Fitting and head spacing a barrel on a BSA International MkIII

The humble .22 BSA International target rifle, we have all shot or owned one and if not, hopefully you will one day.

This one is a MkIII with the floating barrel and it came in for a re-crown and re-time//head space the barrel. At some point the barrel had been twisted very slightly which was enough to cant the fore sight over, yet still operate correctly. The head space was also out. Now interestingly, there seems to be some mystique about these things and I remember reading on a forum quite recently that they were factory pressed together and could not be adjusted. OK, well here is one in bits on the counter so you can see how they come apart and the process is remarkably easy:

Drop the action parts out of the receiver and place them some where safe.

Remove the two knurled cap-head screws from the left hand side of the receiver, they are going to be tight so you have been warned!

Now pull the barrel out of the receiver, it might be quite a snug fit!

What I do is pop the barrelled actioned in the barrel vice (I use a 25000kg hydraulic press) I then flood the barrel tenon with Plus-Gas and make myself a coffee. I then attach my universal action wrench with masking tape or aluminium shims to protect the receiver.

Nip the wrench up very lightly, if you do it up tightly the receiver will tighten on the barrel tenon.

 

Now get hold of the action wrench and rotate/pull back and the receiver should detach from the barrel with a bit of effort.

I make my own wrenches and here are a couple of examples. They need to be robust as they do take a fair amount of abuse on occasions. The top one is the one I use most of the time for British Service rifles and the block with cut-out alongside is for SMLE rifles. Below is a wrench I mostly use for revolvers however it also does a good job on parallel sided receivers.

With luck, you should end up with something that looks a like the adjacent image.

Clean everything carefully and inspect, in this case it went into the lathe and was crowned.

OK, back in the vice, clock the front sight base to zero (Or use a precision level)

Now push the receiver onto the tenon and fit the two screws loosely, I usually nip them until the receiver will no longer rotate and back off a 1/4 turn. You should have a few degrees of rotation.

Fit the action internals ensuring everything has been thoroughly cleaned as we really do not need a piece of grit to mess up things right now.

Fit the GO head space gauge, push the receiver forward and ensure it is level, now nip the screws up and check everything. Did you fit the GO Gauge before fitting the receiver? Start again

Open the action keeping a hand over the load port or be prepared to spend an hour or so looking for your gauge.

Check with the NOGO and if all is good you can put the rifle back together.

One small detail, the fore end support is held in place by the front screw so you do have one last chance to mess things up, which, hopefully you will not.

So there you go, a BSA International MkIV stripped and head spaced.

…and why am I telling you this? Because you need to know.

Butt extensions

We seem to see a lot of older BSA Martini action type rifles these days. As well as guns coming in through the trade we see a fair few customer guns come through the door, we even have some Vickers Martini action target rifles in for work next week.

When I say we, I do indeed mean myself and the Viking because that is about it for the Shooting Shed. We do have a half man who helps out occasionally but for the most it is just the two of plus three Labs and the Lurcher.

Today was kicked off with a butt extension on a BSA Model 15 Centurion. It had been shortened at some point, then extended with a block of wood and was still short in the shoulder. One customer stipulation was that the original butt plate had to be used. So a piece of hard rubber was cut to size and fitted (Sounds easy doesn’t it!)

First job after the original spacer had finally been removed was true the face of the butt stock up as it was a bit rough around the edges, then plug the multitude of fixing holes. Then attach the oversize spacer with new screws and mark the shape of the butt. As the butt plate was the same dimensions as the butt I would have to grind the spacer square which was disappointing. I would have preferred to maintain the original taper and added a red English pad, however at least this way I kept the rifle as original as possible.

I always mark out with a white wax pencil, so I can band saw the excess rubber off then grind to the wax line. Reattach and mark again and finally grind until the wax pencil mark is gone.

Hard rubber can be polished easily, I use 1500 then 3200 grit paper and finish with wax however you can really get this stuff to shine, assuming you have not choked on the dust and fumes.

The original butt plate looks to have caught fire at some point and was not quite the same shape so some care had to be taken. It was also slightly bent (Not cured!) So that had to be addressed.

The black things in a blue holder in the first picture are transfer punches, handy for spotting through holes to mark screws, I always mark one, drill and screw, then mark the second with the first screw in place.

Second image is the spacer ground close to form, the white wax crayon is marking the next pass. I used to use a scriber and chalk however the scriber can bevel the edge of the butt so I prefer this method.

The final image is the spacer and butt plate fitted and everything given a wipe over. I will leave it for 24 hours and give it a final polish and it should be good to go.

I have a BSA International Mk1 to crown and a Mk4 that needs the barrel re-timing plus crowning and a few questions on these remarkable rifles to answer by email so I guess people know we like working on them.

Right, I have two shotguns that came in for repair that I need to get out and test before the day is over so I had best get on.

Take care all.

/d

An update on Whitaker Special #023

I was recently contacted again by Mick Kelly who is the registry keeper for these fascinating rifles. Was I still looking for a stock because there was one in Fultons so a ‘phone call later the deal was done and the stock arrived today.

Sadly it has some chipping to the rear of the tang, however it is easily remedied. Oh, the trigger is flaky as well so I need to get my head around how it functions as it has a three areas of adjustment, other than that it looks rather nice and it puts my mind at rest to have No 023 back in the correct looking stock and here she is:

Next job is to find some sights the front and rear sights and a front sling attachment which has been removed.

For those of you who are interested, the wooden ammunition box is my bench for zeroing older rifles, I place a small canvas dog training dummy or similar on top and I have the perfect platform. So much nicer that one of those red plastic monstrosities or a machine rest people seem so keen to use.

EDIT – The trigger lets go at 750 grams and slides over the trigger sear unless a downwards pressure is applied so something to look at before it gets anywhere near a range.

Screw cutting and Sound Moderators

Credit where credit is due. Wildcat moderators, lovely products, fully strippable, every single part available as a spare and always a super cheery service, even on a Monday and most importantly, made in Great Britain. Thank you Alison at Wildcat.

This one was destined for a beautiful Steyr Luxus and although I did the machining a while ago it is only now that I actually got around to taking the pictures (Complete with fluff) Plus blacking the thread. The crown is a 90 degree which I do for all barrels I thread for sound moderators unless otherwise instructed, the reason being the crown is easier to clean and an undercut or 11 degree crown is unnecessary as the moderators keeps the crown protected.

Feel free to argue 🙂

I just noticed the cutters in the picture. We are experimenting with different makes of cutter at the moment for both the manual and CNC lathes and these were one of the contenders, I am now on a box of German manufactured inserts which are  looking good so far.

We have an active policy of buying British first, then European, then further afield if necessary and I strongly believe it is false economy to buy unbranded inserts.

On the subject of machining, this thread was cut on the 1970’s Colchester Chipmaster we have here. The ‘Chippie’ is a manual lathe although we did upgrade it to DRO (Digital Read Out) a few years ago. This lathe is always a delight to use and cuts superb threads every single time.

The Model 12 – Harassing fire.

Wednesday afternoon was dedicated to getting out with a couple of rifles and doing some testing. The Viking had a trigger job to check on the Marlin 7000T, I have made some changes to the M54S-430 (Counter productive it turned out!) Plus I was determined to get the BSA Model 12 on a proper 50m zero and shoot it at 100 yards come rain or shine, which as it turned out, was mostly rain…

The sights on the Model 12 are the original front and rear target and they are basic at best. The front Model 19 has a swing over post/ring that is changed via a small lever on the right hand side of the sight. First time out I noticed it was flipping back on recoil so out it came again, the tiny little wave washer just visible on the major shaft was bent slightly to add some tension and it was put back together. That is 5 very small parts and I resorted to forceps to hold things in place. It only took about a dozen attempts but at least it is holding position under recoil.

One thing I noticed was I have to break position to fumble for ammunition (Eley club) so I added a bullet holder to the right hand side of the receiver.

Another thing I needed to get my head around is the adjustment of the rear sight. Elevation is clockwise for up/further away and clockwise on the windage moves the rear sight right, so point of impact left.

Elevation is a pleasant clockwise for up. The graduations appear to be in a minutes however it lacks a detent and you need keen eyes to be able to read the vernier scale so I have added a piece of masking tape and some basic marks for my 25, 50 and 100 points.

Accuracy for this little rifle can only be described as harassing fire on the day, however I would like to hope I can get everything down to a couple of MOA as a minimum and this is the accuracy claimed by the factory back in the day.

Next challenge is ammunition testing, re-set the zero markers with whatever works best at 100 and get it out to 200.

There has been a lot of interest in this rifle, however I think it will stop with us, it is fun in a challenging way and I do wonder how many people shoot a Model 12 at 100 yards on rainy days in this age.