Printer Friendly

Looks ugly? What do you expect for $100? ... but it shoots beautiful!

That's right--a sporting rifle for about a hundred bucks! You start with one of the newly liberated surplus rifles that have recently hit our shores as a result of revisions in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA '68). As in pre-GCA '68 days, hordes of military rifles, including Mausers, Enfields, Arisakas and even some Springfields, will again be readily available to us at bargain basement prices.

Most of these rifles (especially the Mausers) were built at a time when "cost effective" was a dirty word, and so the quality of some of these firearms rivals that of many new sporting rifles. Thefit and finish of some of the early Mausers, for instance, is absolute perfection. The idea is to use the basic military rifle and "sporterize" it.

Unlike the pre-GCA '68 days when we went the whole nine yards in sporterizing these relics by starting with the basic action, then rebarreling, restocking and then mounting a new scope sight, we are going to keep this very simple. After all, the idea is to keep the cost down, and provide a smart-looking, accurate rifle for the shooter or hunter on a budget.

As the gun factories already offer some very nice low-cost versions of their more popular models, this seems like a tall order to fill. But you can do it. Here's how ...

Start shopping around your local gun shops and check out what is available in the surplus military category. We were able to find several models of military rifles in the $75 price range. For the most part, they had good bores and stocks. This is an important point as we plan to utilize the military barrel and stock--so go for condition. Consider the caliber of your rifle and check the ballistics by means of an ammo loading manual to be sure the cartridge will meet your needs. Don't be dismayed by the metric calibers of many of these surplus rifles. Generally, the ammo is not a problem, either in obtaining or in reloading. The various 6.5mm, 7mm, 7.65mm, .303, 7.7mm and 8mm cartridges are readily available, and are more than adequate in terms of power for hunting most North American big game. Norma ammo is available for almost all of the foreign calibers, and dies, bullets, cases and loading information are all available over here.

As the basis for our conversion, we chose the 1896 Swedish Mauser chambered for the 6.5x55 cartridge, a rather popular round in Europe for big game hunting. This little Mauser is strong, smooth and readily converts into a rather nice sporter. The stock, however, is not the typical walnut found on contemporary German Mausers, but instead is a very white, rather dense wood that we hoped would take a stain and result in a warm, dark brown finish instead of the dity yellow that usually results from staining the low-cost alternate woods with walnut stain.

In simplified terms, sporterizing is the process of removing from the rifle everything that mades it clunky, heavy, and poorly balanced. In almost all cases, the extension of the stock's forearm to the muzzle and the accompanying metal hardware for stacking the rifle and affixing a bayonet contributee tremendously to the aforementioned attributes of the military rifle. Remove the excess forearm and suddenly you will discover a new, sleek, light-weight and well-balanced rifle just waiting to emerge. Occasionally, you'll see so-called sporterized rifles that have had nothing more done to them but removal of the long forearm and the plugging of the cleaning rod hole. Reshaping the fore-end to a more pleasing configuration completes the job. While definitely an impovement, these sporters are still thick-stocked.

Thinning and shaping the stock is the single-most important step in producing a handsome rifle. This is not a difficult operation, but one that does require considerable thought and planning before you ever lay a tool to the wood. You must have some preconceived idea of what you want to ultimately end up with, or your rifle may look more like a mutant oar than a gun. Having a mental image of the finished product will enable you to remove everything that doesn't look like your rifle. Even your first attempt at sporterizing will produce satisfactory results if you take your time and plan your work.

Tools needed for this "slim and trim" operation are few and found in most any home workshop. A screwdriver, a sharp pencil, straight edge ruler, a fine-toothed saw (yeah, you can use a hacksaw, I suppose), a coarse wood rasp and a medium-coarse file are about all you need, along with several sheets of sandpaper of 120 and 250 grit. I use a Nicholson "4-in-hand" horseshoeing rasp for both shaping and finishing, at it provides both flat and slightly curved cutting surfaces.

