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Proper cleaning and care of an original 1873?
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September 19, 2021 - 1:10 am
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Please point me in the direction of a proper cleaning guide.  I’ve searched the forums here but not found much. I think “cleaning” is just too generic with all the talk of “cleaning rods”. I’m looking to do a the minimum possible to get the action cleaned up.  There’s lots of stuff on the internet, but i’m distrustful at best. I’ve read the NRA guide but that seems more for external care. What’s the consensus on the NRA guide? NRA Care Guide The bronze wool/pre-1980 penny technique scares me a bit.

I will need some help cleaning it.  It sat in a closet untouched for 55 years in a gun sleeve that degraded badly. I think the dust cover was open the entire time leaving a fibrous gummy mess in the action where the decomposed padding combined with gun oil. This left the action feeling just as gummy and sticky as you would expect. 

Thanks in advance!

Matt

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September 19, 2021 - 1:38 am
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Matt,

You need to post pictures of the gun so we can see what condition its in, from there we can better inform you what has to be done. Cleaning a gun is a very generic term and can cover a wide range of processes. Some guns you don’t want to clean much while others need a heavy cleaning.

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September 19, 2021 - 2:37 am
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JayHawk44’s Dad said  I think the dust cover was open the entire time leaving a fibrous gummy mess in the action where the decomposed padding combined with gun oil. This left the action feeling just as gummy and sticky as you would expect. 

Nothing dissolves oxidized oil & varnish better than lacquer thinner (except carbon tetrachloride, which our rotten govt won’t let you buy).  No action is more simple to disassemble than the ’73–if you can’t do that, send it to a gunsmith.  Bronze wool won’t harm bluing if used with oil.

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September 19, 2021 - 4:08 pm
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1873man said
Matt,

You need to post pictures of the gun so we can see what condition its in, from there we can better inform you what has to be done. Cleaning a gun is a very generic term and can cover a wide range of processes. Some guns you don’t want to clean much while others need a heavy cleaning.

Bob  

Bob,

That makes sense. My instinct was to get it clean before showing it off. I’ll Get some preliminary pics up shortly as work allows.  Sadly, headed in now for a full day.

One thing for sure is that I’m missing the 2 tang sight plug screws and the main tang screw is pretty buggered up. Would I be able to obtain period correct plug screws that match the patina? Same for the buggered screw(s). Obviously original and perfect is best, but would it be a mortal sin to replace with well matching period correct screws? I’m seen pics of some of you guys’ collections, I’m guessing there’s more than one assortment tray out there with period correct spares taken from basket cases. Also, I was sad to discover the cleaning rod is missing.

Ultimately, I’ll be working with my work photographer (also an 1873 owner) and the gun photography guide found herein to produce a perfect set of photos for your evaluation. She will take that guide and her expertise to produce lighting/exposure/background conditions that perfectly mimic the color and condition as the in person eye sees it. Hopefully we come up with a reproducible combo that helps the community.

Thanks again, 

Matt

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September 19, 2021 - 4:23 pm
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JayHawk44’s Dad said

One thing for sure is that I’m missing the 2 tang sight plug screws and the main tang screw is pretty buggered up. Would I be able to obtain period correct plug screws that match the patina? Same for the buggered screw(s).

Repro screws are available, but you’d have to be the one to match them to your gun.  You could eventually find an original tang screw, but it will take some looking. (Unless Bob pulls one out of his barrel of spares!)

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September 19, 2021 - 8:13 pm
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Now that’s funny!!!  “Unless Bob pulls one out of his barrel of spares!”

Having grown up with parents and grandparents from the great depression, I suspect I am like many here. We save everything, you just never know when you’re going to need that one little screw or nut or bolt or whatever…

My kids are still amazed that I can dig through a random box of what they perceive as junk and come up with the one little part that we need for whatever it is we’re fixing.

Sadly a concept lost on the current generation!

Matt

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September 19, 2021 - 8:31 pm
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Unless the screw is totally wrecked there’s nothing to loose by trying to rebuild the slot by hammering the displaced metal back into place & filing the slot into shape with a needle file, then cold-bluing.  I’ve done it, so it can’t be too hard.  Won’t be perfect but may be “good enough” depending on cond. of rifle. 

