BUILDING THE SWEDISH MAUSER SPORTER
By Ed Harmon
The Swedish Mauser barreled action is perhaps the most desirable of the "small ring" Mausers of the type 95 series. PO Ackley regarded the Swede as a very desirable small action, primarily due to the firing pin collar and the gas port on the side of the action. P.O. stated in his "Handbook for Reloading" that Swedish Mausers have been converted and re-barreled to the 22-250, a 65,000-psi cartridge, with little or no problems from pressure. However, P.O. stated that the practice could not be considered safe or advisable. Old Hodgdon loading manuals list loads for the 140 grain 6.5 bullet, in a 6.5x55 model 96, at 3,000 feet per second. The foregoing information is mentioned to give the reader some sense of the versatility and quality of the Swedish Mauser.
The three Swedish Mauser models, 94, 38 and 96 have basically the same action. The bolt handles on the 94 and 38 are shorter than the 96 and bent. The 96 is the most desirable of the three models for conversion, due to the long straight bolt handle. The 96 handle can be bent and shaped to taste.
What is required in the way of tools for the home craftsman?
A pair of safety glasses A small hammer
A medium flat ***** file A screwdriver
A fine fat ***** file A Dremmel drum sander, router bit, cutoff wheel
A flat wood rasp A palm sander
A propane torch A few sheets of 100,120, 180 & 240 sandpaper
A hacksaw A caliper
A set of punches A mallet, rubber, plastic or leather
A roll of Duct Tape A small sanding block
A pair of narrow pliers or forceps A vise
A 3/4 inch dowel A pair of leather jaw covers for the vise
A hand drill A ¼ inch metal drill bit
Supplies you will need to buy:
Acraglas acra-gel kit Timney trigger
Paste wax Richards Micro fit stock
Walnut stock filler True oil stock finish
0000 Steel wool Sling Swivel studs, one set
Left side Mauser safety Quick release sling swivels
Burris Scope base, one piece Sling
Scope rings to fit base Scope
Taper Barrel Forge or bend bolt handle
Crown Barrel Polish metal parts (320 grit except bolt @ 500)
Remove step at rear of action Blue metal parts except bolt body & extractor
Drill & Tap for scope base
A word of caution; when working with wood or metal, work slowly and carefully, if tired or frustrated stop, come back to the project tomorrow. Measures twice, cut once and always keep in mind that when removed, metal or wood cannot be replaced.
The very first step in doing a conversion is to determine what you have to work with. Clean the rifle thoroughly, inspect the exterior and interior to make sure there are no bad dings, dents, rust or corrosion that will inhibit a good conversion. Then take the rifle out to the range. With factory ammo, make sure that the barrel is in good enough shape to be used. The rifle should shoot at least 2 inch groups with factory ammo in "as issued condition." If the rifle will not shoot, you may have to replace the barrel. Shilen makes 6.5 X 55 chambered barrels, already threaded and tapered. The barrels are available from Brownells. However, the Swede has a twist of 1 in 7.5 inches (aprox conversion from metric) and US standard twist rates are 1 in 9 inches.
Once you have determined that the rifle will shoot and that it has no project ending defects you can begin. Starting with a model 96 Mauser, first disassemble the rifle, completely, including the rear sight, floor plate retainer and bolt release. Under the rear sight blade you will find a screw that appears to hold the sight base to the barrel, remove the screw.
Now cut the barrel off behind the front sight. You should allow ½ inch more in length than the desired finished barrel length. Make sure that the cut is fairly square and not off at a sharp angle. Hint; Insert the bolt and with the bolt closed, measure the barrel length with a cleaning rod and tape measure, from the bolt face to the muzzle. Once you have the total barrel length, mark what is to be removed by measuring back from the muzzle. Do not forget the ½ inch.
Next, heat the rear sight base with a propane torch until the sight base releases, the base is soldered onto the barrel. Hint, tap the base towards the muzzle with a mallet, as you are heating the base, until the base comes free from the barrel. You will not hurt the barrel or the steel by heating the sight base in this manner.
Once the sight base is removed you will find a small hole drilled into the top of the barrel where the screw you removed went through the sight base. The hole is not threaded. Take an 8 penny common nail, without any coating on it, stick it into the hole and then cut off the nail about 3/16 of an inch longer than the depth of the hole. Once the nail is cut to length, hold the nail with the pliers, drive the nail into the hole with a small hammer. Brad the nail into the hole. Once the nail is fully expanded into the hole and fully braded over, remove the excess metal with a medium file (file the nail down until level with the barrel). Do not file the barrel. The nail should be expanded into the hole without leaving a space around the nail. If the hole is tapped and a screw plug inserted, the screw will leave a ring. You can also remove any excess solder from the barrel at this time, with the file.
