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on February 13, 2006
This book is a very interesting read and there is no doubt that Bill Holmes knows what he is doing when it comes to building a rifle. However, the drawings are not accurate and there is simply to much information left out of the plans for an individual that has never built a rifle before to read this book and build a bolt action rifle. The information that I found most useful in this book is the information about materials selection, heat treating, and the machining processes used to build a one off rifle.
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on October 13, 2006
Bill Holmes is a true gunmaker. He may not make all the screws and pins or rifle his barrels, but everything else is of his design and fabrication. Other than the work of Frank DeHass and one or two others, there has been little published work on how to produce a firearm from raw material that is competitive in function, appearance and performance to ones commercially produced. His experience in gun work spans over fifty years. In that time he has designed, modified, and produced most every type of firearm from 22 rim-fire to 50 BMG. Mr. Holmes readily admits that there may other methods and designs that can produce the same results. His goal was to develop methods that work as simply as possible within the means of his shop and with his tools. Bill Holmes has accomplished a goal that many hobbyist and professionals can only dream of. Adequate machine drawings of each part are included with photographs of tools and machine setups. The drawings are hand sketched and some of the photographs are out of focus. Mr. Holmes' book will not tell how to do everything. If you do not know how to drill and tap a hole, properly use a spoke shave, mix bluing salts, or what head space means, you will have to learn those and many other things from other sources. This is no fault to Mr. Holmes. There is no use in repeating what is listed in many other fine gunsmithing books. This review is structured with the table of contents by describing the scope of each chapter and the addition of my comments.

Introduction - Mr. Holmes defines what gunmaking is and how one may become a gunmaker.

Tools and Equipment - A good lathe and mill are mandatory. If you cannot acquire good machine tools and learn how to use them, then you should just forget about trying to fabricate a quality firearm.

Materials - Description of high-alloy steel, chamber reamers and stock wood with sources for purchasing.

Design - Bolt-action design featuring a one-piece receiver with three forward locking lugs, one-piece bolt with three locking lugs, model 70-type three position safety, model 70-type trigger, and a Sako-type extractor. The advantage of three locking lugs is that they are easier to cut with a shop-made broach. The proper scope base will have to be determined by the maker.

Receiver Manufacture - Describes the design and machining process of producing the receiver. Also included are instructions on making the broach used to form the receiver locking lugs.

Bolt Manufacture - Describes the design and machining process, fitting the extractor, and welding the bolt handle.

Trigger Assemblies - Describes the design and machining process of a model 70-type trigger. Also included, are instructions for fitting such a trigger to the 98 Mauser, P14/17 Enfield, and US Springfield. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

Safeties - Describes the design and machining process of a three-position model 70-type safety, bolt sleeve, firing pin, and cocking piece.

Bolt Stop and Ejector - Describes the design and machining process of the bolt stop and ejector.

Magazines, Trigger Guards, and Floorplates - Describes the design and fabrication process of a one-piece steel trigger guard with hinged floorplate. A custom Savage 110 or Remington Model Seven would not be complete without an elegantly shaped steel trigger guard. Since none are available for purchase, you will have to make them.

Modification of Existing Actions - Brief descriptions of what can be done to sporterize the Mauser 98, P-14/17 Enfield, and US Springfield.

Barrel Fitting, Chambering, and Shaping - Very little is described about threading, chambering, and fitting a rifle barrel. Most of the chapter is devoted to the process of forming fluted and octagon barrels. A drawing of a barrel support tool used in machining is included.

Iron Sights and Quarter Ribs - A very good description on tooling and process for producing band sight bases, and quarter ribs.

Muzzle Brakes - Describes the design and machining process of making muzzle brakes. I have no doubt that Mr. Holmes muzzle brakes work well, but they add nothing to the appearance of the completed rifle.

Stocks - Describes producing a one-piece wood stock from the blank by hand. Semi-inleted and shaped stocks are not readily available for such a unique rifle action. This is something that more hobby gunsmiths should consider learning. With practice, it is not really that hard to do. Brief description of quality stock wood and stock finishing.

Checkering - A very good chapter with patterns on hand checkering. This is another skill that more hobby gunsmiths should consider learning. It's too bad Mr. Holmes did not include plans for making a checkering cradle.

Buttplates - Describes producing and forming a curved steel butt plate and grip cap. Make or buy? You can decide, but it is still a good process to know.

Heat Treatment - Describes the heat treatment of high-alloy steel. Mr. Holmes recommends that the receiver and bolt be sent to experts. The other parts can be heat treated in shop.

Finishing and Coloring - Instructions are given only for metal preparation. The preparation requires most of the work and skill in producing a fine metal finish. No bluing process is explained.

Adjusting and Test-Firing - Describes proper checking and testing of the trigger-safety system, feeding, extraction, and ejection before live firing. The rest is safety precautions.

