Well, the board is either fixed, or it's going to run terribly. Cross your fingers and hope for the best. I'm at my technical limit right now.

Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

Forum for rifles not listed
Post Reply
Message
Author
72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#1 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:39 pm

Things to look for while at a gun show or store prior to purchase if you do not take the rifle for a safety check to a qualified gunsmith. This is a repost of my former lost post in the old forum. Updated. It contains some important information that one may find useful, especially since surplus rifle prices have gone nuts.

What you will pay a gunsmith is twice the cost of a field gauge and muzzle gauge. As you gain more experience you will be your own gunsmith. Things to look for when buying or after you purchased a surplus rifle. My 2 cents worth of info.
Most gunsmiths have a dislike for old surplus junk--lots of attitude. A few of the old school are true artists and craftsmen that love antique firearms. You really need to know your smith. Another source : Find an old fart at your range that is shooting military rifles and they got the knowledge and gauges; most will be more than happy to help. Most will talk your ears off. :shifty:

1 Check for matching numbers-is the bolt matching to the receiver. Look for force matched, renumbered bolts- do the fonts match ? Was it reground and renumbered to match at an arsenal rebuild, or by someone faking a matched bolt? Certainly, a rifle to look at with more caution if ground & renumbered. This one I would headspace. But, if it's a factory match :arrow: :arrow: this is the best bet for a rifle that is going to headspace. A true matching bolt may make it more shootable and all numbers matching more collectible, but still does not guarantee head spacing is correct. I invest in a field gauge (Midway and Brownells carry them). IF THE BOLT DOES NOT MATCH, then pay special attention to its movement in the rifle, and headspace just to be sure, because you just never know if it's out of spec.

2 Have a field gauge for every firearm you collect or plan to buy. Especially, if they are in the $500-1500 ball park. This is mainly for the old bolt actions. Always ask to inspect a rifle or pick it up. Tell the seller you are serious, but need to look it over. Check the head space. If he say no, leave it on the table. With a military rifle it is best to use the military gauge not a SAAMI gauge. A rifle can fail on a SAAMI gauge and still headspace on a military gauge. Remember you really only need a field gauge so you do not buy a useless dog. You just do not want a bolt action that fails the field reject gauge.
At a gun show I check old military rifles with the coin gauge unless it is a non rimmed cartridge and use only the field reject gauge. If it's bad, it stays on the table. If it passes, I take my treasure home and clean it then check it with a No Go and Field reject. I have both gauges for all the old junk military stuff I mess with. Many a time I saved myself from a good screwing from a dealer by checking the rifle before buying. Especially M1 carbines, US Enfields 1917, British Enfields, Arisakas, Turk mausers, 98/22s, GEW 98s, and Vz 24 Mausers. But RC K98 Mausers, the new Yugo rebuilt mausers, K31s, Berthiers, the French Mas, and the Mosins always seem to headspace.

3 Check to see if all the serial numbers match on the firearm. Also if import marks are present or not--- a big price difference!
Check the size and placement of the import mark. Big import marks are nasty, this seems to be the new trend. Prior to 1968 few firearms had the standard import mark other than a country of origin stamp like "England". Post 1968 import marks contain specific info. and are generally as small as possible and found most likely on the barrel or at the wood line on a receiver. Some are so tiny they are hard to find. Later import marks are larger and can be on the barrel, frame, or receiver- most are stamped. Around 2002 the Feds made a requirement that the import mark should be conspicuous and at least a specific size. Hence, there appeared large or even huge, bill board like import marks on the receiver. Some so large they would not fit on a barrel. These are dot matrix stamped or laser etched and worse, some may have all sorts of white markings and logos plastered all over the rifle.

In my opinion, for value, no import mark is best. It is better to have a smaller early mark on the rifle's barrel than a huge nasty billboard mark on the receiver. Now, watch out for removed import marks. Generally the early, tiny import marks on the barrel are removed to obtain a higher price. For example, a matching K98 with an import mark is less value than a bring back, matching K98 without the import mark. Remove the import mark and you have a faked bring back sold at top buck. :doh: :lol:. Always something to watch out for on non import marked firearms--- REMOVED MARKS. Some even add faked stamps and markings. Buyer beware.

