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1873 Trapdoor Springfield – and a bleg

Dad came by on Friday and brought me a present. This Trapdoor Springfield belonged to my great grandfather (sorry for the pic quality, but photography isn’t my thing):

From Gun Porn

It even has the original bayonet, though it has some surface rust:

From Gun Porn

Also, it has the original leather sling with it:

From Gun Porn

A bit of surface rust on the top too:

From Gun Porn

It just wasn’t tacticool enough for me, so I put an EOTech on it:

From Gun Porn

I kid. I just set that on there for a funny picture.

Anyway, I need to get it cleaned up real nice. Any advice on the best means to remove the rust that is also safe for the rifle’s finish? Any recommendations appreciated.

35 Responses to “1873 Trapdoor Springfield – and a bleg”

  1. Chas Says:

    Light use of 0000 steel wool is the standard recommendation to remove rough surface rust without damaging the finish too much. I wouldn’t try to remove too much of it though, you want to maintain the patina.

  2. USCitizen Says:

    Naval Jelly?

  3. Tam Says:


    Spend a couple bucks and get the “For Collectors Only” guide to the Springfield. I think Amazon has ’em for $20.

    It will learn you about them and explain how to take apart & reassemble.

  4. SayUncle Says:

    I think naval jelly takes it down to bare metal. I’d like keep as much finish as I can.

  5. Speakertweaker Says:

    Trapdoor Springfield + Eotech = BWAAAHAHAHA!!!

    That is a very cool thing for your dad to drop off. For me, the equivalent would be for my dad to (drive 750 miles SW and) hand over a WWII M1 Carbine.

    Very nice Trapdoor. Have fun cleaning it up. You gonna be shooting it?


  6. Canthros Says:

    Renaissance Pre-Lim might get the surface rust off, and shouldn’t damage the finish. I’ve used it a bit to take surface rust off the front and back straps of my Hi-Power.

  7. KCSteve Says:

    Pop over to Castle Argghhh! and ask there. John the Armorer has, I’m sure, plenty of experience with this exact issue.

  8. Pete Says:

    You need a laser sight to go along with the EOtech.

    Real operators only use trapdoor rifles.

  9. Pete Says:

    You need a laser sight to go along with the EOtech.

    Real operators only use trapdoor rifles.

  10. Mikee Says:

    The sling is what interests me, as the rust issue is covered already.

    Is that really a sling that is 100+ years old?

    First, go see for correct treatment of antique leather.

    A full discussion of the conservation of antique military leather items, much of which applies to other leather artifacts, may be found in: Antique Leather and its Care, by Stephen Dorsey – the Gun Report, Volume 35 No. 10 March 1990. P.O. Box 38, Aledo, IL 61231.

  11. SayUncle Says:

    My understanding is that the sling is probably rarer than the rifle.

  12. countertop Says:

    I’d contact the NRA. If you want, I can probably get you in touch with the right person at the museum in Fairfax.

  13. Phenicks Says:

    +1 on 0000 steel wool and 3-in-1 oil. Rub lightly and the rust will leave and the finish will stay. Local Gunsmith told me about this. Used it on my 1896 Krag and the case hardening looks great now.

  14. Robert Says:

    First of all, congrats! What a treasure to have in the family!. I’d hang it over a door or mantle for everyone to see.

    Break-free, or rem oil and toothpicks, rag and q-tips for starters. I’d get the book Tam is suggesting and study a bit before breaking it down much.

    I carried a 45-70 trapdoor deerhunting a couple of times. It had a BSA dot sight mounted on a rail where the rear sight used to be. No lie. Never got to shoot it at a deer but off the bench it kicked my butt. Lotta recoil.

  15. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner Says:

    Watch what you feed that thing.

  16. guy Says:

    Carteach0 had a post on cleaning up an old gun of his – Cleaning surface rust

  17. Sean Says:

    I use Clenzoil and 0000 steel wool mostly, but Flitz works really well too. I would use Clenzoil on the larger surface areas because you would go through a lot of Flitz trying to do the whole rifle.

  18. Rabbit Says:

    Very cool.

    I’ve successfully used copper 0000 wool to remove rust from firearms without scratching or removing bluing. Copper, being softer than steel/iron, doesn’t cut it.