Conclusion - I recommend that A Master Gunmaker's Guide to Building Bolt-Action Rifles be added to any gun worker's book collection who wishes to become more than a parts-changer. Is making your own rifle worth the time, trouble, and expense when there are many surplus actions that will give the same results with less trouble? The reader will have to decide for himself. Competing against products of the major gun manufactures is not the goal of most gunsmiths. The goal of most high-level gunsmiths is to produce a small number of products with features of refinement and elegance that their customers want and major gun manufactures are unable or unwilling to produce. Another goal is the sense of pride and accomplishment of showing off a fine rifle that I made myself. A Master Gunmaker's Guide to Building Bolt-Action Rifles can be a useful guide and inspiration for one wishing to reach that level of skill, expertise, and pride.
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VINE VOICEon February 14, 2010
This might be the worst of Bill Holmes's books. There is A LOT of needed information missing from this book. I'm a professional machinist, and personally I do not have a problem with Mr. Holmes's drawings... I often work from similar sketches made by myself or others. But there is just too much information missing entirely and inexplicably from this book. Maybe you need to know a fair amount about guns to begin with to see what is missing; I was a small arms repairer in the military and later worked as a prototype maker in the R&D department of a major firearm manufacturer for a couple years, and I see a lot missing here. The chapter on the receiver no way tells you how to make a receiver. The chapter on the bolt stop and ejector contains neither a drawing nor a photograph of the bolt stop, nor any complete explanation of how it functions. The book spends more time on stock checkering than on the bread-and-butter parts of the breech mechanism. The reader might find something of interest or value in this book, but due to poor proof-reading or whatever, it is effectively a scam in my opinion.
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on January 19, 2008
I like the books by Bill Holmes, as well as many books from Paladin Press, but the drawings in this title are terrible. Having a mechanical engineering, machining background, and a decent amount of common sense, I can mostly make sense of them, but I can see where many people would have trouble. And this is a real shame, as this book, though not for the beginner to begin with, could be a real gem but loses some credibility with the very unprofessional drawings that don't actually reflect Bill Holmes' ability. Many if not all Paladin Press books appeal to the DIY person and perhaps by letting the authors create their own drawings they maintain this image and keep costs down as well. I personally would rather pay a few extra dollars for a book and have it contain quality drawings. Still, the text is worth the price of the book, and many of the other photographs and illustrations found in the book are just fine. For these reasons it definitely deserves four stars and I recommend it though to people with some experience.
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on February 26, 2014
Bill Holmes has walked a long way to get across the road. As a toolmaker who helped a local gunsmith for thirty years with the tough jobs that his customers dreamed up, and a dedicated varmint hunter, I have found that there are lots of hidden costs in a job like this. If you spend every spare hour for a year to build a rifle that feels and looks like a canoe paddle, and may not be safe to fire with ordinary ammo, and may not be able to break a saucer at 100 yds. what bargain is this thing that you have built, if it is ever finished at all? As I looked at Bill's drawings I noticed a number of dimensions that may cause problems.
If you have the machine tools measuring instruments and skills to pull this off, I would suggest a decent used 700, Mdl.70, or Savage rifle in your favorite caliber, and start there. Who would want to buy a Bill Rifle, George Rifle......? The second star was for the entertainment that I got from reading about his methods. Best wishes if you do.
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on July 24, 2012
The author tells you frankly on page one, if you want to build a rifle you're going to need a lathe. This is NOT the book that is just going to tell you how to bend a mauser handle or install a buehler safety. This fella builds the rifle from the ground up. More than I can do, I bought it mistakenly thinking a kitchen table gunsmith like me could do some things in the book.

Not really.

For the professional gunsmith. Just because it is over my head doesn't mean it isn't an excellent resource for the true craftsman gun maker.
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on July 9, 2014
Great information from a man who has done it all, and learnt his trade by getting out and doing it. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, the good and the bad. Thoroughly recommended for anybody interested in home gun repair or advancing their machining skills to the next level.
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on January 3, 2012
This book is filled with generalities and unspecific instructions. If you want to build a rifle this book will do little more than frustrate you. The sketches leave a lot to be desired. there are missing dimensions, missing lines, missing hidden lines, missing drawings. Bill you are no engineer or draftsman, if you are going to publish a book don't be so cheap and hire someone that can take photos and draw (preferably with a CADD program, maybe even a drafting board.)If you know nothing this book maybe helpful.
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on September 9, 2015
Mr Holmes is a creative machinist. However his writing and documentation is poor. The material in this collection of articles on the individual sections is poorly integrated into building a custom rifle. Has very limited reference information for typical receivers (R700, W70, M98, etc.). The quality of the overall work (hand sketches, tables, ref mat'l) is antiquated given the current availability of CAD, blogs, youtube, etc.
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on February 24, 2011
This is another one of Bill Holmes great works. It is very informational and gives you a few of the companies that has helped in heat treating and raw materials. It has some diagrams and pictures but is mostly packed with alot of explanations and hints to his other works. If you want to learn more about Bills other projects this is another piece to his puzzle. It does carry its own weight as well. I beleave there is enough to build you any rifle you desire with alittle extra information that may need to be gathered as far as ballistics go.
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