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!

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.

Sshhh…The folding single barrel .410

The folding single barrel .410 shotgun, I know I have mentioned them before. Normal rules apply with these things if you are in the UK. Is it safe to shoot and equally as importantly, can you legally own it on your shotgun certificate? I say this because so many of these things hover around 24″ barrel length and to comply with our UK firearms law the barrel must be 24″ or greater, not 600,0mm or longer and not 60cm or longer. 24″

OK, so you own one, it is safe to shoot and lawful to own so what can you do with it? Well shoot it of course! Beware as they are usually 2.5″ chamber or less so do not go stuffing 3″ 17 gram loads in it, however as a fun gun for rabbits or barn pigeons and clays of course, they are great.

But what about if it has a barrel less than 24″ in length? Well now it is classed as a Section 1 firearm and needs to be held accordingly.

You can always do something useful with one though. This one came in on a Section 2 shotgun certificate and careful measuring from the breech face to the end of the barrel put it right on the raggedy edge of Section 2. We advertised it for a while however we had no takers so it was left in the Armoury, awaiting a decision. As much as I do like these things I cannot keep every gun that comes in. They are either sold or used, not left in the corner of a cabinet.

Now I have to deal with animals involved in RTA’s (Road Traffic Accidents) I prefer to use a .410 shotgun as they are quick and humane, however walking through a housing estate with a gun over one shoulder in a high visibility vest does draw attention so I decided to haul the .410 out and do something with it.

The plan was to fit a permanently attached sound moderator that would not leave any doubt as to the length of the ‘Barrel’ plus it could be used for humane despatch. First job was to create a suitable sound moderator body and I opted for a cylinder from an Air Arms Carbine air rifle. They fill to 200 Bar (2900PSI) so more than adequate for the job and did a quick mock up to see how it felt and looked.

Nice, time to put the concept into practice.  I machined a threaded adapter that fitted nicely at the correct distance from the muzzle, fitted a muzzle cap to the new body and assembled everything on the gun. Everything still looked good, so the new threaded adapter was silver soldered onto the barrel and everything was pulled apart. I had already scrubbed the section of the barrel that would be inside the sound moderator, so I now drilled a series of 4,2mm holes at 30,0mm centres in 4 rows, offset by 15,0mm. Think of it as opposing holes every 30,0mm at Zero and 180 degrees and two more opposing rows at 90 and 270 degrees with these holes being centred between the other pair. The burrs were removed and the barrel blacked again by hand.

Onto the baffles. I had been mulling over many different ideas and ended up with aluminium mesh from Amazon. A sheet of mesh 3000x500mm costs under £14.00 (October 2020) and is enough for several goes.

As the outer tube is 300,0mm long externally, the mesh is around 250,0mm long. I cut it to length with scissors, then wrapped it tight to the barrel until it just fitted in to the tube and cut it to the length. I then wrapped the mesh back around the barrel and tried to assemble everything and failed as it was unwrapping itself from the barrel. So I wound it into a tube like a rolled up newspaper, pushed into the outer tube where it opened up slightly and allowed me to assemble everything with ease as the hole in the middle of the mesh was plenty big enough to allow easy assembly.

OK, so now I have a folding .410 shotgun that has a 2.5″ chamber and needs testing. Off to our designated test location we went and confirmed it was quite happy with the 2.5″ test loads. I also noted that it was incredibly quiet with a solitary test subsonic cartridge, however only 3″ subsonic cartridges are available here in the UK, so I was obviously going to have to make my own.

Back at the workshop I stripped everything down to clean and carefully inspect and was delighted to not see any signs of damage or pressure as I had expected. So I did some research on 2.5″ subsonic loads, realised the data was not really available so I ‘phoned a friend and he did the load development.

The load arrived upon used 2.5” Plastic case, Winchester 209 primers, Maxam CS5 powder, full size cork wad left untrimmed at 16mm, 16.7 grains #6 shot, a car wad and finished with a tight roll crimp.

So how does it shoot? Our sound meter tells me a supersonic factory 2.5″ 14 gram cartridge measured at 45 degrees back and at one meter is around 140 dB give or take a couple of dB. With the newly built subsonic loads we saw around typically 97-98 dB. This is with a load of 16,7 grams #6 shot and around 990fps. The load listed above uses no plastic components other than the case itself which can be reloaded several times.

I gave the case heads a wash with blue dye so I can clearly identify the subsonic loads.

What I will say is I strongly believe the sound reduction is down to the cartridges as much as the silencer and oddly, the tension on the crimp is as important as anything. Nick of NB Guns, who did the development tells me he did get some loads down to 700fps with no signs of over pressure so dependant on ambient temperature we can always slow/quieten things down a bit more if needed.

In practice, I can definitely hear the hammer drop at 90 degrees to the gun at 2m with our loads and I doubt you would really know what was going on from 25m away, which is about the length of a tennis court. Have I used it yet? Well I did shoot a clay with it the other day!

Final job was find something to put it in. We get many guns come in with old slips so I grabbed one from the pile, shortened it to suit, glued the end together with rubber adhesive and stitched it up. So now I can keep it safe and sound and pop it over my shoulder when needed.

Will I be building any more? Probably not. It was a design and build test as much as anything, it was intended to be built to a tight budget and hard cash outlay has been negligible. Instead it was mostly a spare time build, even the testing was added to an existing run out to test customer guns.

Will I be testing the gun with slug? Given the results I doubt I will take things any further. I have a lovely little gun that will serve the purpose it was built for, nothing more and nothing less.

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.