By Randy Tatano
When you walk into the office of a car mechanic, you expect to see things like a rate card, a calendar from an auto parts company, and an assortment of scattered parts.
A customer does not expect to see a United States Patent hanging on the wall.
Anyone asking about it will make the rugged car mechanic’s eyes light up. Then he will proudly show off the prototypes that came from his incredibly creative mind.
He should be filthy rich, having someone else changing the oil in his Rolls Royce, as his invention would seem to be a no-brainer for the US Military.
Then again, we’re dealing with the federal government.
Stephen Murphy’s one-man repair shop sits next to his home, a couple miles north of Brewton on State Highway 31. Letters cut out of metal spelling “Murffs” shine above the two-bay garage. A ’58 Chevy in need of cosmetic restoration occupies one bay (“It runs”) while more modern cars fill up the lot outside. License plates from around the country cover one wall, while stray cats that he feeds are always hanging around. Lately he’s got a small kitten following him everywhere and trying to climb up the leg of his jeans while he’s working under the hood. He moves slowly, looking down to make sure the kitty isn’t underfoot. Murff is a classic old-school mechanic, who often out-thinks the computerized stuff in cars while coming up with money-saving common-sense solutions to simple problems.
A regular customer noticed his turn signal light housing had a little condensation in it. It still worked, but the guy figured it would short out. Rather than order a new one, Murff offered a simple solution. “Just drill a little hole in the bottom. It will let some air in and dry out.”
Common sense. Just like his invention.
In fact, it makes so much common sense you’re going to wonder why he can’t sell it.
The patent’s official government legalese description of the invention reads, “Aiming sight apparatus for devices that shoot projectiles.” In English, that means, “a thing that lets you hit what you shoot at.”
He calls it a “pyramid sight”… basically an empty triangle that attaches to a bow or rifle which enables the shooter to get a better view of the target. While traditional sights often have something in the middle, the pyramid sight does not. He’s had several professional hunters try out the gadget on bows and rifles, with glowing reviews that it “simplifies aiming.” Professional bow hunter Andrew Clark raved about it. “The first time I saw the triangle sight I had no idea what to expect. I drew the bow, closed my eyes and anchored naturally. The instant I opened my eyes I knew I was seeing the future of archery. When I settled on the target it was the feel of precision that took over, almost as if there was no way I could miss my mark. A remarkable sight without question.”
Todd White, a professional archery coach whose son and daughter have more than a dozen state championships and fifteen national podium titles, was impressed by the simplicity of the sight. “I thought it was so simple I was hesitant. I shot 50-60 yards and really grouped.” White, whose family runs the archery Youtube channel 25’ High Outdoors, surprised himself at how well it worked. “Pretty unique at how successful I was with it.”
The sight is a hit with young shooters as well. James “Puddin” Smith, whose son Sam was the ASA Shooter of the Year at the age of eleven, says his son loves the sight. Again, because it’s simple and makes so much sense. “He can see through it. It’s not covering up his target like a regular sight.” Sam looks forward to the day when he can use Murphy’s sight in competitions.
A different model comes with two triangles; one for short distance targets, the other for long. The sight also lights up in the dark, as the triangle is fluorescent. This would enable a hunter in a pitch dark blind to better focus on the target.
This low-tech version of night vision would seem to be a lifesaver for a soldier, especially one engaged in a firefight after the sun goes down. “The military is aware of this.” He was asked to develop a flip-up pyramid sight for the AR rifle used by soldiers, and holds up the semi-automatic prototype with the sights mounted on top. But now the military wants them mounted on the side. One would think the decision to purchase this game-changer would be fast-tracked since lives are at stake, but government approval for something like this apparently moves at the speed of continental drift. “Plus, there’s politics, and the military already has contracts they have to honor.” And as usual, just follow the money. If Murphy gets rich from a better product, whoever owns the inferior one that becomes obsolete will be losing money. He also worries about those in power who are simply anti-gun.
Inventing a better mousetrap is one thing. Obviously getting it sold is something else. Stephen Murphy already has the two things you absolutely need. A patent so that no one steals your idea. That and attorney fees cost $15,000. And a prototype. He has several. But since America seems to lead the world in governmental red tape, legal hurdles, and risk-averse companies, the invention is still sitting on a shelf in his office four and a half years after the patent was issued. One leading supplier of hunting gear considered the pyramid sight for a year, only to turn it down.
“They said it would ruin the market they already have,” he said.
Reading between the lines should tell you the pyramid sight is a better product. At 68, Murphy is beyond frustrated and tired of waiting; he is considering finding a manufacturer and selling the pyramid sight himself. Maybe you’ll soon see one of those TV ads in which operators are standing by.
Till then hunters and soldiers will have to deal with what’s already out there. So if Bambi seems to smile at you as he scampers into the woods because, “Your yonder was right but your towards was wrong” (right distance, wrong direction), this invention could take care of the problem.
More important, it might just save the lives of countless soldiers.