Ugly Bolt handles are common on “sporterized” rifles from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Fewer gunsmiths forge bolt handles these days than they used to. Forging is the process of heating and bending a military bolt handle to create something more like a commercial gun for sporting use might have.
The main reason for forging a bolt handle is to make it work with a scope. Military bolt handles are often straight or have a 90º downward bend. This works fine for a military rifle with iron sights, not so great with a scope.
Once the bolt handle is forged into the new shape it must be filed and cleaned up to have an aesthetically pleasing look. However, many hobby smiths or guys who are new to the business are not clear on how to do this work and make it look nice.
Some military bolt handles are a little short for forging. A good gunsmith will notice this and will either weld in an extension to make the handle longer, or replace the handle with a better design.
There are several choices for bolt handles in the market place, some are easier to work with than others but they can all produce a nice functional handle with an attractive appearance. Some require more shaping and forming than others.
Dakota bolt handles are the easiest I have found to work with and consistently get an attractive finished product with a reasonable amount of work. They are available in 5 different styles.
- 2 raised panel
- 3 raised panel
Raised panel bolt handles are used by engravers or gunsmiths who want checker the knob of the bolt handle. The raised area makes it easier to checker the knob.
The Universal/Mauser handle is designed to weld onto the square root of a military bolt after the original handle has been cut off. These are very popular and produce a nice looking finished product when the welds are cleaned up and all the lines are blended.
Winchester style knobs emulate the pre-64 Winchester style bolt handle. They have a large flat base that can be adapted to many types of bolts.
Remington style knobs have a base the can be silver soldered onto a Remington bolt to replace the factory knobs that many shooters would prefer to replace. The styling of the knob on these handles is more round with a straight shaft, as apposed to the factory design which is oval and has a dog leg in the shaft. These knobs are not checkered.
All styles arrive “as cast”. They are made from good quality steel that blues nicely when finished. They can also be polished to a nice bright finish if that is your preference.
How to hold the bolt handle for welding. Notice the heat sink in the back of the bolt used to protect the threads during welding.
Since forged handles are often a little short the welded replacement also solves this problem. Anyone practiced at both methods c
ould probably do either in the same amount of time, but the for my money the welded replacement just seems like less work for the result you get.
Dakota bolt knobs are available from http://www.4-dproducts.com.