Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
Master Gunmaker's Guide to Building Bolt-Action Rifles
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.