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Anybody ever rebuild a Milsurp Rifle?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by William Dykstra, Nov 9, 2019.

  1. William Dykstra

    William Dykstra Member

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    Right now I am on the verge of buying a Pattern 17 receiver and I already have a Mauser 98 receiver. I'm going to build both of them into their original configuration. Have any of you guys rebuilt a milsurp rifle, and if so what are some common problems you face?
     
  2. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Rebuilt quite a few including those you mentioned. The major issue on the 1917 is the price of a stock which Numrich has repros for now. Bolts, etc. are available --try Apex Gun Parts and Sarco still has some as is the hardware for the stock. New replacement barrels are available through Criterion. One thing to watch out for is that some receivers get cracked when removing the old original barrel. Stories about why this is so vary--one has improper heat treatment which does not appear to have much empirical support, the other is that Eddystone used pneumatic tools to install the barrel and overtorqued them. However, cracked receivers have been found in all makes--last but not least, some posit overpressure proof loads contributed and the receivers crack when the old barrel is removed. A cracked receiver cannot be economically fixed so beware. The ejector spring is another issue in that these are often broken but can have an expedient fix. New repros are now available. The last thing is to save hide on your hands, get or make a bolt tool to disassemble the bolt. Other than that, it is easy peasy to rebuild a 1917 with the proper barrel vise and action wrench--barrels are timed to install properly with sight alignment. Do be careful using a headspace gauge--the chambers of these are deep and the leverage on the bolt is enough to close on the headspace gage if you try to force it. Fingertip pressure and use a stripped bolt only to get an accurate reading and make sure to clean the locking recesses in the receiver and the bolt thoroughly before checking it.

    Mausers are also pretty easy except it is rare to get the sights to line up if you are putting on a used barrel. Best to get a barrel without sights on it and then put them on after install. Otherwise, timing a Mauser barrel requires lathe work. The 98 Mauser barrel should make full contact with an interior locking ring--ideally it will also bear on the shoulder but this may require lathe work to do. Mausers vary quite a bit among different makes in tolerances so be prepared to do handfitting if necessary. Mauser 98 parts are available from most major parts warehouses--Numrich, Sarco, Apex, and some others as well as common on Ebay. Watch out for twisted receivers or lug setback on locking surfaces is the main problem with these.
     
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  3. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    Finding part, these days it's hard. The gun will never be worth the same either. I've done a dozen or so, mostly when I was young. My dad's friend worked at numrich so I would pick through the parts bins trying to find matching numbers.
     
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  4. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Good advice from Boom Boom there.

    The problem is cost. You can buy a nice M1917 or K98 for less than it would cost to build one now. A South American or Turk Mauser is WAY cheaper.........
     
  5. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I no longer have the link, but I read a post by someone who knew a forge shop worker at Eddystone. This is now triple hear say, but the poster claimed the forge shop workers were being paid piece rate. And by turning the temperature of the forge ovens up, and heating up the billets, they could stamp out parts faster. It seemed it was a constant war between the forge shop foreman, who would come back and turn the temperatures down, and the workers, who would crank it up when the foreman went away. Reminds me of the thermostat wars the men used to have with the women at work, during winter. The ladies would crank up the heat, the men would turn it down. Management had to put a box with a lock over the thermostat!

    I talked to a Springfield Armory expert, someone who is so interested in the topic he volunteered thousands of hours at the CMP and has conducted his own independent research in the National Archives, and he told me that SA (maybe also RIA) also paid their forge shop workers piece rate. Therefore, management created a perverse incentive to the workers which would naturally result in defective parts, because the worker got paid more for creating defective parts! It is well known that SA and RIA did not have temperature gauges in the Arsenals, except for one pyrometer used for sight leaf springs, and when there is no objective way to measure temperatures, you can expect in a wartime surge, and in a piece rate environment, that burnt steel was not rare at all. Later investigations by the Army revealed that 1/3 of the low number 03's were structurally deficient, but no such studies by the Army on M1917's has surfaced. Given the M1917 was a rival to the 03, you can expect that the Army wanted no comparisons, and wanted everyone to forget about the M1917.

    Another aggravating factor was the quality of the steels of the era. Howe’s book “The Modern Gunsmith” has a whole chapter on steels. In that chapter is a warning not to chamber M1917 barrels to magnum calibers.

    If the caliber 300 Magnum cartridge is chambered in the U.S. Model 1917 Enfield rifle, meant for the caliber 30-06 cartridge, the change is very apt to make a bad gun barrel blow open, particularly if the metal should contain any small pipes, segregations, or abnormal changes in the structure of the metal form the surface to the bore near the breech. Those making such changes may not know that the steel produced at the end of the First World War was not so carefully selected as gun-barrel steels are today

    Any warning about inferior materials for barrels has to apply to receivers.

