I’m a big fan of short rifles. It doesn’t matter whether it is a bolt, lever or single shot rifle, there is something utterly utilitarian about a short rifle. In this post, I am going to cut and crown a Winchester Model 94 to around 18″ (just forward of the magazine tube. To do this, I’ll need to replace the front sight and front sight ramp after I cut back the barrel.
Before we get to the work, please take a look at the following disclaimer:
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I ordered the following tools and parts from Brownells to complete this project:
This is the rifle before we get to work with the full length barrel. The customer marked where he wanted it cut and crowned with some blue painter’s tape. Overall length was mostly a function of aesthetic preference with some barrel left forward of the magazine tube. Finished barrel length was just over 18″.
Here is another look at the barrel. You’ll notice the factory front sight ramp is soldered in place. One option would be to heat this factory base off and solder it to the barrel. This would introduce a lot of heat to the area and require the rifle to be refinished. In this case we decided to replace the ramp with a screw on one-piece ramp and front sight from Truglo. The new sight doesn’t require soldering, however, it does require a blind 6-48 hole to be drilled and tapped.
Since I knew where the barrel was going to be cut, I decided to drill and tap the blind hole for the front sight before I cut the barrel. This allowed me to use the waste part of the barrel to hold the rifle on the milling machine. You’ll notice in the photo that I am holding the waste part of the barrel in the milling machine vise with a set of bronze jaws.
With the rifle barrel held in the vise, I place a machinist level on the receiver across the x and y axes to ensure the front sight will be properly aligned.
One of the problems with many lever action rifles is that the sights tend to be canted during the manufacturing process. That was the case with this rifle. When I put the level on the rear sight, notice the bubble is no longer visible. I always prefer to install the new front sight perpendicular to the receiver, which is where it should be.
To drill and tap a blind hole, one that does not pass through the barrel, I’ll need a spotting drill, tap drill and bottom tap. A bottom tap has a very small taper on it allowing threads towards the bottom of shallow holes.
With the rifle in the mill ready to go, I use a center finder to locate the center of the barrel.
The first step to drill the blind hole is to locate the hole. I use what is called a spotting drill to do this. Normal drill bits deflect or walk when you start holes, especially on the curved surface of a barrel. The spotting drill will give the drill bit a place to start.
Next, I drill a hole that doesn’t protrude through the barrel. I did this by measuring the thickness of the wall while leaving some material. To prevent the drill bit from passing through, the quill on my milling machine has a digital read out. In this case I can make the hole .125″ deep and not pass through. If your milling machine doesn’t have a DRO, other methods can be used to drill a stopped hole.
Next I tap the hole. This is the scariest part of the operation and the most likely to fail. Small holes are difficult to tap. Blind holes are even harder. If you accidentally break the tap, removal is inordinately difficult. When I tap blind holes, I do the follow. I use a new tap, I pack the blind hole with a tapping compound which displaces the chips, and I don’t use a handle on the tap holder. I simply turn the tap with my finger tips to avoid breaking it.
With the hole tapped, I now cut the barrel. I start with just a hacksaw.
To crown the barrel I use a Manson Muzzle Çrown Resurfacing Kit. The kit consists of a series of arbors that expand in the bore of a rifle and guide a series of carbide cutters that are driven by a hand tool.
The Manson kit makes short work of the saw marks on the muzzle of the rifle.
With the muzzle cut and hole tapped, I just needed to locktite on the front sight and the project is finished!