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Sunday, March 09, 2008

The 99E's First 'Fly in the Pancake Syrup'...

I mentioned earlier that I'd mounted a fine front bead on this gun, to replace the 'witch nose' that came on it. The existing front sight sat pretty far to the right, so when I mounted the new one I centered it neatly in the ramp. To get the rifle 'on' however I had to move the rear sight far to the left, to the point that the sight even hung slightly out of the dovetail. I didn't think much of it at the time, because bent sights are a common malady with old guns that have seen some use. With the initial chronograph work done and the aforementioned ladder sight on the way, I decided to yank the old rear sight out and see how badly it was bent.

I've got an old drill sizer that has a nice machinist's rule built into it. It is 0.020 thick, about 3x6 and has four perfect, square edges on it. Using that device, I checked the 'bent' rear sight several different directions and it checked straight- and perfectly square to the sight's dovetail. This was not looking good. I was having visions of bent barrels or off-center sight ramps, and my 'bargain 99' going across the table at the next gun show.

I figured a good way to check the barrel and ramp mounting was to back out two plug screws in the receiver, line the slots up with the barrel,and then lay the machinist's rule in the screw slots...once that is accomplished, you have theoretically established the centerline of the receiver. You then sight down the straight-edge and see if your front sight is leaning off to the left or right of it. I was relieved to find my front bead practically halved, when sighting down the straight edge. This confirms that the front sight ramp is mounted correctly, dead-on with the top centerline of the receiver.

There was only one place left to look and that was the rear dovetail itself. Squaring the long straight edge in the bottom of the dovetail revealed that it was significantly out-of-square with the centerline of the barrel, and it was consistent whether the front or rear edge of the dovetail was checked. I'm guessing this gun was made the day after the 1970 Christmas party, and that maybe the guy on the dovetail cutter that day had a bad hangover- or maybe a lampshade still on his head?

This of course ain't the 'end of the world'. The problem only manifests itself with rear sights that extend back from the dovetail. A fold-down leaf sight, such as the Marble's offering, would put the sight leaf directly over the dovetail and the problem would scarcely be noticeable. Mounting a receiver sight would get around it entirely. I haven't decided which yet but I'm sure of one thing- this rifle is not a candidate for a ladder sight, and I'll have to re-live my misspent youth with another gun. Oh well. Ammo & component prices are ridiculous, and I'll probably save quite a bit by avoiding shots at 5-gallon buckets, 600 yards distant.

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