SKS Update

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was having some issues with the SKS after all the modifying I did. Basically, after replacing the gas tube with the Tapco model that comes with the tupperware foregrip, she started short cycling. For those who haven’t been following along on this project rifle from the beginning, that’s one of the problems I had after first getting her home. I struggled for quite some time before finding a vendor to buy a new gas valve that actually had them in stock. I ended up with the CNC Warrior gas valve. Not only did they have them in stock, but their price was VERY reasonable.

Anyway, that fixed the short cycling problem…until I replaced the gas tube with the Tapco. Now I’m back at square one.

One of the things that I ran across in searching for wisdom in fixing this problem the first time was to make a shim out of a paperclip or wire to tighten the seal between the gas valve and the gas tube. I didn’t do that back then because the gas valve that came with the rifle was corroded and pitted and obviously bad. I just replaced it as soon as I found a replacement.

Now, different story. I know that there is nothing wrong with the valve because it worked with the old gas tube. The problem MUST be the Tapco gas tube. This doesn’t surprise me overly because the SKS was made by so many different manufacturers and in so many different variations, it would be pretty simplistic to think that any one part is going to be completely interchangeable.

There is one guy who makes stainless steel replacements and can make them slightly oversized for just a case like this but I emailed him and haven’t heard back so he may be out of the business.

Anyway, I decided it was time to try the shim trick. For those of you who know this trick, you can stop reading now…I’m going to explain the procedure in excruciating detail.

Still with me? OK. Here goes:

First, as usual, I apologize for the crappy, out of focus pictures…someday I’ll get a better digital camera.

The first time I tried .020″ safety wire. It sort of worked but I was still getting failures to extract and stovepipes every once in a while. I’d get two or three in a 20 round magazine. Not acceptable at all.

I decided to try something a bit bigger. I have some large paperclips that measure about .040″ so I thought I’d give them a try.

I started out by bending the paperclip around the shank of a drill bit. I found that a 7/16″ bit was just about perfect. You might be tempted to use a bit exactly the same size that you need the shim to be. The problem is that, even twisting the wire or paperclip around the bit as tightly as possible, it would still spring back out a little bit as soon as tension was removed, making the end product a little larger than the bit used. So, if you think 7/16″ is a bit too small…it’s not.

I’d make three wraps so that the middle wrap would be a nice, even circle. Next clip it down so that you’ve got just one ring but leave some extra on the end for sizing.

You should end up with a very symmetrical circle of metal…all you need to do is fit it, trim it, bend it flat and install it.

Piece of cake.

Oh, don’t know where it goes on the rife? Well, let’s explore that:

First, as usual, make sure the rifle is safed, unloaded and preferably the bolt locked back (or removed). Next, remove the gas tube. This is done by rotating the lever on the front right side of the receiver up to about the 10 o’clock position. Don’t rotate it up too high or you will release the operating rod (aka “gas piston extension”) from its recess.

Then just lift the rear of the gas tube up until it comes free. You might have to jiggle the gas tube or move the lever up and down slightly to get it to release.

This is what happens if you raise the lever up too far. If you do this with the gas tube still installed it can make it harder to get the gas tube off and can make the operating rod launch itself across the room as soon as the gas tube is lifted free.

The next step is to remove the gas valve. The gas valve is the fitting that the front of the gas tube mates with when installed. It is designed to shut off the gas flow to the gas piston when launching rifle grenades.

To remove it, first press the button and rotate it so that the button is pointed is straight up. This also releases the grenade sight which I have previously removed.

There is another slot and hole to the rear. The rear hole is slightly bigger than the front one. Press the button again and slide the valve and button to the rear. Once the button is aligned with that larger rear hole, it can be pulled free of the valve. There is a spring under there, I’ve never had mine shoot out, but it’s possible so be ready for it just in case.

After the button and spring is removed, the gas valve just slides right out.

The shim is going to be fitted to the “nipple” area seen on the left edge of the valve in this photo.

The next step is to size the wire shim to fit properly, the diameter should be just slightly small (which is good to ensure it fits tightly). Clip any excess wire off the ring and bend it as flat as you can get it with pliers.

Try to get it as exact as possible to minimize any gap once the shim is installed.

After sizing and flattening the shim, pop it on the gas valve and you’re ready to put it back together.

Installation is the opposite of removal.

The gas tube should slide right over the shim, however, it will probably be a little harder to get the front pushed down in place with the shim in. One side effect of this is that the gas tube will be much more stable after installation so if you have any optics on your gas tube (I wouldn’t do it, but I’ve seen it done) this should reduce the size of your patterns…er…groups.

While I was at it, I took a shot of the Williams Firesight I have on the front. Nice sight picture huh?

I was holding the camera a little crooked so it looks a little weird.

As you can see, I took Nate’s advice and got rid of the picatinny rail on the top of the foregrip. I like it much better that way.

Hopefully, the rifle range will be open the next time I go and I can give you a range report on the whole project. I took it to the indoor, 25 yard range that I’m a member of yesterday just to function test it. I only did 2 mags but she burned through 40 rounds without a hiccup. I’m confident that this solved the problem.

If I ever hear back from the stainless steel gas valve guy, I’ll buy one of those, try it out and report back, but this seems to be a good fix for this problem if he’s decided to stop making them.

Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 4

This should be the final episode of Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon for a while. There may be more mods to come in the future, but this is going to be it at least for a little while.

To recap everything we’ve done so far:

In the previous incarnation of my blog, we removed the stock sights and installed a Williams firesight front sight and a Tech Sights TS-200 rear aperture sight.

In Pimp My Rifle, we added a Choate drill and tap scope mount. Lo-profile scope rings and a Leapers 6×32 mil-dot scope. We also removed the front night sight.

In SKS Muzzle Brake, we removed the grenade launcher and grenade sight and installed a Richard Miller 6 port screw on muzzle brake.

In SKS Legal Issues, we explored federal law and the legal ramifications of some of these mods.

In Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon, we removed the bayonet and lug and removed the extraneous grenade launcher baubles from the front of the sight base.

In Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 2, we disassembled the trigger group, tuned the trigger a little bit and added an ambidextrous safety.

And finally, in Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 3, we modified the SKS bolt to accept a removable magazine with the bolt closed.

While waiting for the arrival of the Tapco T-6 stock that I had ordered, I completed many of the mods listed above. There was one more task that needed to be accomplished before I could fully install the new stock, however. I needed to remove the upper handguard from the gas tube.

I had already been warned that this was not an easy task (Nate kindly reminded me in the comments again) so I already knew that this was not going to be easy.

First I doused the upper handguard retainer pin with penetrating oil and let it sit for 48 hours, repeating the application of oil occasionally. Then I tried driving the pin out with a pin punch and hammer.

And tried.

And tried.

And tried some more.

No joy. That thing wouldn’t budge.

Next, I decided that I wasn’t going to get the pin out without damaging it. I went to Numrich Gun Parts and ordered a new pin (which I still have not received to date, by the way…supposedly, it is in the mail). Then I used my handy-dandy drill press to drill about 1/8 in off of each end of the pin to get rid of any peened areas or lips that might be causing the problem.