The next step is to remove the cocking knob from the rear of the bolt. With the bolt removed from the rifle, mark the firing pin-sear extension even using the back of the bolt sleeve as a guide, all the way around. Disassemble the bolt. With the firing pin and cocking piece-sear together, cut off the cocking knob with a Dremmel cut off wheel, just leave the line you have previously made. Break the edge of the cut with the side of the cutoff wheel or a fine file and smooth and square up the flat of the cut, working slowly. Assemble and disassemble the bolt until you get the desired look and fit for the firing pin. The cut will be polished later.
The knob on the end of the bolt handle is very big and not aesthetically pleasing. The shape of the knob can be altered with just a little effort. The knob is round which facilitates its reshaping. With the Dremmel Tool, and a sanding drum (course sanding drum), reshape the knob into a tear drop shape by grinding away the inside of the knob (towards the bolt body) from the center of the knob to the bolt handle like so ( from =O to = < ). Do not grind the inside of the knob below or smaller than the diameter of the bolt handle. Work slowly until you get the look you desire. You can reduce the diameter of the knob as you work, if you wish. Hint, hold the bolt body in the vise and work the reshaping strokes towards you, like carving soap with a knife, again work slowly. When you have the look you want, clamp the handle in the vise, center punch the end of the knob directly in line with the handle. Drill the knob, in line with the handle. Use a ¼ inch drill bit and drill approximately ¼ inch deep. Now you have a knob that looks more like a commercial rifle’s bolt knob. The knob and handle will be polished after being forged (heated and bent). Hint, when the bolt handle is bent down, it should also be slightly raked backwards towards the butt of the rifle.
There are two areas at the rear of the action that require attention. The step up where the stripper clip or charger clip goes into the magazine well, on top of the action, should be ground down until it is even with and level with, the area directly to its rear. If you have a belt sander, this can be done at home with a 200 grit metal cutting (dark gray color) belt. If you have a belt sander, clamp the belt sander in the vice by the handle, sanding area up, pull the trigger and press the trigger hold button. You now have a small table sander. The trick is to hold the surface of the action parallel to the sanding surface and roll the action back and forth as you cut the high surface down to match the height of the lower surface and the lower surface contour. If you do not have a belt sander, ask the gunsmith to do the removal for you. This should be a 3 minute operation for a well equipped shop.
The second area for attention, at the rear of the action, is the end of the tang. The tang should be thinned, top to bottom at its end, to a point just below or even with the grove for the sear. The metal should be removed in a straight slope from the top of the tang at the very rear of the action to a point approximately 2/3 of the distance to the rear of the action. This cut can be done with the belt sander or a large file. The removal of this metal will allow the stock to be formed to the top of the tang's height so that the sear does not strike the top of the stock at the end of the tang when the bolt is drawn to the rear. Note, if you reduce the thickness of the tang below the sear grove, you will also need to shorten the tang stock screw so it does not stick up above the surface of the altered tang. Hint, measure from the rear of the tang to a given point and mark both sides of the tang with a straight scribe line, cut down to the line on each side which will keep the cut level and straight.
The magazine follower can be left as is, or the rear of the follower can be sloped and polished to allow the bolt to go forward on an empty magazine. Commercial bolt action rifles do not have a bolt open feature.
The trigger guard on the Mauser is strong but it is perhaps the least attractive feature of the rifle. Determine how wide you want the trigger guard to be, 1/2 inch looks good on the Swede when finished. With the calipers, measure the width of the trigger guard, divide the width by two. Reset the caliper to the half measure. With one caliper blade on the side of the guard, make a mark down the center of the guard with a pointed scribe or object. Now, deduct 1/4 inch (.250) from the setting on the caliper and make another mark on the guard from the exterior edge on each side of the guard. You should now have a center line and a line on each side of the center line. The two outside lines should be exactly 1/2 inch apart and parallel. You may scribe a curve from the base on each quadrant to the outside lines. With the Dremmel tool and the course drum, remove the metal from the outside of the lines, leaving the 1/2 inch wide trigger guard, with sloped edges at each end. Just barely leave the scribed line. You are now ready for the alteration that will make the most difference in the aesthetics of the trigger guard. Slope the exterior surface of the trigger guard from the center line to the edge like so (]. Make very sure that you leave an edge that is thick enough to be seen but thin enough to be pleasing to the eye, about 1/16 of an inch. Hint, taper the guard by running the drum lengthwise, its full length for each cut, pulling the drum to you. Do not put a lot of pressure on the drum. Also, be careful while you are cutting the surface so that you do not cant either edge of the drum. You do not want the edge of the sanding drum to dig into the contoured surface. A gouge will be difficult to remove.
