Monday, December 18, 2017

MP 358-180 mold, possibly the best one yet!

Some more love from Slovenia arrived in my mailbox not long ago, in it was another BEAUTIFUL brass mold from MP. This one was a re-run of a  custom group buy from the cast boolits forum and there were several things that compelled me to get in on this.

One is that it was a round flat nose profile....something that I've learned works well in both my bolt action .357 rifle and the revolvers. The bullets with a shoulder on them such as the 358429 Kieth styles though VERY effective do not consistently feed in my bolt action. The second reason is the weight, this boolit drops as a solid around 190gr and the HP variations are around 183gr depending on what style pin is chosen. This mold came with small and large round pins as well as the popular penta pin so there is some weight variation on the various HP options.  The higher weight of this boolit is attractive in both 38 special and 357 Magnum loads which lends much versatility in powder selections as well. Lighter boolits don't perform well with slower burning powders as they exit the bore quickly and don't always allow a complete burn. Something I've learned while experimenting with various barrel lengths ranging from 2" up to 18". Faster powders such as Red Dot and Bullseye can still be used with great success with these heavier options. Even the 230gr 38/357 loads I've tried have used a good dose of Bullseye which has proven to be a exceptionally versatile powder.

The meplat of this new addition of .2800" seems to be the widest that is permissible in my bolt action to reliably feed. Any wider and it would not mate up well with the factory barrel feed "ramp" of sorts worked into the barrel.

With the addition of this mold I feel like I've bridged the gap between the medium weight sport loads and the thunderous steer slaying weight bullets of 230gr etc...the one Keith variation of which does feed well in my bolt action oddly enough. This boolit loaded smartly especially for the carbine should handle any four legged creature North America has to offer. In the case of two legged creatures the 125gr boolit remains a good option for energy transfer and reduced risk of over penetration.  A sampling has been cast and about half are lubed and sized and loaded with 2400 in the 357 cases. I'll ladder load some others and see about a wet newspaper test.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stump barrel T/C Contender project .22 LR and .44 Magnum!

When life gives you the chance to buy lemons at a steep discount, I don't care who you're gonna make lemonade. Enter my .22 LR and .44 mag pistol barrel project! I had the opportunity to acquire a few Contender pistol barrels that were in "rough shape" recently on a forum and decided I was going to shorten them up to make them a little  more handy than the unwieldy 10" the factory has/had to offer in the past.  The .44 bull barrel had previously been cut down to about 8" and some weird hole drilled at around 6" that was very unsightly. So the .44 mag barrel would greatly benefit from a chop, crown and sight installation. The .22 LR barrel had some minor pitting towards the muzzle so it too would benefit from a chop and crown job. Though with the .22 I decided to also thread it to 1/2x28 TPI for any future muzzle devices I acquire.

Top is the .22 LR barrel, bottom is the .44 barrel that somebody had already chopped and abused.

New and properly tensioned band saw blade give a very satisfactory cut.
The entire process of modifying these barrels is pretty straight forward. Strip the barrels, this includes the forearm nut, sights and lock bar mechanism. Decide where you will cut, give yourself at least .1" to fall back on if you flub a crown or you don't factor in enough for the kerf.
The .44 Mag barrel cut down to 6.2" gets a new 11 deg recessed target crown.
After you chopped your barrel, you may want to use a 3 jaw chuck, 4 jaws will work if its big enough but mine is not and besides its simpler to center in the 3 jaw with the tail stock center and the steady rest.  shorten, turn down, thread and crown your barrel as you see fit. For just crowning a 3 jaw will be satisfactory.

Somebody take away my bandsaw....I'm having too much fun.

End result of a few hours of work.
After all the lathe work is done you may find yourself wanting to have sights again. Since you've probably chopped off the end of the barrel with the front sight holes you will need to locate, drill and tap new ones.
Drill depth stop and a double check of hole location are critical at this step.

The quickest way I found to locate the new sight hole location is to first figure out where the sight will sit. Decide where the front hole will roughly be located and make a sharpie mark. Take your drill center and with a fish tail or even a good parallel balance this on the top of the barrel so that when you bring down the drill you see if the bit is at top dead center or not. This of course assumes you did like I have done and used the lug as your work holding point in the vise. That is a sure and easy way to get square with the world when drilling sights for the contender.

