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!

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