Then I went back to the pin punch and hammer and pounded…and pounded…and pounded…and pounded.

It still wouldn’t budge.

At this point, I must admit to some very ungunsmithlike behavior: I got pissed. I lost all patience and just decided to drill the damn thing out. In my haste to get it out, I didn’t get it aligned in the drill press properly and basically ruined the gas tube by drilling the hole crooked.

I ended up with a useless gas tube with an elongated hole and pieces of that $%@ @^&*#@ pin still in it.

But I did get the upper handguard off.

OK. Plan “B”. I needed something from David’s Collectibles already and they also sell Tapco’s Yugo Gas tube with the composite upper handguard already installed so I ordered them.

The interesting thing is that I ordered the gas tube/upper handguard assembly from David’s a full two days after ordering the stock from Tapco, but I got them both on the same day. Good job David’s Collectibles.

The moral to this story is, if you get pissed, stop working. Take a breather. Come back to it later or your anger and impatience may just hit you in the wallet.

Back on track now, T-6 stock in hand and Gas Tube assembly still on the way. let’s see what this is going to take.

I was really expecting to have to fit the stock to some degree. I wasn’t expecting a “drop in” fit.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I did have to pull the walls of the stock apart a little because the reciever fits in a little tightly, but once I figured that out, the barrelled receiver popped right into the main part of the stock. No problems.

I knew already that I was going to have to do some fitting to get the Choate scope mount to fit but before it was installed, the barrelled receiver went right in.

I held the scope mount in the right area with some long pin punches through the mounting holes and marked the stock to identify the area that needed to be relieved.

I clamped the stock in my padded vise and started out with the rotary tool. It became rapidly apparent that the rotary tool wasn’t going to work. Basically, the high speed tool was melting the composite material more than grinding it and was just making a mess.

I quickly went to the manual file method.

After roughing the recess in, I wanted to make sure I got the finished product as straight as possible. I clamped a metal rule to the stock along my line and then finished the task off with jewelers files.

I then sanded any remaining roughness off with fine emery cloth and cleaned with a cloth and warm water.

There were also some casting marks and artifacts that I filed or sanded off but, for the most part, the stock was fairly clean out of the box.

Next, I reinstalled the Choate scope mount onto the receiver.

Put the barrelled receiver back into the stock,

and secured it by installing the trigger group.

The next part to go on is the “Saw” style pistol grip. The pistol grip is hollow and has a “door” in the butt end. The mount bolt goes through the inside of the grip into the bottom of the stock.

The only disadvantage to this setup is that the pistol grip will have to be taken off to remove the trigger group when disassembling the rifle.

After tightening, the grip is very secure and stable. I just hope that it doesn’t loosen up with repeated removal. I’ll just have to make sure not to disassemble the rifle any more often than necessary.

Next was installing the adjustable buttstock.

It was pretty straightforward. It did fit tightly and required a little tapping to get it completely seated.

Also, be sure to put the nuts on the side with the “nut shaped” holes and tap the nuts all the way to the bottom of the holes or the screws will be too short to reach them.

Next, bolt and bolt carrier.

Then the recoil spring/guide and the receiver cover.

Uh oh.

The Tech Sight TS-200 didn’t quite fit.

I needed to relieve some material from the rear of the stock.

Time to take it all apart again.

I used my standard procedure, start out with a large file, work my way down to jewelers files, then emory cloth. If it works, stick with it.

Put it all back together and VIOLA!. Tech Sight installed successfully.

While I was working on the rest of the stock, the Fedex guy showed up and delivered the Gas tube assembly from David’s. Yea!

The tube is meant to be fitted to the particular rifle. The instructions said to file down the top of the receiver side of the tube “maintaining this angle” with a vague drawing. OK. Here Goes.

After filing and trying it and filing and trying it and filing and trying it and filing and trying it…it seemed to me that I was getting a bit too close to the top of the gas piston hole and it still wasn’t very close to fitting.

I didn’t want to file down so far that I cut into the gas piston hole.

I looked it over to see if there may be a problem.

There were four little nubs on the bottom of the handguard that made it stand up just slightly higher than the stock wooden handguard.

They are hard to see in the picture so I circled them.

I wonder if I can file down the rear ones enough to lower the gas tube to the point where it will fit without having to file any more metal off?

No guts no glory.

Ahh. Sweet Success.

The only things that I have left to do are buy a bunch of spare mags and ammo, add a tactical light and possibly vertical foregrip and I’m thinking about cutting the barrel off about an an inch and a half forward of the front sight to shorten her up a bit. I may re-thread and reinstall the muzzle brake just because I hate for a perfectly good $35 part to go to waste…but I may exchew that for weight and length purposes. I haven’t decided yet.

I need to do a little research and see what kind of effect losing three inches or so off the barrel will have on muzzle velocity.

Range report upcoming at my earliest convenience.

Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 3

In Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon, we discussed removing the bayonet and mount and cleaning up the front sight. In Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 2, we covered adding an ambidextrous safety to the trigger group. In this episode of Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon, we are going to modify the SKS bolt to allow installation of a removable magazine with the bolt closed.

This is a pretty easy mod and so, should be a fairly short post.

First, the background: The standard SKS comes with a fixed box magazine. That magazine can be removed and a removable “duckbill” magazine can be used in its place, however there is one disadvantage. Many of the removable magazines produced do not operate the Bolt Hold Open latch and so the bolt does not lock open after the last shot.

The bolt has two “rails” in the bottom that lock into the “feed lips” of the magazine when forward. Those rails prevent the empty magazine from being removed or a new magazine from being installed with the bolt closed. That means that, without this mod, if the magazine being used doesn’t operate the bolt hold-open latch, either through design or malfunction, the shooter has to manually hold the bolt back while operating the magazine cover latch and removing the old and installing the new mag. This obviously is not convenient and increases magazine change time.

Basically, remove and disassemble the bolt. The bolt is easy to disassemble, simply drive out the firing pin retainer, remove the firing pin and remove the extractor and spring.

The metal that needs to be removed is easy to identify. there is a recessed portion in the side above the “lip” that needs to be removed. Just remove the “lip” so that the bottom of the bolt matches the recessed portions on each side.

I used a rotary tool with a cutting wheel to do the rough work and then finished off with jewelers files and then Emory Cloth Sand Paper.

One side done.

Both sides done.

There, that was easy, now wasn’t it?

This mod doesn’t seem to affect the operation of the rifle at all, even with the stock fixed box mag in place.

It does seem to be pretty picky about what mags it will work with.

The consensus seems to be that the Tapco 20Rd composite mags are the best.

I would definitely recommend staying away from the “pro-mag” composite mags. They make 10Rd and 30Rd variations. The 30Rd mag that I bought doesn’t feed worth a darn. The follower tends to hang up in the body and not push the remaining rounds up.

I also have a metal 30Rd mag that feeds flawlessly, but won’t go on with the bolt closed even after the mod. The rear of the mag isn’t quite high enough. When installing with the bolt closed, the top round pushes against the bottom of the bolt, because the mag has to go in nose first, the nose of the bullet hits first. With the metal mag, when this happens, in stead of the top round pushing the rest down, the rear of the cartridge pushes up, clears the back of the mag and then pushes back, hanging up and preventing the rounds beneath the top one from being depressed.