    And this was interesting:

    Thoughts on my sporterized Springfield M1903?

    https://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6546703#post6546703


    I've experienced a catastrophic receiver failure. I will tell you flat out it's NOT something you EVER want to happen.

    Over 100 stitches in my face/neck, shattered jaw that was wired shut for 12 weeks, a hole in my neck to breath through, weeks of missed work, weeks of being fed through a straw, lost 20-25% of my body weight, permanent nerve and tissue damage resembling the effects of a light stroke.

    Hop right on that train Dude cause my seat is empty.

    One of the "glass hard" P17 actions re-barreled to a belted magnum. Those actions are some of the strongest known(sarcasm). Some of the "over treated" ones are really strong right up to the point when they grenade.
     
  6. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Troy and Nightlord make some good points especially on buying one might be cheaper.

    Now comes the sermon which you can take or leave,

    One thing is to avoid an expensive ruin, you must have the proper tools and that means either a) making them if you are an experienced machinist with the tooling to do so, or b) buying them from Brownells, Ebay, or Midwayusa. For all assembly work, you need an action wrench for the action--Wally Cooper on Ebay, Midwayusa, and Brownells all sell a Mauser large ring action wrench which works for both the m1917 and m98 as these are both Mauser actions really.

    The second is that you need a dedicated barrel vise--Brownells, Midway, or Wally Cooper all make these. Midway's is the cheapest but uses wood blocks. Brownells has several with the Cadillac being one that uses a jack to put pressure on the barrel to hold it in place, the last is Wally Cooper's which has aluminum insets for the barrel vise that are machined specifically for the specific model--I'm sure if you shoot him an email that he can also make the additional inserts that will work with the other barrel so you do not have to buy a second barrel vise. Ar type barrel vises or competition benchrest type barrel vises will not do the job, using a regular vise is a bubba job and likely to damage the barrel, and using a pipe wrench is very ill advised.

    Here is a pictorial step by step of someone rebarrelling a 1917 action. https://www.migunowners.org/forum/showthread.php?281650-Lets-Re-barrel-a-1917-Enfield I don't really like his receiver/action wrench but it is serviceable if nothing goes wrong.

    The steps are similar for a m98 but with a bit different specs--the Mauser 98 barrel is torqued against a C-Ring (if a military action--civilian FN mausers postwar are a bit different if I remember correctly). The shoulder of a military barrel supposedly is insufficient to keep the barrel from unscrewing to use that as the primary torque surface--you may also have problems reaming the barrel to get proper headspace if new or the headspace will be too long if you put an old barrel that has insufficient shoulder space to torque down on the C-Ring within the receiver. Ideally, both surfaces will bear but that might require lathe work.

    Thus, by the time you add receiver wrenches, barrel vises, headspace gages, with the sum total of the parts, you can see where Nightlord is coming from. Things can go wrong such as twisting the receiver or the receiver cracking and so on. This is more common if you use improvised tooling. Be prepared to avoid a money pit and make a display rifle if nothing else if it cannot be made to shoot accurately and safely.

    I restored a bunch as a somewhat warped hobby because I have had significant health issues that severely restricted mobility for a number of years and because I like for something to tinker with so I amortized the costs of the tools over a fair number of firearms. I was also familiar with basic mechanical work and woodworking from a number of years working on cars, carpentry, furniture, etc. I also research online and through books both general gunsmithing and specifics on the rifles that I work on. I also take sometimes two-three years to restore one because I do not overpay for parts more than I have to and am willing to do stockwork, etc. I never try to restore them to pristine either because I use them as shooters and to learn about different rifle actions. Last but not least, I reserve difficult problems for my long suffering local gunsmith who puts up with my odd hobby and does the stuff beyond my capacity (either tooling, or touch) cheerfully. Know your limitations and ask for help.

    BTW do not go cheap on safety as the cost of a headspace gage is cheaper than a copayment to a surgeon or Urgent Care. Masking tape, shims, etc. are not a good substitute for a headspace gage--those are field expedients--do it right the first time. This goes double for anything that is containing very hot gasses at high pressure--if the receiver is deeply pitted, it is a wall hanger, if it is twisted, it is pretty much going to shotgun bullets in a pattern, if it has lug setback or require new heat treatment because Bubba welded on it, it should not be fixed by anyone other than a master craftsman in the field. Ditto for bolts and barrels. Make sure that the safeties are fully functional, passive and active.
     
  7. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    I remember seeing a video on how they tightened the p17 barrels, wish I could find it. After seeing that i wont buy a barreled action. Much safer using a action with the barrel removed and gone over good. But if you have to money and want to learn to for it.
     
