Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Getting a (purple) grip on the Contender! or We still can't drill straight holes

Note: For those looking for the other parts to the Poly choke project I will have the rest of those up this month. That project requires testing yet and the weather and my range visists have not been friends lately.

Bit of the back story.....
     The Thompson Center Contender is one of those guns I knew someday I would have. Well that day came a few years back and I obtained a nice SS gun with a nice SS 10" hornet barrel and ken Light sights. A good start but soon after....as I was warned with getting one of these... barrels started coming and coming.....and coming as I continued to upgrade and experiment. I have had the gun only 2 years or so now and have had about 10 or 11 barrels come through my hands while I experiment and see what I like. Some I sent down the road after just trying them on the frame....the super light 10" octagonal 30-30 and .44 mag barrel did not appeal to my hands at all. But the topic of the versatility of the TC Contender is for another post. One barrel I know I wanted to get AND keep was a .22 match chambered barrel and then put a Williams target knob rear sight on it. This would be for practicing one handed olympic style pistol shooting. Something I don't exactly intend to compete against others in but practicing one handed shooting and building up those muscles and skill never hurt.

 A few months into my looking I got lucky and a gentleman replied to my want ad with the williams sight  and a barrel in STAINLESS for what I thought was a fair price. When I took it out to the range I could tell this barrel would have a lot to teach me in marksmenship, it was not forgiving. The custom colored grips I got off a guy online which were excellent for two handed shooting lacked the real-estate for one handed support. These grips were made of some sort of very durable composite and tended to be slippery. I knew I wouldn't find exactly what I was looking for so I decided I needed to make my own set of grips. Is this a solution  without a problem? Well in a way "yes" and "no"...I could get rubber grips and modify them to my liking but I wouldn't learn anything from doing that. Anyways I finally had some down time to research the kind of wood I wanted to use to make some nice grips for myself. And settle on a style of grip as well. The wood search went on for awhile until I found somebody else online who had made a set of grips from "purple heart". More about purple heart HERE But anyways I got online and found a supplier who had "bowl blanks" in the size I deemed I needed for my custom grips. 4x6x6".  

3 blocks of "purple heart" wood more than enough for several grip projects
Careful use of a protractor in finding the various angles of the frame and how they relate to the bore axis will aid us in setting the block up in the mill vise correctly.

Setting the block up in the mill vise for the first frame cut

Frame cut being made

A view of the releif cut for the frame and spring

"Purple Heart" sawdust after being heated turns VERY purple

Opps, you cant see really but the set screw hole down inside the bigger hole was drilled off center
I ran into a problem in trying to drill the hole for the grip screw through the whole block. The problem is the drill bit I used walked on me. After some thought a friend offered some drill bushings to try and correct the problem. Some modifications of the bushings and I thought we were on our way.


more bushings!

Looooong drill....that still tended to walk...back to the drawing board.

 At this point the drill bit still wanted to walk off course. So I have stopped the project for now to try and come up with a solution, the best of which to me seems like I will be drilling out the whole block or most of it...until the very bottom of the grip to the diameter of the round frame stud or slightly under. Then drilling a set screw hole through a wood dowel or perhaps plastic or aluminum rod and setting that into place inside the purple heart block. I'll ponder solutions a bit more before I move forward....

Friday, April 25, 2014

Polychoke: A throttle for your scattergun - part 2

Before I continue on with this Polychoke project some correspondence with the company has brought some information to light that I think should be shared here. First of all the Polychoke is best installed at the factory, as of this writing it only costs $65 for them to do it and it is what they do for a living. As I have learned from this project there is a lot more that goes into the installation of these than is thought from the get go. Second, the choke element that is the part that is threaded to the barrel comes in 3 different sizes I feel like few people know this and do not understand that they are also not marked with what size choke element you have. The diameter of your barrel determines the choke size you will need, something to keep in mind when purchasing a USED polychoke. You have to know what the internal diameter of the choke element is in order to see how it matches up with your barrel. There is a number stamped on the choke element, this has nothing to do with the size of the choke or what it goes to. Those numbers were a reference system the company used with the shops that installed the chokes.

More information on the polychoke and its installation may be made available as this project progresses. On with the project!

