Another batch of BSA International ‘Scope rails and brackets

Just finished and back from the Anodisers are my latest batch of BSA International ‘Scope brackets and Rails, all ready and waiting to take you an your International onto the small bore bench rest circuit.

Eagle eyed readers will also note it is something a bit newer for a change even if it is for something old…

I have deliberately left the rail a bit longer on this batch of BSA International brackets and machined them with a longer support underneath, they are also slightly lower than the earlier builds for a sleeker look yet they still leave you loads of room for a large ‘scope objective without having to resort to ridiculously high rings.

The longer rail means they can be cut to length or left as supplied at the users discretion. They are supplied with screws to attach to the receiver plus a spare.

Of course you know what this means? It means you have absolutely no excuses for not hauling your old and trusted BSA International out, frightening the spiders away and fitting that spare ‘scope to it ready to compete in your clubs small bore bench rest competitions. It also means you now have the potential for an incredibly accurate bunny rifle with night vision or normal glass.

Lunch break is over and the Viking is muttering whilst packing things so I should probably get back to the machines 🙂

Reloading can be dangerous

I would like to think that those of us who reload ammunition understand the potential dangers and the need to be vigilant when at the bench and luckily documented failures related to reloading your own ammunition are few and far between however they do happen and this Winchester 1894 chambered in 30-30 is a perfect example.

My guess is a round with very little or no powder (Primer only) was fired through the rifle, the bullet failed to leave the barrel and a second round was shot with the resultant catastrophic failure.

The interesting thing here is this is the second under lever rifle to come in over the last couple of weeks with bulged barrels, the other being a 44 Remington Magnum and the common factor is they are both under lever rifles.

Now I am certainly not saying under lever rifles are more prone to barrel bulging when a second moving round meets a first stationary round because this could happen in any type of rifle and I have no idea statistically if this sort of incident is more prevalent with under levers, however add reloading to under levers and the type of shooting they are used for here in the UK and there might and I do say just might be an increased risk here.

Let me explain. Under lever rifles are often used for competition shooting which in turn can be against the clock. I shoot a .357Mag Marlin in local club competitions and to be vaguely competitive I need to get accurately placed rounds off very quickly, typically two rounds in two seconds on turning targets which means I acquire the target, pull the trigger cycle the lever to load a second round and pull the trigger. During this period I have very little chance of seeing my fall of shot due to the nature of the target and the lack of splash behind and my interest is getting that second round down range. Whilst doing this I need to be aware of anything that seems different, less noise, a reduced recoil or similar and if that happens I need to stop myself from taking that next shot.

It can be done, by that I mean you can be aware of something not being quite right and accordingly stop yourself, equally I suspect in the heat of the moment a mistake can be made.

OK, so that is one scenario.

Probably the more worrisome is when you are shooting simultaneously with other competitors with low loaded rounds and ear defenders and I believe this is going to give a greater potential for missing something which might lead to a failure. Something we have to be aware of and if there is any doubt never under any circumstances take a further shot until the rifle has been inspected.

This leads onto another thought. Driving a soft lead bullet through a barrel is one thing, driving a jacketed bullet is something else and I have a length of barrel I sectioned a few years ago. The shooter had managed to load without powder in a Remington 700 chambered in 6mmBR. He instantly recognised the error, stopped shooting and took the rifle to a shop, there a long rod was placed down the barrel from the muzzle and given a few reasonable clouts with a large hammer, this succeeded in expanding the bullet further and securely jammed it in the barrel. The barrel came to me in such a state that the only realistic way forward was to fit a new barrel.

My view is if a bullet is jammed in a barrel the only direction it should be moved is in its original direction of flight, that is away from the chamber and towards the barrel and this can be done reasonably easily with the addition of some light lubrication and care. Equally I have seen the job done with a screwdriver on a S&W 686 and it also worked!

Please note, I am certainly not suggesting it is only reloaded ammunition in under lever rifles that has the potential for failure because it can equally be factory ammunition in bolt action rifles and in totally different disciplines.

What I am saying is it is incredibly important to be aware of your reloading process and what is happening when you are shooting for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Finally, don’t forget your safety gasses next time you head down the range!



How I Drill & Tap cases

Such a simple subject however people seem to have many different views on drilling and tapping cases for use with an OAL (Overall length) gauge so as I had some cases to do first thing I took some pictures of the process.