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  8. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Slamfire,
    Here is a picture of a 1917 receiver cracking. https://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?298190-1917-Eddystone-cracked

    According to this thread, it does seem to be a problem with Eddystones as this gunboards member posted original documents from Ordnance that mentioned the issue https://forums.gunboards.com/showth...917-s-for-safety-issues-Eddystones-especially The guy posted original scans of Ordnance reports dating from post-WWII where rifles were being returned because of cracked receivers.

    I'm not sure that heat treatment was really to blame but cannot prove it. Some have blamed the re-vamping of these for WWII. Apparently, storage of the m1917 for war reserve was pretty lousy and the barrels were deteriorated on a number of them which then required new barrels. Johnson Automatics and High Standard made the barrels which are fine but the removal of the old barrels might have caused cracking. But one cannot discount it either.

    Thus, any individual receiver though should be carefully checked. ChuckinDenver (Warpath Vintage) who specializes in old m1917's has reported coming across cracked receivers from all makes at the CMP forum http://forums.thecmp.org/archive/index.php/t-83145.html Haven't seen his posts in awhile on milsurps and I believe jousters is no more. He is also on the gunboards post above mentioning the issue.

    One issue is that receiver crackings on P14's has really not be investigated thoroughly which if there was startup issues, that would more likely be where they would occur. From what I understand, the Brits are really close mouthed about a lot of the defense documents. They might also have additional information about the m1917 from WWII use.

    I did also find a news article that Midvale Steel (the Krupp counterpart in America) actually took over operation of the Eddystone plant in January of 1918 and these folks were well versed in steel making everything from ordnance steel for the big guns to other critical specialty steels. https://www.remingtonsociety.org/the-story-of-eddystone/
     
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  9. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    That is how I generally buy them as a stripped receiver does not go for much because of sellers stripping them for parts to sell. If the receiver is bad, I am not going to use it.
     
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  10. William Dykstra

    William Dykstra Member

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    Right now, Sarco has them for about unbarreled actions for about $100. So I plan on buying 3-4 recievers. Have you had any luck buying parts from Sarco? I've never bought from them before.
     
  11. William Dykstra

    William Dykstra Member

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    I also have a Gewehr 98 from Simson Suhl & Co. that takes quite a bit of force to move the bolt forward. Closing the bolt is just fine. I've thought about smoothing the raceways like I saw from a video on the Riflechair Youtube Channel.

    I'm hoping that the receiver isn't twisted like you said some receivers were.
     
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  12. Steel Horse Rider

    Steel Horse Rider Member

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    Finding parts is the main issue. I am currently rebuilding an Enfield No 5 which was given to me by a friend who obtained it from a bubba who had desecrated it by cutting off the end of the muzzle and relieving most of the stock forearm. I currently have replaced the sight/muzzle cone and the rear sight assembly but have yet to obtain the trigger guard assembly and the forearm stock. I will eventually get all of the necessary parts but will not be in a "positive" financial position on the rifle but that is not my primary consideration.
     
  13. LaneP

    LaneP Member

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    Great post and info. I have an Eddystone that from the research I've been able to do was rebarreled sometime in the WWII era with a Johnson Automatics two groove barrel. I bought it in '91 for a $100 bill. The barrel was left in the white and the bore is spotless, as though it was immediately put in storage after the rebarrel. I've shot it about 100 times and have had no issues but you never know with these old warhorses. The stories of wartime production shortcuts rings true and makes all sense.
     
  14. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    I'd like to pick one up for a 375 build one day. Well a p14.
     
  15. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    I've bought from them for years and other than sometimes delayed shipping for one reason or another, have not had problems other than some parts were very well worn. Some other folks do not care for them as some are reproduction parts (particularly 1903 parts for example) and Sarco may not be quite forthcoming on distinguishing these. They are one of the few old line massive milsurp warehouses left and they apparently bought everything so some of the stuff is fine, some of it is well worn, pitted, etc., and some can be junk. They are hard to reach by phone and some people report issues on returns or the initial parts sent out.

    On firearms, they are very strict (believe one of the reasons was some problem in NJ years ago with their license) and you and your FFL must follow things exactly. I'm pretty sure that they will not ship receivers to a C&R license because of federal regulations. Make sure to follow all of their instructions to avoid issues.
     
  16. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    That Gunboards thread really, really shows, that Eddystone had systemic production problems. To produce that many rifles with cracked receivers shows the production flow was seriously out of whack. The sort of defects identified by RIA in the 1940's are not onesies and twosies.

    Notice that the poster revealing this information was attacked as a troll. Hatcher's reputation is such, if Hatcher did not mention it, it does not exist. And Hatcher never mentioned systemic problems with the M1917. (Hatcher also blamed the forge shop workers at SA and RIA for the bad receivers. In his account, Army management had nothing to do with the problem, it was all those rascally forge shop workers. :barf: ) After he retired, Hatcher had no financial incentive to air out all the Army's dirty laundry. He was always a Company man, and by staying in great relations with the Army, he got to the head of the NRA. It is doubtful the NRA gave him as many free suits and goodies as Wayne Lapierre, but his NRA salary, and DC parking privileges were better than what he got in the Army! He was after all, just a Major General, those guys clean the windows for the Three Star and Four Star offices in the Pentagon.
     
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  17. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    A Johnson Automatic barrel, just due to the technology, would have to be a much safer barrel than a WW1 era barrel. I lived through the semi conductor revolution, and it was fast. Similarly, metallurgy was an immature art in the first decade of 1900, and advanced quickly through the 1920's. I mean Von Mises failure theory was 1913!? I have much more faith in American WW2 firearms than American WW1 firearms.
     
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  18. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    Last.time I went to sarco there pa place in Easton. They would not sell me a action because I was from ny. I thought they lost there ffl and the moved the firearm stuff to pa. I think they still arrested in nj.
     
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  19. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    If you have a machinist's trued surface, you can pretty much tell if the receiver is twisted if you dismount the barrelled receiver from the stock. Better folks than I can eyeball one and tell from the underside. I use a trued surface because I can't. A twisted receiver happens when someone rebarrels them and otherwise would be unlikely. I have not put it to the test but a twisted receiver is probably not very accurate either. On the receiver raceways, Brownells used to sell a truing device for these that looked kinda like a tuning fork. You would put a certain grit of emery and the fork would hold it to smooth the raceways. You can also make a tool to do it. Before doing anything, using marking fluid to figure out where the bolt lugs/body and the raceway are binding. Sometimes a small burr or some other irregularity is enough to do it. The bolt body can also be warped which can cause it.
     
  20. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    These are generally considered very accurate and they are two groove which supposedly makes them better for cast bullets. The High Standard barrels are four groove and very accurate as well.
     
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  21. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Oh, one last thing on the Sarco 1917 receivers. These have been blasted and the description says that they might have some pitting. Not sure if these are in the white or if Sarco parkerized them after blasting them. Don't expect a blued receiver.
     
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  22. William Dykstra

    William Dykstra Member

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    I'm ok with it being in the white or parkerized. If it's in the white I'll probably either try to find a gunsmith to rust blue it or cold blue it. If everything turns out ok with the receiver, I found a repro stock on Numrich and I'll get a barrel from Criterion. I know you couldn't give me an exact price, but what would be the neighborhood $ for a gunsmith to install the barrel and do whatever receiver work that needs to be done?
     
  23. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    As opposed to a m98 Mauser, you probably will not have to have lathe work done, the barrel is timed, and the m1917 uses a standard cartridge--the .30-06 which any gunsmith doing barrel work should have on hand. I also believe that Criterion makes or did make a .308/7.62 barrel for the m1917 but this is an anachronism if you want to be as issued. You might also have feeding issues and have to put in a block and maybe do other alterations to the feeding rails. Alterations to the feeding rails and ramp are those things better left to a professional gunsmith for liability and safety reasons.

    I would guess somewhere between $100-200 and if you have a personal relationship with the gunsmith, maybe a bit less. If all the gunsmith has to do is put the barrel on an unbarreled receiver and then do finish reaming, it should be around that. However, some gunsmiths will shoot a high price because A) they don't really want to do the job, B) they may be backed up if competent, or both. It would be best to find someone familiar with the old warhorses if you can and that generally means a gunsmith that has been in business for awhile. A guy named Chuck Moline dba Warpath Vintage (posts on the forums above have his monicker ChuckinDenver) has a great reputation on these on the forums but you would need to ship the gun or live in Colorado for him to do that.
     
  24. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Rust bluing is fairly labor intensive and will cost you for the gunsmith's time. A realistic and cheap finish would be parkerizing but depending on what era you are emulating, the original 1917's that were parkerized are dark black (wwi era) or grey (wwii era). Starting somewhere in Sept. of 1918, 1917 rifles were parkerized. The WWII stuff apparently got its greenish color by the cosmolene saturation of gray parkerizing. The P14's and the earlier m1917's were apparently rust blued into a matte finish. Another cheap option is caustic hot bluing offered by a lot of gunsmiths but the color will be off compared to the original rust bluing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
  25. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Have one on this rifle, and it is a good barrel.

    yoWFF87.jpg
     
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