Pete's random thoughts

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The PPSH, Garand and other gun projects...

With the influx of skilled help we have had here over the past month or so, we've been able to catch up on the day-to-day work on muskets and work on a few "other" projects.

Hanging on the wall in the workshop is a Long Land that had been broken through the wrist (UPS strikes again). As an experiment, I wanted to see what materials and man-hours went into restocking one in walnut. So in-between regular work, Jeff took a stock blank from a place in Ohio and reworked it to fit an Indian made Bess. It is almost done, with final scraping and sanding to be done, then a finish applied.

Click on the pictures to see a larger version.

I won't mention the project hanging above it on the wall yet (not shown). It is a surprise for later on, when it is closer to reality.

Below it is the fusil de chasse that was begun by Chris as a training piece a few years ago. Several people worked on it, and Jim finally finished it up last month. It has a curly maple stock finished with aqua fortis and blued steel.

We are also working on rebarreling a Baker smoothbore with a .62 cal Colerain rifled barrel to see what the conversion will cost in labor and materials. The goal is to be able to offer a correctly rifled Baker Rifle. So far, Jeff has had to turn a new breechplug to match the threads on the Colerain barrel. The Baker has a hooked breech, so we'll be able to retain the original tang. We'll also attempt to reuse the sights, bayonet bar and possibly the tenons from the smoothbore barrel. No info as to what the upgrade will cost at this point, so don't bother asking yet!

On the breechloader end of things, Earl and I have got the PPSH working. The PPSH-41 is a Soviet design that was put into service in WW2 in an effort to arm untrained people with an easy to produce, rapid fire submachine gun. This is truly the gun that saved Stalingrad from the Nazis. Later on, it was replaced by an even cheaper to manufacture gun called the PPS-43, which was made of all stamped steel construction and didn't even have the wooden stock of the PPSH-41. Both types were made in many Soviet bloc countries.

A few years ago, I got my hands on a Hungarian made demilled PPSH, circa 1950. The parts were in great shape, albeit demilled by having the rear of the receiver cut away. The first problem with the project is that we couldn't use the original barrel because it is too short to legally be a "long gun" and either needed to be made with a 16" long barrel or registered as a "short barreled rifle". Not knowing if it would even work, I didn't want to spend the time and $200 on registering it, so we used a 16" long barrel for now. The barrel was a brand new replacement Uzi carbine barrel in 9mm. The original gun was chambered in 7.62x25mm, a higher powered Soviet round that is dimensionally similar to the 9mm, but necked down to 7.62. The neat thing is that the original drum magazines will feed 9mm no problem.

A custom adapter needed to be turned and welded to the Uzi barrel to make the breech fit the PPSH trunnion (the block where a barrel mounts). A receiver repair section with a blocking bar integral to it was procured and welded up to the front half of the destroyed receiver. The blocking bar is needed to keep someone from just installing the original full-auto part into it. An original PPSH bolt has a fixed firing pin, and fires from an "open bolt", but to be US legal, a semi auto has to fire from a "closed bolt". To achieve this, the bolt needs some modifications such as drilling it out to accept a floating firing pin that would be stuck with a hammer or a sliding striker.

The last consideration was to gut the lower receiver, where the fire control parts are located. Again, we wanted to remove any possibility of full auto parts ever fitting again, so the mounting locations were cut away. In place of the original parts, we installed a hammer, trigger and sear that were inspired by the AK-47. In fact, they began life as AK-47 parts before I went at them with a Dremel tool, grinder and welder to jury-rig the parts into new ones.

I reinstalled the original selector switch inside the trigger guard, but it is welded there and serves a new function. There is a pin that passes through it to hold a spring inside that is now the trigger return spring. So in addition to making the gun look historically correct, the switch functions as a washer!

Ultimately it will need a stronger main spring, because it won't set off hard military surplus primers, but it does feed and fire Winchester White Box ammo just fine out of the 71-round drum (yes, I said 71 rounds). In fact, I was able to consistently hit my 3" swinging targets at about 20 yards with it on Friday afternoon.

We'll end up milling a new, from scratch trigger for it because the spot welds that held the chopped-up AK triggers (2 were used, end to end to reach the hammer from the original trigger slot) cracked after about 60 rounds. It's OK, because there are a few minor improvements we can make at the same time.

Once we get it running flawlessly, I plan to register it as an SBR and then we'll be able to install the correct length barrel (in the correct caliber) and reinstall the compensator at the muzzle. As a part of the demilling process, the compensator is cut off with a torch and in order to reinstall it using the temporary 9mm barrel, we'd have to cut the hole in it larger to let the barrel stick out through it. This would negate the compensator effect on it, so for now we just left the front of the receiver where the compensator mounts open, complete with the slag from the cutting torch. After the comp is reinstalled, we will refinish the metal parts to match.

Another historic firearm saved from oblivion!

On Friday afternoon, after going out to play with the PPSH, I came back to the shop and began another restoration project. This one is a Christmas present that I got from Wendy this year. it is a Springfield Armory M-1 Garand built in May of 1942. Yup, this one probably fought in the Pacific in WW2. After the war it traveled around a bit and found it's way to Guatemala and sometime in the past year or so made it's way back to the US, and ultimately to me. It needed some TLC, as would be expected of a 66 year old battle rifle. The gas cylinder was loose, the action wobbled in the stock, the trigger group wouldn't lock up to the receiver.