The bottom line is that I can’t guarantee that this mod will work perfectly with any removable mag but the Tapco 20Rd mags seem to work the most consistently.

Up next: Installing the Tapco T6 adjustable, pistol grip stock.

Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon 2

In our last episode, Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon, we removed some extraneous appendages from our trusty SKS in preparation for creating the perfect (for me) homeland defense rifle.

This time, we are going to perform the requisite southpaw surgery and add an ambidextrous safety obtained from Paul’s Guns, aka The SKS Man.

I initially thought that it would be a simple operation…remove the old safety lever, install the new one. Au Contraire Mon Ami…That would just be too easy now wouldn’t it (and not nearly as much fun).

After drifting out the pin and removing the old safety, I realized that the trigger guard has a small corner of metal on the port side that doesn’t exist on the starboard. In order for the double-sided ambidextrous safety to fit, we would obviously need to perform an extratriggerguardmetalectomy.

I decided that the best bet to do this correctly would be to completely disassemble the trigger group.

I didn’t take a bunch of pix of disassembly because that’s the easy part. I did take step by step pix of reassembly which you will see below.

(Note: the trigger spring had already been removed before taking this picture so the arrow is indicating where it SHOULD be…use your imagination)

Basically, I already had the safety catch pin and safety catch out. I then removed the trigger spring which is the small spring between the disconnector and the trigger bar. I drifted out the trigger bar pin and pulled the trigger bar, trigger and safety spring out as a unit. Then I drifted out the Disconnector pin which released the tension on the hammer spring and enabled me to pull the hammer and hammer spring out. The disconnector came out next and then the rebound disconnector comes out by pinching it together inside the trigger housing and pulling it out. I didn’t remove the latch stop pin, magazine cover latch , latch/sear spring or sear at this point. I’ll get to that later.

Incidentally, this was NOT the best order for disassembling the trigger group. It was the order I used because…well, I just didn’t know any better at the time. A much more logical order for removal would be: Hammer, hammer strut and hammer spring as a unit; disconnector and trigger spring; rebound disconnector; trigger bar, trigger and safety spring as a unit; safety catch; latch stop pin; magazine cover latch; sear/latch spring; sear.

After disassembly, I put the trigger housing in my padded vise and started filing, grinding and shaving metal.

I started out with a large file to knock the big chunks off, then I went to the rotary tool with a grinding stone to get it down to the fine work. I finished off with jewelers files and then emory cloth sandpaper of increasingly fine grit to get to the final product.

Three coats of cold blue later and I was satisfied that I’d gotten it as clean and uniform as I was going to.

I started to just put it back together, but I decided, since I had it pretty much apart already, I’d try to smooth the trigger up a little. I was pretty sure that most of the “gravely” feeling in the trigger was a result of a worn sear and the portion of the hammer that contacts same. I decided that I didn’t want to just drive the latch stop pin out and risk firing the latch and latch/sear spring across my workspace. I used a “C” clamp to hold the magazine cover latch away from the latch stop pin, then drove the pin out and released the clamp gently. That worked out very well.

After removing the latch stop pin, latch and spring, the sear slides off its rails and out the front of the trigger housing. The contact points on the sear, hammer and rebound disconnector are pretty easy to spot. I didn’t want to take too much off for fear of making the rifle unsafe so I gently polished the contact points with a stone. I went very slowly and made sure to maintain the angles of the contact points. Now that all is said and done, the trigger is noticeably smoother but still not as clean as I’d like. If and when I ever take the trigger apart again, I’ll work on it some more.

Now for the fun part: Putting it all back together.

First, I put the sear back in on its rails.

Then the sear/latch spring and latch.


Then I used the clamp to pull the latch out of the way of the holes and reinstalled the latch stop pin

So far so good.

Next was the trigger, trigger bar, safety catch spring assembly. This took some trial and error to get in and was probably the most difficult part of the whole thing. The problem is that the small “v” shape in the safety spring must be in exactly the right place for the trigger bar pin to go through it as it is installed. That means that you have to use one hand to hold the trigger bar in place and keep the holes aligned, one hand to drive the pin in and one hand to hold the safety spring in the correct position. You can see the dilemma.

Basically, the method that ultimately worked for me: Get the pin started into the trigger housing so that it just barely protrudes through the inside of the hole. Put the trigger/trigger bar/safety spring assembly into the housing, move the trigger bar around until the mount hole catches on the small bit of pin that is protruding…this tells you that it is lined up with the pin, drive the pin in just enough to keep the trigger bar from being able to fall back out. It will probably be cocked at this point and you may have to put some sideways pressure on the trigger to get it to straighten out. I then used a small punch to push the safety spring into the right place so that the “v” in it was passing under the pin, then used the punch to hold the safety spring in place and put pressure on the trigger bar to keep it straight while driving the pin the rest of the way in.

If it sounds complicated and difficult…you have no idea until you do it yourself. Not fun…but doable.

The next step took a little playing to find the best method as well. After the safety spring is installed, it is very much in the way of installing the safety (makes sense since the whole point in the spring is to put pressure on the safety).

What worked for me involved the punch again.

I got the safety positioned in approximately the right place but couldn’t overcome the spring pressure enough to get the holes lined up using just my fingers.

To alleviate this problem I inserted the punch into the trigger housing and used it as a lever to pry the safety spring up. This gave me just enough play to get the holes lined up and install the safety catch pin.

This wasn’t much easier than installing the trigger bar/trigger/safety spring and would have been much easier with the third hand that I needed in the previous step as well.

If anyone knows of an easier method for performing these two tasks PLEASE let us all know. You’ll be making the world a better place.

There you have it. Ambidextrous safety…one each.

Next to go in is the rebound disconnector.

Basically, just squeeze it together to fit it down into the trigger housing.

Line it up and pop the trunions into the holes in the housing. Simple.

Next is the disconnector. I found it was easiest to install the trigger spring at the same time as the disconnector.

The disconnector goes down into the slot formed by the two ears of the rebound disconnector and the slot in the sear. It is held in by the pin that goes through the uppermost “ears” on the trigger housing.

I started the pin, laid the disconnector in its slot, installed the trigger spring, used one hand to hold the disconnector in place, compressing the trigger spring and lining up the holes, and drove the pin the rest of the way through. Not nearly as difficult as installing the trigger assembly or safety, but does take some creative handling to get the spring compressed and everything lined up at once.

Finally, the hammer, hammer strut and spring.

This was actually much easier than I thought it was going to be. The designer conveniently left slots in the trigger housing into which the hammer trunnions slide. That way there is no need to drive a pin in while trying to compress the very heavy hammer spring.

The method I used worked very well. placed a block of wood flat against my considerable gut. I placed the rear of the trigger assembly against the wood. I put the hammer spring on the hammer strut, inserted the pointy end of the hammer strut through the holes in the disconnector and hammer bar, pulled the hammer toward my gut to compress the spring and slid the hammer down until the trunnions slid into the slots in the trigger housing. This method was very effective.

VIOLA! One completely assembled, “tuned” trigger group with Ambidextrous safety.

