**)  

For Front Sights: center the sight on the existing roll pin hole if applicable, or level the slide in a drill press and using a 1/16th” drill bit, center the bit into the sight roll pin hole and drill through the slide. To complete the installation drive the 1/16th roll pin into the sight and slide so the pin is just below the top of the sight. Loctite 290 (green) can be applied to the dovetail for added assurance. Wipe any excess Loctite off of slide before it dries.

 Clean and assemble the entire pistol. Test fire to confirm point of aim/point of impact. Windage corrections can be made on the rear sight by drifting the sight in the opposite direction of the bullet impact. Elevation changes will require a different front sight height – taller to lower the bullet impact, shorter to raise the bullet impact.  

** We do not recommend the use of sight pusher tools with installation and removal of any Novak Sights, front or rear. We have seen tremendous damage caused from the use of these tools on sights and slides. Novak rear sights are not parallel on the sides and this causes the sight pushers to push at an angle when installing them into the dovetail. That causes the metal to gall and does damage to both the sight dovetail, the slide dovetail, and also on the sides of the slide from the pusher tool.

Installation - Minor Machining Installation

            There are a few models of DCR rear sight styles that will require minor machining to install them. The minor machining is usually a flat that is cut behind the rear of the dovetail, or a flat cut overtop of the rear dovetail to form a pocket that will allow the sight to sit just below the top of the slide, and/or a relief cut in front of the dovetail. After the cut is made, the slide will have to be refinished accordingly. Note: there can be a separate charge for certain types of refinishing. Once the flat cut is made the sight will install the same as a direct replacement style. The front sights will fit the factory dovetails on the pistols as a direct replacement. Installation of the sights now can be done as described in the direct replacement section.

            The models of sights or pistols that will require minor machining are:

  • Browning High Power MKIII fixed sight models
  • Novak ALM Adjustable Sights for pistols with a Novak Fixed Rear Dovetail Cut

Installation – Machine Dovetails for Front and Rear

            Novak’s offers custom sight installation on slides that will need to be modified by having dovetails cut into the slide. We have offered this service since we have been in business and have more experience installing our sights then anyone else. We take great pride in our workmanship and when we do the installation, we warranty it. If something should happen that is due to our workmanship, it is our problem to fix. Most installations only take one to two weeks, depending on the amount of work being done and the volume of work in line. We use our own ultra high quality dovetail cutters that were specifically designed for cutting our dovetails into your slide insuring true and correct Novak sight dovetails. If there would be an issue with installing our sights on your slide, we will contact you before any work is done. Remember, we designed our sights and no one installs our sights better than we do.

Novak sights can be installed on a variety of different firearms. The most popular pistol for sight modification is the 1911 model pistol. Almost every manufacturers models with the “GI” or hump and bump type sights can be machined for installation of our 1911 front and rear sights.  Other model Novak sights can be installed on various manufactures model pistols as well. Please check the sight type available for your specific model. You can also send an email with your pistol make, model, and a picture if you are not sure if anything is available for it.

            Some older or damaged slides will require welds to fill or fix before a dovetail can be cut. Slides that have Millet single or double crimp front sights, or a hole through the top of the slide, will require a weld to fill the hole. If you have one of these slides, you will need to contact us, send photos of the damage or holes before sending the slide. If we accept the work, all repairs of this type are priced by the amount of labor and materials that will be needed to restore the slide back into condition for dovetails to be cut. The minimum weld repair fee is currently $100.00 (as of 1/1/16).

            Slides sent for custom installation will at least require refinishing to the dovetail cut areas. Stainless steel slides can have the cuts bead blasted to match as close to the original style finish as possible, while carbon steel slides will need to be re-blued to match as close as possible to the original finish. Any specialized finished or coatings will need to have the new dovetail cuts cold blued at no charge or refinished in the original coating at an extra expense. Please check with us on the finishes that we currently offer, as we do not offer refinishing for some specialized finishes and coatings. Please be aware of the fact that some finishes may look slightly different from the original finish due to slight variations in finishing processes.  Once the machining and refinishing is complete, the installation of the sights is done as described in the direct replacement section.