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March 12, 2008

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You Always Hurt the Gun You Love

In 1977, I was in a hunting camp in Montana where one of the attendees was a fellow who did nothing but shade-tree gunsmith the whole time he was there. Never hunted; just diddled with the rifle of anyone who wanted his rifle diddled with. Someone gave him a rifle to have the barrel free-floated and he hogged out enough wood to start a good-sized fire. To many people, guns are like cars before cars were operated by 18 computers; the urge to tinker is irresistible.

Sometimes it works. A crummy trigger can't be abided. A barrel that bears on one side of the channel has to be re-bedded. A thin, hard recoil pad should be replaced with something that does not give you hematomas. But aside from that, most tinkering is futile and a waste of money.

Competitive shotgunners seem to tinker more than anyone else. Trap guns with adjustable combs and recoil pads are particularly susceptible. Dropped a bird at handicap? Why, just to crank that comb up a tad and all will be well. I've been to sporting clays shoots where you couldn't hear for the racket created by electric choke-tube wrenches. Back in the 70s there was a very famous trapshooter who was known to wedge his shotgun barrel under the bumper of his care and bend the barrel just a tad to make it shoot a smidgen higher.

Hey, it's a hobby and it's mostly for fun, so why not meddle? Just don't think it's going to help.

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Comments

Doug

If I had the money and time I spent tweaking and tinkering on my Thompson Center Encore.... and I ain't done yet.

Jim in Mo.

Bubba,
I see the take down lever but what exactly does it take down? Does slide release, etc. Don't want to get into something I'll cuss myself for later.
Have a police style belt and large holster both from Uncle Mike's that makes it reasonable to carry the gun squirrel hunting but I believe a shoulder holster would be just the ticket.

Peter

Ya I once took a shotgun a part...an old H n R Topper. lol..trouble was after I took it all apart...I couldn't get it back together. My Dad was so disgusted..but a couple months later..lol..we got it back together.

Jeff

I don't know, I consider tinkering to be another facet of the hobby. Just make sure you don't do anything stupid or unsafe, or deface a really nice gun.

There's no reason not to throw some nicer parts in your 10/22 or MK-11. Why not install a drop-in beavertail on your 1911 if that's what you like? Just don't go messing around with trigger sears or treating a nice stock like a middle-school carpentry project.

Above all, remember that tinkering can't make you a better shooter. Shooting does!

Carney

I've never ruined a gun by tinkering -- yet...

I do however, have what was once a $1200 revolver that someone else has reduced to a $200 chunk of metal.

Shane

I tinkered on a few guns mostly just springs, drop-ins, and wood. Until I got interested in military surplus. Mosin-Nagants, Mausers, and Swiss K-31 can be had for under 200 sometimes under 100. If you screw up you won't be asking yourself why you were stupid enough to try. But if successfull you have something that can be really cool. Also there is something about the first time go at a gun and start peeling off metal. Definitely exciting.

Shane

I tinkered on a few guns mostly just springs, drop-ins, and wood. Until I got interested in military surplus. Mosin-Nagants, Mausers, and Swiss K-31 can be had for under 200 sometimes under 100. If you screw up you won't be asking yourself why you were stupid enough to try. But if successful you have something that can be really cool. Also there is something about the first time go at a gun and start peeling off metal. Definitely exciting.

Pete Hansen

A number of years ago, while trying to save money by rebuilding a carburator on a Ford Pinto, I wound up with a handful of screws that I didn't know where they were suppose to go and took them and the carb to a mechanic to reassemble. I've adopted the same attitude toward trying to fix my own guns. Leave the fixin to the experts! Trying to fix it yourself is like giving yourself a "Do It Yourself" Lobotomy with a splitting maul and a tablespoon!

Brian T

Good shotguns for trap, skeet & sporting clays are manufactured to be adjustable. Learn to do it properly. Otherwise, learn what every visible part of your gun looks like when everything is working properly. If it ain't busted don't fix it. If a part moves, a screw starts to back out, you'll know it when you see it, so inspect everything after every shoot. Shotgun stocks need to be adjusted, just like rifle sights.

Yohan

Ya Ya ,..not sure where I heard this ( not an original Yohan statement) but it fits here pretty good,..

