Sunday, March 25, 2018

Desert Jewel

Last fall Bob returned once again to hunt desert Mule Deer in old Mexico. He's done it for years and years and this time he pulled a scary rabbit out of the hat. I'm not sure of the details and haven't a clue as to where it all happened. I do know he used one of his favorite Legend 300 Weatherby's which have served him around the globe time and time again.

Hunting  big desert Mule Deer has been a passion of Bob's for a very long time and he's always been just a second to late as a buck like this evaporated into the greasewood and cactus.  This time it all came together, what a toad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Can someone one tell me why ?

Be advised, as I am about to rant, again.

Can someone tell me why we really need objective and ocular lens housings the size of Coke bottles? What purpose does a throw lever have on scopes designed for hunting big game, especially dangerous game ? I have mentioned these ever encroaching anomalies in earlier post. Let me start out by saying I'm not picking on a singular manufacture as this is becoming a shared trend in the industry. What do you really need on a big game hunting rifle ? We're told bigger is better, brighter is nicer, lit is chic.


Lets look at a possible scenario that I can see happening 9000 miles from my bench top.

You liked the looks of the Z8 when you first picked it up. It came with all the bells and whistles you'd read about, so it naturally followed you home. Fortunately the rifle it was going on was set up with High 30mm rings. Granted it still required some alteration to the already low mounted bolt handle to clear that overly robust ocular lens but that's what gunsmiths are for.  A little grinding a little welding some body and fender work and we're fixed up.

We now fast forward to late October in the middle of the Zambezi Valley.

Despite your best intentions you've just stuffed a shot and smacked a dandy buffalo right in the tummy. The scope had been set between 6X or maybe 8X when you pulled the trigger but the sun was in your eyes, the shooting sticks may have slipped just as the sear broke or maybe you rushed the shot. Regardless the bull is now running for the river. Excuses be damned its now time to hitch up your girdle and try to clean up your mess.

All spring and summer you shot round after round and the new scope worked fantastic, with its excellent clarity, superb color rendition, ample eye relief, it adjusted fine when required and your groups never looked better thanks to that boosted power.

Six hours later you're hot and dry, the water bottles were emptied three hours ago and your bathed in sweat from keeping pace with the team. The bulls tracks are still sprinkled with drops of green and red as he heads deeper into the valley.

Then suddenly the trackers pull together, fingers point into a Mopane thicket just ahead as they begin to back peddle out of the way. In a whisper the PH ask if your ready as the time has now come.

You do a quick mental assessment to make sure your wits are all in a tow as this wasn't supposed to happen quite so fast. Then you notice you need to turn your scope down to 1X, it's the first time you've ever done that since you bought it.

Cautiously the two of you enter the trees. The old bull is sick and mad when he rises to his feet and you fire quickly somewhere into his front end. Juiced by your own adrenalin you reach for the bolt to hit him again.

And that's when the melons fall off the cart. There is now no way you can now operate that bolt rapidly as you no longer have any room between the throw lever and the bolt knob.

In your haste most of your right hand looses all purchase with the bolt knob and then slips completely off the knob leaving you with a fist full of air. What the f--k ? The simplest of tasks turns into the four finger shuffle in an unfamiliar and unexpected moment of panic.  The PH stands ready and covers the stunned but still very mobile bull. As you continue to fumble with bolt the bull gathers himself again and comes with intent. The PH now sends a bullet into his skull to settle the issue.

You couldn't, as you're still out of the game, muzzle to the sky looking at the bolt wondering whether to push it forward or to the rear in the confusion. Far fetched ???? please don't insult me.

You have to wonder why those in the optical industry never thought of this potential situation. Another great design formulated in a Solidworks without any of the designers having ever set foot into the woods behind the plant with one of their creations mounted on a rifle. Boggles the mind doesn't it.

So for grins lets look at a few numbers, These specs I've taken off two new Swaro Z8's that are currently in my shop. The rubber change power ring has a whopping OD of 1.840 compared to a scopes from not all that long ago that measured 1.600 such as the Leupold 1.5-5x20mm. Now even variants of this battle tested DG design have been enlarged to 1.700

By comparison the Schmidt and Bender Summit has an ocular bell that measures 1.675 + or - and the S&B  3-12x42mm Klassick is slightly larger at 1.690. I use to think these were overly large, not anymore.