For our next installment: modifying the bolt to enable installation/removal of removable mags with the bolt closed.

Stay tuned boys and girls!!!

Evolution of a Homeland Defense Weapon

As most of you probably know, I’ve been working on transforming a beater SKS into a viable Homeland Defense Weapon (otherwise known as an Evil Black Rifle, or EBR).

I chose this route for a couple of reasons: First, I bought an SKS at a gun show for $109…a price I couldn’t pass up for a pretty good looking rifle with a decent bore. However, after getting it cleaned up and to the range for the first time, I realized that I had nothing more than a really fancy bolt action rifle. The action wouldn’t cycle because of problems with the gas system. After futzing around and engaging in a very steep learning curve, I finally got her operating correctly. The thing is, I had the “bug”. I found that I really enjoyed tinkering and decided to try my hand at some more interesting things than just getting her to work.

Now that I had changed some major components, this particular rifle didn’t have any particular collector value and it wasn’t much of a collector to begin with. So I figured it was as good a candidate as any for “bubba-ing” up (bubbaizing? bubbination? Anyway…)

For the record. If you want an economy high cap, semi-auto EBR…this is not the most economical way. By the time all is said and done, I could easily have purchased a WASR or other AK clone for the money I’ve invested…not to mention the hourly rate for my time. I’m sure I have also evoked the ire of many traditionalist rifle collectors who will undoubtedly exclaim: “What’d you wanna go and mess up a perfectly good C&R rifle like that???”

Well, I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I’m learning more and more about gunsmithing, and I did it because I enjoy tinkering. The one thing that I decidedly DIDN’T do it for is to save money so, as I said, if you are looking for a low budget EBR…this isn’t the way to do it. Save your pennies and buy an AK clone. With that said: on with the show:

The first thing I did was buy the Williams Firesight system. I was not happy with the rear sight but I do like the front fiber optic sight. I then purchased and installed the Tech Sight TS-200 rear sight which worked out much better. Unfortunately, I lost the original iteration of this blog and all backups (due to my own stupidity) and can’t refer back to those posts.

I did mention more detail about the Williams and Tech Sights in THIS POST where I describe the next phase of the transformation: installing a barrel clamp tri-rail mount, a Choate Machine and Tool drill and tap scope mount and leapers 6×32 scope. I also removed the front night sight during that phase.

The NEXT STEP was removing the grenade launcher and grenade sight and installing a Richard Miller threaded muzzle brake.

I had looked into the legal ramifications of these mods before beginning, but, in response to a question on a forum that I fequent, I LOOKED A BIT DEEPER and realized that there were some ramifications that I had not considered fully. I decided that I needed to completely finish my conversion in order to stay within the faint squiggly lines of the law.

With that in mind I ordered the parts I needed for the remainder of my escapade.

While waiting for my orders to arrive I decided to start on some of the modifying that I didn’t need the parts for.

First, I decided that the bayonet was not really very practical for what I had in mind…also it can bring into question the legality of the mods. With those two factors in mind, I decided to get rid of it.

It was a tough decision to make and I went back and forth about it for a few days before I made up my mind. I’m still a little torn about it, but once I make a decision, I rarely look back.

The bayonet itself is easy to remove, you just unscrew the retaining screw and the bayonet comes off the lug; however, I didn’t want that funky lug hanging off the bottom of the sight…and that required a bit more effort.

I started out using a hacksaw to cut the major portion off leaving a little metal “slop”. I’d rather take off too little and just have to file more than take off too much and butcher it.

Next, I used my dremel tool and files to start grinding off the extra metal.

After working on it for awhile, I realized I really didn’t like all the extra do-dads on the front of the sight that were related to the grenade launcher. What the heck. While I’m in the sawing and filing mode…I don’t like them…Off they come!

The only problem is, to cut the grenade launcher section off, the sight would have to come off the barrel. This looked to be interesting.

I started out looking around on the internet for ideas (thank God for Algore). Removing the front sight didn’t seem like a common occurrence but it had been accomplished by a few enterprising SKS bubbas. The most common method was using a shop press…which I don’t have. Some people just talked about tapping it off with a mallet and punch or wooden dowel. I wasn’t too sure about that method so I put my thinking cap on. I don’t have a shop press, but I do have some automotive tools designed for similar tasks. How about a Gear Puller?

First, I punched out the pins locking the sight in place. Then I took the muzzle brake off and taped the barrel threads to protect them. I scribed a mark on the barrel and rear of the sight for alignment when I put it back on.

I used a piece of flat steel (actually, an old wood chisel) to protect the muzzle from the center screw of the puller.

I hooked the jaws around the first “ring” section of the grenade launcher hardware and…wow, this thing is on there! …pull…harder…wow, this thing is REALLY on there.

Well, I guess that’s what God made breaker bars for huh?

The miracle of leverage.

Pop. Off it came.

Time to break out the hacksaw again.

And there you have it.

After cleaning it up (and finally getting that stupid grenade launcher sight mount off) I thought it looked pretty good and much more neat.

I thought about grinding off the blocky back portions with the (now unused) mount holes but I’d had about enough cutting and grinding and I was a bit afraid that I’d mess the sight up beyond repair trying to clean up the butchery that removing that section would require.

I put a couple of coats of cold blue on the barrel and sight before reassembling, but I knew putting it back together would mar the blueing so I didn’t worry about getting it perfect.

I used an old piece of pipe I had laying around that happened to be the exact right size (sometimes being a packrat can be a blessing) to drive the sight back onto the barrel.

Lined up my witness marks, checked the hole alignment and reinstalled the pin.

I ended up putting three more coats of cold blue on after getting the sight back together but the finished product looks pretty good and I like the cleaner lines much better than with all those extraneous baubles hanging off of it.

Coming up next time:

Installing an Ambidextrous safety.

Stay tuned.

SKS Legal Issues

I’ve been getting a lot of search hits lately regarding SKS Muzzle Brakes, Grenade Launchers, Aftermarket stocks etc. These are apparently in reference to my posts about pimping my SKS.

I recently ran across Survivor’s SKS Boards

While there, someone asked about an SKS they were purchasing from a dealer. The dealer was insisting that they were selling the SKS as a Curio and Relic but it had an aftermarket T-6 stock. The prospective purchaser was inquiring about the legality of the transaction.

There were many assertions about the applicable laws bandied about. Some of them made sense, some of them did not. In order to help clear the air somewhat, I did some research. Not only did I find that some of the assertions were incorrect, but that I had an inaccurate understanding of the law myself. I feel this is important so I am posting my findings here as well:

First of all…legal disclaimers: I am not a lawyer. This is simply my reading and interpretation of the laws, ATF Regulations, rulings and decisions that I have available to me. Nothing I put out is the offering of legal advice, I am not attempting to practice law in any way shape or form. I do not give advice, legal or otherwise, I only provide the basic information and my interpretation of it, do with it as you will at your own risk. Secondly, this discussion only addresses Federal Firearms Laws, not State or Local. Check your State and Local laws as well as Federal before doing anything.

Now that that’s out of the way.