Be sure you check your barrel thickness and the depth at which you are drilling. I've seen more than a few barrels done by amateurs who simply drilled right through them not realizing they couldn't just do it "by feel"?

New sights drilled and tapped, thread protector (made from part of old barrel) knurled and installed.

On the .22 barrel I also made a knurled thread protector out of part of the barrel drop. This worked out very well as the metal took the cold blue paste the same and blended fairly well. This little chop shop project went fairly quickly and would have easily cost me over $200 if I had sent out the work. The .22 barrel looks great though I admittedly messed up in a few spots. I learned a lesson about tapered barrels in roller steady rests I wont soon forget which resulted in a few messed up threads.

Above we see the reassembled and re-blued .22 LR barrel, save for the flubed thread job (which I may redo) everything looks great! I went out to the range with this set up and it shoots as well as one would expect a contender barrel to shoot. Final length on this was around 7"

The .44 mag barrel also performed very well and did not recoil as bad as I thought it may. At 6.2" it makes for a very compact package and also legal barrel length for hunting deer, at least here in Ohio. (6" min).

All in all this was a great way to give some more life to a pair of barrels that have seen abuse before they got to me. They will sure see a lot of use as they certainly have a lot of potential to the single shot enthusiast!

Monday, December 4, 2017

South Bend steady rest rollers : or : Getting my bearings

Knowing I had some more barrel work I wanted to do I decided it was time to upgrade my steady rest from static fingers to roller bearing fingers. Not being sure where to start I did some google image and ebay searches to see how others have done their roller bearing set ups for my model of lathe.

First item I needed to decide on was bearing size and type. In order to....get my bearings (  needed to do some research on what type of bearing would be suitable for this application. Metal shielded I knew was a must and cost is also a factor as I've been told I'll be replacing bearings every so often as they do wear out relatively quickly. I settled on a 10 pack of 5/8" OD with 1/4" bore  flat bearing off ebay for about $7.50 shipped from a supplier in MI, Anything larger and the price drastically increased and I believed it was unnecessary. Next I ordered some 1/2" x 7/8" 1018 cold finished bar stock (18" for $7.11 before S&H) from my favorite mail order metal suppliers Speedy Metals  along with other materials I'll be needing for future projects.  A trio of 1/4"x20 Allen head machine screws 3/4" long would serve as the fasteners for the bearings to the new fingers.

Steady rest with static fingers removed in the project tray for surgery.

I made the new fingers the same length as the old static fingers, band sawed 3 pieces off my stock and set about squaring them up in the mill. I found that though the steady rest is designed to take 7/8" stock in its channels the paint added too much thickness to the channel for a bind free fit. I took .005" off the thickness of the bars and this gave ample clearance in the channels.

Bar stock cut and squared, next locate and drill holes for 1/4x20 tap

Simple quick trick to get repeatable angle for finger clearance.

Not wanting to get too fancy with the angled cuts for the work clearance I band sawed a 1/4" thickness of aluminum angle and used that as a quick and dirty jig for getting a consistent bevel for the finger tips.

Keep the depth of cut the same and you will be able to achieve excellent results. I was too lazy to swap out for the articulating vise.
After all the fingers were beveled it was time to mill the 3/8" slot down the middle of each finger for the locking bolt. I changed how long the slot was on these from the factory originals as they did not need to be so long.

Finished roller bearing steady rest ready for barrels of fun.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Shooting bag repair (Caldwell)

It has been a very busy summer for me, as my girlfriend is out of the country for a month and a half for school I have been busying myself with backlogged reloading and among other things additional range time. In my usual search for brass and misc stuff people dump at the range I found a typical example of somebody getting their muzzle WAY too close to there shooting bag. Though I believe this is more of a pistol rest than a rifle rest it could serve both purposes. I scavenged it out of the trash and Gorilla taped up the holes to keep from loosing any more fill....I dwelled on and off for a few days on possible permanent fixes until at last my brain remembered fixing my girlfriend's Converse shoes with "Shoe-goo"...AHA!  So for a patch material I used some patches cut from some old blue jeans I've been saving for just such a use....I used a backing patch and a top patch as best I could. Only the top patch got the "shoe-goo". First on the bottom and then I kind of worked it in by hand to get a homogeneous patch that wouldn't unravel and be somewhat water resistant as well.

