Reviving Grandpa’s Rifles

Many deer have fallen to the author’s grandfather’s gun. A…

Many deer have fallen to the author’s grandfather’s gun. A buck this size was a real trophy 50 years ago, and it’s taken plenty since.

An hour or so before the sun rose on another Missouri opening morning, I found myself standing in front of my gun safe, forced to make a decision. Should I hunt with my new synthetic stock, stainless steel, weather-resistant, ultra-light .300 Winchester Magnum, or should I once again shoulder my grandfather’s trusty old battered and beaten .30-06? It wasn’t hard to decide.

As I ran my fingers over the old wooden stock, tracing long, deep scratches time has turned a darker shade of brown, I dreamed of the journeys this rifle made out west. What was it like riding along with the old man and his crew as they traversed a two-track to the top of some distant Rocky Mountain in a rusted-out old jeep? I’ll never know, but I imagine them laughing and carrying on. Talking about life back home while reveling in their momentary escape. I picture my grandfather smiling, wearing a tattered flannel shirt and worn-out blue jeans. His rifle, now my rifle, gripped tight in his hands. I enjoy taking the old the .30-06 afield because it’s an extension of a man who meant the world to me, and when I hunt with his rifle my fondest memories of him come alive.

A quality firearm is sure to outlive its owner if properly cared for. Therefore, many of us are blessed to own heirlooms passed down through generations. I actually have a number of firearms that once belonged to my father and my grandfathers. In fact, I actually have a rifle that originally belonged to my great-great-grandfather. I wish I knew more about this particular rifle. Understanding its history would surely add to the feeling of ownership, but I never asked my grandpa for the details. One morning, as a child, I went to his closet to grab a .22 and instead returned to the kitchen with the old rifle. He sternly told me to put it back and leave it alone. It was his grandfather’s, he said. I never touched it again until months after his death when grandma told me to come and get “my guns.”

It’s common to take possession of a firearm you know little or nothing about. Whether you inherit a rifle or pick up a shotgun at a random auction, you must approach the firearm cautiously. Since you don’t know about the firearm’s history, you must learn all you can about it to ensure safety in the present and use in the future. Before you ever consider shooting a firearm you know little about, you need to thoroughly clean and inspect it.

Clean Her Up

Cleaning a firearm doesn’t have to be a chore. With the right tools, it’s actually a short, simple process. If you can designate a cleaning station on your workbench, or at least keep your tools organized in an accessible location, the cleaning process will be much smoother and faster.

Before you begin the actual process of cleaning, you must take every precaution to ensure safety. A high percentage of firearm-related accidents occur while cleaning. By following a few simple rules, you can greatly reduce the chances of having an accident. First of all, point the muzzle in a safe direction while making sure the safety is on and the firearm is unloaded. Always remember to keep your finger away from the trigger.
Once you have taken the above precautions, begin the cleaning process by placing your firearm in a solid gun vise. Different styles of firearms require different methods of cleaning. For this article, we are going to use a bolt-action rifle as our example.

checkering
Fine checkering on the rifle’s grip may be worn, but it’s passed from generation to generation through the hands of a family.

After your rifle is secure in the vise, prepare it for cleaning by removing the bolt. Look down the barrel to ensure it is clear of any obstructions. Next, you want to insert a bore guide into the rear of the receiver. A bore guide is important to use because cleaning without a bore guide can allow a rod to rub the chamber or bore, which can cause accuracy issues. Also, a bore guide keeps solvents from spilling on your firearm’s finish or into its action.

Once you’re set up and ready to go with your bore guide, select the proper jag, screw it on your rod and place a cotton patch on the end. Insert the jag into the bore guide, and liberally apply a good powder solvent through the port hole. Try to always use cotton patches, as opposed to synthetic patches, because they absorb solvent much better. Now run your rod through the rear of the bore guide all the way down the bore. You’re going to repeat this process at least five times. Next, remove your jag and attach a proper-sized bronze brush. Run it down the bore 10 times, five forward and five back. Now reattach your jag, put on another patch, soak it in powder solvent and repeat the earlier jag and patch process to remove any fouling you may have loosened with the brush.

Once your patches are coming out fairly clean (they’ll never be perfect), it’s time to address copper fouling. Put on a clean patch and soak it in a quality copper solvent. Run at least five patches down the bore, dropping them in the patch trap. Next, run a dry patch down the bore. Repeat until a patch comes out clean. The last step is to lightly oil a patch with gun oil and run it down the bore. You should now have a clean barrel.

bkon-5592
The pitted steel of an heirloom rifle, like a weathered face, tells the tale of time gone by. This Woodsmaster Model 742 may be old, but it has a rich heritage and is still fit for days afield.

You should also take the time to clean your bolt and action. Scrub the bolt with a quality nylon brush. Wipe it off with a common shop towel and brush the bolt lightly with gun lubricant in three places—the breech side of the locking lugs, cocking cam and the engagement surface of the cocking piece. Next, use an action tool with a powder solvent-soaked cotton swab to clean the raceway and chamber. Reinstall your bolt, and that’s it, you’re done.

If the firearm appears to be in good shape, and you’re confident it is in working order, then you should be ready to fire it. If, however, you have any apprehension as to its operating ability, allow a professional gunsmith to examine the rifle. They can critique the firearm and let you know if it’s safe to fire.

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