This is it, the thread where I tell the epic tale of my ongoing battle with rust and cosmoline as I attempt to make a stupidly cheap rifle, slightly less shit.
But first, some back story! (Seriously, if you just want the photos, scroll down)
I recently got my category A and B in order to continue and expand my hobby of collecting cool old military stuff. I am a massive history nerd and collect all sorts of random stuff. Medals, helmets, munition etc.
Initially, I was planning to buy a Mosin from Claremont Firearms in WA but when I realised that the postage was going to be $180, the price became too much for my already blown budget. I then found this forum where someone mentioned that Owen’s Guns in Queensland had Type 53 rifles. Long story short, I bought one, sight unseen, from Ron, the owner, for $220 plus $50 postage.
The Type 53 rifle is the Communist Chinese version of the M44 Mosin. The Soviets gave all the tooling for the M44 to their Chinese comrades, taught them how to use it and the Type 53 was born.
Now there is a HEAP of myth and lore out there about these rifles and not a lot of evidence to back any of it up. Mechanically, they are the same as an M44 in every way except the stock is made out of what is commonly called Chu wood. It was used as it is lighter and more water-resistant, useful when fighting in jungle environments. Officially they were produced from 1953 until 1961 but in reality, production only occurred in 1954, 54, 55 and 60. There are rumors that a small number were made in 61 but I’ve never seen a photo of one with a 61 marked date. Estimates put the total production number at about 50,000.
Historically they are a bit of an odd duck. They were already well out of date when they started being produced, in fact, the only reason the Chinese got the tooling was because the Soviets had moved onto the SKS. Indeed, the reason for the fairly low production number is because they were replaced with the 56 Carbine (Chinese SKS) and Type 56 (Chinese AK) in 1956. From then on, they were given to reserve units and then down to the People’s Militia and police and then handed out to whoever wanted to have a Communist revolution (Ni Hao, Vietnam). They were fully removed from Chinese service by the late 70s when People’s Militia units were given the SKS.
And here is mine:
It is an October, 1953 production rifle with a ‘Shi’ mark, meaning that it was still part of the initial test run of rifles in 1953. All numbers match with the exception of the bolt (barrel, butplate and floor plate) which I am very happy about as that is very rare on these rifles. It is missing its bayonet and cleaning rod but is otherwise complete and came with a sling which photos show to be one used my the People’s Militia from the 1960s onwards. The bluing is more or less totally gone. The stock is beat to hell but is not cracked. The bore was pitch black but rifling could be seen in the gloom. This rifle was FILTHY. I mean, totally gross. Handle it for a few minutes and your hands needed to be washed with soap.
So, all there was to be done was start cleaning and see what I could do. Now please note, I am not saying that anything I did was the right thing to do or that you should do it. Part of the reason that I wanted this gun was to learn some restoration skills and I haven’t done this before.
My boy Ed was ready to get to work.
Ready to go! Note the pair of chopsticks. Someone online said that they never do a project without a pair of disposable chopsticks as they are so useful. I thought this was dumb but that it would be funny to have a pair of chopsticks as it was a Chinese rifle. Oh boy was I wrong about it being a dumb idea…
First things first, the bolt.
On first glance it looked OK but as soon as it was apart I realised that it was caked in cosmoline. I’m assuming that Ron in QLD just gave them all a quick wipedown when he got them in the 80s and so it was all still caked inside.
Dumped it all into a bath of turps and kept moving on.
Most of the parts came away from the stock without issue until I hit the front barrel band. I could not get it off. Dad helpfully offered me a large pair of pliers. Then I remembered my chopsticks! One was whittled down into a wedge and jammed under the band, also compressing the retaining spring thingy. The other was then used as a punch to tap the band off, millimeter by millimeter.
On to the bore!
The initial plan was to soak the whole barrel and action in a capped PVC pipe which Dad had laying around from some previous project. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit due to the massive bayonet hinge on the side. Instead, I plugged the barrel with two foam earplugs, stood it all up in the PVC pipe and syringed turps into it and lett it overnight. The next morning, I removed the plugs and little chunks of black stuff came out along with the now brown turps. Oh good…
I threw some Ed’s Red down it and got to work, first with the nylon brush and then bronze. I then used carby cleaner, left it for 10 minutes and went at it again with the brushes, flushed it with Ed’s more brushing. I repeated this over and over and over again.
To say what came out was disgusting is an understatement. First, it was black fluid and then it was brown sludge. It looked like brown paint dripping from the barrel. I assume it was rust. I don’t know. I probably don’t want to know.
I actually stopped taking photos for a bit at this point because my hands were so covered in gunk that I couldn’t get the phone out of my pocket.
After a while, I stopped to take some more photos and then began patching out as much as I could. I’d do Ed’s Red and then two patches and repeat.
In between all the brushing and flushing, I also got the bolt back together. Given the large number of stamps on it, I suspect that this isn’t a Chinese bolt. Internet law seems to be that the Chinese bolts were usually only marked with a 21 in a diamond and nothing else. It has also been turned down at some point which is odd and a pain. I may end up with a new bolt in the future.
That’s more or less where I’m up to. Everything metal that can come off the rifle is off and has been soaked in turps, scrubbed with 0000 steel wool and kerosene and then been oiled with Lanox. The bore is looking pretty good. It’s pitted but bright and has strong rifling. Next will be to start on the outside of the barrel and action which needs a good clean and decide what I’m going to do with the stock.
The Chu wood of the stock is VERY soft and it makes me a bit nervous about refinishing it so I am still having a think about that. Also found some interesting marks under the stock plate when I removed it and it looks like the stock may have once had characters painted on the but which I’ve seen on other Type 53s.
So far I feel that I’ve learned quite a lot. Cosmoline is indeed as foul as everyone says. 0000 Steel wool is not the magic bullet others seems to think that it is. I’ll keep updating this as I go but at this point that probably won’t be for quite some time. Unfortunately, my wedding and uni are going to have to take precedence for a bit!
If you have any questions or queries, hints or tips, comment away!