Many gunsmith projects I see online are planned out, parts are chosen ahead of time and a course of action plotted.
It got me to thinking about some projects that I would like to take on someday, if time and budget allowed of course. Here is the list:
No. 1: 3-Screw 32 Magnum Birds-head Vaquerito
I would love to build a 3-screw version of the Single Six .32 Vaquerito (see my blog post on the Vaquerito here)
the John Wayne .32 Magnum Vaquerito (New Model Single Six)
Why: The three screws have a look and a feel to them, cocking the hammer is different, all those clicks...no transfer bar safety...there is something about a gun that has no safety and no warning labels.....
How: I would take the 3-screw Single Six frame, remove the rear sight, weld up the dove tail and then mill the edges to match and mill a sight groove down the middle and the notch at the rear.
Here is a comparison shot from Gun Blast showing the 3 screw frame and the 50th Anniversary .22 Single Six Vaquerito side by side.
I would cut the barrel to 3.75" and adapt a New Model birds head grip frame. I would also add a skull crusher/pinky hold/lanyard hole to the birds head grip frame, like this one:
I would re-barrel & rechamber the gun in .32 H&R Magnum, this would also require modification to the recoil plate (relocating the firing pin from rim fire to center fire). I would try to find a used barrel and cylinder from a .32 Single Six to use in the conversion.
Finally I would have the gun finished in a Metalife hard chrome from Mahovskys (easier to hide the welded and machined areas) and then nitre blue all of the screws.
No. 2: .44 Mag pump action rifle
I have no idea how feasible it is, but I would love to build a copy of the Timber Wolf .44 Mag
Universal also did this by converting the .30 caliber semi-auto M-1 Carbine to a pump action .44 magnum
Why: The .44 Magnum becomes a different cartridge when fired from a longer barrel. Increases in both velocity and power can be from 40-100%, making a .44 Magnum rifle a real potent hunting tool. Now imagine a quick handling, lightweight pump action rifle that you can quickly remove the barrel for transport....a .44 Mag take down carbine!
How: I would use a Remington 870 Express.410 shotgun as the basis for the build. A .44 (.430) barrel blank would need to be modified to fit in the Remington's frame and magazine lug. While cartridge length might be an issue, the cartridge diameter should be good to go.
The .410 has a case diameter of .446 while the .44 Magnums is slightly larger at .456, but shotguns are usually built with some play. Also the rim diameter is very close with the .410 measuring .528 and the .44 at .514, so the magazine bolt and other parts should work.
The big issue is the pressure levels, which do concern me a bit, the .44 Mag develops pressures that are double that of the .410. Some more research would definitely be in order.
the Remington 870 .410
Another option might be to use a Remington model 760 (7600) Gamemaster pump rifle. These guns came chambered in 30-06 Springfield which has nearly double the pressure of a .44 Magnum.
The rim diameter is close, the 30-06 having a rim diameter of .473 while the .44s is .514. The biggest issue would be the cartridges overall length. The cartridge elevator would need to be modified and of course a new barrel made.
the Remington 7600
No.3 Safari Grade Mauser Hunting Rifle
Why: This is a classic build for any gunsmith
How: old Mausers are still available, better yet I could start with an old sporterized gun that was done poorly (plenty of those around, see my posts on the Arisaka project). Put a high end match grade barrel (glass bedded of course), some express sights, scope mounts, bent handle, 3-position safety. A Monte Carlo or perhaps a Mannlicher style stock made from a nicely figured walnut blank and finely checkered.
Then polish all the metal parts, put a nice blued finish on them, nitre blue some small parts and jewel the bolt.
Something like Larry Potterfield's Mauser project below.
No.4: A stainless steel Ruger Blackhawk lightweight revolver.
Why: Rugers are hell for stout, the single actions can handle higher pressures than most other guns. The New Model Blackhawks are built on the .44 size frame, making them stronger and heavier than a .357 needs to be. This means that there is room to loose some weight.
How: To shave some weight I would scallop the recoil shields and lighten the hammer with some ball mill cuts
I would port the barrel as well
Finally I would give the gun a brushed finish like this one from Hamilton Bowen.