First job is pass a mandrel through the neck to ensure a good sliding fit for the bullet and this is the first potential problem area as the brass spring back can leave you with a case neck that is either under size which means moving to the next mandrel size up. People ask me where I buy my mandrels, the easier answer is I make them to suit the job and have an assortment to suit everything from .17 bullets and upwards with .0001″ steps on some. This image is my ‘every day’ set, these are the mandrels I use most and if they don’t get the job done I have another set to work with.

Next job is pop the case in the lathe, I use the Colchester Chipmaster for this as it is accurate and easy to use and I grip the brass case in a collet chuck. The advantage of the collet chuck is it grips evenly around the circumference of the case and if you look carefully you will see the collet is just sitting over the groove which prevents any pressure marks. In theory I have no need to do this however it is very easy to over tighten a collet chuck and deform the material being gripped and this way works for me.

I drill the primer out with a centre drill however this case came full length sized so I simply drill with a 7,0mm HSS drill, this particular drill is a Dormer Jobber drill that I only use for this job and I have reground it to suit brass.



Now I add a generous chamfer to the hole, this is because burrs can occur during the drilling and tapping process and these lead to incorrect readings when measuring with your OAL gauge so care at this stage ensures you will measure from the case head as opposed to a burr that adds a couple of thou to the measured length. It is always worth running a finger across the back of a drilled and tapped case to ensure there are no burrs evident, if there are you can carefully stone them off however take care not to remove material from the case head itself as it will lead to measurement errors.

Onto the tapping process, I am using an M8x0,75mm Volkel tap. This may sound an odd size to you however it is the thread I use for all of my OAL gauges, there is a long and involved reason for this however the short reason is if it is M8x0,75mm I probably tapped it which takes any doubt away as to the method of tapping. Yes, other people use the same tap however they are usually in the USA or AUS, are using one of our OAL gauges and prefer to not send cases.

I tap at 410 RPM and use a Rocol cutting compound. The tap is held in a drill chuck and although I do use a tapping head for other work it is not necessary for this particular application. (OK, it is convenient to stick with the same chuck for the duration of the job)

Finally the case can be cleaned and checked and despatched to the customer. I always do cases in pairs so if you need one doing send me a couple as it is the same price.


We also allow for some cases to be tapped within the price of our OAL gauges.

I do drill and tap to suit the Hornady OAL gauges in 5/16″x36 TPI and I will even carefully polish your brass if requested.

Finally, I am often asked the question, ‘In what state should I send my cases, fired, or fired and neck sized, or full length sized or something else?’

My answer is whatever is best for you. The datum for the tapped case when checking OAL is the shoulder of the case versus the chamber shoulder and you will be pushing the case against the chamber shoulder so if you are setting your shoulders back a thou or so after every firing you will instantly dial in a variance of your 0.0015″ or whatever your setback is. Does this matter, well yes and no, yes in that you get a slightly incorrect measurement. However no as this check will be part of your load development and is a combination of finite measurement and comparison so as long as you always use the same case preparation and reloading process and measure/compare in the same manner you are good to go.  Do remember that just because a .012″ jump is perfect for one rifle does not mean it will work as well in another.

I know that is a simplistic answer so maybe I should write something when I have a spare couple of hours 🙂

Right, my coffee is drunk so best get back to work now.

The Savage Model 99 in 22 High-Power

We do a lot of work on modern rifles however they are modern and many of my readers have probably either come across them or even own similar. Older rifles are a bit different and even something like this, the Savage Model 99 with over a million examples produced is quite unusual here in the UK.

Designed by Arthur Savage at the end of the 19th Century the Savage Model 1899, later to be known as the Savage Model 99 was a bit of a revelation. It was an under-lever however it was fitted with a rotary magazine which allowed spitzer (Pointed) bullets to be used. More traditional under-lever rifles had a tube magazine slung under the barrel which called for round nosed bullets to prevent a chain fire under recoil. Also the Model 99 was hammerless which means there is less chance of snagging a hammer on clothing, the side of your horse or on undergrowth. Arthur had hoped to win a significant military contract with the rifle however it was not to happen. Despite the lack of initial military contract around 1,000,000 Model 99 rifles were produced. Interestingly Arthur also designed and patented the Radial Tyre in 1915 so even if you have not heard of him you have probably taken advantage of his technology.