After learning how to tear it down from Bob, and reading Scott Duff's book, I undertook the project of bringing it back to it's former glory. Phase one was to get it functioning properly. For starters, I replaced the worn wood so the action would fit snugly. The stock was a replacement anyway, with no government inspection marks, so I was not messing with it's historic integrity. I had to improvise a tool to remove the handguard mounting clip.

While the action was out on the bench, I replaced the operating rod spring (which was bent) and a few other out of spec springs. Before reinstalling the action, I peened the three slots in the barrel that locate the gas cylinder to eliminate play in the front sight. I also replaced the worn trigger guard, which on a Garand is used to lock the trigger group and receiver together. The worn one was a post WW2 replacement, and I used the correct milled type that would have been used originally in the spring on '42.

When putting it back together, I used a new Govt' issue gas cylinder. The muzzle wear is within acceptable limits. This is checked by putting a round in, bullet first, from the muzzle and measuring how far it goes in before stopping on the rifling.

The last thing I did at this phase is to tear down and rebuild the rear sight, replacing the cracked cover with a new one.

When spring comes around and we set up our Parkerizing tank, I'll refinish the metal back to it's military issue appearance. I'll also shop for the correct WW2 type sight knob. In the meantime, here is how the old war horse looks with it's unfinished stock:

I should take this opportunity to point out that MVTCo Inc does not sell any cartridge firearms, just muzzleloaders. The cartridge guns that are mentioned in this blog are part of our collection and are not for sale, so please don't ask.

There is a separate corporation in the works whose mission will be to develop and offer for sale civilian legal replicas of various historic military issued cartridge guns, but it is still being formed. Forming a corporation and getting licenced to manufacture firearms is a time consuming project. When things are operational, you'll read it here first!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Goat rescue

So last week I dumped too much grain out of the bag when feeding the critters. To feed them, I lift the 50 lb bag of grain up to the top edge of a 4' high fence and pour it over the side until it feels right, then pull the bag back, stopping the flow of feed. Sometimes Rocky the steer gets involved and I fumble with the bag, and in this case ended up dumping most of it over the fence. Rather than go into the pen, push 1100 pounds of Holstein out of the way, and try to scoop some of the excess feed back into the bag, I decided to just let them have a feast.

Bad idea. Goats will eat themselves sick. The excess grain will cause them to bloat up as it ferments faster than they are used to. Bloating can and does kill goats because the stomach swells up to the point that they sufficate.

Later on I noticed that Vanilla, the doe, was standing around, trying to hide out. Upon closer inspection I saw that her left side was bulged out, a sign of bloat. It was a good sign that she was still standing, generally once they lay down death follows soon. To dislodge the gas, I pulled, shoved and pushed her around until it started to break up and she was obviously feeling better. That was round 1 of this fight.

Round 2 came when I found Chocolate the wethered buck lying down in the hen house. He was not willing to stand up, even when I lifted him. When I put my arms around his belly, he groaned that groan that only comes from a belly that is more full than it is designed to be. He'd die soon unless something drastic happened.

There are a few things you can do. You could attempt to shove a tube down their throat to let the gas escape, but that could go terribly wrong if I shoved it down the wrong pipe. You could take a pocket knife and puncture through his side into his belly to let the gas out, but then you have a potentially septic situation. I could have called an emergency vet, but this is a food animal, not a pet, and spending $200 on a critter that contains maybe 60 pounds of meat really adds to the cost per pound.

It was time to improvise. I went to the first aid box and dug around, looking for inspiration. Then the light bulb came on over my head! I opened up a packet containing a yearly feline booster shot for distemper and parvo, and swiped the sterile syringe from it. I went back out to the henhouse, removing the cap from the needle and the plunger from the barrel of the syringe. Chocolate looked at me with a blank expression, no caring what I did to him at this point. It was now or never.

My knee was shoved into his right side so the problem stomach bulged out on the left where I could reach it. I then stuck the needle into his side, through the hide and into the stomach. With one hand, I held the syringe shoved as far into the goat's side as I could get it (remember, it was a cat syringe so the needle was pretty short) and held my other hand over the open end to see if anything was coming out. Sure enough, a steady stream of wind was coming out of the barrel of the syringe!

In the midst of all of this, in comes Rocky to see what is going on. He poked his head down to the goat to give a sniff, and in the process knocked me over backwards with his horns, giving my a little knot on my forehead just about the size of the tip of his horn. Dumbass steer!

After I gave him a whack in the nose and pushed him backwards out of the hen house, I went back to my goat-saving mission. Rocky has been taught to "gee" "haw" "come up" "stand" and "back", but he understands them only when it benefits him. Sometimes you just have to push his nose down to make him back up.

By now, Chocolate is looking a little freaked out, which I took to be a good sign. Fear is better than apathy, as is means you have a will to live. I moved the syringe to a couple more spots to let out more gas, and he made a burping sort of grunt, then carefully stood up. A few minutes later, he was wandering around doing goat stuff as if nothing had happened. I guess goats don't look for deeper meanings in a near death experience, they just burp and move on.

A week has gone by, and all parties involved are completely back to normal with the exception of a little sore spot on my forehead.