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September 19, 2021 - 9:13 pm
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Folks, to perhaps expand some on Clarence’s tip, I rebuilt one for a deluxe 1894 SRC.  Too many hardware store screwdrivers had really buggered the slot.  First, I put it in a vise, then heated the head (all of the shank was in the vice) to a red consistency.  Then I began to LIGHTLY tap the displace material back into the slot area while maintaining the contour of the head.  Once done and cooled, I used a Swiss needle file to recut the slot.  Then I again heated the screw to a blue consistency and dropped it into motor oil to cool.  The result was a totally blued screw, that wasn’t brittle yet tough enough for careful tightening with a correct, hollow ground screwdriver.  The advantage is the screw is original to the rifle and it is regulated so the slot is true fore and aft.  Forgot to mention, I “aged” the screw to about where it was by buffing the head area on leather so there was thin or missing blue where it was proud at the tang.  Like Clarence–if I can do it, anyone can!  TimLaugh

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September 20, 2021 - 6:00 pm
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Matt, take Tim’s advice about helping a screw head.  Sometimes all that is needed is the peening and filing process to make it look good enough.  A black magic marker can make a big difference on small shiny areas.

Don’t use harsh chemicals unless you have experience.  You can spray gun cleaner into the action and let it set for a day or so then work the action vigorously.  Always clean a lever action upside down so all excess junk and cleaning products drain out onto a rag.  This includes the action and bore.

Most any gun cleaning product will do on the exterior metal surfaces.  If you have some areas that are bad don’t do anything more that oil and wipe until we can see pictures.  The wood depends on the finish.  Helping varnish is not the same as an oiled finish. Very mild rubbing with a damp rag will remove some crud.  Once the wood is cleaned and the finish is as best as it can be then some will use oil, wax or polish.  Just don’t do much to the wood until we can see pictures.

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September 20, 2021 - 9:14 pm
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 Matt.

 I’ve always used G96, soft cotton rags, and sometimes a toothbrush with soft bristles on steel. G96 comes in a aerosol can, smells good and won’t affect blue, case colors, or your skin. It does over repeated applications remove grease hallows around screws and in corners, this is not always in your best interest. I like a gun to show age, to clean will sometimes diminish the value of an antique gun. On wood I use Scott’s Liquid Gold sprayed sparingly on a piece of sheep skin, the wool will clean and apply the Liquid Gold. Do not soak the wood! 

 It is my opinion that the “Proper cleaning and care of an original 1873” be just enough to stop the corrosion, clean the bore, free the action, and clean metal and wood enough to show any original finish. A military style cleaning on a old antique Winchester is not in your best interest.

 I, like others that have posted clean buggered screws. An original screw can sometimes be saved with very little effort. I have an old 3/8″ electric hand drill I chuck in my vice, install the screw head up with the head against the jaws and lightly tap the head repeatedly to reform the head, then with the drill spinning use a jewelers file to shape and followed with sandpaper. Do not leave spiral marks on the head! Then with the right shape jewels file trim the slot to original size. Remove the screw and heat it with propane torch until it turns blue, let air cool and color as necessary with cold blue or browning solution. Rinse with water and oil. Wear your cheaters or an optivisor, small screws require magnification. Fixing the screw is easy, the hard part is getting the screw out and in without damage to screw or gun part. A good set of gun screwdrivers is a must if you intend to turn a screw on any gun! T/R

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September 25, 2021 - 1:11 pm
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   Matt.

 Enjoyed your pictures. Most of the screws have not been turned in a long time and look good. If the gun was mine I would replace the upper tang screw, install  two plugs in the holes for tang site screws, and add a rear sight elevator. The upper tang screw head is to far gone to save. Turning screws on your gun to clean it  will destroy the look. Some of the guns color might wipe off if your use aggressive cleaning solutions. Case fuzz and dust will wipe off with a simple rag and oil. Going after the dent in the tube would require removing it and making it obvious that it’s been disturbed.  

 Enjoy your old gun, but don’t destroy the look. T/R 

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September 29, 2021 - 5:19 am
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Thanks all for the advice!

I’ll try and keep it all in mind and not monkey too much with the rifle. Based on my other thread’s comments its more of a shooter than collector grade. However, I do wish to preserve the look as best I can.  I believe I will have to take at least 1 sideplate off to get the internals clean. I do have a very nice set of hollow-ground gunsmiths drivers and bits.  The gun sleeve it sat in for 56 years was faux leather with yellow padding that completely turned to dust/fuzz and infiltrated the action something fierce. That, and Bob thinks I possibly have a worn/bent elevator; that, I’d like to remedy. That brass plate hanging low really bugs the heck out of me. I’ll probably try and fix that and repair/replace that buggered up tang screw, replace the tang plugs, and look into a sight elevator.  Then shoot it, lots. 