Then we have the throw lever. Have we really become so weak that we actually need this mechanical aid ? Come on people. The throw lever on the Z8 extends another .225 off the side of the scope, and it's on the wrong side for right handed shooters wanting to utilize the lowest power. Hello !!!!!!!

Another useless add-on that arrived with this brand new Z8 2-16x50mm is the ocular flip open lens covers. This door handle sticks out another .308 from the anodized body of the ocular lens housing.  Hello !!!!!!!!

To mount this scope as received with ample clearance that allowed you to actually utilize these widgets you'd have to add enough additional height in your rings that you'll need a step ladder to rest your cheek on.

About that time you'd run out of vertical elevation and require a tapered MOA set of rings that would place your eye piece even higher yet. What's so ridicules is these add-ons have zero, nothing, nada to do with the optics.

Despite the scope being physically bloated the optics of the Z8 are fantastic, so whats with the extra crap ? couldn't they try and leave well enough alone ? Apparently not.

The requirements of the big game scope mounted on a sporting weight hunting rifle are pretty simple.

You actually need is ample clearance between the objective bell and barrel as well as the ocular bell housing and bolt handle to operate said bolt under any and all situations.

Ideally the scope should be mounted as low as reasonalby possible for quick target acquisition and rapid bolt manipulation. In this regard size really does matter.

The scope needs to be reliable, rugged and as light as possible on any heavy caliber rifle

Lastly filtered down to its simplest form a scope is an aiming devise and nothing more. It is not the Hubble's little brother.

What is the optical industry as a whole thinking ????  Me, I'm at a loss to come up with an answer

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Terminal List

As anyone knows that has frequented this blog site it is set up to highlight work within the shop, comment on the state of the trade, offer test reports on optics, gear and whatever kit advancements that I become aware of. And yes, I will sometimes toss in a book review.

As the ink was drying on the final pages I was sent an advanced copy of Jack Carr's

    The Terminal List   

I had been made aware that this new thriller allowed a cameo appearance for one of my rifles. Eager to see how the author had woven a Legend and the protagonist together I turned off my phone and settled into a chair. I didn't have to read very deep before I was sucked under.

Take a Seal Team and send them into an ambush that has no explanation and kill off the leaders remaining team members state side on their return home. Then for good measure murder his wife and daughter without remorse. Tidy up the loose ends and slip into the gloom.

What they hadn't counted on was passionate resolve and ultimate revenge

The pace of this book will dump you tattered and scraped on the pavement dry mouthed and  frantically seeking cover.

Widows Peak Anyone ?

It is no secret that I am not all that enthused about widow peaked recoil pads but over the years, per the clients wishes I have been requested to install quite a few of them. Red and 1 " thick seem to be the only option when looking for a commercialy peaked pad. When the client wants one in Black or Brown or in 1/2" or 3/4" thickness all bets are off unless you get creative. If the pad is to be covered in leather you can use about any reasonable material to form the peak that is then epoxied to the pad and filed to shape.

Normally the leather used to cover these pads is made from Goat or Pig skin and is pretty malleable. I have twice used remnant Elephant hide that I purchased from a professional boot maker and it is far from malleable. Two was enough thank you.

The enclosed pics are of Pachmayr Decelerator Black pad being fit with a Widows Peak that will be covered in leather by Dave Wilson. Dave for years has had the market cornered on some pig skin leather that when finished is quite unique to say the least. You could call it a Buffalo Hide effect and was precisely the look the client wanted. Knowing this I called Dave as he is a true master at covering pads with leather and as I mentioned he had the goods. My job was to install the peak and grind the pad to the proper OD and shape for Dave to do his thing.

The following process is what I use to install a peak on any pad of any color or thickness regardless if its covered in leather or uncovered.

For the best results you need to make the peak from the same hard black rubber spacer material that the parent pad is made of. In this case I'm using a Pachmayr black spacer made in the same Pachmayr facility. I prefer these pads to any other. If you don't adhere to this and you use a dissimilar material it's going to stick out like rubbish in the lilacs when its all fit and finished if the pad is not covered on completion.                          Go back and re-read that sentence.

