Installing a muzzle brake between centers

Installing a muzzle brake between centers

It’s been a while since I posted a stand alone muzzle brake installation.  Most of the brake installations on this site are on custom barreled match rifles, typically as they are being built.  This means the barrel is separate from the action and fed through the headstock of the lathe.  The barrel is then indicated and the muzzle brake is installed.  While this method works well, it doesn’t help you if the barrel is too short to fit through the headstock (some smiths actually will screw an extension on the end of the barrel) or you have an action you wouldn’t want to remove from a rifle.

While it is easy to remove most custom fit barrels from rifles, the removal of factory barrels will typically require more force.  Not only do you run the risk of not perfectly realigning the factory barrel to it’s original position (I use witness marks), but you run the risk of damaging the finish on both the action and barrel.

In this post, I’m going to install a muzzle brake on a factory barreled Remington 700 that is too short to pass through the headstock of my lathe.  A perfect candidate for installing a brake between centers.

For some reason the machinists currently building rifles seem to frown upon turning between centers.  I’m unsure where the hate comes from.  You end up with a perfectly concentric muzzle brake installation and a rifle that shoots great.

Before we start working, let’s take time to review the site’s disclaimer:

The contents of are produced for informational purposes only and should be performed by competent gunsmiths only. and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

Any modifications made to a firearm should be made by a licensed gunsmith. Failure to do so may void warranties and result in an unsafe firearm and may cause injury or death.

Modifications to a firearm may result in personal injury or death, cause the firearm to not function properly, or malfunction, and cause the firearm to become unsafe.

For this project, I ordered the following products from Brownells:

All the work shown in this post is going to be done on a Precision Matthews PM-1440GT lathe.

This is my initial set up for the turning operation.  The action is coated in painter’s tape and secured in the chuck of the lathe. I have the steady-rest set up towards the muzzle end of the barrel.

This barrel was cut down from a longer length.  I need to get the muzzle set to accept the live center.  To do this I align the bore with the tail stock’s center.  Next, I adjust the the steady rest so the barrel will track concentrically with the lathe.

The muzzle end of the barrel needs to be cut to receive the live center from the lathe.  I am using a piloted 60-degree center cutting tool in a floating reamer holder.  The bushing on the tool fits perfectly inside the bore of the barrel.   Running the lathe at a slow spindle speed, I cut the barrel to receive the live center.

The steady rest can be removed from the lathe with the live center in place.  I use a high-speed steel insert tool to cut the tenon for the muzzle brake.

Next, I get set up for threading operations.  I am using a high-speed steel insert threading tool to cut the threads.

And after the threads are cut, I come back with the profile tool and clean up the shoulder.  The barrel is threaded, but now it needs a crown.  The saw cut, center drilled muzzle is unsatisfactory.

Once again I bring back the steady rest.  This time I set it up directly on the major diameter of the threads so that I don’t mark up the barrel.  This is an advantage of a bronze tipped steady rest over the ball bearing type, it will not damage the finish on the threads.

The crown is now cut with a form tool.  This is a #3 piloted .420″ dished crown tool held in a Manson floating reamer holder and driven at a relatively low spindle speed.

Here is a Surefire bore alignment tool in the bore, note how nicely the brake fits on it.

All done.  This was actually a used brake that the customer wanted installed.  The rifle looks much tougher now!

If you are looking for an awesome lathe, check out the Precision Matthews PM-1440GT!