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.