By January 15, 2007

Diamond in the rough? Probably not.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Gibberish entries to discuss some important news. I received my “fair” grade Yugoslavian SKS semi-automatic carbine from Century International Arms today. The UPS guy just dropped it off on the porch, without so much as a signature. Rad. Gotta love the C&R license.

The quality of this SKS and my purchasing experience are completely different from the Mosin Nagant M44 that I purchased from Classic Arms. The vendor-specific stuff will get addressed in another entry; for now let’s discuss the condition of my new rifle.

Granted, my M44 was listed as “excellent” condition. “Fair” is almost the bottom of the NRA firearm grading scale. Only “poor” and “gunsmith specials” are below fair grade. Here’s a synopsis from J&G Sales:

Poor: Still considered working usually, though minor adjustment may be needed Well-worn finish, perhaps no finish left. May have corrosion or pitting that does not render gun unusable. Bore may be shot smooth and be dark. Wood may have cracks but is usually still usable.

When I unpacked the rifle today I expected the stock to be split and pieces bent or obviously beaten to crap. The only thing I could think was “holy shit that’s a lot of cosmoline.” Cosmoline is a petroleum-based rust preventative. The cosmoline was THICK on the SKS. My M44 had very minor cosmoline, and it was easily removed from the stock with lemon oil. This beast would need entirely different treatment.
Straight from the box. The smell of cosmo made me open two windows and start the ceiling fan.
How would you like to put that up against your shoulder? Gnarly.
The recoil spring is not supposed to be covered in cosmoline.

I knew I had my work cut out for me. Time to break down the gun and give the innards a nice bath.

The trigger group, springs, bayonet screw, and other small parts took a swim in the mineral spirits. I went to work on the barrel. In the words of our favorite Italian restaurant waitress, it was “nastyfied.” I sprayed some brake cleaner down the bore until it was mostly clear. I knew there wasn’t enough pressure to get all of the cosmoline out, but it was a start. I used a rag soaked in mineral spirits to wipe away as much cosmoline as I could from the rest of the metal parts, then went to work with an old toothbrush.

After about an hour, here’s the current state of My Fair SKS:
Spring cleaning.
The mineral spirits ate the finish right off of the gas cylinder. The entire cylinder was packed with cosmoline.

Now that most of the cosmoline was off of the metal parts, I could start to see why this rifle was listed as fair. There is surface rust over almost every part. The bayonet, cleaning rod, and a few other parts were rust-free, but almost everything else had little orange-red spots all over it. Most worrisome off the bat is the trigger group:

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of rust there. I haven’t finished cleaning the bore out yet (I had to give my head and skin a rest), but I hope that the inside of the barrel is in good condition. I’m a bit worried that the cosmoline came too late for this gun and the rust has already taken its toll. Hopefully with some steel wool and a re-bluing the gun will look as good as new, but you never know.

Diamond in the rough? Probably not. But maybe she’ll make a good shooter and “bubba gun.”

Posted in: guns, review

4 Comments on "Diamond in the rough? Probably not."

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  1. Bond says:

    My father and I reconditioned some rifles with much more extreme rust damage and they came out great. I think yours will be fantastic. If you need any help, let me know — donut’s uncle did ours and I’m sure he’d lend a hand (he is a gunsmith who specializes in lots of restorations).

  2. drfaulken says:

    Actually, I may take you up on that. I’ve been looking at cold-bluing and bake-on finishes all night and my head is starting to swim. I’d really like a Gun-Kote style bake on finish in flat black, or maybe even a parkerized finish.

    In other news, the stock is split. Good thing I thought ahead and ordered a synthetic stock.

  3. Spectre says:

    Is it normal for mineral spirits to take the finish off of the wood. or is it because the finish was already gone and the mineral spirits just showed it’s true colors?

    I came in possesion of 2 Mosin Nagant 91/30’s and they are in excellent condition but still look like rough rifle shaped cosmoline carvings. I want them clean but still be in good looking condition.

  4. drfaulken says:

    Hey Spectre,

    Yes, mineral spirits can strip off the finish. Some C&R folks do this on purpose to refinish the stock, as chances are the finish is spotty anyway. I try to use lemon oil whenever possible on the wood, but sometimes the cosmo is too thick.

    I find this cleaning write-up to be pretty valuable.

    Congrats on the two 91/30s 🙂