4 Check the bore for strong rifling, make sure it is clean or the seller may be trying to hide something, is there dirt, pits, rust, dark metal, muzzle damage, counter bores, does the rifling appear strong up to the muzzle, or is it worn away or has sections of rifling missing. Is the barrel plugged??
Check the chamber for burrs or dings. The chamber should be mirror bright, smooth, and no uneven pits or scratches. Be sure the barrel is clean, if not, it's a crap shoot as to what you will get condition wise and the seller is hiding something. A clean good bore will always get top buck. If dirty, assume it's junk or in poor condition. Some shops do not know how to clean a rifle or sell it as found. At a honest pawn shop they generally let you run a patch down the bore just to get a sale. Bring a small cleaning rod, bore light and magnifier glass. I dislike counter bores-avoid them. LOOK for matching parts, make sure the barrel is correct for the make and year.

Always check the bore for deep pits, cracks, pressure bulges and muzzle wear. Pull the bolt and look down the barrel, then use a bore light and see what you are dealing with condition wise. If you have a way to check for throat erosion and muzzle erosion, check that with your gauges. Be sure to gauge the amount OF MUZZLE WEAR. Check the crown for nicks or erosion of the rifling at the end of the bore. If you are serious about the firearm and the seller will not let you give it a good look-over ( they will not allow disassembly ) leave it sit on the table. Be sure he knows you want the firearm, they do not like the cheepos or non serious people to handle or damage an expensive weapon.

5 Check the bolt.
Look for hairline cracks on the bolt, extractor, or inside chamber. Look the bolt head over with care for cracks. Does the serial number on the bolt head match if serialized? Some bolt heads have size numbers not serial numbers. Know if the rifle has a removable bolt head so headspace can easily be fixed/adjusted, or if the entire bolt body must be replaced if it's out of headspace. This is a large cost factor in the repair if you find a jewel that is out of headspace and you wish to make repairs. Replace just a bolt head or the entire bolt? Problems arise, replace the bolt body and its serial number most likely no longer matches the rifle. Some just grind off the original number and restamp the replacement bolt with the wrong font. Now you really decreased its value as a collector's weapon. Is that OK to you- you just spent money to lessen its value? But as a shooter, maybe you do not care,---it's now a functional safe weapon to shoot. Others may really dump in tons of money to maintain the original bolt and have the gunsmith remove and set the barrel back, ream, and re headspace the rifle like new. Yahoo done right, butat a big cost $$$$$ :doh:
GO ORIGINAL. Avoid rechambered sporters or gun smith conversions. Look at the bolt face for an erosion ring and be sure the firing pin hole is still round. Check the action movement, it should be smooth, not tight when the bolt is locked. If miss matched, does the bolt close down with ease? Movement smooth- back & forth? Check the follower spring. Does it seem OK and return to the top? On some rifles the bolt is designed to catch on the end of the follower to let you know in the heat of battle you are empty. Look at the bolt lugs for wear and are they even or really badly worn? Make sure the firing pin is present and not cut. Ask if you can dry fire the weapon to get the feel for a crisp striker spring. BE SURE TO ASK. THIS IS A NO NO TO MOST untill you buy it.

6 GO ORIGINAL. No refinished stock, reblue, or parts gun. Look for cracks in the stock. Look for glue repairs or duffle cut repairs that might be poorly done. Are arsenal repairs present? In my book that is OK and better than a home boy, sloppy, incorrect glue job. Try to get a stock that has cartouches correct for the rifle. Look at the cleaning rod and sling to be sure it is correct. Does the cleaning rod still screw in, or is it the wrong threads, or worse--cut short. It may actually be an incorrect, rod. It is common to be missing or have an incorrect original rod. Better missing than a replacement, reproduction cleaning rod. LOOK FOR STOCK CRACKS. Look at the tang area at the rear top of the stock or at the wrist for the first sign of cracks. Look for rust pits at the wood line. look at the hand guards for tiny cracks.

7 Look at the finish on the parts, the markings, the wear patterns, and the color tones. Wear patterns and color tone should match or it's a mix master. See if the screws are buggered up or intact. Are the screws new replacements? Are some sections of the metal reblued and do not match? Think patina? Is the patina correct on the metal and wood. Or does the stock look to new for the wear showing on the metal? In contrast, likewise, does the stock look too beat for the new looking metal? What parts may have been switched? Hence, you no longer have a matching collectible. Rust & patina should be uniform not just on a few screws, but all. Is the surface tone & patina similar on the bands?

