Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Saturday, March 25, 2023

GP-100 Custom Hammer

 This customer wanted a Python-esque hammer for both his blue and stainless Ruger GP-100 revolvers.  Given that the GP's proportions are similar to a Python's (chamber spacing and cylinder CL to bore CL), this allowed a much more faithful rendition of the Python's distinctively styled hammer.  The original hammer is an investment casting, while its replacement is machined from an O1 billet and fully heat treated before finishing.

Since I don't use CNC anything, each of these cuts requires a different setup.  The final machining operation is to narrow the portion of the hammer that isn't the spur.  Everything after this is hand work.

The hammer after final shaping and checkering but prior to heat treating and finishing.

The finished job:

The glamour shots (of both guns):

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Wow, That Seems Expensive!

 If I had a dime for every time I heard that phrase, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog.  It's most often used in response to hearing the cost of making (and fitting, heat-treating, finishing and possibly engraving) a small, seemingly simple, part or screw.  I understand that gunmaking is probably a bit too esoteric to be appreciated by many, which is one reason why there are those that balk at the cost of properly done work.  To the average person, a screw is a screw, so they don't understand why the local hardware store sells them for twenty nine cents while a screw for a gun could cost a thousand times (literally) as much.  

Let's take as an example the breech screw from a Parker, that most iconic of American doubles.  This is a 12-27 (#12 diameter and 27 threads per inch) screw with an unthreaded shank and a "flat head".  Seems simple enough, right?  Let's take a closer look at that screw then, shall we?  To start, the threads are not the typical 60 degree "V" form, but 55 degrees with rounded root and crest.  Now, the local hardware store is definitely not going to have a threading die for this, which means that the threads must be cut on a lathe, using a cutting tool specifically profiled for that job.  That seemingly flat head isn't really flat either, is it?  No, it follows the contours of the top strap, which means that the new screw head must be shaped in situ, which further means that, in order to have the necessary access, the entire toplever works must be disassembled and the frame put back into the stock, so that the screw head can be shaped.  This must be done absolutely flush and without harming the surrounding finish.  Sounds easy, right?  This is after cutting the slot so that it aligns correctly when properly torqued.  Then the head of the screw is engraved in the correct factory pattern, by hand, and then heat-treated and finished.  Depending upon the condition of the gun, the screw must then be artificially "aged" in order to blend with its surroundings and look original, because no repair should be readily discernible, ever.  Finally the toplever work is reassembled, along with the rest of the gun.  For most other doubles, also figure on the added time for making the tapered shank.  A couple of hundred bucks doesn't sound so out of line now, does it?  

"Hold on there a minute." you say.  "A couple of hundred bucks for a screw?", you ask.  The truthful answer is that the screw (or part, or entire gun) is free, what you are paying for is my time, knowledge, attention-to-detail and ability, and, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  Keep that in mind when someone says they can do it "fer cheep".

The fact of the matter is that, when it comes to one-off work, economy-of-scale simply does not apply.  A part that was originally made on a screw machine by the thousands is going to be much more costly to duplicate by hand.  Comparing the cost of one to the other is simply nonsensical. 

What to do When Midnell's/Brownway Doesn't Have What You Need

 When dealing with old and/or unusual guns, one doesn't simply order parts from the amateur's supply catalogs.  

Case in point: A customer needed a pair of ramrod hangers for a Ballard No.5 Pacific rifle.  He also requested a slightly increased wall thickness (to make them less prone to damage).  Here I'll detail the creation of those parts.

The original sample, sitting atop the billet of 1018 from which the new parts will come, the bore has already been drilled and finish reamed.

 Machining the areas that will become the integral dovetail bases:

The dovetails are then cut and the bulk of the material that will become the raised bands is machined off.

The parts are then cut free, the ends squared and the bands are hand profiled, as are the bases.  They are then temporarily attached to a mandrel for turning of the barrel portions on either side of the band.  Those portions actually have a very slight (one half of one degree), but readily noticeable, taper.  The barrels are cut to their final length and the ornamental rings are then cut.

 The final step is to nitre blue (oh look, they're black) the new parts.