What happens when a muzzle gets too close to a bag...

Repair materials at hand 

Patches in place and "goo'd" all the way through....

We'll see how it works. I have nothing in the bag and it'll be a good one to use/abuse and loan out. Hope your summer is going well and you are getting lots of safe range time in!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Some pulled pistol bullet wisdom : or: the 9mm that couldn't hit paper.

I recently purchased several thousand pulled  9mm "tips" or bullets though the industry seems to lean towards calling them tips when they are pulled I believe. Anyways, the price was VERY attractive and I was planning on doing a lot of work with 9mm in the next few months so I thought I "sure, $30 per 1K is cheaper than my time to cast, lube & size 1K" The bullets in question were 115gr round nose plated 9mm bullets. I've purchased lots of pulled bullets in the past but up to this point they have all been rifle bullets, with a lot of bearing surface. These pistol bullets turned out to be a whole other critter.

I loaded up a couple of test batches and headed out to the range to see what these bullets liked to run with.
I started with a medium load of red dot and at 7 yards got few hits on the 9" paper plate I had put up. I tried the hotter load out of my handgun and things only got worse....much much worse. Keyholes and even fewer hits on the paper plate. When tested out of my carbine barrel at 50 yards they missed a sheet of newsprint entirely. The lower slower loads shot much much better....but the velocity was very low and worried me about being able to knock steel down reliably with 1 hit.

After much head-scratching I finally put the mics to the bullets again but held them up to the light (the first time I just checked for bullet diameter overall) and what I saw astonished me....out of all the bullets I measured and held up to the light the entire bullet body bearing surface was tapered save for the very very rear portion of the projectile....causing highly erratic yawing during flight....higher velocity only exacerbated this situation.

In the future I would hesitate to purchase such light pulled pistol bullets. These will be good for sub gun fodder for somebody but when one is trying to knock down steel plates in a match...not so good. Something to keep in mind if you're looking at a large quantity of pulled pistol bullets....they may have been crimped too hard in the factory and are grossly undersized for your application.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Scratching a 30/06 itch: or : Savage Axis barrel chop attempt #1

One of the great things about having machine tools is you suddenly find a use for other peoples unwanted gun stuff often cheap or free. Old sights, action parts, rails, stock parts and of course day while going through the swap and sell forums on a popular shooting forum I came across a few ads for Savage 110 barrels very cheap, which really got my gears turning. The Savage Axis if you do not already know is the economy hunting rifle offering from Savage and has a ton to offer every shooter if you are not a prude that looks down their nose at rifles that don't have a comma in the price. First a bit of back story with what I'm starting with here.

Long story short one of my FFL buddies got a flyer in one of his industry mailings offering dealers a really great price on lots of half a dozen or so Savage Axis rifles that came with a 3-9 scope of some flavor. The price was VERY attractive and I of course showed some restraint only getting one of the rifles. The blowout was due to the AXIS II coming out that fall and the wholesalers needed to clear out the old to make room for the new.  Savage was running a $50 rebate so iirc the rifle was well under $200 delivered and having our choice of calibers I went with the 30/06 since you simply cant go wrong with an "ought six".

When I got the rifle I was somewhat impressed with what we got for the money with one exception, Savage rifles are popular for their ease of re-barreling and upgrading. Lots of guys online have reported the Axis rifle is a fantastic shooting rifle and is WELL worth the money but everybody seems to agree the factory stock is not rigid enough to really instill a ton of confidence to the owner but they do work. There are guys who are reinforcing their stocks, something I might do someday but today is not that day. This more or less is about wanting to make the Axis into more of a working rifle, something that is easy to carry, wont get left behind etc. The only real place we can change dimensions is at the barrel end of things, the factory supplied us with 22" of pipe to work with and that got me thinking something like the following... "hey 20 would be pretty handy...but what about 18".....has anybody ever done a 16.5" 30/06 on a bolt action before?"...turns out the Canadian search and rescue teams field a 14.5" Ruger 77 with a folding stock for bear protection when parachuting or trekking long distances to and rescue. I would love to get my hands on one of those stocks as they look pretty good to me. Well back to the point at hand I started getting some factory take off barrels for the Axis, as it turns out barrels from the Savage 110 and the Stevens 200 will fit. Pick the caliber you want and if you already have the correct bolt head you're mostly good to go to do the swap. As I did not wish to alter the factory barrel just yet I got a few barrels to modify first...At well under $40 each the barrels were a pretty good way to try something else out without putting out a ton of money. The Savage 110 barrels I ended up with were all from different models but all pretty much the same contour and 22" long just like the factory. So lets make a 16.5" 30/06 bolt action!

