It is just a shower….

After an incredibly hectic three weeks on the machines we decided to head out yesterday afternoon to get some testing done and shoot the last few cards of the winter LSR competition. First job was to see how the Vickers Empire liked some different ammunition. Last time out had been a relative disaster for me, the LOP is 15″ which is way too long even for my 6′ 3″ frame and the trigger although safe would break at 6 ozs/170 grams which even for me is a tad on the light side.
First test was with SK flat nosed Target and it was a lot better than the previous attempts with Eley. I always prefer to shoot such rifles with fairly slow rounds, for one thing it is quieter and it is also kinder to the rifle. The SK were OK so I decided to finish an open box of Lapua Center-X and after 5 fouling shots this was the 10 shot group it produced.
The distance was 50m/55 yards, it was benched on an old wooden ammunition box with a squeeze bag to bring the height up.
I had rashly suggested my old BSA Model 15 would produce a 15mm group on a well known forum so this was the chance to see if the old Vickers would do equally well and the resultant group was 13.4mm X 18.2mm centre to centre. Apparently this is not the way to measure .22 groups however I still reckon it was quite reasonable for a 90 year old rifle with open sights.
The competition cards? Well about 10 minutes later the heavens opened and rain stopped play so we packed everything away and grabbed a Domino’s pizza on the way home, probably our first pizza in 5 years!

Screw-cutting with a teach CNC lathe

People ask how easy is it to screwcut with our CNC lathe? Hmm.. I have no idea about other peoples machines, however I screwcut on a Harrison Teach CNC, so I can tell you about it.

This particular machine is a 400T so a bit of a beast, it is a conventional format machine as opposed to slant bed (Google it!) It can take around 1200,00mm between centres and turn a piece of material 400,0mm in diameter. It is equipped with 3 Jaw, 4 jaw and 5C Collet chucks on a D1-6 system and has Fanuc controls.

So reasonably large…

I can operate it in a few ways.

Firstly as a manual machine, the only difference to a more conventional lathe is this is ‘Fly by wire’ so when I operate a hand wheel, instead of turning a lead screw I am effectively turning a potentiometer (Think of a volume knob) that sends a signal to a motor. This is quite an accurate way of operating and I can control the movement to 0.001mm/1 micron (Not a lot) A human hair is around 70 microns.

Secondly, I can draw what I want to turn in a plan elevation with CAD, convert it to a .DXF file and export. Then import it into something else which allows me to chose feed speeds and depth of cut and the tool to use, which in turn is converted to a language the lathe understands. The resulting code is then sent to the lathe and all I have to do is tell it where to start and off it goes (OK, this is the simplified version to save those at the back falling asleep)

Thirdly, I can use the teach CNC side of things at the machine control panel. As an example I can tell it to machine internal and external tapers (Not so easy on a conventional lathe) and screw threads! (yes, I can also program threads via CAD however today it is local to the machine)

So what does a screw thread comprise of? Well a major diameter, a minor diameter and the pitch, or number of threads per inch is about it, here is a picture of what I see on the touch screen.

X1 the major diameter

X2 the minor diameter

T is the tool I am using (I always use 31 for external threads)

P is the pitch, this is a metric thread so 1 is 1mm

A is for angle, 60 degree for metric

L is the length of thread

Z is the overall length of cut. The minus symbol means go towards the chuck.

NS is the number of starts, just one as this is a conventional thread

NP is the number of passes to get to the finished diameter. I usually choose 15.2 with the .2 denoting two ‘spring’ passes where the machine makes a couple of finish diameter passes to allow for any deflection in the work piece.

Once completed I test the fit either with a gauge or the part to be fitted and I work to a 6h tolerance (Quite precise) If the part does not fit I remove 0.1mm from X2 and run the machine again to creep up on the final fit. I would normally expect to be at 16.000mm major and 14.917mm minor diameters.

Yes there is a bit more to it however this gives a good idea of the approach and it certainly takes less to do than write.

