Tag Archives: Gunsmith

Life is Too Short for Ugly Bolt Handles

Ugly Bolt HandleUgly 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 panelDakota Bolt Handles
  • 3 raised panel
  • Universal/Mauser
  • Winchester
  • Remington

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.

Mauser Bolt Handles Finished

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.

Jig for bolt welding

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.

 

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Learning About Bergara Barrels

Gunsmiths are always looking for sources for quality barrels.  There are several good makers in the United States.  Douglas, Hart, Krieger and  Pac-Nor to name a few.  Bergara is a Spanish barrel maker.  They recently purchased new equipment that have allowed them to expand operations both in Spain and the U.S.

Shooters of the T.C. Encore™ have probably heard of Bergara Barrels, because they manufacture replacement barrels for the famous Encore™ pistols and rifles.   Accuracy reports from these barrels have been very good.  Of late Bergara USA is offering much more, including tapered barrel blanks for gunsmiths.

Prices are comparable to other barrels in the marketplace.

The video below is an introduction to the manufacturing processes used by Bergara to make barrels.  Pretty interesting if you have never seen a barrel made.  Bergara has invested in some new high-tech gun drills and equipment to manufacture quality barrels in a less labor intensive process.

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P.O. Ackley and the Trinidad Gunsmithing School

In post World War II, veterans were looking for a way to receive training so that they could start new careers.  Untold numbers of vets wrote to P.O. Ackley requesting training.

Tom Elliot_1947

Ackley returned home from a vacation to find a huge pile of mail on a desk in his office, all from men seeking a chance to learn gunsmithing.  P.O. had tried to train a few men in his business but found that it was counterproductive.  He took the mountain of mail to the Junior College in Trinidad and suggested they start a school to deal with the hundreds of G.I.s who had returned home and had veterans benefits to spend for training.

The school agreed to set up a program and in short order the first round or classes began.  P.O. Ackley taught at the school for the first three years of it’s operation.  He also helped choose instructors who could pass along quality training to the vets.

Ackley left Trinidad in 1951 when his business was sold to an out of state concern.  But the school lives on and is still training gunsmiths today.

A new book on P.O. Ackley will be available in 2017, it will cover his entire career.  From 1936 to 1989 Ackley manufactured scope mounts and barrels, he wrote articles and books, and he was “The Gunsmith’s Gunsmith”.  No other gunsmith of the 20th century was as influential in the firearms trade.  Six years of research have produced an amazing amount of new and interesting information.  You may think you know about Ackley, but trust me, when you read this book you will learn so much more…  

Book has recently been published, “P.O. Ackley, America’s Gunsmith”

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8th Annual Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair

This conference has become an important part of the firearms trade, helping gunsmiths and employers to locate each other.

The Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair is the perfect venue for prospective, student or working gunsmiths to interact the with industry’s top employers and personalities. Further, it’s great opportunity for those firearm-related companies looking for qualified gunsmiths, or to show off their products to key customers. As in year’s past, there will be no charge for individuals or companies to attend. The industry-exclusive event will again be held at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines, Iowa, April 1-2, 2014.

In addition to the unique networking and potential employment opportunities, the Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair will feature a host of seminars ranging from firearm-specific topics to business tips for gun shop owners.

Among the speakers already signed up are Steve Sanetti, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Les Baer, owner of Les Baer Custom, Stan Chen, owner of Stan Chen Custom, Jason Hornady, Vice President of Hornady Manufacturing, and legendary gunsmiths and gunmakers Joe Balickie, Jerry Fisher, Ron Power, Sharon Dressel and more. Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Manufacturing will deliver the keynote address at Wednesday evening’s banquet.

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Tricks the Pros Use When Rechambering a Barrel.

Chamber with ejector removed.

Many a chamber reamer has been damaged or broken when a novice gunsmith tried to rechamber a barrel with an extractor or ejector cut.  In this post I will explain how to get a high quality job without danger of damaging the reamer.

At right is the breech end of an NEF barrel that is about to be rechambered.  The mistake that is commonly made is to try to insert the chamber reamer into this existing chamber without preparing the chamber area.  Reamers are not made to work on an interrupted cut such as an extractor cut.  Trying to use a conventional drill bit will not work in this situation either, it will simply do a lot of damage and make a mess of the job.

