Classic military rifles are a popular purchase for gun aficionados on a budget. From the U.S. Army's Springfield Model of 1903, to the Mausers, Enfields, and Mosin-Nagants of Europe, old rifles that still work well can be had for very low prices.
The only drawback to these old rifles is, well, they're old! Having been used in training and in conflicts from the World Wars to smaller colonial brush wars, they have the scars to prove their worldly experience. Fortunately, refinishing these old warhorses is a simple and inexpensive task.
Disassemble your weapon, removing all metal parts from the wood stock. You will want to ensure access to the inside portions of the wood stock to ensure the integrity of the wood. Although this wood need not be refinished, it should be checked for damage. If it is damaged, you will want to replace the stock.
Use a 40-grit sandpaper to reduce the porous surfaces in the wood stock. When the larger pores have been reduced, wipe the exposed wood with a clean, damp cloth to clean off any dust left as a result of the sanding.
Lightly buff the entire exposed portion of the wood stock with a #0000 steel wool. This will further smooth the surface of the wood. When you have achieved this, wipe the exposed surfaces with a new, clean, damp cloth.
Choose a dark walnut furniture stain. Most of the old rifles were manufactured with a fine grade of walnut for their stocks, so this will more closely match the original color of the weapon's finish. This will produce a deep, rich color to the wood that can actually look more attractive than modern wood rifle stocks.
Apply several layers of your furniture stain until the surface of the stock is a shade or two lighter than the desired finished product. You can reference photographs of other restored old rifles online at websites like surplusrifles.com, or in various books to see the appropriate finished color.
Hand-rub boiled linseed oil onto the stock in several layers. This will help to protect the wood and the stain over the course of the weapon's lifetime. Five to six coats of the boiled linseed oil should be adequate.
Rub several coats of beeswax into the stock by hand until the desired finished product color is reached. This should be done in strict layers, covering the entire rifle with each coat. Doing so will prevent any uneven surface variations in the finished product.
Items you will need
- 40-grit sandpaper
- #0000 steel wool
- Clean, damp cloth (2 each)
- Dark walnut furniture stain
- Boiled linseed oil
- Beeswax cake
- Use online, color photos of your particular model of rifle to determine the appropriate darkness of color for the stain.
- Boiled linseed oil is highly flammable, and can actually result in spontaneous combustion in rags soaked with the oil. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using it. Do not allow any heat source or open flame near a location that contains boiled linseed oil or the remnant fumes.
- "Collecting Classic Bolt-Action Military Rifles;" Paul Scarlata; 2001
- Surpusrifles.com refinishing article
- "Practical Gunsmithing;" American Gunsmith; 1996