Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poor Man's Sniper Rifle

I found this bit of information on another site. If you want to put together your own hunting rifle or sniper rifle at a reduced price, this is the way to go. I have an old military rifle (Schmidt-Rubin K-31) myself and it's what I call a real shooter. Everybody might not want one like mine as ammo is a little scare, but I managed to get myself some military ammo and also some reloadable softpoint boxer primed hunting ammo for mine. And then I bought a set of dies and other components so that I could reload the brass several times.

My Schmidt-Rubin K-31

Everyone reading this should be aware of the huge variety of inexpensive surplus firearms that are available today.

Some of these weapons have a lot potential as "sniper" weapons once they have been accurized and fitted with sufficient optic sights. I want to cover a few of the more promising candidates for conversion to this use.

These are just a few of your choices:

1) Moisin Nagant 7.62X54 5-shot, bolt, bbl 20"to 30", wt 8.5 lbs to 11.3 lbs

2) K98 Mauser 7.92X57 5-shot, bolt, bbl 18" to 28", wt 8 lbs to 9.5 lbs ALSO Yugo VZ-24, Turk M93, 03, 38.....many variations.

3) M96, M38 Swedish Mauser 6.5X55 5-shot, bolt, bbl 23" to 29", wt 9 lbs

4) SMLE .303 British 10-shot, bolt, bbl 25", wt 9 lbs

5)1917 Enfield 30.06 cal

And so as not to exclude the obvious non-military option;

6) Practically any bolt action, slide action, semi-auto or single shot deer rifle 243 cal and above.

In standard military trim these weapons are capable of acceptable battlefield accuracy (approx 3-4 inch 5-shot groups at 100 yards, rested) if you do your part, the barrel is good-very good, and quality ammo is used. Again, this is battle accuracy. You must remember something very important, these weapons were built, in most cases, 50+ years ago and have seen considerable wear. Pick the nicest one you can afford and go slowly during the accurizing process.

WEAPON SELECTION

Plainly speaking, certain of these choices will be easier and less expensive to accurize and equip with optical sights. By far the easiest would be to just get a normal 308, 30.06, 270 deer rifle that is already drilled and tapped for the purpose. Cost for a plain Jane deer rifle with glass can be as low as $250 in the late winter and spring when the deer hunting chores are past. Seems such perfectly capable guns lose some allure to the hunter attracted to foolish things like "Magnum" and the desire for something new. Of course we will be spending less than that but at the cost of doing several modification ourselves if we start with a standard military arm. There is also the lack of the military weapon stigma, after all it is just a warm fuzzy "deer rifle" and no one wants to ban those, right?

The next easiest would be one of the Mausers. They will require professional drilling and tapping in order to install scope bases and rings. You can attempt it yourself but without an expensive drilling jig the results may ruin the weapon. Usual cost is $30-$50 for this service. Several Mausers have "turned-down" bolt handles already, preference should go towards them. Otherwise you will also have to cut and reweld or heat-and-bend one with a straight handle to keep it from hitting the scope body during feeding. If you plan to heat-and-bend be sure to use a proper heat sink to keep the bolt body and locking lugs from losing temper. That could make for a very unsafe condition where the now weakened lugs shear off and you catch a bolt in the face.

There are nice after market adjustable triggers and safeties available for many of the Mauser variants. Also replacement match barrels if you want to derive more accuracy at a later date. You can start out with an 8mm Mauser and switch the bbl to 308 or another caliber as long as the bolt face of the new cartridge is similar, which lots of them are. Typical Mauser calibers, 7.92x57 and 7x57 are available in new loadings as "hunting ammunition and in quantity as old surplus loadings.

If the Mauser seems complicated to modify for optic sight use, the rest of your choices will need even more work to be converted.

A bit about ergonomics goes into selection also. The optics on a converted Mauser will have a line of sight closer to the bores axis (closer the better) which gives a better cheek weld. This aids your consistency of position during firing, consistency equals accuracy! High mounted scopes are more difficult to use.