Any advice on commercial ammo? One of my many fall projects is getting a reloading operation up and running. 

Thanks again and take care!

Matt

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September 29, 2021 - 4:53 pm
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Matt when you take the side plate off you can see the flat elevator spring.  On the underside of the receiver there is a screw that adjusts the tension on this spring.  The other is for the lever.  Play with the screw and see if you can get the elevator to align better.  I’m sure what Bob meant was this spring may need to be bent or replaced not the elevator.  While you have the side plates off remove, clean and lubricate the toggles.  Just be sure to remember which one goes on which side.  This is not a hard thing to figure out.

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September 29, 2021 - 6:07 pm
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The right hand spring is for the elevator and the left is the lever spring but if the elevator is hanging low its not the spring. The spring keeps the elevator in the up position but the down is going to be a issue with the arm which can get bent or wear inside the elevator where the arm rides or a combination of both.

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September 30, 2021 - 2:13 am
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Matt-

I don’t recall the chambering of your 1873 but all (except maybe 22RF) are excellent excuses to get into reloading and possibly bullet casting. If you’re going to shoot it as much as you are planning commercial ammo will be an expensive proposition. The brass is available sporadically and RCBS Cowboy dies do a fine job of making hyphenated ammo. My 32-20 loads (with wheel weight or scrap lead) cost me a little more to shoot than 22RF these days and 38-40 only slightly more. 

Sounds like this rifle is bringing some pretty interesting projects to your work bench, enjoy! 

 

Mike

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September 30, 2021 - 5:44 pm
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Chuck, Bob, and Mike, sounds like a bad comedy trio! 

Thanks for all of the info! I’ve been trolling here and other places looking for such info. As this appears to be just shooter quality 1873 I’m not above tinkering with the internals and a screw here and there to make it look right and function properly.

Upon closer examination there are a number of minor blemishes and scratches that have “color” that should not appear within. Obviously it’s had some finish help. Likely the work of my Great Grandfather F.M. Schick. If you’ve collected antique firearms around Lees Summit, MO you may own something that was once his.

Hoping the elevator issue is the result of that mass of yellow case padding fuzz/crud interfering with its function.  Probably no, but one can hope. I’ll post pics of my teardown and cleaning.

My intent is to have a full reloading setup in place this fall.  I also shoot a .300 RSAUM that is practically a wildcat. I have dies, brass, an awesome load and about 50 rounds left from by buddy loading them. I also want to build a 6.5 GAP/SAUM and am completing a 6.5 CM AR10 for my oldest boy’s BS and MS graduation gift. I have many loading needs, all requiring hand loads! Now to convince the wife I’m spending money to save money, much advice needed in this matter!!!Laugh

Also have my eye on 2 Colt SSA 38-40s. Probably no shot at them, but they’re pretty much local and accompanied by numerous Winchester lever actions that appear to be shooter grade. AKA, Matt can afford grade. You guys all seem to be operating out of my league so we’re not likely in competition over these firearms. 

Reata Pass Day 1

Reata Pass Day 2

I will head up the hill to view these in person in late October if anyone wants an amateur’s hands on assessment. These seem like good honest folks, bought my youngest boy an 870 from them earlier this year. Over paid a bit with fees, but he deserved it (awesome grades and stud basketball player) and there wasn’t anything out there.

Thanks!

Matt

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September 30, 2021 - 7:20 pm
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Reata Pass is owned by John Gangel’s daughter, Gigi.

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September 30, 2021 - 8:36 pm
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1873man said
The right hand spring is for the elevator and the left is the lever spring but if the elevator is hanging low its not the spring. The spring keeps the elevator in the up position but the down is going to be a issue with the arm which can get bent or wear inside the elevator where the arm rides or a combination of both.

Bob  

Matt like Bob said the spring is to keep the carrier in the up position.  Which you say yours isn’t.  These 2 set screws were never intended to be screwed all the way in. They should be in just far enough that the carrier and the lever do not sag.  Over the years people have screwed them in all the way and the springs may have lost any adjustability.  It will not hurt to play with the screw.  If you are lucky it may help.

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September 30, 2021 - 9:16 pm
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Chuck,

I’ve never found one not screwed in all the way even on the minty muskets.

Bob

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October 1, 2021 - 5:07 pm
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Bob, I don’t doubt what you say.  For those that have not read Winchester’s instructions get a early catalog and there is a paragraph that explains what these set screws are for.  It does not specifically say not to screw them in all the way though.  Read the paragraph “To Stiffen the Spring.”

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