Cutting speed? It depends on the material however 600-1000 rev/min is not out of the norm.


Fitting a No32 Mk1 to a No3 Mk1 (P14) Rifle

Towards the end of last year I was staring at an absolutely original No32 Mk1 telescopic sight that was sitting on my desk. I was constantly moving it anywhere but back in the cupboard which meant I had to find a suitable project for it. The problem was what, so I mentioned it on the Full-Bore forum and GeeRam mentioned a No32 Mk1 had been fitted to a Pattern 14 rifle. A rifle I own and one which I really enjoy shooting.

So, I hunted down the post, contacted the person who had built it and was told that the source of the drawing was secret and that the bracket build he had commissioned had been a nightmare to do and probably best avoided.

Game on.

Use the people you know I thought, so I spoke to Paul Whitelam of Northern Shooting Show fame and he waved a magic wand (OK, he spoke to the Leeds Armoury people) and a drawing was supplied, I think it was a fiver and I still owe him for it!

With the drawing to hand first job was to draw it in CAD, it is always easier to work with a 3D model and it soon became apparent that what I had modelled and what had been built previously were really quite different. So I started again and paid extra attention to the job in case anything has been over looked and yup, what I was looking at was spot on to drawing, even down to a couple of small errors on radius paths, but way different to the example that had been built recently. My goal was to build something that was totally 100% accurate.
I could certainly build a fair amount of the project, however it was also apparent that I would need a 5 axis machine, something I do not possess, so I was going to need a grown up on board, certainly if I was going to build a handful of the things.

As luck has it, Robert Chombart of CG fame and I worked with another company when we were building rifle actions a few years ago and they have some fairly hefty CNC kit, so we sat down and talked, in fact we talked a lot and a plan agreed. Time to do some more research, I reckon I put well over 50 hours (I stopped counting last December) into 3D modelling, researching material specification and modern equivalents and this was before the emails, conversations, drawing mark ups and annotations. The master folder alone is over 240 MB and the pile of drawings in the folder is a couple of inches thick. Eventually the project was ready to be kicked off and set tool to material.
The original drawing calls for malleable cast iron and that is certainly an idea for the future however right now my plan was to build a dimensionally perfect replication of the drawing with modern and robust materials which we have done.

Final job now is to tumble the parts and black them. Yes them, we have built half a dozen.

Interestingly, the drawing called for 4BA coned head screws or D.D.(E)2441/5 Screw, Holder and that drawing just happens to be for the 4(T) bracket (Another fiver I owe Paul!) Which makes me wonder why they chose to design a bracket for the Rifle, No3 Mk1 (P14) when the H&H modified No4 Mk(T) was already in place. My personal view is the P14 is an inherently accurate rifle and the one I have would easily out shoot the 4(T) I used to own. The downside was always spares for the P14, plus the ‘limited’ magazine capacity and a whole host of other things. What I do like about this bracket is it is robust, it used 5/16” thumb screws instead of the 1/4” used on the 4(T) and it also dovetails into the rear left wing that protects the rear sight so it has a very solid recoil system, unlike the 4(T)

Anyway, here it is, call it a bit of a world premier. A bracket to hold a No32 Mk1 rifle telescope to a No3 Mk1 rifle, this was originally designed and built in 1940, this is not a fantasy build, this is just a late build.

More to follow, in fact I could probably write a book on it!


Bonsor’s Superior Finishing Wax

If you are a regular reader of my Journal you have probably noticed that I tend not to push other people’s products. I have always worked on the premise that if I do not make it or work on it I cannot control the product’s quality. However there are occasional exceptions.

We have been working on a variety of projects with Nick Of NB Guns for a few years now and we tend to bounce ideas off each other from time to time.

We had been using his stock finishing wax out of an old jam-jar for ages. It worked well and we always got good feedback from customers who saw the results or tried the product. Just recently Nick has formalised the product and sent us a load of tins in the final format and I am delighted to be able to add it to the shop. It is also on display by the workshop counter, not something we do lightly!

Nick tells me Bonsor’s Superior Finishing Wax is a blend of natural waxes, oils, wood extracts and gums. Suffice to say it might smell nice and be good on guns but it is best not to eat the stuff.

I use it to finish and protect wood and metalwork on shotguns, rifles and furniture including the counter till. The clue in how to use it is the tin size, you need to use it very sparingly, rub it on with your finger tip, wait half an hour and buff off with a soft brush or duster. It will benefit from another buffing a few hours later. You can build coats up as required.

Comes in a 30ml screw top tin with a dodgy vanity publishing label.

Nick says: ‘It should last for f*****g ages’

I say: ‘whatever you were going to use, halve it and again, it really does go a long way!’

An early Greener .22 conversion of a Martini Henry rifle

In the pursuance of the knowledge of all things related to the Martini action type rimfire rifles, I had to get my hands on a Martini Henry conversion at some point and eventually this thing surfaced.
It appears to be a MkII Martini Henry (Remember the film ‘Zulu’?) and would have been originally chambered in .577/450. At some point the rifle was taken out of service and converted to rimfire by W.W. Greener.
This rifle does not have the SMRC stamp on the receiver (Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs) The SMRC is better known as the NSRA these days and existed from around 1901-1902 to the late 40s and it is possible that this conversion was made prior to the formation of the Society.
Being a MkII the original rifle dates from 1876 to 1889 which means the original rifle is 130+ years old, with the conversion probably being 120+ years ago. I cannot confirm this as the receiver has been mostly scrubbed at some point however it does have a Roman II on the right-hand side of the receiver. The butt section does have some faint markings including the Roman II over the numeric 2 plus a separate 3 stamped elsewhere. So most likely a MkII unless it is a MkI converted to MkII which I guess is possible as the lever, trigger guard and block are not numbered to the receiver. Of course, with a 130-year-old rifle, things are sure to get swapped out along the way.
The rear aperture sight is a BSA No 8, so no positive click stops to enjoy. The rifle had been fitted with a No 8 in the past, which was later removed however it has witness marks in the form of two screw holes and compression marks in the wood to identify the type of sight it had worn.
I had a spare No 8 here so I fitted it and I think the rifle looks good for it, plus it will enable me to get a better idea of the rifle’s accuracy.
The original rear sight is graduated for 25, 50 and 100 yards on the left-hand side of the sight base for the .22 ammunition.
Interestingly, a rear barrel band is fitted which is not always the case with these rifle conversions and the band is correctly sized to the barrel. It was suggested to me that this rifle was a trainer early in its life and given the lack of SMRC stamps and a decent fitting barrel band this is an interesting idea although I am not convinced.
Legend has it that this rifle was held in the Tower of London at some point in the past, which was recounted to me by the previous owner, it is a nice thought.
Cosmetically the rifle is battered, however it has developed a lovely patina through the years and the No8 rear sight blends in quite well to give an idea of how it would have looked in better times. The trigger breaks very crisply at around four and a bit pounds.  I could improve this however it is as it was, so it would be wrong to change things. More and more I believe in keeping such rifles as they were, after all we are custodians as opposed to owners of such things.
The bore is, erm… 120 years old, so less than perfect however I have shot worse and with some zeroing I would hope for better than 3” groups off my elbows at 50 yards, with some effort. Better than this will be a bonus and I am really looking forward to getting out with it.
The conversion of the block from centre fire to rimfire can be seen quite clearly in this image. The existing firing pin hole would have been drilled and tapped to accept a plug which was probably soldered in place, the block would then have been drilled to suit the new striker.
The moving parts can be seen outside of the rifle in this image. You can get an idea of the relationship between the lever and block. I will not detail the strip and re-assembly as it is well documented elsewhere.
Those of you that own a Vickers, or BSA Martini action rifle will instantly recognise this and the later developments of what stems back to the Peabody concept, refined by Fredrick Von Martini.
So, there you are, yet another ancient rimfire rifle.
…and why am I telling you this? Because you need to know.