How to de-Cosmoline a gun.

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If you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with Cosmoline, you don’t know what you’re missing! Cosmoline is the sticky, nasty, smelly but highly effective rust prevention grease so commonly used on military arms.

Some people really get addicted to the stuff; me, I hate it. I admit that it does its job remarkably well, however, and even though I generally admire things which work well I still can’t work up much enthusiasm for this!

Everyone has their own little tricks and techniques ...

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Inventing in your garage: where are today’s John Brownings?

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The other day over at Forgotten Weapons, Ian wondered why there isn’t more garage gun-building going on. Not in terms of putting together Franken AR-15s from parts kits – that’s not “building”, it’s merely assembling – but actually constructing guns from scratch, inventing new ways of approaching the mechanics of firearms function. It’s legal for an individual to do (you should research the laws yourself, but it boils down to not building an NFA weapon and not ...

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An update on lubrication: an authoritative reason to use food-grade lubricants on your guns.

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Last week I got a great email from a fellow who works for one of the major oil companies as a lubricant specialist. He complimented me on my article on lubrication, and said it was “the best and clearest explanation I have ever read.” That’s nice to hear from someone who does that sort of stuff for a living!

He related the tale of searching for lubricants for his shotguns, and found that none of the many ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part Two: maintenance-induced failures.

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In the first installment we looked at revolver malfunctions caused by ammunition. (I’ve edited that entry to consider dirty ammunition, which can also cause stoppages. I recommend that you go back and re-read it for that discussion.) It’s important to note that ammunition failures are not the fault of the revolver and they’re not unique to the revolver (they happen to autoloaders too.) They do, however, account for the majority of revolver failures and thus must be understood and dealt ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part One: ammunition issues.

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I received an email last week, a sort of complaint that I don’t write much about revolvers any longer. Well, I wrote an entire book – isn’t that enough?? OK, OK, you win – let’s talk about revolver malfunctions.

I’ve mentioned before, in more than one venue, that the revolver typically will have a longer mean time between failure than an autoloader (we’re talking unique failures, which automatically discounts those due to ammunition problems – which can affect either platform equally.)

The ...

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Some thoughts on round counts and reliability.

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What follows came up in a discussion about the reliability of 1911 pistols, but is actually universally applicable: to Glocks, SIGs, HKs, rifles, shotguns – and, yes, revolvers.

The context of the discussion was the validity of looking at failures during a training class as indicative of larger problems. It usually takes a form similar to “I’m not going to fire 1,000 rounds in self defense, so a gun problem in a class proves nothing; my gun is reliable enough for ...

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Ed Harris on metallurgy for firearms.

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(Editor’s Note: Ed’s back with an incredible article on firearm metallurgy! This originated as a reply to an email from a “DG”. Ed gives some phenomenal information on the metals used at his employer, Sturm Ruger, to build their guns. I think you’ll find it very interesting, if a little complex!)

DG: A toolmaker friend wants to know what types of metal are used in a revolver. Having read your posts, I figured you would probably have the answers. Please feel ...

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Ed Harris: Building an accurate .22 field rifle!

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(Editor’s Note: Ed Harris is back! He recently sent me a big archive of his older articles, and there are some real gems in there. I’ll be featuring one of these treasures every other Friday! Today Ed talks about rebarreling a .22 rifle to turn it into a budget tackdriver. Some of you may remember that I love playing with .22 rifles, and you can bet I was taking notes as I read this!)

RE-BARREL YOUR 22 BOLT ACTION AND… Make ...

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Ed Harris: The .32ACP in a rifle??

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Editor’s note: today I’m pleased to bring you another great article from Ed Harris, experimenter extraordinaire. This time he’s built a couple of rifles for some common .32 caliber pistol rounds, making for handy and quiet woods rifles. Enjoy!

Tiny Handgun Cartridges Are Also Small Game Rifle Rounds!
by Ed Harris
Gerrardstown, WV

After fooling around with a pair of chamber inserts using .32 S&W Long and .32 ACP ammunition in the .30-30, I thought about building a light “walking rifle” which ...

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Ed Harris: Using the .45ACP in a rifle!

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Tales from the Back Creek Diary – A .45 ACP Rifle?
By Ed Harris

I like having at least one long gun capable of firing each caliber of handgun ammunition I keep around. Rifles chambered for center-fire handgun calibers provide greater kinetic energy than any rim-fire, but also have low noise, usually not needing a suppressor.

