When I first started shooting, back when I spent my gun money on guns and not ammo to shoot said guns, I picked up a Mosin-Nagant M38 Carbine at Big 5. Seeing as I lacked a rifle, and the price point on that particular arm was $80 (this rotating between the MN91/30, M38, and M44 rifles; list price being an appalling $179), there was no reason not to. This was all well and good until I got it to the range.
I took my dad that day, and neither of us could get the damn thing to print on the paper. My dad is a pretty good shot (despite the fact that he hadn't shot anything since he left the army in the mid-70s, he printed a 5" group with my CZ52 at 25 meters), so I gathered something was amiss with the rifle. In retrospect, there were three factors that contributed to this mess:
1. Loose stock screws
2. Crappy Hungarian surplus purchased mainly for its price
3. Retrograde sights
Problems 1 and 2 were simple enough to fix; Winchester and HotShot (Prvi Partisan) JSP worked better, but still not 'groups' so much as 'patterns.' The bore was not anywhere near shiny, but there was still conspicuous rifling, and from what I gathered elsewhere on the Inter Nets, a bit of pitting wouldn't completely trash accuracy. That leaves #3, or probable operator error (with this being my *only* rifle experience, I suppose a big boomer like this would encourage the development of a flinch). Meanwhile, I shot a lot of pistol ammo and forgot about rifle shooting after about three attempts. After nearly two years, I decided to give it another whirl, preferably with the gun I already had.
Luckily enough, there was a solution to problem 3, courtesy of Mojo Sighting Systems. Mojo offers drop-in peep sights for a plethora of milsurp rifles - Mausers, K31s, SMLEs, and Nagants, as well as the AK series and the SKS. While one can get the rear aperture sight only, their signature sight is the SnapSight, an 'aperture within aperture.' There's no front sight post to block your target, and I'd imagine a ring is naturally easier to focus on (this theory being based on my experience with enhanced visibility pistol sights). Conspicuously, the price of the sight set (front/rear apertures) is slightly more than the baseline C&R price of a new Mosin...so if the experiment didn't work I could keep the sights, chuck the rifle, and buy a new one.
A nondescript manila envelope arrived about five days after wiring the good folks at Mojo the appropriate scratch. Inside were the sights (wrapped), an installation sheet, front and back, and an allen wrench for the windage and fine elevation adjustment.
The rear sight is a precision engineered and manufactured chunk of steel, finely crafted and asembled. This makes it look completely wrong on the Mosin-Nagant; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it was illegal in 17 states and damned my soul to eternal torment. Performance trumps appearance in this case, though, so...
The rear aperture is screw-adjustable for windage. The large wheel on the sight body is click-adjustable, with a fine adjustment in the center, which can also be adjusted with an allen wrench.
Installing the rear sight sounds easier than it ended up being. The instructions merely said to knock out the pin (a 1/8" punch worked fine), remove old sight, press in new sight, and replace pin. Apparently the rear sight is kept in check by one hell of a leaf spring, and even my double-stack-magazine-strengthened thumbs couldn't press the new sight down far enough to knock the retaining pin back in. Eventually, it took two people and a C-clamp. The good news is that it's not going to come out on its own.
I neglected to install the front sight, partially because it would remove the front sight hood (which is even more wrong looking), partially because I wanted to see if the aperture-post set-up worked, and partially because the task required a sight-base file and lots of patience, neither of which I had handy at the time. I smell a follow-up article somewhere in the future.
So it was off to the range. With a freshly-opened tin of the well-regarded Polish silver-tip 147gr light ball ammo, I decided to see if this rifle could indeed shoot.
I'm still pretty sure that Col. Townsend Whelen wouldn't find the M38 interesting, but the results were promising. Namely, it actually shot groups! Not small groups (try 4" at 50 yards and 7" at 100 yards), but that's doubtless my own doing as much as the rifle. The point is, I actually have a baseline to work from now, as opposed to nice big shotgun patterns of 30-caliber holes, courtesy of my wildly broken computer eyes and that wee little rear notch sight. Peep sights rock - you see twice as much target in the picture, which helps immensely.
The 100-yard target was a bucket of suck to shoot, though, if only because this was the first time I'd shot at that range, and the front post covered a good third of the paper, so to get it lined up I had to focus on target, focus on front sight, get picture, focus back on target to confirm alignment, re-focus on front sight and get picture again, and shoot. I was expecting a pattern, and I got a group, so yaay for that, but I can see where the advantage would come with the front aperture. Time to go digging for a file.
Thusly, I left the range with a shoulder made out of bruise and a big grin on my face. Yes, this'll do...though if the balloon goes up, I suspect I may be shunted to the kitchen rather than the front lines.