A guy asks his budy who was working on his car,..
hows the engine work goin ??.
Buddy says well,..
pretty good I think.
Im done for now

Decided to put in a new engine.
But,.. forgot to take the old one out.
Now,...my car soes 500 mph in second gear.
But I like it,..

LowRecoil

Mr. Petzal,

Your comments regarding the futility of most tinkering on rifles have inspired me to offer to you at no cost a splendid idea for your magazine.

Field & Stream has constructed the Ultimate Something-or-other in the past. We've seen articles on the Ultimate Hunting Cabin, The Ultimate Sporting Vehicle, The Ultimate Long Underwear, etc.

It occurs to me that a feature on the Ultimate Whitetail Rifle would serve two purposes: it would fit in with F&S's Ultimate Gizmo theme, and it would render tinkerage unnecessary.

Talk it over with your publisher. I'll wait here to gracefully accept your thanks.

I won't require a byline on the article, but if your gratitude for such a fine idea compels you to present me with the finished rifle (in 6.5x55, of course), I wouldn't object.

Bubba

Jim in Mo.

You flip the little lever down, flip the works attached out and down, (gun must be uncocked, dry fire if necessary!). Bolt should slide out back of reciever! If nothing else, take it to a gun smith. Most will assist you just to help fellow gun owners. Offer him a five spot for his troubles and you have valuable knowledge!

Bubba

Chev Jim

Of course, it's not just average Joes who mess up guns. When I was fairly young, I took a Weatherby Mark V to a gun store in Augusta, GA, to have a Redfield scope mounted. The mount was one of the dovetail types, where the front ring is inserted in the front base and turned into position. Well, this "gunsmith" used the scope to turn the front ring! The scope tube looked like a Rottweiler had been chewing on it for about a month! When I complained to the store owner, he asked me incredulously, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" Well, good grief, fella, I want you to replace the scope! He was giving me a hard time, so I sent the scope back to Redfield and explained the situation, and Redfield put my scope components into a new scope tube--for free. I also remember one "custom" gunsmith who would install rifle sights on riot shotguns--which often fell off after a few shots. Another gunsmith tried to talk me out of replacing the firing pin on a Winchester Model 100, which had a recall in effect on the firing pin (it could break and protrude through the firing pin hole and cause a slam fire). I replaced the firing pin myself. By the way, a friend of mine advanced a theory that the Model 100 was prone to "doubling" because the firing pin "kisses" the primer whenever the bolt pushes another cartridge into the chamber. This also happens with the AR series of rifles. That's why you should use MIL-SPEC (Military Specification) primers in such rifles, which are "harder" than regular primers and resist going off under anything than a full firing pin blow.

MidnightBanjo

The only rifle I've ever completely disassembled was a .22 Remington 550-1. That was a nightmare! Not because it is incredibly complex, but because it was the first I had ever taken apart. Funny thing, if you leave out a certain screw, the receiver will unscrew itself a little with every shot until it is out far enough that the firing pin doesn't make contact anymore. Disturbing when you don't realize what has happened. Took me about a week to find the screw, which was in the bottom of my cleaning kit, and get it back into good working order. I learned my lesson right there!

Nothing past field strip for me now! Especially since a good friend of mine is a gunsmith!

MidnightBanjo

The only rifle I've ever completely disassembled was a .22 Remington 550-1. That was a nightmare! Not because it is incredibly complex, but because it was the first I had ever taken apart. Funny thing, if you leave out a certain screw, the receiver will unscrew itself a little with every shot until it is out far enough that the firing pin doesn't make contact anymore. Disturbing when you don't realize what has happened. Took me about a week to find the screw, which was in the bottom of my cleaning kit, and get it back into good working order. I learned my lesson right there!

Nothing past field strip for me now! Especially since a good friend of mine is a gunsmith!