My goal with this project is to have a short(er) field barrel than the long full choke barrel I have now. This might not be the best balanced barrel when it is all said and done but it will be compact and better for my needs all around on my favorite 870 which I have grown exceedingly fond of in the last few years. The shotgun continues to impress me as to its versatility even though its not very economical in weight of ammo vs game harvested. I looked to polychoke when I realized this barrel was not going to pattern well without the help of some external forces. This post in the project will show the barrel, and the beginnings of the fitting process.

Shortened 870 barrel shown with practice stub from another barrel project threaded and test fitted with the Polychoke.

The Polychoke will add approximately 1.5" in length to the barrel, we will be keeping this in mind as we work making sure we maintain a 18" MINIMUM barrel length when we are all said and done, ideally you want to be 18" and some change over. Installing with high temp solder or welding the choke in place will make it permanent which is required by law to be considered part of the barrel.

Ready for turning and threading

The barrel as it started in the project. 

Long vernier calipers can come in handy when laying out minimums. Making sure to keep in mind its best to be over by 1/4" with shotgun and rifle barrels.

Turning to nominal thread diameter everything looks good here!
I somehow lost pictures of threading the barrel at this point, and then I realized that upon test fitting I had messed up. The live center I used was in poor shape and I think it cause the barrel to be just a fuzz off......sooooooo we need set the barrel back 1/2" and try again. Not a big deal, we still have plenty of barrel to work with.

Parents....talk to your kids about hacksaws before somebody else does.....

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Just screwing around

I had a guy asking for some replacement stock screws for a Mosin Nagant 91/30 a while ago and having none left in my parts bins I decided it was time to make some.  Not wanting to make them out of the 0-1 I had on hand I secured some 3/8" cold rolled round stock from a good friend who works for one of the big metal suppliers here in town. The general rule with stock screws is that you want the material to be softer than what the receiver is, the idea being the screw is a consumable....the receiver not so much. If the screw was harder than the receiver you might run into some problems.

Anyways on with the screwing around......First determine the rough dimensions by carefully measuring and double checking before cutting, Or if you have a sample already just hold the thing up to the bar stock and mark it with a sharpie....either way works just well for these old war horses.

Classic Sharpie layout
 I used a rounded general turning HSS tool for turning the cold rolled round stock, cold rolled tends to tear easily, its hard to get good cuts on the steel if you're not used to the stuff. I managed to use a rounded general turning tool with slow speeds and feeds with lots of oil and excellent results (I think).
I did not have a square right hand facing tool ground so I was just using a "general turning tool"
 This spring/summer is going to see some changes in the shop, I am finally going to build a proper tool grinding station with a rest. I have been needing one for a long time and its way past due. If you know half of anything about proper lathe tools you'll realize I am making more work out of this than is really needed and not using the carbide tool below correctly. This should be fixed once I get my tool grinding station built.

Backwards way to square up the shoulder of the screw, not proper but it works.
 Using a parting tool we slowly cut the completed screw away from the rest of the round stock. After this we will will take the bolt to a 1/4" (the screw is slightly over 1/4" but it still works) collet and slightly dome the head, radius it and prepare for slotting.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Here we see the newly threaded screw being parted from the rest of the round stock.

Uhhhhhh, How do they put the slot in?

These little slitting saws are great for soft steel, aluminum and other soft metals/materials. Here we begin the slotting for the flat head screwdriver. 

What we end up with after slotting.  Could be a wider slot though any wider and it becomes easier to mess it up. 

In the white new front and rear stock screws for the Mosin Nagant 91/30

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Poly-Choke: A throttle for your scattergun

 Here is a brief introduction into the next project I will attempt to document on here. My problem is I do so much so fast sometimes the camera is often not thought of until the project is done and well, lets admit it a gun blog is boring without pictures.

 The following will show the installation and maybe pattern testing of a Poly-Choke device. "Poly" means many, (like polynomials for educated folks out there....or polygamy for those who like to count past 2 and don't mind factoring a "x" or two).....bad math joke sorry.  The poly-choke is designed to give you options in the pattern your shotgun disperses depending on the situation you find yourself in. Out rabbit hunting in close brush? Turn it down to Cylinder...rabbit jumps and you don't pick it up right away? Crank it up to full and let loose.

Shown below is a "stubbed" poly-choke. "Stubbed" refers to the section of barrel that remains installed in the choke, how its installed I am not sure. It can be sweated on with solder (or jb welded on if somebody got lazy) OR it could be threaded on.  The poly-choke was given to me by a gentleman from Texas who thought I could get more use out of it than he was. He did not know however how in fact the choke was previously installed. The point is this poly-choke was on a gun previously and removed, by cutting it off with a hacksaw with enough of the barrel sticking out so the next guy can remove it and reuse the choke which is what we plan to do.

