Sighting the fixed sight revolver by Dennis L. Schrieber

One of the most common complains with the fixed sighted revolvers is that they don’t shoot to the point of aim.What happens all too often, to these firearms, is that they end up in the bottom of the safe, to be forgotten.Although so called, “Kentucky windage” is often used in the normal routine of shooting, a gun that doesn’t shoot right is no fun. So, what can be done? The first thing to do is to establish that it can produce reasonable groups and exactly where are these groups located.Generally you should start from a rest.A fancy Ransom Rest really isn’t necessary, a good pistol rest or even a few sandbags will do.We are not concerned with minimum group size, just that it does group and where.Don’t be afraid to start with an over size target or at a close distance.A three to five shot group is all that is needed.What we are looking for here is a reference point.A place to start looking for the group that we are going to shoot next.It is necessary to understand that the point of impact is going to change when we off the bench.Recoil and barrel harmonics are different when shooting free hand then they are when shooting from the bags.The Colt Single Action Army and its clones are a real good example of this.They will almost always shoot higher from the hand, than from the bench.This is because the “plow handle” grips allow the barrel to flip up very early in the recoil cycle. Now, go ahead and shoot another group the way you intend to use the firearm.Using what you learned from the group shot from the bench, establish a center point for the new group.This is the point that we will move on target. Remembering the old rule for adjusting sights. “Always move the rear sight in the direction that you want to move the shots.”Remembering also, that the rear sights are fixed, we have only the front sight to adjust.The front sight responds just the opposite of the rear sight.To move the shoots up, we lower the front sight and so forth.

Here is the technical part.To move left or right we turn the barrel.To go up or down we change the height of the front sight.The easiest of course is up.We need only a file or grinder.To go down usually requires something more creative like a welder to add material to the original sight or to replace it with a taller one.Left and right require turning the barrel  Yes the sight will look off center but if you want it to shoot right you have no choice.The first thing to do is remove the cylinder.The barrel is then clamped in a barrel vise being careful that the front sight is clear of the jaws.Apply a frame wrench to the frame ahead of the cylinder opening  Now, either loosen or tighten the barrel to sight it in.   By nature the barrels are very tight and a few heating and cooling cycles make them even tighter.   The best ones have a class “A” thread or even interference fit.The old time practice of putting a hammer handle through the frame to perform this task can easily lead to a damaged frame – don’t do it  If the barrel must be tighten and their isn’t any room left, then the barrel must be “set back”.That is, the barrel must be removed and cut in a lathe  The same may be true when loosing the barrel. Although a spacer can be used, it may not be cosmetically expectable.In either case, we can calculate the amount of material to be removed by figuring the run from the pitch of the thread and then using some “trig” proportions to calculate the amount of material to be removed  (Nobody said that is was easy !!!)   Remember that anytime that the barrel is turned to check the cylinder gap and possibility the forcing cone. Seldom does a gun require movement in just one direction.So, take it slow and make small adjustment in one direction at a time.    This is all true of course, assuming that the ammunition is not a variable.A good handloader can move the bullets around the target too. Simply going to a heavier bullet can raise the point of impact considerably.A properly sighted revolver will made a major difference. So, visit your favorite pistolsmith.Good shooting, keep it fun and keep it safe. Any comments or questions should be directed to Dennis L. Schrieber, Burnt Mill Smithing, www.burntmill.com or e-mail – smithing@burnt-mill.com.