No. 5: Keith no.5 Tribute Revolver
Why: 'Cause Uncle Elmer thought this to be the best Single Action revolver ever conceived....remember this is the guy who gave us the .44 Magnum and wrote no less than 10 books and hundreds of columns on revolver shooting.
How: Simple, perform the modifications that Elmer and the gunsmiths that followed him did.
In case you were sleeping.....the original Keith No.5 sold last year at a James D Julia action:
I would start with a Ruger 50th Anniversary .44 Special flat-top Blackhawk with the 5.5" barrel (which uses the smaller .357 old model frame size). This will give us the right size frame, barrel length, with the flat top and the built in adjustable rear sight.
A Power Custom No.5 2-piece grip frame would be purchased (a combination of the standard Colt trigger guard and Bisley backstrap).
A Ruger (or Power Custom) Bisley hammer & trigger set would be installed. We would install a Belt Mountain locking hour glass base pin in lieu of the custom lever release on the original.
The original would cost beaucoup bucks to have custom machined
Also cutting a corner would be the front sight, I would use a dovetailed sight that allowed for windage adjustment and elevation.
A crescent shaped ejector would be procured and installed.
Another short cut would be to use Tru-Ivory 2-piece grips from Bar S Grips. Legal ivory is extremely expensive, and the grips made from them could easily be the most expensive part of the build.
The cylinder would receive a black powder chamfer and finally the gun would be given a high polish blued finish.
Here are some No.5 Tribute guns, the first two are from Hamilton Bowen
This one was created by Alan Harton
This one was built by Gary Reeder
No. 6: Fitz Special Colt.
Why: There is no real good explanation, except that they are unique.
J. Henry Fitzgerald produced very few of these factory modified Colts. There are far more copies out there than originals....
There are still plenty of beat-up Colt revolvers out there. Forget about the King Cobras, Pythons and Detective Specials, their value has gone too far skyward.
I would look for an Army Special, Police Positive Special, Lawman or Commando
How: Shorten the barrel to 1.5", bob the hammer (this may require the use of a stiffer hammer spring), cut open the front of the trigger guard. Polish the frame, smoothing out the edges, along with a chamfering of the cylinder.
Custom grips with the edges rounded. Then polish and blue the gun.
Something like this one:
No. 7: Remington Rolling Block
Why: These are one of the coolest single shot rifles, and they just missed getting to be the official rifle of the U.S. Military (instead of the Springfield Trapdoor).
How: I would find one of the centerfire export rifles that was chambered in .43 Spanish or .43 Egyptian and rebuild it into a .45-70 target rifle with an octagon barrel, and a checkered walnut stock with a Schnabel fore-end and crescent butt plate. Maybe even have the receiver engraved and nickel plated.....like this one
No. 8: Martini-Henry Carbine
Why: Single shot rifles are way cool, and the Martini-Henry turns up the cool factor another notch. I was inspired when I found a Martini-Henry in .577/450 at the gun show for $150.....I'm not sure how I managed to walk away and not buy the gun.
How: There are a couple of ways to build this gun. If the bore is good, I would remove the barrel, cut the breach end and have it re-thread and re-chambered in 45 Colt. The bore diameter of the .577/450 rifle is .455, so it would be a little big for the .452" 45 Colt, but it would be close enough.
The .45 Colt does not generate a lot of pressure, but with the right brass you can duplicate 44 mag pressures and make pretty good case for a 45 Colt hunting rifle.
If the bore where not up to snuff, I would procure a new octagon barrel in .458 bore and chamber it in 45-70. The 45-70 overall length is shorter than the original .577/450 cartridge, so length would not be a problem
The stock would be a nice figured walnut with full checkering
something like this one:
No. 9: Ruger 10/22 - M-1 Carbine
Why: M-1 carbines prices have skyrocketed and are beyond the reach of many collectors. This no doubt influenced re-introduction of a commercial version, but still they don't come cheap. So why not make a copy?