To start, remove the barreled action from the stock and set it aside for the time being. Determine how long you want the forearm to be. Normally, the rear sight will help in determining this dimension. A length that places the rear sight directly in the middle of the forefarm looks good, being adequately long yet still proportional to the rest of the rifle. Some stocks may have clearance cuts into the cleaning rod hole from the barrel channel that may dictate the point at which the forearm will end. Once the cutoff point is determined, wrap the cutoff area with tape to prevent splitting the wood, then cut through the tape. The cleaning rod hole will now be exposed and should be be plugged by gluing in an appropriate diameter wooden dowel of about an inch in length. This will assure you of enough material for shaping the tip of the forearm.

Your next step should be to lay out the lines for shaping the forearm. Using the straight edge and sharp pencil, scribe a line on both sides of, and parallel to, the barrel channel that will approximate the dimensions of the forearm you have in mind.

A few years back, forearms tended to be a bit hefty. Nowadays, however, the slim, trim, lightweight look of the early prewar sporting rifles is coming back into vogue. Having a liking for these early classics, I took the forearm way down, eliminating the finger grooves found on the "Swede." To do so, I first squared up the front end to the approximate shape I wanted, being sure to leave enough wood for finishing to the final dimensions. The coarse side of the rasp works well for this operation. Because of the cleaning rod hole beneath the barrel channel, care had to be taken in laying out the bottom of the forearm so as not to break through the wood into the cleaning rod hole.

Once the forearm is squared, carefully work down those square corners until the desired contour is attained. Use the straight edge to maintain straight lines and contour proportions.

Moving back to the receiver-bearing section of the stock reveals generous proportions of wood that look much better in the form of sawdust on the floor than part of your rifle to be. I like to leave about 3/16 inch of wood on either side of the receiver. In taking the sides of this section down, be careful when approaching the bottom of the stock where the wood meets the triggerguard and floorplate assembly. There is no excess wood to remove from around the floorplate, so be careful to limit your thinning operation to the sides only.

When you've achieved the desired degree of thinning, which by the way should be proportional to the thinning of the forearm, carefully blend the sides with the bottom; again, taking care not to remove any wood from the area immediately surrounding the floorplate. After blending, you may want to shape the wood on the right side of the receiver into a loading trough. This is a simple operation that adds a lot to the appearance of the finished rifle.

Now progress to the grip area. In thinning the grip of wrist, it's best to "file and feel," taking care not to remove too much wood from the grip area. An excessively narrow grip not only feels strange, but weakens the stock in this critical area.

Working around the tang area at the rear of the receiver warrants the same warning as when working around the floorplate. The wood meets the metal with no excess, so be very careful in blending this area of the stock.

The buttstock on some military rifles is a bit of a challenge. On several models various types of metal hardware are inletted into the stock. These should be removed if you find them offensive. The mortise into which they fit should be cleaned of grease and debris down to bare wood. A wood insert should be fashioned from the forearm you removed at the outset of the project, and glued into place to fill the void. After the glue has dried, dress the plug down to the surface and continue thinning.

In some cases the metal is shallowly-inset and the normal thinning operation will completely remove the telltale hole. But in most cases, some filling will be necessary. The treatment of this problem can also display your artistic ability. Contrasting decorative wood inlays, a la Weatherby, can be inset into the stock to cover the obtrusion. Although I personally don't care for the inlay approach, I have seen some simple patterns that looked much better than a plain wood plug. Careful planning is the key to obtaining professional looking results.

Many rifles, including some Mausers, tend to have buttstocks that are thicker at the bottom (the toe) than at the top. I like to remove the buttplate and shape the plate to a more pleasing contour, reducing the almost bulbous bottom to a more pointed form as found on sporting rifles. After trimming, replace the buttplate on the rifle and you will readly see how much wood must be removed form the stock to acquire the proportions you want. Leaving the buttplate in place while working down the wood also tends to keep from rolling the wood's edge where it meets the buttplate.

Buttstocks tend to be a little thicker in the comb than what I like, so here too, I thinned our comb in keeping with the style of the early sporters. You may not wish to thin your comb as much as ours. Instead you may want to duplicate the dimensions of today's sporter.

