The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular .22 rifles on the market today. They are reliable, accurate, and highly customizable. Unfortunately, the sights that come standard on 10/22’s are too small and difficult to see. Several companies offer upgrades to give them much better iron sights. If you want to upgrade, you may experience some difficulty trying to remove the old front sight from your 10/22. I don’t know how Ruger manages to cram the front sight into the rifle, but it can be a real chore to remove. Here are steps that I recommend taking to make removal of your front sight on your 10/22 much easier and how to replace your old sights with much better ones.
Tools You Will Need
- Bench Vise
- Padded Vise Jaws (With a Channel)
- Dremel Tool with Metal Cutoff Wheel
- Needle File
- New Sights (I used Williams Fire Sights)
Step 1: Disassemble the Rifle
Remove the stock, trigger assembly, charging handle, and pins from your barrel and receiver. When attempting removal and replacement of your 10/22’s front sight, all of these small parts need to be set aside to avoid them falling out and getting lost. It also makes the rifle easier to work with.
Step 2: Place the Barrel in a Padded Vise
Attach your padded vise jaws to your vise. Your padded vise jaws should have a channel running horizontally through them to hold the barrel. You can find a set similar to the ones I use by clicking here.
It is likely that your barrel will still rotate within the vise jaws while you are hammering the front sight out. Apply double-sided tape to the portion of the barrel that will be in the vice jaws. This will reduce the amount of rotation that will take place while you are removing and replacing the front sight. When you are finished, you can use acetone to remove any residual adhesive from the barrel.
Also, when placing your barrel in the vise, close the jaws firmly. You want the vise to have a strong hold on the barrel. Only have a small portion of the front part of the barrel sticking out from the vise. This will prevent your blows from being dissipated through vibration and will also prevent the barrel from bending.
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Step 3: Remove the Rear Sight
Start with the easy sight first. Use a brass or nylon punch and a hammer to drift the rear sight out of its slot from left to right with the muzzle facing away from you. This should be fairly easy to do. Set the rear sight aside, but do not install the new rear sight yet. All of the pounding you will have to do to the front sight may cause you to have to readjust it later.
You can learn more about the different types of gunsmithing punches by reading by article Complete Guide to Gunsmithing Punches by clicking here.
Step 4: Attempt to Drift the Front Sight
Now comes the fun part: removal of the 10/22’s front sight. Drip some penetrating oil into the dovetail slot. Then, use your hammer and a steel punch to attempt to drift the front sight out of the barrel’s dovetail slot. Just like the rear sight, go from left to right. Use as large of a punch as you can. Doing this will help you avoid peening the metal, which will make the sight even harder to remove. You would normally use a brass or nylon punch to drift sights, but the removal of a 10/22’s front sight is so difficult, I recommend just using a steel punch. This will save you some frustration and save your punches.
Use firm and careful taps to begin drifting the sight. Avoid trying to pound the sight into submission. If the sight doesn’t move after several firm taps, move on to Step 5. Continuing to hammer on your front sight will greatly increase the chance of damage to your 10/22. Your punch could slip or you could miss with your hammer, causing a nasty scratch or gouge to your barrel.
Related: Essential Gunsmithing Tools
Step 5: Make a Relief Cut
If you are unable to drift your front sight out, you may need to make a relief cut in the front sight. This is a rather drastic step and should only be done if you are confident you can do it without damaging your rifle. It will also render the original front sight useless, so before doing this, make sure it is something you want to do and are capable of doing.
Use masking tape to cover the area around the front sight. Carefully use a Dremel tool with a metal cutoff wheel or hacksaw to make a vertical relief cut in the center of the front sight. This will relieve some of the pressure on the front sight, making it easier to remove.
If using a Dremel tool, do not try to cut all the way through the front sight. Doing so will damage the dovetail your new front sight will slide into. Slowly cut until you are about 1/16th of an inch from the bottom of the front sight. Attempt to drift the sight out with your hammer and punch. If it still won’t come out, use a hacksaw to remove a little more metal from the front sight before attempting to drift it out again.
Step 6: Clean and Oil the Sight Base
After you finally get the old front sight out, clean out any debris that is in the sight base. Also, apply a thin coat of oil. This will protect the metal from rust and make inserting your new front sight a little easier.
Step 7: Install the New Front Sight
Now try to install your new front sight. Push it into the sight base’s dovetail as far as you can from right to left. It should go in about halfway without using a hammer and punch. After that, attempt to drift it in using your hammer and brass or nylon punch. If it goes all the way into the dovetail, you are done with this step. Just make sure the front sight is centered in the dovetail. If it will not go in, see the next step.
Step 7B: File the New Front Sight
If your new front sight won’t go into the dovetail slot, you will need to use a file to remove a small amount of metal from the bottom of the new sight. Do not under any circumstances file the sight base’s dovetail slot. Any time that you have to file firearm parts for a better fit, always file the part that is cheaper and easier to replace. In this case, that part is the new front sight.
Use your file to remove a small amount of metal from the bottom of your new sight’s dovetail. Don’t remove too much. After you have removed a small amount, check to see if the fit is better. Continue removing tiny amounts and checking the fit until it will slide half way in. From there, you can use your hammer and brass or nylon punch to drift the new sight into position.
Step 8: Install the New Rear Right
After you are doing drifting your front sight into position, you can now install your new rear sight. If it has a set screw, back it out, and slide the sight into its slot. Push it in as far as you can from right to left, then use a nylon punch and hammer to tap it into position. This should be much easier than installing the front sight. Center the rear sight into the barrel’s dovetail slot and tighten the set screw.
Step 9: Reassemble the Rifle and Sight-In
After you have installed the new front and rear sights, reassemble the rifle and take it to the range. Be sure that you bring any tools that you need to adjust the sights. For mine, I brought a nylon punch, hammer, and screwdriver set. Make any necessary adjustments with the rear sight. After you get it set, tighten any adjustment screws.