Shooting Project: Improving the SKS
The objective of this project is to set up a highpower competition training rifle that can be used by shooters still sensitive to the M-1 Garand in 100-yard reduced range National Match Course (NMC) events. This need is particularly acute for a junior training solution in California where it is illegal for a minor to touch an AR-15 even though that rifle is clearly the preferred competition firearm for NRA Highpower shooting. It's disheartening to watch kids struggle along using an M-1 Carbine that is not an ideal rifle for training use.
UPDATE: The availability of CA-legal 10 round fixed magazine modified AR lowers may offer new hope for juniors. These are technically not statutory Caifornia assault weapons and could provide suitable platforms for in-state training and competition where juniors can take better advantage of most of the superior modifications that turn an off-the-shelf AR-15 into the best competitive Service Rifle in the world.
The SKS rifle is an excellent rugged rifle capable of remarkable shooting accuracy but it suffers from deficiencies that detract
from it's potential in its original military configuration.
HERE's THE FLAW: The SKS rear sight design suffers from a too short sight radius that amplifies elevation errors in the sight picture but more important it wobbles from side-to -side several MOA under light finger pressure. So much for windage repeatability. The gun actually shoots where the sights point. It's where the sights are pointing that changes from shot to shot.
The gun was intended for delivering fire employed by soldiers on the move where such drawbacks are not of great concern. For target shooting however, something rock steady with the longest possible sight radius is called for.
A company named Tech-Sights www.tech-sights.com makes a sight that seems to address
this deficiency. The unit doubles the sight radius and zeros the side-to-side play of the rear sight. It also sets up an aperture rear which
is a much better sight for precision shooting. Elevation zero is done by adusting the front sight. Windage zero can be done by setting the rear to
mechanical center and adjusting the SKS front sight to center the hits. Quite an improvement so far for a rifle that is already one
of the best designs ever.
Tech-Sights is also coming out with a new sight that has an elevation adjustable rear. I have not yet examined one to see if it has the potential to improve the rifle so it can be used in across-the-course (200/300/600-yard) matches.
Note: Tech-Sights says it's optional but using the locking screw to tighten down the sight to the gun is essential. It does shoot loose with predictable regularity unless this precaution is used. The rule of thumb that no manufacturer ever add to their expenses by putting an extra piece of machined steel in the box unless there was a need for it applies.
A rubber butt extension has been placed on the rifle to provide more appropriate eye positioning with respect to the new rear sight. It makes a big difference and should be considered essential. And it's much cheaper than any aftermarket stock.
I have experimented with various aftermarket stocks for the SKS; specifically, the ATI Monte Carlo stock and the Choate Sporter stock. The ATI is quite solid but the cheekpiece is set up for scoped rifles and does not work well with the TS100 sights. This stock seems better suited for a forward mounted optic project but that's not what we are working towards here.
The Choate stock is made from thin material, flexes in your hand and the action moves around in the stock. These are not ideal for a target gun. The stock does however have a very nice hand grip compared to the military stock particularly for providing better purchase for the ring and pinky fingers to grab. It has potential for exploring adding a cross bolt and bedding compounds to tighten the bedding of the action.
In the end there is a strong case to choose to continue to use the original military stock. The reason is because of the cross bolt in the military stock that creates a solid bedding for the rifle. It wedges the barrel at the action/barrel junction and in combination with the clamping action of the trigger assembly and recoil lug at the rear of the action provides two points of solid contact for the action. The barrel then free floats forward of the cross bolt. It's both solid and rugged. Interestingly, the SAGE Mk14 Mod 0 SOCOM stock for the M-14/M1A uses a similar principle to as that company puts it accomplish an "instant bedding job" for that rifle. Neither of the aftermarket SKS stocks tested afforded this superior bedding method. So for target rifle purposes, we stick with the better bedding solution.
Oh for match shooting be sure to lighten the barrel mass by removing excess metal objects like the bayonet. Also, there needs to be a sling mount point on the foreend for the sitting and prone positions. Using the mount point on the barrel defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.
With the new sights in the military stock the gun now shoots in the 1" to 2" range at 100-yards using surplus ammunition. That is plenty good enough to do quite well in club level competitions.
Using stripper clips, the rifle can easily perform well in the rapid fire stages of a highpower match.
Elevation adjustments are easy and repeatable using an SKS sight tool to adjust the front sight in a manner rather similar to using an M-16A1 sight system. Interestingly, because the SKS front sight is a continuous screw instead of a detent like the M-16 design, even finer adjustments are possible.
The training system is limited to fixed distance reduced course work but it should work well enough for either 100-yd or 200-yd training matches.