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Cleaning vs. "restoring" a surplus rifle.

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by jagdpanzer347, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. jagdpanzer347

    jagdpanzer347 Well-Known Member

    Greetings all. Wondering where the line is between cleaning and restoring a rifle. The metal work is fairly straightforward for me; clean off the cosmo and don't touch up or refinish. I want to keep my milsurps sharp looking but as original as possible. The real question I guess is about the stocks. Removing the cosmoline is a given, but what about sanding and applying varnish,etc.? I realize some folks will just say "do whatever makes you happy, it's your rifle." Just looking for a little feedback from the longer time collectors. I shoot all of mine,but it is an added bonus to watch them go up in value over time. Thanks for any input.
  2. If you wish to preserve the collector value to the fullest, leave the finish alone. If it has little collector value, then refinish it to your heart's content.
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    What kind of rifle are you talking about?

    On the high-value surplus rifles, it makes sense to leave them alone and avoid even cleaning them. You may find after a cleaning that the dark patina was mostly just dirt and grease. Still, collectors are a weird bunch and place a premium on a stock that hasn't been cleaned.

    For most rifles, though, I personally value the woodwork more than the "historical grime." Leaving cosmoline, grime and other heavy petro-grease on a rifle stock is not good for the wood. Cosmoline-soaked wood is far more vulnerable to damage. On a bad one you can actually score a groove down the surface grains with your fingernail alone. Not good.

    If you're going to actively shoot it and it's value isn't super high, I'd suggest a cleaning with mild soap and wet rags. Once you do that you can get a better idea of whether there's enough original finish left to justify reviving it or whether you need to start from scratch. You can also get a better idea of whether the cosmoline soaked into the grain or remained on the surface.
  4. alamo

    alamo Well-Known Member

    I just clean the metal like you do. I remove cosmoline off the stock and clean the oil, dirt, grime, etc. off with laquer thinner and apply several coats of tung oil. No sanding, staining or steaming out dents, scratches, etc. Not sure how a purist would regard doing that to the stock. I don't regard that as refinishing myself.
  5. jagdpanzer347

    jagdpanzer347 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input guys. I don't really have any high dollar milsurps yet, although as my "sickness" progresses I'm sure that will change! Like a lot of you, I am assembling a representative collection of history's great and not so great small arms. Most of the surplus rifles I have purchased in the past were in very good condition with minimal cosmoline to remove. But lately I've acquired a few that will require some significant cleaning. Most recently an Enfield No4 Mk1 and K31 from AIM and an Albanian SKS from a co-worker. The K31 has a pretty decent but very dirty stock, so I guess I'll start with it and try some basic clean up on the wood and see what's under all that grime. Thanks again.
  6. asknight

    asknight Well-Known Member

    If you've got some serious collector-grade rifles, then you should give them a thorough cleaning and degreasing. At least to see their true condition and to place a valuation on them.

    Then after they're spotlessly clean, reapply new cosmoline to all of the metalwork if you're going to place it into long term storage as an investment.
  7. alamo

    alamo Well-Known Member

    It is a sickness. Better get an M1 Garand and a 1903 from the Civilian Marksmanship Program soon. The 1903s will probably run out in the next year and they are best & cheapest source - $400. The better grade Garands will run out after awhile.

    I just got a No.4 Mk.1 as well. I'll get to it pretty soon. I like to detail strip them to the last part for a good cleaning when I first get them. Do you use the disassembly instructions at surplusrifle.com?

  8. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    I would advise STRONGLY against cleaning the stock on a high-value piece. Just leave it alone. The most you should ever do to one if you want to preserve its value is apply a little gun stock wax for protection against the elements.

    Also, no need to use cosmoline these days for storage unless you're putting it in a SHTF cache in the woods somewhere. A lighter grease on the metal should be more than enough. For best results, store the wood and metal parts apart from each other.
  9. jagdpanzer347

    jagdpanzer347 Well-Known Member

    Surplusrifle.com is a most excellent website. My hat is off to those guys. I bought a couple of CMP Garands about six years ago. Defininatly the favorites of my surplus collection. I had been on a few year hiatus from shooting and collecting, but am now heavily back into it. Those SVT40s are looking real appealing lately. One sure would look nice next to the Mosins in the safe. But I've also been looking at a DSA STG58C. And when you factor in that I work about twenty minutes from AIM-well you get the point. Maybe I should look into getting a part-time job to help feed my habits!!
  10. Stickjockey

    Stickjockey Well-Known Member

  11. RaggedClaws

    RaggedClaws Well-Known Member

  12. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    Depends on whether it's a rare, expensive gun you are keeping as a financial investment, or a gun you want to shoot and enjoy as a historical treasure.

