August 06, 2019
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
When contemplating a catastrophic failure of a defensive firearm, most think of a complete jam-up of moving parts, a broken pin, or a spring weakened from time. Few pay attention to the simple stuff….things like sights. At least I never did—not until I heard that little “clink” of metal striking metal.
I had been standing waist deep in a quickly moving stream that emptied into Lake Iliamna in Alaska. My fishing partner motored over in a high-sided, heavy-duty aluminum boat (the Alaskan Uber) to pick me up. I placed hands on the gunwale and heaved my body on board. Over my waders rode a Smith & Wesson double-action magnum revolver in a Galco Great Alaskan shoulder holster.
That clink was my gun striking the aluminum gunwale. It wasn’t loud enough to cause me much concern, but as we motored off, I pulled my revolver from the holster to see where I had nicked the finish. That’s when I noticed the metal blade of the rear sight had been severed clean at the base. As I fished the next willow-choked, bear-infested stream, two thoughts ran simultaneously through my head: “I have never seen a grizzly track bigger than my wading boot” and “Where do you hold the front sight on a monstrous charging bear when the rear sight is missing?”
Back safely at home, I planned to order a factory replacement rear sight from S&W, but the more I turned over the broken remains in my fingers, I realized that would be just another problem in the making. Thin steel with a small-diameter screw through its center is a weak link waiting to break in the wilderness where being bucked off a horse; falling on hard, rocky ground; or, in my case, smacking the side of a fishing boat could easily—and frequently does—occur.
Someone somewhere had to offer a better option. A quick Internet search revealed that Hamilton Bowen (Bowen Classic Arms) does. The company specializes in all things revolvers—from super-cool custom Colt SAAs to highly tuned and customized Ruger Blackhawks and Redhawks and everything in between. Spend an enjoyable afternoon drilling through his photo gallery—it is stunning work—and you will seriously contemplate draining your savings account.
In addition to all those custom revolvers, Bowen Classic Arms makes many high-quality aftermarket parts, including an adjustable replacement sight aptly named “Rough Country.” Made in multiple configurations—including variations for notch style and height, for both S&W and Ruger revolvers—it was exactly what I was looking for.
The Rough Country rear sight is machined from heat-treated alloy steel and looked to be built “Hell for Stout” while remaining refined. A quick phone call had one on the way. A few days later I opened its classy, vintage-looking box and was pleased...very pleased. The Rough Country rear sight exuded quality. Exactly as it had appeared online, it is built stout and well designed—a far superior design to the factory-original sight.
Installation took only a couple minutes—it slides right into the factory cut-out and is secured by two screws—and then it was off to the range where sighting-in was simple and smooth. The windage and elevation adjustments were consistent and precise.
I am completely satisfied with the Bowen Classic Arms Rough Country rear sight. At a bit over a Benjamin, it isn’t cheap, but what quality equipment ever is? Besides, a sight you know you can trust your life to when you’re way past beyond is a bargain at the price.