"It's the same one I been shootin," says the Gambler as he picks up the rifle.
"What did that new wood cost ya?" asks the old man.
"Seven dollars for sandpaper and varnish. The wood was hiding under that dark and dull gunk." Are the Gambler's last remarks as he carries the rifle to his gun cart. This article is on how to finish the metal and wood on your inexpensive guns after doing an action job to make things run smoother.
It is not uncommon to see people who spend many hours carefully stoning the action on their favorite gun, but leave a lot of evidence of everything they have done. I have been guilty of cleaning up the action a few times and then shooting a match with the marks where the stoning work had removed the bluing.
I had smoothed the action of my Rossi 92 many months ago by installing a spring kit, but I was unable to install the extractor spring, because it was way too long. After learning that the incorrect spring had been supplied in the kit, Lee Springs was very quick to ship the correct spring and I had the pleasure of installing the new extractor spring. While the gun was apart, I chose to clean up some of the bare steel marks left by the previous polishing work.
I had purchased a cold bluing solution about thirty years ago and was not happy with the outcome, so I had avoided its use until I found it in a box and decided to try darkening the bolt of the Rossi. Figure 1 is an overall shot of the bolt showing the bare metal and Figure 2 is a close-up image of the same part illustrating the stoning marks.
I pulled out my old tube of Birchwood Casey Perma Blue Gun Blue Paste and read the directions. It said to apply a little, wait a minute, wipe it off, rub with steel wool, and then repeat a few times until it is dark enough. Those instructions seem a little like rust bluing/browning so the process is probably very similar, but the chemical action is faster.
I started by cleaning all of the accumulated grease and oil off the steel with a few shots of my Rusty Duck premium gun action cleaner. That left me with a nice and clean steel so I swabbed a little of the solution onto the bare metal and let is sit for about a minute before wiping it off and rubbing it with 0000 steel wool. After about four or five repeats of the process, it was getting difficult to see where the marks had been.
Figure 3 shows the finished part after the cold bluing had been completed and was oiled to preserve the finish. I assembled the Rossi and realized it now had the finished look that follows the work of a professional as opposed to the work an amateur.
With the bolt looking much better, it was time to improve the look of the gun's wood. Mine is the cheapest Rossi is a Puma that was imported by LSI. These guns are famous for their very dark wood with a finish that resembles a good soaking in creosote.
I didn't know of the quality of the wood of these Rossi stocks, but I decided to try pulling the stock and sanding the wood down and seeing if it would accept refinishing.
Removing the stock was a simple matter of removing the tang screw and pulling the stock to the rear and sliding if from the upper and lower tangs.
The forearm stock proved to be a bit more of a challenge. I began by removing the magazine end cap along with the spring and cartridge follower. It is the necessary to remove the two screws that hold the forearm stock cap to the barrel. There is one last pin that needs to be removed and it passes through the thimble that holds the magazine tube about six inches from the end of the barrel. Drive that pin out from the left side of the barrel to the right and the magazine tube should slide out.
The magazine tube would not slide out of my rifle's forearm stock so I had to use a little trick given to me by Steve Young of Rossi92 Specialists. He told me to place the magazine tube in a padded vice in a way that I can twist the tube in the forearm stock by twisting the gun. I twisted the gun back and forth and pulled until the magazine tube started working its way out of the forearm stock.
Once the stocks were removed, I removed the crescent butt plate from the rear stock by using a large gunsmith screwdriver. The stocks were laid out on a carpet square and I began sanding with 120 grit sandpaper. The paper began loading up with some kind of thick and dark finish.
I continued to sand the stock and found that a little alcohol on a cloth seemed to extract some of the oil from the stock and tended to lighten it a little. It also tended to allow the oils to leach out of the wood.
Figure 4 shows the stock as it was at the beginning of the project and the pink eraser was used as a backing pad for the sandpaper. The eraser makes an excellent backing pad for the larger surfaces of the wood and it prevents the finger marks that often appear in the wood when sanding by hand.
I continued to sand with the 120 grit paper and then to 180 grit to lighten the sanding lines from the coarser paper. The final sanding was eventually done with 320 grit paper, which tended to almost polish the wood.
The final step before spraying the urethane onto the stock was to fill the pores of the wood with filler. The pores of the wood will absorb the varnish and it will be difficult to get a smooth finish. I used Birchwood Casey gun stock filler.
The filler is a liquid with some kind of pumice-like filler in suspension. It is put on a rag and then spread against the grain so it is forced into the open grain. The filler is a medium brown in color so it tended to also slightly lighten the dark wood of the Puma stock. The filler is allowed to dry over night and the polished against the grain with a rag the next day. The wood is now a little reflective, smooth, and ready to be coated with clear urethane.
I sprayed between five and seven coats of Deft urethane in high gloss. After the first three coats had been built up, I began using 0000 steel wool to burnish off the high spots of the waves of clear that had built up and the finish became very smooth. After several coats and smoothing with steel wool, I decided the finish had been built up enough and it was time to complete the finish.
I started with automotive polishing compound and an old sock and began polishing the finish until the final high spots were polished down flat. This leaves the finish with a milky coating of minor scratches over the surface of the varnish that must be polished out.
The final polish with an abrasive material was done with an automotive polish known as 3M Imperial Microfinishing Glaze. This thin material would normally be used as the glazing compound to complete the finish on a fancy car, but it did a great job of polishing out the minor scratches and leaving the finish very smooth and transparent.
I assembled the rifle by placing the butt stock back where it belonged, which was easy. The forearm stock was a bit more difficult because of the tight fit of the magazine tube. I assembled everything and let the magazine tube project out slightly behind the forearm stock. I then moved the stock around until the magazine tube slid slightly into the receiver. With the tube projecting into the receiver, I tapped the front of the magazine tube lightly with a leather mallet and it slid into place.
Figure 7 shows the finished rifle assembled in front of the four products used to complete this project.
Figure 8 illustrates the luster and figure of the grain of the refinished forearm stock. By comparing the figures eight and four, it is possible to see how much the wood was improved by removing the dark and tar-like finish and