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 barrels....one 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 well...search 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.