Maintaining Military Bolt Action Rifles

Military bolt action rifles are decades old but can continue giving many more years of service if cared for properly. Here’s how.

by RK Campbell

Many bolt action rifles have crossed my bench over the years. The first rifle I repaired was a Mosin-Nagant rifle. I was dismayed when I fired the rifle and the cartridge would not eject. To my fourteen-year-old mind, the rifle was worthless. The problem was that the extractor was broken. At the time, parts were a bit difficult to find in my area but I was able to purchase an entire bolt assembly and get the rifle up and running. Since then I have encountered quite a few military rifles. Despite the millions manufactured I have not seen a constant flood. Most are well made of good material and work as designed with minimal maintenance. Others would benefit from more care than the users are willing to give, a situation common with many firearms.

Many military bolt action rifles that have been in service for over one hundred years. Even World War Two rifles are nearing eighty years of service. Many enjoy firing Yugo and Ishapore rifles with more than fifty years of service. It is in our interest that these rifles are maintained and kept shooting properly. There are things we should and should not do. As an example, I have noted that shooters will modify the trigger action attempting to get a better trigger press along with other modifications, yet they clean the rifle improperly. This may lead to degrading the rifle’s accuracy over time. We all want the rifle to keep shooting and last even longer than it already has. This means parts replacement occasionally and particularly means cleaning the fouling left by firing regularly.

Accuracy and smooth operation is the goal of recreational shooting. And these rifles were built to last. I am aware of more than a few shooters that hunt with their Lee-Enfield, Mauser, and Springfield rifles. I know at least one Lee-Enfield No. 5 carbine is in use with a shooter as his emergency and truck rifle. These rifles will not let you down if you do your part.

The first thing we need do is…

Read more in the January 2020 issue.

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