Some people seem to have a “removable magazine will send you to prison” fetish regarding the SKS. I’ve also seen some comments that indicate the Grenade Launcher on a Yugo SKS is problematic.

Although there is some truth to those contentions, they aren’t as clear cut as those people seem to think.

First of all. the problem is not necessarily encoded in the law itself. Since the timely death of the scary looking firearms ban in 2004, there is no prohibition against “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” or “grenade launchers” in and of themselves.

Where those come into play is in the “sporting purpose test” espoused by the ATF which I will address momentarily.

For purposes of this discussion, unless otherwise specified, when I refer to a “Section” of the law, I am referring to a Section of Title 18, US Code, Chapter 44.

Section 925 states:

“(d)The Attorney General shall authorize a firearm or ammunition to be imported or brought into the United States or any possession thereof if the firearm or ammunition-…

(3)is of a type that does not fall within the definition of a firearm as defined in section 5845(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and is generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes, excluding surplus military firearms…

(e)Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the Attorney General shall authorize the importation by any licensed importer, of the following:

(1)All rifles and shotguns listed as curios or relics by the Attorney General pursuant to section 921(a)(13), and

(2) All handguns listed as curios or relics by the attorney General pursuant to section 921(a)(13), provided that such handguns are generally recognized as partucularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

Basically, the Attorney General MAY approve the importation of surplus military firearms or firearms not suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purpose, but MUST approve the firearms set forth in this section, and MUST approve those recognized as Curios or Relics.

Currently, the ATF (under delegated authority of the Attorney General) authorizes for importation firearms that meet the “sporting purpose” test. This test is derived from a study conducted in 1989 which resulted in the “1989 Report” http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/wbardwel/public/nfalist/atf_1989_report.txt

The criteria chosen by the ATF for the “sporting purpose” test comes directly from this report. If a semi-automatic rifle has ANY of the following features, it is considered to have failed the “sporting purpose” test:

Folding/Telescoping Stocks
Pistol Grips
Bayonet or ability to attach a bayonet (ie lug or mount)
Flash Suppressors
Bipods
Grenade launchers
Night Sights

A detachable magazine is also listed by the report but is not (to my knowledge) included in the sporting purpose test because many sporting rifles have detachable magazines.

Therefore, since an SKS exibits some of these characteristics, it is banned from importation under section 925(d)(3). However, subsection (e)(1) of the same section allows for its importation because of its current designation as a Curio and Relic (the 20th item down on this list: http://www.atf.treas.gov/firearms/curios/0301to0505update.htm).

This section, by itself, only applies to importation, once it is in the country, Section 925 no longer applies.

HOWEVER, this section is referred to in Section 922(r) which states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) of this chapter as not being particularly suitable or readily adaptable to sporting purposes except that this subsection shall not apply to… “[emphasis added] (the exceptions are not germaine to this discussion)

Current ATF rulings hold that any modification of a military surplus C&R firearm from its “original military configuration” voids its status as a C&R firearm. Current ATF rulings also indicate that virtually ANY modification to a firearm can be construed as “assembly” of a new firearm.

Since the Yugo SKS exibits two of the features (three if your model has the flip-up night sights) ANY modification voiding its C&R status could constitute “assembling from imported parts” a rifle “identical” to one banned from importation under section 925(d)(3). In other words modifying it IN ANY WAY may be construed as a violation of Section 922(r).

Removable magazines are not any more egregious than replacing the stock, even if the new stock does not have a pistol grip and is not folding or telescoping. The newly furnished SKS is no longer a C&R, it has a grenade launcher, a bayonet, and possibly night sights; therefore, it may be considered “identical” to a firearm banned from importation under section 925(d)(3); therefore, when you “assembled” it, you may have violated section 922(r).

So, how do we modify our rifles and stay legal?

The obvious answer is to remove all items that make it “identical to any rifle or shotgun banned from importation under section 925(d)(3)…” That means, remove the grenade launcher, remove the bayonet AND MOUNT, and remove the night sights if it has them. Also, avoid bipods and folding or collapsible stocks as they instantly turn your modified SKS back into an illegal model…unless you opt for playing the “ten or less game”.

The ten or less game is enshrined in 27 CFR, Chapter II, part 478.39:

“(a)No person shall assemble a semi-automatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purpose.”

(c) For purposes of this section the term imported parts are:

(1) Frames, receivers, Receiver castings, forgings or stampings
(2) Barrels
(3) Barrel Extensions
(4) Mounting Blocks (trunions)
(5) Muzzle Attachments
(6) Bolts
(7) Bolt Carriers
(8) Operating Rods
(9) Gas Pistons
(10) Trigger Housings
(11) Triggers
(12) Hammers
(13) Sears
(14) Disconnectors
(15) Buttstocks
(16) Pistol Grips
(17) Forearms, Handguards
(18) Magazine Bodies
(19) Followers
(20) Floorplates

The point is, if your newly “assembled”, non C&R Yugo SKS is comprised of ten or less of the listed imported parts, is no longer considered to have been “assembled from imported parts” but is considered of US manufacture. If you can successfully play the ten or less game, your rifle is Home grown and you can “Bubba” it to your heart’s content…including installing a removable magazine, bipod, pistol grip etc.

In keeping with playing the “ten or less game” we’ll analyze which parts pertain to the SKS and what we can do to get under the magic number.

The SKS contains the following parts from the list:

1) Receiver. 2) Barrel. 3) Bolt. 4) Bolt Carrier. 5) Operating Rod (gas piston extension). 6) Gas Piston. 7) Trigger Housing. 8) Trigger. 9) Hammer. 10) Sear. 11)Disconnector (some contend that there are actually two disconnectors so, to be safe, this is counted as #12 as well). 13) Buttstocks. 14) Forearm/handguard. 15) Magazine Body. 16) Follower. 17) Muzzle Attachment (Yugo only…grenade launcher).

The only US manufacture replacement parts currently made are the Operating Rod and Gas Piston, the Buttstock and Forearm/handguard, Muzzle attachments (muzzle brake to replace the Yugo grenade launcher), and removable magazines. All of these parts can be obtained from TAPCO.

That leaves us with an “imported” parts count of:

1) Receiver. 2) Barrel. 3) Bolt. 4) Bolt Carrier. 5) Trigger Housing. 6) Trigger. 7)Hammer. 8) Sear. 9) Disconnector. 10) Second (disputed) Disconnector.

The only problem with this is the fear that some enterprising young ATF agent may interpret the Bayonet and mount as a “Muzzle Attachment” so to be truly safe, the bayonet should be removed and the mount ground or cut off.

I’ve been asking around to see if any of the machine shops that make gun parts might be interested in manufacturing a US made trigger, hammer and/or trigger housing for compliance purposes but have had no takers so far. If enough SKS owners start asking for these parts, I’m sure someone somewhere could be convinced that it would be worth the effort. The lower the “imported” parts count, the less chance that the ATF could creatively interpret some other feature as a counted “imported” part. I’m sure some would like to leave the original fixed box magazine in place versus using duckbill mags of suspect quality and effectiveness which is another reason to come up with more US made compliance parts.

