Sunday, April 1, 2012

I need a rifle. This isn't a joke.

I need a rifle. I need a rifle. I need a rifle. I need a rifle..." --Vasily Zaytsev, Siege of Stalingrad

The above picture could be me at the next battle. Charging into an 1860s human meat grinder with nothing at my disposal to throw at the enemy but harsh language.

Civil War Soldier with a gun

Civil War soldier without a gun

No really. I need a Civil war gun something fierce.

But I don't have $695.00 plus 40 bucks for shipping & handling, plus 35 bucks for a bayonet, + 40 for a leather holster, plus oh...maybe an additional 25 for a leather sling (sold separately of course).

Sucks, doesn't it?

Given a choice, I'd rather buy one in person from a reenactment sutler, with a 19th century firearms expert like my 11-year reenactor cousin 'Uncle Billy' around to check out the condition and quality of the gun. I'd rather not have to order it online from eBay or some other questionable secondhand source, with no guarantee of the quality or condition of such a piece.

To me buying a used gun from anywhere is like buying a used car. You may have a pretty good idea of how old it is, how many miles (in this case battles) it has on it, but you have absolutely no way of telling where it's been, whether it was properly cleaned ever, or cared for the right way. There are so many things that can go wrong with these things that only a 19th century craftsman with specialized tools can fix. For example:

-If you don't apply neatsfoot to the leather sling and treat it when you first buy it, it will never be flexible and could even turn brittle and snap. The sling is hella uncomfortable when you buy it, it needs to be worn carefully.

-If you don't routinely polish, buff and use Nev-R-Dull on the brass, it will start to turn green where it comes in contact with the wood. It will quickly look horrible, and depending on whether rust has set in or not, it may never get the shine back.

-If you don't treat the wooden stock (which costs $250-$275 of the overall cost of the gun) with linseed oil and rub it to remove all moisture, it will start to crack and maybe even rot.

-If you don't lightly oil the barrel and all metal parts and keep the gun in a sleeve or case all the time, it will start to rust.

-If you don't clean the gun thoroughly with the right kind of bore solvent and oil IMMEDIATELY EVERY TIME after firing, powder deposits will quickly build up inside the barrel and solidify into a plug which could make the gun explode. The acidic properties in the nitrates of the black powder could eat away at the inside of the barrel, rusting it, ruining the rifling grooves or create a weakness in the barrel that could also blow it up in your face.

-If you don't remove the barrel and lock plate and clean out the inside of the stock, it could start to rot from the inside. Cleaning the rifle with the barrel and lockplate still attached will clean the barrel, but slowly ruin the rest of the gun.

-If you don't remove the nipple screw once in a while and ream it out with more than just a nipple pick, it could form a powder residue blockage and also make the thing either not fire, or do some nasty damage to your face and eardrums.

-If some Dirty Dingus McGee with the I.Q. of an Army Mule was dumb enough to try and take the lock mechanism apart and put it back together for "cleaning" purposes...chances are he left the lock spring loose. Because you can't replace the lock spring back in there without a 19th century gunsmith tool specifically made for the purpose, and if it's not engaging when the trigger's squeezed or the hammer is pulled back to half cock, you either have a very dangerous gun with no safety on it, or a very fancy and expensive wooden baseball bat that won't fire at all.

All of these things make me extremely nervous when handling a gun someone else let me "borrow" or even when handling a brand new gun for the first time that (you hope) has never been fired.

Come to think of it, I've been too lazy/busy to write a post on gun maintenance, absolute essential for being a reenactor.

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