Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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

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....