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To deface...or not?

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To deface...or not?

Postby CustomStrat » Mon 29 Mar 2010 00:18 GMT

I recently added a new weapon to my arsenal. A Mauser Karbiner 98k. Arguably one of the most well engineered bolt action rifles ever designed and the basis of just about every bolt action hunting rifle subsequently made. I bought it because I'm partial to classic designs and because this particular example was in sorely neglected condition and I felt the urge to restore it.

The problem is that the Mauser 98k was the standard issue infantry rifle of the Wehrmacht and this particular one was manufactured in 1942. Which means that it's covered in "dirty bird" Waffenamt; eagle and swastika proof marks...

Now, as someone who was raised Jewish I find all things Nazi to be abhorrent. And by the well used condition of this rifle it's easy to imagine that it may have been used in the...line of duty. Nevertheless, it is, simply a rifle and one that was likely captured and brought home as a souvenir. It is not an ideology nor is it particularly representative of one; unlike the yellow Star of David patch or empty cannister of Zyklon-B that I recently saw listed for sale on Gunbroker (the eBay of guns).

In researching this rifle I found that at the end of the war thousands of these were captured. Many by the Soviets who punched out the Waffenamts and rechambered it for a more available calibre. Many were also brought, secretly, to Palestine where the Haganah used them extensively against the British. Many of those, but by no means all, were also defaced and rechambered.

My quandary is whether, in my restoration of this rifle, to obliterate these markings? On the one hand I don't like the idea of owning anything with swastikas on it while on the other hand it seems that these are part of it's history and that obliterating them would be defacement which would lessen it's value as an historical object. It is what it is and with or without "dirty birds" it's still a standard issue 98k... Should I punch them out and keep it? Should I restore it and sell it or keep it?
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Postby Graeme » Mon 29 Mar 2010 01:44 GMT

I would be inclined to restore it to its original condition. The rifle may have markings you do not like or which represent evil times, but the rifle itself is neutral it has neither feelings nor considerations. Make it what it was, it's the people who held it who made it representative of something corrupt.
I know it's not the same but I restore old motorbikes and even though I don't always like the way they were, I try to restore them to as new condition with all the old peculiarities they had.
Just my opinion.


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Postby Savannah_Alan » Mon 29 Mar 2010 02:44 GMT

I agree with Graeme. You can't obliterate history, and I don't think you should try. It could be argued that we need constant reminders of these terrible things in the hope they won't be continually repeated.

If it were in my posession, I would feel that it was bigger than me, so to speak, and I wouldn't presume to be anything but the temporary guardian.

In other words, leave no footprints.
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Postby ruggie » Mon 29 Mar 2010 09:54 GMT

As with other old things - furniture, even houses - there are two extremes of approach and everything in between.

- you can be a museum keeper, and decide either to keep it as it is or restore it accurately to its working state
- you can treat it as a base from which to construct something of direct and immediate use to you

I can see no justification for a collector to obliterate the gun's markings. They do not affect its function. If you cannot tolerate them, sell it to someone else (but not if he/she arrives wearing Nazi regalia and sporting swastika tattoos...)

[several typos corrected]
Last edited by ruggie on Tue 30 Mar 2010 09:22 GMT, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby CustomStrat » Tue 30 Mar 2010 02:42 GMT

Thanks, lads. I needed your objectivity to help me clarify my feelings and objectives.

"Temporary guardian." That's it, of course! Even if I decide to keep it it's not like I'd want to be buried with it... It existed before me and, unless it's destroyed, will exist beyond me.

I know that a lot of people buy Mausers and sporterise them by mounting different stocks to make them into more of a standard hunting rifle. But I have no interest in hunting. It is, to me, an elegant and efficient design and a relic of history, albeit from a dark period and, as Graeme said, it's neutral. As in the consideration that it's not guns that kill people but rather it's that people kill people.

My restoration of it is really little more than a serious cleaning. The iron work is in surprisingly good condition; no rust, no pitting. Just a touch or two of light finish loss. But when I pulled it out of the storage room at the pawn shop it was absolutely filthy. The dirtiest, gunk encrusted gun I'd ever seen. The filth is probably what's preserved it. I've been cleaning the stock with denatured alcohol and every paper towel wipe down comes out nearly black. The stock is actually made of plywood which was chosen for it's rigidity and durability. Once I get all the dirt and grime out of it's grain I'll refinish it with tung oil and touch up the bluing on the hardware. It's only missing two parts; the front sight hood and the cleaning rod both of which can be had for less than $30. Once it's restored I may take it to a shooting range and see how it handles. At that stage I'll decide it's final disposition. At the moment I tend to feel that after all the work I'll have put into it I'll probably be inclined keep it.

And who knows? Perhaps next deer season I may revert to a more primitive state and see if I can't kill my own food. Just as long as someone else peels it... :wink:
I'm not afraid to die; I just don't want to be there when it happens - Woody Allen
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Postby ruggie » Tue 30 Mar 2010 09:29 GMT

Or at least that you have a very sharp knife. Lost a ram yesterday, after spending a couple of weeks trying to cure two damaged feet. It had been gettinhg better, but yesterday it went downhill. In the afternoon, it staggered to its feet and then keeled over for good.

Managed to hang it from a tree and skin the lower half & take it back to the freezer before the heavens opened. Foxes have probably started on the rest by now, but I'm not going to look just yet. Freezing rain, and in the Uk they even have SNOW forecast...
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