8 Do not be in a hurry to buy, many different rifles will be at large shows. Always buy the best condition/matching specimen you can afford. It will increase in value. BUT, if you see or find a BRING BACK. Sell the kids or dog. Buy it. All matching military rifles are rare birds. They may have the sling, bayonet and paperwork.

9 On expensive firearms, watch out for put together matching firearms with different wear patterns and color tones to their parts. Some people try to pass off all correct part rifles as original bring backs. In reality they are mix masters that have been reassembled with correct parts or reproduction parts. Remember wear patterns & finish. Get the feel for correct parts vs reproduction parts. Think Patina!

10 Watch out for FAKE reproduction parts on firearms at gun shows. Watch out for reproduction bayonets and cleaning rods. Watch out for fresh reproduced stock cartouches on US weapons, fake stamps and markings on German weapons. There are lots of fake stamps on the market to increase the value and hump a firearm. Watch out for reproduction slings and cleaning rods aged to look old. If the deal sounds too good, use caution. Research and seeing many examples helps one to know & realize the faked firearm.

11 After you buy it, detail strip the rifle in order to look for dangerous situations such as a demilled rifle with a hole in the barrel under the wood. A hair line crack in the bore, or bluge in the barrel under the wood. Strip down and Clean The Bolt and be sure it is complete. Make sure there are no rewelds or miss matched barrels. Any structural weakness in the stock not observed, cracks? filler? Reassemble the rifle, grease & oil it. No oil in the chamber or barrel.

12 Be sure you know the correct caliber and have the correct ammunition. Use a dummy round ( not a live round) and see how it chambers and extracts. See the fit and if the follower spring is good and the bolt is picking up the cartridge and feeding it into the chamber. A rifle can work ok without a round , but place a dummy in and then some minor problem may show up in its smooth operation. The use of the dummy round will allow you to work tha action at home prior to the range visit. You DO NOT WANT A LIVE ROUND accidently firing in the house. Watch out for unmarked rechambered rifles- that round you think is correct, may be incorrect due to a rechamber. A dummy will allow you to see if it's a correct cartridge. Take the rifle out to the range and fire one round from the hip to see if it fires. Or if one is really uncertain, then fire it in a set of tires with a string and see if it blows. Check the fired cartridge. Read the cartridge for cracks, bluges, soot blackened brass, backed out or flattened primers, or deep extractor jaw marks at the base. Did a fired cartridge extract smoothly, any gas blow back? Is the bolt hard to open on a fired cartridge?

13 Watch out for drill rifles or school cadet rifles, most should not be fired. Watch out for welded inactivated rifles or rifles with holes drilled into the receiver of barrel so it can not be fired.

14 Buy a copy of Collecting Classic Bolt Action Military Rifles by Paul S Scarlata and read the introduction twice: "Caveat Emptor Let the buyer beware".
Buy a copy of Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World by Stuart Mowbray and Joe Puleo Read it as if a bible. You just did more than a gunsmith will do. This book provides fantastic photographic details of the metal markings and stock cartouches one should look for on an intact, non refinished rifle. After reading it, you will know what attributes to search out on a particular model--- to be sure you are getting the best of the best specimen.

15 It is always wise to error on the side of caution, You can take it to a gunsmith, but ( you will have to tell the smith what you want done, ie. clean, total take down, headspace, gauge throat and muzzle, replace springs??? ---and the cost goes up, up, and away. ) I headspace because I still value what eyesight and hearing I have left. Others see this as not necessary.

16 A Harsh comment, but do not assume anything! Use caution, I assume most dealers are out to screw you. If the bore is dirty and it's most likely not going to clean up or the dealer would have cleaned it for top buck. Do not fall for the "it will clean up fine". If they do not allow a headspace, they know it will fail.
Read the seller, are they a dishonest dealer, someone with hot stuff out of a trunk, or a wife or family member selling off a collection they know nothing about.
Most table guns at a show will have a clean bore or a bore with lint in it from storage. Most sellers will allow a reasonable inspection. Most will not allow any sort of parts removal or disassembly. Most would allow you to headspace for their own information. Some even have the bore gauge size, ammo type, and if it is matching and if it has been headspaced written on the information/price tag. Some stores have a specific time for returns/inspection period. Get to know dealers at gun shows- most are honest. BUT a few are dogs.
Last edited by 72 usmc on Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:24 pm, edited 14 times in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#2 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:56 pm

Two inexpensive tools to buy a muzzle gauge and a bore light.

