View Full Version : 1st Time Gunsmith

02-18-2003, 08:01 PM
First of all, thanks everyone! I've learned a lot by lurking here since I picked up a little lathe and a mini-mill last year.

A friend of mine picked up an old pump action .22 that he wants to cut down into a carbine, and I have a couple of questions. Are there any tricks to crowning the barrel afer It's cut down to size? I plan to use a freshly sharpened bit for my finish cut, but I still wonder about deburring it without screwing it up. The other thing I need to do is cut a new dovetail for the front sight. This should, of course, end up on the top of the barrel after everything is put back together. I figure that in this case I can just use the existing dovetail for reference (if I can remember to do that before I cut it off), but how would you go about this if you didn't have that option? And last. What is THE first gunsmith book to get.

Thanks again,


Paul Gauthier
02-18-2003, 09:47 PM
First you should be familiar with the laws about cutting down rifle barrels be sure it is not too short. I believe 16.25" is the minimum. This measurement includes the chamber.
Next go to www.brownells.com, (http://www.brownells.com,) there one can find preground barrel crowning lathe tools. To do this one will need a steady rest. One can do this without a steady rest or even without a lathe by using a piloted barrel crowning tool also avaiable from the afore mentioned Brownells.

Please remember to be safe when operating machine tools. Safety glasses, hearing protection if needed, etc.

First book, there are so many. The Gunsmith Machinist by Steve Acker may be a good place to start. Available from the store here at the HSM website. There also many books avaiable from Brownells.

Good luck and check back with your results.

Paul G.

02-18-2003, 11:56 PM
I have used a larger-than-bore round head brass screw, grinding compound, and electric drill to debur the barrel. The dovetail can be filed in after the barrel is in place.

02-19-2003, 08:08 AM
Brownell's. Get their catalog. See what books they advertise. Their "Gunsmith Kinks" books have an amazing collection of information, too.

Al Messer
02-19-2003, 09:12 AM
What Gerryrig said. First book? Mine was "Gunsmithing" by Roy Dunlap. Thick book--covers a lot to territory.

02-19-2003, 11:41 PM
Amen to Dunlap's "Gunsmithing". Mine's an original printing that I picked up 15 years ago at an estate sale. My second was Ralph Walker's "Hobby Gunsmithing". Got it 10 years ago, the same way. Got a blackpowder gunsmithing book somewhere too. Can't remember where, though.
Dunlap's "Gunsmithing" is available in reprint from AGI as item # BK001 for $34.95 which is a helluva good price for a book that thick and packed with so much good information. It's less than I paid for my 1950 printing, too. Course, I think I'll get a copy of it and keep my original put up since it's an antique.
Go to www.americangunsmith.com (http://www.americangunsmith.com)
There you'll find the book.

02-20-2003, 05:01 AM
rickv: I will second the advise on proper legal barrel length. First you have to know the BATF way to measure the barrel length. If I remember correctly one measurers it thusly "With the bolt closed and the firing pin retracted insert a rod into the bore until the rod contacts the face of the bolt. Mark the rod at the face of the barrel then remove the rod and measure from the end of the rod to the mark. On a rifle it must be no shorter than 16" to be legal on a shotgun it is 18" ALWAYS ADD 1/4" for luck. If you cut the barrel to 16" and then for some reason you have to true up the muzzle end you will be SCREWED! The BATF will not be amused. They don't have a sense of humor where the law is so clear or at any other time for that matter. Another measurement to be aware of is the overall length of the rifle/shotgun. It must be no shorter than 26" and again there is a BATF way to measure that length. "With the buttstock touching the floor and the barrel parallel with the wall the end of the barrel must be at least 26" from the floor plus 1/4" to be safe. Again the BATF allows no mistakes so it would be a good idea to get a copy of the laws from them as they might consider what you are doing as illeagle gunsmithing.
Good luck.

[This message has been edited by 1erful (edited 02-20-2003).]

[This message has been edited by 1erful (edited 02-20-2003).]

Al Messer
02-20-2003, 10:50 AM
Walt is absolutely right!! Don't take any chances. Remember Ruby Ridge and what happened to the Weaver family.

Al Messer
02-20-2003, 10:52 AM
Jaymo, Do you know if Mr. Walker is still living or not? He used to have his business in or near Selma, Alabama (I think).

