Thursday, May 7, 2009

1938 Turkish Mauser: Match rifle?

As has been mentioned here before, I am quite happy to take part in my local club's ‘Military Rifle Shoots’. These are patterned directly on DCM High Power shoots, except each month’s shoot has a ‘theme’ to the rifles used.
These can vary from pre-1900 to Vietnam era, to Battle of the Bulge or bolt action only.

While I have shot the match with a Swiss K-31 and a Mosin 91/30, my preference is to use one of my old Turkish Mausers. The rifle was not bought with the matches in mind, but over the years it has evolved into the rifle I most shoot that special day of the month.

This old beast was found at a gun show, many years ago when every show had tables full of Turk Mausers for surprisingly cheap prices. Many were worn out, but some had serious promise under the ‘Turkmoline’ rust proofing. Mil-Surp collectors have long conjectured about the substance used by the sons of the Turk to store rifles. Cosmoline is typical of the era, and nasty stuff in its own right. The Turks seem to have gone that one better and mixed Cosmoline with camel dung, along with sand and ground up old sheep bladders. In any case, it’s a bear to clean up… and my Grand Old Turk was no different.

I selected this one from a table full, based on the condition of the metal. There were no serious flaws evident, and the bluing was decent. Handing it to the dealer, I told him if he could show me the bore had good rifling then I’d buy the rifle. I suspect he regretted saying yes, as the plug of grease he pushed from the bore must have weighed three pounds and smelled worse than a high school gym locker. Yet, the bore looked pristine, and I plunked down the $95 asking price with a happy smile on my face. A smile made even wider by the faint 'GEW 98' almost polished off the receiver, showing it to be a rebuilt German rifle of outstanding quality.

I stripped the rifle to its smallest piece and soaked the metal overnight in kerosene. The next day the bolt, action, and barrel came clean with only minute’s work. The stock had to be chemically stripped, and scrubbed in a bath of very hot water and detergent. Having a large assortment of dents, dings, gouges, and battle scars… I was not looking for pristine wood. My goal was solid, straight, and as original as possible. Once the wood was cleaned (several times) it got a simple linseed oil finish and an hour’s rub down with a hard plastic dowel. This trick, taught to me by my father, made the wood smooth and shiny without sanding any away.

Detailed examination better revealed a problem I had noted at the dealers table. The safety would not engage correctly because the bolt shroud had too much wear. I knew it was like this when I bought it, but had no fears. The scrounge box had several shrouds and it was simply a matter of finding the best fit. A little light file work and polishing, and the safety worked exactly as designed.

The bolt had other issues, but minor ones. The main spring was replaced with a 24 pound modern replacement, and the striker was slightly modified for more consistent ignition. This brought the firing pin protrusion into specs.

Assembled again, the rifle was test fired on the range and immediately showed excellent promise. The first groups with surplus ammunition gave surprisingly good groups. Good enough to cause some thoughts.

With an ‘ugly duckling’ match rifle in mind, I set out to make some changes to the rifle. Nothing major was done and certainly nothing visible except to a discerning eye. My goal was to make it a ‘sleeper’ of a rifle; One that would not get a second glance in the rack, but still allow me to compete with the folks shooting expensive rifles. Nobody expects a 1938 Turkish Mauser to be a match rifle, and the Grand Old Turk is no exception to that. That said… after a few years shooting it in the match, it gets respect now and has nothing left to prove. As for me, I get pleasure competing against $1000 Garands and Springfields while shooting a lowly $100 Turkish Mauser. My 400/500 score is every bit as good as theirs, but mine is $900 cheaper.

To make it a match shooting rifle, some areas needed attention. Specifically, the sights were simply not up to the job, nor was the trigger. Turn of the century battle sights did not serve well on the target line, and the rough old military trigger made for a fight trying to control it at let off.

The rear sight was replaced with another from the scrounge box. The original sight was greased, bagged, and tagged to the rifle. Not that this old beast could be called a collectors item, but it did have matching numbers and I preferred to modify other parts than what it came with. For the most part, I can return the rifle to the way I bought it with only a few minutes notice. That may not matter to some people, but I try to keep most of my old military rifles as original and unaltered as possible.

The original Mauser rear sights of this era have a minuscule ‘V’notch mounted with a sliding sight adjuster. It moves up a marked ramp for elevation, fitting detents along the way. I found this problematic, as the ‘V’ notch did not allow me to align the sights on the target as closely as I wished. To fix this, the sight I installed had the ‘V’ notch filed into a square shaped notch, with straight sides and a square top.

The front sight was an inverted ‘V’, and built so low that the rifle shot 12” high with its closest sight setting. I replaced the original front sight insert with one from a Czech VZ-24 Mauser rifle, it being much taller than the Turk front sight. While the VZ-24 was also an inverted ‘V’, it was tall enough that I could dress its top flat with a file, giving me a flat top front sight to align with the square notch rear sight.

An added advantage of the taller front sight is what it did to my rear sight. I had to raise the rear sight to its 600 meter graduation to hit point of aim at 100 yards. This brought the rear sight up out its stock channel and well into my field of vision. The higher rear sight also allowed me to take a better position when firing off hand, keeping my head more upright.

Tweaking the trigger presented me with several options, but I chose one that served me well in the past. I could have gone with a Huber trigger, or simply invested a few hours into a standard Mauser trigger and installed a stop, along with honing it. Instead I installed a Timney Sportsman trigger. I chose the Sportsman over the target trigger solely due to price, with the target trigger costing several times the sportsman.

Yes, I had to cut away some wood inside the ancient grease riddled Turkish stock, but since the overall condition could best be described as ‘incredibly well used’ I didn’t lose any sleep over it. The after market trigger is almost impossible to notice without a very close inspection. Adjusted to a crisp two pounds, with a clean let off and all over travel dialed out, it serves this match rifle well.

The bedding was left as is, saving a tiny bit of carving around the recoil lug to free up its sides and bottom. The stock is a mile long, but so well made that it’s all but free floated in its full military trim.

The muzzle was addressed with an almost unnoticeable touch up to the crown; just enough to clean up any dings and give the bullet a clean exit point.

Lastly, a slip on (leather) butt pad was installed, and fitted with adhesive abrasive tape where it meets my shoulder. This prevents the rifle from sliding around my shoulder as I desperately strive to control my breathing and get off clean shots. Perhaps such a pad is not truly kosher on a match rifle, but no one begrudges an old man a bit of comfort, especially as I ‘handicap’ myself with this ugly old Turkish Mauser.

I don’t shoot with a sling, aperture sights, a shooting jacket, trick sunshade glasses, or even a mat on days when I forget it. All those high power accoutrement's left behind, it’s just me, the rifle, and the ammunition I custom load for it. That’s the way I like it… challenging and fun!


Shermlock Shomes said...

I'm intrigued by your mention of using a dowel for wood finishing. Would you elaborate?


Anonymous said...

AWESOME! I'll have to remember this post for my own future reference. How did you crown the muzzle?
I have an old M-N M44 (built in 1954) that I've shot one time, 5 rounds. Ten spot at 100 yards on the first shot. After that, I had to stop, or risk dislocating my shoulder.
So now I'm starting to modify "her" a bit, with a scout scope, butt pad & sling. Make it more comfortable for an old man with waning eyesight to see what can be wrung out of this beast.

B Woodman
SSG (Ret) U S Army

PS-Thanks for having a blog for myself & others to enjoy.

Carteach0 said...

Mr. Woodman, Thank you for the kind words. Shoot that Mosin, and have fun with it!

Sherm (How you doing?),

Okay, the dowel trick. This came from my father, who related a technique his WWII unit used to make for better parade inspections. They would use the smooth plastic handle of their issue tooth brush to rub down the wood on their rifles. Applying hard pressure, with some boiled linseed oil as a lubricant, the hard plastic smooths the wood and gives it a luster and sheen. Be careful not to break any edges, and they will stay sharp unlike a sanded stock.

I usually use a stainless steel bar about an inch around, or a hard plastic dowel about the same diameter. Other than that, it's the same process my Dad described.

Try it on an old walnut one time, and see what it does. The one on this old Mauser.... is pretty much beyond help. It's never going to be pretty again, but I think it's beautiful in it's own right.

Huey148 said...

Beautiful rifle, there is something obout the old wood rifles that brings a smile to my face. Mausers, Enfields, Mosin-Nagants, Springfield and the others. Wood seems natural and correct on a firearm.

I have used the hot iron and damp washcloth on my Mauser stock to remove some of the dents in the wood (the steam will make the wood swell and help fill in the low areas) but have never tried the dowel trick. Down to the man cave to give it a whack. Thanks!

Conservative Scalawag said...

Nice looking rifle you got there. I also learn something new every time I read one of your post. Thanks for taking the time and sharing.

Old NFO said...

Nice piece and nice description of the work you've done!

Anonymous said...

Rubbing the stock with a hard round object is called "boning" it. Back at the frontier outposts a form of corporal punishment was for the trooper to use old buffalo, horse or other large bone and rub down the stock of his Springfield as you describe. It resulted in a very smooth sheen. There's nothing new under the sun!

Ed Foster said...

Enjoyed the article very much. I picked up a nice military FN 29 inch military a few years ago, now promised to son No.2, and had similar adventures.

I put a Swedish Mauser front sight on (tall blade as issued), filed it in for 100 yards with a 6 o'clock hold and 140 grain bullets, then filed the rear sight square (shame on me, it's a commercial crest Indiana Jones gentleman adventurer's special).

I was lucky, as the FN has one of the sweetest military triggers I've encountered. A sweet and scarily accurate 7mm.

However, the stock has some major dings, so I'll have to sand it, if only to get enough walnut dust to mix with epoxy and fill the deeper, unsteamable dings.

I neve realized the Turks could shoot. I'll have to look closely at any I see in June, up at the Springfield Mass show.

Anonymous said...