How: This build would be very simple and affordable, There are several companies making the stocks and some of the other pieces like barrel bands/bayonet lugs and accessories are easy to come by...
E. Arthur Brown Co. (EABCO) has it all figured out. They will sell you the stock, slings, oilers, sights and even dummy magazines which fuses a Ruger BX1 10 round magazine to a longer stick style housing.
I would definitely want to use the front band that incorporated the bayonet lug....
No.10: A Ruger Super Blackhawk Revolving Carbine
Why: Just like the project above, .44 Magnum in a carbine is just bad ass...
This is not exactly a new idea....revolving carbines have existed before...Colt made some
and Uberti makes one
Taurus/Rossi have a .45/.410 version of their Judge revolver called the "Circuit Judge", they also make a .44 Mag version....but it's not a Ruger, so...
How: We would start with a Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver, add a 16" barrel, a custom butt stock. This could be like the Uberti above, although figuring out the hammer strut/spring arrangement could be a challenge) or we could build a butt stock with a pistol grip like the Rossi.
We might also consider adding a matching wood forearm and some shields to block the flaming powder from incinerating the shooter's arm.
No. 11: Ruger Spencer Rifle
Why: The Spencer and the Sharps Rifle shared a common design, one that became typical of the mid 19th century breech loading carbine.
How: Using a factory Ruger stock (walnut preferred, but a birch one could be made to work) I would convert the pistol grip to a straight grip, add some flutes to the stock, shorten and taper the fore end. Install an old school sling attachment to the rear and a 1" leather sling. In addition I would shorten the barrel to 16", add old school dovetailed front and leaf style rear sights like these from GunParts Corp
A lever style magazine release (perhaps a home-made one of thick steel, mimicking the trigger guard on the Spencer) would finish the look.
It would be similar to the one below was built by Hipshot on the Rimfire Central Forum with a few changes.
No. 12: Tactical Ruger Charger
Why: When you have to clear a room full of rats or some other vermin...
How: Pretty simple, just find a tactical 10-22 stock and cut it down, add the rear swivel, sling and high capacity magazine.
No. 13: Homemade .22 Derringer
Why: Because we can and it will provide a challenge to build working firearms, mostly from scratch, with a very small budget.
How: This build would be the most ambitious of all of them, but it may also be the cheapest.
For the .22 Derringer I would use something similar to Cryptic Cricket's design, but modify it a little. You can see his build on youtube here
I would also use sheet steel for the frame (he used 16 gauge).
Instead of making my own hammer & trigger, I would design the action around a .22 Ruger New Model Single Six. Two reasons for this, one: I would be able to use the hammer & trigger that already work well together, and two: getting the parts to fit properly would be easy as we already know what size the pivot holes are and how far apart they need to be. I would need to drill a hole in the Ruger hammer and mount a firing pin made from drill stock and then build a breach face or build a block breach face the incorporates a spring loaded firing pin.
I would make the grip in a bird's head style, the grips panels would be home-made of course and I would use a barrel from an old .22 rifle which can be found for cheap.
No JB Weld or silver solder would be used, MIG or TIG welding would be employed and the parts would be smoothed and polished for a nice blued finish to be applied.
No. 14: Homemade 12 gauge break open shotgun
Why: Again, because we can and it will provide a challenge to build working firearms, mostly from scratch, with a very small budget.
The shotgun would be a little but tougher, but I may be able to employ some of the same ideas used in the Derringer build.
The Cryptic Cricket also built this cool shotgun using black schedule 40 iron pipe and parts from an office chair see it here
For the barrel I might use seamless DOM tubing, stronger and possibly lighter than the sleeved approach. I have some 1.25" OD x .812" ID that would be overkill, but the internal dimensions are right, I would probably have a friend taper the barrel down at the muzzle.
I would also use an old 10/22 stock or maybe even use real walnut salvaged from old, beat-up rifle stocks (you can find them at gun shows for around $10). I like his idea of using the spoons for the trigger guard. I might go a little fancier and use a brass one from a muzzle loading rifle kit. The recoil pad would be made from a flip flop like I did on my .22 Marlin model 81DL.
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