02-20-2003, 11:20 PM
So, stupid questions: Why would the BATF be concerned with gun length? Why not just make it shorter and call it a pistol if you want? It's shooting the same .22 shell that a pistol does. Do home made guns need to be registered? Is this true in every state?


02-20-2003, 11:37 PM
Thanks everyone for all the info. 18 inches is the barrel length I decided on. Any shorter than that and there just isn't enough barrel left beyond the magazine tube to look right. At least now I know how you are supposed to measure.

Gerryrig, I love the brass screw lap! Great idea. Any recomendations on what grit compound I should get for this? I've got an old jar of valve lapping compound around here somewhere, would that be about right?

I've borrowed a Brownell's. ...Gee wouldn't that be nice...ooooh, look at that...and the Kinks books are on sale!
Just look for me in the poor house.

Thanks again, I'll keep you posted.


Al Messer
02-21-2003, 02:40 PM
Erik---for goodness' sake don't make a pistol out of a rifle!!!! BATF will classify it as a "Machine Gun" and you'll be in a heap of trouble. Didn't you read my last post about Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver? Shortening a shotgun barrel too much is what got him in trouble and his wife murdered by a sniper.

02-21-2003, 10:38 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by ErikT:
Why would the BATF be concerned with gun length? </font>
There really is no logical answer to that question. Just another arbitrary law for bureaucrats to enforce I guess. But make no mistake about it, they do take their work seriously.

02-22-2003, 10:36 AM
In fact Erik, I believe the BATF has been asked that question and didn't have an answer.

It seems that when Thompson Center came out with their carbines, BATF took them to court because it was possible for someone to put a pistol barrel on the carbine and so make an illegal gun. TC argued, among other things, that while it was possible to do do so,why in the world WOULD anyone do it. What would be the advantage? It seems like TC came through it all right (except for the lawyers fees). If anyone remembers this better than I do feel free to straighten me out. I believe I read about it in American Rifleman.

But make no mistake. If you actually make an illegal gun, no matter how, they will jump on you with both feet!


02-22-2003, 12:14 PM
I believe the ATFE says once a rifle always a rifle. If it was manufactured as a rifle then shorted to under legal length then it has to be registered as a Shortbarreled Rifle or an Other Assault Weapon(must meet the criteria).


02-22-2003, 03:11 PM
10-15 years ago there were about 350,000 Federal Firearms License holders (FFL's) Now they number less than 30,000. The BATF is VERY aggressive in their activities; I would not want to give them reason to yoink my license. Also, Rick, if you keep your buddy's rifle overnight to affect the 'repair' you need an FFL, according to the law. If you can return it to him the same day, you don't. Another point of law with dubious merit. This is a grey area in the engraving business, where it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to return the firearm the same day.
Erik, it DOESN"T make sense, but if an action was registered initially as a pistol, then you can make a pistol or rifle of it. Most common one I know of is the Remington XP-100 action, often used as the basis of very accurate rifles. However, the model 600 Remingtons are virtually the same action, but started life as a rifle. It is illegal to make them with anything less than a 16" tube. Go figure.

02-22-2003, 04:24 PM
Thanks guys... I had a feeling that was the answer.


02-22-2003, 07:07 PM
Well. A couple of laws that I wasn't aware of. Makes me think of all sorts of questions I'd like to ask, but I think I should find a real gunsmith forum instead of trying Mr. Knopf's patience any more. Any recomendations for a good one?


02-23-2003, 12:30 PM
Yeah... BATF... Go Big goverment.. whoo hoo..
I heard they are reviewing a modified firearm law and trying to pass it.. ANY MODIFIED firearm will fall under this rule. About once a week I get asked if I can make trigger sears for someone. I SAY NO loudly.
I have been told owning machining tools and silencer books, or full auto plans is a enforceable crime also. I used to have them laying around the house. One local guy was arrested cause he cut grooves in pipe nipples and had black powder(also a black powder rifle). (aka shrapnel grenade) DON't Play with these ideals or you can end up keeping house in a small cell.
I tinker too with .22's and carving metal.
I have a custom falling block w/brass reciever octagon barrel I have been working AT for about a year now. Yes it is dusty but excellent way to develop good machining habits. The fit is true, the tolerances are tight and patience is a virtue.