There are two easy ways to handle this problem and end up with a nice clean chamber.

  1. Use a piloted counterbore to cut a recess that will accept the chamber reamer, eliminating the extractor cut.  The problem with this method is that you would need a specialty tool for every shoulder diameter that you might decide to rechamber for.
  2. Place the barrel in the lathe and use a boring bar or a simple boring tool ground for the purpose.  This method has the advantage of working on any cartridge combination that you might encounter.

Measure the bore to work with the reamer.

Bore out the area of the extractor cut to a dimension very close that of the shoulder diameter of the reamer you will be using.  The idea again is to prevent the reamer from cutting an interrupted cut.  As the shoulder of the reamer engages the chamber it will then cut uniformly and without chatter.  If you attempt to cut the chamber without performing this preparation each flute of the reamer will bang against the extractor cut as it comes around.  In most cases this will at a minimum damage the reamer, worst case it will brake the reamer.

hand ground boring tool.

At right is a simple hand ground lathe bit that will work for this job.  The under side of the tool must be relieved so that it can clearance the inside of the chamber area.  This is a finesse job, only remove as much as you need to get the reamer in full contact with the barrel.

What it looks like when bored correctly.

Here is the chamber area after the boring work is done and before the reamer has been used.  Note that we did not cut away any unnecessary material, only that which will make the reamer cut properly.

Chatter is a common complaint when rechambering a barrel.  The pilot is often either not engaged in the bore of the barrel or it does not fit the barrel properly.  Proper pilot diameter is .0005″ to .001″ smaller than the bore diameter (across the lands).  This allows for a slip fit to the bore.  An undersized pilot will promote chatter.

Finished chamber

A simple way to stop chatter that will not damage the tool is to wrap the reamer with a strip of wax paper.  The wax paper acts as a dampener against the chatter which is caused by vibration.  Do use cutting oil as normal when using the wax paper.

The chamber below completely cleaned up the old rim cut from the rimmed cartridge.  Of course the extractor would have to be modified for the rimless case.

Side note:  Reamers for straight wall cases like black powder and pistol type cartridges are prone to damage from the problems addressed in this post.  In addition they are prone to damage near the rim cutter when chips become trapped in the extractor cut.  So if your working with such reamers take extra care to keep chips cleared, especially when nearing the last few cuts.

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A Couple of Lessons on Chamber Reamers

Forced pilot is damaged

Chamber reamers are pretty complex tools that incorporate all the features of the chamber into one form cutting tool.

At right is pictured the tip of a chamber reamer.  You can see from left to right the shoulder, neck, throat, and pilot.  Note that the pilot appears to be short for the reamer.  It was not short when the pilot bushing was new.

A novice used this tool, the bushing was too tight a fit for the bore.  Proper fit is .0005″ to .001″ under the bore diameter.  That makes for a nice slip fit of the bushing to the bore of the barrel.  The pilot bushing rides on the lands of the barrel.

How do I know the bushing was too tight for the bore?

Evidence of poor pilot fit.

Simple, the bushing was forced back onto the cutting edge hard enough that the throat actually cut the back of the pilot.  Note in the picture at left, the same busing off the reamer.  You can see where the tool cut the bushing.  This portion of the reamer is not very sharp as it was never intended to cut anything.  So that is how I know this bushing was forced into a tight bore.

The primary reason for using removable pilot bushings is so that you can match the pilot to the bore of your barrel.  No need to force things.

You know this guy has no idea how a reamer works…

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The reamer at right was “sharpened” by a “gunsmith”.  The large flat running down the center of the picture has two grinds.  The fat grind closer to the top of the picture us a relief grind, meaning it will never touch the barrel, it is clearance ground to make sure that chips will not get caught behind the cutting edge.

The narrow grind just below the relief grind is where the actual cutting edge is located.  This grind is also relief ground just slightly.  Only the very edge where the grind meets the flute is actually touching the barrel during chambering.  If you stone on the outside grinds of the reamer the dimensions change very quickly because the geometry of the cutting edge and the clearance grind.  Never stone on the outside edge unless you have been trained to do so.

