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GUNS Magazine April 2013 Digital Edition - Page 24
cLaSSic ironS a bolt peep siGht installation. M haMilton s. bowen At one time, Lyman made all manner of sights including the bolt peep for a Mauser (above), complete with dovetail adapter plate. Simple lathe/milling machine fixture and grooving tool with an unaltered Mannlicher cocking piece. Alas, this is not really a home gunsmithing project unless you keep house with a lathe and mill. ankind has sought better sighting devices since shortly after the introduction of the rifled barrel. Most primitive iron sights were various combinations of blades and notches and probably worked about as well as the accuracy of the arms of the day justified. However, by the middle of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was very much underway in both England and the United States. Enormous leaps in machine tool technology, steel and engineering led to amazing gains in the inherent accuracy of firearms. But this accuracy was only as good as the sighting systems of the time allowed. Naturally, the private sector led the charge and, in due course, astonishingly complex aperture sights appeared, many with very precise and sophisticated vernier adjustments. Telescopic sights were still in their infancy and didn’t offer much more in precision but went off the rails with distressing regularity. While quantum leaps in optics occurred late in the century, sportsmen were slow to trust them. Both the British and Germans tended to fit their scopes with quick-detachable mounts so iron sights could be deployed in event of scope failures or conditions where the scope wasn’t up to the job. Even on into the age of smokeless powder and improved optics, riflemen were still uneasy and took a lot of comfort in high-quality iron sights. Not until the post-World War II era did telescopic sights gain real acceptance. Only then, did exotic iron sights start to fade away. British gun makers were notorious for fitting wondrous arrays of folding shallow V-notch rear blades used with bead front sights. Fascinating as they were, they were also about useless unless you had especially good vision. I have a .360 Henry single-shot rifle with a front sight bead that can’t be more than 1/32 inch in diameter. Only on a good day can I see it with my myopic vision, excellent prescription shooting glasses notwithstanding. Evidently, I am not the first with such difficulties. Further, only aperture sights will enable aging shooters to again see the rear sight, front sight and target in apparent simultaneous focus. Iron sight makers have produced all manner of aperture sights. The British used a lot of these sights and tended to favor striker-mounted sights on their magazine rifles. The foremost maker was John Rigby who produced his own version. Devised and used mostly on his famous Mauser sporters, the sights occasionally found their way onto other magazine rifles, including the Mannicher-Schoenauers. I have a seedy M1905 model undergoing periodic improvements and wanted very much This Rigby-style bolt peep is original to this Mannlicher rifle. to install a Rigby bolt peep sight. While not especially rare, most seemed stuck to Rigby rifles. So, I set about looking for one or at least a nice reproduction part. Just by chance, MAGNUM Magazine, published in South Africa, reviewed one produced here in the states by Rusty’s Action Works. Without an original with which to compare it, I can’t say how authentic it is, especially as I am aware of at least two or three Rigby variations. What I do know is Rusty’s part is a first-class piece of workmanship and similar enough in appearance and function to keep even the most discriminating sort happy. The machine work and polishing are almost jewel-like, to the extent I am not sure it will even make it into the bluing tank. Once regulated, adjustments are made instantaneously by turning the knurled adjusting wheel, which, through an ingenious eccentric pin and slot arrangement, moves with the aperture to a given range’s setting. Most were regulated for two or three ranges. While the excellent instructions were for installation on a Mauser cocking piece, the installation on the Mannlicher cocking piece wasn’t especially complicated. Unlike the Mauser cocking piece which is easy to hold in a mill vise, the Mannlicher part was round with only a small square tab which I used to index it in the small, 24 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • A P R I L 2 0 1 3