Now, after clarifying all that, I get to the part where I answer the original question. The law precludes importation of banned rifles and it precludes assembly of rifles that would be “identical” to those banned. It says nothing about possessing them, and it says nothing about selling them. That means that it is perfectly legal to own or sell one AS LONG AS YOU WEREN’T THE IMPORTER OR ASSEMBLER…and…AS LONG AS YOU DON’T TRY TO SELL A MODIFIED SKS AS A C&R.

In other words, in answer to the original question, the dealer trying to sell an SKS with an aftermarket stock as a C&R is probably breaking the law. The purchaser should not be as long as they can document the fact that they purchased the rifle modified and didn’t “assemble” it themselves with more than ten of the listed imported parts.

In summary: The best bet is to leave your SKS stock. If you purchase a modified SKS, make sure the bill of sale or receipt clearly identifies it as a non C&R, modified rifle. If you feel you must modify it (or purchased it modified but can’t prove that you didn’t do it yourself), to ensure that you stay legal, you can either remove all of the features that make it fail the sporting purpose test (grenade launcher, night sights, bayonet and lug), OR replace enough parts with US manufacture parts to get below the magic number of ten “imported” parts.

With all that said. I would point out that I’ve never heard of anyone being charged with owning an illegally modified SKS (and I see them at the range all the time) so take all this with a grain of salt. If you want to be absolutely sure that you are staying within the letter of the law, hopefully this will help you do so.

If any of the actual lawyers out there (or anyone else for that matter) finds any problems with my analysis, logic or interpretation, or knows of any case law that might shed more light on this issue, PLEASE let us know about it in the comments.

SKS Whys and Wherefores

Another one of Straightarrow’s comments prompted a post. I started to reply in the comments section, but it rapidly got too long so, here goes:

I have a Russian SKS…I don’t notice much muzzle climb, it’s a pretty soft shooter with the 7.62x 39mm ammo.

I agree, the muzzle brake is more cosmetic than anything, however, the surplusrifle.com review of the brake that I got was pretty glowing in it’s praise. Heck, if I can get the muzzle flip down to effectively zero, why not? Good for staying on target in rapid fire if nothing else. I wouldn’t have even thought about it, however, had my SKS not already had the threaded barrel…it’s just not worth the effort.

However, I have added dust cover with scope rails and a 4 x 32 scope.

I thought about that. It is a better solution if you want your SKS to be returnable to original condition. I’m not so worried about this one…it was a bargain basement model, not necessarily a collector. The deciding factor for me was this little test: take the receiver cover off and remove the recoil spring, then replace the receiver cover without the spring and see how stable the cover is (or, more accurately, how unstable it is). What makes the receiver cover FEEL stable normally is the spring tension placed on it by the recoil spring. The problem is that the forces involved when firing the rifle are more than enough to overcome that apparent stability and make the receiver cover move around when firing. If it doesn’t return back to exactly the same position after every shot (figure the odds) any sighting system mounted to it is going to be inherently inaccurate. The gas tube mounting systems have the same problem, the gas tube just isn’t stable enough.

I know that some of the receiver covers with scope mounts have set screws attached that are designed to be tightened against the receiver to alleviate this problem but I still seriously doubt that they can be tightned enough to completely eliminate any movement under firing conditions without actually gouging divots into the receiver metal.

The first aftermarket sighting system I tried was the Williams Firesight system. I ended up leaving the front fiberoptic sight in place (I’ve talked about the drawbacks to that in a previous post) but the rear “peep” sight, even when mounted in the original sight’s mounting block, would move laterally just a little bit. This may have been because the Williams sight was developed with the Russian SKS in mind and mine is a Yugo, but I felt that if the problem existed with the Williams sight, it would probably be an issue with any sighting system that is designed to use the original sight mount.

These considerations resulted in my choices: Tech Sights TS-200 rear aperture sight and Choate Machine and Tool drill and tap scope mount. Both mount directly to the receiver and are rock solid. My guess would be that your lack of accuracy with a scope has more to do with an inherently unstable mount than with any deficiency in skill on your part.

I am a little over six feet tall and therefore need a longer length of pull than the shorter Russians in heavy winter coats this carbine was designed for.

I’m…not that tall. I find the length of pull to be pretty well suited for me. One of the reasons I’m going to go with Tapco’s T-6 replacement stock is the adjustable buttstock which will allow me to set the pull perfectly for my…um…vertical challenges.

Anyway, thanks again for all the great comments.

Be looking for my post on the Prosecute Bloomberg rally either later today or tomorrow.

SKS Muzzle Brake

As I mentioned in my previous Post about adding a drill and tap Choat scope mount and leapers scope to my SKS, I am still working on making her a stereotypical “evil” black rifle.

For the next step in my mod, I wanted to get rid of the grenade launcher, which I consider to be almost as useful as an icemaker in an igloo. The only down side is that just removing the launcher would leave me with a threaded end on the barrel which just wouldn’t look cool enough. I could just lop off the threaded section and re-crown…but I decided to replace the launcher with one of the after market muzzle brakes that can be found through the wonderful world of Algore’s Internet.

There are several models of pin on brakes designed for the AK/SKS without a grenade launcher, but heck, I already have a perfectly good threaded barrel, why not a model designed to screw right on?

First I looked at Tapco’s offering. The price is right and I’ve always been pleased with Tapco’s products, but I thought that it looks too much like the original grenade launcher. I wanted my baby to stand out in a crowd.

Surplusrifle.com (which recently came under new management) lead me to Richard Miller’s products . I decided to go with the 9 port model ($37.95 includes shipping) based upon surplusrifle.com’s review.

I was absolutely thrilled with the response I received from Mr. Miller. I emailed him and asked him for ordering details, he gave me the information needed to pay through Paypal (he doesn’t accept credit card payments but in the age of Paypal, that isn’t much of a hardship) and he had my brake shipped the day I paid. He sent it UPS priority and I had it in my hot little hands two days later.

Now THAT’S service.

Now the fun part: Removing the grenade launcher and sight and installing the muzzle brake.

Here is a before pic.

I started out by (as always) ensuring she was unloaded and safe. Then I completely disassembled including removing the Bayonet. I could have left that on, but I wanted to see what it looked like with it off.

The next step was to remove the Grenade launcher. After having read the accounts of other people who have accomplished this feat, I knew that it involved two steps. The launcher is threaded on tightly and then pinned in place. First one must remove the pin, then break the launcher loose in the threads and unscrew it. My impression was that actually breaking the grenade launcher loose to unscrew it would be the hard part.

Silly me.

First I broke my pin punch. So I tried using the tip that I had just broken off and holding it with a pair of needle nose pliers, It broke into three or four pieces. Then I tried various and sundry impromptu punches, pieces of drill bits, nails, etc…breaking or bending each one in turn beyond use. Oh, and the pin never budged. I finally had to drill the pin out with my drill press. I was terrified that I would get the angle a little off and bung up the barrel and/or threads. I was very careful, drilled a little and hammered a little and drilled a little and hammered a little. After about an hour and a half of futzing with it, I finally got the verdamt pin out.

Now I was concerned…that was supposed to have been the EASY part.