More often than not I am accused of pole vaulting over mole hills. "He makes to many fixtures, he's  wasting to much time on jigs"  blah blah blah.  Maybe so but if you want to replicate something or a process for future use it pays to Jig Up. Holding the pad to drill out a larger cavity for leather covered plugs can be as simple as finding the visual center of the pad under a drill press and using an end mill to plunge out the cavity. I did this once, I'll leave it at that.

This holding block is aluminum and has the correct screw hole spacing for different pad sizes. It has been made to allow 2 short steel dowel pins to center the pad properly on the fixture face side up. The pins also allow me to locate the center line of the pad top and bottom based on the screws holes in the pad. This is important so the larger leather covered plugs when finished are visually in the true center of the pad. If you don't think this is important wait until you spend all that time covering one and get one hole off center.

With this block in my milling machine vise I use a wiggler to find the center line of the block off the sharpened dowel pin.

Once I've flattened the back of the recoil pad I slip the pad over the dowel pins. I use a tube cutters made from O-1 for what ever size hole I want to cut out of the pad. Yes, you have to make the cutters, as Larry doesn't sell these just yet.

The cutter and pad must be lubricated, I use Glycerin for this purpose. The cutter is pushed into the pad with the spindle on a low rpm. The cutter is pushed in deep enough to just touch the metal frame inside the pad. Remove the pad from the jig and use some needle nose pliers to remove the cut plug. Then spin the pad 180 degrees on the fixture and cut the other hole.

Once both plug holes are cut the pad is then turned upside down and slipped over 2 aluminum pillars that are have been made to size and to just slip into the plug holes on the fixture. Two 10x32 Allen screws and large washers are then bolted to the underside of the pad, through the pad, through the pillars then tightened on the block. At this stage I take the mounted pad and block out of the mill and with a height Gage and some basic math establish and then scribe a center line on the toe and heel area of the pads black spacer so its visible on the bottom and both top and lower ends of the mounted pad. Accuracy in establishing this center line on the pad is important as the widows peak should run in line with center line on the plug cavities. Trust me on this.

The tube or plug cutters you make up need to be in different sizes, the width of the leather to be used must be taken into account for the plug itself and the plug hole it's going into. If the pads is not to be covered you need a plug cutter to make a rubber plug slightly larger than the plug cavity hole. The plugs also need to be contact cemented in place when completed and some friction is required. So this means you will have to sacrifice another pad to get plugs of a slightly larger diameter. The cost just went up another $40.00

I then put the mounted pad back in the mill, its upside down of course and with the wiggler again I find the scribe center line at the heel position and in my case hit zero on the DRO. Then with a 1/8th inch sharp cutter I cut a cavity that .150 deep into the pad by .800 in length across the crown of the heel. The depth towards the top screw hole can vary but it's usually .200. Note the two extended cuts on either end the .800 long pocket. This to allow our insert we will make to drop in place with few fitting issues.

Next the widows peak has to be made. As stated it needs to be made from the same material as the manufacture uses for the spacer on that style pad. A .799 wide x .450 high block is then made in the mill, it must be squared off and be a slip fit into the .800 pocket cut into the pad. CARE MUST BE TAKEN THAT IT IS A SLIP, SNUGGY FIT

The .799 long block is then cut with a radius ball mill to whatever size widows peak you require. In this case I used a 1/2" ball mill. From the top end of the block I came down .250 and then cut into the spacer block the required amount, in this case the widows peak will also have a 1/16" radius on the center line and end of the peak. I will eventually file to shape the 1/16" radius peak, remember leather is fond of any radius. If this pad was not going to be covered you would walk the ball end mill into the material an equal amount on both sides towards the center line of the .799 block to give you a nice sharp peak.

Now you should also have .200 of base left that will fit nicely into your pocket on the pad and if you did the math correctly the  center of the widows peak will be in line with the center line scribed on the pad. Note the center line on the pads spacer. The bottom of the 1/4 " radius should be flush with underside of the pad spacer material that comes in contact with the back of the stock. The extended 1/8th " cuts should allow the peak block to stop at the correct depth. Life is now good

Then you need to epoxy the peak block into the pads cavity being damn sure you use black pigment in the epoxy and that the peak block is in as close a contact as you can muster with the pad cavity.

