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Big Game Rifle
Rifle Magazine
May - June 2001
Volume 33, Number 3
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 195
On the cover...
This issue is only available on CD-ROM.Larry Brace created this custom Winchester Model 70 .270 WCF. Purchase the CD-ROM here
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Getting Rid of Barrel Ports

Q: You discussed muzzle brakes in your “Powder Keg” column (Handloader No. 208) but left something important out. I had my 7mm-08 Remington ported for my kids and wife to shoot. I thought it would be the perfect thing to do for recoil, etc. Wrong!!! It scares them to death. How can I plug up the holes?  - R.G., Kentucky

A: Actually I did sort of mention the problem. You must realize that folks who drill holes in barrels get really upset when I mention them by name, so I just mentioned the little holes that make a lot of noise and do not really help recoil.

There are two possible ways to get rid of the problem. The easiest is to have the barrel cut off just behind the mess and recrowned. The down side is that if the barrel is short already, as they often are on 7mm-08s, it will get a bit loud just from the shorter length - although not nearly as bad as the ports.

An alternative plan will take a little more gunsmithing skill. This is an untried thought I came up with as an answer to your problem, but I think it will work. If I had this rifle, I would pull the barrel out of the action and center the muzzle carefully in my lathe. Then I would turn down the outside of the barrel about .050 inch, cutting from the muzzle back to just past the ports. Then I would make a steel sleeve that would slip over the reduced diameter portion of the barrel and solder it in place. The sleeve could be turned, polished and blued making it nearly invisible. I cannot see that the holes would affect accuracy any more covered than open, but they could not leak gas and scream at your family any more.

If you try this, let me know how it works. As it is, you have nothing to lose, because the ultimate cure will be a new barrel, or selling this rifle and buying a new one.

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Misaligned Iron Sights

Q: My .35 Whelen on a VZ 24 action was to be my one iron-sighted rifle among many scope-sighted guns. But, I find on sighting in that the front post must be moved nearly half its width out of the dovetail slot and the rear peep far to the right in order to zero the rifle. The effect is the same with all the loads I have tried. The accommodation required makes shooting slow and awkward. I would rather not have to make the severe stock alterations needed to correct this if there is another option. Do you know any way to cure the problem? - H.S., Oregon

A: I can only think of two easily cured diseases that might be causing the problem. Both are remote possibilities, because I think I know what is wrong with the rifle, but we will get to that in a minute.

First, you can hope that the crown on the muzzle is badly out of square or that the crown has quite a large ding in it. Either of these may be pitching the bullets far to the left. If you inspect the crown and it looks pretty bad, try having it recut and lapped to perfection.

Another possibility is that the barrel bedding is extremely bad, literally bending and forcing the barrel to the left. The case would have to be very severe to cause this kind of windage problem, but it is theoretically possible.

From the description of the .35 Whelen on a VZ 24 action, it is apparent this is a custom rifle. The most likely reasons for the trouble are: the barrel misaligned with the receiver, one sight or the other grossly off center or a barrel that is bent or extremely crooked. If the gunsmith who did the work is handy, you might have a stern discussion with him regarding his warranty. Lacking the help of the original smith, you might find one who has some serious talent and have him measure and test the metalwork to see which piece is pointed the wrong direction. If it is, as I suspect, the barrel being at an angle to the receiver, your best option would be to set the barrel back and rechamber it. This time be sure the face of the receiver is square and the barrel threads are centered, square with the world and shouldered 90 degrees to the bore.

* * *

Stevens Action for Rook Rifles

Q: I enjoyed your article on rook and rabbit rifles in the November-December 2000 Rifle (No. 192). I did not even know such a thing existed.

Would a Stevens single shot in .25 Stevens caliber be strong enough to make a rook rifle in .297-250? I have one of these rifles, but the ammunition is $50 a box and is rimfire. I would like to build the .25 caliber on the .22 Hornet case like the one you described. - N.E., New York

A: The .297-250 is a very mild, low-pressure cartridge. Therefore my answer is yes, the Stevens action has plenty of strength. Actually any action that is suited to .22 rimfire should be fine. The one consideration is the alteration of your original Stevens rimfire rifle to centerfire. I am not sure how complicated the conversion is or how badly it will influence the value of the original rifle.

* * *

Chamber Fouling in Sharps .45-120

Q: I have an early 1874 Shiloh Sharps (C. Sharps on the barrel) in .45-120. The problem is every load I have tried produces so much fouling the chamber must be cleaned after one or two shots before I can chamber another round.

I have tried black powder and Pyrodex and closely followed the instructions in the black powder cartridge manuals. Something I have not tried is a “duplex” load. Some other shooters have said you wrote an article about black powder cartridges that burn clean. If you have any advice, I will appreciate the help. - T.V.M., Washington

A: I am trying to read between the lines to get at the root of your problem. First, it seems unlikely the fouling is actually in the chamber. About the only way this could happen is with blow-back past the brass case. If the fouling is really in the chamber recess, try leaving a little flair on the case mouth to form a perfect seal before the cartridge is fired.

I believe the most likely location of the problem is in the throat, and the bullet is running into fouling, rather than the case. If you have the problem with Pyrodex (it fouls much less than any black powder), there is some mechanical problem with the bullets or the chamber instead of your loads. (By the way, I always heartily recommend against using any kind of duplex loading. It is a very good way to create excessive chamber pressure.)

What I suspect is wrong is either the throat portion of your chamber is too small, or the noses of your bullets are too large in diameter. Short of using nitro powder, you will get a reasonable accumulation of powder residue in the throat. There must be a little clearance between the bullet and the barrel, or as you have experienced, it quickly becomes impossible to chamber a round.

Assuming your bullets have a large, parallel surface in front of the case, you might try another nose profile or diameter that will create the necessary clearance. If your bullets are reasonably tapered and the correct diameter, you might have the folks at Shiloh Sharps run their current chambering reamer into your barrel to create the necessary dimensions. I guess the bottom line is a lot of   people do a lot of shooting with black-powder cartridges and do not have to clean the chambers between shots. Therefore, you must have some mechanical problem that should be relatively easy to fix.

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