Making a Greasy Chinese Type 53 Carbine into a Shooter in 5 Not-So-Easy Steps

Chinese Type 53 Carbine

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.

Chinese Type 53 Carbine Disassembled
After disassembly, the presence of storage grease was apparent.

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.

Accuracy Results

Load Velocity Average Best
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.

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Comments (18)

  1. This is a good article. I have cleaned and restored two of these rifles that were in very rough shape. I myself use simple green and water to scuba the stock and the metal, then proceed to soak the metal in CLP. I use a stripper to clean off the old clear coat and varnish, wash it again, then do light sanding on the stock. You cannot make this rifle pretty… it is not designed for looks. Both stocks I have used linseed oil on with good results. So far, this rifle has killed everything I aim at, and I do not get worked up if it falls out of the stand or gets soaked. Apart from the kick, it is a decent little gun for wooded areas and shots 150 yards or less.

  2. I don’t need to call the army or air force .. I own close to 100 riffles and pistols. And I’ve cleaned cosmoline off of more than that… If u would rather spend a couple hours soakin ur guns I. Simple green or dish soap that’s ur bussiness.. A can of ether is 6 bucks and it blows it off instantly. But hey if makes u feel smart to talk about the arm and Air Force and turn a 30 min job into a half a day be my guest . I’m not gonna argue I know what works.

    1. @ Rickylee: Well let’s see – Drop parts into PVC pipe with end cap and fill with mineral spirits. Go watch some football then come back, hose them down…done.

      Go ahead and sit there sniffing your starter fluid while you have to work to get that Cosmoline off; I’m gonna watch football instead.

    2. U shouldn’t speak on stuff when u don’t know what ur talkin about.. There is nothing to work off . It’s blow. Off instantly . By the time u make ur pvc and fill it with dish soap u would b done . I’m done explaining it. If u wanna spend hrs doing a few min job go right ahead . Mineral sports is good too. It comes in second to ether which isn’t a bad choice if u don’t wanna drop 6 bucks on a can of ether . All I’m saying is dish soap and degreaser is a waste of time . I have more weapons than the police. ita nothing u can tell me about cleaning cosmoline . It’s ur time waste it how u see fit

  3. “Ricky lee: Wrong. Unless weapons are constantly stored in climate controlled facilities (unlikely), Cosmoline melts deep into every crevice of a weapon”

    Of course you are dead right on that analysis Mr. Lee. But I was trying to be more diplomatic with the kid.My experience is they learn better if yoiu don’t polarize things with them
    One thing is abundantly clear here, if you been in combat your maintenance of your weapon is a life and earth matter period and it is nearly constant period.

    If not then Gun Scrubber and Carburetor cleaner seem fine and easier.

  4. Yes but ‘GunScrubber’ is pretty expensive as is aerosol starterfluid. which is the same thing basicaly Even still is there anybody here who has not used it once in awhile? Frankly I doubt it. There is nothing new under the sun so to speak.

  5. I think it’s funny all u so called experts don’t know the easiest way to remove storage grease on a fire arm . Ur all rookies.. All u need is a cheap can of starter fluid. And maybe a rag and that’s it. The ether will blow it off right out the can . No scrubbing no soaking or nothing. Aside from removing the bolt no disassembly is required.. It funny to me the wannA be expert doesn’t know this technique.. Any other way is a waste of time . One can if starter fluid will clean several gun

    1. @ Ricky lee: Wrong. Unless weapons are constantly stored in climate controlled facilities (unlikely), Cosmoline melts deep into every crevice of a weapon. Based on your smug rendition on such a task, I wouldn’t dare trust firing a weapon after you’ve cleaned it.

      Any mechanic, machinist, or aircraft maintainer knows the only way to ensure bores and cavities in metals can only ever be absolutely cleaned is through total solvent submersion and soak time to allow all foreign matter to completely dissolve.

      Call any Army or Air Force Base and ask why they are required to perform solvent baths on all their aircraft parts and guns. LOL – “starter fluid and a rag.” Get real.

  6. Given the steps you have already taken to clean it my thought is ‘does it shot well or not’. If the answer is ” it shoots acceptable groups” then do not let the situation disturb you, A gun is a tool, if it works why fix it?

    I hope somebody else here has had thissituation and has a solution for you.

    1. A gunsmith told me of a good way to clean your bore when shooting corrosive ammo. He said boiling hot water and simple green pored from the breach out the end of the barrel. He noted: ever see those old rifles that had a funnel with them? That’s what that was for. All ammo back then was corrosive. He also cautioned to oiling your bore. His reason was that the oil will coat over any corrosive material and seal it in allowing the bore to pit out to inspite of your attempts at swabbing it out.

  7. I would like some information regarding cleaning the bore of Mosin Nagant rifles. I have a couple of these rifles and have used several different bore cleaners, bore brushes, and run several hundred patches thru the bores and the patches still come out black. I’ve filled the bores with bore cleaner overnight, used foaming bore cleaner, and even used a batch of Ed’s Red and the results are still the same. I’d like any suggestions that help result in clean bores in these rifles.

  8. Easy guys, there a lot of new MN buyers and maybe they haven’t seen this anywhere yet. They need to know these details or somebody might try to shoot a greasy Mosin and get into a lot of trouble. Besides once in a while a new tip comes out. And I just like to see other people own and appreciate (as I do) a gun that a lot of other people don’t like. I own 3 hexs, a round and an M-44 and tons of surplus ammo and have hours of cheap fun with them. I do make sure to clean the bores with the 50/50 ammonia/water mix as soon as I’m done shooting and then a good regular cleaning when I get home. I’ll say that just in case someone doesn’t know to do that.

    1. thanks for sticking up for us newbe i just bought a 1935 hex mosin nagant an would like to know whatever info anybody could tell me thanks.

  9. This post and related details are old stuff. I was doing this when I was a kid, so long ago, I forgot how long ago. People today just don’t have the moxy. Because, when I was back then you had to learn how to do things because you couldn’t afford to pay other people to do it unless you were well off. I rest my case

    1. @ Martin Pierce: So because it is old stuff does that make it irrelevant? If that were true, you’re old stuff, so what does that make you? I rest my case.

  10. Buy real cheap from Home Depot a 4 or 6 inch diameter PVC pipe and one end cap. Lean the pipe against a wall or inside a tall trash can so it stands upright. Then place the barrel and all metal parts inside first, and then fill with mineral spirits (also cheap from Home Depot). Allow to soak for a day. Unlike Simple Green and other degreasers that still make you scrub, mineral spirits melts Cosmoline away. Remove from the pipe and soak the parts in warm water to remove the mineral spirits. After this, ensure all parts are very dry (blown out or oven warmed) and then clean and oil as if you’d just returned from the range before reassembly.

  11. I think the Mosin Nagant is the best buy in a rifle moeny wise out there. Like all such things I adise you get one or two now as I have seen the price go from $20 decades ago ro the current price but they are still great deal. I have had luck perhaps but all of my MN rifles shoot tighter groups than what you got. I have the rifles though not the carbine There is riock in the river I can see of my deck (I live in remote area of the Colorado Mountains) It is 135 yards away and is a little smaller than basketball with only 2/3rds above the water. I can jit off hand almost eevry time and so can my friends using the MN.and whatever ammo. Of course we know the range and if we miss the water kicks so correcting for the right sight picture is pretty easy with that visual feedback.

  12. I have had great success disassembling the rifle, and dipping all the metal parts in a turkey fryer full of boiling water. The parts come out super clean, and the cosmoline is easily removed from the surface of the water after it cools. Just clean and oil the metal parts as normal immediately after.

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