How to Remove Cosmoline

How to Remove Cosmoline

Removing Cosmoline
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There are several ways and opinions about how to remove cosmoline, and many curses heaped on the head of this product over the years.

Cosmoline is not evil, if it was not for its preservative effects, we would not be able to enjoy shooting old military surplus guns as they would not have survived over the years.

You Need to Understand Cosmoline

Before learning how to remove Cosmoline, you first need to understand that it is chemically similar to Vaseline, and is applied by dipping guns into a vat of molten Cosmoline. This means that the preservative is not just gunked up on the gun, but is embedded in every nook and cranny in the gun. If you are going to remove cosmoline from a gun, you will have to disassemble and detail clean it.

Some like to use chemicals to clean out the petroleum based Cosmoline.  I have read accounts of people using gasoline a 55 gallon drums. I think that this is overly dangerous and under-effective. Mineral oil and brake cleaner work just as well.

Hot Water Method

I personally use hot water for the metal, and sun and gently heat for the wood. Some do not like the idea of using water, but in my experience using heat alone runs the risk of cooking out the oil and leaving the dark tar-like crud. Water seems to both heat the oil and help float it away.

The way I do it is to strip off all the wood, and disassemble the gun to is smallest user level parts. I don’t do an armorer level disassemble, but just a detailed field strip. I then put all the small parts in a stainless pot that the wife won’t kill me for ruining (I actually have my own kitchen set by now), and boil them clean.

The Cosmoline will float to the top as it melts. When I take the hot metal out of the water, and quickly clean it with bore solvent, it dries rather quickly and I oil it well so it does not rust.
The longer parts like the barrel, takes more work.

I boil them in a large stock pot, and repeatedly pour hot water down the barrel to loosen up the Cosmoline. A rod will need to be pushed down the barrel as it will be plugged with the Cosmoline.

Attention to Detail Helps

Take special care on the action, as with guns such as the Mosin Nagant, In the video I show a Mosin, but this is not a how to remove cosmoline from Mosin Nagant article.

Cosmoline is notorious for being hard to remove. It may cycle fine, but after a shot or two, the Cosmoline will become tacky and the bolt will be hard to cycle. Additionally, If you fire the gun a lot with the Cosmoline on the action, it will bake on and make a small problem a huge nightmare.

I take care with the stock, and do not introduce boiling water as that will damage the old wood. What I do is to gently heat it up in the sun on a hot day (or VERY gently heat with a hairdryer) and wipe the Cosmoline off with a towel. With repeated heatings and wipe downs you can remove the Cosmoline without damaging the wood. If you go to fast or too aggressive you can strip out the moisture and mess up the stock. I also use murphy’s oil soap to help remove the oily Cosmoline from the wood.

I know this is not an easy process, its messy, and will most likely cause a little bit of marital stress, but look at it as a rite of passage, and a way to help preserve history. Heck, if you get a C&R license, you may even consider buying a curio gun and leave it in its Cosmoline wrapping to allow your kids and grand kids this pleasure.

Complete C&R License Process from Form to First Purchase

Complete C&R License Process from Form to First Purchase


Shooting: C&R License from form to first purchase
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I recently got my Type 03 Federal Firearm License (more commonly called a C&R License).  Stubbornly, I put off getting a Curio and Relics license for years.  Once I saw how easy it was to get one I knew I should have done it decades ago.

If you are interested in older guns, war surplus, or inexpensive guns, then the Curio and Relic FFL ( what C&R stands for) might be something to look into.

There are some misconceptions about this type of federal firearm license.  For some of you there might be some hesitance in getting a license to go about exercising a Constitutional Right.  However, there are a lot of practical benefits of getting such a license.

Practical Benefits of a Curio and Relics License.

A C&R license gives you almost all the benefits of a Type 1 or Dealer FFL. The only two differences are that a Curio Relic license is for guns older than 50 years old that have historical value.  However, some newer guns are also C&R guns depending on historical significance.  You also cannot use this license to engage in the commercial business of dealing guns.

The BATFE Determines if a Gun is a Curio or Relic.

According to the ATF website:

To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:

  • Have been manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof; or
  • Be certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; or
  • Derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or from the fact of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.

They have a published list here:

You Can’t be a Dealer on a C&R License, but You Can Make Occasional Sales

It is also important to know that you CAN sell parts of your collection; you just cannot buy a gun for the specific purpose of selling it. For an example – There are places where you can buy a crate of 20 Mosin Nagant rifles for around $1900, but if you do not have the cash, you cannot make a deal with your 10 buddies to sell them a rifle to make up the difference.

What I like about the type 03 license is that I can order guns directly from distributors and have them shipped to my door without background checks – even from out of state. I can also get the guns at dealer pricing.

As a matter of fact many places like have dealer pricing that is available when you send them a copy of your license. I actually saved more money on the first order on parts from midway then I spent on the license. (Unfortunately I believe Midway and Brownells have discontinued dealer pricing for C&R Licensees.)

The cost of the license is $30 for three years. But as you write the check or put in your credit card, now that the ATF will cash your payment the day they get it, but it may take weeks to months before you get the actual license.

The process to get the C&R license is very easy:

  • Download the application form at the BATFE website.
  • Copy 1 of the download is to be filled out and submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the application fee.
  • Copy 2 of the download is to be filled out and sent to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO)in your community.
    • The CLEO is typically the Chief of Police or Sheriff where you live.
    • The form asks for the CLEO to sign that there is no legal reason you should be denied the license, not that he approves.
    • As long as you can legally own firearms then the CLEO does not have a reason not to sign.
  • Submit your fee and your paperwork

The approval process can take anywhere from about six weeks to three months, depending upon the backlog at the ATF. Once approved, you will need to renew your C&R FFL every three years or anytime you move to a new address.

Once you get your license there are some things to do

(some you can do while you wait)

  • The first thing to do is make a lot of copies of the license.
  • Place the original in a safe place (like your gun safe).
  • It makes it easy if you then sign a copy and scan it as a PDF – you will need to send a signed copy to anyone you use you C&R with, either to buy guns or receive dealer discounts.
  • Next you need to buy a logbook. At the bottom of this article I have a link to the logbook I bought. It is one of the cheaper logbooks, has a lot of room, and is good quality.
    • You must have a logbook, because you have to log each gun you buy on your license. However, if you buy a gun that is not related to your C&R it does not have to be logged (Actually it SHOULD NOT be logged in your C&R log). i.e. If you buy a Gen 4 Glock or some other new manufacture gun do not log them.
    • Any gun purchased on the license must also be logged out when it is disposed of – meaning if you sell something in your collection, you must log who you sold it to, when you sold it, and list the number off some form of government issued identification issued to them – Driver License or FFL number.

Home Visit Misconceptions

Many people say they won’t get an FFL because that allow the Feds to come into your home without a warrant. This is a misconception. The BATFE does have the right to inspect you C&R inventory and log book once a year, but you can bring your paperwork and collection to them.

If you have a Type 01 FFL, they can do one unannounced yearly inspection during your posted business hours, but typically the structure listed on a commercial FFL is not someone’s home.

Getting my Curio license has been worthwhile to me.  Buying a Mosin Nagant at C&R price of $110 including shipping sure $150 for the same gun at a dealer.  One gun makes your money back.

Being able to buy guns and having them shipped to my door is really cool.