10 September 2012


I am a bit of a purist about leaving mil-surp the way it was issued.

Mostly because Bubba has gotten to so many of them already and sporterized most.

Nowadays making a sporter out of an old mil-surp hurts the value of the gun.

Sometimes significantly.

The reality show American Guns recently took an M-1898 Krag-Jorgenson rifle, cut down the barrel, drilled and tapped it for a scope and put a black polymer stock on it.  They only charged the customer $2,500 to make his $1,500 heirloom into a $400 hunting rifle.  To be fair the proprietor warned the customer, but for $2,500 he could have had a pre-bubba'd gun modified and preserved some history.

When I started looking around to see how the customer had affected the value of his grandfather's gun I looked hard at a few of the bubba guns.  There's some incredible craftsmanship on display.  Many of these guns were converted with skill and care and are actually very nicely done.

The problem is when the government unloaded them to the surplus market, they sold at less than scrap value so there was no reason to preserve them.  I am willing to bet that nearly all of them died of neglect forgotten in the back of the closet slowly rusting solid.

The same thing is kind of going on with Mosin-Nagants.  Some pretty nice ones are out there for less than $200.  Lots of them are being bubba'd.  Some are even being converted to sporting configurations with a great deal of skill.  And in fifty years, those guns are going still be worth $200 and unmodified guns might be worth a lot more.

My SMLE is such a case.  I paid $70 for Vanessa.  She's worth $300-800 now and it's only been 15 years.

With all that said, it's YOUR gun, do what you want.  It's prudent, though, to find out what it's worth unchanged, selling it intact could pay for a new gun that's already how you want it.


  1. I did put a polymer stock on my Ishapore Lee-Enfield. In my own defense, the original stock was badly cracked.

  2. 2A1. It is an Ishapore 2A1. No Enfield rifling, and that's not Lee's magazine.

    It's OK to call it by its proper designation here, I know them.

    It is your gun, do what you think you have to. My main objection to replacement SMLE style stocks has always been the monte-carlo style comb that doesn't give a good cheek weld for either irons OR a scope.

  3. I have no issue with "mods" like Erin tossing a polymer stock on her 91/30 because you can always go back to issue. I've thrown updated grips on classic pistols just to make a piece look better or shoot better...but I can always bring it back to stock.

    As soon as you're removing finish or metal, I draw the line.

    I also HATE seeing people do it to classic guns...but I also know each one they essentially destroy makes mine worth more.

    Still also if you have a piece that's been neglected, you're not starting with much, and appreciation will be retarded by rust and damage, so that's a safer gun to play with.

    That was the story with this internet-famous piece.

    Met the owner (didn't actually shoot it), it was a bubba'd and rusted M1891 Remington (I'm still looking for one in decent original shape if you have a line) bad barrel, hacked stock. So it was virtually worthless....so he improved it with the crazy SBR job!

  4. I have, buried somewhere in the detritus on my desk, the bolt handle from an absolutely pristine Argentine 1909 carbine that I couldn't talk the customer out of drilling & tapping & putting on a bent bolt handle.

    I swear Shannon and Bob took a sadistic glee in saving that steel knob and presenting it to me just to see the tears well up in my eyes...

  5. Let us drink to the Bubba'd, Tam. I'll hold your hair when it's time to puke because even if we hold it to a shot per ten guns the night will end with a stomach pump.

  6. some years ago, when the Swedes were dumping their old Mausers on us, i knew something like this would happen. so, i bought two 1896's and had one sporterized by the last great gunsmith here abouts (since passed on) and kept the other in original condition. the sporterized one is one of the more elegant and deadly deer rifles in these parts and the original i take down maybe once a year to put a few through it just to remember what a great job the Swedes did.

  7. Me too. I bought every nice Swedish Mauser I ran across, and a couple that weren't so nice. My prize is an 1894 Swede carbine that my grandmother found in a trunk full of a dead man's old shoes at a garage sale. It was disassembled, but the stock was ruined by someone trying to "sporterize" it and it lacked the forend cap and other metal from the stock. It's my favorite hunting 6.5x55.

  8. I have a 1930 Tula Mosin ex dragoon that I love to shoot, but I do want to find a mosinicus genericus that I can modify. I want to glass bed the stock and put a tougher finish on it so that when I shoot it I don't have to worry about the shellac scratching. My husband is talking about scopes and bent handles and I told him to knock it the frack off since the gun is far more accurate with the leaf sights than he is with a scope :D

  9. I wanted to reach through the TV screen and throttle the dude, screaming "DO YOU FSCKING UNDERSTAND THE _POINT_ OF AN HEIRLOOM???!!!???"

    I get the sense the guys at the shop wanted to do likewise, but were deterred by some unknown-to-me combination of "The customer is always right" and "Oh hell, those TV cameras are still here watching us, so we'd better look 'professional'".

    Yeah, it's his gun now, and he can do what he wants with it. As a matter of law, I'd defend to the death his right to do so, if anyone were arguing otherwise (which of course no one is). But it doesn't make it prudent, smart, or respectful of the history he's supposedly wanting to commemorate. We're not talking about some rusty back-of-the-closet-for-decades PoS here.

  10. There's a rumor going 'round that the Krag was property of the shop and the customer was a plant.

    If that's true then all the warnings about ruining the value are meaningless because they'd decided to butcher that nice M1898 and there was no talking them out of it.

    I guess the good news in that case is they didn't actually charge the poor guy $2,500 to make a $300 rifle out of a $1,500 one.

    But, really, if you want a sporter Krag; get thee hence to Gunbroker and drop the not more than $500 on one pre-made.

  11. I have a cut-down Krag, worn to a gray patina and wearing Lymans that were installed before I was born. I am given to understand that it has killed more whitetail than Chronic Wasting Disease.

    Like you said, there are plenty of sporterized Krags out there already, there's no reason to cut down another one...

    (Conversely, I don't feel bad about my .300 Whisper built on a Turkish Mauser. The gun was a tomato stake as it was; there was no reason to let a fine Oberndorf-made action languish like that.)


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