In my previous posts, I have concentrated on the various elements of remodeling this 7x57 Mauser: refashioning the stock, say, or bedding the action. Now, everything is about to come together, and I am hopng, as I always do at the end of one of these projects, that the whole magically will become more than the sum of its parts. For me, at least, this final assembly typically involves some pesky last minute adjustments. In this case, I had to remove some stray AcraGlas to make the bottom metal fit properly again.
I'm planning to shoot the BRNO first with iron sights, partly because I like the look of a rifle uncluttered with a scope, partly because the rifle will weigh at least three quarters of a pound less than it would with a scope, and partly to see whether my aging eyesight can manage one minute of whitetail deer. What this means in practical terms is whether I can still keep all my shots at 50 yards on an eight-inch paper plate--offhand.
Although the BRNO lacked a front sight when I bought it, it did come drilled and tapped for a Lyman 48. Fortunately, the RS model Lyman 48 I already owned fit this Mauser 98 perfectly, so that's what I'll try. If I no longer see well enough for iron sights, I can always take off the peep sight and mount a scope, making use of the BRNO's tapped holes for Weaver bases. As I mentioned in an earlier post, despite my amputating the Monte Carlo comb, the comb is still high enough that I can use a low-mounted scope.
Here's a shot of the altered pistol grip, the receiver with the Lyman 48, the checkering, and the shortened fore end with a barrel band. The magazine release is just visible, and as I said in an earlier post I've swapped the two-stage military trigger for a Timney I already had on hand.
The finishing touch, so to speak, wasn't a matter of seeing so much as a matter of feeling. After assembling the rifle and holding it muzzle down in my right hand, I noticed that the edges of this Lyman peep were digging uncomfortably into my hand. Looking more closely, I saw that the edges had been chamfered, but only minimally. Following a suggestion by E. C. Crossman in The Book of the Springfield (1931), I picked up a needle file and in a few minutes had softened the edges of the sides and the adjustment knobs. Some cold blue made it look new again. It's surprising how much difference a little detail like this can make.
Looking back to the beginning of this project, here's the BRNO as I bought it, complete with a Monte Carlo comb, a bulky, closed pistol grip, and an extended, angular fore end (the odd bump on the bridge is a Weaver scope base):
And here's where we've ended up: a new front sight, set back a tad in the English style, and a Lyman 48; a barrel band for a sling; a slightly truncated fore end to balance the 21 1/2" length of the barrel; and a more open pistol grip together with a much altered butt stock, a recut cheek piece, and a new recoil pad. And now the much slimmer stock is checkered:
This BRNO 7x57 now fits me. It balances just the way I like, very slightly muzzle heavy. Unloaded, its balance point is five inches in front of the trigger. It feels lively in my hands. Almost as important, it is very close to my Platonic ideal of a bolt action sporter, an elegant and altogether personal rifle. Its styling is conservative: I like to think that Bell or Corbett would have approved of this 7x57. I'm looking forward to practicing with it and then taking it afield. In the meantime, I am deriving pleasure from just holding it in my hands and dreaming big dreams!