Fulton armory muzzle wear gauge:
muzzle gauge.jpg
muzzle gauge.jpg (13.85 KiB) Viewed 494 times
https://www.fulton-armory.com/muzzlewea ... bores.aspx
Last edited by 72 usmc on Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#3 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:05 pm

Bill Hollinger's info ( after he gets it home ) :
source: https://www.milsurps.com/showthread.php?t=40993
Here are a few things I do.

1) Insure the weapon is empty and no ammunition of any caliber is anywhere near your work area.
2) A visual cursory inspection of the overall weapon to include inspection of the bore, function testing the action (open and close the bold, slide or lever depending on type of action) this includes pulling the trigger, preferably on a snap cap.
3) Remove the action from the stock and inspect the barrel for any deformities such as bulges cracks, welds and drilled holes. A weld where the barrel meets the receiver may indicate a drill rifle and may not be safe to shoot.
4) Check the trigger mechanism for missing pins, screws, cracks, welds or other deformities.
5) Inspect the stock for cracks, areas where the action may be rubbing, dragging or binding with the stock.
6) Clean thoroughly, bore, trigger group, bolt, action, etc.
7) Check all marking on the weapon especially on the breech or barrel near the breech (this is where a caliber change would be stamped or marked).
8) If you do not have them, purchase a set of head spacing gauges for your caliber. They are cheap insurance and nice to have when attending shows for purchasing a weapon. Buy the kind that do not require the bolt to be disassembled in order to be used. Muzzle wear gauges are nice but a necessity. Throat erosion gauges are nice also, but again not a necessity.
9) If you really are into it, purchase a Caldwell's Lead Sled shooting rest to mount your weapon at the range. This will facilitate remote firing if shooting from the shoulder is not something you wish to do.
10) Once you have fired the weapon, inspect the casing for bulges, cracks, primer bulge, too deep of a firing pin strike, deformities other than on automatics the neck may deform when it strikes the receiver on the way out. Normal!

I may have forgot a couple of things but you get the picture. If anyone has something to ad, please do
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#4 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:17 pm

Also buy a bore light. This small maglite works great because it can be placed in the bolt area and shine up the bore. It has an adjustable beam and is the size of a cartridge that can be set into an open bolt area as if a cartridge or just set at an angle to the bolt and shine up the bore.

Maglite LED Black Solitaire Flashlight approximately 12 bucks
1033103.jpg

SOME also like a FLEX BORE light. The advantage it can be inserted from either end of the barrel.
51WpWaYuSCL._SL1000_.jpg
Last edited by 72 usmc on Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#5 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:26 pm

More information:
https://forums.gunboards.com/showthread ... Inspection

You should also be up on specific traits, markings, and attributes of the particular rifle you are buying. Research and reading is required so you know the small details to look for. For example, after the basics then you get to fine details like this guy shows you. Each rifle is different at this level of inspection. See Enfield #4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huh7kEKS3xY

This is the value of a book like Stuart Mowbray's Bolt Action Military Rifles of the World by Stuart Mowbray and Joe Puleo, 2009, Mowbray Publishing. It shows clear high quality photos of all the DETAILS with enlargements of the markings on all matching rifles.
Last edited by 72 usmc on Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#6 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:39 pm

So you looked the rifle over at the show, gave it an outside view inspection ( dealers will not allow disassembly) and purchased the rifle. You got it home and did a detailed take down, cleaning, and closer inspection. The firearm was headspaced. Now you go to the range for its first shot. SAFETY
9) If you really are into it, purchase a Caldwell's Lead Sled shooting rest to mount your weapon at the range. This will facilitate remote firing if shooting from the shoulder is not something you wish to do.
10) Once you have fired the weapon, inspect the casing for bulges, cracks, primer bulge, too deep of a firing pin strike, deformities other than on automatics the neck may deform when it strikes the receiver on the way out.
Fire from sand bags, a set of tires, or a sled away from others too see if it blows (unlikely if you did all the prior checks) but one never knows, read the brass after it is fired. Think this is crazy; :doh: then at least fire from the hip, away from your face for the first trial shot. Use factory ammo for the first shot, not some hot reload. If you did not try chambering & extracting with a dummy round prior to the range visit, make sure the factory cartridge chambers and the bolt closes normal and extracts an unfired round. Get set up for the first shot, & fire it. Now :arrow:

Check the fired cartridge. Read the cartridge for cracks/splits, bulges, soot blackened brass, backed out or flattened primers, is the primer hit straight on or to the side, is the primer hit too light or pierced too deep, do you see deep extractor jaw marks at the base of the cartridge, are there scratches on the side of the brass case from a ding on the chambers edge, or are there raised pock marks on the side of the case from an uneven chamber? Dimples on the outside of a fired brass case means the chamber is rough and may extract hard.
Did a fired cartridge extract smoothly, any gas blow back? Is the bolt hard to open on a fired cartridge?
Last edited by 72 usmc on Sat Dec 01, 2018 8:29 am, edited 3 times in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#7 Post by 72 usmc » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:16 am

More good books for a beginner:
A Collector's Guide to Military Rifle Disassembly and Reassembly, by Stuart Mowbray and Joe Puleo, 2007, Mowbray Publishing
Fantastic pictures on the bolt take down and special tricks for different rifles. It covers 48 common surplus rifles. Excellent step by step color pictures. Mowbray is know for his excellent photography. Just great details & steps on the many different bolts.

Shooting World War II Small Arms, by Mike Venturing, 2014, Wolfe Publishing.
This book is about shooting the rifles and reloading ammo for the odd surplus stuff. Great info and comments on reloading and what factory ammunition is made for each rifle/ pistol. Primary emphasis is WW II firearms, both rifle & pistols. He looks at the ammunition.

For prices and a general value one of the better price guides for military surplus rifles from all over the world is the STANDARD CATALOG OF MILITARY FIREARMS: The collector's price and reference guide, by Phillip Peterson now in its 8th edition, 2016-2017. A Guns Digest Publication. Well worth the 35 bucks. Remember prices are determined by type/variety, regional location, supply & demand, rarity, condition, and specific markings and how intact it remains. The book is only a general guide. However, it is a winner with over 456 pages of information. Most pawn shops and dealers use it. Prices are given for firearms in poor, fair, good, very good, excellent, to NIB condition ranges. It also includes values of bayonets & holsters. It is organized by country, then by type.
Last edited by 72 usmc on Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#8 Post by 72 usmc » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:27 pm

One final thought, I always have to see the rifle I am buying and inspect it in person. I want to see what I am buying--no surprises. LOOK AT WHAT YOU BUY IN PERSON. I no longer buy at on line auctions or places like Century or Classic. I am not into a crap shoot.

There is only one person I know I can trust. I have purchased a number of firearms from him sight unseen. I can rely on his description & integrity. I got some of my best stuff from Todd Latcher at Family Firearms and Finishes. Pistols too good to fire, and rare versions of Mosins over the last 15 years. His word is gold. That is the only guy I order by pictures, on line/phone, or by mail from. He knows how to judge a rifle, and what he states is a fact when it arrives. I get stuff better than I can find at WI gun shows for a fair price. He is also a sponsor of this forum. I highly recommend him if you can not find stuff in person at gun shows.
see http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/viewforum.php?f=102
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

User avatar
Tommy Atkins
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 567
Joined: Sat Jun 03, 2017 4:47 pm
Age: 66
Location: Hagerstown, MD
Canada

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#9 Post by Tommy Atkins » Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:13 pm

Nice write up, thanks!

72 usmc
Firearm Fanatic
Firearm Fanatic
Posts: 1132
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:28 pm
Age: 67
Location: Menomonee Falls, Wi
United States of America

Re: Buying first surplus rifle, what to look for

#10 Post by 72 usmc » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:59 pm

Here is a video with pointers on revolvers, poor boy bullet test vs the more accurate muzzle gauge, headspace, and bargaining tips.

ONE CAUTION What ever you do, never bring a live round into a gun shop or especially a gun show for a bullet test. IT MUST BE AN OBVIOUS DUMMY ROUND. Painted or flared sides. Some only have drilled holes in the sides. BEST TO HAVE A MUZZLE GAUGE
If someone sees you messing with a live round at a table.... :doh: :doh: :hand: :hand: :violence-smack: :violence-smack:

View https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXTlWFWAIeI


Revolvers & autos For the pistol girls& guys, Used gun pistol tips :
view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdA_ppqWu2s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCeBYFTl9vA
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

Post Reply

Return to “Military Bolt Action Rifle General Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest