Friday, January 24, 2020

Thompson Center Maxi Shok

Ok so maybe its not really a huge hot rodding improvement but it was neat to try and see how well it works. After all, a soft lead projectile turns real nasty when a hollow point is introduced right?

TC Maxi Shok kit I bought off ebay last week came in and so I loaded up the rifle and seated one.

#1 thing I noticed right away is that the tip bites in deep and as you remove the ramrod, it tends to take the bullet up the bore until it catches some rifling or a tight spot and then falls off. This certainly is something you'd want to do at home and carry them preformed rather than formed in the field. I just seated the projectile with the rifles ramrod and everything was A-ok. I plan on finding a drop tube that I can put the bullet into, form it and then put it into my bullet packaging.

For the first test I used the Arrow Tip as it forms a nice sharp tipped hollow point that's not large enough to cause the bullet to grenade during impact. Next up I will use the Dot tip as its very shallow and round, most likely best suited for hunting. The cross tip I feel will not be very useful as its very blunt and would be pure hell trying to drive it into the nose of the bullet. The star tip looks just like a phillips head screw driver, very narrow at the point and widens greatly at the base.

The brass attachment jags are just a few thousands under bore size so they really help center that tip into the center of the projectile. I also used a bore guide as extra insurance.

Now the real test? Filling up a ton of water jugs and shooting into them and HOPEFULLY recovering them. To cold for that, so this will do for now.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Helpers Guide To Building Kit Guns - Finishing The Gun Stock

Finishing the stock:

Okay now that you've fit all your brass furniture to your gun stock, the stock is shaved, sanded and ready to go on to finishing it!

Now before we start... What grit of sand paper did stop with before you decided it looked good to go? I know a lot of folks stock at 220 grit and call it good, but IMO, 220 grit is FAR from good. Products such as Birchwood Casey Genuine Oil actually calls for a final sanding with 600 grit. Failure to do so will cause the product to leave little bubbles that remain sticky. 

Let's face it, a 220 grit finish it not smooth, its not good looking, its a lazy way to "finish" a gun stock that you put a lot of time into.

On most of my Traditions kit guns, I start with 120 and 150 grit until the wood and brass are beautifully flush or left a tiny bit "proud" so the owner has enough wood to work with in case the stock is ever damaged or needed to be refinished at some point in life. A tiny bit proud? I am talking, leaving maybe .005" - .006" wood sitting above the stock furniture, Not 1/16" - 1/8" as I see some folks do!

When mating the wood to the brass you need to screw all brass furniture into place and with files and or sand paper, remove the wood evenly. Do not round the wood to the brass! Doing so makes it look very amateurish and quite frankly, it looks like crap.

All edges such as the lock panels, cheek rest, should have clean sharp lines, not rounded off or blended into the stock. 

Getting back to the final finish. As stated, I will use 120 to 150 grit sand paper until all the wood is flush with the furniture. Next, I will dampen a rag in with and wipe the stock down and set it to the side until it is dry. Once more, I will use 150 grit sand paper and sand the stock again. This is normally repeated 3 to 4 times before I move onto 220 grit sand paper and repeat the process. 

By wetting the stock, we are raising the grain of the wood and its helping us remove deep scratches and any slight imperfections we left behind.

I begin with 120-150 grit, then move to 220 - 320 - 400 - 600 - 800 - 1200 and then as a final process, I polish the wood with 2000 grit sand paper. By now, the stock will actually have a beautiful shine to it, almost like it has a clear finish on it.

With the stock being completely sanded and its final sanding job complete, lets take a look at wood stains.

Water based, oil based or alcohol based?
This will really depend on the wood! Hardwoods react to oil stains much better than softer woods like we find on Traditons - CVA gun stocks.
For my Traditions guns, I use Birchwood Casey Walnut stain, a water based stain. This stain penetrates deeply and evenly. Once I apply one coat, its allowed to dry. How many coats? It depends on how dark you want it. I normally like a very dark color stock and so I will apply 6 coats of Birchwood Casey Walnut stain, allowing the stock to dry in between each coat.

Notice the grain has raised on the stock a little after staining? That's because its water based. Once the stain is complete and the color the way I want, I will use either 2000 grit sand paper and very gently sand the stock once more to remove the rough whiskers. A 3000 grit polishing pad from your local automotive store is a huge help as well!

You really should let the stock dry for a full 24 hours before applying your clear finish.

For me, I love Birchwood Casey Genuine Oil. Its much easier to work with than their Tru-oil, but the most important part to me, is that it goes on thin and stays thin, giving a gorgeous traditional hand rubbed oil finish look. This oil also dried pretty quickly. 

After the first coat has been applied heavily, all further coats are applied thinly.

Now for the first coat, I actually slop it on HEAVY. Set it to the side for a few minutes, then I take a lint free rag and wiped the stock down to soak up as much excess as I can before hanging the stock up and letting it dry for a full 24 hours. If the stock still feels sticky, let it dry another day or two. 

With the first coat of finish on, I will apply at least a total of 5 coats before I set the stock to the side for a few days to cure. Once cured, I use a small bowl of water and wet my 2000 grit sand paper and gently sand the finish down a bit until its smooth. I then follow up with another 5 coats of genuine oil before it again is allowed to cure for a few days.

As a final polishing to the finish,  I use Birchwood Casey Stock Sheen & Conditioner to remove any rough spots in the finish and also to cut down the glare that can build up. I like a classic semi gloss finish and the stock sheen and conditioner really gives me the look that I desire on my gun stocks.

Not done yet! Put at least 2 or 3 coats of wax onto the stock for added protection! Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Wax, Johnsons floor paste wax. Many many good choices out there! Use what you have experience with and can trust.

There are many kind of gun stock - wood finishes out there folks. Even hand rubbed boiled linseed oil looks great and works great. It is more time consuming as you must rub it into the wood HARD until your hands are burning hot before hanging it up to dry for at least 2 to 3 days before rubbing in another thin coat. This process in order to do it right, can take weeks to finish.

 A heat box will help dry the linseed oil faster but again, that's another project you should look into if you plan on doing this for a living or as a hobby.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Helpers Guide To Building Kit Guns - Browning the barrel and other metal parts

Lately I have been asked of the products that I use on my kit guns, for browning the barrel, staining and finishing the stock.

I am not going to get into great detail on finishing the gun stock or the barrel. As the builder, you should have a decent amount of knowledge in this department before starting. Always read up on finishing a kit gun before buying! Our kit guns today are not simple slap some stain and finished on and go shooting! Our kit guns do require fitting of parts, removal of wood and shaping the stock itself. Sometimes you will even run into a kit where YOU actually will have to make a wooden spacer to adjust the angle of the trigger group, or remove wood in this area. Fitting butt plates, trigger guards, nose caps, you name it, you'll be fitting it at some point!
Lets begin with the barrel:
Most kits offered these days by Lyman, Traditions and Pedersoli, come pretty much with a final polish. It is wise however, to use a flat file and wrap some 220 grit sand paper and go over the barrel flats to scuff up the surface and remove any cosmetic issues like small burrs, scratches and possibly dents. Once any imperfections have been removed with the 220 grit, do a final polish with 320 grit. Do not go over 320 grit as some chemicals actually will have a hard time "sticking" and will not provide the end result you are looking for. 

When building a kit for a customer or myself, I prefer to do my final barrel polishing with 220 grit as I want a thicker rust scale to build up to help reduce glare on the range or in the field.

Now that the barrel is polished and ready, let's do a final wipe down. First put on some latex gloves, as any oils from your hands can contaminate the steel and leave finger prints or smears. Next, soak a rag with Denatured alcohol and give the barrel a good scrubbing, paying close attention to areas like the drum, clean out screw and tang. These areas can hold oil from the factory and will contaminate the barrel browning process. Dovetails are another area to pay special detail to!

The main product I specifically use to Brown my barrels is a product called Laurel Mountain Forge Browning Solution. This product creates a slow rust build up when introduced to a warm, but HUMID environment. Think of the bathroom, the temp turned up to around 75-80 and then turning the Shower on until a light, and I mean very light, fog covers the bathroom mirror. Once the mirror has this light fog, it's as simple as turning off the shower, closing the door and walking away for an hour. I try to turn the shower on and steam the mirror every 1 1/2 hours, depending how well your bathroom retains the heat/humidity.

Now lets skip back one step... Do I prep the bathroom heat/humidity first or wipe the solution on first... Wait... How do I go about applying the browning solution in the first place?

Me personally, I take my time and treat the barrel first. I use a cotton ball and soak it good, but not so it runs all over the place. Runs, splatters or pooling, will actually cause you to have to sand the barrel back to steel and start all over again! If you ever see a copper or bronze looking spot  or streak, you pooled it up in one spot or you crossed over the wipe line.

When using Laurel Mountain Forge, it is CRUCIAL to apply it cleanly,to each barrel flat, without crossing over wipe lines! You must also only wipe it on in ONE DIRECTION. Do not rub it back and forth.

Think of it as sharpening your knife on a stone. One smooth clean line without picking up the cotton ball or squishing out excess solution that will run all over the other barrel flats. Carefully use the cotton ball and wipe each barrel flat until they have all been treated. Now for the drum/bolster ( That thingy where the nipple screws into, for those of you not up to par on the terms used ) I normally switch over to a simple Q-Tip and carefully coat the drum/bolster.

Treat all the metal parts you intend on browning. Turn the heat on in the bathroom to 75-80 degrees, turn the shower onto Hot. Turn it off once a LIGHT layer of fog has kissed the bathroom mirror. Shut off the shower, close the door and walk away.

It is a good idea to keep the barrel at waist height as heat rises. A cold floor with low humidity will do you no good. I use the laundry hamper with a piece of card board over it to help from damaging the hamper.

Now, just a little cheater tip. Browning small tiny items such as patch box, trigger guard and butt plate screws in this manner can be a very big pain in the butt as  the steel alloys may not take  the rusting solution as nicely as the barrel does. 

For small parts like this, I switch to HOT Browning. Birchwood Casey Plum Brown is a great product but very tricky to use on large items like the barrel because it requires a consistent temperature in order to achieve a clean, consistent browning job. It does match up great to the Laurel Mountain Forge browning solution when all is said and done.

Once you have applied the first  coat, do not use a soaked cotton ball. Soak it, then squeeze out the excess from this point on! It will take very little solution now. An over wet cotton ball can actually remove the first layer of rust.

Once the barrel has been treated with around 3 coats of Laurel Mountain Forge, It's now time to remove it from the bathroom and take it to the kitchen sink for a wash down. Normally for this I just use warm tap water and a rough textured cloth ( Old pair of jeans ) and scrub the barrel down to remove excess rust scale build up.

Once you've scrubbed it down, give it a final rinse with warm water, dry it and then take it back to the bathroom for  hopefully the final coat of Laurel Mountain Forge. 

Now that the barrel is browned and has passed your inspection, it's time to NEUTRALIZE the rusting process!

I use simple Baking Soda - Water slurry to neutralize my barrels and metal parts.

 Be careful! Baking Soda is actually a polishing media and if you scrub the barrel down to hard, you'll cut through the rust and have a bare steel spot!

When I mix my neutralizing slurry, I use warm water in a little bowl and add enough water to make a paste. Once I have a thick paste, I add a touch more water to add some "lubricant" when lightly scrubbing the barrel. You can even make up a paste that actually allows you to coat the barrel and let it sit for a few minutes.

Wash the barrel down and start all over again, adding some extra water to the mix to make the baking soda polishing media less aggressive. 

My barrels for example, after treating with the baking soda paste, feel like a super smooth 2000 grit sand paper, yet do not create an ugly glare in the field or on the shooting range. Low gloss is key for my rifles! 

Now that the barrel has been fully washed down and dried, it is time to rub or spray on your favorite anti rust lubricant. I normally soak the barrel in Birchwood Barricade a couple times a day before calling it good. Later on I will add my personal anti rust lube, Frontier's Anti-Rust & Patch Lube which completely seals the barrel inside and out.

As a final step, you can now install your Nipple and Clean Out screw. Be sure to lubricate the threads before installing! Believe it or not, White plumbers tape ( Teflon tape ) makes for a gorgeous anti seize for these two items. This tape seals out powder residue and keeps moisture out of the threads when hunting in wet conditions. Another great idea behind using the Plumbers Tape - NO grease is used,that could possibly contaminate your powder charge!

If your Barrel or other treated parts are black in certain areas, leave them alone until the part is completely covered in rust brown scale! Black areas are simply the product doing its job and slowly converting to rust. Add a little humidity to the bathroom and it will eventually brown.

Next Article to come - Finishing the Gun Stock

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

No.3 Traditions St.Louis Hawken kit gun build

Back in October I purchased a Traditions St.Louis Hawken kit to do some article work and here it is! 

The barrel has been slow rust browned using Laurel Mountain Forge browning solution. I replaced the plastic sights with traditional sights. A new Hickory ramrod was also installed. Lots of special care was taken during this build! The barrel channel and tang is completely bedded and fits together TIGHT. A new Hotshot nipple was installed for increase in ignition performance. 

The stock has a 600 grit final finish and was topped off with Birchwood Casey walnut ( 6 coats worth ) and then lightly faux curly maple stripes were added by painting them on with a narrow paint brush, dipped into an alcohol based wood stain. The stock then was finished off with 10 coats of Birchwood Casey Genuine Oil before being buffed back with Birchwood Casey Stock Sheen & Conditioner. Two coats of Birchwood Casey gun stock wax sealed the deal and the rifle was complete!

Another outing with the Lyman Plains Bullet

Ok, went back out again, exact same load but I used the larger 4 1/2" red bullseye to aim at. Without a doubt this is a guaranteed accurate load! First shot I swabbed the bore completely clean, and as it shows, its aprox 1 1/2" higher then the follow 2 shots on a dirty bore. I can handle that during hunting season!

This 3 shot - 100 yard group measures 1 3/4" There is no possible way I could hope to shrink this down! I'm using a german silver front sight and a traditional lyman great plains rifle rear sight. Pretty "primitive" but I see them super clear and have had no trouble in the past with them. If anything, I will have to drift the rear sight over a touch to the left to bring the group more towards the center.

Traditions St.Louis Hawken .50cal, 28" barrel, 1:48 twist, 80gr Alliant Black MZ, 395gr Lyman Plains bullets @ 100 yards. 

This group measures 1 3/4" center  to center. 

Lyman Plains Bullet .50cal 395gr Test Continues

100 yard testing with the .50cal 395 grain Lyman Plains Bullet
Out on the range today in a T shirt! Gorgeous cloudless sky, perfect for shooting. One minor set back, my contacts are a little old and so I keep having to blink to get them clear before I squeeze the trigger. Another set back, I was tilting my rifle with the badly off center target holder and so I was struggling with the shots going to the right. Once I caught onto this, I corrected it and put the last 3 shots well under 3" in the bulls eye ( one slightly outside,left of the black )

I used the Traditions St.Louis Hawken .50cal 28" barrel with 1:48 twist and 80gr Alliant Black MZ with the home cast 395gr Lyman Plains bullet. Outstanding bullet! What's crazy... Its shooting same POI as my patched round ball load!

Target was shot from 100 yards. Final 3 shots are in the black.
This turned out to be one hell of an accurate bullet! 
 All bullets were lubed with Frontier's Anti Rust & Patch Lube. No swabbing between shots.
 Alliant Black MZ shot beautifully today even though its not known as a top performing powder with consistent Velocity. However, I don't think an elk would know the difference!
I do believe this will make a gorgeous elk tamer this year!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

How often should I clean my muzzle loader?

"How often should I clean my muzzle loader?"

Surprisingly this is a question I just read on facebook and 99.9% of the members that responded had a good knowledge of black powder arms to begin with. Sadly, we still have those that think their muzzle loaders are like their centerfire and you can go a whole "season" before they need to be cleaned.

The real answer is.... As soon as you are done on the range... CLEAN IT!

Black Powder ( the real stuff ) and all of the black powder substitutes are highly corrosive and need a water based ( Or straight out of the tap ) cleaner to effectively wash away the corrosive salts in black powder.

There are many modern day solvents that claim to neutralize black powder fouling, but the hard part is, getting them into the patent breech plug and fully flushing all corrosive fouling and fouling build up, OUT of the breech.

Patent Breech

These modern solvents do not reach the places that really need care and attention. Shooting a traditional muzzle loader, the shooter really should do it the old fashion way and make things easier on themselves by skipping over the modern ways and keep it simple.

Now does "Simple" mean... Doing a half assed sloppy job? No... By simple, I am talking about the way folks have cleaned their muzzle loaders for hundreds of years. A simple bucket of hot soapy water.

 Now some will argue, the old timers didn't use soap because it removed the bore seasoning... Seasoning being, rubbing a bore down with animal fat and allowing it to harden in the pours of the iron barrel.

Today's barrels are not the same steel  that the old timers used. Completely different! If you are shooting a modern replica and someone tells you to season the bore.. Chances are, they are full of squash between the ears and are just giving you some story that was passed on to them over the years. Store salesmen will be the first to tell you to grab a tube of that 'yeller bore butter stuff and season your bore.

Keep it simple!

How I clean my muzzle loaders after a day on the range:

Hot bucket of soapy water with a little dawn dish soap

Submerge the barrel and let the nipple soak and then scrub with a stiff bristle brush

Remove nipple and clean the threads

With barrel submerged in the bucket of hot soapy water, I attach a cleaning jag on my range rod ( Wood rods can and will swell, greatly weakening them from the water - Use Brass or Stainless cleaning rod when possible! )

With cleaning jag in place, I simply lay a 3" patch across the muzzle and run it down to the bottom of the bore where it will get saturated in the hot soapy water. A dozen strokes, I change the patch and do it over again.

Once the patches come out clean, I dump out the dirty bucket of water, wash it out real good and refill it with clean water, without the soap! Run a couple more patches then I immediately wipe the exterior of the barrel dry with a towel and then run 2 dry patches down the bore. It is crucial to dry that bore fast! Hot water helps dry them out, but it can also promote a light coating of flash rust to develop in the bore. So keep your dry patches close by and swab that sucker free of water/moisture.

Once I feel that the bore is dry, I plug the hole where the nipple screws into, and then I pour aprox 1/2oz Denatured Alcohol down the bore and swish it around. The alcohol will help remove water sitting on the face of the breech plug and inside of the patent breech plug. Remove your finger and let it drain.

Once drained, immediately soak a cleaning patch with the denatured alcohol and swab the bore a few times. Go slow and allow the cleaning rod to rotate as you push it down the bore.

Now that the barrel has been fully cleaned, dried and an insurance cleaning with denatured alcohol has been performed... here comes the tricky part.

What do I use to prevent rust in bore?

Well, on facebook and forums, this simple yet highly important question has started wars between folks!

We often hear, use natural lubricants/cleaners in your muzzleloader or else you'll build up a coating of tar! Keep that petroleum based oil outta them!

Total hog wash! Anything that goes into your muzzle loader bore, MUST first be removed prior to loading it! I have used everything from mineral oil, Automatic Transmission Fluid, RIG #1, Barricade, Birchwood Casey 2 in 1 bore cleaner, Frog lube, Bore butter, Hoppes, just about every oil you can think of.

None of the petroleum products ever showed a tar build up of any kind the next time I went out shooting... Why?.... Because I clean my bores out with a patch saturated with denatured alcohol first of course! Even your so called natural bore butter has to be swabbed out of the bore prior to loading!

Any lube left in the bore will cause the powder to stick  to it the next time you dump a charge down!

Now I do have my #1 favorite Patch lube and anti rust lube: Frontier's Anti Rust & Patch lube.. I developed  this going on 4 years ago and it does everything I want and then some. It's the only anti rust lubricant I know of that does not have to be swabbed out prior to loading, simply because once it cures over night, its not sticky or gummy and will not catch all the powder granules.

Other great anti rust lubes I have used with high success rates of not rusting while in storage.. Birchwood Casey Barricade is a great spray lube that keeps rust away.

RIG #2 also a spray lube is awesome and does provide a thicker layer of protection than the Barricade does. Which is better? I have no clue! Barricade and RIG #2 are extremely great petroleum based anti rust lubes.

Bore Butter on the other hand has been the culprit of many ruined barrels from the time it was "invented".  Now I know there's a good number of folks that enjoy it, but I personally hate the nasty stuff as it does not keep rust away and if there is any sign of moisture in the barrel, it's going to rust. I found this out the hard way on one of my favorite flintlocks and now have rust rings in the bore where the bore butter failed to prevent rusting while it hung on the wall.

Chances are, you also shoot a centerfire.. What oil do you have good luck with in that particular rifle for keeping rust off it? Most likely, if it keeps rust off that gun, it will do the same for your muzzle loader.... Just remove it from the bore before loading it!

Cleaning your muzzle loader is not a hard process! it does take a little time to do it properly. It takes a little time getting down some tricks to improve your cleaning process such as using alcohol to flush away any traces of moisture prior to loading. Once it is cleaned, has been tried, has been swabbed with alcohol... Use what ever damn anti rust lubricant you have had great success with in the past! Just remove it before loading!

This was a customers pistol that I worked on a couple years ago. After verifying it was unloaded, I proceeded to remove the nipple and it was stuck solid. I ended up heating around the drum ( Traditions ) and the heat freed the nipple threads from all the powder fouling. After taking a good look, it was easy to see how poorly the pistol had been taken care of. Broken nipple threads are never good to find!
What was worse.... Finding the patent breech was plugged so bad with fouling, it even worked its way all the way into the drum to form a huge solid powder fouling "pellet". This was a horrible job to clean which involved tons of hot water and special picks in order to get this breech plug and drum fully cleaned.

 How does a breech plug get packed full of powder fouling like this? Easy.. Some folks think that just running a  few wet patches down the bore until its clean and its good to go! They don't realize that every time they bottom out the cleaning jag/patch, fouled water soaks directly into the face of the patent breech and just stays there unless the owner properly cleans it. Which obviously the previous owner did not. This fouling slowly builds up after each use and "cleaning" until it becomes fully plugged and no longer will fire. Sadly this is not the first muzleloader I have worked on to be in such poor condition when it comes to cleaning.

FLUSH it with hot soapy water folks! It is the only way to actually get them clean!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

How dry is your bore?

#1 reason I always tell folks to flush their barrels with a shot of alcohol! Doing so, helps flush out any left behind moisture or standing water at the bottom of the barrel/breech plug. This barrel had been cleaned with a couple damp patches, then dried. Once "dry" I put my bore camera down to take a look at this is what I came up with.Completely soaked and the face of the breech plug was half clogged with powder fouled which would have caused an issue had I gone out and tried to fire it. 

FLUSH it the old fashion way every time you go to clean! Hot soapy water, dry it immediately, a shot of alcohol and let it drain out. Lubricate with your favorite anti rust oil.
Swabbing between shots on the range can easily push in a wet mush fouling directly into the breech plugs flash channel.

When swabbing the bore clean on the range, I push a dry patch down the bore with the ramrod/range rod and fire a couple percussion caps to dry it out completely. You can verify that the breech is dry by inspecting the patch for burn marks.

First test run with the 395 grain Lyman Plains Bullet

Sadly due to a new rule change in 2018, Colorado hunters shooting their normal .490" round ball load, now find them selves either having to find a 54 caliber ( now the new minimum for elk & moose with patched round ball ) or like me, switching over to conical bullets in order to be legal for elk-moose hunting. It was a terrible, uneducated rule change by this department that has allowed a .50cal Patched round ball for over 50 YEARS. 

I normally go with the 250 & 300gr Lee R.E.A.L bullet, a home cast projectile. Its a very good accurate bullet and packs a big wallop at both ends and penetrates deeply.

Wanting to find something a little more reliable to shoot in my 1:28 twist guns, however, along with my 1:48 twist Hawken, I decided to give the Lyman Plains bullet a try. These bullets are also home cast and run in the 7.5 BHn range for lead hardness. I noticed my 1:48 twist riles really respond well with lead that is slightly hardened.

Today for the first test, I used my Traditions St.Louis Hawken .50cal with a 28" barrel and a 1:48 twist at 50 yards. Powder was Alliant Black MZ, 80 grains Volume and compressed hard with the ramrod. A CCI #11 Magnum reliably set off the powder charge. No swabbing between shots was done or needed. These bullets reloaded smoothly without any crud build up in the bore.

The Lyman Plains Bullets drops at 395gr with pure lead. Because my lead is a little harder, I get an average weight of 393 to 394 grains before lubing them. These bullets were pan lubed in Frontier's Anti Rust & Patch Lube.

Shots  1 through 5
Next time, I will test from 100 yards and then move on to experimenting with different powders, including Goex 2fg black powder. As of now, I am very pleased with todays results and look forward to working up a good elk hunting load. 

Note the recovered bullet from the tire stack