Thinking Inside the Box

Over the holidays I picked up an 1858 Remington reproduction that came in a case with a powder flask, nipple wrench, some percussion caps etc. I converted the gun to fire .450 Adams cartridges and gave the percussion accessories to a friend, and I was left with this nice wooden box. It occurred to me to convert the case to fit the gun in it’s new, cartridge firing form.

I rummaged around and came up with a couple yards of cotton velveteen, and there’s always plenty of 1/4″ Poplar scrap in the shop leftover from my ‘day job,’ so I stripped the case and relined it with the velveteen, made new dividers out of Poplar with the fabric contact-cemented to them. I found a random chunk of wood and bored it to hold cartridges, added some cleaning accessories and patches. With just an evening’s work I had the case refitted, and liked the results.

The 1858 Remington, with a ‘Bisley-style’ modified grip-frame, custom Curly Maple grips and a five-shot cartridge conversion to .450 Adams.

It occurred to me that this was actually a pretty practical thing; I’ve got pistols stacked all over the inside of the safe in various gun rugs, holsters etc. Cases like this are stackable, protect the gun and are just a classier way to store a gun.

I got on Amazon and ordered some hinges and latches, then hit the local Goodwill looking for more boxes. I walked out with case #2 for the princely sum of $3.99. The box was square and a little deeper, and after much deliberation I decided it would house The Outlaw, and 1960 Army with a Kirst gated conversion in .45 Schofield and the .45 derringer that was my first scratch-built gun. It’s actually chambered for .45 ACP, but these days I shoot .450 Adams through it; much easier on both the gun and my hand!

This case holds ‘The Outlaw’ and 20 rounds of ammunition, Nameless, my .45 derringer and five rounds of .450 Admas. Also has a basic cleaning kit and some patches.

I was kind of on a roll now, and the next weekend found me back at Goodwill again, once again leaving with a nice wooden box for under $4.

This one I set up for a gun I call ‘Southern Comfort,’ a brass-frame Navy revolver, modified with a mish-mash of features from Confederate Colt knock-offs, a custom grip-frame, Curly Maple grips, a snub barrel and a Long-Cylinder conversion to .38 S&W (with a barrel-liner for the smaller-diameter cartridge.) This time the finish on the box wasn’t as good, so I stripped, sanded and refinished the box. I happened to have an Ideal Reloading Tool for .38 S&W so I made space for that, a punch and de-priming block and a custom brass powder-dipper that holds exactly enough Unique for my favorite .38 S&W load. I also included a block for fifteen rounds of ammunition and some custom accessories.

Accessories- an Ideal Reloading tool for .38 S&W, a de-capping block and punch,
handmade brass powder dipper, cleaning rod, screwdriver and ejector

As you can see I’m on a roll, so after I finished the rolling-block carbine project I was casting about for another project and got to eyeing my pile of scrap Poplar again. It occurred to me there was no reason I couldn’t make my own boxes, fairly small ones at least. Over the course of a couple evenings I put together a 10″ x 5-1/2″ box, stained it with Fiebing’s brown leather dye and fitted it up to hold ‘The Cherub,’ an 1949 Pocket reproduction that I converted to .22 the other year. I partitioned the box, made a Maple cartridge block to hold thirty rounds of .22 and made a cleaning rod, screw-driver and ejector-rod for the little gun.

My second-ever home-made wooden box
The Cherub in its new home
Hand-made accessories- An ejector rod, a screwdriver and cleaning rod.

This gun got it’s name from Linda- when I first showed it to her I told her it was styled after a type of gun known as an ‘Avenging Angel.’ She snorted and said, “It looks more like an Irritable Cherub.” I’ve called it ‘The Cherub’ ever since.

I guess I have a new hobby. Because I totally needed a new hobby. Well, what the hell, right? It’s relatively inexpensive, kind of classy, protects the guns, and the boxes are certainly neater to store than rugs and holsters. It also uses up all those little scraps of antler that have been cluttering up my bench for the last 2-3 years. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 10 Feb. 2019

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.22 Rolling-Block Carbine- My First Rifle Build!

For some time around here people have been buying Ruger 10/22 rifles and immediately replacing the perfectly good barrel with something… I dunno. Fancier? More tacti-cool? Whatever, it meant that for some time the barrels could be had quite inexpensively. I bought two for $15 each. One of them I turned down into barrel liner and a pistol barrel. The other I saved for an eventual project.

As chance would have it I came across some 3/4″ x 2-1/2″ brass for dirt cheap, and decided the time had come to build a rifle. But what kind of rifle? I know the various ways that guns work, and I mulled over several options. My first time ought to be a simple single-shot. I considered variations of bolt-actions, a lever-action falling block, a tilt-breech, even a trap-door. In the end I settled on a rolling-block as the simplest ‘real’ breech mechanism.

