Gun curious, part three

bag of bullets

A bag of bullets (not really the correct term, butch catchy) for my Mosin-Nagant 91/30.

Note: This is the third in a series of posts by someone who doesn’t know squat about guns, but is curious to find out more. Click here for PART ONE or PART TWO.

My Mosin-Nagant 91/30 is good to go. That’s what Bill Darling at Gulf of Maine Gunsmithing in Raymond told me today.

Using information from several internet sources, I’d checked the head space and firing pin depth myself. I’d removed all the cosmoline I could find and cleaned and oiled all the parts I could reach after disassembling the rifle. Still, I wanted an professional’s opinion before I started firing rounds.

I drive by Gulf of Maine Gunsmithing all the time on Route 302. I always think how odd the name is, given the shop is 20 miles from the ocean and only 800 yards from Sebago Lake. Also, I always look to see the latest right-wing slogan Bill, the owner and gunsmith, has up on his message board out front. Today’s gem was, “My God what are Dema-rats to do when they run out of other peoples money?”

In the past, the sign has targeted the ACLU, President Obama (of course) and Hillary Clinton, who is always referred to as the “Hilldabeast.”

To me, it would seem to be a good way to alienate half your potential customer base. But maybe the point is moot if, as one might guess, the half that would offended is less interested in firearms than the half that would cheer his mini message board rants. Perhaps it’s cunning strategy for shoring up his customer base.

In any case, I called a couple of days ago to see if Bill would take a look at my rifle. He was very pleasant on the phone and said sure, no problem, he’d be open till 6 p.m. I showed up today around 2:30 p.m. There were a few chickens in the yard and woman talking to some folks in a parked car while cradling a Chihuahua sporting a rhinestone studded collar. I said hello, grabbed my rifle off my truck’s front seat and headed in through a windowless fire door.

Inside, I noticed there were no windows at all. Rifles and shotguns lined the walls and handguns were arranged in glass cases under the counter. There was a rack or two of cleaning accessories and some life-sized plastic zombie targets. There were a few conservative political bumper stickers and posters. But there were an equal amount of safety-oriented notices as well, urging enthusiasts to store their ammunition and guns separately and to use trigger locks. More than one reminded customers that gun owners are responsible for keeping their guns out of the hands of children.

I said I was the guy who called. He remembered me and had a look at my rifle. He checked the headspace with my “go” and “no go” gauges and with one of his own. Then he eyeballed the firing pin, rubbing his thumb over it, and pronounced it fine. He took a gander down the barrel, too. He said everything checked out.

7.62x54r round

7.62x54r round

I thanked him and asked him what I owed him. There was hand-written sign on the wall that said the hourly labor rate was $45.

“Nothing,” he said.

I thanked him again and asked if he had any ammunition (7.62x54r) to fit my Mosin. He sold me three, 20-round packs of surplus Eastern-Bloc ammo for $10.74 apiece. He reminded me that surplus ammo like that was “corrosive.” That means the rounds are primed with salts that leave a residue which will attract moisture and cause rusting and pitting in a very short while. It’s important to clean the rifle immediately after shooting to avoid this. It would be a shame if the Soviets went through all the trouble of preserving my Mosin in cosmoline all those years ago, only to have me ruin it almost 70 years after it rolled off the assembly line.

Bill said his preferred recipe for cleaning the salts from the barrel and such, while still in the field, was with water and ammonia. He said to fill a baby food jar half full of water and add a thimble full of pure ammonia. After shooting, pour this down the receiver, barrel and muzzle. Then clean and oil it as normal, later.

I have access to water. All I need is a baby food jar, a thimble and some ammonia.

I’d bet the Red Army soldiers who carried these rifles through the Battle of Stalingrad did so without baby food jars. But, since their lives depended on their rifles working well and shooting straight, I bet they kept them pretty darn clean, somehow.

I paid Bill and thanked him a third time. On my way out he said, “Have fun. Kick up some dust. Annoy a liberal.”

He said it with such glee and conviction, I couldn’t help but laugh through a wide grin.

I said, “I’ll try.”

How it works. (via

How it works. (via

 Stay tuned for PART FOUR soon. I’ll be firing (under supervision) my Mosin-Nagant 91/30 for the first time.


Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.