Once the entire stock has been shaped with the rasp, smooth it up with the file, carefully blending the forearm, midsection, grip and butt of the rifle. Use the straight edge as a guide to help maintain the straight lines that make up the top of the comb, the wrist or grip, and the forearm.

Sanding is the next step. Without belaboring this subject, suffice it for me to say to be sure to use a hard rubber or felt-backed sanding block to maintain the contours established with the rasp and file. As my purpose was not to turn out a fine piece of furniture, but rather a utility rifle, I quit sanding after the application of the 250-grit paper. You may want to continue with finger grit paper for a finer finish--especially if you have one of the beautiful walnut stocks found on some European military rifles.

Because our "Swede" has such white wood, I took more drastic measures to assure a dark finish. There are several good gun stock stains available, but I had heard that shoe dye works exceptionally well on the dense, white wood, that repels most stains, so I though I'd give it a shot. Being rather unimaginative, I chose the plain brown stain.

Instead of using the fuzz ball applicator that is supplied with Lincoln Shoe Dye, I used a small cotton rag in applying the stain to avoid streaking. This stuff works great! It's dark and soaks in deep, yet the grain shows right through. Being basically a spirit stain, it raised the grain of the wood very little so that only a wipe or two with #0000 steel wool was necessary to whisker the wood. Finish with the stock finish of your choice according to the manufacturer's directions.

To complete the $100 sporter we had to have the rifle's bolt bent down. In military dress, the '96 Mauser rifle has its bolt bandle extended to the side, making it very awkward to handle. Bending the bolt down improves both the appearance and handling qualities of the rifle. If you choose a military rifle that incorporated a turned down bolt as part of its original design, you're a step ahead!

It is possible for the home tinkerer to bend the bolt, provided he has a set of bolt-bending blocks and an acetylene torch, but we recommend that you take the bolt to your gunsmith and have it professionally done. In the long run, you'll be money ahead and satisfied with the results. If you decided you want to try bending it on your own, the bolt-bending blocks are available from Brownells, Route 2, Box 1, Dept. GA, Montezuma, IA 50171.

We chose to cut the bolt and reposition the handle with the desired amount of angle, then have it heli-arc welded. This is another option the budget minded gun builder can consider.

Maintaining the bolt handle in the proper position for welding is the trick to this option. A small vise can work, but a bolt welding jig works much better. This item is also available from Brownells. As a matter of fact, if you think you would like to pursue gunsmithing as a hobby, you would do well to contact Brownells for their catalog. It's chock-full of labor and patience-saving devices for gunsmithing chores.

Now back to the story ... heli-arc welding also has the advantage of low heat transfer to the surrounding metal. What this means is that the heat from welding is so localized that the heat treatment in the rest of the bolt remains unaffected. That heat treatment contributes greatly to the smoothness of bolt operation, so you don't want to alter it if you can possibly avoid doing so. Whichever method you choose, be sure to disassemble the bolt before applying any heat to it, as you may ruin the mainspring within the bolt by the application of excessive heat.

After the bolt has cooled, shaping with a file to contours that are pleasing to your eye may be in order. If you heli-arced the bolt, excess weld will have to be removed and the metal polished. Depending upon the angle at which you bent your bolt, it may be necessary to relieve the stock to accept the bolt in the fully closed position. A little work with a chisel or file will remedy this condition if you find it to exist.

At this point we had put exactly $105 into our sporter, including the retail price of the rifle. While it is necessary to utilize the military sights in order to keep the price in the $100 ball park, you may wish to install a sight system similar to the one we used. The military sights are adequate for general use or for big game hunting out to about 150 yards. This really limits the cartridge. The little 6.5 Swede is a well-balanced, powerful and flat-shooting round, and we wanted a sight that would extend the range of the rifle out to about 225 yards without the bulk and expense of a scope.

We chose the Lyman Series 57 Receiver Sight for the rear and a hooded ramp for the front. The sights are available from Lyman Products, Rt. 147, Dept. GA, Middlefield, CT 06455.

If you decide to go with the custom sights, I would strongly recommend that you have the installation done by a gunsmith in order to assure the correct sight height and proper alignment of the mounting holes. At the very least, have the holes drilled for you, then mount the sights at home. This is essential for accuracy.

