by Bill Paradis
Owner, Paradis Gunsmithing
While I was minding my own business, OK, maybe I was reloading, I had a customer pull up to my shop and he says “I have this gun you might be interested in” while pulling out a very old looking rifle. When I first saw it I thought it was a Mauser, it sort of looked like one, and I believed he was correct. I was interested; after all I am interested in most guns, so there wasn’t much of a chance he could have pulled out a firearm I wasn’t interested in seeing and handling.
He told me the rifle had been hanging on the wall for a long time and he wanted me to make it function so he could put it in his safe, his words not mine. I digress, I took a closer look and saw Japanese writing on the receiver. Obviously not a Mauser though it looked an awful lot like one. The customer asked me if I knew what kind of gun it was. I didn’t, but wasn’t deterred, after all that’s why Al Gore invented the internet.
After searching the internet I determined it was an Arisaka Type 99 rifle. The characters on the firearm were also available on the internet. It turns out it is a Japanese Naval rifle used in WWII. It was in deplorable shape and the bolt would not move. The first thing I did was take off the wire used to hang it on the wall and then took pictures to make sure I got all the parts back on.
I completely stripped the rifle and had to manually move the striker so the bolt could be removed. The bolt handle was cut short and the old knob of the handle was found in the magazine. I also noticed the rear tang and the receiver were not connected.
I called the customer and let him know what I had found and asked him to stop by the shop so I could show him what shape his rifle was in. I told him I could weld the bolt handle for two hours of labor ($80) or purchase one that was whole and looked the same for $38. He said to buy the new one, duh.
I also showed him where the striker channel was broken off and missing part of the metal. We discussed just how much of the old patina he wanted me to remove or retain. We decided to just steel wool the wood and add a protective coating of Gunsmith finish to the wood.
After that I got busy restoring this old beauty by first using the method taught at the Bob Dunlap School of Gun Cleaning. I used “Simple Green” to clean the outside of all the parts and then rinsed them and dried them with an air compressor. The gun still felt really gritty after it was dry and I noticed it seemed to have a varnish coating on it. I assume that is from old age. I used a wire brush in my buffing machine on the barrel and the outside of the receiver. The interior of the receiver and the chamber had to be buffed with sandpaper attached to a piece of spring steel and mounted in my Foredom tool. I also had to use a wire wheel attachment for my Foredom tool to clean all the small parts. I had to be very careful to remove the varnish but not the patina.
I used steel wool to get the dirt off of the wood and noticed the front of the lower wood was splitting at the front steel cap. I glued it back together and let the glue set. After this I sprayed the wood lightly with some “Gunsmith Finish” and let that dry. It looked a lot better, though not as if I had sanded it down and completely refinished it. I believe this would negatively impact the value of the firearm to its owner.
Next I turned my attention to the bolt and receiver. The cocking cam area on the bolt was in pretty sad condition with very sharp corners and rough surfaces, making it very difficult to cock. A little filing and some care made that work again. When I tried to put the bolt in the receiver and cock it to check its function, the trigger would not release the striker, or so I thought.
After careful checking I noticed that the striker was actually turning with the cocking handle and not staying on the face of the sear. I then welded, using the “magic of TIG” as Bob calls it, and added metal to the striker channel. After carefully grinding and filing I was able to get the bolt to go into the receiver and the striker to remain behind the sear.
The next issue I had to deal with was the safety. It would not actuate. That too, took some careful grinding and filing on the rear tang. Speaking of the rear tang, when I looked up the schematic for this rifle in Numrich’s books I noticed the rear tang was separate from the receiver so I did not have to weld those together. That made it a lot easier.
I put the rifle back together and did a chamber cast so that we could know what this rifle was chambered for. Turns out it is chambered for 7.7 X 58. Thanks again Google. I have returned the rifle to the owner, who is very happy, and suggested he not actually shoot the rifle. There is no way to tell if the barrel is any good. It is not blocked, I checked, but it is very old and I believe in “Better safe than sorry”. Still not sure why it couldn’t have remained on the wall, but that is not my call. It should look really good in his safe.