If you look inside the flute on top of the cutting edge where the chips gather during cutting that is the area that you can stone without changing the dimensions of the reamer (in the picture here that would be visible above the grinds we just discussed, of course each flute is one cutting edge).  Again, because of the geometry of the reamer stoning on this inside edge changes dimensions such a tiny amount that it should not create any problems with chamber size if you don’t get carried away.  Normally all that is needed is the cleaning of metal built up on the cutting edge, no real stoning of the reamer itself.

When I look at the picture of the reamer above, I laugh because you can see where the “gunsmith” stoned on the relief grind.  Since this part of the reamer never touches the barrel at anytime it is clear that this guy had no idea how the tool works.  If you don’t know how a tool works, it’s a safe bet you have no business trying to sharpen it.  Send it to the reamer maker if your not sure, its cheaper that an angry customer.

Want to learn more on the subject of headspace, chambering and firearms?  Here are some books that will cut right to the chase.

Here is another Post on this subject.

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Interview with 4D Reamer Rentals LTD

Our sponsor for this blog is 4D Reamer Rentals Inc. It recently occurred to me that we have never talked specifically about 4D to share the services and products that they offer to the shooting public as well as the gunsmith community. So, here goes…

Q. Tell us how you came to own 4D Reamer Rentals?

A. In 2004 the then owner of 4D had half jokingly offered to sell me his company. He was a little surprised when I said I was interested but we worked out a deal and in 2005 I bought the company from him. The rest as they say is history.

Q. Who rents reamers? I would think gunsmiths would buy their own?

We rent to professional gunsmiths as well as hobbyists.

Professionals do buy their own tooling, but nobody can have every tool and many calibers you may only build one or two in your entire career, so it just does not pay to buy such tools. On top of that the chambers popular in one vicinity are not in another. So we provide top quality tools and save everyone both time and money. These days time is often the biggest issue with delivery times from the makers stretching out to several months.

We suggest that gunsmiths purchase the reamers they will use over and over again and rent the rest. It’s probably obvious that hobby gunsmiths really feel the pinch from expensive tools, so they normally rent reamers and gauges to save money.

Q. What are the most popular tools that you rent?

A. The answer is often surprising to people. We check the top rentals at least once a year. It helps us keep inventory levels correct. The top ten rental are always made up of standard cartridges like 30-06, 280 Remington, 300 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, 260 Remington, .308 Winchester, and 6.5×55 Swedish.

I guess it’s not sexy, shooters see to expect the answer to be wildcats. I believe availability of brass and ammo is going to drive popularity of cartridges and therefore our rentals. These common cartridges are the same calibers that the big manufacturers keep in the line up, because they sell.

Pretty consistently the 280 Ackley Improved slips into the top ten as well, but it is one of the few “wildcat” calibers that ranks regularly. There is some controversy surrounding this cartridge but it’s really a no brainer (click here to read about the controversy).

Q. How many reamers do you really stock?

A. We currently have over 675 reamers on hand and continue to add new tools all the time. We stock multiple reamers for the more popular calibers. Even with all those tools there are still more we can add, and nearly every year the factories add one or two new cartridges, so its really never ending. Every tool you see on our list is in the collection, although sometimes they are out on rental, we do everything we can to minimize waiting time.

Q. Does the cost of rental plus the deposits scare off a lot of potential customers?

A. It shouldn’t, that’s one of the items that we work to explain all the time. When a client orders through out web site, which is an automated shopping cart, they will see the deposit amounts displayed on the screen. There is an explanation posted as well that the deposit is not collected at the time the order is place, but rather is the maximum liability the client is agreeing to plus the rental.

Because the web site is automated it has to charge the credit or debit card at the time the order is placed. The site then drops the card information for security. When clients order via phone we do not charge the card at the time of order. However, all the same deposits apply.

