The sheet metal magazine plate on the Winchester M69A looks like it would guide the magazine into place, but it doesn’t.
The first thought to come to mind when considering gunsmithing that can be done in the home shop is simple parts replacement. Firing pins, extractors and metal injection molded parts chip or break; bolt stops and old-style (not plunger-type) ejectors become so battered with use that they malfunction on occasion. Generally easy stuff.
With the magazine plate removed, the huge voids in the inletting that prevent magazine guidance when seating are obvious.
Next up are projects that are easy to do, but take some time to get exactly right. They involve improving the operation of a rifle that works properly as is, but has an annoying trait. This trait may be so bad that the rifle goes to the back of the gun safe instead of to the range or hunting field. One such that affects millions of older .22 rimfire bolt guns will be corrected here.
A cast aluminum piece with a flat spring locks the magazine in place, but it is .625 inch too short.
Most of us started our rifle shooting careers at an early age with a .22 rimfire, generally a single shot. It was the greatest gun in the whole world for a few years. Parents liked it too, because the single-shot mechanism limited the amount of ammunition they had to buy. Nevertheless, it is surprising how many rounds kids can put through such rifles when they put their minds to it!
The floorplate of the magazine should be parallel with the bottom line of the stock for proper alignment with the lock. The top photo shows the misalignment that is possible before correcting the inletting. The bottom photo shows the magazine pushed forward.
Eventually, most of us developed an interest in hunting small game. It would soon become obvious that quick follow-up shots were sometimes necessary. Fishing around in a jacket pocket for cartridges to reload a single shot was just not acceptable. The single shot was traded for a repeater or stored in a closet or under a bed until another youngster came along to use it.
The arrows show the inside edges of the magazine lock, where wood fillers will end.
For at least 60 years after the introduction of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, this newly-acquired repeater would be of bolt-action design and fed by a five-round detachable magazine. This was simply because it was cheaper than other rimfires fed by tubular magazines. However, it was the price where the problem lay.
Rifles chambered for the .22 rimfire have always enjoyed brisk sales, thus competition is intense. Any idea that could cut production costs was thoroughly explored. Even the slightest reduction in cost meant more sales. One way this was done was to eliminate hand-fitting on the little .22 stocks. This required removing more wood than necessary in the inletting. So much wood was removed in some rifles that it appears that the stock would fit more than one model. The point is that many wood-stocked .22 rimfire rifles, using detachable magazines and made until at least the 1970s, have too much wood removed under the receiver.
The tape indicates where wood filler pieces, front and rear, end against the magazine.
Since excessive removable wood can’t be seen with the rifle assembled, what difference does it make? Answer: A lot of difference if the wood is missing in the area where the magazine attaches! The clip then has no guidance to align it with its locking surface on the bottom of the receiver. It simply slides around in the stock recess until it falls into place. Any attempt to force it into place by applying excessive pressure will just damage the feed rails.
The worst offenders here are the Winchester M69, M69A, M75 Target and M75 Sporter. These all have the magazine release button on the side of the stock. The great M52 is not included because it has steel guides in the front and rear of the magazine recess. Most Remington’s have a thumb-operated, flat-spring, magazine latch located at the rear of the magazine recess which acts as a guide. The front and rear of the recess are, however, often very rough and are improved by a little smoothing with abrasive paper if the clip tends not seat too smoothly. Several other inexpensive rimfires using detachable magazines have inletting similar to the Winchesters.
Fortunately, the problem is easy to solve. Filler blocks are made to fit the excess space in front and back of the magazine recess. These are then epoxied in place. Photos show the size of these cavities, the amount of magazine misalignment possible before filling them and the appearance with new wood in place.
Wood filler pieces are cut from walnut scraps.
Start the project by making a couple of walnut scraps the same width as the cavity in the stock. Any hardwood could be used, but walnut shapes easily and epoxy adheres well. The rifle shown is a Winchester M69A which requires filler pieces about a half-inch wide. Fitting these is trial and error, and they should be as tight as possible. Epoxy will fill any small voids. If the cavity appears dark and oil-covered, it is a good idea to roughen it slightly before fitting the filler pieces.
The front filler block is beginning to fit its recess.
Fillers are held in place by a clip magazine while the epoxy cures.
The goal here is to make a filler block that gives a straight line surface between the inside of the magazine latch assembly and the front and rear of a seated magazine. It would appear that the sheet metal plate affixed to the bottom of the stock with two screws should provide some alignment to the magazine, but it doesn’t. Its real purpose must be to cover up the inletting.
The filler pieces are completely fit to their recesses before they are epoxied into place. At first glance, it may appear easier to glue one slightly oversized block in permanently, fit the magazine then put in the other block and repeat. This, however, would require removing the barreled action from the stock each time wood was cut from the magazine recess, then reinstalling it to check magazine fit. Too much time would be wasted. Of course, if a bit too much wood is removed from a loose filler block, a new one can be quickly made; not so easy if it’s epoxied in place. A very light coat of spotting compound (light oil) on the clip makes the job go faster.
Filler blocks are here complete and ready for epoxy.
Filler pieces should lightly bear against the clip. This allows holding them in place as the epoxy cures. I use Brownell’s ACRA-GLAS GEL for this because of its firm consistency. It does not run or drip after assembly. Only a couple of drops are needed, so it may be a good idea to plan this work when epoxy is being used for another project like bedding a rifle.
Be certain to apply a release agent (paste wax) to any part of the magazine retainer assembly and the magazine that could conceivably be touched by epoxy. This is really just a precaution because such a small amount of epoxy is needed. It is also a good idea to wipe the contact surface of the stock and filler block with a powerful degreaser like acetone to help the epoxy adhere. Actually, any glue will adhere better if the wood is degreased and acetone is cheap.
Some may say that one of the “super glues” would be ideal for this application. That would be true if the glue adhered to wood, but many will not. Some will release if the joint receives a sharp jolt. Been there, done that. If one can be found that is recommended for wood, by all means use it, but still use release agent!
The final result. The magazine can be pushed into place using only one finger.
All that remains is to apply epoxy to the stock and filler pieces, push the fillers into place and snap in the magazine to hold them. The next day, remove the clip and cut down tiny high spots (if any) where it rubs on the wood. The magazine should not be an interference fit, but push in easily with one finger. I’ll bet the old rifle will now spend less time in the gun safe.