ACCURIZING STEPS

1. CLEAN THE WEAPON

Completely strip and clean every piece of your weapon. Make sure you get every bit of the crud out of the action, bolt, magazine, and trigger. Make sure there is no crud in the bbl channel under the bbl, check the firing pin spring in the bolt, check trigger and safety for cleanliness. You will need small wire brushes or old tooth brushes, lots of q-tips (applying solvent to tight areas, reaching crud deep in an action) CLP is a fair cleaner. Gun Scrubber or some other spray solvent will be required. Remove every bit of grease crud and dirt down to bare, dry metal and wood. Remove every piece you can from the weapon and check under it for hidden crud or corrosion. Butt plates, barrel bands, sling swivels and under sights, check everywhere, clean everywhere. All of this cleaning and disassembly will familiarize you with your chosen weapon. If you are unsure how to disassemble, buy an instruction manual if it doesn't come with one, or call your team leader for help.

2. CLEAN THE BARREL

The amount of copper that you will take out of some of these old guns is amazing. I have personally had to repeat the cleaning process for 17 days on a Moisin-Nagant before the patches came out clean. I use "Shooter's Choice Copper Solvent" on all my rifles. It makes the patches come out blue-green if there is copper in the barrel.

Most of the time I use cotton patches (gun shows) to soak the bore. Some times I use paper towel or cut up old T-shirts strips. It is important that you match the cleaning equipment with the solvent. Do not use copper solvent with a bronze brush, it will destroy it. Use Standard solvent with a bronze brush. For Copper Solvent use a nylon brush. Never use stainless steel brushes. Always apply solvent to brushes or patches with a squeeze bottle or dropper, never put a potentially dirty brush into your fresh solvent. Use a single piece steel cleaning rod that is correct for your caliber.

The segmented aluminum rods are not proper to use on a weapon we intend to derive maximum accuracy from. The soft nature of this type aluminum is capable of picking up damaging grit and it could possibly abrade the bore of your weapon, don't buy them, don't use them if you already have them. Use only steel rods on rifles and be sure to wipe them clean a couple times per cycle (During second part of step 3 and during step 4)

Step 1. Make sure the weapon is unloaded. Remove the bolt from the action if possible, lock it to the rear if not easily removable (some deer rifles).

Step 2. Place the rifle in a solid rest with the muzzle pointing slightly down.

Step 3. FROM THE BREECH Run a proper size bore brush soaked with solvent up and down the bore 10 times. Scrub it. Do this twice to ensure complete coverage. Make sure the bore looks "wet".

Step 4. Wait 15 minutes for solvent to loosen fouling and copper.

Step 5. FROM THE BREECH Run at least five tight fitting patches down the bore. Scrub them back and forth several times each. Stop when patches are dry or clean.

You have just completed one "cleaning cycle". Some old surplus weapons will need as few as 4 cycles to be clean. Repeat steps 3 through 5 OR leave the barrel overnight (wet). I will usually hang mine (very securely) from the ceiling in my basement with a paper towel on the floor to catch the drops of goo from the barrel.

REPEAT THIS PROCESS UNTIL ALL PATCHES COME OUT CLEAN. All barrels have a point where they will be free from fouling, even ones that seem to stay dirty for 15, 20 or more cycles. Keep at it.

Also, make sure to clean your brushes after each application or you will just be putting crud back into the barrel. Use Gun Scrubber to clean them between cycles.

3. FREE FLOAT THE BARREL

Every time you fire a bullet, the barrel of your weapon vibrates at a certain frequency, just like a tuning fork. Many things can change the vibration pattern of your weapon: thickness of barrel, length of barrel, heat of the barrel, speed of the bullet, and pressure from contacting the stock. Contact with the stock is the easiest of these to fix.

This is where a little skill in basic woodworking comes in handy. You will need to decide if you are going to modify the stock at this point. The best thing to do with all of the rifles in this list is to shorten and reshape the forward portions of the stocks. You will probably have to discard the forward hand guards on the weapon, but these are not necessary on a sniper rifle. Shortening the stock will also get rid of some dead weight.

