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.

4 thoughts on “Pimp my rifle

  1. I'm not really worred about not being able to use strippers but do you have any problems with the extracted casings hitting the scope?

  2. Sorry about the delay, I've had to institute moderation for older posts to help me combat spam.

    I hadn't checked the moderation que in a while.

    No, I've not had any problems with that. My rifle ejects shells pretty agressively to the right and forward and they clear the scope nicely.

  3. Pingback: SKS Muzzle Brake | Captain of a Crew of One

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