Dr. Ralph

If you ever build a muzzleloader from a kit, don't blue the nipple. They blow up if you do... don't ask how I know but I have a scar to prove it.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I learned long ago, if you need a plumber, don;t call a electrician. As with guns, I install my scopes, clean with gun scrubber, but if need serious work done, I take it to a quality gunsmith I have. I once tried to sporterized a Turk 8mm. Well,about 30 minuts of know nothing of what I was doing I carried it to my gunsmith. Even he could not get it to pattern as i had sawed off 5" of teh bbl???? Dumb A-- me. That taught me a valueable lesson. Did sell the 8mm after a bit of hore trading and now I clean a best I can with Birchwood casey gun scrubber, adn if needs further cleaning/work, it goes to the smith. Will receive my new MArlin 270 Bolt XL7 tomorrow. Comes with a base from the factory, but I want a 3.5x10x45 scope mounted, so gonna take to him to install and bore-sight. Then I will fine tune to my eyes and the way I shoot. Being left handed to shoot when was young, broke my collar bone and had to switch to right han shoting. Now I don;t put the butt up on shoulder, its down on my arm somewhat, but works for me with a good Limb-saver pad. So, no one can site in a gun to fit my shoting style, can get it close, but I can shoot 5 times and gun is zeroed. I shoot twice, then adjust the scope, let bbl cool off then shoot 3 times and it's usually zeroed. Using Leupold Dual Dove ails base and mounts, once it;s zeroed, it stays zeroed. My 3 Western guns, a 30-06, 270, 25-06 all carry Nikon Monarch scopes and got Leupold DD mounts, in 8 trips west, never lost zero yet. That's good for Airlines handling like bag of Sand. But I got Alum first class gun cases with extra foam padding, and that protects the firearms well. The cases look all beat up now, but continue to protect the firearms. Thought about adding a l/l6th" of fiberboard to the inside of the cases then lay the foam on top of that., and may do on this next trip to the Rockies, as got to change planes twice before I get to Montana. JUst leave the gun-smithing to a expert, will save you grief on your shot at a trophy. PS; I love Alum Pillar bedding such as Savage puts in their guns.But I;ve done OK with free floating guns so far. This new MArlin, has 2 small squares of Polymar about l/2" square molded on each side at very end of the forearm to keep the bbl from moving from side to side,the Pillar bedding will stop the bbl from up and down, unles gets to hot which is unlikely hunting,but can happen at bench unless you shoot 3 time,then allow the bbl to cool.Take care of your weapons, keep clean and handle as if solid gold. Also, if shoots to point of aim, don;t try to improve, leave be. Shoot-um-straight and often. I once hunted with a older guy who came to camp with a taped up grip on a 30-06, all blueing gone, Guess who filled their Elk tag first,?

SilverArrow

Every year or so out comes a book called "The Darwin Awards" all about people who have, in some uniquely moronic way, removed themselves from the gene pool. Been a while since I glanced through an issue but I seem to recall a few 'Shade Tree Gunsmiths' having given up the ole Oxygen habit.
SA

Jack Ryan

New motto: never say never.

Dad said one of my uncles had a couple of guns he wanted to get rid off. Dad didn't want them so I said I'd take 'em. Now I've got plenty of guns. The only thing interesting about an "old 410 and a 22" is the we my "uncle ...'s" ya know? Dad came over today with two gun cases that looked like the cases were worth what he had wanted for the guns. I set them aside and we went out to dinner. Got back and we got them out to look at them. A 410 NEF break open that could have been on the dealer shelf an hour before. Pretty cool.

Now one of my "recent" rules has been "I'll never, ever own another Mossberg ANYTHING." Just a couple days ago I wrote here, "I don't buy guns that need fixed".

Guess what was in the other bag? Yep, a Mossberg. A 22 bolt action. Looked like it had been used a bit with out a doubt. Old tube feed. Thought that didn't looke like much but it was interesting. Looked like the front and rear sights both had be "cusomized" to ruination.

Later I thought I'd check it out on the internet and got to looking closer and learned it was labled to shoot 22 S,L,LR
Mossberg 46B-B. Those sights are some kind of flip sight blades you can choose from and a hood on the front is missing but replaceable.

Now I'm really interested and it looks like I'll have to "eat" a couple of those wacky "nevers".

Michael

I remember the old trapshooter who got me started when I was 17. He was very serious about putting a little crocus cloth around his finger and giving the inside of the choke on his Mod. 12 a slight twist. He said it roughened the choke a little and this would slow the shot cup down and produce a better pattern. He also had a beautiful Kreighoff but shot the mod. 12 because he once broke 200 straight with it. I also remember being at Charleys trap range on S. Main in Houston and discovering a Parker single barrel trap gun residing behind the door in the kitchen of the clubhouse. I learned the beautiful gun belonged to Charley himself but he had only shot it once (missed a target!) and refused to shoot it again which was why it was stuck in the corner. I wouldn't trade those long ago days (I was 17, 56 now)hanging around those old shotgunners for any amount of money today. You can't buy memories.

Black Rifle Addict

Michael-
I have similar memories growing up around WWII vets. It was a much different time then, that's for sure.

Clay Cooper

All this reminds me of the day when a fella decided to use the backside of the Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff’s Department shooting range for his back stop shooting his AK47. We all were being issued ammo at the time when all a sudden, rounds started ricocheting over our heads and we started diving for cover. The Senior Instructor code 3 to that shooter and as he ripped him a new one, he dismantled is AK47 down to the very last spring. Yep, I think that individual will make sure of is target and beyond for then on by golly!

And I remember another day, I was in Buck Canyon near Weed New Mexico deer hunting on horseback. I noticed two kids just below me and noticed one looking at me thru his rifle scope. So I raised my binoculars and lord and behold, one of those kids was looking back at me thru his rifle scope and I can see thru the scope tube! So I gave Ol’Blazer a little nudge and down to the kid I went. I said, nice Remington Model 700 BDL, can I see it Sir, sure the kid replied. I also notice the New Mexico Hunter Safety Patch on his jacket and remembered him from a Hunter Safety Course I assisted with a friend with and he knew I was affiliated with the New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue. His pucker factor was off his dial it wuzz! So I removed the bolt and told the kid, if you want your bolt back Sir, I’m camped in Perk Canyon and you better tell your father the truth. Upon approach, the father wanted to fight and when he spotted me immediately recognized me also (small world!) and apologized. The father wanted to make sure that his son wouldn’t be able to set down for a month! But I had a better idea! To really and truly punish him correctly and will learn from his mistake, I suggested to have him, don’t be mad at him, have him continue hunting but with a empty rifle, carry no ammo what so ever and will carry that rifle everywhere the entire duration of the hunt. The fallowing season, I noticed this fine young man hunting separate from his group high on a ridgeline. His rifle was on his shoulder this time and was glassing with a pair of 10x50 binoculars. Lesson learned!

Dave in St Pete

I will vouch for Gerald Kellers' gun smithing abilities. I am one of his very satisfied customers (not a tinkerer).

I go to him with some half baked idea of what I want and he returns a gun to me that is a work of art!

ishawooa

Some years ago I saw a definate improvement over using duct or electrical tape to hold the forearm onto the barrel of what was obviously a defective single barrel 12 gauge of some sort. The gun was hanging in the backwindow of a pickup. The fellow had employed a tightly screwed on radiator hose clamp. How ingenious.
Another wonderful gesture in an effort to continue the use of an otherwise unusable hunting rifle was a hunter I met in the mountains who had replaced the broken stock of his Model 94. He had whittled down the end of a 2 x 4 until it fit the receiver. Didn't bother to stain it or even cut down the corners to any significant degree. I can imagine that sucker slapping you in the cheek even from a .30-30's moderate recoil. I saw him again a couple days later hauling out what was easily a 300 B & C bull. I left with empty pack horses but heck I had a custom magnum what do you expect? Goes to show...

Clay Cooper

Back in January of 80, I loaded 100 rounds of Hornady .430 diam 44 cal 240 grain SWC cast bullets stock number 11108 with 21 grains of Hercules 2400 in the neighborhood of 1500 fps for my 44 Mag one day and used it on one of my search and destroy critter missions. Pushing soft lead over 850 fps is not a good idea at all. Talk about barrel fouling! I had a free gun cleaning gift card to one of the down town gunsmiths that just to be one of my friends across the hanger in machine shop. He called me everything but a white man in a joking manner. He broke several special tools for barrel fouling removal. I pulled the rest of the bullets and used them in my slingshot! Don't try this in your worst gun!




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