September 23, 2010
By Reid Coffield
You can save money by recycling a gun that gets little or no use. An old Russian Mosin-Nagant military rifle was converted into a nice economical sporter with some time and a little work.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the values of my parents and grandparents. They were a pretty conservative and thrifty bunch. However, when I was a teenager, I always felt frustrated and a little embarrassed about the way my folks were more than happy to accept hand-me-downs and used clothing for me. When my friends would show up at school with really "cool," fashionable clothing, I was wearing shirts that I inherited from my Uncle Bob or shoes from my Uncle Gene. Don't get me wrong, this was good, serviceable stuff, but Bob was in his late 60s when he died, and his sense of fashion just didn't appeal to this 16-year-old guy who was trying to fit in with the high school movers and shakers.
But with age and experience, my desire to spend money on "new stuff," the latest and greatest, or the "in" thing has greatly lessened. In fact, some unkind souls would say I'm a tightwad. Well, I guess I am. I just can't see spending good money on something new when an older item will serve just as well and be a heck of a lot cheaper. Sometimes the old stuff is almost free!
Take guns for example. I'd be willing to bet that most of us have one or more rifles, handguns, or shotguns no longer being used. If you're like me, you have a gun or two that were purchased or built for a specific reason or a special purpose that's no longer relevant.
Not too long ago I realized I "needed" a new barrel for my old Remington Model 870 12 gauge. I have one plain barrel with an old adjustable choke on it. I also have a cut-down vent-rib barrel I bought years ago for about $40 to hunt deer in Iowa. As I looked over these barrels and tried to come up with a plan for getting the money, I realized I didn't need a new barrel. All I needed to do was modify my old slug barrel, and I'd be in business. And all it would take would be some time and a little work.
I also ran across an old 98 Mauser I built years ago for use in High Power matches at my local club. I normally shot a service rifle, either an M1 Garand or an M1A. I got the itch to have a rifle with really neat sights, and having a bolt gun seemed the way to go, so I built the Mauser, shot it for a few years at club matches, and then put it away to collect dust.
Right now I "need" a varmint gun in a larger caliber. I know I won't be shooting it a lot, but I do want to play around with it. I don't want--and frankly can't afford--to spend the money on a new rifle.
Then there are a couple of .22 rimfire rifles I'd cut down for the kids years ago when they started shooting. One is an old Winchester Model 67, and the other is a small-action Martini. Both are good guns, but the stocks were designed for children. Sure, I could save 'em for grandchildren, but then again, if I did, then I wouldn't have the fun of making up a new gun with those kids when they're ready.
I really would like to have a nice rifle in one of the new .17 rimfire cartridges for hunting varmints, but again, I just don't want to shell out the bucks to buy another rifle.
A cut-down Martini .22 rimfire rifle is destined to become an adult-size .17 rimfire varmint rifle. A major part of recycling the Martini will entail fitting a new Boyds' stock to the rifle.
The first order of business was to determine what type of choke tube that was. I measured the outside diameter of the threads on the tube as well as the number of threads per inch. Based on those two bits of info, it appeared that this barrel was set up for 0.795-44 Tru-lock style tubes. A quick call to Brownells and I was in business with some new choke tubes more suitable for my purposes. After running down the tubes, I just removed the old aftermarket iron sights that had been added to the rib and filled in the screw holes with plug screws. The finish of the barrel was a bit rough, so I bead-blasted it and then blued it. It doesn't look all that bright and shiny, but it was a quick, simple project; it shoots just as well as a brand-new barrel; and it will more than meet my needs. Since new barrels retail for more than $250, my expenditure of less than $50 left me with a lot of hard-earned bucks. Not a bad way to use a "useless" old barrel!
While my next project is still a work in progress, it'll give you an idea of what you can do with a simple .22 rimfire rifle. As I mentioned earlier, I'd cut down a commercial Martini .22 rimfire for my kids when they were just starting to shoot. The action is still useable, but the short stock is just about useless.
I found a full-sized, adult-dimensioned buttstock from Boyds', and combined with a new .17-caliber barrel, this old rifle will have a new lease on life. I haven't ordered the barrel yet, but Brownells is offering barrel blanks priced from about $100 on up. I should be able to get my old Martini up and running for less than $200.
If you're like me, money is a bit tight right now, but that doesn't necessarily mean we can't enjoy shooting with our "new" recycled guns. These are definitely the kind of hand-me-downs I can use!
Until next time, good luck and good gunsmithing!
You can even recycle components like this Remington Model 870 barrel. Poorly done sporter conversions, such as this old 1903 Springfield, offer great opportunities to the hobby gunsmith. Believe it or not, this Browning Citori was purchased for only $300 and was a mess. With nothing more than simple handwork, it was recycled into a nice, useable field gun.
Of course, gun owners have been recycling guns for years--long before recycling became fashionable. Just think of all the military-surplus rifles that have been converted to sporters over the years. In the late 1950s and 1960s, it was almost impossible to pick up a gun magazine without finding at least one article on some aspect of converting military-surplus rifles.
While you don't see quite as much of that today, that's still an option. There are lots of military rifles that are not really desirable as collectables hiding in closets that could be made into useful spor
ters or recreational shooters. There are also some pretty awful conversions of fine old military rifles that could be salvaged with a little work. Over the years, I've picked up a couple of those as project guns. The important thing to keep in mind is that many of these rifles are basically good, solid firearms that could be used with just a minimal amount of money and a little time and effort.
Besides, the fun of doing the work--or at least a good portion of it--yourself is a major consideration. I would contend that most gun owners are on average more able and willing to do the kinds of handwork involved in projects like this than your typical non-gun owner. As a group, we tend to be "hands-on" kinda folks who don't mind making a little sawdust or usin' a file from time to time. In fact, we enjoy it!
By now I'm sure you get the picture. I have a number of perfectly good guns that just need a bit of work to be given another useful life, and all I need to do is just modify and recycle them. I would bet that some of you are in the exact same boat.
Invariably, when you do gun work, you'll need some parts, stocks, tools, etc. Fortunately, there are a lot of good sources for things like this. Three of my favorites are Numrich, Brownells, and Boyds'. Numrich Gun Parts is the largest seller of parts for older and obsolete firearms in the world. I never get tired of looking through Numrich's huge catalog, as I always find new "treasures." Brownells Inc. in Montezuma, Iowa, is the largest and best known supplier of gunsmithing tools and equipment. It also offers a wide selection of parts for current-production firearms. For years, the Brownells catalog has been known as the "gunsmith's wish book," and the company's tech staff is more than happy to talk to you and help you with your projects. And you'll want to check out Boyds' Gunstocks. When Fajen and Bishop closed their stock factories years ago, Boyds' pretty much moved in to fill the void, and today the company offers a variety of wood stocks for many popular firearms.
With that said, let's take a look at what can be done with a couple of these projects.
From Useless To Useful
The first one is the old Remington 870 barrel. The barrel had been shortened, rifle sights had been added, and it was reamed and threaded for a screw-in rifled choke tube. When I got the barrel, it had a rifled Colonial tube in it. That was fine, and it shot quite well, but since I would be using the barrel primarily for skeet and sporting clays, that tube had to go.