Oh well, press on. I clamped the receiver into my padded vice and heated the launcher (not the barrel) with a propane torch. I only heated for a couple of minutes. I wanted to warm the metal of the launcher enough to make it expand just enough to get it to break loose, but figured that if I heated too much, the barrel would also get hot and expand and the heating would be for naught.

Imagine my surprise when cosmoline started seeping out of the joint and threads where the grenade launcher was attached. It seems that, no matter how well I THOUGHT I cleaned her, I still missed some nooks and crannies.

After heating for a couple minutes, I stood on a step stool to get above the project. I decided to use a pipe wrench to break the launcher loose, I wasn’t planning on putting her back to original configuration at any time so I decided marring the launcher wasn’t a consideration. I wanted to get above the rifle so I could press down on the barrel at the same time as pulling up with the wrench. I figured that would prevent me from putting too much lateral force on the barrel and bending it.

Based upon the other accounts I had read about the difficulty in getting the launcher to break loose, I steeled myself for a battle of epic proportions. I established firm grips on both the barrel and the wrench slowly began applying force to the wrench handle and…POP! she broke loose almost immediately.

Whew! I guess that just goes to show you, every situation and every rifle is different. Experience helps, but it doesn’t tell you everything. I think the keys are applying just the right amount of heat to the launcher so that it expands without heating the barrel enough to do the same and getting above the project so that maximum leverage can be applied without danger of bending anything important.

Anyway, after fretting about it, unscrewing the launcher turned out to be a piece of cake.

The next step was to remove the grenade launcher sight. The sight wouldn’t do me much good without a launcher so…it’s gotta go. I had read other people’s accounts of how they did it and they all involved cutting the sight arm with a dremel and removing it in pieces. My thought was “why not just punch the pin out?” Well, the reason became self-evident immediately upon trying. The pin was not budging. I was not having much luck with pins in this project so I quickly reverted to following the directions of people who had done this before.

I used my dremel to cut one leg of the sight.

Then I used a screwdriver to pry the sight off of the mounting pin. There is a second, spring-loaded pin that “locks” the sight in place when it is extended. On mine, it didn’t launch itself across the room but I could see it happening in some cases so be aware that it is there.

I didn’t like the looks of the pin sticking out of the mounting block after the sight was removed. First I tried driving it out (again) with no luck at all (again). Then I realized that it would actually look better to leave the pin in place but grind off the ends sticking out so that there wouldn’t be a hole in the block. OK. That’s the rationalization that I used to stop trying to get the stupid pin out. Anyway, I broke out the dremel again and ground the pin down flush with the mounting block on both sides.

Thorough cleaning and application of a little cold blueing and I think it turned out looking OK.

(The bluing compound is drying in this picture, this isn’t the finished product, it looks very good after rinsing and polishing with steel wool).

I would like to grind off the entire mounting block section at the rear of the sight where the night sight and grenade sight were mounted. I think it would clean the lines up considerably to do so, but that is a project for another day if I do it at all.

Perhaps if I decide to remove the bayonet and grind off the lug, I’ll do it all at once.

In any case, the only thing left to do was screw on the adjusting ring and muzzle brake and put her back together. Luckily, my pin drilling escapade in removing the grenade launcher didn’t seem to harm the barrel threads so the muzzle brake twisted right on with no problems. I adjusted it to the obvious configuration with the six large ports on either side horizontal and the three small ports on top. I can change it later after shooting to get the best performance if need be.

So far, the only improvement I would suggest for Mr. Miller is that he offer the brakes blued rather than parkerized as the finishes don’t match. Not a major concern for me…in fact I kind of like the contrast…but some may be put off by the mismatched finishes.

Here’s the “After” photo. I think she’s coming along nicely. Range report forthcoming as soon as I can get back to the range. If it looks like it’s going to be a while before I can get to the rifle range, I’ll take her to the indoor range and at least give a report on my impressions of the effectiveness of the brake in reducing muzzle flip/recoil.

Next step in the project: Tapco T-6 stock. Hopefully I’ll be able to afford it in the next couple of months. We’ll just have to see.

I’ve been thinking about getting a basic reloading press and trying my hand at some reloading. If I decide to go there, it may be a while before I can afford the new stock.

This stuff is really starting to get fun. I haven’t attempted anything too complicated yet but the more I do, the more I enjoy it.

Pimp my rifle

Santa brought me some new toys that enabled me to proceed to the next phase of pimping my project Yugo SKS.

In the previous incarnation of this blog, we covered my efforts to this point. Unfortunately, when I brought my old blog down, my backups failed and I lost almost a year’s worth of entries. That means that I can’t link to the old posts so I’ll just recap:

First I described the trials and travails I had in getting my bargain basement SKS in good operating order, culminating in the search for a gas cutoff valve that led me to CNC Warrior’s web site.

Next we explored updating the woefully inadequate sighting system. We installed a Williams Firesite front fiberoptic sight and a Tech-Sights TS-200 Rear windage and elevation adjustable aperture sight. We discussed the excellent sight picture and increased accuracy of this combination as well as the singular weakness that the Williams front sight is not quite high enough. The end result is that the rear sight must be set to its lowest possible setting in order to get a zero at 200 yards which means that the elevation adjustability is essentially eliminated and the range setting is, for all intents and purposes, a fixed “battle” zero.

This is fine for my purposes, but anyone who wishes to utilize the range adjustment capabilities of the Tech-Sight rear sight will probably want to eschew the Williams front sight.

My project had been placed on hold due to other financial priorities, but I must have been a good little boy because Santa left some goodies in my stocking.

First off, I got the barrel clamp tri-rail accessory mount. Next was the Choate Machine and Tool Scope Mount. Also a set of New Century Lo Profile 1″ Scope rings and, finally, a Leapers 6×32 compact scope.

Santa’s advisors weren’t sure about my choice in scope rings so they convinced her…er…I mean him…to buy a set of standard height rings as well. I knew what I wanted so I’ve now got a spare set of standard height rings that I’ll be able to use later on when I scout the Mosin-Nagant M44 carbine that I just ordered from J&G on sale for $59.99 (sorry, not on sale any more. I’m glad I ordered when I did). I haven’t received it yet. When I do, that will be fodder for future posts.

Anyway, I finally had the time, energy and inclination to play with my new toys yesterday. Before I begin, I want to apologize ahead of time for the couple of blurry photos. My digital camera is cheap and sometimes doesn’t focus properly. I always try to take more than one picture but, on rare occasions, end up with no good, focused shots of a particular subject.

When checking out the barrel clamp tri-rail accessory mount, I suspected that, by removing the bottom rail, I would have room to install it while still leaving the bayonet installed. I’ve considered removing the bayonet and I may at some point. If I do, I can always install the bottom rail. Anyway, I just like having the bayonet on there. I doubt that I would find any real use for it in a SHTF situation, but I like the idea of my primary weapon being more than just a club if I run out of ammo in the heat of battle. Am I wrong???

