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