    My view of firearm preservation is more like that of car aficionados. Car collectors like to see old cars cleaned and looking more or less like they did in their prime, rather than covered with years of dirt, grime, cobwebs, and garage dust. For a car that's going to be driven, restoration to OEM condition is not regarded as a sacrilege, and modification of old cars by upgrading the engine or suspension is not generally regarded as a sacrilege.

    My wife's 1952 Tula SKS was purchased looking like an old forgotten relic, but she cleaned it up (including the wood) until it now looks like it did when it came off the assembly line in 1952. I like that.

    My Finn M39 has seen a lot of combat, though, and I wouldn't want that gun to look brand new. But I did clean it up so that it looks like a battle-scarred-but-well-taken-care-of war horse, rather than a forgotten dusty relic that was just dug out of an attic.
  13. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member


    I got the last one left at my local store, so I accepted one with lousy blueing and a chewed on stock. I am donating it to my education.

    Education in wood refinishing and cold blueing, that is.

    So far I've already messed up stripping the finish (not enough slathered on, let it dry out, etc. Check out the website for Zip-Strip, lots of good instructions on how to do it correctly) When it warms up in a day or two I'm going to have another go at it.

    Although I'm just starting out, and already probably botched it, the Miles Gilbert stock refinishing video seems like a good place to start for a complete beginner.

    One of these days I will post pics. Maybe a few "before" shots to inspire me to continue.
  14. Ash

    Ash Well-Known Member

    Just keep in mind that if you cross into the realm of refinishing, you will reduce its value. If you clean it only, there is no problem. But the minute you start making it look like it came from the factory, you have just reduced its value in most circles. Rifles are different from cars. A restored car is loved by car guys (I restored a 1949 Ford F1). A rifle that sees the restoration that my Ford saw, would have its value dropped by half.

    Also, consider what today may be of no great value may be worth a lot a few years from now. For instance, Finnish M39's were $70 rifles 5 years ago. Now, $200-$400 rifles. Same goes for those "worthless" Russian M91's that could be had for $50 each. Try $150. Sure, not a LOT of cash, but that Remington M91 that you could get for $50 ( got one in 1997 for that price) that gets sporterized (worst) or simply restored to original condition, is still worth $50-$75, instead of $250 today.

  15. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    Milsurp value?

    I guess it depends on if you ever plan on selling it. I'm hoping my grandkids shoot them someday, so in 30 or 40 years my refinishing job (assuming it comes out decently) won't look all that spanking new.

    Also, with inflation driving everything else up, how much appreciation is currency related vs. actual increase in rarity now that the warehouse is emptied out?

    It did feel a little weird, starting to strip the stock, but unless the other 500,000 K31's all get snatched up by space aliens or something, what mine looks like right now isn't really something you'd want to own.

    Not yet, anyway. I do find myself thinking that any "sporterizing" seems wrong, unless it is invisible trigger work or a site upgrade you can switch in and out.
  16. jagdpanzer347

    jagdpanzer347 Well-Known Member

    Being a big Mustang enthusiast (My other expensive hobby) I can appreciate the comparisons between cars and rifles. I think of them both as treasured possesions I never plan on selling or trading. The other similarity is that I buy them to have fun with them. Just as I'd never buy a car I'd never drive, I'd never buy a rifle I'd NEVER shoot. Just so you now for comparisons sake, my Stang nevers sees rain or snow and it's always clean,but I do enjoy hammering the gears once in a while. Not saying I abuse my weapons (or car) ,but some rifles do get more "babied" than others.

    PS. This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is MINE.
  17. Gordon Fink

    Gordon Fink Well-Known Member

    Not space aliens but Americans …


    ~G. Fink
  18. -C4-

    -C4- Well-Known Member

  19. censored one

    censored one member

    i would not sand at all. you want to keep the armory marks clear and sharp. apply mineral spirits to remove cosmoline and then wipe some boiled linseed oil on it. most collectors do not want a sanded stock.
  20. Limeyfellow

    Limeyfellow Well-Known Member

    I tend to steam clean out the old cosmoline and gunk out the rifle stock but don't sand. It can take out some dings but the main purpose is steam really cuts through the junk. I then readd an original oil base to them that they were issued with, usually Boiled Linseed Oil and some use Tung oil. That generally keeps the best value and best luck. I also occasionally use antique restorer to repair the wood which is basically BLO with other stuff added in it and really helps the wood and stop rust on the outside of the metal parts.

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