When to say no: DIY gunsmithing gone wrong
On occasion, we look at our firearms and believe wholeheartedly that with a few tweaks we can make them better. The thing is, sometimes, bad things happen to good guns. The main thing to remember in all this is being able to tell when you have crossed the line between making an improvement, and going full-on bubba.
Know your gun
One of the biggest problems with garage gunsmithing is that often the would-be smithy doesn't really know what they have. This means that from the onset, you need to get in touch with your gun's background. For instance, say you want to turn that old bolt-action war surplus gun you found at the local pawnshop, swap meet, gun show, what-have-you, into a sporterized hunting rifle. This could entail cutting down the barrel, restocking the piece, adding scope mounts, and changing the bolt handle to accommodate.
All this is fine if the gun is very common and noncollectable, such as, say, a Tula made 1930s Mosin Nagant 91/30 without hex receivers or laminated stocks. There are literally millions of these rifles floating around right now and you can bet that for everyone that is hacked up and converted from its original condition, there are at least as many that a collector has carefully selected to remain preserved in the back of his gun safe for the next several decades. Let us face it, these guns, at least for our lifetime, just aren't that collectable.
However, say you had a rarer piece, like this 1891 Argentine Mauser made by DWM.
(Hint-- the stock didnt leave Germany like that)
Alternatively, this Brazilian Mauser from the same vintage with the same issue.
These guns often go for $400 or more-- as long as they are mostly original and functional. However, if you chop it down, give it a $20 cold blue refinish, and recrown it, you'd be lucky to get $100 for it even if it shoots like a dream.
This Danish 1867 Rolling block Remington, has been hacked down, which probably made it a better brush gun for the person that did it-- but it also put a hit on its collector value.
With this in mind, check your gun's value and rarity before you get set out to modify it. If you have a nice collectable rifle worth $500 but really want a deer gun, sell it and buy a purpose made modern deer gun rather than breaking out the dremel, hacksaw, and C-clamps. Odds are the new gun will work for its intended use much better, while the collectable will live on for generations to come.
What's wrong with some modification?
Don't get me wrong, there are some upgrades that can pay off--especially if the gun is not very collectable. By taking a $99 Mosin special and adding a turndown bolt (which can be had for $50-ish if you shop around), and a scope mount you can have a nice rifle that will long outlive you for around two bills. Then you can add your optics and move on with life.
Of course, this can be taken to extreme:
This is not how you do a DIY job to your bolt.
And totally jump the shark by adding any number of needless accessories
(Please explain what the item is behind the trigger guard)
Remember, just like a doctor's oath, so should you be with gun modifications. Keep repeating, "First, do no harm."
Let's look at some more.
Here we see an imported Norinco TT-30 Tokarev pistol that has been upgraded with a cerakoted finish and aftermarket rubber grips.
While I wouldn't recommend you do this to a nice collectable German Luger or vintage Colt Single Army, these 7.62x25mm guns were banged out by the millions for the use of the People's Army and, other than some WWII-era guns, will likely never be worth much money. In the case of a gun such as this, you can justify the modification.
On the other hand, here is a German K98 Mauser, in krylon blue complete with a Bronie sticker. We warn you, this image cannot be unseen.
(This is just wrong...)
Now we have a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle with what appears to be an M4 style stock.
On the brightside, I'm pretty sure no one else will have one.
In keeping with this trend of old WWII era guns being "modernized," here is a M1 Garand that looks more like a Springfield Armory SOCOM.
On this one there are a couple things that come to mind. If this started off as a collectable gun in near original condition, this is a tragedy. However the CMP sells stripped receivers off old scrapped M1's in the Army's remaining stockpile for as little as $125 and new Criterion barrels for $189. If this gun was assembled with one of these or similar, this could actually just be a bargain M1A build-- but in 30.06! Of course the price of the SAGE International stock would be more than the barrel/action, but hey, that's life.
Here is a Remington M1917 Enfield that was restocked and cut down in the 1950s.
I personally bought it for $200, and since the damage was already done, mounted optics to it. Honestly its one of the most accurate 30.06 rifles I have ever fired, and even though it is not collectable anymore, it is a handsome gun that works and works well.
We leave you with this video from SgtMac80 on YouTube, as he unveils his admitted Bubba Gun, a Mosin 44 with AR pistol grips and, well, you'll see. Btw, the money shot is at about the 7:30 mark.