Then let it dry for 24 hours. Dress off the run over epoxy carefully with a dowel and 280 grit Wet or Dry paper wrapped around a dowel that is just shy of .500 OD when the paper is taught around the dowel.  Careful now easy does it. The peak and pad are now ready to fit to the stock. If you've done you layout work right and inlet the peak straight into the center line that you should have on your butt stock when the pad is finally fit and then ground the peak and the pad holes and plugs should all in line. The Newly inletted peak and will appear 100% seamless with the parent pad.

Now you know why I hate these things. Expect to bleed heavily when this invoice arrives

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Joel Schafer's The Final Touch


Finding any book written on specialized gun smithing techniques can be akin to finding a $10 dollar bill under your couch cushions. It can happen, but not all that often. When a book of this nature turns up I tend to put on a pot of coffee and migrate to a chair. All work for at least the time required to read the 1st two chapters is usually put on hold. If it's really well written the all bets are off. Anything that even resembles meaningful production comes to an abrupt halt for quite sometime.

Recently I had cleared my bench to get ramped up for a couple weeks of checkering. I was sorting through all my tools when a friend stopped by and noticing my next victim in the cradle he asked If I had ever read Joel Schafer's checkering book ? "No, I've never heard of it".  The next day he dropped it off and I'm glad he did. The Final Touch stopped most of the  production that day. Yes, I can checker, it comes with the job description but I'm always interested in other peoples techniques and this book had some slants on this subject I hadn't thought of and frankly I need all the help I can get.

The only other book I'm aware of that addresses this subject is Monty Kennedy's The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks and was 1st Published in 1952. When I entered gun-smithing school in 1976 it was the only book written solely on the subject of checkering gun stocks. It was and still is an educational piece of literature on the subject. I clearly remember one piece of advise in the book from Len Brownell in regard to preventing over-runs. His advise was pretty simple"when you come to the boarder, you stop" unfortunately I have not always followed that advice to the letter.  Kennedy's book gave a lot of people the guts to pick up the tools and learn the skill, it was all we really had.

I can say without any reservation that after reading Joel's The Final Touch from cover to cover twice that this is well worth the price of admission. 

Joel's easily explained manner of instruction has been well thought out. Composed of 101 pages and over 200 excellent color photographs it is hard to imagine how you could make a more comprehensive body on the subject. Broken down into 17 chapters covering every aspect that one could possibly address on the subject. There is literally nothing left out.

                                          It was published in 2103, so where have I been ?

I have seen both Jerry Fisher and the late Monty Kennedy lay out checkering patterns on fore-ends with little more than two master-lines and grease pencil diamonds applied as arbitrary borders. Then effortlessly develop the pattern one line at a time with a power tool. This type of free style skill is only achieved after checkering many acres of walnut. I personally do not have that skill set nor the bravery required to pull it off. I need a map thank you

So I was pleasantly surprised to read of Joel's method of using paper to determine and transfer the fore-end pattern based on actual volume of the fore-end as I have used this same method for almost 3 decades. The 1st time I was made aware of this technique was after a colleague had returned from a Phil Pilkington seminar with some graph paper already lined out with a layout diamond pattern ready to go. The idea did have some merit but did not adequately take into account the radical fore-end taper that was so popular at that time. I began to experiment with the idea but soon applied it in the same manner Joel addresses in this book. This method works extremely well if you spend the time getting the fore-end symmetrical to begin with.

The Final Touch also explores the use of power checkering heads. Early in my career I owned and used the MMC checkering tools on two different occasions. The only issue I ever had with the MMC was 50% my cross diamond layout on certain fore-ends had a distinct diagonal slant along the perpendicular length or line of the fore-end. As this anomaly always bugged the hell out of me I eventually gave up the MMC and continued to use hand powered push and pull tools and did not suffer that same diagonal effect. After reading chapter 16 & 17 I think I now know why I develop this cross diamond slant

As the quality of push spacing tools and finishing cutters is currently at an all time low I'm seriously  thinking about picking up a power tool once again. Having read the The Finishing Touch certainly has prodded me even further in this direction.

