18 July 2011

Recent Arrivals - A Week and a Half

When last we left our intrepid explorer he was finding out just how well the Yugoslavs had packed cosmoline into their SKS 59/66 arsenal reworked semi-automatic carbines at the factory.  There is an interesting comparison between a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 reworked at a Soviet arsenal circa the early 1950's and a Yugoslavian arsenal circa the mid-1960's.

First up is the metal work is very good to excellent on the rifle and well crafted for what it is, which is an early 1950's design by Siminov from the USSR.  It was made to be put together quickly and cheaply in the third world countries that had any manufacturing base available to them at all.  Under Tito the relationship between Yugoslavia and the USSR varied a lot, but the underlying Communist system of the importance of basic metal work comes through.  The M-N dating back to an earlier era of machining from the mid- to late-nineteenth century is always well done, of course and without doubt, and they are beefy rifles as the metallurgy of the late-nineteenth century just wasn't up to the task of a lightweight receiver and rifle barrel that wouldn't blow itself apart.  While the era nearly a century later was different, the work to get precision machining done is apparent.

Second up is the stark difference in the wooden stocks of the two rifles.  The M-N you feel was put together by some actual craftsmen who understood the wood's strengths and weaknesses and followed the old patterns because they worked and were good for the purpose.  There are variations over time with the M-N stock, but I have yet to run across one that didn't feel that at the arsenal they actually did understand that getting a rifle stock that felt good in the hands was a morale booster: someone cared enough to do good work and entrust you with it.  The SKS stock feels like it got a basic cut at a wood mill, about 10 minutes under a shaper, a quick pass over a belt sander, and then had BLO used to give it a finish.  As I understand it some SKS's lack the finish and were packed away in cosmoline with bare wood.  Also the lack of finish (though not fit) was addressed 'in the field' which you can picture as some soldier writing home to mom to see if dad had any spare sandpaper and something to finish wood with.  If the smooth feel and deep, dark grain of a M-N stock made you feel as if someone cared about you and the rifle, the SKS stock definitely puts the rifle ahead of you.  You are there to pull the trigger, nothing more.

I would like to compare precision parts making, but the M-N was meant for a different era and isn't, say, a Colt 45 or, just a couple of decades on, a Mauser C-96.  It came from the early bolt-action era and that is that.  I've taken a few trigger groups apart and the SKS is pretty much dead simple with all of two springs and a leaf spring stamped part.  It isn't a VZ-61 Skorpion with a couple of tiny, precision springs and a hammer spring ready to fly around the room for the unwary.  Nor is it that contraption that runs a Marlin 60, with all its tiny springs and retaining rings.  Those are both later than the SKS, yes, but having looked at original parts for both that are within that timeframe, I have to say that the Yugoslavs don't have the raw ingenuity of the Czech gunsmiths.  It is a good, solid, relatively reliable trigger group with nothing fancy on it.

Why is that important?

Just a second while the pictures from the start of yesterday's work start to give a feel of what you deal with on a carbine like this.  So here we go with the basic Level 2 to 3 strip.

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I got the bolt and carrier off pretty easily and didn't have to worry about the recoil spring being springy as the coefficient of friction that was given to it by 45 year old cosmoline was more than enough to render worries about springs flying all over the place pretty much moot.  How bad is this rifle packed with this stuff?  There is a piston in the gas tube that in the takedown books say you have to watch out for sliding out when you take the tube from the receiver.  I used a wooden dowel to push it out.

Now lets see what is inside the receiver.

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OK.  It's not that bad.

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No, wait I take that back!

It's worse than I expected.

You can even see the hammer from the trigger group there and what you can't see is the lovely coating of cosmoline all the way down and in.  And the same goes for the magazine, too.

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Plus I need the cleaning rod out from under the bayonet fixture.  It is coated with cosmoline... not just the bayonet but the rod all the way down to the screws.


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There we go with the piston out of the gas block tube, the cleaning rod, bolt and carrier plus cocking handle, recoil spring... and I believe I got the gas block tube spring from the receiver out by then.  The warning was that it would come flying out at Mach 2 if you didn't watch out when you moved the lever on the rear sight all the way up.  I moved it up.  Then I checked to see if there was a spring in there with a handy-dandy pin punch.  There was!  And then it oozed out at a pace that snails would laugh at as pitiful.

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Now onto the trigger group.  You can see the exterior cleaning hasn't done much for it.  On the M-N I would be close to half-way by now with the wood, the metal all finished and waiting on the wood.  Here I have to extract stuff and always I get the unpleasant surprise that the Yugoslav arsenal probably pre-packed each part in cosmoline before assembling the parts... no they didn't, but that is what it feels like.

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You can see the difference between cleaned metal on the lower part of the trigger guard and just about any other metal on this carbine.  If it glistens it has a layer of cosmoline on it and the stuff here has even had a quick two-pass cleaning.  This spells trouble ahead.

Out comes the trigger.

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If the parts look indistinct it is due to the fact that they are coated well enough so that I had few worries of parts flying around with it.

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This is where the trigger was.  See that glistening on the inside where light barely bounces down to the paper towel and back up?  No, you probably can't see that all too well.  How about on the right where the inletting is orange and a bit circular?  That is a spring.

After this came the part where I had to give the bolt and trigger group an initial ultrasonic cleaning so that I could start the detail strip to get a more thorough cleaning.  The first ultrasonic did a wonderful job on the surface gunk and allowed some parts beyond the trigger to actually move.  Amazing!  Then, since I have never done a trigger group like this with the instruction of 'use the cleaning kit tube on the hammer, put the back of the trigger over the edge of the workbench, press straight down until the hammer moves below the trunnions, and then move the hammer slowly back until it comes free' or words to that effect, my spelling isn't so hot.   That is only AFTER you get the hammer to swing forward.  Getting the hammer to swing forward is a lining up of the interior trigger parts so the trigger engages the sear to release the hammer.

It said so in fine print at the bottom of the page!

Two hours of pipe cleaners, degreaser, Kroil, wiping, trying, getting some gunk out from under the disconnector via the tiny hole in the trigger, degreaser, Militec-1, and, finally, all lined up and the hammer came free and as I had properly positioned my hand so as to ease it forward, it was eased forward.  THAT spring was free to maim you via compression release and it had a sworn duty to do so.  With that came another half hour of grunting, complaining and generally finally figuring out that 'straight down' means straight down, the hammer came free and the cosmoline did its job of slowing the hammer spring no end.  It wasn't coming out at Mach 2, that's for sure!

It is a good idea to dedicate at least one pair of gloves (leather work gloves for outdoorsy work, not garden gloves) for doing this sort of thing.  I buy those suckers by the dozen pack at surplus sites and while the stitching on the back and interior sucks, the things still hold together (more or less) and serve as a wonderful way not to get bruises or your skin caught when formed metal gains a life of its own.  By the time you are done with them they will be black on the front from cosmoline, and you can use them as a dust magnet.

All the pieces parts could now be disassembled including getting all the springs out and going down to just a couple of components that isn't worth any time disassembling as you can easily examine them for rust (hah!) and cleaning under them.  Ultrasonic for all of that for 3 minutes, rinse, and Militec-1.  Bag it all as I will be ordering a Wolff spring kit to get positive sear tension on the trigger group as it is currently neutral.

I did try to get the barrel out!  Really!  Bayonet in the forward, locked position, press down, left hand on the receiver and right hand hitting the stock, while the bayonet is pressed to some plywood on the ground.  Uh-huh.  'The barrel will come free easily' so it says in the manual.

I've heard that one before.

Cosmoline is keeping it in place and I put tiny drops of antique blemish remover on the rings the barrel passes through.  Just left it as the amount of caked on stuff at those points is awful.  If that doesn't work it will probably either be Kroil or Aero-Kroil or WD-40 to let it all sit overnight.  I still have lots of small part cleaning and inspection to do.  So ordering the spring kit ought to just have it arrive in time for final stock cleaning prior to re-assembly.

If, if I say, I am lucky.

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