Just mention Cosmoline to an older veteran and he will most likely cringe remembering the chore of removing the sticky goo from his M1. Cosmoline is a greasy substance that is made to get into every crevice and coat every part of a mechanism and preserve the item from rust in long-term storage. It was used on naval guns, rifles, tanks, and more. Surplus rifles are full of the stuff. It can be a difficult chore to remove.
If you plan on shooting a military surplus rifle, it is important to remove the storage gunk. If you don’t, the rifle will not operate. This is especially true with semi-automatic rifles like an SKS or M1 Garand, which utilize a gas piston to cycle the action. Gas pistons need to be free of oil and grease because the lubricants and grease attract burnt powder and grit, eventually causing the rifle to jam. Also, the firing pin and firing-pin spring in coated bolt-action rifles can get clogged with grease and not release. In warmer climates, the grease will seep out of the gun and coat your hands in a slime. Where it is colder, the grease will coagulate and could seize up a mechanism. Here’s an easy and effective method to remove the grease from a surplus rifle.
I obtained a greasy bolt-action Chinese Type 53 carbine from Century International Arms. These rifles were manufactured under license during the Cold War and are a copy of the Soviet Model 1944 or M44. The Type 53 has a permanently attached spike bayonet that folds along the right side of the rifle in a groove in the wooden stock. Type 53s were built with Chinese-made parts and surplus Soviet parts. U.S. troops came across the Type 53 during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and in areas where China has a presence, such as in South America and Africa, the Type 53 can still be encountered.
The Type 53 loads like most Mosin-Nagant rifles with either a five-round stripper clip or a single round at a time. It is a push-feed bolt with a straight bolt handle that requires a 90-degree lift. It locks the cartridge into the chamber via two lugs. The stock had a straight grip and the butt plate was smooth steel.
Century International Arms uses a commercial washing machine and hot water to degrease the outside of the Type 53s. As I received it, the outside of the Type 53 was clean, with only a film of grease; but upon disassembly, storage grease was rampant. Merely removing the bolt from the action showed smears of grease. After the barrel bands were removed and the handguard separated from the stock, it was apparent there was some decades-old Asian grease inside the rifle that needed to be removed. Pulling the barreled receiver out of the stock, I saw the action, trigger mechanism, magazine, and every other part needed degreasing.
Create a clear and open work space that is well lit and ventilated and gather up some tools, brushes and degreaser that you may have on hand or can be purchased at any big-box department or local hardware store. I used a 41-quart plastic bin that measured 35”x16”x5” to hold the barreled action and all the other metal parts. Choose a degreasing solution. Eco-friendly degreasers like Simple Green, Purple Power Citrus Cleaner can be used. Simple Green is biodegradable, has no odor and is non-toxic. ZEP is a common degreaser I have used it in the past, but I prefer my old standby, low-vapor mineral spirits. Whatever solution you use, read the label. Buy at least a gallon since your particular firearm may need numerous applications of degreasing solutions. Have on hand an old paintbrush and tooth brush, rubber gloves, and safety glasses. For the wood stock, you will need paper towels, a hair dryer, masking tape, and black plastic garbage bags. You will also need disassembly tools. Then get started.
Step 1: Completely Disassemble the Rifle
If you are at a loss on how to disassemble your firearm, there are numerous books, and the Internet is also a place to search. If you have questions, a gunsmith can help. The idea is to reduce the firearm to a pile of parts.
Step 2: Soak Metal Parts
Place all the metal parts in the plastic tub and soak them in the degreasing solution. Use a paintbrush to saturate the hard-to-reach areas and let the metal soak for a few hours, or overnight, depending on the amount and age of the grease. As the degreasing solution becomes muddy with the dissolving grease, replace it with fresh solution. Use the tooth brush to scrub stubborn areas.
Step 3: Dry Metal Parts
Dry off the metal parts with clean, absorbent rags and use canned air or an air compressor to blow out the solution and dissolved grease from confined areas. Finally, clean the bore like you would after firing the firearm and lightly rub all metal surfaces with an oily cloth. Less oil is better.