Now, inside the barrel channel we will need to remove any of the high spots that come into contact with the barrel past the first three or four inches of its length. With some sandpaper, files, gouges, scrapers, or whatever you have or can borrow, we will proceed.

Step 1. Take your thoroughly cleaned barrel and place it back in the shortened stock, reassemble as normal, and tighten all bolts as normal.

Step 2. Test for high spots. I use a piece of manila file folder. Wrap it around the barrel and pull it back toward the receiver. If it hangs up anywhere, you have a high spot that needs attention. Mark its position with a piece of tape on the outside of the stock and continue. If you can't slide anymore, just try to shove the paper between the barrel and the stock anywhere along its length. If it won't go, mark that spot for sanding.

Step 3. After you have marked all the spots you can find, disassemble the weapon again and sand down the high spots. The best way is to use an inletting scraper from a gunsmith supply, but we're doing this the low-dough way. Sandpaper and a proper size dowel or broom handle will do a fine job.

Get some dowel stock that is approximately 1/8 inch larger than the diameter of the barrel four inches in front of the receiver. Cut one piece of dowel three inches long for isolated high spots, and another nine inches long for blending areas. Wrap the sandpaper around the dowel and slowly move back and forth. After sanding all the spots you marked, brush out the dust and wipe the entire stock clean.

Step 4. Reassemble the weapon as before and retest for any high spots. Re-mark and re-sand any until you can easily pass the paper all the way from one end of the stock to approx. four inches in front of the receiver. Try to do a neat and even job so that the gun will look nice when finished. Be careful that you remove material evenly from both sides of the fore end, also don't scratch the top rails of the fore end.

You might want to install a recoil pad at this time. Just cut the old stock off about a half inch, sand the cut surface until smooth, screw in recoil pad and use flat block of wood to sand edges flush with stock. We are not really worrying about the stocks finish at this point but be sure to sand along the grain, not against. Purely cosmetic concern but it makes the next step easier.

4. APPLY CAMOUFLAGE FINISH

You can use any finish you like to complete your stock, but I would suggest, since it is supposed to be a sniper weapon, that a camouflage paint job would be the best idea.

You will need, first, some satin polyurethane to seal and protect the stock from moisture and weather. Be sure to completely cover the inside of the barrel channel, under the recoil pad, and all other areas of the stock with at least two coats. Sand lightly to roughen the surface so the paint will stick better then go ahead and camouflage it. Use olive drab, brown, black, and maybe a little tan for contrast. Use leaves or sticks to spray patterns on the stock. Spray in light coats so the paint doesn't run. Less is more.

You can also chose to do the action and barrel and the scope. Be sure to tape over any numbers you will need to see later on the optic. Also tape over the muzzle to keep paint out.

5. TRIGGER PULL

This area is not as hard as many people think. Most military rifles come with a two-stage trigger pull. It is not difficult to master this type of trigger, but most people want to lessen the pull weight a little. The Mauser and Enfield triggers can be completely replaced with modern target triggers. This is the easiest and safest way to do it although at about $50 cost for the new unit. Please know that the reason these after market triggers exist and sell so well is that there is only so much you can do with a typical old surplus rifles trigger. If you feel you understand the operation of the mechanism enough to proceed with these modifications be EXTREMELY CAREFUL. By polishing these areas you may at best shave a pound or so off the pull weight, at worst you can ruin the fire control components or render the weapon unsafe.

Your best option besides trigger unit replacement is a simple polishing job where the trigger or sear engages the bolt. Cycle the action several times with the stock removed. Look for the area to polish

If you have a Dremel tool you can use a polishing wheel on the metal-to-metal contact areas.

Use your instruction manual to remove the trigger and/or sear from the rifle CAREFULLY. Put the piece in a vice so you can work on the necessary area. Use only enough pressure to make the engagement area shiny. Use slow, steady passes. Re-coat felt wheel with polishing compound frequently. Go slowly. Be careful near edges so you don't round them off. Haste makes waste.