This particular rifle is chambered in 22 Savage High Power, more commonly known as the 5,6mmx52R here in Europe and yes that is a tad bigger than 5,46 and accordingly uses a .227″ bullet as opposed to the more readily available .224″. The 22 Savage H-P designed by Newton (Charles not Isaac) was capable of moving a 70 grain bullet at 2800fps way back in 1912 which is impressive. The 5,6mmx52R was used by many including allegedly by WDM Bell and this is the very first tenuous link that made this rifle so attractive to us here at the SHED, we already have a .256 Mannlicher that was much loved by Bell for culling of Bull Elephants, right up until the point at which he had ammunition issues and dropped the Mannlicher on the spot and ran off with a Rigby (If my memory serves me correctly)

Back to the rifle, it is a take down variant (Second tick in the box) I have a thing for take down rifles and the Viking likes Under-levers so best of both worlds, add to that it is chambered in a 22 and she shoots a 22 Wildcat named after herself and finally it is a Savage and they are quite fine rifles and again the Viking shoots one as her long distance rifle.

The Savage Model 99 is reasonably heavy at 7.0lbs/3,12kgs however it is perfectly balanced and has some lovely features with favourite being the brass rotary magazine round count that is shown through a window at the front left hand side of the receiver so you can instantly see how many rounds are carried, there is also a cocking indicator behind the bolt in the form of a small round pin that pops up when the bolt is closed. The take down process is remarkably simple, slide the catch on the fore end and the wood slides off, you can confirm its origin by checking the number crudely stamped on the inside of the wood versus the serial on the underside of the receiver. The barrel has a full length and interrupted thread and the fore end features a key on the inside that aligns with a corresponding slot cut out on the outer edge of the barrel and receiver, align the two and the fore end goes on perfectly and if the barrel is slightly tight there is a square notch cut into the underside of the fore end that can be used to assist the removal of the barrel by slipping it over the catch on the under side of the barrel. I will add a better picture at some point to demonstrate this.

The rifle has a 20″ barrel with an integral front sight with blade, there is absolutely no chequering or engraving on the rifle and it has a straight necked stock so it is remarkably simple. Overall length of this example is a tad under 40″ with a 13.5″ LOP.  Rear sight is an express type graduated at 200 yards with further blades for 300, 400 and 500 yards.

Initial research would suggest this rifle is from the early 1920s however I do need to confirm this, I also need to get it stripped and give it a careful inspection and service. So far I have not done much more than to peer closely at the bore with a bore scope and I was actually quite surprised, there is indication of fire cracking for the first inch or so however after that the bore is remarkably good, certainly if you compare it to my 22-250 Sako 75 which has a severely fire cracked bore for a good few inches and yet still holds better than one inch groups at 100 when checked for zero.

All in all an interesting rifle and I have a feeling it is already spoken for, we really do need to get it cleaned and load a few rounds for it and as luck would have it I have some brass and dies so hopefully I will find a few minutes over the weekend. 🙂

EDIT – I had been pondering over how to de-cock the rifle without having the firing pin smack forward onto and empty chamber and it suddenly dawned on me, just depress the trigger as you are raising the lever and you should be fine. Do remember check the chamber is empty before doing this!

A bit more on the Manufrance Rapid

The Viking gave the Manufrance a good clean for the last part of this afternoon and it certainly seems to cycle a little bit easier now.

This is the ‘Rapid’ stripped and it still vaguely reminds me of the Remington 870 however there are some significant differences and given that the design of the majority of the mid to late last century Pump Actions are all reasonably similar I guess it could be anything although it certainly is not based on a Mossberg or Stevens. Apparently the French company Manufrance created a Rapid-type shotgun in 1958 which ended production in 1980 although I have come across a suggestion that it was briefly introduced again a few years later.

One thing that is not similar to the 870 is the trigger plate assembly which is clearly marked ‘Made in France’ and is cast from soft metal,  this image shows the central forend release button which in its ambidextrous form is rather handy regardless of which shoulder it is shot from, what is not so handy is the spent cases ejecting across your field of view if you are shooting from your left/weak shoulder. I had considered giving this a thorough strip and a coat of OD Green Cerakote however it seems a shame to remove the patina and scratches of possibly 50 years of use so it will stay as it is. That reminds me, if anyone has access to the Manufrance serial number database I would be interested as it would be good to know how old this gun actually is, my guess is late 60s however I could be quite a bit off.

I have a Anschütz rimfire that has been in for a service and inspection (Probably one of the filthiest rifles I have ever worked on) and now that is done it needs test firing and zeroing so I suspect the Manufrance will be coming out again for a few shots to make sure it really works as it should.