Friday, July 28, 2017

Vicknair Bar and Wood

A few weeks ago a pattern stock showed up unlike any I had ever seen. I had been given a heads up by owner and gunsmith Dewey Vicknair ( The J-pegs preceding  the arrival really didn't do this pattern any justice, You had to hold it in your hands to appreciate it. Dewey said he had always wanted to build a double rifle of his own design, something different, something unique, something outside the box. I've heard this said more times than I want to remember, 99.9% of the time it's all talk and zero walk. But Dewey brought his bar and wood to life. Not having any of the metal work in hand I could only imagine how it would all tie together. What I saw was the work of a gifted tool, die and pattern maker, a skill that is becoming very rare today within my industry.

We had discussed the project before it was due to arrive, as Dewey was trying to give me any advantage he could think of to aid in the duplication process. At the last moment he epoxied struts, well fins, no perhaps girders would be a better term to the underside of the stock to reinforce the trigger plate area. Thank goodness he did as it added a substantial amount of support to a rather lean trigger plate and knuckle area. Once the metal was inlet the strength in that area would be more than adequate with the fins removed we just had to get it to that stage. 

The rest of the metalwork was made up with an extended top strap and trigger guard that terminated into the grip cap. There was no excess wood to be found anywhere in the design.

The pattern prep alone was a work of art both inside and out. Detail sanded then primer painted to give the maker a true visual of what he had envisioned, The interior surfaces glass bedded perfectly. So now the question was how to best hold and support the pattern and blank being machined ? That approach took a couple days to evolve. 

For the first day I laid the pattern on my bench and eyed it cautiously every so often as if it was a sleeping rattlesnake. The second afternoon it came home with me in a heavy canvas sack tied snug at the top, I wasn't taking any chances.

I finally decided on what type of attachment I wanted to use to anchor the front center into the pattern that not only allowed rigid support but also access for my stylists and cutters to as much surface area as was possible. This would give Dewey a reference or datum in the very same area that would now be occupied by this center. Dewey reminded me more than once about some pesky little recoil shoulder that was about to be buried under my blocks that he was worried about. Clearly he needed some vacation time. 

Fitting the blocks took a number of hours. Made from 2 parts that sandwiched the forward end of the stock and then tied together with three apposing 10x32 Allen screws. Once fabricated and installed a couple times this space age beaver trap was glassed together making it virtually integral with the pattern. 

24 hours later the epoxy had cured. I poked it with a stick and nothing moved, always a good sign.  The set-up was now ready to test drive and so I roughed the stocks exterior. As this phase places the greatest amount of stress on the stock and pattern I'd know pretty quick if this lash up had any promise.

Once I had the stock cut an 1/8" oversize I removed it from the machine and let it hang over the weekend hoping any pent up demons would be released from the roughed blank. Then I indicated both the pattern and oversized blank into the rotary steady-rest system. The rigidity for both was now significantly increased, so far so good. Slowly I began to remove wood from the walnut blank by decreasing the size of the stylist in relation to the diameter of the cutter in use. His instructions said "cut to zero unless otherwise indicated". I cut to zero.

When the last walnut chip hit the floor I exhaled for the 1st time in 24 hours. Before removing the stock and pattern from the machine I measured everything I could with my calipers, gage blocks and pins. Satisfied the stock came out of the machine and the next day was on its way back to Dewey to be inlet. 

This project was without any doubt the most challenging stock duplication I have ever attempted. 

Once again skill and daring has overcome fear and uncertainty. Now to finish up machining that lowly Boss stock.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dispatches from the field

Frank has finally put his 458 Lott Legend to use. Completed quite some time ago and taken on a number of safaris this rifle to date had always remained a brides maid never making it quite to the alter. On this Safari and using both the Swift 450gr A-Frames soft points and 450gr North Fork solids he finally broke the rifle in on this pair of West African buffalo bulls. This rifle has 3 sight systems at its disposal, seen below with a modern production Leupold 3X that came into use on this hunt it also was fitted with my receiver sight and Recknagel front ramp and sight. Then later on fit with a mount to hold a Trijicon RMR-06 red dot sight system on the front bridge. Frank likes to be prepared. Lets hope this rifle is deployed again soon.

LB has just returned from A Dall Sheep hunt in the Northwest Territories. He's weighing in a little lighter this week as it was a backpack hunt and was forced to donate pints of blood daily to the Canadian mosquito population.

Quite some time was devoted to sorting through his kit before the trip. Packing and re-packing again and again considering the actual real world use of deodorant when compared to its weight and amount of space it took up in his pack. Pondering if you honestly need a fork all that badly for 10 days? Is 15 rounds of ammo is enough, 10 would be lighter? Been there, done that and understand the process better than some. I must admit it was amusing to be included in some of these debates.

This is LB's third sheep hunt and likely not the last as the lure of where they live will draw you back a long as your able to climb and gut it out to the top of one more ridge line, into yet another valley floor and through one more glacial torrent.

The rifle used on this hunt was an early production Left Hand Stainless Steel Legend chambered for 280 Remington. As LB gets in a lot of trigger time the single shot he placed steeply uphill at 350 yards was not just sent on a wing and prayer. The ram died quickly without any drama. 

The final walk to a ram through the stone and grass is always a mixed bag of emotions, Until you've done it sounds like the same old song. I can assure you that it is so much more than the same old tune.

As I type this Ann is crossing the big blue on the return trip from Africa. She, her husband and Professional hunter Campbell Smith spent 10 days of effort on Ann's first Safari. There were a number of firsts on this trip, one was getting use to a new Left Hand 375 H&H Legend. Apprehension soon turned to confidence as the days of practice in the sand hills of Colorado began to pay off

When she and Cam hit the ground running I'm told the skinning crew was kept busy late into the night for most of the trip. Ann's other light rifle a well used Legend seen on this blog many times before chambered for 270 Winchester. I'm sure it was used with speed and precision when called upon to do so. There is zero loafing around when hunting with Smith, as every thing is done at a ground eating walk, you be sure of that.

Good Bones the 7mm Remington

Without question my favorite Legend Light Sporter cartridge is the standard 7mm Remington. When with the throat extended in length to allow a 175gr Partition some real breathing room and tailored hand-loads developed just adds greater versatility to this already stellar performer. Mated with a 24" barrel this bullet can be driven at an average accuracy sweet spot velocity of 2800fps to 2830fps. Using a 26" barrel  2875fps to 2900fps seems to be where this bullet wants to hum. The rifle below is the clients second Legend. His first being a 270 Winchester but that rifle was liberated by his son and so the only alternative was to get another one in the works.

The last 4 groups shot with the 175gr Partitions this rifle delivered an aggregate of .600. This load will be used for everything the rifle is called upon to shoot. 

Scoped and loaded with 5 rounds it tips the scales just under 9lbs. It is now time for owner to lay in the dirt, wrap up in the sling and get use to this Legend like he did with his last.

This rifle will no doubt see some serious use in the future and in time begin a history of its own