Step 4: Scrap Out the Wood Stock
Do not soak wood or synthetic stocks in the degreasing solution because the solution will soften and destroy the wood. Wipe out and gently scrap out the large clumps of grease in the action/barrel bedding area and outside.
Step 5A: Leech the Stock (Fast Method)
You will not be able to get all of the grease from the wood since the fiber of the wood will hold some of it. There are two methods to remove grease from wood. The fast method is to use a hair dryer to heat the surface of the wood. As the wood heats, the grease will melt. You will know this is working as the wood begins to sweat and get glossy and there is a distinct petroleum smell.
Wipe the grease away with a paper towel, which will absorb the now-liquid grease. A heat gun is another option, but you run the risk of burning the wood. A steamer works, too, but you will raise the grain of the wood and it will need to be sanded down, and you will want to save any cartouches in the stock. Work small sections of the stock with the hair dryer at a time. Try to ensure an even removal of the grease so the stock does not look splotchy. When the stock does not appear glossy, you are finished.
Step 5B: Leech the Stock (Slow Method)
Another wood-leeching method takes longer. Stuff paper towels into the inletting of the stock and completely wrap the stock like a mummy with paper towels secured tightly against the wood with masking tape. Do not affix the tape to the wood — only use it to hold the paper towels to the wood. Next, close the paper-towel-wrapped stock in a black-plastic trash bag and tightly circle the bag around the stock using masking tape. Then place the stock outside in a heated area such as in the sun, in a room with a woodstove, or in a hot parked vehicle. The heat will help melt the grease, and the paper towels will absorb it as it is leeched out of the wood. The leeching technique may take numerous applications. Finally, wipe down the wood with a clean soft cloth moist with mineral spirits. Do not saturate the wood, just wipe it down and let it air dry.
With grease removed from the wood stock and metal parts, the rifle can be reassembled. In my case, the metal from the Type 53 came clean quickly with not a lot of scrubbing. The stock had some finish left on it, giving it a used, weathered look. The bore of the Type 53 had decades of crud in it, and after a pile a patches, the final patch came out white. It was ready to get back in action.
Chinese Type 53 Carbine Performance
At the range, I shot three types of 7.62x54R ammo: PPU with 150-grain SPBT bullets, Herter’s and a surplus load. Both the Herter’s and surplus ammo was loaded with 148-grain FMJ bullets in non-reloadable, bi-metal cases. You could consider the 7.62x54R cartridge the Russian equivalent of the American .30-06. The 7.62x54R debuted in 1891 during Russia’s Tsarist era, served through the Soviet regime, and up to the present. It is a rimmed cartridge like a .30-30 Winchester round. It has similar performance as the 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Winchester.
Starting out at 50 yards, I placed three PPU SPBT bullets in 1-1/8 inches using a rest. The other cartridges left larger groups. I had high hopes for this curio. The trigger broke, on average, at 5 pounds 13 ounces. Moving out to 100 yards, it soon became clear that as the barrel heated and the handguard perspired, what storage grease remained was going to ooze out.
Remember, you may never get all the grease out of a wood stock, but with a little effort, you can take a relic and make it into a shooter in an afternoon.
|Herter’s 148 FMJ||2587||4.75||4|
|PPU 150 Soft Point Boat Tail||2636||5.03||3.625|
|Surplus 148 FMJ||2626||5.68||2.5|
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second 15 feet from the muzzle by a ProChrono digital chronograph, and accuracy in inches of three, five-shot groups at 100 yards.
- Caliber: 7.62x54R
- Barrel: 20.5 inches
- OA Length: 40.4 inches
- Weight: 8.9 pounds (unloaded)
- Stock: wood
- Sights: tangent rear, hood-protect post front
- Action: bolt-action
- Finish: blued
- Capacity: 5-round fixed internal magazine
So you ready to pull out that carbine and get it in perfect working order? Share what your plans are in the comment section.