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.

Barrel fluting

We also flute barrels occasionally…

Fluting is one of those jobs that you just have to get on with. I would love to say we are currently fluting on a three axis CNC mill however we are not. Instead, we use a Bridgeport manual and either a dividing head or a rotary table, we have a variety of different ‘Turny-roundy-indexy’ sort of things in the workshop, however it is often down to what is on the machine.

On this occasion I used what was on the machine as it was already set up. This particular rotary table can be moved in two axis and currently wears a 4 jaw chuck with a collet block in it, so it was just a matter of set it to zero degrees and pop a collet in it.Incidentally, the writing on the table are notes from a previous job.

At the other end is a tail stock and with the barrel in place, the penultimate  job is to check everything is correctly setup across all axis and fit the support.

The support (Not shown) either supports the centre of the barrel from the back or bottom and is either an angle plate or a jacking plate dependant on if I am fluting from above with a carbide bull nosed cutter or to the side with a rotary cutter.

The customer had asked for 8x6mm flutes so bull  nose it was.

At this point it is a matter of setting the start point, feed speed and depth of cut and kicking the job off. The downside is it a messy job on a manual and very time consuming and this stainless barrel was fluted over an evening and the following morning.

I have fluted many barrels and handled many more and my pet hate is sharp edges on the flutes so I always take care to de-burr them, ideally they are then blasted and Cerakoted however this barrel was stainless and the customer preferred a self colour finish.

So there you are a heavy stainless  barrel fluted.

The technical bit:

8×6.0mm equispaced flutes cut to 3,0mm deep.

Length of cuts 330,0mm

Total weight saving 295 grams

Yes, we do stock Shotgun Cartridges

People often ask if we stock shotgun cartridges, probably because we tend to not advertise the fact, so here is a quick mention.

Yes, actually we do stock competitively priced cartridges for all purposes including Eley, Lyalvale, Fiocchi, Hull, Federal and RC in a range of sizes including .22 Shot, 9mm garden Gun, .410, 28 Bore, 20 Bore, 16 Bore and 12 Bore. In a range of shot sizes and cartridge lengths with fibre and plastic wads. We also hold a range of box ends and oldies.

Please note, we only stock fibre wadded game cartridges and will not support the use of plastic wads over land.

So there you go, a good range of cartridges available within the Lincolnshire Wolds and remember, we are shooters so you can always ask if you are not sure of what to opt for. After all, we love helping you spending your money!

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.


A brace of ‘Coggies’

Not something I usually see at the same time. A pair of Cogswell & Harrison ‘Avant Tout’ (Translates to Above All) 12 Bore single trigger shotguns. These are a few numbers apart, one is 28″ and one 30″ and the latter has a very subtle and nicely fitted wooden extension to the butt but at first glance they could be stable mates.

Cogswell & Harrison single triggers have a bit of a reputation however I am not sure where from as they are normally OK to work on. My experience is, if there is an issue it will be down to previous work, such as the lower gun has had a screw glued in at some point. Such tricks are pointless and just bring the trade into poor repute and sadly they do show up and more often than I would hope for these days.

As ever, my poor picture does not do these guns justice. They are a pretty pair of guns and the wood is a good match, if it were not for numbers they would comfortably pass for a matched pair.

One thing I notice of such guns is they are usually reasonably straight in the stock and fit me well. I would happily be seen with either of these at a shoot and more importantly, I could hit things with them.