I have been growing more and more fascinated with older military rifles. You can often find them at good prices, and they are legal even in some restrictive locales. Most of them are bolt actions, and some of them are better made than most current production rifles. It is tough to beat a Mauser 98 or Springfield, and the Enfield is no slouch either. The venerable Mosin Nagant is certainly capable, and the M1 Garand is one of my all-time favorite rifles. They almost always come in cartridges that are excellent for hunting medium game in the U.S. or for self-defense. Some of them are getting harder to get cheap ammunition for, though. Most of them, however, don’t come with good sights, and they are often zeroed at ranges that make little sense for hunters or self-defense shooters.
Fixing the sight issue can be difficult. While the Enfield and Garand come with excellent aperture sights, most of the rest have rather poor open sights. The logical solution is a scope, but how, pray, do we mount one on most of these rifles? Unlike modern rifles, they generally are not drilled and tapped for scope bases. There are mounts on the market that can be fitted by a gunsmith with a milling machine and drill press, but suppose we want to be able to do it ourselves or we don’t want to make huge alterations to the original rifle? That’s where S&K Scope Mounts come in.
S&K is a U.S. company, based in Pennsylvania, that machines their mounts from virgin metals. The company was founded in 1964 and makes a wide range of mounts and scope rings for both modern sporting rifles as well as military rifles, but it is their line of mounts for ex-military rifles that we are interested in.
One of the things that surprised me is how many different types of rifles they make them for. I expected them for the Mosin Nagant and Mauser and wasn’t surprised to see the ones for the Enfield or Garand, but they also have mounts for the Schmidt-Rubin, Steyr, Arisaka, and Hakim rifles, as well as a wide variety of Mauser variants, from the Model 1895 through many versions of the Model 98 pattern. There are even mounts for the French Mas 36 and 49, M14, FN 1949, SKS, and several others. You have to go to their site to see them all.
They offer two types of mounts, none of which require the services of a gunsmith. The first mounts the scope over the receiver in the conventional location, while the second type mounts it forward in the Scout rifle position using a long eye relief scope. That’s the type I am reviewing here.
On many of the Scout mounts, you get a choice of included S&K rings or a rail that accepts Weaver scope rings, which are not included . I wound up with one of each type. S&K provided a sample of the rail mount for the Mosin Nagant 91/30, and then I managed to acquire a Mexican Mauser that already had one on it with the S&K rings.
The two types of rings are not interchangeable. Weaver rings may offer some extra versatility, in that you can get extension rings that might allow you more flexibility in mounting a scope. There are also quick detachable rings that will go on Weaver-style mounts. That said, the S&K rings are steel and rugged, and they look better to my eyes. They also allow some windage adjustment, which might come in handy if there are any alignment issues. The mounts using the S&K rings cost a bit more, but since they includes the rings, are probably a bit cheaper overall and you won’t have to remember to buy rings.
While the strategy for attaching the Scout mount varies some from rifle to rifle, you will be removing the rear sight and installing the mount on the base that held the rear sight. I was initially a bit depressed about losing the rear sight, but considering how bad most of the sights on military rifles are, I decided that it is a bearable price for the advantage of getting optics. Thankfully, optics these days are more reliable than they were in my youth, but they can still get smashed in an accident. The biggest problem, should that happen, is that the rear sights usually require tools to reinstall, so it isn’t something you can quickly do in the field in an emergency, assuming you have the parts and tools with you. It is a question to consider, but the payoff of an optical sight is pretty huge, so I’m in favor of it.
You have a couple of alternatives in what sort of optic to use. Red dot sights are very popular and work extremely well for close ranges. I’m not sure they are the best choice for most of the older military rifles, though. With the full power cartridges from the olden days, you have a lot more reach than you get with the intermediate rounds found in an AR or AK. The extra reach of the stronger cartridges merits magnification in my mind, so I prefer a scope on this type of rifle.
