Dave, my husband, has tinkered around with firearms his entire life. Never content to leave something the way it came from the factory, he is compelled to make a pistol or rifle uniquely his own, and within days of getting something new will start thinking about what he can do to “improve” it.
I’m a little different. I typically try to buy things that already have all of the options and functions I want built into them and want to know it was done by the factory, meeting all of the manufacturers’ specs at the time it was made.
Several months ago Dave came across a great bargain when he found an old BRNO VZ24 online listed way below what those rifles are normally priced at. The rifle, built in 1937 had certainly seen better days. The stock was cracked just behind the trigger guard the handguard was missing. There was a lot of superficial rust all over the barrel, action, and most of the external parts, and there was a good bit of pitting on the outside of the action and the barrel. What was surprising though was that the bore was so bright that the rifle looked like it had never been fired, and the bolt, while extremely tarnished, had no rust on it at all.
Dave thought the VZ24 had potential for a custom rifle build, and that it would be fun for us to work on together (well, he would do most of the work, and I would pick out most of the parts that he would use, and closely supervise the labor ☺). So, after making the $200 purchase and waiting about a week for the rifle to arrive in Texas, we were off to the races!
Upon inspection it became clear that everything except for the action, bolt, and bottom metal needed to be replaced or reworked. Even the springs were in horrible shape.
For the record I LOVE Boyds Gunstocks. My Ruger .308 sports a “zombie green” Boyds stock. While a little bit heavier than a traditional walnut stock, I like how the additional heft helps with felt recoil, and being able to order one with a 12 ¾” length of pull is really nice for a short, smaller statured shooter like myself. When Dave noticed me struggling a bit with longer rifle stocks a few years ago, we ordered my first Boyds product and I was immediately hooked. This made the decision to purchase a Boyds stock for the VZ24 an easy one, only this time I went with their “blackjack” pattern, a combination black and pink laminate. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The stock was a perfect fit from the factory, with no inletting or additional work required. The action dropped in perfectly, and the barrel has just enough free float to easily slide a dollar bill between it and the stock all the way from the front of the forearm to the action. Great job Boyds!
The VZ24 is essentially a Czech built Mauser model 98. Its factory trigger isn’t ideal for a hunting rifle, and the “flag” type safety on a model 98 won’t allow a scope to be mounted easily. I thought changing the trigger and safety out might be more challenging than replacing the stock, but thankfully we had no issues here either.
I selected a Timney Sportsman trigger and a Timney Beuhler style low mount safety for my rifle. Like the Boyds stock, both the trigger and safety dropped right in with no machining or fitting required. Setting the Timney to a crisp 3 pound trigger pull, with no creep, and no over travel was as easy as adjusting a couple of small nuts on the trigger housing. I was amazed at how easy this project was coming together.
It was now time to start making things pretty! We found a great little company called Fincher’s Corner that specializes in polishing, engraving, and cleaning up bolts for World War II era rifles. In addition to the low mount safety, I also needed to have the bolt handle bent so that it would clear an optic. We sent the bolt to Fincher’s Corner, and asked them to forge the bolt handle, polish the bolt and the new safety, and do some engraving on the bolt itself.
While waiting on the bolt to be worked on, we sanded off what remained of the rifles original finish, along with untold amounts of rust. We then degreased all of the parts using denatured alcohol and applied two coats of Brownells Aluma-Hyde in a black semi-gloss. This is really the only part of the process that didn’t quite work out as well as I would have liked. From a distance the finish looks ok, but if you get up close to the rifle you can definitely see imperfections in the finish on the barrel. Not a problem though. I never intended to keep the rifle chambered in 8mm Mauser. Later this year I plan on having it re-barreled in .35 Whelen. When I do that, I’ll have our gunsmith apply a professional finish to the entire rifle at the same time.
With all of that done, we mounted and bore sighted a nice Zeiss Terra 2-7x scope, added a Limbsaver sling that we found at Cabelas, and we were finished!
I had my first opportunity to take my New/Old VZ24 to the range recently. Results = wonderful! Its shooting just over 1” groups, and everything on the rifle is working perfectly. Hopefully it will only get better once phase II of our project is complete and the rifle becomes a .35 Whelen.
When it is all said and done, truthfully, I could have just bought a new mid-grade rifle from Winchester, Remington, or Ruger for the same amount of money we spent reviving the old, beat up VZ24, and been at the range shooting it months ago rather than spending all of the time and energy we did to work on the Czech rifle. But I’m starting to see the value Dave finds in having a rifle that is uniquely my own. There are a lot of other Model 98 Mausers out there, but this one is mine. There is no other like it. Its special. I also like that we were able to take something that obviously had not been cared for, that was likely never going to see use again, bring it back to life, and give it purpose.
Now I’ve also got a decision to make. Does my .308 go with me to South Africa this year in June like I originally planned? Or does the VZ24 go? Help me decide. What do you think?
– Huntress in Heels