New Eyes For An Old Woodsman

You never know what someone will bring in and slide over on the counter. I opened the case and a classic Colt Woodsman Target model 22LR wearing a very good blued finish was neatly tucked in a foam insert. This pistol was obviously well cared for and the owner wanted better sights since his ageing eyes of 87 years couldn’t focus quick enough to acquire a good shot placement. He did mention that whatever work I did, I couldn’t reduce any value to the pistol and with a fixed front blade sight and an adjustable target rear sight I started with the normal questions. What’s the price cap on this project? Are you ok with better irons or do you want an optic? His eyes squinted an optic, a scope? I began to explain the benefits of a reflex sight as seen on so many semi auto pistols today. Explaining dot size purpose and once zeroed the dot can be anywhere in the viewing window. He was sold on the reflex sight suggestion as aiming was just as easy as placing the dot on the critter and sending some lead. I made the commitment to not reduce the value of the pistol. Any idea of drilling and tapping mounting holes in the slide would not happen. I removed the rear adjustable target sight to expose a 4mm deep groove that housed a slide stop plunger and a 6-64 sight elevation screw hole along with a cross pin hole. After searching the internet I didn’t find any bases available for the model. Milling a block of steel was my only option. It would serve as an optic base and could be placed in the 4mm deep groove secured by the 6-64 screw and an additional use of the cross pin would keep the base solid with the slide. Keeping the rear target sight complete, I ordered another 6-64 screw purchased at part # 184600

Colt Woodsman pistol as delivered


The base started out with a block of scrap steel measuring 1.5” x 1.25” x 10/32”. First the base insert needed to be fit to the slide groove and a sight deck thickness determined. With the use of 6-48 screws to mount the reflex sight I made the sight base deck a thickness of 0.106”. Milling the block of steel with a strip measuring 0.157” wide and 4mm tall ended up with a “T” shaped base that fit the slide groove. A feature of the Woodsman slide is a button slide stop located in the groove where I plan to mount the new sight base. This button is used to lock back the slide when no magazine is inserted, however, the slide can be locked back with an empty magazine inserted then removed after the slide is locked to allow that function. I first needed to determine the measurement of the 6-64 screw hole in the new base and that was at 0.452” from the rear of the new base. The 6-64 clearance hole will be the reference point for two additional hole locations on the new base. With the base drilled for the 6-64 mounting screw I measured the slide stop clearance hole to be 0.474” further forward and drilled a 0.200” diameter hole to a depth of 4mm, as not to drill thru the sight base deck. The slide stop button clearance hole in the new base will only cut halfway into the 0.157” wide sight base as the lateral centers are 0.109” apart.

    Location of slide stop button for relief cut


Fitting the new sight base required filing to contour the front bottom portion of the new sight base to fit the slide groove. With both clearance holes drilled, I counter sunk the 6-64 screw for a proper thread depth engagement into the slide and test fit. Careful filing and fitting gave a snug fit of the new sight base into the slide groove.  With the base installed, center punch the cross-pin hole location, remove the base and drill a 0.060” clearance hole for the cross pin. Once satisfied with the new sight base fit into the slide groove, a reflex sight needs to be determined as that will position the two 6-48 deck holes. Finding a reflex sight with simple to use functions and one button push for all operations had me calling ADE Optics and a compact mini Crusader part # rd3-009 was ordered. The sight base deck will be oversize for a mini reflex sight, allowing you to center the optic then marking the holes to be drilled and tapped. Once the 6-48 holes were finished, I shortened the reflex sight mounting screws for a flush fit to the bottom side of the sight base deck. With the reflex sight mounted, I scribed a line around the reflex sight on the base deck to serve as a reference line while filing excess material away.

New sight base dimensions

Reflex sight, new base, 6-64 screw and cross pin


With the new sight base finished and smoothed, I applied a cold blue using Oxpho-Blue #082-024-032WB. I have been using this product for many years and am very happy with the durability and finish. The reflex sight was installed and a range trip was up next to zero in the optic for 25 yards. Adjustments were quick and positive and after zeroing the Woodsman I ran a full clip of .22lr into a shoot-n-see target to present to the Owner with the newly converted pistol. Upon delivery of the pistol I demonstrated the features of the reflex sight and then had the Owner run thru the functions for me. With his arm extended as to sight the pistol he said “no dot does it work” I smiled and told him to very slightly tip the barrel down, as this is common with switching from irons to a reflex sight until you learn new mussel memory. Once visible and the expression on his face, I believe we have another reflex sight convert! As with any project that is somewhat unusual creativity and vision will most likely have you delivering a quality product. This Colt Woodsman pistol now fitted with a modern reflex sight will likely see more enjoyable time in the hands of an old Woodsman with new eyes.


Colt  Woodsman pistol as delivered with reflex sight




Right On Dead On All The Time

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