Artisanal Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Cautionary Tale

I know it's been a while since the last post but as the great Mark Twain once said: The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Now on to the business at hand.   The victim is one comprehensively cocked-up Henry Atkin SLE in 12 gauge, and the title is an allusion to the pitfalls of buying a gun from a "reputable dealer" without a pre-purchase inspection/evaluation.  This turned out to be one of those repair projects that ends up feeling as if it's become a career.   Not one single area of this gun was spared the handiwork of at least one "gunsmiff".   If one individual was responsible for all of this, then I've got to tip my hat to him for elevating incompetence to a level that I didn't think possible outside of Washington D.C.  To be fair, not all of the problems were attributable to bodgery, a couple were the result of actual, honest wear and tear.  We'll start there. 

 The first thing found upon disassembly was that both lockplate anvils were failed.  The anvil is what the tumbler stops against when released by the sear and, as you might imagine, it takes a beating (literally). 


After annealing the lockplates, the broken areas were prepped and TIG welded up in preparation for reshaping. 


 The anvils were filed to shape and the interior surfaces were polished in preparation for case-hardening. Since the gun exhibited no case hardening color externally, the colors were removed from the exterior surfaces in order to render the repair externally undetectable.

  Apparently, some trigger-pull work was done to the left lock.  The primary sear's nose was shortened and reshaped (presumably to lighten the trigger pull).  When our hero discovered that the primary sear now released the tumbler before the interceptor sear cleared, he took the "expedient" method of correcting the situation: grinding off the nose of the interceptor.  Astute readers will readily surmise that this rendered the interceptor incapable of performing its function of actually intercepting the tumbler in the event that the primary sear fails to hold.  Since welding these parts is a non-option because of the material from which they're made (see here for more detail:, new parts had to be made.

Completed left lock

The locator tab on the interceptor sear spring of the right lock had also failed.  The attempted solution was to file the back side of the spring, in an attempt to recreate the tab.  I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The last frame-related item was a broken toplever spring.  We've all seen this before, but here are a few photos anyway.

Now, on to the ejectors, where the perpetrator didn't let a complete lack of comprehension as to their function get in the way of "fixin' em".  After filing the legs of each sear so thin that they actually slipped past the trip lever noses, our man then proceeded to peen the legs, presumably in an attempt to lengthen them.  Why?  I don't know, and neither did he.
The ejector sears are pretty complex in their shaping because the forend wood occupies the space in between them, allowing purchase for the rear forend iron screw.

A kludge-fest of this magnitude wouldn't be complete without mangled screw slots.  Somehow or other, our man actually missed one screw slot with his talents.  In order to relieve this single screw of its "survivor's guilt", I made new screws to replace the damaged ones, a few of which are shown here.  Again, we've all seen this before.

There were also stock repairs that had to be made, as well as refinishing of the stock and forend, recutting the checkering and an ebony extension (1").  The barrel engraving was recut and the barrels reblacked as well.  I didn't take any photos of those operations, mainly because blogging about it was not foremost in my mind at the time.
At last, the finished job...



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Yet Another Model 70

Remember that bolt that looked like it was "decorated" with a Dremel tool held in a running paint-shaker?  Well, here's the rest of the story (as the late, great Paul Harvey would say).

The owner of this "big-name custom" rifle was less than thrilled with what he saw as incongruities that it sported: things like express sights on a pencil-barreled .270 that is clearly stocked for a scope, and an express-style barrel-mounted front swivel base.  Other issues were: a stock that was shaped like a very chunky but well-used bar of soap, a too-short forend (actually just far too "fat") and bottom metal that was used "right-out-of-the-box", with no attention given to contouring whatsoever.  The owner also could not abide a recoil pad and ebony forend cap without a spur or "widow's peak" (hey, I don't make up these terms).  So settle in, it's going to be a long one.

The rifle, as it came:  note the generally bloated proportions of the stock.  The nose of the comb also looked very unsightly with the heavily rounded shape and the sorta-flutes.

The toe-line is far higher than the bottom-line of the stock.  This, and many other items, will be corrected (with much work).

The comb is very, shall we say, "full"?  Neither side is remotely flat either, the outward bow is obvious.  The top of the comb was just as outwardly bowed, giving the look of an over-inflated tire. Also, the heel of the pad is left unshaped, which is all too common and just smacks of laziness.

Ever see the toe and underside of a military Mauser 98?  They are literally as wide as the heel.  Apparently, that was the inspiration for this stock.  Notice also the completely cock-eyed installation of what may be the ugliest swivel base ever conceived.

The entire butt was slimmed down, the cheekpiece flattened, thumbhole and comb nose altered, the grip-to-receiver area (top and bottom) required much work and the entire top edge of the action/barrel channel was straightened.  This shot shows a couple of those areas that needed attention.

Here is what I found under the sight bases.  This is what happens when parts are directly soldered, using acid-based flux, instead of tinning both parts first and using rosin to assemble.  But hey, time is money, right?  Yes, the barrel was pitted under the sight bases.  Yes, it was corrected.

Part of raising the bottom-line of the stock involved "sinking" the bottom metal deeper into the wood.  This would also allow the depth of the forend to be reduced.  Here, the bottom metal has been sunk and the reshaping of the forend has begun (that is why the metal is beveled).  As I said this bottom metal was used as it came from the supplier.  Take a look at the floorplate hinge.  Nice, huh?

I think this looks a bit better.

The floorplate's contours left a bit to be desired.  I ended up taking almost .060 of an inch off the entire part.

The triggerguard bow was next.  The guard bow is supplied with much material everywhere.

With the bottom metal and forend shaped up, I replaced the ebony forend cap next.  Removing the old one turned out to be an interesting exercise, since it was held in place with epoxy and a 1/4-20 stud and nut.  Secure?  Yes.

Next up were the swivel bases.  Removing the front base from the barrel wasn't quite as easy as the sight bases because the swivel base was silver-brazed in place.  So I machined the majority off and hand filed the rest.  I wanted something that would look good and cover the inletting of the original rear base.  So I made these up.

That's the major stuff.  Lots of detail items were taken care of in preparation for finishing.  This includes polishing, turning ornamental raised borders on the action screws, more polishing, taking care of the bolt from the prior post, etc.  After checkering the grip panels and forend, I finished the stock in actual oil (a slow, laborious process that never seems worth it, until it's done, then you see that it is worth it), the major metal components are rust blued and I charcoal blued the small stuff like screws, swivel bases, etc.  Here are some photos of the finished job.  And to the "custom gunmaker", whose name is still on the barrel:  You're welcome.

Here is the "quick version".