Remove outside sleeve.

Choke collet  and barrel stub shown

At this point we are needing to firmly secure the choke in a barrel vice to remove the barrel stub. The steel pipe shown opposite the  choke will keep the clamping action from focusing on the center of the vice, it will instead focus it on the thick portion of the choke protecting the collet.

 With top vice sleeve in place the top bracket of the vice is replaced and secured.

A little heat to see if solder or anything else comes out....some good old fashion torque on the stub with some shocking action and presto! The barrel stub turned out to be threaded into the choke....this revelation will require me to gain some more information on the thread pitch (which I am pretty sure is 40 TPI but want to double check) max and min barrel diameters and some other factors that may have to be taken in to consideration for the next phase of this project. The idea is to restore a 870 barrel back to having a choke, the vent ribbed full choke barrel met its demise when a few inches of its previous 26" barrel were removed for home defense use via hacksaw. Making the barrel effectively a cylinder choked gun, useless if you already have a riot barrel and need a field barrel which is what I am lacking currently.

Stubbed portion of barrel shown un-threading from Poly-Choke.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Junkyard bullets go on a diet: Or : The short and sweet of making your own

Its not like I've been avoiding the thought that one day I would need to start swagging lighter .224" bullets. Its just that I was avoiding the fact I would never find a vast source of .22 short brass to easily convert to short jackets. My frequent "want to buy" signs at gun shows and pleads for .22 short brass to use as jackets have remained unanswered for two years now. I finally realized that I was not going to get any help on this and with the addition of a 1:12 twist single shot .223 rifle that keyholed 61gr bullets the issue was kind of forced. I wanted to make this rifle SHOOT and after looking at reloading manuals at  just how fast I could shove a 35gr bullet out of a .223 I thought to myself "could be fun". For those of you who do not have a manual close at hand we're talking speeds of 3700-4100 fps. This is well over the speed I've been told these "junkyard" bullets would shoot at and stay together. For my "test of theory" I quickly made a trim jig to cut down my homemade jackets to around .450" using a 3/4" X 3/4" X 6" pine block with a hole drilled in it and a roll pin shoved in as a depth stop, allowing a nail to be used to eject the jackets after they were cut I was on my way to cut up some jackets. For this first batch I trimmed 10 jackets and scrounged some lead wire to swage into cores. My first mistake in making the cores was realizing the jackets were now lighter, my first 4 bullets turned out to be super light 32gr bullets these would for sure clock around 4000 fps......the next 5 bullets were 35gr and I junked one bullet when just messing around, we swagged it backwards to see what kind of nose would form and the shape it would take.

I shot these test bullets with WC-844 weighed at 26gr for use in aforementioned .223 Remington Handi Rifle. I got a few on paper even though it was in the single digits out at the range, wind was blowing and the snow drift between me and the targets came up to my knees. The few that finally printed on the edge of the paper gave me great hope in pursuing these. This is the first taste of  lighter bullets being made in the dies I have on hand. The next step is to build a improved cutting jig (another post in it of itself) and perhaps the making of a 4s Ogive (more appropriate bullet nose shape for lighter bullets) swage die. My goal is to get good accuracy with these "free bullets" out of my .223 as well as my Hornet Calibers . So here is the little teaser picture of the tiny 32 and 35 grain bullets that I'm sure flew into little bits of shrapnel as they hit the frozen backstop, the fact I used # 7 1/2 bird shot to make up the weight in the 35gr bullets didn't help I'm sure. Notice the large hollow point in these guys, a ballistic tip I'm sure would aid their BC greatly. Anybody know where I can get a bunch of Ski plugs?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shotgun slug pursuit

 The start of my 12ga Slug adventures began a few years ago when I concluded the tests of my buckshot loads. After I had my buckshot load the natural progression would take me to slugs. I tried some loads out of the book with some various lyman and lee projectiles but have had little luck in getting accuracy and the speed I wanted. Since then I dropped the idea for awhile to focus on other stuff, Late this past fall and early winter I decided to pick up the slug challenge again and started by using the same load I used for my buckshot but using a Federal 12SO wad with a 1oz slug.  I roll crimped the slug using AA economy hulls and since the roll crimp on top of a previous fold crimp kind of destroys the hulls  I considered them disposable since they were dirt cheap (free).  Anyways, The first 2 shots were pretty dead on the X if you ask me (with a bead sighted riot barrel), if I remember right I started out at 50 yards then moved back. The issue is the further I moved back the slugs drifted more and more to the right and up. At 100 yards it ended up near a foot right and a foot high. So I guess I have more figuring out to do.  Might just be me, might be the gun or the ammo...or a healthy mix of the me and the ammo, the gun is pretty sound.