    Our family has/had my great-great grandfather’s muzzle-loader shotgun which he carried as a 2nd. Lt in the Texas Cavalry during the War of Northern Aggression, but it was partially destroyed in a housefire about 13 years ago. My brother still has the barrel, mounted on the wall in his shop. Rumor has it that a branch of the family has a carbine and pistol he carried, but I’ve never seen them, nor heard what it is.


  19. Cemetery's Gun Blob Says:

    I was told that rust remover stuff that car restoration people use, on engine blocks, is helpful. But not sure how it would affect the wood.

    Ballistol and a tooth brush will be good to help clean any gunk/sludge off.

  20. CMathews Says:

    We have 4 treasures from my relatives. An old .303 bolt action my Grandad picked up in Korea. My Great Grandads 32-20 lever action and DAO Revolver combo. Those two were his carry weapons on night patrol. His famous quote to my Dad was that he liked being able to “shoot the same shit from both of ’em. That way I ain’t gotta carry two different calibers.” I wish I could have met him, but I have his revolver and holster. It’s a great feeling to hold something that has been around that long and seen so much action. The other is my Great Uncle’s double barrel 12ga goose gun. The lever action my cousin had restored by a smith in Austin, and it looks great!

    I second the copper wool

  21. DirtCrashr Says:

    Take the metal off the wood – carefully. I cleaned down my Grandpa’s M-1898 Krag with 0000-steel wool and Hoppes #9 and it worked real good. Don’t use any nuclear acid rust-remover or metal-deep polisher, you want the plumb browning to remain and just halt the process.
    I also washed the stock down with boiled linseed oil while brushing with the steel wool to pick-up/carry-off the dirt. I threw-out the dirty oil – but be careful, BLO is something that can actually spontaneously combust.
    Google: BLO spontaneous combustion – heh, science class stuff.
    Also a vote for Pecard’s on the leather – yes 100-yr old slings exist.

    The Krag doesn’t kick quite like the Trapdoor but it’s a fun bolt cartridge. Congratulations on your family heirloom.

  22. The Packetman Says:

    I’d say it depends on what you want to do with it.
    If you want it for collector value, you should check FIRST to see if it’s more valuable as is.

    Do that FIRST!!

    Then proceed accordingly.

    And nice rifle!

  23. mike hollihan Says:

    It’s neither here nor there, but I was reading Bruce Catton’s Army of the Potomac yesterday and he briefly mentioned that Civil War soldiers didn’t much care to use the bayonet as a stabbing weapon (very tough to get that close to someone under a hail of rifle fire) but they loved to use it as a candleholder back at camp! The pointy end stayed put in the ground and the clamp that held it to the rifle was just the right size for the standard candles of the day. Heh. Now you know….

  24. nk Says:

    I’d start off with just a washcloth and kerosene or some such oily solvent. Lots of patient rubbing. I’d avoid anything abrasive, even fine steel wool, and absolutely no naval jelly — it’s too corrosive. I restored a WWII Japanese sword with jeweler’s rouge and about a month’s gentle polishing, once, but my blade is 58 Rockwell and I wanted the patina off. Your rifle is likely not more than 40 RC and you want to keep the patina/blue/brown.

  25. nk Says:

    Here’s a picture of my “Boy Scout knife” that spent about 30 years at the bottom of a tackle box. My daughter likes it so I’m cleaning it off a microgram of rust at a time for her.

  26. Huck Says:

    Definately dont use naval jelly if you want to keep the present finish. I used 0000 steel wool to remove light rust from my grandad’s Winchester model 1897 shotgun (made in 1929) that I have and it worked well though there aint much original finish left on it, it’s seen a lot of use.

  27. emdfl Says:

    Use bronze wool instead of steel wool. Bronze wool will remove the rust without scratching the steel and it won’t leave minute particles of steel imbedded in the softer steel of the gun.

  28. Nylarthotep Says:

    Oil it lightly and don’t use anything abrasive until you can get it evaluated. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that almost looks like browning. Does is come off when you rub it with your finger?

    If you don’t want to get it evaluated, just oil it and leave it. Any abrasive media may damage existing browning and you’ll lose most of your value.

    I know blotchy browning is common on a lot of old firearms. (I have my share since I collect stuff from WW1 and earlier.) It may look crappy, but it’s part of the history so you may just want to leave it stable.

