Thursday, October 27, 2011

Electronic Bore Cleaning (Electrolysis)

A few years ago I found an article about cleaning a gun's barrel using electrolysis. I must've researched the shit out of that for a while, then totally forgot about it. I do that with a lot of things. I find a subject that's really interesting to me, so I research all I can about it. After a day or two I'm onto something else and have totally forgotten about it. This subject was no different. Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago when I rediscovered the process. After reading up on the subject again, I had to try it for myself.

There are many techniques and variables here that can be changed depending on what materials you have on hand. Some people use a battery charger meant for a car as a power source, while others go with just a couple of AA batteries. For a fluid, there are many mixtures out there including watered down household cleaners, mixtures of vinegar with water, ammonia with water, salt water, and other things people have come up with. Your mileage may vary depending on the materials used.
For this project, I used an electrical tester, rubber stopper, some speaker wire, vinegar, plain old water, a 3 foot rod 1/8th in diameter, a flashlight, a razor blade, and an old 2 liter bottle from some delicious lemon lime soda. I also used a camera to document the occasion, which of course isn't shown. Also not shown are a piece of steel wool, a 6 volt battery (which we switched to later in the process), a funnel, and the Southern Bloomers patches I used to clean the gun.

The process is pretty simple, but it can be a little bit messy at times. My girlfriend helped me with our little "science project" on Sunday afternoon. We stuffed a rubber stopper into the chamber so any fluid we poured into the barrel wouldn't leak out. The stoppers I got for this project were all too big, so I improvised by using a nail (bent at a 90 degree angle) wrapped in electrical tape to seal the chamber.

After sealing up the chamber, we mixed some ingredients. We had read online that many people use vinegar, ammonia, and water mixed together. We didn't have any ammonia, so it was just vinegar and water for us. Using the razor blade, my girlfriend cut the 2 liter bottle so we'd have a sort of bucket for our used fluid. I wanted something translucent so we could see the junk coming out of the barrel.

The picture above shows the barrel of the gun with the funnel taped over it as well as the rod which was wrapped with electrical tape. T
he funnel was a great help when it came time to pour the fluid into the barrel. We wrapped the 3 foot rod with electrical tape in a few spots to eliminate metal on metal contact between the barrel and the rod.

Electrical tape comes in handy, and its cheap too! We took apart a small LED flashlight that houses 3 AAA batteries. I got the flashlight at Advance Auto Parts for like $3 or $4. Even though I used the battery holder for this project, it was still usable in the flash light after the project. The batteries have 1.5 volts each, so it was a 4.5 volt power source for our project. We took a length of speaker wire (any wire will do the trick) and attached one piece of wire to the positive side of the battery tray and the other wire to the negative side. Once again, the electrical tape came in handy. We used my $5 voltage meter (from Harbor Freight Tools) to verify that we had a good connection at the other end of the wires, then connected the negative wire to the barrel and the positive wire to the rod.

Look at the specs of junk in the foam. It almost looks like pepper. The rod was put into the barrel with some fluid. There was enough fluid in there to totally fill the barrel and a little bit of the funnel. Its nice to have some fluid standing in the funnel so you can see the bubbles do their magic.

After about 10 minutes, we weren't very happy with the results. We dumped out the fluid and wiped down the rod. We did this process a few more times, then changed power supplies to a 6 volt lantern battery. We also changed our fluid to diluted Windex (which probably has ammonia in it) and experienced similar results. At that point, we called it quits and got ready to head over to a friend's house.

While my girlfriend was taking a shower, I ran a patch down the barrel of the project gun. The patch came out very dirty and had cosmoline on it. I was impressed that a clean gun was this dirty after our treatment. The treatment obviously loosened up a bunch of junk that was in the barrel. Even though I didn't get a bunch of junk on the rod or in the foamy mess in the funnel, this process obviously worked.

A few days later I went back to tweak our design: using straight Windex with the same lantern battery, which was putting out 4.5 volts. Many online tutorials recommend staying at about 3 volts because that's what the commercial kits use. 4.5 volts worked for me. I cleaned the rod thoroughly with steel wool between treatments which I think helped the process. There wasn't much buildup on the rod, but having fresh metal exposed on the rod must have helped the process.

This is what the rod looked like after a 10 minute process with straight Windex. The picture also shows the patch I used to clean the junk off of the rod. I don't know exactly what the stuff was, but I bet it causes cancer. I later scrubbed the rod with steel wool to get back down to bare metal, then did the process again.

Here is a picture of the inside of the 2 liter bottle. I took this picture with the light to show you folks how much stuff came out when we poured out the fluid between treatments.

Do as many treatments as you'd like, then clean the rifle like you normally would (with a brush and patches) and you should have a much better looking barrel when you're done. I wouldn't personally leave this setup for more than 10 minutes or so. I don't know what kind of problems you might have if you left this thing going for an hour or two. I definitely wouldn't leave it unattended. Some people have experienced some of the fluid evaporating during their treatments, so add as necessary.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are many variables that can change when doing this process. The type of rod used, voltage, fluid, and the method used to clean the rod between treatments. Your results might not be exactly the same as mine. I am in no way responsible for any damage you might encounter while doing a project like mine. This blog post is meant for entertainment only. If you chose to mimic my setup, you're on your own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SKS from the auction

I went to an Auction house near my home in Northern Virginia in mid-October. They were auctioning some guns, so I thought I'd take a look.

The guns were being sold for final bid price, plus 10% buyers premium (maybe it was 15%), plus tax and a $2 background check call-in fee. I had to keep all that math in mind when I was doing my bidding because the price can quickly jump when 15% buyers premium and 5% tax are added onto any of the guns.