Repeat the careful polishing process on the bolt's engagement areas. Remember, you are just trying to smooth these surfaces so they will slide easier. Be sure to clean the polishing compound off of all surfaces before reassembly.

6. SCOPES, MOUNTS AND RINGS

Don't get too much scope for your PMSR. Consider the size of the targets you will most likely be engaging. Probably more "deer-sized" than not. Also know that our Military snipers rarely use any optic over 10 power. 3.5-10 is usually ideal, as is 3-9 or 4-12. Don t need adjustable objectives either, somehow they always end up set to the wrong range when you need to rapidly engage a target in the field, avoid them.

Buy the absolute best optic you can afford. I have had personal bad experiences with cheap optics. Simmons, Leapers, BEC and the Cheaper Tasco and Bushnell optics should be avoided. Bushnell and Tasco above $150 are usually fine quality. That is about the lowest price you will actually be buying a scope and not a headache. Took me 6-7 cheap scopes failing to figure that out. Those $50 scopes add up to quite a pile of money after a while.

Scope mounts for the Mausers are inexpensive, as low as $10 for a Weaver type rail. Only real cost will be for drilling and tapping the receiver. For the SMLE you will either need a B-Square clamp-on mount (SMLE) or a rear-sight-base type, usually about $40 from www.Natchezss.com

Scope mounts for the Moisin-Nagant are available in two styles weapon. The first is the military style that mounts to the receiver side. It comes with the soviet 3.5X scope. You must have a round receiver to use this mount, gunsmith installation is required. The other style is the B-SQUARE type. It replaces the rear leaf sight and can be used on either type of receiver. The only problem with the B-SQUARE type is that you must use a long eye relief type scope.

Mounts for the SMLE are available from several sources including B-SQUARE. You can use normal scopes with these mounts.

Mounts for the Mausers will probably have to be drilled and tapped by a gunsmith. These are more expensive, but are a lot more sturdy. They can be used with normal scopes.

There is a B-Square mount for the 1917 Enfield but the best way is to have the rear sight base and its protective ears milled off and a Mauser-type rail installed. Not cheap but the result is a very sturdy 30.06 weapon with a bolt handle that is already bent. Very nice when done up right.

7. SLING SWIVEL AND BIPOD

All of these rifles came with some manner of sling attachment, but we just chopped off the front part of this system. Quick-detachable sling swivels are superior to most of these anyway, so I'll tell you how to install them.

The installation of swivels is very simple. Put the stock in a well-padded vise. Mark spots approx. Two inches in from both ends of the rifle stock. Measure to make sure your spot is centered. Line up your drill (usually 1/8 inch) perpendicular to the surface of the stock. Carefully proceed.

I use little kits made by "Uncle Mike's" available at Meijer's or K-Mart everywhere.

Bipods are just as easy. This is one area where it doesn't hurt to get the best. I use a Harris "S" 9-13 with notched legs. It is tough, quiet, sturdy and very easy to attach/detach.

8. MUZZLE CROWN

Inspect the rifling at the muzzle. If there are any nicks or dings, you will need to recrown the muzzle. If there are large dings or chips missing, you will need a drill press. In this case, just pick a larger-than-bore-size drill that is very sharp, line it up with the center of the bore, and cut in until you get past the nicks. This is called counterboring and is effective if you do it right

If the damage is small nicks, use this method: Put a medium size, round headed brass screw in a power drill, coat head with polishing compound, hold square to muzzle crown, use light pressure, recoat often, until nicks are gone. GO SLOWLY.

