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Today is June 4, 2020


Try the old for shooting success

Try the old for shooting success

An aperture sight is simple. Just look through the hole and line up the front sight on the target. Apertures such as this one are sleek and unobtrusive. They don’t change the balance or feel of the rifle. Photos: Tony Kinton

One essential to precise rifle shooting is the sighting system. In recent years this element has slowly but certainly become the arena of scopes and/or dot sights in their various and extensive forms. Rare it is in this age of modern gear to see a rifle minus some type optic sitting atop the action. And there is good reason for this. Optics are now more reliable than ever, and a vast array of options accompany scopes and dots. Plus, these mitigate many of the issues associated with being able to place a shot into a specific spot. But don’t determine that scopes and dots are the only option.

Sights in some form have been employed on rifles since the rifle was developed. History reveals that sights, primitive by today’s standards, were used on rifled firearms as early as 1450, plus or minus a few years. These sights were required to gain the accuracy advantage a rifled barrel afforded over the smoothbore, and their progression moved along steadily as did the rifle itself. In their initial makeup, these sights were and are referred to as open sights, a front and back. The primary purpose of a back sight was a solid station in which to line up the front sight. They work.

But, there are drawbacks. Primary among those shortcomings is the fact that the human eye can’t completely focus simultaneously on three objects along a plane that is ever extending from that eye. While this can be done more reliably with young eyes, as we age it becomes a near impossibility. Back sight, front sight, target. Something will go lacking in the focus department. Still, open sights are reliable and rugged and are common on a great many new rifles even today.

However, somewhere along the way a modification of the open sight idea was put into use. This approach used a small circle as the rear sight and is generally known as the peep. More accurately perhaps is the term aperture. This aperture plays on the human eye’s ability to seek out and immediately find the point of greatest light. That, in the case of the aperture sight, is the center.

Once settled on that point, all that remains is for the front sight to be held on the target at the spot the shooter wishes the projectile to arrive. Thus, that complex near impossibility of focusing on three objects is diminished.

The rear sight is basically disregarded because the eye will be centered in the peep without conscious effort. That leaves only the front sight and target. Smooth and quick this procedure is.

Some may question this process and conclude that looking through a hole and not intentionally placing the front sight in a specific locale within that hole won’t produce desired results. That question has been answered! Military and police personnel have been using the aperture system for decades, and most weapons built for such use come equipped with these sights. Hunters and target shooters as well employ aperture sights with great success.

Interesting it is that a relatively old system is still going strong; in fact, it may be gaining new converts every year. At perhaps one tenth the cost of scopes, the aperture sight is a bargain and fully functional, even for aging eyes.

I began using aperture sights three decades back, these on a variety of rifles that passed through my hands. Still use that system on a few units I have. One in particular is a Marlin 39A. This is a nifty little lever rig in .22, and it goes to the squirrel woods with me regularly. It also sees duty at punching holes in cans and paper.

The 39A has always worn an aperture sight. The first one was a side-mounted block that matched factory-drilled holes, with the sight resting in that block. That was a fine setup, but I recently discovered one that is more compact and unobtrusive. The one I discovered is a Skinner ( It is all steel, sleek, rugged, mounts in the holes on top of the action and is truly becoming on the Marlin .22. It is fully adjustable and absolutely perfect.

Most of the apertures I use now are set on lever-action rigs, and the peeps don’t ruffle my sensitivities like a scope on a lever action would. Apertures fit the setting. And of equal or even more importance is that these sights allow me to keep shooting the levers despite the fact that my eyes are definitely not what they once were.

So, the old is still bringing success. Too good to miss—the aperture sight.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His newest book is “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories.” Order from or Kinton’s website:

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