Remove the Timney trigger from the package, mark the trigger itself 1/4 inch from the tip of the trigger with a line parallel with the top of the trigger body. Cut off the bottom 1/4 inch of the trigger with a cut off wheel and the Dremmel. The stock trigger is too long to fit when the trigger guard is installed into the stock.
Install the trigger, reassemble the bolt with the new safety. Close the bolt, the sear should be engaged by the trigger, if not, adjust the engagement screw, per the instructions in the package until the sear is held in a cocked position by the trigger. You can turn the action upside down and look through the opening as the parts make contact. Next, push the safety up into the safe position. If the safety will not rotate into the up position, you will need to taper the leading edge of the engagement surface of the safety so that it will enter the firing pin notch as it turns. The mechanics work like a screw. When you have the safety engaged, pull the trigger, release the trigger and then rotate the safety to the fire position. The sear should be caught by the trigger. If the firing pin drops, adjust the surfaces until the leading edge of the sear is engaged by the trigger, after the safety is disengaged (rotated downward).
Now you are ready for the gun shop. A few instructions or recommendations. Have the barrel tapered from the first step in the barrel, near the chamber, to the muzzle. Taper the barrel just enough to eliminate the second step in the barrel. Do not alter the first step.
Have the barrel crowned on the lathe with a target crown, recess the center, leaving an outside rim aprox .125 thousands thick. The rim should be .125 to .150 thousands high, to protect the muzzle. The outside and inside of the rim should be broken to prevent finger cuts. Do not break the edge of the cut at the bore, leave it square and sharp.
Have the bolt handle forged or bent to accommodate a scope. This should be done with forging blocks, a heat sink and paste to prevent scaling. After forging, the handle and bolt body should be high polished to help prevent rust, the higher the polish, on bright metal, the less porous is the surface.
Have the step removed from the rear of the action, if you did not remove the step yourself.
I have always favored a one piece scope base made of steel. The Burris standard one piece base is inexpensive, yet very rugged. The base should accompany the action for proper fitting and finish. The action must be drilled and tapped to match the scope base. The rear of the action is lower than the front of the action, so a correct base is a must.
The metal polish should be a medium polish of a 320 grit. This polish will look clean when blued, but will not be like a mirror. If the finish is to be a hunting finish, bead blasting the surface and Parkerizing will result in a tough durable metal surface. Black Parkerizing looks great. Just remember to have the scope base and rings done to match.
Now we return to the house for the stock. If you decide to go with wood, I can not recommend the use of Richards Microfit stocks too strongly. They have a "seconds" stock that makes a real nice looking stock when filled and finished. Most of the seconds have a crack, knot or pinhole. The blemish can be filled with the stained bedding material when you glass bed the barrel and action, so do not be concerned about a small blemish. I recommend the dual grip stock with recoil pad and thumbhole. If you decide to go with a synthetic stock, pick one with the sling swivel studs preinstalled.
For the wood stock: Set the action into the stock, trace around the barrel and action with a pencil held vertically. Remove the excess wood to the pencil line with the Dremmel tool and router bit. The barrel channel must be opened up to allow the barrel to be inserted and free floated. The bolt stop front edge should be marked with a pencil held vertically. The excess material can be removed with a fine bladed saw. The tang and trigger guard areas should be marked along the inside with a pencil held horizontally and the material removed down to or just above the line. You will fill the excess gaps around the parts with Acraglass. However, the lines should be straight along the sides of the metal. To straighten the barrel channel, use the flat wood rasp in the channel. Then to fine tune the cut, use the 3/4 inch dowel wrapped with course sandpaper. Be careful not to cut the area on the right side of the action, recessed for the ejection - loading port, so that the top of the wood is below the metal of the port. This error can not be repaired. Hint, when it comes to wood, if in doubt, leave more wood until the very end, then adjust with the last and final sanding.
The trigger guard should be *****d to the bottom of the stock much the same as the action, with one exception, do not remove any material from the bottom of the recess, only remove material from the sides, until the trigger guard fits. Once you have relieved all of the areas so that the action and trigger guard fits into the stock, it is time to prepare for the bedding.
