Tradition, Heritage and a Ted Williams Model 3T

posted on December 24, 2015

One of the things that irks me about people who would take away our gun rights is the fact they couldn't care less about tradition and heritage. They also won’t consider or honor it—ever—regardless of the safety rules law-abiding gun owners adhere to and religiously pass on.

My regular readers know I started a project earlier this year to refinish, rebuild and re-blue an old Ted Williams Model 3T. It’s my understanding the rimfire semi-auto— chambered in .22 rimfire and allegedly capable of digesting Shorts, Longs and Long Rifles—was built by Winchester off its Model 190. 

Ted Williams, of course, is the Hall of Fame baseball player whose name appeared on a line of firearms sold by major retailers in the 1960s and 1970s in places like Sears and Roebuck. The company goes by “Sears” now, although it dropped guns long before that change. My mother and aunt worked for the company, and that makes this model more special to me—albeit less valuable to most shooters—than its Winchester clone.

There’s no way to communicate that sort of emotion to anti-gun enthusiasts. They only see a repeating rifle. Naturally, I don’t care about their opinions, so I embarked on a journey to make it good looking enough to become a family hand-me-down, take some squirrels in the youngest grandson’s hands and punch a lot of paper.

It was an interesting project with plenty of lessons. There are more than 30 coats of hand-rubbed, boiled linseed oil on the wood. It’s a mess, but once done nicks and scratches are often remedied with a simple re-application of the oil—ideal for abuse from young shooters. I was frustrated at the process when I called an old friend, Jack Mitchell, for advice. The gunsmith wrote Shooting Illustrated’s Tech Wiz section for a while and knew his stuff. He was sick at the time, but perked up and we spoke for about a half hour. When I hung up he sounded good as new, but it was the last conversation we’d ever have. He died a few weeks later. I’ll never forget his input or the seemingly healthy sound of his voice.

Three or four months and a dozen coats later, I was ready to quit because everything turned ugly satin instead of gloss. Then Cliff Burgess, a good friend from the NRA, sent me pictures of his shotguns with a boiled linseed oil finish. His words of encouragement and gorgeous collection kept me going.

Last week it was time to remove the rust and apply cold bluing. I called Steve Adelmann, who writes the rifle’s column for NRA’s Shooting Illustrated, and asked for advice. He explained the process and warned about pitfalls. I used Blue Wonder and couldn’t believe how effective and attractive it turned out. For anyone trying this at home, though, I’d caution that you should apply more bluing than you think. Mine looked great in the shop lights at night, but it’s just a shade paler than the original when viewed in daylight.

Function tests were about as expected from a blowback-operated gun that hasn’t run in more than a decade, with several stoppages I’ve ironed out. It shoots sweet, though, and like all rimfires just a pleasure to run.

It may never earn family-heirloom status. In a way I received the best gifts of all, remembering how much I miss working with Burgess, a last decent talk with Mitchell and as the recipient of expertise Adelmann has accumulated and continues to apply in his work at Citizen Arms.

That’s heritage and if the gun’s around 50 years from now, it’s just a bonus. Good luck explaining that to your local anti-gun extremist.


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