In any case, It seems I was right, the bayonet still closes fine with the bottom rail removed. The problem that I noticed is that, after installing the barrel clamp, the grenade sight would no longer completely seat in the down position. That meant that the gas shutoff valve would not lock in the open (self-loading) position.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Yugo setup, the Yugo model 59/66 has a Nato standard grenade launcher installed. When launching a grenade, the gas valve is rotated to the closed position, this releases the grenade sight and allows it to be employed as well as shutting off the gas that would normally be bled off to cycle the action. I’m guessing that this is because the auto-loading system isn’t needed when launching grenades and also so that all possible gas pressure is directed toward launching the grenade at maximum velocity. In any case, when using the weapon to fire normal ammo, the grenade sight is folded down and the gas cutoff valve is rotated to the Open position. The gas valve release button also, when closed, locks the grenade sight in the stowed position.

OK. Because the barrel clamp blocked the grenade sight from being completely stowed, the gas cutoff valve couldn’t be rotated completely to the Open position and the button would not lock.

Alleviation of this problem required employment of the ever popular Rotary tool (sometimes called a Dremel tool but mine is a Black and Decker). I am planning on removing the grenade launcher and replacing it with a muzzle break at some point. When I do so, I’ll also remove the grenade sight. For that reason, I wasn’t concerned about keeping the grenade sight pristine. I ground a small notch in the sight where it was in the way of the gas cutoff valve locking button.

If I were concerned with keeping the grenade sight intact, I could have just as easily cut or ground a notch into the barrel clamp to prevent the grenade sight from hitting it and allowing it to stow completely.

Either method would have served the purpose. The notch allowed the locking button to be rotated completely and lock into place even though the grenade sight still doesn’t completely stow.

The next phase of this adventure was drilling and tapping the receiver to install the scope mount. The installation instructions said to leave this evolution to a professional gunsmith. Well, I’ve never been much for following directions and this wouldn’t be my only variance with recommendations. I did order the appropriate sized tap from Midway USA since the required 8×40 is not a standard tap size.

The first step was to make sure the the mount was installed as closely to parallel to the barrel as possible. I accomplished this with the extremely high tech equipment pictured. By trying different sized sockets under the receiver I attained a fine degree of accuracy on the bubble level.

Then I clamped the Choate mount to the receiver at the desired location and on the same plane as the barrel.

For future reference, I was pretty sure that the receiver would be level with the barrel but I didn’t want to make any assumptions. After matching the mount to the barrel, I verified that the mount was also level with the receiver so the whole bubble level thing was probably unecessary…but better safe than sorry.

This was another area where I decided not to follow directions. The instructions that came with the Choate mount specified installing the mount so that the rear edge is 1.5 inches from the rear of the receiver. I thought that this was too far forward to attain the proper eye relief with the scope and also would place the front of the scope perilously close to being hit by ejected cartridge cases. I determined that the 1.5 inch measurement was intended to be overly conservative. I placed the mount 1 inch from the rear of the receiver.

Then I rotated the receiver and marked the hole locations on the receiver with a pencil.


I initially planned to drill all four holes one after the other with my drill press and then tap them. I am no machinist and my drill press is hardly a precision instrument. After drilling the first hole, I decided to modify my plans a little. I was worried that I would drill one hole a little off and then wouldn’t be able to install the mount correctly.

To prevent this problem I decided to tap the first hole, then install the mount with the one screw and clamp it into place with a pair of small locking pliers.

Then, using the mount holes as a guide, I drilled the second hole and tapped it. I then installed the second screw and had the mount in place (without the locking pliers in the way) and was able to use the mount as a guide to drill the last two holes. This cautious, time consuming method served me well.

After removing the two previously installed screws and applying a drop of thread locking compound to each one, the mount was successfully installed.

The next issue was the stock. The bottom of the Choate mount interfered with the receiver fitting into the stock. Some wood would have to be relieved.

For this task I chose the ever popular utility knife. I initially was going to cut a notch in the stock that exactly fit the mount, however I let the knife get away from me at one point and removed too much wood from the rear part of the stock. What I ended up with was a well that began at the front of the mount but continued all the way to the rear of the receiver.

This little mishap didn’t affect the strength of the stock and I didn’t think it hurt the looks too badly either so it didn’t break my heart too badly. For anyone undertaking this project, I’d advise great care when performing this part.

I used my finishing sander to put the final touches on the stock.

There was one final modification that I wanted to make while I had the rifle apart and was already working on it. Some models of the Yugo SKS came with flip up night sights. I never liked the sight picture with them and, after replacing the stock rear sight with the Tech-sights, the front sight was pretty useless. The problem is that it would sometimes flip up inadvertantly and obscure the William’s fire sight on the front. I decided to remove the night sight and get it out of the way.

The pin holding the night sight in place was peened and couldn’t just be driven out (yes, I tried). This would require deployment of the handy dandy drill-o-matic again.

After drilling off the peened portion, the pin drove out easily and the night sight dilemma was solved.

After cleaning up and putting it all back together, this is what the final product looks like:

Pretty sweet huh?

Of course, after putting the effort into setting the scope up, I had to take her to the range and try her out. I didn’t have time to go to the outdoor range in Creeds so I just went to the indoor 25 yard range. I knew I’d have to start out at short range to get her on paper before moving to longer ranges anyway so why put off till tomorrow…

It just so happens that there was a nice young gentleman who had already implemented many of the same modifications to his Yugo SKS as I had and even had incorporated some of the mods I have planned for the future. I blacked out the shooter on request for privacy but his rifle was sweet and seemed to shoot as good as it looked.
UPDATE:The aforementioned young gentleman had given me his email address so I could send him some info on Yugo accessories. He replied and graciously attached a better picture of his Beauty. Very nice, don’t you think? [/update]

I just thought it was interesting that two people who had virtually identical ideas for their SKS’ happened to be at the range at the same time.

When I first started shooting, she was printing way high and left. I adjusted and adjusted and just couldn’t seem to figure out why I couldn’t get it in. Imagine how stupid I felt when I realized I had installed the scope rotated incorrectly. I’m not very experienced with scopes and being left handed, my perspective was rather skewed. Yes, I freely admit that I’m an idiot but I had the windage adustment knob on the top and the elevation on the left side.

Once I got the scope rotated to the correct perspective, I returned both adjustments to center and the first three shots printed right on in elevation and about three inches left.

After I got it dialed in I was very happy with the patterns it printed. The bottom left diamond was the final touches. I made a 1/2 inch five shot group almost exactly one inch high and one inch left. After dialing in the corrections, the last five shot (with the exception of one called flyer an inch high) a less than 1/2 inch group dead center.

The bottom right diamond was my final six shots of the session (I was just finishing off the box I had open). I shot that standing, offhand, quickly (not quite rapid fire, but I squeezed the trigger as soon as I got back on target from the previous shot).

Let’s just say I’m pretty pleased with the performance of this setup.

When I get a chance to get her out to the outdoor range and try her at 200 yards, I’ll post a range report.

The only real drawback to this setup is that the scope prevents the use of stripper clips. She has to be loaded one round at a time.

This problem doesn’t bother me because after I am completely done pimping my SKS, she will be section 922r compliant and I’ll be able to use detachable mags.

My next project is going to either be the Tapco T-6 Stock or replacing the grenade launcher with the screw on Muzzle Break…whichever I can afford first.

I’ll keep you up to date.