With the forward Scout mount, a scope will need to have nine or ten inches of eye relief. Scopes in this position were named Scout scopes by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper– the noted writer, instructor, and scholar of shooting. He touted this mounting system, believing that placing the scope farther from the eye allows the shooter to keep both eyes open and be far more aware of surroundings than if the scope is placed close to the eye in a conventional mount. Cooper suggested that the scope should be of two to three magnification and no more, lest the shooter have to close one eye and lose the advantages of seeing with both.
There are handling advantages to placing the scope forward as well as the visual ones. Most older military rifles have fixed magazines that are loaded through the top, and it is far easier to fill them with the scope out of the way ahead of the receiver. It also allows you to use stripper clips to rapidly charge the magazine.
Left-handers also have reason to appreciate the Scout system, as it makes it far easier to reach over the rifle with the firing hand to run the bolt. It is even easier with an old-fashioned military straight bolt for lefties, as they stick out for easy grasping. Righties usually prefer a turned down bolt close to the trigger finger, such as the one found on the Enfield No. 4 for fast operation.
I have always wondered if Colonel Cooper was familiar with the German Zielfernrohr 41 of WWII, which was a low power forward mounted scope. It had only 1.5 magnification and was considered a sharpshooter scope rather than a sniper’s optic. Today, we might call it a designated marksman’s scope, but the basic idea was to give it to the best shot in a squad. It didn’t have the magnification a sniper needs to hit at several hundred yards. I have never had the chance to examine one, but I wonder if it would fit the Colonel’s criterion for a Scout scope. I have read critiques that said it was poor in low light and had a limited field of view, both points I suspect the Colonel would have criticized.
Personally, I really like Scout scopes but admit that I shoot tighter groups with a more powerful scope. Tight groups are satisfying, but the needs for field accuracy are not the same as what we expect to get from the bench. Very few of us can match bench accuracy from any position used in hunting or self-defense, and thankfully we don’t need to. Higher magnification scopes can actually make it harder to shoot, since they enhance wobble as well as detail.
The mount on the Mauser I bought was already installed, but I wound up having to work on it. Whoever did the job hadn’t properly seated the rear scope base. While I was at it I wanted to see how it was secured to the rifle, so I pulled the whole thing apart for study. What I found was an aluminum base that is sturdily secured to the rear sight base. When you pull off the rear sight by driving out the pin that holds it to the rifle, you find a leaf spring that slides out. This leaves space to slip in a nut, machined to take the spring’s place. The scope base is machined to mate to the base, and it secured to it with three screws; two go into the hole left by the pin that held on the rear sight, and the third goes into the nut that replaced the left spring. There is also an adjustment screw. By tweaking the screws, you can make some elevation adjustments, if needed. All of the parts were well made and finished in matte black.
The Mosin Nagant mount was quite similar to install, but there was an additional screw to snug the mount up through the top and to help with adjustments for elevation. This mount is also aluminum.
One difference I noticed between the two rifles and mounts is that you can see the front sight over the Weaver rail on the Mosin Nagant, which made me think about the possibility of adding some sort of rear sight to the rail for emergency use. If you used quick detachable rings, you could easily pop the scope off in an emergency and go back to iron sights. The S&K rings mount for the Mauser was too high and blocked the front sight. The Mauser actually has a higher front sight than the Mosin Nagant, but the mount using the S&K rings needs more depth to seat the rings, so I think the one with the Weaver rings offers some interesting possibilities that would be worth exploring.
I want to mention that a Weaver rail will probably not work with Picatinny equipment. Weaver stuff will work on Picatinny, but Picatinny uses a slightly larger cross bolt than Weaver, so you usually can’t reverse them.
If you have a military rifle and want to mount an optic, S&K mounts are worth a good look. The Mosin Nagant mount I reviewed is $72.00, and the Mauser one is $82.00.
I am continuing to really like the Sun Oven. The ability to precisely orient it to the sun, using the aiming device and adjustable leg, really helps maximize cooking temperatures, while the tightly sealing door traps heat efficiently. I am also still impressed by the leveling tray that keeps food from spilling as you tilt the oven towards the sun. This reminds me that it is time to make solar brownies again. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie