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Repairing a Rifle

I spent some of my time repairing a rifle this week – while the story might not be noteworthy to my gunsmithing friends (I started teaching college at Trinidad State in Colorado), the details might be interesting for another group.  After all, few people begin teaching in a college best known for gunsmithing, and retire from a sociology department in a midwest Land Grant.  I do have friends on both sides of the gun control issue.

An old friend greeted me with, “I’ve got something I want you to have.” a while back.  When he opened his trunk, I was handed a 50 caliber rifle.  It needed some work – the hammer was missing, the hammer screw broken off, no wedge, rust along the barrel, and, because of another broken part couldn’t be loaded.  No background check, just a private transfer from an old friend who knew I would enjoy both repairing and using his 50 caliber.

Even as a wall-hanger, the rust had to go.  So I spent several hours rubbing with steel wool and light oil.  I was pleased – the rust was almost totally surface rust, and virtually no pitting.  To touch up the blue after cleaning the rust, I used Oxpho-Blue . . . a great product, available through the mail from Brownell’s in Iowa.

The broken screw didn’t need drilled.  After a day of AeroKroil penetrating oil, I could grab a thread with a small pair of vicegrips and get the broken shaft out.  I was ready to start repairs.  The rifle was, of course, out of production but a google search showed me the parts were all available on the internet – specifically on ebay.  I could get a replacement hammer.  The screw was available from a machinist that had set up a small lathe to make them when he couldn’t get replacement parts.  A New Old Stock wedge was available.  I went to Kalispell with Renata, and bought ammunition. Five days after using a credit card and an internet connection, the rifle was almost complete.  I could check the set triggers, and there was no rust there to mess me up.  I just couldn’t load the rifle.

Today, the part I needed arrived in the mail – a ramrod, made in Thompson Falls, a few miles southwest of me, shipped from an ebay seller in Florida.  I slipped it below the barrel, and my 50 caliber Hawken was complete.  Now, I have to pour in a little black powder, patch the round ball, and shoot a rifle that was state of the art between 1822 and 1858.  I’ve always wanted a 45 Whitworth – but a 50 Hawken that came from a friend is probably more appropriate in the Rockies.