Remove all of the attachments to the action, and to the trigger guard. Put at least two layers of duct tape along the length of the barrel from the first step to a point beyond the end of the stock's forearm. Coat the entire action, barrel and trigger guard, all external metal parts, with paste wax. Allow the wax to dry then apply a second coat, do not polish. Make sure that the inside of the action, as well as the trigger guard is coated with wax. Stick the trigger guard screws, threads and all, into the paste wax. If you are doing a synthetic stock, put masking tape on the top edge of the stock. Go around the interior sharp edge of the fiberglass with the back of a spoon, pressing hard enough to cut the masking tape. Leave the tape on the top edge. Apply tape over the outside surface of the stock. If using a synthetic stock, make sure not to get any bedding compound on the outside surface of the stock. Any sanding on the outside of a synthetic stock will ruin the finish of the synthetic stock.
Mix the Acraglas per the instructions, make sure that you add color to the mixture, to closely match the color of the stock. Hint, slightly darker works better than lighter. With a tongue depressor or Popsicle stick, put bedding compound into the stock by scraping compound from the flat of the paddle using the interior edges, all around the inleted cavity. Place bedding compound within the stock at the bottom of the action, around the recoil lug and behind the recoil lug. Place the action and trigger guard into the stock and tighten the screws until snug. The compound should flow out all around the edges of the action and trigger guard area. Hint: If you sharpen the edge of the paddle you can use the wood paddle to cut off the excess at the recommended time. Do not use a metal or a knife to remove excess bedding material with the action and barrel in the stock, you will ruin the finish on the gun's metal.
Once the bedding material has set, remove the trigger guard screws. While holding the forearm in one hand, strike the underside of the barrel, covered by duct tape, with the mallet until the barrel and action breaks free. Pull the barrel and stock apart by holding the barrel in one hand and the forearm in the other hand. Using the wood dowel as a punch, remove the trigger guard with the mallet. Place the wood dowel on top of the rear of the magazine well then drive the trigger guard straight out the bottom of the stock.
Note, Acraglas when fully set is almost as strong as steel and sticks to steel like it has been welded. Make very sure that you do not allow any bedding compound to flow over the parts to be removed. Make very sure the metal is coated with wax wherever the bedding compound might, not just will, come into contact with the metal.
Once the bedding material has fully set, the remainder of the stock work is rough shaping with the rasp and sanding with sand paper. Just make sure that you sand and rasp with the grain. Do not sand across the grain. The palm sander and rough sand paper comes in handy to quickly shape the stock. Hint, sand the recoil pad and stock together as a unit to produce a perfect wood to pad fit.
When you get the stock shaped and sanded as you want, wash the stock down with a rag and a degreaser like acetone. Do not use mineral spirits. Rosewood caps or ends should be washed, several times, to remove the rosewood oil from the surface. Next, apply the stock filler per the directions on the bottle. Once the filler has been applied and has been cross grain wiped and has dried, the stock should be finish sanded and wiped clean. Apply the bottled True Oil with a soft cloth pad. Sand the surface with fine paper and reapply the True Oil until you get the desired finish. The aerosol True Oil can be applied as the final coat for a gloss finish or the surface can be rubbed with 0000 steel wool and then waxed for a satin, hunting finish. Hint, apply the True Oil to the inside, exposed wood surfaces to seal them against water penetration.
Install the sling swivel studs per the instructions that come with the studs. Make very sure to drill the holes straight and with the proper diameter drill. An oversized hole and the stud threads will not hold, undersized holes and you may split the hardwood stock.
Load Data for the 6.5 X 55 Swedish Mauser
The Swedes like the Sierra 85 grain bullet and the 140 grain Hornady Inter Loc bullet. They will not shoot the Remington 140 grain bullet very well. The 140 grain bullet for medium sized game is the optimum bullet weight considering velocity and energy. The 85 grain bullet is great for varmint and small game hunting. Best accuracy is obtained with brass that is first fire formed and then neck sized approximately 1/2 the length of the neck. The brass used was Remington. The primers were Federal 210.
Sierra 85 Gr. HP Weight Velocity Best 100 Yard Group Military Bbl.
H 4831 52 3,200 .550
H 4895 48 3,520 .480
Sierra 100 Gr. HP
H4895 48 3,480 .570
140 Grain Hornady
H4831 51.5 2,930 .611
** Always work up to the loads listed by starting at least 10% below the listed load**