So to answer your question directly. The deposits should not scare anyone off, since we do not collect them at the time the order is placed. It would be a nightmare for us to collect and return deposits on hundreds of orders, so we trust our clients to be honorable if sadly something does break or get lost. Most folks in the gun business are of the highest moral caliber, so it’s seldom a problem when a tool is damaged or broken.

Q. Are reamer and headspace gauges the only tools you offer for rental?

A. We offer much more than that. We have sight pushers for pistols, Shotgun choke reamers and taps, specialty taps and dies for muzzle breaks and the like. T-handle extension for reamers, so you can ream through the action, tap handles and die stocks. Specialty tools for AR-15 work. New tools are added all the time.

Q. So everything you offer is rental only?

A. We sell things too. Things like Cerosafe® chamber casting metal, Dakota bolt handles and grip caps, and Savage barrel nuts are all stock items we offer for the convenience of our clients.

Savage drop in barrel have become a very popular addition to our listings. We can chamber for any caliber that we have a reamer for, so we offer more cartridges in Savage pre-fits than anyone. Barrel suppliers can vary widely in delivery time, so we buy from three different makers to help deal with time constraints. Delivery times can be as short as 4 weeks, best to call for an actual quote.

Q. Are all Savage barrels special order then?

A. Mostly. We keep a small stock of barrels, they can be found on the web site under the “For Sale” menu heading. Then look for “Barrels on Hand”. We normally keep the blanks unchambered but threaded and tapered, that way you can pick a barrel and have it chambered for the caliber of your choice.

Q. What about services, anything besides the rental of tools?

A. Sure, we offer rechamber work on single shot barrels for guns that allow the easy removal of the barrel. We do not accept rifles in the shop only barrels, because we do not have or want an FFL. We have a suggested chambering page on the web site that can help customers decide what cartridge will work best for their barrel. Of course there might be other options, we often help with the selection of cartridges.

Q. So what guns are we talking about rechambering for?

A. New England Firearms (NEF), H&R Handi Rifles, Rossi, Thompson Contender or Encore barrels.

We have a flat rate for rechamber work, we do charge a little more when extractor work is needed. We do some rescue work when clients have tried a project without really knowing how to do the work. We are of course limited mostly by the existing chamber and the available chambers we can choose from. These guns are not suited to the fat magnums like WSM, and Rum designs, so we will not chamber them.

We often have folks send in Savage 110 style barrel for rechamber to new calibers. Even the new Axis rifle utilizes the same barrel threads and nut system. We have reworked both factory barrels and custom barrels that were not offered in the clients caliber of choice. It’s pretty cheap in comparison to having a custom rifle built, that’s why the Savage guns are so popular.

Q. Where do you see the rental business going in the future?

A. Well if the past is any indication, it will continue to grow. As tools and other operating costs continue to skyrocket people will continue to look for ways to save time and money. Since we specialize in saving you both time and money, the future is bright. We plan continued growth.

An added bonus for the gun industry is the addition of untold thousands of new shooters who have joined our ranks the last half dozen years or so. As these shooters become more knowledgeable they start to have guns modified and rebarreled. It just means more work for gunsmiths everywhere.

To see everything the 4D Reamer Rentals has to offer check out their web site:  www.4-dproducts.com

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Annular Cutter. (turning your barrel for a brake without a lathe).

This is a tool that was designed for a different purpose.  Most of the references that describe there use talk about using them with a magnetic drill.  So this would be more common in a large fabrication than in a gun shop.

Cutting muzzle diameter

Annular Cutter at work.

This tool sometimes called a Rotabroach® cutter, is one of those tools that somebody realized had a crossover use.  Gun lovers have figured out that they can be used in the place of a lathe to reduce the diameter of the muzzle of a barrel.  Normally a lathe would be used for this work, however not everyone can afford a lathe.

There might be some expedient times with such a tool would be more useful than a lathe.  If you have ever had to train an employee you know that the easiest process with minimum opportunity for error is a good choice.  I could see a production facility using the annular cutter because it’s hard to make a mistake.

Prepairing to cut

Be sure to use cutting oil.