Well, if you try these ideas out and it doesn't shoot like a laser, don't get mad. There are a couple of other tricks to try. Use the best ammo you can buy. Shoot very slowly. Keep the barrel cool. Clean the rifle often. Use a solid bench rest. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

9. SHOOTING ACCESSORIES

Things like gun cases, carry slings, ammo cases, benchrest sand bags and bipods can vary greatly in price and effectiveness. Your PMSR will need a simple carry strap for normal shoulder carry. Leather or nylon web does not matter as long as it stays adjusted where you want it during use. I prefer padded soft gun cases for all my rifles, your preference may be different. Keep your accuracy loads protected in some sort of ammo case that you carry, don t attach it to the weapon, especially the butt stock. This can get you real trouble when you have a clear shot but must shoot from the "other" shoulder. I have had this happen many times and as a result always set my rifles up for ambidextrous use. Half the deer I have killed have been shot from the "wrong side". Keep the ammo on your person and keep it protected. When sighting your weapon you will need some sandbags to support the rifle and make sure you fire from a consistent position. Cheap way is obvious, a cloth bag with sand in it and the ends sewn shut, one for the fore end and one for the butt to rest on. Expensive way is leather bags fitted to your rifle. The leather bags are nice but unnecessary.

Bipods are used far more on police sniper weapon than on military ones. Just the nature of their use, really. Police are usually involved in some long standoff from an stable position like some roof top or over a cruisers hood, bipods work good there. Military don't use them because they are often belly crawling through grass and other snagging stuff. They just use a small loop of webbing attached at the front swivel mount to drag the rifle along as they crawl. You will have to determine through a good amount of time using your PMSR what you will need. The only bipod I use is a Harris brand with the swivel/level option and I almost never put it on my dedicated rig. There are many brands/types of bipods, select carefully.

10. AMMUNITION and BALLISTICS

All this work on the rifle and so little about the ammo we will be using, that is till now. If you chose a round like 308 or 30.06 you will probably be able to find target or match loads for your gun. Not the case if you are using 8mm, 7mm, 6.5x55. Match loads are way more expensive than typical surplus loads but you do get what you pay for to a degree. Some companies like Hansens and S&B make match loadings for 7.62x54R at about normal hunting ammo prices.

Reloading is an option that some of you will choose. If everything else about your gun is in at least very good condition you should be able to improve your accuracy by handloading. Reloading is very rewarding and even fun, feels good to make your own and know everything about a loading.

Learn the Ballistics of your weapon by heart. There are several types of ballistics shareware available on the internet. You can develop a small drop chart and tape it to your rifle for all the ranges you will engage targets at. Knowing that your loads are quality (cause you made them) and exactly what it does after firing (cause you studied its ballistics) does wonders for your success ratings.

In closing on this reworded, slightly modified and longer version of this topic I would like to thank you for reading and for your interest. You might be able to do it for less, with weirder calibers and cheaper scopes but if you do, the next article is your responsibility to write!

6 comments:

Ginny Crandall said...

Thanks for the post. Is there a particular reason why you prefer soft cases for your guns? My father-in-law is the same way, but I have no idea why. My husband and I are looking at getting our first gun and I would love to know your reasoning behind your choice.

Almtnman said...

I like soft cases for my rifles because they are easy to carry, lightweight, easy to unzip the case and get the rifle in or out and best of all, they are convenient for packing or hauling in a small truck or car. Hard cases are good if you are flying with your rifle, but they are bulky, very hard to pack inside a car and don't fit in a small vehicle very easily. Good luck on getting your first gun!

Rocket said...

Where do you buy shoot n c brand targets? Cabelas is too expensive, help please!

Anonymous said...

You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually
something which I think I would never understand.
It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I'll try to get the hang of it!

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Almtnman said...

Anonymous, I don't know exactly why you can't understand it as what I posted is fairly easy for most folks to understand. The point is this: a cheap way to get a rifle that can be used for deer hunting or as a sniper rifle if you want to call it that. As for myself, seeing what's happening all over the globe including here in the U.S., for myself, I would like to have a sniper rifle handy in case some of the hordes of thugs and undesirables decided to start taking some of my property when times get rough, say like a scenario of the LA riots or New Orleans hurricane where people had to rely on such instruments to protect their family and personal possessions.

What I can't seem to understand is how you have a blog of your very own but preferred to use an anonymous signature.

Davidjohn said...

Very good written article. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – can’r wait to read more posts.
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