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Firearms Friday: Resurrecting a $79 Rifle, Part 1
August 15, 2014
When it comes to guns, I’m a cheapskate. I don’t like to pay more than three hundred dollars or so for any one gun. So when I saw the $79.00 Chinese Mosin Nagant carbines on Southern Ohio Gun’s website, I bit.
How bad could it be? SOG had always done me right before.
A few days later the Big Brown Truck brought me a long cardboard box, which I hustled into my workshop before my wife noticed. A couple minutes later I had my new toy lying on the workbench.
Wow. Apparently the Chinese preservation protocol included dragging the rifles behind a manure spreader. Cosmoline covered the stock, but where I wiped it off with mineral spirits I could see the truly awful gummed-up finish. The bore was filled with Cosmo, so I couldn’t tell anything about it. Everything worked though, so I figured with a little work restoring the stock, I just might have a decent shooter.
The Chinese manufactured their own version of Russia’s M44 Mosin Nagant Carbine from 1953 to the early 1960s. The Chinese Type 53 has seen action from Vietnam to Africa to Kosovo, which might explain the heavy use some of them show. Mine was no exception. Before I started a rejuvenation effort, I had a couple of decisions to make.
First, the stock. Once I removed all the Cosmo, the finish was visible. It was gummy and filled with dirt. There was no preserving it – nothing left to preserve. I decided to strip it down to the bare wood and go from there.
I live in a 250-year-old stone farmhouse, so I have lots of experience stripping and refinishing wood. I pulled out the heat gun and some nice paint scrapers and got to work.
The heat gun made quick work of the finish, and had the side benefit of sweating out a lot of the Cosmoline left in the wood. The stock had a fibrous texture and feel that my European Mosins lacked. I did a little research and discovered that the Chinese made the stocks out of Catalpa wood, which has excellent resistance to moisture and rot. Under all that crud the stock looked pretty good.
I prefer natural finishes like boiled linseed oil or tung oil. Before that, though, I had a lot of sanding to do, and before the sanding I had another decision to make: How much detail did I want to leave on the stock?
The stock only had a few armory marks – tiny shields or numbers here and there, which indicated repair facilities or refurbishment dates. Normally I like to preserve cartouches because they show the rifle’s history, but the stock surface was so rough it was obvious I would have to choose between a decent surface and the cartouches. I chose a smooth surface.
It took a good bit of rough sanding to get down to a non-gummy surface. Once I got there I made my way through increasingly fine grades of sandpaper until I got the level of smoothness I desired. It still had lots of dings and dents, but I decided to leave some of those. Then I got a really bad idea off the Internet.
This guy used colored polyurethane instead of a natural finish on his Type 53. It looked pretty good, so I thought I’d give it a try. It came out so dark it looked like I had never done anything to the gun but wipe it off. Another few rounds of sanding and I was back to bare wood. The stain from the poly remained in a lot of the dings, but no big deal. A few coats of BLO and it looked OK, but not great. I had a ways to go.