I often have clients ask for 450 or 50 Alaskan conversions on Model 71 actions. These are pretty easy conversions, only minor feeding changes are needed, but that is not what this article is about.
The 450 Alaskan, 50 Alaskan, the 348 Ackley Improved or even the 348 Winchester which the Model 71 is normally chambered for produce a fair amount of recoil. You have a relatively light rifle versus the caliber so recoil is stout but manageable with these guns. Model 71 carbines and rifles have been popular with Alaskans ever since they came out. They deliver a powerful cartridge in a handy, fast action, light package, all in all – good bear medicine.
Unfortunately the light package also means the recoil is hard on the gun. The Forend is retained by a small dovetailed hanger under the forend cap. They often become loose over time allowing the forend to rattle and move fore and aft. There are a few things the gunsmith can do to help prevent that problem. First, make sure the forend is fit correctly so that there is no movement when fully assembled. Second, I always put two springs in the back of the forend on either side of the magazine tube that push against the receiver, thus holding the forend tight, preventing any rattle that might develop, despite our best efforts. Finally I make a custom barrel band that is soldered to the barrel and grips the magazine tube tight, preventing any movement under recoil. The barrel band also holds the magazine tight, up against the forearm hanger, which prevents it from twisting or moving during handling or under recoil.
I have seen many old 71s with loose magazine tubes, even though on this action they are threaded into the receiver. It would be a bad day indeed if you fired your first shoot at a charging Kodiak Bear only to find you have launched your magazine at him under recoil. That second shot might be a real problem under such circumstances. As a gunsmith you don’t want a call telling you that the gun you built failed in any such situation.
This is part one of a three part article, we will show you how-to make this barrel band from scratch.