Factory rifle disassembled 
                          At this point I laid out the barrel I chose to chop with the factory barrel I had marked at 18" for some time seeing how if it FELT like it would be too short or not. The cheap 2nd hand barrel allowed me to go whole hog here and just go super short.

The top barrel marks 18" and the bottom is 16.5...I marked them to get a rough idea of how much thickness I would have if I choose to thread the end for a brake or flash hider.
A quick read up on re-barreling Savage axis rifles will bring up the annoying fact of these tiny tiny beads used to finish the action. I'm not entirely sure if these are tumble type beads or bead blasting type beads but either way they need to be fully removed. Trying to unthread the nut with the beads in place is a good way to cause undue wear.

One major complaint is the beads used in finishing the rifles.
Once I got the old barrel off I needed to chop the new barrel that was going on the rifle. Now here is where I got a bit of a shock....After I cut the barrel with a horizontal band-saw I looked at the new muzzle and WOW was it off center by a LOT. Turns out this is pretty common with mid-grade barrels, the part that threw me was that the breach and old muzzle were pretty straight with the OD of the barrel. which means during the drilling process their bit walked.
Off center muzzle as a result of 5.5" being lopped off the barrel. Wondering if the factory barrels were profiled between centers.

A new muzzle face and crown is important for accuracy as well as having pride in ones work, I set up the barrel on the lathe with a center in the headstock with a dog leg and a cats head to try and get the muzzle to turn true. Nobody ever told me how difficult it is to center something with 3 jaws before using a out of round barrel and a cats head that could probably be cleaned up some. A steady rest with bearings is now on the "to do" list as there is another method I could have used from one of my gunsmithing books that may have been easier and less frustrating than my set up here.
A .302 pin gauge was used as it offered a friction fit in the muzzle to check run out.

Dog leg set up with 30/06 case drilled out for a center installed to protect chamber. 
After I got the barrel as close to true with the BORE as I could I faced the new muzzle cutting from the ID to the OD so as not to risk rolling any material into the bore. I settled on a 11° taper for the new muzzle as this is what most target barrels use.  Part 2 in the works will cover barrel installation and of course the range results. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Butler Creek lens covers or "CYG"....COVER YOUR GL-ASS!

Anybody that knows me in the gun culture context knows I'm not currently a huge user of optics but I do use them. In fact I recently purchased my first "good glass" this past summer with a midway birthday discount and the need to put some good optics on a long range rifle. Oh sure I've had "decent" glass in the past, lots of BSA target scopes which work perfectly fine for the small bore applications I was using them for. A low power Leupold scope on one of my belted magnums and a array of older Weaver "K" series scopes, my favorite being the K2.5x1" I have mounted on my Ruger 77/357.  The "good glass" I purchased this past summer was a higher end Vortex scope and right away I wanted to make sure that the lenses were kept clean and protected. I sought out one product I have used on a few other scopes and think highly of. Butler Creek lens covers....its like floor mats for your don't really think of them but you're glad you have them when you get into some mud or wet weather.

Eyepiece cover, press the red toggle with your thumb and...

