Making a $2 Peep Sight For a Mosin-Nagant
Copyright 2008 by Junior Doughty
Click here for article #2 on the Mosin-Nagant Rain Rifle

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Here's the butchered M44 Mosin-Nagant I christened the "Rain Rifle."

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  • I knocked off the front sight/bayonet mount and chopped off the forearm.

  • I installed an Uncle Mike's swivel stud in the rear of the trigger guard and used it like a saddle ring for a saddle ring sling like the one in the photo. (You can buy one stud here.)

    Look closely in the full size photo at the swivel stud saddle ring. It inspired this $2 peep sight project.

  • I installed a scout scope mount to the military rear sight base and mounted a red dot scope. (Read about the installation process here.)
Soon after I built the rifle I went deer hunting when the weather forecast called for warm temps and heavy rain. That sounded like perfect conditions to test my wet weather clothing and the Rain Rifle. Well, the forecast was right. Junior and the rifle both got soaked. My downpour clothing failed miserably. However, the rifle worked exactly as I had hoped. At home, with one screwdriver and five minutes time, maybe, and the rifle was totally dismantled and dried with a rag. I ran a dry patch through the bore. Then an oiled patch. I placed the metal parts near the ol' wood heater to finish drying. Next day, I lightly oiled everything and reasembled the rifle. The "Rain Rifle" concept came through the test with flying colors.

The red dot sight even passed the downpour test to my surprise. But I never liked the way the red dot sight looked on the rifle, and I didn't like the idea of depending on a battery.

Side-By-Side Dim Light Comparison Test

It's 65 yards from the center of my living room to my mailbox, which is black with white letters on the sides. I propped open my front door and left the screen door closed, intending to use the screen as a substitute for fog, etc. I had at the ready several different rifles and pistols mounted with IER and EER scopes and the one rifle mounted with a red dot scope. The plan = aim the firearms through the door screen at the mailbox and compare the views.

At dusk dark, I turned off the living room lights to eliminate light pollution and started aiming rifles and pistols through the screen door at the mailbox. The results:

  • Through the red dot scope, I couldn't even tell I was looking at a mailbox.
  • Through the Leupold, I could read the letters on the side of the mailbox.
  • Through all the others, including 4X scopes, I could see letters on the side of what was plainly a mailbox, but I could not see the letters clearly enough to read them.
  • A subsequent test (7-19-11) with a 2X20 Burris pistol scope produced the same results as with the 2.5X Leupold—readable letters.
Read those results as you want, but in my opinion cheap optics are a waste of money unless you hunt only in bright daylight.

Then came another hunt with another rifle on a drier but cloudy day—and a missed chance at a buck due to a cheap scout scope with poor optics. After I bought a scout scope with good optics, a Leupold 2.5x28 IER, I did a side-by-side dim light comparison between the Leupold and several of my other scout scopes. The Leupold won hands down. Compared to the others, it looked like someone had turned on a huge outside light. The red dot on the Rain Rifle was worst of all.

I almost bought another Leupold 2.5x28 IER for the Rain Rifle. But by then, and after passing the downpour test so well, the Rain Rifle concept had also become the Hell or High Water Rifle concept. Fragile optics didn't belong on such a rifle, in my opinion. I decided to go with a peep rear and a Fire Sight front.

I spent a week or so trying to think of a way to inexpensively fit a peep rear sight to a Mosin-Nagant. Then one day while holding the rifle and pondering peep sights, I looked at the rifle's Uncle Mike's swivel stud saddle ring. The hole through it was about the same diameter as the .150" Williams apertures I liked so well on hunting peep sights. Hummm. . . . The ol' brain got to thinking a swivel stud could become a peep sight.

A search through my junk box produced a 7/8" machine screw Uncle Mike's swivel stud. (You can buy one stud here.)

I decided to install the swivel stud/sight on the cocking piece. It was the most convenient spot, and it put the aperture close to my eye, which would also give a large sight radius. By cocking and re-cocking the bolt many times, I discovered that the cocking piece returned to the same position every time or so close it wouldn't matter.

Click for full size popup photo I picked a spot on the cocking piece toward the rear which provided (1) a drilling location somewhat off the rear slope; and (2) plenty of metal for lots of threads. Then I popped a dimple in it with a center punch and started drilling.

With the round bottom of the bolt head off the edge of the drill press table, the flat bottom of the bolt's guide bar kept the bolt perpendicular to the drill bit. A clamp kept the bolt in place as you see here. I made sure the hole didn't go through the cocking piece and into the firing pin channel inside it. The hole drilled easily, much easier than I had expected.

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The hole tapped just as easily. Here we see the final results.

There's a little more than 3/8" of threads inside the hole. At 32 turns per inch, that's 12+ threads. In other words, there's lots of up and down adjustment in this $2 peep sight.



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Here's an eyeball view of the final results.




Click for full size popup photo Next, I calculated the front sight height I would need. Here's my high-$ redneck front sight height calculating tool. These things are hard to find and ultra expensive. Good luck on obtaining one.