My goal is to get  a >1200fps 1oz slug with good accuracy at 100 yards, faster than 1200 would be good. In practical terms a slug that duplicates the factory would be great but to be honest with myself the factory slugs are a little abusive if you're shooting multiples in jack-ass positions during matches.  (If you don't know what a jack-ass position is I highly recommend you read "The art of the rifle" by Jeff Cooper Here is a amazon link to the book for reference only, I'm not advertising for Amazon.

As always follow proper loads and procedures, this is what I used and my results, I am not advising you to duplicate this load as it is not found in any load book.
Lee 1 Oz slug
Green Dot 21.5Gr
Cheddite 209
AA Economy (steel) hull
Federal 12SO wad
Roll crimped.

First 2 shots landed on the X, after that the shots migrated right and high, Note .44 mag impacts from contender testing to the left.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Loading with a Lee Load-All II shotgun press

   The following is a picture heavy step by step "how to" load a shotgun shell on a Lee Load-All II shotshell press. This is basic stuff, I have already installed the correct shot and powder bushing as reviewed in THIS post on my blog. This is to show both instructions on the use of the press and just how simple it can be to "roll your own". If you want info on loading buckshot 12ga "OO" buckshot on the cheap click HERE
We start with a spent hull.

Slip the sizer ring over the hull so the notched end is towards the top.

Place hull into "station 1" and pull down the handle all the way if you feel a hard stop re-position the hull as it may not be centered with the depriming unit, this can be common on 20ga and 16ga hulls.

Hull has been sized and deprimed in station one, now grab a primer!

Push start the primer into the hull so it will seat straight.

Place hull in station 2 and pull down smoothly on the handle, At this point you have primed the hull and removed the sizing ring off of the hull.

Sizing ring pushed up hull.

Slip the ring off the hull and place it nearby where you will grab it after this shell is loaded.

Place the hull in the third station. Pull down handle, and with the powder/shot bar starting at the left (with shot insert showing) move the bar to the right. * NOTE- if at this point you are not sure of your powder charge refer back to my earlier post on the Load-All

Powder charge has been dropped. Now for the wad, let up on the handle and grab your shot wad.

Shot wad in place, pull down on the handle until you feel the wad seat. It is important now to be consistent with your wad seating pressure between loads so try to do it the same every time.

The wad is in place and the handle is down lets drop some shot, move the powder/shot bar back to the left this drops the shot.

Moving the hull to the forth station try and position it so that one of the star crimp dents is closest to you. This helps ensure a well formed crimp every time. Pull the handle down (the station directly behind this station is for starting either 6 or 8 star crimps depending on what gauge you are using)

Move the loaded round to the final stage and pull down on the handle, you will get the feel for it after awhile. You have now completed a loaded round of 20ga birdshot ready for the field! After some practice this can be done quickly. You might not save a lot of money over the economy loads but you can tailor payloads to your gun and try various combinations, if you start loading buckshot and slugs you can save a LOT of money quickly. 

A trick to the Lee Load-All shotshell press

   In a previous post about loading buckshot (found here) I used a Lee Load-All II shotgun press that I had purchased new. If you have found yourself with one of these presses (which you can get cheap used) this post is a overview of how best to go about getting started with your selected load. As well as 2 handy tricks for getting where you need to be with your selected powder charge.  The first trick is how to make sure you get consistent powder drops the second is how to switch out powder bushings without much hassle.

This pair of Lee Load-II shotshell presses able to load 12ga,20ga and 16ga cost me under $100

Before I go any further there are better presses out there to mass produce shotgun ammo on, I have gone with the Lee Load-All for the simple fact that I do not want a larger machine taking up space nor do I want one that has all the bells and whistles, if you have read much more of my blog you will understand I like simplicity. Also the 2 presses I have now plus their conversion heads have combined cost me under $100....thats $100 for two presses that can load 3 gauges.

