Finally Finished

Buying a new surplus SKS is not for those who don’t know how to completely strip down a rifle and reassemble it. I don’t mean field strip either, I mean strip down every part, clean, and reassemble. I picked it up from the UPS depot on Tuesday, and got to work immediately. I learned that Bitter frowns on the practice of using a tin foil tray in the toaster oven to melt off the excess cosmoline from the smaller parts. After a mishap, I ended up with a new toaster oven. It was a tough battle, but I think I’m happy with the result:

It’s now ready to take to the range. I can’t wait to shoot it. It had quite a lot of cosmoline on it that had to be removed. Turns out Gunzilla doesn’t work as well as Hoppes No. 9 on cosmoline. It works decently, but just not quite as well. That’s probably because Hoppes is mostly kerosene, which is going to solvate a heavy grease better than most other things.

What has me stoked is that it’s in really good shape. No rust, very little wear on the finish. Shiny barrel without any evidence of pitting. Good stock, which looks like it’s seen some use, but in decent shape. The kit that came with it has someone’s name written inside, which I thought was a nice added touch.

6 thoughts on “Finally Finished”

  1. Best way I’ve found to clean this stuff is mineral spirits. Wipe off the worst with paper towels(throwaway gloves are your friend), then put the pieces in a tub or pan, cover with ms, let soak a few minutes and then start working them with a small paintbrush. It’ll dissolve the stuff quite well.

    You can then stand the barrel/receiver in the tub and start using the brush to work it over. While back I got a piece of PVC guttering, cut a section about three feet long, glued a cap on each end and use this as a cleaning trough for barrels & stocks. The ms will get a LOT of soaked-in grease and oil out of the wood and it dries out faster than water & degreaser.

  2. I don’t think the SKS was all that terrible to tear down, compared to some firearms. Granted, the amount of cosmoline on mine wasn’t entirely terrible. It is definitely one of the easiest firearms to field strip, and once you’ve done that, it is only a few more steps to break it down into the major components. I didn’t bother tearing down the trigger group to de-yuck it. I just soaked the whole thing in a solvent, then went at it with a toothbrush (my wife’s, not mine. yeesh) and other various thingies to get into the nooks/crannies (cotton swabs, toothpicks, bottle brushes, etc.) The biggest thing to remember when cleaning cosmoline is whatever you use for it will be useless for anything else forever.

    When I put a big pile of rounds down-range, I still get some cosmoline sweat from certain areas (such as the bayonet lug and grenade launcher screw) but it is minimal. The smell kinda grows on ya ;)

  3. Sebastian:

    That carbine appears to be the Yugoslavian variant of the SKS, complete with the grenade launcher and grenade-launching sight. Is that correct?

    Way back in the very start of the Clintonista era, before they banned their import, we could pick up Chinese SKS’s for around $80. I got a bunch, and gave some to family members as presents that Christmas. They were covered (and I mean COVERED) with the Chi-Com version of “cosmoline”, which was a funky yellow-brown in appearance. I think what they did was heat up a 55-gallon drum of the stuff over a fire, open the bolts of the rifles, and just dip the entire darn things.

    I tried cleaning the first one with Hoppes #9, and quickly found that I’d be going through gallons of it. Then I found a stunningly simple thing…the Chinese “cosmoline” was actually soluble in dishwashing soap! We set up a little assembly (well, dis-assembly) line in the garage, and used the hottest water we could, along with “Dawn” dishwashing soap. We’d totally strip the rifle down, and then scrub the daylights out of the parts, even pouring hot soapy water right down the barrel. The next step was to dry all of the parts immediately…using really hot water helped to warm up the parts so they dried very, very quickly. Then an immediate light coat of gun oil, followed by a wipe-down with a clean dry cloth.

    About the only thing we didn’t do this with were the stocks. We were afraid that hot water would be sucked into the cheap balsa wood (that’s what they seemed like, anyway). So we wiped them down with solvent as best we could, and the re-assembled ’em.

    I still get a little “cosmoline” coming out of the interior (un-finished) portions of the stocks on a hot day, but since we always pull the reciever/barrel out of the stock for field stripping after shooting, a quick wipe-up takes care of it.

    I was wondering…do the Yugo SKS’s use that same “cosmoline”, or did they preserve them with something that ISN’T water/soap-soluble?

  4. Back in the day, we removed cosmoline with Varsol, which came in 2 gallon cans at the Exxon station. OK, OK, so it was the Humble Oil station, I’m older than dirt.
    You sure can’t get it at the filling stations anymore, but it is still made. Auto parts store maybe? Engine cleaner also works well speaking of auto parts.

  5. It is indeed a Yugo SKS. I think they dipped it as well, based on how thoroughly it penetrated. It’s probably basically the same stuff. My Nagant has a little cosmo on it, but not a whole lot. This was the most amount I’ve ever cleaned off a rifle. I did use solvent for the trigger group, because I didn’t feel like breaking it apart. I just used Remington action cleaner for that.

  6. My SKS was plugged with cosmo. It took days to get that rifle into shootable shape between the cosmo and the copper fouling in the barrel. My SKS was a combat vet so it got a pretty thorough cleaning. Fortunately, they are easy rifles to detail strip.

    You can never escape cosmo if you buy surplus rifles of any sort. My HK91 has a fair bit (especially in the bolt). The nicest rifle for cosmo for me was my AK (hardly any). SKS was the worst.

    Look at this way, cleaning cosmo forces you to learn your rifle. Since I tear them down up to and including disassembly of the bolts, you learn how to maintain, service and identify all the parts of your rifle. Pop quiz: How hard was it to get the firing pin retaining spring back in?

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