Removing stripped and sheared screws from a rifle

If you are working with or around firearms for any length of time, you’ll undoubtedly encounter stripped and sheared screws. Even with the use of quality screws, preventative maintenance and proper tools, they’ll still pop up from time to time. In this post, I’ll show you how to deal with two of the more commonly encountered problems, the stripped screw and the sheared screw.

Before we get to the work, please take a look at the following 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.

I ordered the following tools and parts from Brownells to complete this project:

This is the rifle we’ll be working on. It is a Remington 700 Police that came in with two damaged screws.

One of the screws towards the front of the rifle is stripped. This means you can’t use a wrench to remove it. Of the two damaged screws present, this is easier to remove so we’ll work on it first.

My first attempt on stripped screws is to try to remove them with a larger sized driver. Normally you can find a Torx or Allen style bit that can be tapped into the existing hole. Sometimes you get lucky and can back the screw out. That wasn’t the case here. It simply stripped the screw head more.

What I normally like to do next it to drill out the screw head. I select a drill bit that is slightly larger in diameter than the shank of the screw. This will allow me to cut off the head. I normally do this with the action in a vise using a cordless drill.

If everything goes well, the top of the screw will be cut off. It normally stays on the drill as shown above.

You’ll see the base isn’t damaged at all and the shank of the screw is still in the action.

To remove the rest of the screw, I simply grab the screw with a set of locking pliers and back it out. Ive been using this method for years and it has always worked.

The next screw we have to remove from this rifle is a bit trickier. This one is sheared off, flush with the top of the action. In a case like this, the screw can’t be backed out with a set of locking pliers.

Sometimes you can get lucky and have enough material sticking up that you can cut a slot in it and try to use a regular screw driver to remove it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. We’ll have to cut (drill) it out.

While I have been able to drill out screws with a handheld drill in the past, it is anything but the best practice. Ideally, a milling machine or quality drill press should be used. In this case the action is held in a-v-block that is secured in the vise of my milling machine. Once this is in place, I use a spotting drill (not shown) to start the hole in the center of the screw and an undersized drill bit to to drill through the screw.

I always take my time when I am drilling out broken screws. I go slow and use progressively bigger bits. If you are dead center in the screw, as is the case above, you can incrementally use bigger bits until most of the screw is removed. If you are off center, you’ll typically end up with one side of the screw cut out and can use a small punch to remove the rest.

In this instance, I needed to use a tap to cut out the rest of the threads.

While broken screws can be annoying when encountered, they aren’t the end of the world. Depending on the damage you encounter, you may be able to handle it on your own. If not, seek a competent gunsmith to handle the job.