The Joys (and Otherwise) of Aperture Sights
Rifle|January - February 2021
Still Useful After All These Years
Terry Wieland

It the tender age of 15, cherishing my first high-powered rifle and determined to be prepared for any eventuality that might arise when hunting deer, I found myself at the gun counter in Pilon Marine trying to explain to the salesman that I wanted to order a Williams 5D receiver sight for my spiffy Marlin 336.

The year was 1964, and hunters in my neck of the woods (the rather remote woods that comprises central Ontario, Canada) could be divided into two groups: The Avant Garde who could afford riflescopes, and others whose level of ballistic sophistication was so low that they used the primitive open sights that came on every factory rifle. These, they believed, were good at any range to the limit of their eyesight. For that matter, those who bought scopes and had them mounted in the store assumed that they, too, were sighted in. It’s a wonder anyone ever hit a deer at any range.

There was no way I could afford a scope, but I was a dedicated reader of hunting magazines and they all insisted that a good receiver (aperture) sight was almost the equal of a scope in most circumstances for most hunters, regardless of what the local gun dealer might say. It took some persuasion, but my salesman finally agreed to order one.

As it turned out, just having this exotic device on my 336 paid off, but not in the way someone might expect. Although I desperately wanted to go deer hunting, and it was legal for me to do so, my parents would allow it only if our deer-hunting friend, Clare Irwin, could be persuaded to take me. He was understandably hesitant, but asked to see my rifle. When he saw the Williams sight, he nodded approvingly. Clare being several cuts above the average hunter in our area, he had a Lyman tang sight on his ancient Winchester 94, and took the Williams 5D as evidence that I was serious about all this. That fall, I went deer hunting for the first time.

Thus was born, in a roundabout way, a lifelong interest in non-optical sights of all kinds – an interest shared by a wide range of enthusiasts that includes gun collectors, black-powder target shooters, Olympic competitors and the arcane substratum of the collecting world that dotes on mechanical gunsights. While the rest of the world chases the latest in glass, we cast our eyes back a century and more to an era when American inventiveness was at its height.

By the time I bought my Williams 5D, there were very few new receiver sights available, not just for the 336, but for any rifle. For years, Lyman sights had dominated the market, challenged by Redfield and, to a lesser extent, Williams, and that was about it. They were mostly similar – a base that attached to the receiver, with a platform that moved up and down in a dovetail. Both Lyman and Marble’s also offered traditional folding tang sights for such as the 94, 336 and Savage 99. Over the course of 50 years, however, from 1918 to 1968, the available models dwindled steadily as riflescopes and mounts improved and took over the market.

The one event that might have breathed new life into aperture sights was the introduction in 1967 of the single-shot Ruger No. 1 rifle. After all, fine single-shots had been the primary use of the elaborate and precise tang sights of the previous century. For whatever reason, however, Ruger designed its rifle without the long tang necessary to provide a solid base. From the beginning, it was intended for use with either a riflescope or the open sight on the barrel. Some years later, an aftermarket receiver sight became available, but it had its own problems.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

The Group Portrait: Little Pot

The activists and entrepreneurs intent on making New York’s new cannabis industry more equitable, less corporate.

2 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

Michael B. Wood

After a full day of gardening with his wife, Mike Wood died on April 2, 2021, suddenly and serenely under a spring sky full of birds, serenaded by peepers, at his home in Deer Isle, Maine, after a very full life.

3 mins read
Island Ad-Vantages
April 22, 2021

Michael B. Wood

After a full day of gardening with his wife, Mike Wood died on April 2, 2021, suddenly and serenely under a spring sky full of birds, serenaded by peepers, at his home in Deer Isle, Maine, after a very full life.

3 mins read
The Weekly Packet
April 22, 2021

DEADLY WUHAN COVER-UP!

U.S. health officials untangling how virus escaped secret bio lab

4 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

Friendly Challenge

Keeping best friends Williams & Tomlinson will be a tough task

4 mins read
The Giant Insider
April 2021

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Trent Williams, 49ers 6-5 • 320 pounds • 32 years old

2 mins read
NY Jets Confidential
March 2021

Bills Digest BUZZ Box: Five hot topics Bills fans are talking about

Bills Digest editor Mark Ludwiczak and editor-at-large Chris Brown weigh in on a handful of the hottest subjects Bills fans have been sounding off about in e-mails to our offices, radio call-in shows and Internet message boards. Have an opinion? Feel free to send an email to Chris (AskChris@bills.nfl.net) or Mark (Mark@asmpublishing.com).

4 mins read
Bills Digest
March 29, 2021

SHOULD THEY STAY OR GO?

49ers have long list of decisions to make with their own FAs

10+ mins read
Niner Report
March 2021

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

3 mins read
Warpath
March 2021

ONE-HIT WONDERS “STAY”

MAURICE WILLIAMS’ “STAY” celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020, his sole Top 40 hit as a singer, which reached No. 1 in November 1960 by Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs. In the prior decade, Maurice had been a member of the R&B group The Gladiolas, with the doo-wop song “Little Darlin’,” which was successfully covered by the Canadian doo-wop quartet The Diamonds, reaching No. 2.

3 mins read
GOLDMINE
March 2021