I wanted the sights to align with my aiming eye, not the aiming eye of the average shooter. Throw the rifle to my shoulder, drop my head to the stock, and I'm looking through the aperture and the front sight is centered in it. Perfectly centered. Like you can't buy from a factory.

I got that perfect alignment by trial and error. With a school kid's ruler, I measured the approximate distance from the center of the aperture to the center of the firing pin at the rear of the cocking piece like you see in the eyeball-view photo above. Then with the same ruler, I measured the distance from the center of the bore to the top of the redneck sight height test instrument. I simply bent the paperclip up or down until its height closely matched that of the rear aperture. Then I quickly raised the rifle like Mossy Horns had stepped out of a thicket, and I just as quickly aimed.

A home gunsmith could easily tap the ~.150" diameter hole in an Uncle Mike's machine screw swivel stud to 7/32" x 40 for a Lyman or Williams aperture. The #11 tap drill for 7/32" x 40 = .191" diameter.

Brownells part numbers:

7/32-40 taper tap = 080-598-113
#11 drill = $2.40 sold here by me.

Even easier would be to tap it for a 10-32 Marble's aperture. The #21 drill for 10-32 = .159" diameter.

Brownells part numbers:

10-32 taper tap = 395-103-201
#21 drill = $2.10 sold here by me.

Another alternative is the 8-32 Marbles tang sight peep stems available in various lengths from Buffalo Arms. Simply tap the cocking piece 8-32. Then install a Marble's aperture in the 10-32 hole pre-drilled by Marbles.

Brownells part numbers:

8-32 taper tap = 395-832-001
8-32 bottom tap = 395-832-003
#29 drill = $1.80 sold here by me.

I have a spare Lyman 17A front target sight. Come warmer weather and beer can season, I might replace the Rain Rifle's front Fire Sight with the Lyman target sight. Then I could replace the $2 hunting rear peep screw with a $2 target rear peep screw.

At the start of the measurements, I had to raise my head for perfect alignment. So I screwed in the rear peep, having to shorten the screw. I measured again. I lowered the front sight tool. Test again. Lower rear and front some more. Repeat. Finally, when the side of my face hit the stock the sights were in perfect alignment with my right eye. Both rear and front sights were about 1 1/16" above the centerline of the bore.

Next step was to determine the proper ramp and Fire Sight heights to give me approximately 1 1/16" from the center of the bore to the center of the Fire Sight bead. I already knew I wanted a Williams Streamlined ramp due to its slot for a Fire Sight hood. I decided on a 9/16" Streamlined Ramp and a .343N Fire Sight.

From Brownells, the parts were:

  • # 962-000-016 Fire Sight Hood

  • # 962-025-469 Streamlined Sweat-On Ramp 9/16"

  • # 962-564-350 .343N Red Rifle Fire Sight

I already had on hand:

  • # 080-649-250 1/4 lb. Hi-Force 44® Wire Solder, 475°

  • # 478-100-004 No. 4 Comet Flux

This would be my first attempt at soldering a ramp on a barrel, and I was apprehensive, to say the least.

While awaiting the parts, I removed the military rear sight base from the rifle barrel. I did that to rid the rifle of a little extra weight. The front sight & bayonet bracket retaining pin had required much effort to remove while the bracket itself came off with one tap of a small hammer. In the case of the rear sight base, the pin flew out with just a tap from a small hammer. The base, however, didn't budge after many taps from the same hammer. So I got a bigger hammer, a carpenter's hammer. Same thing. So I got an even bigger hammer—a 2 lb sledge hammer. After a few whacks, the base finally moved and came off the barrel. It weighed 1.9 oz, and I'm not sure the weight saved was worth the effort required.

Click for full size popup photo The parts arrived, and I began by hacksawing off about 3/4" of the rear of the ramp. I did that so the ramp would fit the section of the barrel in front of the step left by removal of the front sight & bayonet bracket.

The photo shows a pencil marking the location of the hacksaw cut.

After using a file to remove sharp edges left by the hacksaw job, I took the barrel and the bottom of the ramp down to bare metal. I used a belt sander on the barrel and a Dremel® tool sanding disk on the bottom of the ramp.

Click for full size popup photoThis photo shows the close barrel to ramp fit.

The barrel measures .568" inches in diameter, and a Williams Gunsight tech man said the ramp would fit barrels from .625" to .675" in diameter. This fit looks good to me!

Now came another time out for thinking. Somehow I had to find a way to solder the ramp in place and align it with the barrel and the rear peep. If it ended up out of alignment, the Fire Sight might stick out to one side or the other when the rifle was zeroed. I finally decided to use the ol' redneck eyeball measuring device.

Fire up the torch!      

I used a Wal-Mart or Ace Hardware propane torch.

I dripped Comet Flux on a cotton swab and applied it to the barrel and the bottom of the ramp.

I clamped the ramp upsidedown in a pair of vice grip pliers. As the Brownells solder instructions said to do, I heated the ramp until it, not the torch flame, melted the solder. Some of the surface "tinned." However, mostly the solder formed beads.