    Of course, you still need to stabilize the metal under the wood, which is the hard part. I hate doing that part, because you always discover how bad your gun has gotten.

  29. SayUncle Says:

    Yes, a lot of it does come off on my finger.

  30. Darrell Says:

    Kroil and a cloth.

  31. kaveman Says:

    Have you considered pineal gland secretions from retarded people?

    My reccomendation is to first remove the Pineal glands from Paul Helmke, Josh Sugarmann and Bryan Miller.

    Then squeeze them, even stomp on them if ya wanna.

    Then set them on the table to stare at while you painstakenly follow someone else’s advice on removing surface rust.

  32. Kristopher Says:

    Notes on restoring historic firearms from the National Park Service / Springfield Armory.

    DO NOT USE STEEL WOOL. That brown color is called patina … lose that and your collector value becomes zero.

  33. ChrisTheEngineer Says:

    No steel wool or abrasives.

    Get some nice oil and put it all over. Rub it off with a _soft_ rag. May want to repeat.

    First thing, some nice oil and a soft cloth.

  34. Nylarthotep Says:

    Browning won’t come off on your finger (at least I’ve never experienced it) so your spot on with the diagnosis. I’d personally just stick with some good gun oil and a soft cloth for the outside. From the pictures it doesn’t appear you have any major rust and this should be enough. Pitting and the like could require more aggressive techniques, but those have to be applied only to the specific corrosion spots and not the metal overall.

    Best to oil as much as you feel comfortable disassembling. I’ve experienced some real horror shows with rusted and deteriorating internals (springs and firing pins always get the worst of it).

    And for the internal of the barrel you can clean like any other black powder gun. The real problem is pitting in the barrel is a major pain to clean well. (I hope you don’t have that issue, but if you do you can always use nylon brushes if you can find them big enough.) If you don’t plan on (or can’t) shoot the gun, get a good gun grease and give it a very liberal mopping down.

    For the exposed wood I’d just wipe it down with a damp cloth that has some mild detergent in it and dry it immediately. Don’t oil the stock. The oils you have for woodworking will probably ruin the original finish that you gun appears to have. Actually your stock looks pretty good from the pictures. Don’t use linseed oil either. It’s not the same thing as would have been used originally and it isn’t a pleasant thing to work with either. (The oil takes a long time to dry and can hold dust that makes the finish feel odd.)

    Oddly enough most guns of that era look pretty crappy to someone used to new and well cared for firearms. The browning is usually patchy and mistaken for rust. But a full removal of the browning and/or rebrowning of the piece will make it lose a vast majority of its value because it loses it’s historical relevance.

  35. Lyle Says:

    For better photos if you don’t have a professional setup, never use a camera-mounted flash, for starters. Never means never– that flash is the best way to ruin a shot ever devised. Get as many photons on the subject as you can (this is especially important for black rifles) mount the camera on a tripod or other rigid mount and use a remote (or cable release). I use seven, two-tube, four foot, neon, high-voltage, electroflorescent photon generators (dirt-cheap shop lights) in a box configuration around the subject, in leiu of a flash umbrella setup. Use a solid background (I use a cheap white window shade). With all that light, my exposures run from about a half second to about a fourteenth, with about an f4 to f8 aperture, depending on the depth of field required (a side-on shot like your first one here requires little DOF). “Bracket” your shots, meaning you use several different exposures for the same shot, and pick the best one later– try not to rely too much on processing after the fact. Use the full detector surface when practical, i.e. don’t rely too much on cropping later– maximize the number of pixels on the original shot, even if you’re lowering the resolution later for the web– that allows you to edit the snot out of it if you wish, with less image deterioration. If you want to end up with a closeup, shoot it that way originally. If you’re going to drastically reduce the resolution, sharpen the image in stages as you reduce. If your blacks don’t appear to be true black, you can selectively desaturate afterwards, using your photo editor.

    All the better shots on my web site (that aren’t credited to Oleg– his are the best) were done in the above manner, and all with basic equipment and very little photographer’s knowledge to speak of. Though Photoshop or something approaching it is important (I use Ps on everything, even if only to adjust output levels for correct luminosity, or to remove the background) it’s not strictly required.