Joel's book should be in the library of anyone considering checkering a gun stock as a hobby or as a professional reference book for full time stock makers. Well, written and again filled with excellent photographs it may soon become dog eared with your other favorites.

The book can be ordered directly from Joel by calling 308-760-2805. The cost is $75.00 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. Listed on Amazon as well I'm told the actual deliveries are made directly from Joels location anyway so might as well shop direct.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Thanks Carl

Not long ago, a client of mine bought an older Ruger # 1. His intention was to turn it into a tree stand rifle for one of his kids. Could I check it over to ensure it was safe and operational and mount a scope on it ? As this job would only take an hour and break up the monotony of a week long stint at the checkering cradle, I agreed to do so. Earlier in the year, I had mentioned to him an online company that was selling Zeiss Conquest at a very good price. Bingo we each made a purchase.

When it came time to actually mount the scope in the rings it was evident that the only way that Zeiss was going to fit in those Ruger OEM rings was with the aid of a 10-ton press. The tube OD on all of the newly purchased Conquests ran 1.0032 to 1.0034" and not 1.000".

I have run into this situation a few other times in the past with Zeiss scopes. 27 years ago, I purchased a then current production Diavari 1.5-6X42mm variable that was .007 under the standard 30mm call out behind the turret housing and .008 larger than nominal 30mm ahead of the turret housing. Since this was before Al Gore had invented the NET I called Germany to ask whether this was normal. The response from Zeiss was "what counts is the precision within the scope and not the dimensional variation on the outside of the tube, have a nice day. Auf Wiedersehen"  That scope was sold as it was not compatible with detachable mount system I had just installed on the rifle and kept sliding forward under recoil due to the radically reduced tube diameter. 

A number of years later I had a client that wanted a new Zeiss that had yet to hit the open market when the rifle was being built. A prototype of this scope was displayed during that year's convention circuit and my client had me order one while at the convention. I'm not sure I can remember the exact configuration but it seems to me it was 5-15x42mm T if I recall correctly. The Legends construction  eventually got to the point of being held up by the lack of having the scope in hand to bore the set of my rings to the required tube diameter. Things were getting a bit tense so I called Zeiss and asked what is the tube OD call out on this back ordered 5-15 ? was it right on the 1.000 " mark ???. Seemingly bored by the question I was told by my contact at Zeiss "Yes, it will be 1.000". 

So to complete the project we bored our rings accordingly to make the client happy and prevent any further delays when the scope did arrive. Within a couple months the new Zeiss pitched up, the completed Legend came out of the safe, the top rings halves removed and scope slid into position.  Unfortunately it would not fit in our set of 1" rings. The problem ? the scope tube OD on that particular scope was 1.005. Thanks Carl. 

To correct this problem required removing the bases from the rifle, shimming the gap between the ring halves set each up in the milling machine vise, indicating them in again and boring the ID of each ring out to 1.005, making up a lapping bar that was 1.005 and then lapping the rings again. The client was not at all impressed with the up-charge. My response was: "if you want to bitch, call Carl."

Now before anyone thinks I have any angst for Zeiss let me correct that notion. I have been a non-stocking Zeiss dealer for close to 30 years and I use their products in the field myself constantly. I willingly endorse and supply them for my clientele whenever requested. My issue with them is their micrometers don't seem to measure the same as my micrometers, must be that metric thing.

So now we have a small herd of Conquests on my bench that are all the same tube size but won't fit in a standard set of 1" commercial rings without marring the hell out of the scope tube before the proper eye relief is established and the reticle is rotated to be "level" (whatever that implies) with the planet. If a scope of this diameter is wedged into place it then throws the tapped lower scope rings holes out of alignment, away from the center-line of each ring with the top ring half holes and counter-bores. The rings screws are then under stress and out of alignment when snugged in place. If installed "farmer tight"  a crushed or cratered tube is a given. 