I'm not sure when Butler Creek came out with these handy lens caps/covers but they sure do make a world of difference when you're hunting or "snap shooting".  I recently purchased a objective lens and eyepiece lens cover set made by Butler creek to accommodate my Weaver K2.5x1". In a quick ebay search a "blizzard" objective lens cover in the size I needed (#1) was found for a couple of bucks shipped new in the package. The "blizzard" has a clear or yellow (depending on model) window which will permit use of the scope while the lens is folded down. If you need to use the scope "full range" then you simply flip up the cover and have at it. The thinking is the lens does distort some light and thus where your cross-hairs are might not be where you think they are.  For the eyepiece I went with the red button pop up cap (#9) new from ebay as well, both caps came in combined for under $14 delivered. 

"Sproing" the cover flies open.

Not a super frugal option but you not going to lose these like you would the production bikini type covers or similar home made inner tube scope covers. Not to mention the flip up caps are very fast to use, rugged and reliable. If you spend $100 or $1000 on a scope for your pistol, rifle or what have you then I would suggest you invest a few more bucks in a fool proof method to protect your investment.

"blizzard" objective lens cover allows the shooter to use while still folded down.

Cap flipped up for use of the scopes full range, when not snap shooting or in close.

The view with the front cap down is just a bit darker than if it were up. No readily noticeable distortion though in this application it would not be used pass 100 yards with the .357mag/38spl

Ruger 77/357, the "Hearing Protection Act" and a job well done.

2016 has come and gone and with it Ruger fans everywhere got a little sad news in mid September that the  rim-fire and pistol caliber series of the rugged, reliable and typically Ruger, 77 bolt actions rifles would be temporarily discontinued. For how long who knows....but when I got the news I thought about how much I've been enjoying my 77/357 and was hoping that Ruger would not only continue its production but also come out with a .327 Federal version as well as other pistol caliber bolt actions. Keeping one eye on what companies were starting to bring into production towards the end of 2016 and the other on the political climate that was Bedlam, USA in a presidential election year I asked myself if there was any work I wanted to get done that I didn't feel comfortable doing myself possibly before things got more tumultuous.  I thought to my beloved 77/357 and the rumors that the HPA was going to make for another push to pass and remembered researching smiths that specialized in 77 barrel threading jobs.

Barrel prior to front sight set back and threading by JP Grips
For me I not only wanted my 77 threaded for 1/2x28 but wanted to keep a usable front sight with most of the aesthetics that one gets with Ruger sight bands. These days few rifles have serious iron sights and as such the barrels are easily threaded without regard for the irons sights. Factories have caught on now and ship rifles threaded, such as the Savage Axis and other Ruger bolt actions (among many many others, MVP etc) but few such as the Axis have iron sight options which make aftermarket threading of the muzzle easier for home smiths or mail order places, not having irons to index makes life easier. So these jobs where sights are involved start to get more complicated.

Barrel with thread protector in place
I recalled seeing a few photos of some other 77 fans who had their rifles threaded and the front sights "set back" and went in search of who they trusted with their guns. Jim Pixley of "JP Grips and Machine" came up time and time again. I emailed a few individuals who had work done and they were all very pleased with his service. I contacted Jim and arranged to have my action sent out right after Thanksgiving, his quote of $175 for threading, a thread protector, sight set back and return shipping was reasonable to me as this was not something that should be done by somebody who thinks this sort of work can be done quickly or with short cuts. Jim's turn around time was quoted as 1 month and he delivered under that time frame. As I'm giving this review prior to having a can on the barrel I can only give my thoughts on how well the job looks, and I think he did a marvelous job, I don't expect the accuracy has been altered at all from how the rifle has performed prior to the threading but only a trip to the range will tell.

Ready for any 1/2x28 devices, flash hiders, compensators or cans. 
Of course the Hearing Protection Act  is still being hashed out in D.C. as I'm typing this but I think we have a good chance of seeing it pass. If it does I plan on pursuing a Liberty Mystic X as soon as I pun intended.  The Ruger 77/357 is one of the most versatile guns I have ever owned and so far all the little upgrades have made it more enjoyable and more practical for my style of shooting. 

I highly recommend if you plan on getting into any "canned goods" if/when HPA passes that you start considering now what you want as hosts. Getting the threading done now will alleviate what I think will be some painful wait times as I can see custom job shops such as JP Grips getting VERY busy in short order as he also works on the Beretta 92, Buckmark's, Remington 597 and all sorts of other flavors of guns. Below is his website and contact info