02-23-2003, 02:39 PM
The rules with the ATF are not so hard and fast, but their arresting somebody is. If you have your father's or grandfatehr's WW II handgrenade converted to a cigarette lighter in the house and black powder, you are in violation of ATF rules. I have a M1A, the civilian version of the M-14 military rifle, If I put the military flash suppressor on it with the bayonet lug on it, then that is a violation.
I have one of the T/C Contender carbines kits and the should stock has soemthing about using a barrel less than what ever standard is a violation of federal law.
If you cut a rifle down into a pistol, you are in violation, but if you get a M 11 semi auto pistol and put a shoulder stock on it, are you in violation?


I am iced in at my place at the moment and playing with a could of toys on my lather. Who cares about the weather when you have many toys at home.


02-23-2003, 02:44 PM
Someone else might have metioned this, I didn't bother to read it all since most of the replys was about laws, and the don't apply where I live (Sweden)...

But, I must tell you that the best way to do this is to set the barrel back, cutting it in the breach end and rechamber. The muzzle end is very slightly smaller in caliber. If this is a good barrel!

Recrowning in the way some sugest is terrible for a .22 with soft steel barrels! Don't stick anything in from that way, the lands are very sensitive!

02-23-2003, 03:07 PM
JF...YEAH! The last real Military rifle with a WOOD stock. I built A springfield armory M1A, match sights, 1in10 twist stainless barrel, TRW GI parts, reinforced gas rod, B-square scope mount, 6x18 redfield scope, 2 stage trigger produced by Glen Nelson, Glassed in super dense walnut stock WITH a Feather, Then topped it off with Clear poly. Mine would poke less than 3/4 group at 100 yds in paper the whole magazine, killed a deer at 175 yards, Killed a 285 pound hog at 65 AND I SOLD THE DAMN thing for a measly 2500 right as the assault ban came on. I got a custom flat top now. (custom Ar15 w/no handle)
I miss my toys sold to finance new toys.

Al Messer
02-23-2003, 03:56 PM
Hi, Axel! Welcome to the zoo--er, club! I must say that in times past, your countrymen made some fantastic rifles: M-94, 96, 38 at the Carl Gustav Arsenal!

Al Messer

02-23-2003, 08:17 PM
Hi Al,

Yes some very fine guns have been made here!
And I'm a big fan of American guns as well (Winchester in particular), even had my gunsmith training in Colorado!

Please look at this very good site for info on the best guns ever made in Sweden, "Husqvarna":


Al Messer
02-23-2003, 09:14 PM
Colorado School of Trades? I'm told it's a fantastic school. Yes, I'll try the web site referral. Husqvarna makes some dandy chain saws as well.

02-25-2003, 02:18 AM
Al, sadly, it appears that Ralph Walker has passed on. I found the website for his shop in Selma, AL. It's still around. The site states that it was started by the "late" Ralph Walker. Too Bad. I would have liked to have met him, or at least, thanked him for the wealth of information in his books. His ideas for cheap, homemade power tools inspires me as do those of David and Vince Gingery.

Axel, ahh, yes, Husqvarna M38, 6.5x55. One hell of a sweet shooting rifle. Great caliber, too. Beautifully crafted. Top quality steel.
Gunsmithing is a very honorable craft. It doesn't seem to be worth the trouble these days, though, what with the current legal situation.

02-25-2003, 11:34 AM

Legal situation is even worse here, as always!I know about the terrible litigious situation in USA. But apart from that you've got a breeze compared too us!! In 2007 we have a COMPLETE lead ban for ammo!

Al Messer
02-25-2003, 06:13 PM
Axel, now I really am confused. I was reading on one of the Swedish lists that deal with hunting in Sweden to the fact that FMJ bullets are banned in hunting certain game species. In light of this, of what materials will soft point hunting ammo be made in these circumstances?

02-25-2003, 06:52 PM
The lawmakers must be very optimistic, because there is no good expanding non lead ammo avaible now. And if you ask me there will never be!

Let's hope they are indeed just optimistic! But I have a hunch it's something else...

The Swedish national hunters association is largley behind this law, and they take grants from the government too, so...there is no hope for hunting here either, as in the rest of nothern europe....

