Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Watson Bros. Beesley Action SLE

Here is a Watson Bros. round body SLE, built on the classic Beesley action by one of the London trade's master gunmakers, Michael Louca.   This particular gun suffered a failed ejector spring cramping lever.
This part cramps the ejector mainsprings when the action is closed, so that the ejector segments, by pushing upon the ejector tumblers and standing breech, do not have to do that job.  This makes the gun easier to close, which is of no small consequence when one considers that the act of closing a Beesley cramps both mainsprings AND both ejector mainsprings simultaneously.  It also prevents the ejector segments from wearing against the face of the standing breech.

The failed lever,

The blank, machined from O1, the original was made from EN9 which is a British specification and equivalent to AISI 1055.  The added chromium and vanadium in O1 can only increase the lifespan of this highly stressed part.  From this point onward, it's all hand work.

The lever, filed up for thickness, with the spring bearing pads rough shaped and the pivot hole piloted,

 Checking the fit,

Making sure that the fit of the forward projection is correct in the frame slot.  You'll notice that the barrel stop plate has been removed to gain access to the slot.  The stop plate also serves as the fulcrum for the cocking lever.  You might notice that the barrel lifters are lying flat.  This is because the lockplates and pushrods are removed.

Here is the finished lever, heat-treated and polished.  The spring is integral to the lever.  You might think that being an internal part, it doesn't need to be finished to such a level.  You would be incorrect.
The essence of a best-quality gun is that they should look, and be, as good on the inside as the outside.

The lever during installation,

Here was another small issue, not from a practical standpoint but rather an aesthetic one.  The lockplate screw slots have moved past the horizontal when properly tightened.  This has zero impact upon the gun's function but just plain makes me nuts.  The gun's owner agreed, so I made new screws for each lockplate.

The screws were machined from 1020 and will be case-hardened and polished when finished.  The thread is 3BA (that's British Association).

Here is something that a good many "gunsmiths" in the country of my birth simply fail to comprehend, a properly fitted screwdriver.

After the slots are correctly indexed, the heads are engraved and then the screws can be hardened and polished.  I use a push graver and a 20x microscope.

The finished screws,

Here's a shot of the assembled gun.  The engraving is Watson Bros' "house style" which wonderfully complements the sleek lines of the round body action.  Louca's guns are all the more impressive for being completely made by hand.  Watson Bros. is one of a literal handful (if not the only) of London firms still making guns the "old-fashioned" way, with no aid of CNC, EDM or castings (ugh!).

1 comment:

  1. An interested party asked about new screws. Here is his question and my reply.

    On your blogspot, you repair a Watson Bros shotgun and finish up the job by correcting a lock plate screw that was no longer horizontal. Why do you have to make an entirely new screw. It would seem to me that you can add a little weld on the end of the screw, re-thread and and then file the end until it is back to horizontal. I guess that sounds like a lot of work to as I write it, but I it would allow you to conserve the original engraving if that's a priority.

    With regard to buggered up screw slots, I've seen on your other posts that you manufacture new screws in the case of a buggered up slot. I once had a gunsmith correct this by micro TIG the slot and then recut the slot. It looks great. He also taught me how to unscrew it with the appropriate gunsmithing screwdriver to avoid buggering it up to begin with. Do you see anything wrong with this?


    just curious about your working "thought process"

    My reply:

    Adding material to the end of a screw will not correct where it stops. Screws don't stop on the bottom of the hole, they stop on the bottom side of the head.
    It's less work to make new screws than to screw around with micro-TIG. In the case of welding slots, the engraving will still need to be recut.
    In many cases of "gunsmiths" welding screwslots, it's down to the fact that they either cannot make new ones or (in the case of English guns), they cannot match the threads. Many American gunsmiths can not even identify the thread form used on English guns.
    Another issue with welding screwslots is the material of the screw. If it's a mild, case hardened steel screw it should be
    properly annealed before welding, and case hardened after finishing. If the screw is made of an oil-hardening steel, it's possible for the weld to fail and chip if enough torque is applied. Contrary to popular assumption, not all steels are weldable.