The .45 ACP and .38 Special are my favorite cartridges for this, because standard pressure (non +P) loads are quiet when fired in a rifle, their ...

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Some bits of rifle stuff: 6.5mm cartridges, slings, and lever actions.

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The Firearm Blog (one of the few blogs I read religiously) brings us good news: Alexander Arms (AA) has decided to stop gouging people who want to make 6.5 Grendel rifles! Apparently Hornady submitted the cartridge to SAAMI to be standardized, but AA refused to relinquish their trademark. That recently changed, and now the 6.5 Grendel is available to anyone who wants to use it.

This is great news; I’d once considered building an AR-15 in 6.5 Grendel ...

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Light primer hits with factory guns? The S&W Model 686 problem.

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Over the last few months I’ve gotten several emails about light primer strikes — and attendant misfires — with the S&W 686SSR revolver.

The 686SSR is from Smith & Wesson’s “Pro” line, which sits between the semi-customs of the Performance Center and the run-of-the-mill production items. The 686SSR has, among other features, a ‘bossed’ mainspring (which looks suspiciously like a Wolff ‘Power Rib’ spring.) The idea behind the spring design is twofold: first, reduce the spring force at the beginning of ...

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This is a bad business to be in if you suffer from gun lust: I want this Ruger GP100!

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Every so often I work on a gun that I personally want, and this is one of them.

Three-inch GP100s are a little uncommon in the typical stainless, but the blued versions are downright scarce. The owner of this gun wanted something special, and I think he got it!

We started with a Super Action Job, which took the DA pull down to ...

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Containing my desire: revolvers in .32-20 are calling me. Again.

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I’ve worked on many Colt Police Positives in .32-20, and it’s a cartridge which has always intrigued me. I’m not one to believe that it would make a good defensive tool, but there is more to shooting than just that!

I’ve often thought that I’d like to have one of the long-discontinued Marlin 1894 CB in .32-20; it would make a great farm & varmint cartridge in the hotter loadings, and loaded to moderate velocities would make a dandy squirrel gun.

Tempering ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part VII: the roller bearing system.

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One of the features that Chiappa touts about the Rhino are the roller bearings used in the action. The Rhino has four such bearings, two each on the hammer spring lever and the return lever:

The picture shows the back (underside) of the two parts, because the rollers are not visible when installed in the gun. (Please refer to pictures from previous episodes showing these parts installed in the Rhino.)

Each lever has a captured ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part VI: the hand and cylinder rotation.

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First let’s take a look at the assembled action for some perspective:

The mainspring serves two functions. Through the Hammer Spring Lever, it powers the hammer to fire the rounds, and through the Return Lever it resets the trigger and all the internal mechanisms. This is not different conceptually than the single spring used in a traditional “V”-spring Colt, or the single coil spring used in the Ruger Redhawk – though it is substantially ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part V: double action lockwork.

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As I mentioned last time, the Rhino’s double action is a little more conventional – but not a whole lot!

First, we need to take a look at the left side of the hammer. It sits against the inside of the frame, and without seeing it you won’t be able to grasp what’s happening.


The ‘hammer sear’ is referred to by other makers as a ‘double action strut’. In most revolvers a sear protrusion ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part IV: single action lockwork.

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One of the things that struck me when I first opened the Rhino is that the trigger doesn’t directly do anything. In every other double action revolver the trigger directly contacts the hammer in both single and double action, but not the Rhino!

In a traditional revolver’s single action the sear (which is usually a pointed projection on the trigger) drops into some sort of notch on the hammer. When the trigger is pulled, the sear slips out of the hammer ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part III: the non-hammer.

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Quick: is this Rhino cocked, or not?

As it happens, it is. The “hammer” that you see isn’t a hammer at all. Since the gun fires from the bottom chamber of the cylinder, the hammer is buried deep within the frame. Since the hammer is inaccessible, to cock it for single action requires that something reach down into the works. That something is called the cocking lever, and it’s connected to the thing that ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part II: the extractor.

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By now everyone knows about the Rhino’s unique hexagonal cylinder, but it’s unusual in more ways than the shape. The extractor (star or ratchet, depending on the maker) on the Rhino is quite different in execution than any S&W, Colt, Ruger, Dan Wesson, or Taurus.

The orthodox method of making an extractor is to cut half circles to accept the cartridges, and mill cam surfaces in the center so that the hand can rotate the cylinder. The extractor does double duty, ...

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A Rhino update: how the Chiappa Rhino works, part I.

