Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Two New Rifles

Now I Need A Gun Safe!

As promised in this post, here's the details on the two latest additions to the El Capitan Arsenal.

It just wouldn't be typical in my über-weird life for a pair of mundane firearms to show up. Where many people would much prefer to have a Marlin lever-action .30-30 and a Winchester Model 70 deer rifle in .308 instead of these odd birds, I kinda groove on the fact that these particular rifles aren't seen every day. Sure, it's going to take some extra effort to keep them in sufficient supplies of ammo, but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Sunday night, I asked my friend Zibig to grab either one to take a look at it. He said, "I'll go with the older one" and reached for the autoloader. He was only off by 40 years or so! (To give him partial credit, only the receiver on the bolt-action was older!)

Zibig picked up this gem first:

It's an FN49, also known across the pond as the 'SAFN', made by Fabrique Nationale in Herstal, Belgium. These were made in several calibers, mostly .30-06 and 8mm Mauser, but this one was one of the 8000 or so made under contract in 1950-51 for the nation of Venezuela. Venezuela just had to be different, and requested these in 7mm Mauser caliber, probably to use up all the stocks of ammo purchased for their WWI-vintage Mauser bolt-actions so popular in Latin America. The rifle holds 10 rounds, and is fed via 5-round stripper clips into the top. That magazine is removeable, but not for reloading purposes.

The FN49's a heavy beast, weighing in at almost 10 pounds unloaded. That extra weight will soak up recoil, though, which is convenient. It doesn't point as naturally as an M1 Garand, but is nimble enough for what I intend to use it for, which is punching holes in paper and perhaps the occasional javelina. Maybe a carload of rioting looters. Who knows?

It needed a good thorough cleaning, as it probably spent a good 10 years in storage without so much as a smidgen of TLC. Fortunately, it's a workhorse military rifle, and designed for much worse punishment! The stock could probably use a refinish, since there's a few dings and gouges, but I like the old dark wood. It's not oozing cosmoline, so as far as I'm concerned, it can stay as is.

I had no clue how to begin disassembly, but a little online research set me straight, and it's actually easier than many modern rifles. All you really need is a loaded cartridge for the gas regulator and magazine release, and a screwdriver for the barrel band/sling swivel and the rest almost falls apart. The only difficult section to put back together was the receiver cover, since you need about 5 hands to keep the recoil spring tucked into place as you slip the cover on.

It's good to go as it stands now, though I would like to get at least 500 rounds of decent ammo and really wring it out and see what it can do. I suspect if I look hard, I can probably scare up a proper bayonet and really put the scare on the javelinas!

Kim du Toit reviewed this particular model of FN49 a few weeks ago, and expressed a desire to own one. I thought that for once I had beaten him to the score, and could maybe generate some rifle-envy from him, instead of the other way around as is so often the case!
Ol' Kim, however, is very much the wily hunter! He managed to find one (albeit severely modified) and had it in his house before I got mine home! Well, good on ya, Señor du Toit! We'll have to have a head to head 7mm match before too long!

If the FN49 is the workhorse of the duo, then the other is most definitely the thoroughbred! Here's a peek: (and I apologize for the poor picture quality, I was running on dead camera batteries and did the best I could!)

This one's a custom bolt-action rifle, built around a vintage Mauser action mated to a custom barrel and fancy walnut burl stock. The picture just doesn't do it justice! The action is from a 1908 pattern Mauser manufactured by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) somewhere in the 1908-1913 era in Obendorf, Germany. Despite its advancing years, the action is just about perfect. The manufacturer and arsenal stampings and Brazilian crest are as sharp as those on a brand new rifle.

The stock is only about 95% complete, and lacks a good deal of sanding around the comb & grip area before it'll be ready for finishing. It's a fairly nice piece of walnut, and I'm thinking a hand-rubbed oil finish (actually, a mix of beeswax, turpentine and either tung oil or boiled linseed oil) will look really sharp. I need to get busy on the stock, as it's already dried out more than is good for it. It's got that hollow sound that wood gets when the moisture level dips real low, and I've spotted a tiny crack in the spacer between the magazine well and the trigger slot that's probably a result of the drying. The crack will be easily fixed, but getting the stock finished will be a priority in the next few weeks.

After gripping the heavy-duty stocks on the FN-49 and my VZ24, the grip on this one feels impossibly slim. Also, with the lack of anything but a blued finish on the slim barrel, (i.e. no front sights, bayonet lugs, flash hiders) it handles like a dream. It comes quite naturally to the proper spot on my shoulder, and is light enough to carry all day.

How I carry it is a problem, though. It's not drilled for sling swivels, nor is there any checkering done. I'm more than a bit reluctant to do anything to interfere with viewing the really nice grain of the burl walnut, so I probably won't have any sharp checkering done, though a bit of basketweave along the sides might look nice. Sooner or later I'll have to have a sling, though, so I'll keep an eye out for the flush-mount sling sockets that'll blend into the stock.

The caliber? Well, there's the rub. It's not available on the shelves at Walmart, that's for damn sure!

It's chambered for .257 Ackley Improved, a respected though fairly obscure wildcat round. Here's what one looks like:

Way back in the day, a Colorado gunsmith named P.O. Ackley modified a bunch of standard cartridges by straightening case walls and altering the shoulder angle, mostly to squeeze more powder inside. The result is higher velocities and improved ballistics. The .257 Ackley Improved starts life as a standard .257 Roberts round which you chamber and fire, thereby fire-forming the brass cartridge case to fit the chamber walls. Afterwards, you save up all that brass, acquire a set of .257 Ackley Improved loading dies, and commence to rolling your own ammo.

This gun is just itching to drop antelope at 500 yards up in the Panhandle. Whether I'm up to the task remains to be seen!

I'll get some proper pics posted soon!