Savage Love: The Sequel

Worked on the rifle yesterday afternoon and progress has been very good indeed.  First some pictures of it’s state at the beginning…

The bolt has just begun to budge here.

Gently tapping the lever with a soft hammer actually got the bolt moving. Lots of WD40 and gently tapping continued to yield results. Eventually I was able to get the action completely open, and removed the bolt.

Just starting to move.
…and the bolt is out. There’s a small plate at the back of the receiver on the left secured by a screw. This limits the backward movement of the bolt. Remove it and the bolt comes right out.

Ugly though it may be, everything works. I did some initial clean-up on the bolt, and after re-assembly I can cycle the action by hand.  Next I broke out the vintage .30 rifle-cleaning kit that I inherited from my Uncle Jim, grabbed the Hoppe’s #9 and a good stiff brush and went after the bore. You can see the first patch after it’s pass through the bore in the photo below.

The Outers rifle cleaning kit seems virtually un-used; given the state of Uncle Jim’s rifle when I also inherited it I’m not surprised. Not that the bore of that gun was bad, but I’m pretty sure he fired the rifle once, cleaned it and it sat for the next four decades…
That is a seriously ugly patch, and that ain’t the worst of it; it pushed a bunch of crud out ahead of it too!

Muhgawd, I’ve seen old black-powder guns that weren’t this filthy!  I kept after it, using #9 and them gun oil, and after a couple dozen patches they finally started to come out clean. With some trepidation I stuck a flashlight up to the breach and peered down the bore… the shiny, shiny bore. I could hardly believe it. Given the state of the outside of the barrel I had assumed a full replacement would be needed, but if I knew the caliber and had the right bolt to mount the stock I could actually fire the gun at this point.

Yeah, about that… in 1954 the Model 99 was offered several .30-caliber cartridges: .30-30, .300 Savage and the then-new hotness, .308 Winchester. After looking at the chamber I thought about it, dug up a .308 and dropped it in and it fit perfectly. Neither of the other .30-caliber chamberings will allow a .308 to fit. Investigating further the cartridge fit in the magazine and cycled perfectly. I’ll be dipped…

After examining the stock I determined that the ‘cracks’ are de-laminations of the grain caused by excessive drying, and are in a place where they are not structural. In other words they can be repaired. I’ll need to make a new, matching forearm but basically that’s it.  It works… now the challenge is making it pretty. I’m up for that; it’s essentially grunt-work, and I’m well familiar with it. The only concern is the pitting on the outside of last 10″ of barrel- it’s bad. I’m a bit concerned that the barrel will get thinner than I’d prefer. Not from a structural standpoint, mind you; purely from an aesthetic perspective.  Not to be a cliche, but I might lop a few inches off and take it down to 18-20″. I’ve gotten used to shorter guns, and find that I prefer them in the field. 

I almost regret that the bore is in such good shape (my imagination was running a bit wild with the possibilities) but in the end it’s a good cartridge, it’s easier and it’s cheaper to use the existing barrel so that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m pretty darned jazzed; it means I can get on with the project without worrying about affording and sourcing a new… well, anything significant, really. I’ll still need a screw to retain the fore-stock and a bolt for the stock but that’s pretty trivial.

The bulk of the work needed is cosmetic. While it’s a big job it’s not rocket science; lots of abrasives and elbow grease, but it’s well-trodden territory for me. I’ll get everything cleaned up and rust-blue the receiver and such parts as need it. I’ll repair and refinish the stock and see what I can do to find a reasonably matching piece of wood for the fore-end. I frankly cannot believe how well this is going so far, and I have to say I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far so good!

Best $50 I’ve spent in a long, long time!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 16 November 2020

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