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Today I’m starting my promised technical evaluation of the new Chiappa Arms Rhino revolver. This will be strictly an analysis of how the gun is constructed and how it functions; my full shooting review, including my evaluation of its suitability for self defense, will appear in an upcoming issue of Concealed Carry Magazine. (The review will be a must-read for anyone interested in the Rhino; I’ll be covering some aspects of the gun that you’re not likely to find anywhere ...

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Smith & Wesson mainsprings: a little-known problem.

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A recent email asked my help with a problem. The writer, who had purchased a new gun to compete in the IDPA revolver class, had taken the strain screw out of his S&W 686 and shortened it to reduce the trigger pull weight. When he put his grips back on, he found that the grip screw wouldn’t go through the frame, and he could see that the mainspring was now blocking the screw’s path.

He asked why this happened, and what ...

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Becoming a gunsmith: my recommendations on joining this profession.

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Over the years I’ve gotten a number of inquiries about becoming a gunsmith. I’ve dashed off short answers to some, but was forced to ignore many others simply due to the amount of information that the answer demands. Here in full (or as full as I’m going to get) is my advice on becoming a gunsmith.

First let’s consider what kind of gunsmith we’re talking about. Some “gunsmiths” are really nothing more than parts changers – people who can disassemble a ...

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Spring forward: does the type of mainspring affect action stacking?

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In the past I’ve mentioned that I don’t spend much time on the various gun forums (‘fora’, to be excruciatingly correct.) My free time is too precious to spend wading through such drivel as “my instructor can beat up your instructor” or “the .45 is so powerful it knocks people off their feet!” The only time, in fact, that I look at a forum is when I’m eating breakfast or lunch and have nothing better to read.

It was at lunch ...

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The S&W lock issue just won’t go away.

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Several people emailed me about The Firearm Blog’s picture of Jerry Miculek’s 627PC. It would appear that his gun has had the locking mechanism disabled, leading to much renewed discussion about the incidence of accidental lock activation.

When the locks first came out there were a few reported cases of locks self-engaging. The wisdom of the internet held that the locks were just fine, that S&W would never knowingly introduce something that would put people at risk, that ...

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Bore cleaners: is there really any difference? What do I use?

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A recent email asked my opinion on bore cleaners, and to my surprise I found that I’d not written anything on the topic. It is, after all, unlike me to have no opinion – and it may be a bit of a surprise to learn that, on this topic, I don’t have a strong opinion.

When it comes to bore cleaners, it’s been my experience that everything works. Shooter’s Choice, Hoppe’s, Butch’s, Break Free, it really doesn’t matter – with one ...

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A crowning achievement: how the muzzle crown affects accuracy.

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Occasionally someone will ask me if the muzzle crown is all that important. In the past I’d probably say something like “only if you want the bullet to go where you’re aiming!”, but I’m trying to reduce my percentage of flippant answers. Today I’d put it more lawyer-like: “it depends…”

The crown is the edge of the bore at the muzzle. It’s important to point that out, because it’s not unlike the edge of a cliff. Once you’ve fallen over the ...

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Everything has a purpose in the hands of Ed Harris. Even the .32 ACP.

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Many of you are familiar with Ed Harris, firearms engineer and ballistic experimenter. One of Ed’s passions is the hunting of small game – squirrels, rabbits, etc. – and the guns that facilitate that activity.

(Before we go any further, it seems that a lot of folks today don’t have any experience with serious small game hunting. There are an awful lot of people who consider it somehow inferior to the taking of large game, but they are sorely mistaken. In ...

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On dry firing: is it good for your gun? That depends.

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One of the great advantages of the double action revolver is that the mechanism makes dry firing easy. Unlike the majority of autoloaders, you don’t have to break your grip to operate the slide or recock the hammer; just maintain your grip and pull the trigger, over and over. As a result, I suspect most revolvers are dry fired with greater frequency than most autos.

Various pundits have opined over the years that it is perfectly safe to dry fire any ...

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Gas piston rifles are all the rage. What value are they, anyhow?

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Last week’s arrival of Ruger’s SR-556 rifle has a certain segment of the shooting community swooning with delight. I’m not at all certain the hoopla is justified.

There are those with the opinion that a gas piston system has merits over the direct gas impingement operation used in the standard M-16/AR-15 family of rifles. There are perceived shortcomings in the impingement system, but in my experience, over many rifles and uncounted thousands of rounds of ammunition, most of the complaints are ...

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