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Old 01-15-2018, 04:32 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Default J-Frame Vise Inserts and Other Help Needed

I just purchased a no-dash 63 from which I plan to remove the barrel and install a Hart barrel blank, probably finishing it to a compact 3" barrel length (Relax, I will be able to put it back to its original state if I'm careful...and that's why I'm posting my first thread here). The intent is to have all the desirable features of the original 6-shot 63 design and aesthetics but with the handier, and probably higher quality, 3" barrel. I don't really like the current M63 internal locks, the way the presence of the lock changes the frame lines, the non-circular extractor star, the MIM parts, the plastic front sights, and the enclosed ejector rod, hence I will be modifying a vintage 63. I have a gunsmithing background and could probably figure some of these questions out by myself, but I would really prefer learning from someone who has done this before.

Question #1: Does anyone make inserts for S&W J-Frames? I have checked Brownells and other potential sources to no avail. It seems like they just don't exist off the shelf.

Question #2: If inserts are unavailable, what have others done to make vise inserts and barrel wrenches for J-frames?

Question #3: I've removed S&W barrels in the past, and it went well enough, but never a J-frame, and never a stainless steel barrel. How tightly torqued are the J-frames, and do the stainless threads tend to gall?

FWIW, I plan to install the Hart blank (it's about 8" long) and leave it full diameter and at that length, then experiment by progressively shortening the barrel to about 3", depending on the results, and finally contouring the barrel to emulate either the original 63 contour and shape, or possibly another, slimmer shape, like the older Outdoorsman-like contour.

Thanks in advance for any insights you might have.

TBR
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Old 01-15-2018, 06:35 PM
Bill In Texas Bill In Texas is offline
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Welcome to the Neighborhood! I'd sure like to see some pics when you are done with it!
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Old 01-15-2018, 06:45 PM
linde linde is offline
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I'm going to suggest to the Moderators to move this thread to the Smithing section where you're more apt to find the knowledgeable folks with the answers to your questions.

Good luck,

Russ
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Old 01-15-2018, 06:54 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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My bad. I didn't even look at the category in which I posted the thread. Much appreciated.

BTW, I did order a block of Delrin, thinking I will just replicate the various inserts made for the K-frames but on a smaller scale. I will post pics...if everything goes well. If not, I'll just fade away into the landscape .
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Old 01-15-2018, 07:04 PM
Toolguy Toolguy is offline
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Delrin, or Acetal, is wonderful stuff. I use it a lot. It'll work fine for this application. I have never seen ones for J frame. Looks like a DIY project, but not too difficult.
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Old 02-06-2018, 11:30 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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A couple of hours freed up for me Saturday, so I managed to get something done on this. I have found that if I have everything ready to go in advance, just like having my range bag stocked and ready to go to the range, I can get out and make progress when the chance presents itself.

I had ordered the drills, tap, and a 36" long, 1"x1" 6061 aluminum bar for making into a barrel wrench for removing the 63 barrel, so I was ready to go. I lopped off a small 8" piece from the end of the long bar and drilled three holes through the short and long pieces simultaneously (to ensure they all line up properly) using a "F" drill bit, the appropriate size for a 5/16"x18 tap. I then opened up the holes on the shorter piece just large enough to allow passage of 5/16" cap screws. I then just tapped the three holes in the main bar. The purpose of three holes is to allow the use of two types of jaws of differing configuration, one for the current 63 barrel ,and also one for the round Hart barrel.

The 63 barrel is tapered but features that convenient rib on the top. I simply machined a round-bottom trough just deep enough for the flat shoulder to mate with the flat side of the barrel rib, to achieve maximum purchase when removing and torquing the barrel. A 5/8" ball-end mill was just about perfect for this.

The Hart barrel is still a true cylinder, with no shoulder, about .875" in diameter, so a 7/8" ball end mill was used for its jaw, but I milled it much deeper to again allow as much bite as possible:



Here it is clamped firmly onto the original 63 barrel as close to the frame as possible:


Next, I made some card stock templates, ala, J.M. Browning, for the right and left sides of the petite J- Frame to use as a pattern for the Delrin inserts:


So, hopefully, sometime soon, I'll scribe the outlines onto the Delrin blocks, cut them out, and fit them to the actual frame. There's probably enough flex and elasticity in the Delrin to form fit to the frame without meticulous fitting, but I'd like to get the fit as precise as possible to avoid any avoidable strain on the frame when removing and torquing the barrels.


TBR
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Old 02-06-2018, 11:34 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Someone expressed concerned about frame distortion, and I am a bit concerned,as well, but the plan is to dose the barrel threads with penetrating oil and allow it to stand for 24 hours. I plan to then support the frame as firmly and completely as possible with closely fitting Delrin vise inserts to distribute the torque forces over the entire frame; no point loading. I guess we'll know if that is enough here in a couple of days.

By the way, I received my 11-degree forcing cone reamer yesterday, so all is now in hand and ready to go:



TBR
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Old 02-06-2018, 03:36 PM
Toolguy Toolguy is offline
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You are going about it the right way. If you want to check frame alignment, you can make a piece to go on the forcing cone shank in place of the cutter. It can be a pointed indicator, or a round piece the size of the cartridge rim. Put the shank through the barrel and see if the tip lines up with the center of the cartridge. It's a bit easier on centerfire guns.
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:43 PM
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I made my frame wrench inserts in a manner similar to you. My wrench itself is made from angle iron, 2 pieces that clamp together with 1/4 20 bolts and hold the inserts tight to the frame. One piece of angle has a piece of round stock welded to it for a handle. Its ugly but works well. I use oak blocks to clamp my barrels.

I have made a ejector rod lug using a piece of square stock, drilling it for the spring and lug, then using a end mill to make a slot for it in the bottom of the barrel and silver soldering it in place.

I have done a few stainless barrels with no problem. They are some type of 400 series stainless and I don't think it galls like 300 series can. But, I understand your concern. Once stainless starts to gall it goes south fast.

Last edited by steelslaver; 02-06-2018 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:45 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Default It Worked!

It almost seems silly to spend 5 hours making a barrel wrench and vise jaws just for one or two whacks with a 3-pound sledge, but that's how it played out. Of course, I will be using them for installing and removing the barrel during various stages of experimentation and completion, and I feel this abundance of caution has no doubt paid dividends on the project.

I have to say the barrel was very, very tight, and I believe had I not taken every precaution to distribute the strain of removal over as much of the surface of the frame as possible, it may have bent or cracked it. FWIW, even after it broke loose, it was still quite tight for about the first 1/4 turn (about .007" with the J-frame 36 TPI) then loosened up to the point I could turn it out by hand, so I'll use that as a benchmark when installing the new barrel. I'm guessing it will be a chore to achieve the same torque, at least while the barrel is still just round, since there are no shoulders against which one can apply force. This is also a lesson to any aspiring gunsmiths out there: never get in a hurry, and always use, or make, if necessary, the right tools for the job.

I'm also pleased to say there is not a new mark on the barrel or the frame, and, as you can see, the crane/yoke fit looks just like it did before the removal, so I doubt I did any damage.

There are no signs of galling on the stainless threads, despite the concern there, and they were completely covered with a thin coat of oil, so the Kroil did its job, but the face of the frame has a bit of galling at the 5 o'clock to 7 o'clock position from the initial torquing S&W did. Even the barrel shoulder was splayed slightly. For those worried about the lack of a cross pin in the later 63s, no worries! I'll let the pics tell the story:












On the cylinder gap, this 63 had a .004" gap, likely the very minimum for a dirty .22 RF, but I plan to make the barrel tenon exactly the same length as the original barrel. This way, figuring maybe .001" crush of the new Hart barrel will result in a .003" cylinder gap. I guess we'll see if .004" is, in fact, the threshold.

Now the fun begins! The wife just told me she has choir practice this evening. Threading and fitting might happen tonight .

Any opinions on firing this little .22 without the ejector rod detent in place?
TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 02-06-2018 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:47 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steelslaver View Post
I made my frame wrench inserts in a manner similar to you. My wrench itself is made from angle iron, 2 pieces that clamp together with 1/4 20 bolts and hold the inserts tight to the frame. One piece of angle has a piece of round stock welded to it for a handle. Its ugly but works well. I use oak blocks to clamp my barrels.

I have made a ejector rod lug using a piece of square stock, drilling it for the spring and lug, then using a end mill to make a slot for it in the bottom of the barrel and silver soldering it in place.

I have done a few stainless barrels with no problem. They are some type of 400 series stainless and I don't think it galls like 300 series can. But, I understand your concern. Once stainless starts to gall it goes south fast.
Thanks for the information. This Hart barrel has just barely enough diameter to allow an integral ejector rod lug...barely.

As I contemplate all the details, a number of interesting options emerge. I could leave the bull barrel on there, or perhaps just shorten it just enough to continue to allow use of the barrel-mounted 4x Leupold, but that departs from my original plan of a handy 63. I also thought about maybe a longer thin barrel that emulates the lines of the old K-frame Outdoorsman barrels, but more petite. That one still intrigues me. The problem of turning the barrel down to a gracefully tapered contour, while leaving material on it to allow for an integral ejector rod detent on the bottom of the barrel, is a bit daunting, however…not that I can't do it with great effort, along with an integral front sight, but I'm not sure I want to go to that much work. That option also is inconsistent with my handy 63 goal.

Then, I got a better idea. Forming the integral front sight and ejector rod detent lug would be greatly simplified if I went with no taper and octagoned the barrel. If I stick with the 3" barrel plan, it's not really that much machining to octagon it while leaving and shaping the material for the front sight and rod detent lug...so, that's what I think I'm going to do.

Tonight's the night.
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Old 02-06-2018, 07:19 PM
Toolguy Toolguy is offline
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You don't really need the front of the ejector rod supported. I've shot guns in competition for years with the ejector rod out in the air. The barrel is better off if not tightened so tight. Just hand tight with some blue Loctite is better for the barrel.
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Old 02-06-2018, 07:40 PM
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It sounds tome like the barrel was on the tight side. Usually they break loose and start turning shortly there after, but the galling on the frame shoulder might have caused some of it.

Making a contoured barrel with integral rib, ramp and sight would take some corner rounding mills and time.
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Old 02-07-2018, 11:46 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Originally Posted by steelslaver View Post
It sounds tome like the barrel was on the tight side. Usually they break loose and start turning shortly there after, but the galling on the frame shoulder might have caused some of it.

Making a contoured barrel with integral rib, ramp and sight would take some corner rounding mills and time.
I would add a lot of time, and some fixtures I don't have. I did get out in the garage last night with good results.

I've always subscribed to the old adage of measuring twice and cutting once, but that was for making cutting boards in middle school woodshop. As a gunsmith, measuring 5 times and cutting once has served me better, and, in this case, I measured 10 or 15 times and cut once.

I know most of the audience here are just revolver fans, not rimfire enthusiasts, but slugging a rimfire bore to assess its accuracy potential, and especially finding the all-important tight spot in the bore, is very important in rimfire rifle accuracy. I don't know that it matters in a revolver with 6 chambers, a cylinder gap, and a forcing cone, but I wanted to give this revolver the chance to be as accurate as a J-frame can possibly be.

So, I slugged and slugged the bore of the Hart barrel section using lubricated slugs harvested from match .22 ammunition and, the more I slugged, the more convinced I became that the "choke" in this blank was longer than I had believed from initial slugging, although the release point was very consistently in the same spot. I think the choked portion is about 1.25" long, instead of about 1/2", as I previously assumed.

As mentioned, my intent was to experiment a bit with barrel length using a 4X Leupold handgun scope I just purchased for the purpose. Experimentation with various barrel lengths (8" to 6" to 4") would not be possible, however, with a distinct, relatively short choke, as I would need to re-cut the barrel from the breech, recutting the tenon threads each time I shortened the barrel, something I didn't really want to do. Yet, with this longer choked portion, I decided I could cut it to the original 4", long enough to mount the Leupold for group shooting, then cut the muzzle back about 3/4" to 1" and just re-cut the crown and still be in the tight sweet spot. So, that's what I did and plan to do.











I've always found it useful to know the weight of the respective components while everything is apart:







Even the light little Leupold overwhelms the petite J Frame. You can see it would be a challenge to mount this scope on a 3" barrel without making some "skinny" scope rings, which is why I opted to start with the 4" length:


So, if I have time tonight, I will cut the forcing cone, torque the barrel in place, scribe a witness mark, assess the resulting cylinder gap, and start relieving the bottom of the barrel for ejector rod clearance. I will also need to relieve the bottom of the barrel tenon for the crane. Getting that far will allow me to shoot it and adjust the cylinder gap, if necessary. Then I'll need to either cut some dovetail grooves in the barrel for direct scope ring mounting, my preferred method, or drill and tap it for conventional bases. Either will need to be shallow enough to disappear when I finally octagon the barrel.

On the ejector rod lug, every S&W revolver I've owned had considerable play in the ejector rod, and I never really thought the ejector rod detent played much of a role in tight cylinder lock up, but I feel better having some means of securing the rod, instead of it just flopping around out there. I also appreciate the comments on shooting these revolvers extensively without a secured rod. Eventually, after I octagon the barrel, I will fit the detent, spring, and pin into the integral lug.

Again, the plan is to octagon the barrel, leaving the size about .600" across the points, and also machine the under lug and and front sight ramp integrally. As always, my projects tend to sprout legs and wander a bit. Now part of me is saying a 4" octagon will look better than a 3" octagon. Just don't know. We'll see, but my original intent was a handy 3" M63 on the older 6-shot, no internal lock platform.

I welcome any thoughts or comments.

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 02-07-2018 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 02-07-2018, 01:04 PM
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Nice project, regardless of how it ends up. Thanks for taking us along for the ride!
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Old 02-08-2018, 11:36 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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My work schedule usually won't allow me to string two good work-in-the-garage days together, but I was able to get in 3 in 4 days. Very therapeutic!

I gently stoned the face of the frame, where there was a bit of galling, and doing so resulted in the barrel hand tightening about 1/16 of a turn more, or about .002". I then torqued the barrel about as much as I felt comfortable doing, this time using the larger wrench cut outs for the round barrel. It worked well enough, and it didn't slip at all, but the bolts were binding up in the non-threaded holes, so I didn't have a good feel for how tight the wrench was actually getting. I'll need to open up them a bit.

Then, I simply mounted the barrel and frame so that the frame was perfectly perpendicular in the mill vise, and machined the ejector rod clearance. The Hart stainless machined quite crisply, although the 400-series stainless steels are not nearly as sticky to machine as the low-carbon 300-series. There was plenty of clearance on the original, may be too much, and I thought about tightening up the gap a bit but decided against it...really nothing to be gained there, and I wanted to be certain it would function the first time, since I really didn't want to chuck and true everything up again.

You can see I left a .004"-.005" sliver of barrel, not wanting to kiss the frame with the carbide mill, then broke it off and stoned the corner:


Then, I cut the forcing cone..about a minute's work. Great Brownell's tool, by the way. Was not sure how deep to go, so, again, I just replicated the original cone depth:

Done:


The barrel lost less than one ounce from that machining; 10.2 vs 9.4:


I then re-installed the barrel, using a Dykem witness mark, and the cylinder gap did tighten to .003", just like I had hoped. If it binds when it fouls, I'll just remove a .001" and be back to its original gap.

I was tempted to drill the ER detent hole while I had the barrel off, but realized I would need some pretty long drill bits of the proper size, which I did not have. I was also tempted to machine some quick dovetail grooves for mounting the scope right to the barrel, but I was running out of time and wanted to think more about how to do it. I've used Talley rimfire rings in the past, so I'll probably thin down a pair of those about .200" each, to gain mounting space, and mount them properly.

Then, it occurred to me, "What if this thing tack-holes 1/4"-1/2" groups at 25 yards?" I've done about every rimfire trick in the book, and that Hart barrel was smooth as glass when I slugged it...it now has every chance to shoot great. If it does shoot like I hope (I think I hope that it will), it would be very tempting to leave it as is. Do I want it to shoot poorly, so I can proceed with the shorter octagon barrel...or not? That would kind of derail my original intent of a compact 3" old-school 63...but I might have the most accurate 63 in the world. I guess it would be a very good problem to have. Enjoy:


Looks like I'm just about 4.5 ounces over original weight, but I must say, it does hang amazingly well in the hand:




So, I can shoot it now, but there are no sights. Range time is as precious as garage time, so maybe I should just mount my scope tomorrow and get to the range Saturday...If it does shoot really well, I will be very glad I machined it properly for a scope, instead of just drilling and tapping a bunch of holes for an ugly rail.

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 02-09-2018 at 01:05 AM.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:09 AM
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When you cut the bottom of the barrel to clear the ejector rod, you want to keep the gap between them fairly small so the back of the barrel can support the top front of the crane when it's closed. Should be a shooter!
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Old 02-09-2018, 08:05 AM
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Some of my projects end up a bit different from the original idea. Might change desires as the work progresses, run into a problem or comeup with a "better" idea as I progress.

Looks like your doing some fine work. I have always worried about drilling the smaller diameter hole in the ejector lug with a long thin bit. I know it can be done, but stuff like that always makes me nervous.
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Old 02-09-2018, 10:42 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Nervous indeed! I always try to start drilling holes with a stiffer center drill, to minimize tip wandering, but the one I have that is small enough is too short by about .750", and I'm not sure I could locate a longer one; a long spindly center drill kind of defeats the purpose of a stiff center drill. It's worth looking though.

TBR
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Old 02-09-2018, 01:40 PM
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You can get most sizes of center or spot drills in 4 and 6 inch lengths from the normal metalworking suppliers.
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Old 02-16-2018, 07:04 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Default Three Birds; One Stone

…or three barrels; one revolver.

After “congitatin’ considerable” over what to do about the new 4” Hart bull barrel, the one I believe will shoot very well -- if smoothness of bore, precision with which it was threaded and fitted, a distinct choke right at the crown, concentricity of the crown itself, and configuration and smoothness of the forcing cone mean anything -- I decided to bite the bullet and just make a 3” barrel from the remnants of the original 8” Hart barrel section. The plan is to turn it into the 3” octagon barrel I originally envisioned. It doesn’t have the choke, but everything else is the same quality, including the smooth bore. This allows me to leave the 4” barrel as is, to use as a deadly, long-range, scoped, squirrel-sniper revolver, while also having the handy and stylish 3” option: having and eating my cake . Preserving the 4” bull also allows me to feel freer to machine away at the 3”.




Part of the decision involved the dilemma of machining the top of the 4” to accept Talley rings mounted directly to the barrel. I couldn’t really do it without removing material that I would need to machine the integral front sight ramp, in the event I took the 4" in the 3” octagon direction. Yes, I could have drilled some shallow 6-48 screw holes and mounted a toothy-looking rail, but one or two of those holes would have landed right where I wanted to create the front ramp; just not enough material there to drill and still have a nice ramped area. Besides, what could be cooler than a switch-barrel S&W M63, right?

So, the next step is to machine the 4” for the Talley rings, right where they need to land to look right, and then shoot the revolver for groups…maybe tonight/tomorrow. After that goes well, I will torque the 3” in place, machine the clearance for the ER, cut the crane relief, and, while still all chucked up again, just keep on going to full octagon with integral ramp and ER lug (although I will need to dovetail in a small SS block for the ER lug, since the Hart was about .050” too small in diameter make it completely integral). I’ll probably just mount a small plate for the 4” ER area to protect it a bit, but leave the ER itself free floating.

Stay tuned,

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 02-16-2018 at 07:06 PM.
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Old 02-18-2018, 06:55 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Default Range Report...Finally

So, the day started at Ace Hardware, since I needed an 11/32” drill to open up the holes on my barrel wrench, but, I mention it because, while there, I noticed the store has started carrying “Gun Screws” in the various screw drawer-boxes, in the common gunsmithing sizes like 6-48, 8-40, 10-32, etc. Kudos to Ace! Opening the holes had the desired effect, as the feel when tightening the jaws was much better, and I think I was able to get them cinched down better.

After re-installing the 4” Hart, using the permanent witness mark I stamped on the barrel and frame, I trued up the barrel in my mill vise and started machining the TDC of the barrel for the Talley rimfire rings. This went well enough, but it would have been difficult to make room for doing the same machining on the 3”.


I realize this is not the configuration most would expect to see on such an application, but I dislike the toothy look of most rail-type scope bases; it’s just inconsistent with a sleek looking revolver like a 63 (yes, I realize hanging a scope out on a 4” barrel is also odd, but, I gotta be me). After machining two notches into the barrel, so that the rings sink into the notches and do not rely upon the clamping force of the ring hooks alone for a secure hold, I then machined the dovetails, within the width of the notch, and no more. If one then relieves the corners of the ring hooks, the whole ring sinks down into the notch and will clamp very securely to the barrel, without any external evidence of a dovetail or any other machining. I started doing this on some of my rimfire rifles years ago, but it’s the first time I’ve tried it on a handgun. I had to remove the rear sight, but, as you will see, it worked perfectly.

I got to the range, and it sounded like a young war, with most of the shooters shooting their various AR-15s. Fortunately, the 25-yard benches were open, so I quickly set up. Now, I don’t know about you, but I HATE IT when someone just shows up to an active range and immediately expects everyone to stop what they are doing so he/she can set up targets. It shows zero consideration for others. I always get set up, sight in, and start shooting groups at existing targets until a natural stopping point presents itself, even if it takes a while.

You’ll note the Leupold protrudes considerably from the muzzle. I may eventually use a bell-less scope that can be mounted further back, but for load testing I wanted the “full” 4x available. Doing so, though, required my putting a cardboard tube over the scope bell, to protect it from the muzzle blast/fouling. It was quite gratifying to know my machining was true enough that I was able to get on paper with only two shots and sighted in in only 5 rounds.

Again, the first group was fired at an existing target, before I set up targets; it’s the group right above the numeral “5”, way under 1” at 25 yards! This was with some special R-50 for tight match chambers, and I only had 25-30 rounds with me, but each group looked just like this; well under 1”, and all shots in a squirrel’s head. The Magazine and Wolf MT were not quite as tight, but were still all under 1.5”:



I find this performance remarkable for a number of reasons. First and foremost, even with the scope, I felt I was only able to keep the crosshairs in the 1 3/16” black part of the bullseye for each shot. I believe most of the dispersion was from my hold, but I think the revolver shows great promise, as many of the groups showed 2 or 3 rounds in the same hole. Second, the wind was acting strangely. There would be 2-3 minutes of strong gusts, followed by 30-45 seconds of complete calm. Try as I might, I could not get any 5-shot groups shot during the calm conditions. Third, this is remarkable because the 63 is a compact, lightweight revolver with a short 4” barrel, although the new Hart barrel adds about 4 ounces to the revolver.

I didn’t want to stop all the other shooters, and I was running out of time, so I didn’t bother retrieving my targets, but I learned all I need to know: this is a shooter that will actually outshoot many rifles. It easily outshoots a shorts-only Winchester 52 sporter I once built (later rechambered to .22 LR with great results). I’m pleased as can be. Interestingly, the R-50 would drop right into each chamber, but the extraction was very stiff. On the other hand, the Magazine and Wolf, that were a tight fit when chambering, extracted easily without a bobble.


I plan to go to the range on a calmer day to test and retest a number of types of ammunition. I guess I could try shooting some groups using the same chamber for all 5 of the shots. We'll see. Then, I'll take the 4" off, install the 3", and machine it into an octagon shape.

TBR

UPDATE: Range Report #2

On the first range session, I got mostly under 1" groups at 25 yards, with a few in the 1.5" range, but I didn't ever feel confident I was holding the crosshairs within the black bull when each shot went down range. This time, I used a target with a 1/2" blaze orange bull, and this allowed me to see the crosshairs clearly against the orange. This made a huge difference in my confidence, and I am fairly confident the crosshairs were in the orange as each shot released. Also, I clearly got better at holding and shooting, the more I shot: the classic learning curve.

Here's the mini-beast at the range:


The first group with the Wolf MT, just three shots to foul the barrel. This got M63 shivers running up and down my spine:


Here is a more typical group using the Wolf MT; about 1":


Then, I switched to the R-50, and the groups immediately shrank down to 5/8" to .750". Here are some typical groups with the R-50. In all, I probably shot 12 to 15 groups. Note how two and three shots are still going in the same smallish hole:



I dispensed with the cardboard tube to cover the protruding scope objective this time, and this is how it looked after about 80 rounds. I see no evidence of any fouling on the lens, and it wipes right off the scope tube with my finger, so I think I'll keep shooting it this way:



I also noticed that the fliers from a handgun definitely "fly" farther from the group than would be the case with a rifle. Of course, there are many more degrees of freedom shooting a compact 4" revolver.

I think I'll try shooting all 5 shots in a group with the same chamber next and see how the groups change, if any. In any case, this revolver will make mincemeat of a squirrel's head out to 25 yards. Kinda makes me want to forget about the octagon 3" and leave it as a squirrel sniping revolver

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 03-20-2018 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 03-20-2018, 11:40 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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An update on the 3" octagon barrel. Since the last report, I finally torqued the stubby 3" round barrel into the frame, stamped a witness mark, and machined the underside to clear the ejector rod and crane...except this machining was left a bit shallow to make it a perfect square for octagoning. Had I machined enough from the bottom to clear the ER, I would have been dimensionally lost and unable to octagon using v-blocks. It's close but lacks about .010" from allowing the ER to clear. I also reamed the forcing cone with this handy-dandy Brownells reamer...again, about 30 seconds of work there:




I was able to mill the bottom and index off of that surface to mill the sides. I didn't have time to mill the top, so not a square yet, and I will leave enough material on top to allow for an integral front sight ramp, just like I left material on the bottom for the ER stud:




After the top is machined, and I have a perfect square in the rear of the barrel, I will use v-blocks to mill facets on the square corners, thus creating an octagon shape. I would never try this on a long barrel, but octagoning the short 2.25" of this barrel shouldn't create much dimensional drift, or at least none the naked eye can detect. Unfortunately, my standard machinist's v-blocks are too deep for this small barrel, so I'll need to use them to make shallow vees in some square stock aluminum and use those as pseudo v-blocks. Again, I left the barrel under-rotated by one turn, since I'm not ready to torque it on yet. You can see the crane and ER don't quite have the clearance under the barrel to seat all the way:


Machining a few bits is much easier than stockmaking, and it is the stockmaking portion that has me held up on all my other projects, but I'm glad I'm making progress on something, anyway.

TBR
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Old 03-20-2018, 11:45 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Some time opened up for me the other night, so I was able to make progress on the octagon barrel. The first thing I had to do was machine the top, leaving enough material for the front sight ramp. Doing this made the rear of the barrel a perfect square, so placing the piece in v-blocks would allow the next two flats to be machined at the proper angle to form an octagon shape:


The problem was the vees in the blocks are too deep, covering the area needing machining. I thought about shims but ended up cutting a groove across some square aluminum from my too long barrel wrench. By holding the aluminum stock in the v-blocks, the groove is formed at a 45 degree angle:





That left doing the two remaining flats, which could now be machined by simply clamping on the proper flats in the mill vise:




The glare from the flash doesn't show the nice flats that well, but you get the picture...no pun. I left the barrel under-rotated by one turn, and I still need to remove maybe .010" from the bottom to get the ER to clear, so the cylinder still will not lock up yet:





This is as far as it goes tightening by hand:


Honestly, some of the flats are off by a .001" or .002", classic tolerance stacking, and probably from the makeshift aluminum v-blocks, but I cannot see it without precise measurement. Stoning would likely make it close to perfect, but I'm not sure how important that is, since it looks true to my eyes. I used to think I could see .001" in a workpiece, but maybe not anymore.

The next step is to relieve the bottom so the cylinder can latch and machine the sides of the front sight ramp and ER block vertical (I intentionally positioned the edge of the end mill so as to leave as much material on the sides as possible):


So, then I'll need to decide about subtle contouring around the front sight ramp and the ER block (radii vs flats), and, with some help from the my brethren here, what kind of front blade I should machine it for. The current S&W format would work, but a hand-made dovetailed blade would look better, if not as versatile. I welcome any suggestions on the sight blade.

BTW, the revolver now weighs 1.5 ounces less than it did with the original 4" barrel. The remaining machining may drop an ounce (probably less), but the look and increased compactness make this all worth it to me.


TBR
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Old 03-20-2018, 11:47 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I contoured the front sight and ER lug, and stoned the two side flats...getting close. Still debating how to handle the front sight blade:







I also relieved the bottom of the barrel, so the cylinder now latches, but I'm not quite ready to torque the barrel on until I make a decision on the front sight and how to handle the ER detent block. I'll probably dovetail a block on and install the detent just as S&W does it.


TBR
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Old 03-20-2018, 12:00 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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After machining around the ER lug area, I got the barrel torqued on. I had also removed some material from the barrel bottom to ensure proper clearance for the ejector rod, but, surprisingly, it still wasn't quite enough. It was close enough, however, that some judicious stoning provided that last bit of clearance. The cylinder/barrel gap is right at .003":


I really wanted to dovetail a block onto the lug, since there was just not sufficient material on the barrel for a completely integral lug, but none of my dovetail cutters, and none I could locate, were small enough. Also, kind of getting into the weeds a bit, but I looked at dovetailing laterally and linearly, and neither option was going to work. So, I made a block from some 416 material I had lying around that will fit snugly over the lug, like a dental crown, and I will just silver solder it on and then machine to shape. A lower temp solder is also a possibility. It would not be as strong, but there will also be a cross pin in there for the detent, serving to also secure the block to the lug:





After the block is secured, I will machine it to final contour and then look at making a front sight insert that will dovetail into the integral front sight base using the same 416 material. I'm thinking of carrying the octagon barrel shape through to the ER block by milling two flats on the corners, then, cutting a radius on the front of the block and probably along the sides, trimming it down and giving it a pleasant contour. It will be just a bit bulkier than the original, but I think it will look right.

I'll also need to drill the holes for the ER detent, spring, and the cross pin and polish the whole shebang. Are spare detents and detent springs for older J-Frames readily available? If so, I'll just leave the originals in the original barrel.

Getting very close to being done on this one.

TBR
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Old 03-20-2018, 04:07 PM
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You, my friend are a master. My hat is off to you.
That project looks like a lot of fun.
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Old 03-20-2018, 06:16 PM
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A lot of nice work there. Thanks for all the pics.
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Old 03-21-2018, 11:12 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Duly soldered in place and ready to machine tonight.





Asking again, are the ER detents and pins readily available? If so, where do you recommend I buy them?
Thanks in advance,
TBR
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Old 03-23-2018, 11:10 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I decided to just mill a couple of flats, replicating the octagon barrel, and then cut a small radius on the front of the lug. The Swif solder let go during the machining, so I ended up machining it off the barrel and re-soldering it in place. I would have thought the Swif yield strength was sufficient for light machining...maybe not. Which makes me think I might need to silver solder it in place. There will be a cross pin for the detent going through the lug in the barrel that will not allow the block to fall off, but these things linger in one's mind .




TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 03-23-2018 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 03-23-2018, 05:16 PM
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I haven't read the whole thread and if discussed before excuse me? Are you positive that you handgun is a no dash 63?
Mine and all I've seen had barrel pins.
Steve
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Old 03-23-2018, 09:22 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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There are quite a few no-dash 63s out there without the pinned barrel. They were made during the transition, as I understand it. Not having the pin happens to be perfect for this project, since this version has all the desirable no-dash features without the superfluous pin that would complicate a switch-barrel approach.
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Old 03-24-2018, 12:59 PM
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One of the most enjoyable threads I have followed in a long time. This is quite an accomplishment, I would have no where near the talent to tackle anything like this. I'm waiting for the first range outing. The 63/34 is one of my favorite shooting handguns. I'm trying to imagine how they would feel just a few ounces heavier. Balance should be wonderful.
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Old 03-24-2018, 04:02 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Yes, the balance on the 4" is quite nice, but without the scope mounted, which destroys that balance, there are no sights. I am actually thinking about a front sight I can clamp into the front Talley scope ring slot, making it a heavy-barreled, open-sighted squirrel revolver...maybe next. This 3" octagon actually is only about 2 oz less than the original 4" but is much handier...and cooler , at least to me.

In the meantime, I haven't even shot this thing yet, so I decided to go ahead and locate, drill, and pin the block into place, lest it go flying away and get lost at the range. Honestly, I think the Swif has gotten a better bite this time, judging from the flow pattern of the solder. In any event, though, this cross pin hole needed to be drilled before the larger detent hole is drilled. I'm sure I would never be able to get that .060" hole to come out the other side straight if I had to drill it through and across the top of the larger detent hole.

I also haven't been able to locate a center drill long enough and small enough in diameter to drill the detent hole anyway. My little dovetail cutter from Brownells hasn't arrived yet either:


Front-sightless range report to follow.

TBR

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Old 04-02-2018, 09:04 AM
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My Brownells .245" 60 degree dovetail cutter, the smallest offered, finally arrived, so I hacksawed off a thick, coin-shaped slice from a 416 stainless .750" bar I had lying around, trued it up, milled it into a semi-circular shape, and cut the male dovetail to .250", .005" wider than the female cut will be. I like using the same cutter for both, and I also like cutting the whole dovetail with a dovetail cutter. Many gunsmiths pre-cut a slot with a standard end mill, then cut the dovetail, but I have found the dovetail cutters cut better with full contact on the cutting edges, even if it induces more wear and tear on the expensive cutter. You need to take it very slowly, but it works just fine. Then, I cut the .245" into the barrel:


I cut the coin extra thick to allow heavy beveling of the dovetail leading edge but still be able to clean the bevel off when machining. It still didn't "bite", so I widened the female dovetail a bit, and the blade started to bite. I drove it about a third the way in using a brass punch and steel hammer, confirming the proper tension, then drove it back out and ground the blade closer to final shape. With the blade all the way in and protruding sufficiently on both sides, I machined the sides down, hoping to make the dovetail nearly invisible:







Off course, one wants to leave sufficient height for regulating the sight blade...you can always remove extra material, but it's much harder to put it back on...so it's about .070" tall, giving it a slightly cartoon-ish look, but removing that .070" or so will make a huge difference in the appearance. Also, while I'd like to say I planned it this way, the blade width just happened to turn out just right; it's a bit narrower than the original, but because it's closer to the rear sight, it's nigh on perfect, showing just a sliver of light on both sides:




I still haven't found a center drill long enough and small enough in diameter to drill the ER detent hole, so I'm dead in the water right now. When I do find one, I'll remove the barrel for the last time, install the detent, grind the blade down to final shape, polish her up, and be done!

TBR
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Old 04-02-2018, 11:16 AM
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Can you center drill and drill a small pilot hole from the muzzle end, then drill the full size hole from the forcing cone end, using the pilot hole to guide the larger drill?
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Old 04-02-2018, 02:30 PM
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I appreciate the suggestion. I absolutely could do that, and may end up doing so, but I’m a little concerned the small drill will wander in the soldered-on block, since it needs to drill through the outside block, the solder, and the barrel lug itself, all of differing hardnesses. Also, the hole will be right on the block/lug seam. I feel more comfortable drilling the large detent hole to depth with a rigid center drill, then coming in from the forcing cone end with a long, small diameter drill, or even from the muzzle end using a standard length bit.
TBR
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:03 PM
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Fascinating thread and pics, thank you for sharing!!
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Old 04-27-2018, 11:49 AM
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Default Range Report...Finally!

I had to play hookie from work for a few hours, but I finally shot the 3" Octa-63. Fortunately, there were only two people at the range, and they were leaving, so I had everything to myself for once.

Here is an obligatory pic while the barrel was still virgin (note the rear sight in its lowest position):


Based on the current dimensions alone, my front sight blade is .075" too tall...but too tall is a subjective thing, and the question becomes, "Where along its range of adjustment should the rear sight be when sighted in for the load one feels will be shot most in the revolver?" The quick answer is at its midway point, as this would allow maximum flexibility for both higher and lower elevation for a wide variety of loads. But, in reality, I know I will be shooting loads X,Y,Z mostly, and I would prefer to have the rear sight at its lowest position for aesthetics sake; it just looks better all the way down, to me. I am a bit conflicted on this, as I know when I'm gone, my kids and grandkids will probably shoot whatever loads they find cheapest, an argument for greatest versatility.

So, jumping to the chase, the loads I shot through this new barrel, which are the loads I will likely be using most, shot 18" low at 25 yards with the rear sight at its lowest position. Kinda what one would expect. With the rear sight raised to its highest position, however, the loads were dead on in elevation at the same 25 yards (BTW, it is always gratifying when the windage is dead on after making and installing a barrel, sort of confirming that I didn't screw anything up too badly ).

More pics (note the rear sight now in its highest position):




The obvious conclusion would ordinarily be to measure the height difference between the highest and lowest rear sight position, divide that distance by 2, and cut the front sight blade down by that distance. That would place the rear sight at the midpoint in its travel for the loads that I was shooting at 25 yards. Not coincidentally, that would be right at .070"...amazing how these things work out like this .

So, the decision becomes one of aesthetics vs. versatility. Some dismiss aesthetics, but, remember, much of the popularity of the older 63s involves aesthetics, and the whole octagoning of the barrel is largely an aesthetics issue. Also, the front sight blade looks too tall and cartoonish to me, so those aesthetics are also important.

I would appreciate any and all input on this.

In the meantime, I shot the revolver another 200 rounds or so at random pieces of target frame wood and dirt clods lying on the berm. Years ago, I used to shoot my 4" 63s quite a lot during lunch breaks, probably 150 rounds a day for a number of years, to relieve stress from work, so I am intimately familiar with my hit percentage at various objects and various distances. I would say the hit rate with the 3" octa-63 is the same as it was with the old 4" barreled 63s from the past...certainly no worse, and I really like the balance and feel of this little 3". In the end, that is most important to me.

As a brief update on the gunsmithing, I was able to locate (at Brownells, BTW) a new stainless ejector rod detent bolt and spring and should have those in hand soon. I also determined I need a 1/4" shank center drill at least 4" long for drilling the detent lug, also located and coming this way. It has a 7/64" tip diameter, considerably smaller than what I need for the larger diameter of the detent. Anything larger than a 1/4" shank will not clear the bottom of the barrel when drilling the detent lug. Anything smaller is that much less rigid, and anything shorter than 4" won't reach past the threaded barrel tenon to the block.

So, I plan to start the hole with the centerdrill's 7/64" tip, then, while still chucked up, drill all the way through the block with an extra length #44 drill (.086"), then open up the rear (forcing cone side) of the hole with an extra long #25 drill (.1495"). This should make it close to perfect. All that will then be left will be polishing and reinstallation.

Stay tuned.

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 04-27-2018 at 12:12 PM.
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  #40  
Old 04-27-2018, 02:59 PM
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jinx jinx is offline
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Been reading this thread and have learned how inept I truly am.
Great work you are doing and appreciate the play by play and picture by picture progress reports.
Very interesting and informational and I thank you.
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Old 04-27-2018, 05:59 PM
WR Moore WR Moore is offline
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All your pictures keep locking my 'puter up.

OK, you appear to have the frame inserts very well done. It's very important to use the flat on the frame thread boss to resist turning forces.

That said, the frame in that section is very, very thin. It's very easy to crack the frame boss while torquing the barrel. Clean the original barrel & frame threads up until you can screw that barrel into frame contact by hand. Whatever rotational difference between hand tight to frame and front sight straight up is your proper barrel torque. Use that measurement on your new barrel. It's not gonna be much on a J frame.

Looks like you did a very good job.

Last edited by WR Moore; 04-27-2018 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 04-30-2018, 10:18 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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After more congitatin', I decided on a compromise. I've decided to cut the front sight down just enough to have the rear sight up about 1/4 of its travel when the likely to be used loads hit dead on at 25 yards. This is far enough down to look good but still allow a bit of adjustment for lower shooting loads.
TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 04-30-2018 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 05-07-2018, 10:25 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I have the long center drill and extra long twist drills needed to install the ER detent in the block headed this way...should arrive today. In anticipation of that, I removed the barrel last night, hopefully for the last time, and removed what I thought was about the right amount of material from the front sight blade and contoured it accordingly. I ended up taking off about .065", as this looked good but allowed ample lower elevation adjustment of the rear sight...maybe a third of its total travel. Gone, I think, is the slightly too tall, cartoon-ish look I mentioned before:
Before and after(kind of reminds me of a statistics class I took in college ):



But, now a problem. I knew I would need to shorten the ER detent (I think S&W calls it a cylinder lock) to accommodate the shorter detent block I installed, but as you look at this pic, it will be clear what the problem is:


I knew I would need to shorten the detent and planned to do so from the rear, but doing that would also remove the rear shoulder of the flat intended to allow the cross pin to retain the detent when the cylinder is open. Yes, I can shorten it from the front, but that will require all the reshaping of that critical detent nose, and, if I were going to do that, I could have just made one from scratch and used standard size holes, instead of using expensive oddball drills to match the existing detent dimensions (for example, I bought an extra long 2.2mm drill to match the detent minor diameter...try finding one of those!). Also, leaving enough of the major diameter to piston in and out smoothly might leave precious little room for even a shortened spring. Anyway, I don't have to decide on how much to shorten until the drills arrive, but this is how it goes with these projects...the best laid plans...


TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 05-07-2018 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 05-14-2018, 10:33 AM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I know this is probably way too much detail for the average revolver enthusiast, but I've started the thread, and I may as well finish it off for posterity...perhaps the information here might help someone else attempting the same project.

After thinking and rethinking how to proceed with what would appear to be a very simple procedure of drilling a two-diameter hole, I finally bit the bullet and got'er done.

First, I know this doesn't look like $60 (with shipping) worth of drill bits, but they surely cost that. The extra long center drill is the largest diameter I could use and still start the hole in the right place without its sides contacting the bottom flat of the barrel. The smallest diameter drill is a 2.2 mm (about .002 too small) that is 5" long...couldn't find one 4" long, and I couldn't find an extra long #43 (.089"), which would have been perfect. The larger long drill is a 5/32" (.15625"), also too small, but the ideal #19 in a long bit was not available either. They're all way too long, but I had no choice in the matter:


So, one problem was needing to drill the block without the cross pin in place. I used a drill bit shank for the pin, and it would not be drill-able with a normal drill bit. Even if I could drill it with a carbide bit (not really available to me), that cross pin would surely deflect the drill bits, resulting in a crooked hole. In order, then, to secure the soldered-on block so it doesn't detach during drilling, I decided to clamp the barrel and block in the mill vise, but that required a block to offset the barrel to clear the front sight. Then, ensuring everything was square and perpendicular, I started the hole with the long-john center drill:


Next, I decided to drill the 2.2 mm hole all the way through. This would act as a pilot hole for the final hole for the major diameter of the ER detent, and I have found smaller drills tend to drill truer than larger ones without a pilot hole. That spindley little drill started to bow a bit, but by backing off and taking it slowly, it drilled the hole arrow straight:


Finally, I went in with the 5/32" to the final depth, the proper depth of which was determined by allowing .100" of cylinder for the smaller diamater ER detent tip, plus .075" to allow room for the spring (the spring is .075" in width when it goes solid). Since I couldn't open the large hole up with existing drills, I simply took a few thousandths off the OD of the detent. Putting the cross pin back in, I was able to come in from the muzzle end with a standard length #43 drill and open up the smaller hole to the right diameter:


Wow, what a pain in the butt to drill a small hole, but all the planning paid off, as the hole is now perfect. Remember, I had to drill through the lug in the barrel, the solder, and the block itself, with that seam right where the hole needed to go; kind of a recipe for crooked holes:



So, the detent now moves freely back and forth in its new hole. There's still not enough travel, and it obviously won't work until I shorten the detent:



The problem of whether or not the ER detent should be shortened from the front or back solved itself as I was drilling the hole. The original shoulder in the back of the detent works perfectly with my slightly larger-than-original cross-pin, and removing material from the rear would leave the back shoulder-less, so I'll have to shorten the front and re-contour the detent, replicating the original factory angles...again, what a pain! Honestly, if I hadn't spent the money for the long drills, I was seriously thinking of leaving the ER rod detent-less and unsupported, but, as the expression goes in Japanese, "I got on this boat, I may as well finish the voyage."

I can now polish the barrel and re-install it, hopefully for the last time. That leaves shortening and fitting the detent tip...the final episode.

TBR
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Old 05-26-2018, 01:29 AM
Murphology Murphology is offline
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Hello, I am new to this forum and I am in the process of changing a J-Frame barrel. I cannot see any of the pics in this post.Is that normal on this forum or am I doing something wrong? So far I really like your posting,very informative! Thank you
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Old 06-02-2018, 04:33 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I doubt that is normal. Perhaps a moderator can help you. I posted the same thread on RimfireCentral under “S&W M63 3” Octagon Barrel Project”. You might try there.

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 06-02-2018 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 06-02-2018, 06:04 PM
Hondo44 Hondo44 is offline
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TBR,

Success!

I would have done two things differently:

1. Drilled the barrel lug before soldering it on and save the cost of the spl drills. Even if I had to leave a longer tenon on it to set in a deeper barrel mortise.

2. Made the lug the right length to avoid having to shorten the locking bolt.
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Old 06-02-2018, 08:18 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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I couldn’t drill the lug before soldering it on because the hole is right in the seam of the integral lug and the block itself. They really had to be drilled together, as drilling a half hole is not possible. I made the integral lug as tall as the barrel blank would allow, and that height just happened to be on the centerline of the lug/block. Another issue with soldering after drilling the hole, even if one could drill the lug and block separately, would be solder flowing into the holes, including the tiny cross pin hole. These would need to be drilled or reamed out, bringing one back to at least one extra long drill bits.
I agree I could have used a longer lug to utilize the full length locking bolt, but I really wanted an abreviated lug on the shorter barrel.

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 06-02-2018 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 06-02-2018, 09:29 PM
Hondo44 Hondo44 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Bear Rat View Post
I couldn’t drill the lug before soldering it on because the hole is right in the seam of the integral lug and the block itself. They really had to be drilled together. I made the integral lug as tall as the barrel blank would allow, and that height just happened to be on the centerline of the lug/block.
I think you misunderstand; there's plenty of meat between the outer edge of the blank and the little 22 bore for a mortise and taller lug w/o changing the center-line location.

I follow on the shorter lug logic.
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Old 06-04-2018, 02:00 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Thanks for the input. In the end, you are probably right. It would have been less work and cost less to just dovetail a large pre-drilled block onto the bottom of the barrel, but I really wanted to avoid the "stuck-on" dovetailed look and to have as much of the block to be as integral as possible. And, of course, the cross pin also now goes through the separate block and the integral barrel lug, further assuring against the soldered joint failing and the block becoming lost in the field. Also in hindsight, using a barrel blank with another .150" diameter would have allowed a completely integral lug, but that option would have cost me a new barrel.

FWIW, I hope to get the barrel polished up and the ER locking bolt ground and fitted tonight...I might even have my engraving buddy engrave the barrel with "SMITH AND WESSON" on the left side, and ".22 L.R. CTG." on the right

TBR
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