The only one way out of this dilemma was to determine the approximate gap between the top and lower ring halves, as cut by Ruger in this case, make up the appropriate shim for this thickness ( in this case I chose .040) , drill two # 29 holes in each shim for the scope ring screws to clear and then did my level best to try and figure out a way to indicate and hold the ring in the vise to enlarge the ID on each ring. Putting horse shoes on a catfish might have taken less time.

What was also interesting was that, even when using a 1.000 gauge pin to indicate this whole lash up in place and opening up the ID bore of the Ruger ring to 1.004", my final cuts did not clean up the entire surface inside the ring on either the top or bottom half of that investment cast set of rings. Go figure 

Once completed, the newly-bored rings were placed back on the rifle's rib, a collimator was placed in the muzzle end of the 7x57 and then the Zeiss was settled into the rings. I did this to confirm we still had an ample adjustment range in the scope and to determine the which ring would take either the front or rear position on the rib and allow me the least amount of height misalignment to deal with when I lapped in the rings on the rib. 

I made up a 1.004" lapping bar and used it get as much lapped surface area on both lower ring halves without turning this into an all day event. I quit when I had lapped approximately 85% of the surface for both rings. 

Note that areas in the original ring surfaces that did not clean up by machining the rings .004" oversized and lapping. And people wonder why are started making my own mounts.

Now all that needs to be done is to re-blue the bits and pieces and put this package back together. The estimated hour long job ended just in time for lunch. Imagine this situation being addressed at your local Hook and Bullet Emporium and we wonder why so many used scopes look as if they been used as clubs. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ramblings From The Field

I just received this mule deer pic from TJ and the results of his hunt this morning. He and his dad were again in New Mexico and TJ was once again putting his Legend to good use. Chambered for 300 Weatherby this rifle has been his go to firearm ever since he look delivery of it. Built in a Standard Sporter configuration it has become well traveled since its inception. The list and variety of game taken with this rifle is long and varied.

Loaded with 200 grain Nosler Partitions at 3000 fps it is hard to refute this being considered an all around cartridge and rifle combination no matter where you choose to travel.

This Labrador Caribou crested a ridge a month or so ago at just the wrong time and was quickly turned into steaks and chops for the barbecue back in Michigan, what a bull TJ. 

I've said it many times before, beware of the one gun man

Hulme and Athol teamed up again for Safari in Zambia with Hulme finally getting a chance to use his Classic 416 Rigby for the 1st time. Built on a highly customized 1917 Enfield with the metal work being completed by the late Tom Burgess and stock work by yours truly. Hulme was already in possession of a 375 H&H Legend when the original owner of this rifle decided to sell it. Hulme made the wise decision to pick it up. This rifle is equipped with Tom's detachable scope mounts and iron sight system and the stock is made from a true piece of old world French walnut. Being an African veteran it is good to see it back in service again. Below is an e-mail I just got from Hulme concerning the amount of prep work that he goes through to get ready for a hunt with any new rifle:


Apologies for late reply, I've been hectic at work.

I don’t have any pics unfortunately. That .416 is a real classic D'Arcy. Athol and I attached the scope, went to the range and using Norma factory ammo, I fired one shot that was an inch above the bull at 50m so I made no adjustments. I fired another two shots at a target in Zambia for good measure, then the next shot was the buffalo at about 80m, on the shoulder. The end.

 Brilliant !!!!!!!!!!

  The lesson here is don't sweat the small stuff, pack the kit and go

Anders checked in from Sweden recently with a picture of a very nice Nordic Moose that he shot with a switch barrel 300-375 H&H Legend that we assembled a number of years ago. He did report however that the pair of Barnes 168gr TTSX did not work quite as planned but did indeed secure Moose meat for everybody in camp. Does a Swedish Moose dog point them or are they just used to retrieve them? Hmmm in either case those dogs deserve a lot of respect as they're working for their keep. I wonder how well they'd do on Pronghorns ? 

Then I finally received a grundle of pics from Annabet's South African hunt with Campbell Smith. She took two Legends on this trip, a newly completed 375 H&H to break in and her time tested 270 Winchester that I have long since dubbed the Hammer. I am convinced that if she leaned this rifle against a tree  she could go back to the truck or just take a nap wait for the sound of a gun shot and then walk back over to see what that 270 had killed, it has been that reliable. Bang thump, game over. Here are but a few.