I saw a few guns I liked at the auction, including a Squires Bingham 22 semiauto sold by Kmart. I decided to pass on it because I already have a great semi-auto 22 rifle that I shoot frequently. I didn't really NEED another rimfire rifle. I also saw a Ruger double action revolver in 44 that looked interesting, but I didn't need to track down yet another caliber for my small collection of guns. The guns I really went to the auction for were milsurp. I love surplus rifles because they're just so... hearty. A well-worn war hero is the type of gun that you can be a little rough with, the kind of gun you can take hunting or to the campsite and not cry about if a new ding or scratch appears. They're the kind of guns that are great for teaching people how to shoot. There's nothing fragile in a military surplus rifle. Their stout and robust design coupled with a warm feeling of reliablity make them well worth their low cost. The two military surplus guns I was interested in were an M21 SKS and a Yugo Mauser.

There were only a few pictures online. I had to go and see the guns for myself before the auction opened. The SKS looked very well-worn and had some shrapnel damage in the gas tube and barrel. I thought it was probably cosmetic damage and would make more of a conversation piece than anything. To date, I didn't have any guns with that kind of battlefield bruising. The Mauser was still in cosmoline and was numbers matching. It had an import stamp that I didn't recognize, but the gun looked nice, so I thought I'd make a bid on it. I wound up buying both of the rifles I was interested in.

I had to outbid guys for both of the guns, but I left happy. I spent more than I wanted to spend, but that's kind of how auctions go sometimes. I get caught up bidding and have it in my head that that's going to be MINE and I just bid until I've got it. I can get carried away when I see something that I like, which makes me the kind of bidder that auctioneers just love.

On the drive home from the auction, I called my buddy Jack. He's also into surplus guns and loves cleaning up old rifles. He came over after he got out of work and we went to town on my two new rifles.

First up was the ratty old SKS. I had noticed at the auction that it was matching and I didn't see an importers stamp anywhere on the gun. I didn't take the time at the auction to see if the import stamp was on the underside of the barrel, so I pulled the cleaning rod and checked it out when we got into cleaning it. No import stamp anywhere. Interesting. Also interesting was the fact that there is almost nothing about the M21 SKS on the internet. We pushed a cleaning rod through the barrel to get out all the bugs, cobwebs, and general crap that had accumulated in the gun over the years. The gun was obviously cleaned before it was put away, but the thing was probably left in the corner of someone's garage or workshop for ages judging by the small paint specs on the receiver cover and the decent coating of dust on everything else.

After removing the spiders, I went to town with some breakfree on a brush. I could feel something toward the end of the gun, right near the bayonet lug. I thought I might have a blockage in the barrel. I really didn't even want to look down the barrel because I was pretty sure what I was going to discover was a non-shootable barrel. Well, I looked down the barrel and saw a blockage. Some of the shrapnel damage had dented the outside of the barrel so badly that a piece of metal worked its way inside the barrel. No way could I shoot the gun. Great, all that money down the drain.

We finished cleaning up the gun, but I was in a pretty shitty mood. I knew that anyone looking at the gun would see that ding in the barrel and know it wasn't shootable. If I'd only known, I wouldn't have bought it. What a bite. After pricing out a replacement barrel online, I wondered if it was even worth fixing. I decided I would probably just sell it part by part and cut my losses.

After the disappointing news about the SKS, we cleaned up the Yugo Mauser, which turned out to be a surprise. The gun was imported by Mitchell's Mausers, which is why I didn't recognize the import stamp. The stamp itself was something like MMC HB CA. Not only was the gun numbers matching, but the barrel was just gorgeous. I've only seen a couple of surplus rifles with bores better than this one. The cosmoline was a project to remove, but the gun looks great and feels great. It is the first iteration of the M48, produced between 1950 and 1952. It is considered the best of that model because they were made with milled parts, not stamped steel. The quality of the guns apparently went down some when the makers switched manufacturing techniques to churn the guns out more quickly and inexpensively. It looks like I got a good one.

About a week later, I posted a question about the M21 SKS rifle on a forum that I frequent. A forum user suggested that I take my question over to a forum that's dedicated to SKS rifles. I did just that and the SKS forum went nuts.

Apparently I have a super-rare gun and even though it doesn't shoot, its worth big money. I never would have thought. Good thing I didn't try to rebarrel the thing. Within an hour, I had 5 offers ranging from $500 cash to a trade for a functioning SKS, and everything in between. Some people left their phone numbers saying "please call me now"

Hold on folks, I didn't even say I wanted to necessarily sell it when I posted pictures on that forum. These SKS folks were like hungry wolves after my beat up, non-functioning M21. After talking on the phone for over 20 minutes with a guy I know who's really into SKS rifles, he recommended that I keep it because this kind of stuff only comes around once in a blue moon. A gun like mine is so rare that people are willing to pay good money for it now, and possibly stupid money for it in the future when the economy gets better. When the economy improves, hopefully there will be more people floating around that would be willing to spend stupid money on a rare gun such as mine.

I'm still on the fence about this one, whether I should sell it or just hold onto it. One of the first things my friend Jack said about it is that the gun came off of a dead man. The last person to carry that rifle is in a pine box somewhere. How many people can really say that about a gun that they've got in their collection? Not many.

I'm going to contact the auction house when I've got a little free time and see if they can put me in touch with the seller of the SKS. Often times the guns that come into the auction house are put up for sale by widows or children of the deceased. If I could get any information about the person who found the gun in possibly Vietnam or somewhere else in Asia, I could really be onto something. If I could find capture papers or other military documentation for this very rifle, the value could easily double. I don't know if the auction house would be too forthcoming with information about those who've put items up for sale but its worth a shot, right?