If you have a mill or a good drill press, great! Sight drilling jigs are available from Forster Products, 82 E. Lanark Ave., Dept. GA, Lanark, IL 61046. Without the drill press and sight drilling jig, however, I don't recommend you do the job yourself. Enough said.

We bobbed the barrel to 24 inches and having a Brownells Rifle Muzzle Facing and Chamfering Tool kit on my desk, we decided to give it a try for the necessary crowning job. Normally, you should have a gunsmith crown the muzzle of a cut barrel in order to true it up for top accuracy. This little kit from Brownells does a satisfactory job where a lathe is not available. Thei kit did not include a pilot for the 6.5mm (.264) bore, so I made one up and proceeded to crown the muzzle.

Removing the rear sight is simple and can be accomplished with a propane torch. The band-base sight is heated until the affixing solder is melted, then removed with a sharp rap from a mallet. After the solder has cooled, the excess can be filed or sanded off and the exposed white metal can be treated with G-96 Gun Blue Creme. We used the Gun Blue Creme to touch up the muzzle and all other worn areas on our project rifle.

We also decided to blow the budget and spring for a custom trigger, not that the military trigger won't do, we just wanted to take full advantage of the potential accuracy that we had just installed in the form of sights.

Timney's Sportsman trigger was chosen. It's a low-cost, fully adjustable unit that completely eliminates that long, creepy two-stage military pull and helps impart a sporting look to the rifle. It was necessary to remove a bit of wood in order to fit the Timney unit, and I found that a small chisel works well for this. I imagine an X-Acto knife would probably do just as well. Complete instructions for installing the trigger are included and the job took no more than 20 minutes, including the time to remove the wood from the stock.

While we're on the subject of wood again, I'd like to mention that we decided to glass bed the forward end of the rifle. Some military rifles have a steel stock insert that bears against the recoil lug of the receiver and dissipates the recoil force through the wood. Our Swede didn't have the steel insert, and upon close inspection we noticed it didn't have much bearing surface either. Without proper support of the recoil lug, accuracy suffers and the stock could eventually split due to recoil. Brownells Acra-Glas Gel was used to build up this critical area and also to fill the void left in the stock which resulted from removing the rear sight. The whole barrel channel was also bedded to further strengthen the forearm.

With the additional goodies that we added, the price of the finished rifle was about $200. And while still less than the budget models turned out by the factories, we did find some pretty nice factory rifles near that $200 mark in the "used gun" rack at our local sporting goods store.

There are several other things you could do for your sporterized rifle that cost little and will increase your gunsmithing abilities. Among them would be to checker the stock, add a recoil pad, install sling swivels, add a fore-end tip of contrasting wood, or you may want to try your hand at fitting a custom stock. Beveling the back of the magazine follower so the bolt isn't held back after the last shot is another simple thing that doesn't cost anything and makes the rifle more enjoyable to use.

After sporterizing your rifle, it would be a good idea to have a gunsmith look over your work and make sure that everything is okay before taking it out to sight in.

Well, that's as far as we're going with this project. Our resulting rifle is perfect for those of you needing a low-cost rifle with which to put up winter meat. And, for some of you, we hope the project may have been an introduction to a satisfying hobby or may be a new way of life.
COPYRIGHT 1985 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Renner, Roger
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Dec 1, 1985
Previous Article:Gun registration: an "alarmist" view; one harrowing incident was all it took to cause this RKBA "moderate" to do some serious rethinking of his...
Next Article:Guns of TV and movie: behind the scenes.

Related Articles
Mel C says I look like Mr Bean on a bad day. .at least I'm not a ringer for Robbie Fowler.
I once was an ugly duckling..; BUT LOOK AT POP BEAUTY SOPHIE NOW.
Why are all the new models so ugly?
Letter: Wrong priorities.
What's On: Big helpings come with tasteful deco: Pub Review; THE OAK, GOSPEL LN, ACOCKS GREEN: VERDICT: HHHHH.
Charlize Theron: warts and all? One To Watch.
Why this beauty plays the beasts; Cinema.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters