Tman called me and told me that Centerfire Systems had an advertisement where we could buy 5 M44 rifles for $39.95 each.
He said the ad said they were “battlefield pick-ups”, had never been arsenal restored, and were sold in “as is” condition.
I said, “Well, sounds like a great project to me!” So, we placed the order and waited for the Brown Truck O’ Happiness.
Tman called me in a few days and said, “They’re here and boy, are they a mess.” I said that I would be right over and not to touch them until I got some pictures.
Of course, upon arrival, I found that he had already disassembled one, as he follows instructions about like a feral cat.
Here they are on his work bench.
I put four of the five on the driveway and took a family picture.
As you can see, they were pretty rough.
But the term “battlefield pick-up” was misleading.
For one thing, I thought it meant that they were literally picked up from the battlefield, with mud on them and pried from their dead comrade’s hands.
But these rifles were better defined as “well used, carried a lot, but shot little.”
As we cleaned them up, we found that their manufacture dates were mostly after the war (WWII). And when we cleaned the bores, much to our surprise, we found them to be like new.
That meant that they had not been fired much with corrosive ammo and had been cleaned properly afterwards.
The finish on some of them was almost completely gone, and the wood looked especially rough, but the metal was pretty good, under the Cosmoline.
Tman shook his head and said, “Man these things are a mess. Maybe we made a mistake.”
I said, “Hey, you wanted a “project”. This looks like a great project to me. We’re gonna make these things Shine!”
We agreed that we would go slow, and take our time, and “enjoy” the project.
Sure we would.
As usual, we attacked these things like crazy men!
My buddy Ted came down and spend a couple of days with me and helped us with the project.
I stripped the stocks with Easy-Off Oven Cleaner.
Be sure to wear eye protection and do not touch them without rubber gloves.
The shellac turned a kind of red color as it dissolved, but came right off when I scrubbed it with an S.O.S. pad and water.
This cleaning method also sucks some of the Cosmoline out of the wood, if needed. I wiped them down and let them dry over night.
I then sanded them and turned them over to Tman for staining and finishing.
I also washed the metal down with mineral spirits, dried the parts, and wet them down with WD-40 to stop any rust until we decided how we were going to finish the metal.
I liked the one with a blond finish and decided I would leave it blond after clean-up.
I will show what we did to this rifle, and it will serve as an example of what we did to the other four.
It had a split in the heel of the stock that had been repaired by some Ivan 50 years ago…
…but the two wood dowels he put in it had come lose.
I pried it open a little,
and put some epoxy in the crack,
and then closed it with a pipe clamp.
I then put a Stalingrad screw in it to make sure it never opens up again.
We also put a couple of Stalingrad screws in the wrist on one of the rifles that was split.
I think they look just fine.
Upon removing the upper handguard, I found that Ivan had written the gun’s serial number in pencil.
An interesting little piece of history.
Then I sanded the stock and sent it to Tman for him to do his stuff.
The metal cleaned up so nicely that I decided to leave it stock with just a little cold blue in a couple of bad places.
We used some J-B Weld Epoxy to bed the action at the rear lug,
and at the rear of the action.
This will usually tighten up the groups on these rifles.
It worked on this one for sure, as this is a typical 5-shot 50 yard group with military ball.
Here are the rest of the Sisters, before and after.
Before, numbered 1 through five.
Number 1, which is unassembled in the “Before” picture.
And Number 5
It was a great project, and these rifles cleaned up really well.
They shoot great, kick hard, roar like cannons, and have a fire ball as big as a #3 washtub.
How you gonna beat it?