I had no actual plans drawn up, I just headed in the shop knowing what I wanted. I’d just figure it out as I went… The one goal (aside from making a functional rifle) was that I didn’t want the end result to look like some schmuck made it in his garage.

I decided on a carbine, so I cut the 10/22 barrel to 16-1/4″. I wanted to preserve the front sight assembly so I cut it from the breech end, then turned the end down to fit into a receiver and ran a chamber reamer in to cut a new chamber. Next I set up a ‘working block,’ just a bar of steel to set up the basic geometry of the parts.

The basic breech-block and hammer, hammer-down.
Breech-block open

On a Remington Rolling Block part of the hammer blocks the breech from opening when the hammer is down. I opted for a simpler version of this that allows the mechanism to be more compact. When the hammer is down the breech is locked, and when the breech is open the hammer is unable to drop.

Once I had that set up I set to work on the brass. I opted for brass because I thought it would look nice and, more importantly, I was pretty sure I could mill it on my drill press with a milling vice. Turns out I was correct, and I transferred the breech-block and hammer to the new receiver. The barrel is closely fitted to the receiver, and glued in place with glass-filled epoxy.

The fully-shaped hammer and breech-block. There is a flat-spring that holds the breech in the closed or open position. You can see the projection on the hammer that prevents the breech from rotating when the hammer is down. This also shows the first mainspring, which didn’t work out and needed to be replaced.

The breech in the open position, where it blocks the hammer from falling.

The breech rides on a pin screwed into the frame. In the pictures the hammer is shown mounted on a bolt, but this was replaced with the same sort of blind pin that the breech uses. Once this was all working satisfactorily I added the trigger-

There is a ‘safety notch’ and a full-cocked notch on the hammer. The breech will only open when the hammer is fully cocked, but then the hammer can easily be lowered onto the safety notch.

At this point I drilled the breech-block for the rebounding firing pin. This has a 3/16″ shaft narrowing to a bit over 1/16″ where it passes through to strike the cartridge rim. There is a short section of spring (liberated from a ball-point pen) to return the firing pin when the hammer is cocked. The hammer-end of the firing pin is slightly reduced in diameter and the breech-block is staked with a punch to hold the pin in place. Time to test!

I had some .22 blanks on hand, and fiddled with things until it would fire those reliably, then I moved up to CB Caps. Problem- while it had no problem with the copper-case blanks the brass cases of the CB Caps were too much for it. The spring just couldn’t accelerate the hammer fast enough. I tried several different springs with different thicknesses and geometry before arriving at one that worked without rendering the gun too hard to cock.

This is a much thicker spring, but much more efficient; it’s actually easier to cock than the original.

The new spring worked a treat with CB Caps, and then with .22 Long rifle. I made a side-plate for the receiver, and a trigger-guard, then is was time for the stock and fore-stock. I had a piece of Quilted Maple allocated for this and gor things cut out on the bandsaw. I fitted the tangs into the stock, then shaped it to what I wanted. I soldered a block of brass to the barrel. A screw passed through the forestock and engages a threaded hole in this block to retain the fore-grip. It’s very solid! After shaping the wood bits with the belt-sander, I stripped all the parts out of the receiver and shaped it to match.

I finished the wood with multiple coats of Fiebing’s Light Brown leather dye, then applied a hand-rubbed Carnauba Wax finish. I finished the internal parts and screws with Van’s Instant Blue and assembled it. Looks very rifle-like at this point!

The action with the breech closed. The three grooves cut into the breech make it very easy to flip the breech open or to close it.

and open. There is no extractor, nor is one needed. Though it’s not pictured here I relieved the receiver on the right side of the chamber, making it very easy to flip the empty casings out with a fingernail.

I Still needed sights and a butt-plate. As it turned out I had a front-sight, and it was easy to mount in the existing dovetail. I ground a small flat on the barrel just ahead of the receiver, then filed a dove-tail for the rear sight, donated from a Kimber 1911a1. Most likely I’ll replace these sights with something more precise eventually, but they’ll do for now.

Testing with CB Caps at three yards it put five into one hole precisely at the point-of-aim. I’ll get out to the range soon and see how it does at 25 yards with .22 LR ammo.

The ‘finished’ carbine with sights. It could still use a butt-plate, but that’s not critical.

As it sits the carbine is 33-1/2″ overall with the 16-1/4″ barrel. It weighs 4.65lbs. It balances dead-center of the action; it’s a pretty handy little package for small game or target shooting.

I’m pretty jazzed about this project; it’s gone very well with fewer bobbles than many previous projects. The polished brass receiver looks good and the wood is gorgeous. With more coats of wax and polishing it will be spectacular. I can hardly wait to get it out to the range.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 Feb, 2018