I hope you all know this but lead is not hazardeous to helth in the shape of bullets (unless it's flying at you real fast!! *lol*), it forms an oxide layer in a few weeks an after that it does not "disolve" into drinking water. There has been lots of studies to prove this!

Copper is another matter!!!

Al Messer
02-25-2003, 08:54 PM
Axel, maybe they will be able to use Bismuth cores. Since we (the USA) had to go to non-lead shot for waterfowl hunting, I think some success has been achieved with Bismuth shot, but have no knowledge of its properties or if it would even work in a solid projectile.

Another thing I noted with delight: In Sweden, the 6.5 x 55 is O.K. for hunting animals such as Moose, Bear, Musk-Ox, Elk--large game animals, while here in the States, some of my associates think that my 6.5 is a "mouse magnum" at best. Glad to learn that I have some International support on the subject!!

02-25-2003, 11:36 PM
I simpathize with you about that ban on lead. I think it is too extreme. I'm not as sure about the harm that lead can cause in the environment. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. South of here in the city of Provo there are areas of lead contamination and I have often felt that this explained alot about the people who live there. On the other hand, years ago I was hunting in an area east of the city and I was three miles east of a water supply reservour called Mountain Dell Reservour and a ranger approached me, and he threatened to arrest me for urinating in a watershed area. I thought he should really be concerned with the Hendrickson Rifle Range that is only a stones throw away from the reservour, and in a natural drainage into that primary water supply of my city. I would rather that the lead from that get the blame for all the stupidity in my city rather than the fact that I took a pee in the wilderness three miles away from the reservour. That ranger didn't mind the lead, and he didn't mind the Deer poop and Deer pee, but he sure gave me 30 minutes of hell and his opinions about me. I was only 18 at the time, and I could hear the theme song from "Deliverance" playing from his truck. I got out of there with my shorts still on and I've always been happy about that. I'm 40 now but I still remember that experience. Now I've shared it with all of you for no explicable reason.

02-26-2003, 12:52 AM
Bismuth shot out performs lead shot by quite a margin. Its major drawback is the $60+ per carton. The plus side is the shot is easy to chew and won't break your fillings! Non-toxic - that's what they claim NOW.

02-26-2003, 06:00 AM
Well, There has been plenty of tests on the water coming from our militarys shooting ranges. And nothing indicated that there was exesive lead in that water!

Also, my first skeetclub, used to shot on land next to my small tows water reservoir. all shot landed in the lake! We had to move the club when they built a golf country club on the other side. They got sore when we showerd them with lead every time they was out fishing golfballs. *lol*

Al Messer
02-26-2003, 08:25 AM
At the cost of $60.00 per carton, I'd have to take up bow hunting!!

02-26-2003, 08:51 AM

"Another thing I noted with delight: In Sweden, the 6.5 x 55 is O.K. for hunting animals such as Moose, Bear, Musk-Ox, Elk--large game animals, while here in the States, some of my associates think that my 6.5 is a "mouse magnum" at best. Glad to learn that I have some International support on the subject!!"

Yes the "sixandahalf" is legal for moose and such, but is mostly used for calfs and yearligs. Hunting is very selective over here. The 6.5X55 will kill very large game, and for some it's prefered (female novices) but there is no reason other than that to not get a larger gun. But magnums are not needed!

Also, the bismuth is probably to softish to work as material for real bullets, it would fail completly even in light cartridges, methiks...

Chris Fazio
02-26-2003, 12:16 PM

Here in the USA, the latest fad is the 30 cal. loudenboomer magnums. You just have to have one even if your hunting chipmonks.


02-26-2003, 02:48 PM
I know, I read the same mags as you do probably! they're crazy! good way to get a flinch for the rest of your life!

Can't kill it with an '06 then you can't kill it at all! (exept for africa)

Paul Gauthier
02-26-2003, 05:07 PM
Hi Axel.

Thanks for the Husqvarna link. I have a Husqvarna rifle, caliber 9.3X57. It is a wonderful shooter.

Paul G.

02-26-2003, 06:22 PM
Yes and a very odd caliber over there I bet!!

Only the swedes used it much, the rest of the world liked the 9X57 manlicher better. But both are "obsolete" now, but still great shooters for good folks who understand about nice guns!