The Lee Load-All is a simple press that comes with everything you need (except components) including powder and shot bushings. When I had obtained my first Lee Load-All it came in 20ga....now I didn't need a shotpress in 20ga....I needed 12ga. Luckily Cabela's conveniently stocked the 12ga conversion head there as well......I smelled a bit of a marketing scheme but I digress.  The Fact the press is easily converted between gauges appealed to me. I later on purchased a 16ga conversion head so now I had one press the size of a long thin shoe box that could load 12ga, 20ga, and 16ga......pretty slick huh? I wont get into the parts swapping of the conversion here (just yet)  but you know the story, you get tired of changed around the parts and start looking for another press. A few months back I stumbled upon another press, this one was set up in 16ga and was missing the sizer ring, had everything else bushings and even the instructions, but was missing the sizer ring. No bother I had a complete 16ga conversion already so I slapped down my $8 for the lot (I did say you could get them cheap, didn't I?). Since I don't even own a 16ga shotgun I decided to convert the press over to 20ga so now I would have a dedicated 12ga and 20ga press.........the 20ga press will get converted whenever I need to load 16ga ammo.

The priming system on the LA can be upgraded to a primmer feeder as pictured below, this allows you to load a couple dozen primers and with a simple jiggle and lift of the trough you will feed the next primer that will automatically be seated with you move the shell into the 2nd station.
Lee offers this primer feeder (red trunk looking thing) for the 209 primer, handy if loading a lot of ammo

Pictured in the 2nd bay from the left is the standard primer seating stem.
 The powder and shot bushings are in Lee Precision fashion, formed plastic. These are labeled with numbers, as I will get into here in a bit you will find the powder bushings are off by what the chart claims causing you to throw a lighter charge of powder than you were wanting, I will show how you can quickly get to the powder charge you want without undue hassle (like emptying out all the powder every time you find you are throwing the wrong powder charge).
Large shot charges up to 1 7/8 oz can be thrown.
Powder bushing on left, shot bushing on right.

Supplied bushing capacity chart, As noted most of these will throw lighter than advertised charges so its important to use a scale to verify.

When you start using a new Lee LA press here is a simple way to get the powder weight you need

Step 1: Remove metal face plate from the front of the Loader

Step 2: put in the starting powder and shot bushings you intend to use

Step 3: Replace metal face plate, ONLY put the powder in the hopper DO NOT PUT SHOT IN YET!

Step 4: With spent hull in place cycle the charge bar a few times and dump back into the hopper. Then dump 1 charge and.....you guessed it ....weigh it

 Step 5: The LA press will give you 2 weights of powder depending on the type of powder you are using if you just throw a charge without depriming the case and sizing it first your charge will be light because the powder is not settling as the press is being manipulated. I proved this by simply throwing 3 charges all weighing 13.8gr of unique Then actually going through and sizing and priming a case AND THEN priming it....same powder bushing dropped 14.1gr consistently.

 Now if your load is calling for around 14gr of unique I would stop at that point, but the load I am using is calling for 15gr of unique.....but I already put powder in the hopper? I don't want to dump it all out and dump it back in and possibly spill powder all over the place if it can be avoided. I want to jump from the .105 bushing to the .110 bushing. Here is how you can go about that without much hassle.

Step 6: With the charge bar moved to the right so the powder bushing # is showing remove the faceplate.
Position of the charge bar for bushing swap.
Step 7: This is why we didn't fill up the shot hopper (shot would be pouring out right now if we had), with the face plate off rotate the charge bar so that it pivots underneath the hole the powder drops through. Now the powder and shot bushing should be exposed, pop out the powder bushing and replace it with the one you want to try next.
110 bushing in place, replace face plate and throw charges.
Step 8: Cycle the charge bar a few times with a hull in place and dump in the hopper. Now take a hull run it through the first 2 stages, prime and then dump the powder charge and weigh. If you have thought ahead at this point you might say "hey, if I size and prime a bunch of cases and do not load them how am I going to load these and get the correct powder weight when I do load them". One solution is to use one scrap case and run it in the first 2 stages over and over again to give the press the jigging and jarring it needs to get the powder to settle, it is how the press was designed to work.
"Dummy" shell in place to ensure correct powder settling is
Repeat the process until you get close to your goal, I was aiming for 15gr I got 14.9 on several throws that is plenty good for shotshell.

Now that we have a the powder charge weight we are looking for we can fill the shot hopper with the desired size shot and begin loading.

All set!