I installed the bolt into the unloaded barreled action and left the bolt cocked. Then I clamped the barrel, about mid-barrel, in my bench vise. I positioned the barrel/vise so that (1) I had room to work on the end of the barrel; and (2) I could scoot my chair backward several feet and could eyeball down the unloaded barrel and see the alignment between the top of the ramp, the barrel, and the rear sight stud/peep at the other end of the barreled action.

If the rifle zeroed with the Fire Sight halfway out of the ramp groove to one side or the other, I'd just heat the barrel/ramp area, melt the solder, then turn the ramp in the direction needed.

So, plan in hand, I eyeball-aligned the rear stud/peep into a verticle position. Then I tinned/beaded solder onto the top of the barrel.

Next, I placed the tinned/beaded ramp onto the barrel. Then I started heating them both, moving the torch flame from one side, underneath, to the other side, back again, etc., etc.

The beads melted ok, but when the eyeball alignment instrument showed the ramp turned in one direction or the other, i.e, out of alignment with the barrel and the peep, I had trouble getting it straight. In trying to move it ever so slightly, I knocked it off the barrel several times. In frustration, I wished for the clamp the Brownells instructions said I should use but which I could not find in the junk around my work bench.

Finally, the ol' eyeball measuring device saw the top of the ramp, the barrel, and the rear stud/peep in what looked like perfect alignment.

Later when I zeroed the rifle, the Fire Sight stuck out to the left of the ramp exactly .030". That's where she'll stay!

Click for full size popup photo The ramp/barrel junction wasn't perfect, and I didn't want to leave the corrosive flux in the non-soldered gaps. The flux instructions said to rinse with warm water, so that's what I did.

I filled a coffee can with hot tap water and stuck the rifle's muzzle down in it as you see in this photo. I left it there for 30 minutes. When I removed it, the water had turned a light brown, like very weak tea.

Now, I had to remove the water from the rifle. I wiped off the barrel and ramp, and I ran a couple of dry patches through the bore. To remove the water from under the ramp, I turned on a burner of my gas kitchen stove, and I held the muzzle end of the rifle over the flame, turning it and pulling it back and forth over the flame in order to heat it evenly. When the barrel and ramp became too hot to touch comfortably, I turned off the flame. Both barrel and ramp were 100% free of moisture.

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Bolt removed, I placed the rifle muzzle up and let the chimney effect cool it.

About an hour later, I gave it a coat of flat black spray-on paint, then ran an oiled patch down the bore.

Here's the results after installing the Fire Sight. Notice how well the cut-off ramp matches the step in the barrel. Like I said, the Fire Sight sticks out on this side exactly .030" with the rifle zeroed. It's barely noticeable. In my opinion, that's pretty darn good eyeball alignment!

Notice the three little black rings holding the fiber optic rod to the sight. Beneath the center ring there's a hole in the ramp down through which you can install a screw provided with the ramp. You'd have to drill & tap the barrel, of course. That's not so dangerous with this rifle—it's counterbored. The counterbore extends a little rearward past the ring on the right. Had my solder job not held, I planned to drill the screw hole all the way through the barrel. After tapping, I'd keep shortening the screw until it didn't protrude inside the barrel. I don't think it would have hurt a thing.

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Here we see the Fire Sight hood installed. I'm proud of the way this ramp and sight installation turned out.

I had planned to leave the hood on the ramp even when hunting, but the bead of the .343" Fire Sight centered high in the circle of the hood. When aiming, my eye tended to center the hood in the rear aperture and not the sight bead. The bead then became high. So I'll pull the hood off when I enter the woods and stick it in my pocket.


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Here's a distance shot of the swivel stud peep sight against a white background.


This is also a good view of the swivel stud saddle ring which sparked this project.


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Here we see the final results. With the bolt cocked, the sight radius is 26" which is a lot. One half turn of the swivel stud peep gives about a 2" POI change at 100 yards.

Notice the Uncle Mike's wood screw swivel stud epoxied in the cleaning rod hole in the cut off forearm tip.

As you see the rifle here, it weighs exactly 7 lbs 1.6 oz. That's light.

I like this Rain Rifle or Hell or High Water Rifle. It'll see the woods a lot even if it's not raining. The advantage of custom sights tuned to the shooter's aiming eye is a big one. Ol' Mossy Horns doesn't stand a chance.

Click for full size popup photoHere's a closeup of the $2.25 swivel stud saddle ring. The ring is a keychain. This 10-32 x 1/4" swivel stud would work on almost any rifle and would cost much less than a factory saddle ring. Can you drill and tap a 10-32 hole?

The piece of air hose cut for a jam-fit behind the trigger is my redneck trigger-block safety. The fit is so tight I can squeeze the trigger with all my might, and the rifle won't fire. I use it only in the woods.

To operate it, I push it out from behind the trigger with my finger. It's a free trigger-block safety. Use at your own risk.

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