Piloting the tool makes it an easy tool to use.  The cutting speed is best kept slow, so a hand drill will work just fine with this tool.  Depending on the actual cutter they can cut as deep as 1 or 2 inches.  Normally you do not want to cut that far back on the barrel, most brakes ask for a .500″ to .560″ length for the threaded portion.  Simply mark how far you want to run the cutter back on the barrel.

These tools are aggressive and sharp so keep the rpm under 250.  Plenty of cutting oil is to be used on the pilot, barrel and cutter.  Because the pilots are long and extend a long distance into the barrel they are very good and helping align the tool.  However, you still need to keep the tool aligned to the barrel or you can do damage to the tool, pilot, barrel, or all three.  If the tool binds at all check your alignment, you may be pushing the tool to one side.

Stop several times during the process and clear away the chips and re-oil the cutter and pilot.  If the tool is “bites”  and wants to stop you are probably running a little too slow, increase the rpm a little and slow the feed.

Setting up for a muzzle brake.

Muzzle of Nagant barrel after the annular cutter.

Once the new muzzle diameter is created you can install a gas block, or thread for a muzzle brake as you desire.  There are several tools available for different diameters of muzzles and various pilots for calibers.  Common calibers are .223. 5.45mm, and 30 Caliber.

4D Reamer Rentals LTD has added a variety of sizes of this tool and a bunch of dies and guides as well so you can use these on a variety of guns and calibers.

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New: Release Agent for Glass Bedding Rifles

4D Reamer Rentals LTD. has a long history or providing quality tools for gunsmithing.

Recently they provided me with a test sample of their latest product.  Its a release agent for use with glass bedding products.  I have tried it with several bedding compounds and other epoxy products.  Results have been great, not only does it release as any such agent should, it does so with no oily film either on the metal or the stock.

Release Agent Kit

http://www.4-dproducts.com is offering this release agent for glass bedding projects. No Hazard fees to ship.

I’m not going to tell you this is the “only” release agent to use.  But is has a couple of advantages I want to point out.  First, it is a green product.  I don’t buy into everything about the green movement, but I do like to use products that  are not hazardous to my health.  I figure I am exposed to enough junk on a daily basis, there is no reason to purposely add to the mix.

This product is at worst a mild irritant.  Some similar products require hazard fees to ship, 4D’s release agent does not.  They ship it with a sprayer that makes it easy to apply.  You just mix the concentrate they ship 4 to 1 with Isopropyl alcohol (which the customer provides locally) and put it in the sprayer.  It takes a short time to dry, that is probably the one down side.  I just sprayed the parts before I mixed my compound and the parts were ready to go by the time I was ready for them.

The  professional grade spray system that comes with the release agent has countless applications, disposable, recyclable, easy to clean and where no compressor is available its a God send.  4D sells the sprayers and replacement parts separately too.

How the sprayer operates is simple, release agent, liquid, or paint product is pulled from a removable, refillable Product Container. The pressure comes from the top part called the “Power Unit”, contained separately from the “Product Container”. A dip tube runs through the Power Unit and into the Product Container pulling up whatever you are spraying.

The product container is a glass bottle with graduations so it’s easy to mix or measure the product you plan to spray.  This is a great option for somebody who does not have a compressor or needs a field expedient solution.  I like this product.

 

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NRA Gunsmithing Schools come to Flathead Valley in Montana

FVCC Logo

The newest addition to the NRA Gunsmithing Schools is at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana.  This school is being ramrodded by Brandon Miller, who ran the NRA School for Murray State College in Oklahoma for a while.  So, you have experienced management and the instructors are very experienced as well, with a wide variety of expertise.

Everything from Basic Gun Safety, to machine shop, glass bedding rifles, and classes on the 1911.  Much more is listed in the brochure which you can download from the web site linked below.

These short term classes allow professionals to take a little time off from business to expand their abilities, or for the hobbyist its a great way to learn the specifics your interested in.  Either way its a convenient way to learn with classes normally running for 5 days or less.

Check out the list of Classes being offered at FVCC this summer at this link.  I just talked to the staff at the college, and as of today there is still room in many of the classes.  Take a vacation and have some fun.

 

 

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Filed under accuracy, Firearms, Gunsmithing, How To, Pistol, Rifles, tools, wildcat