Monday, December 31, 2018

New Rear Sight for my Hawken

Several years ago I bought a Cabela's Traditional Hawken rifle in .50 caliber. It isn't a faithful copy of the real Hawken rifles of the 19th Century, but nevertheless, it's a well made and nice shooting gun. It's more or less a variant of the Lyman Trade Rifle, but fitted with a cap box on the stock and double set trigger. Also, unlike the Lyman, it was available with a left handed stock and lock. Both the Lyman and Cabela's rifles were made by Investarms in Italy.

One thing I did not like about the rifle was the sights. The rear sight, in particular, was a poor design. The adjustable rear notch was a wide open "V". IIRC, the Lymans's have rear sights that are dovetailed in, which makes replacement with a fixed but better sight easy. Unfortunately, the Cabela's rear sight was held on with two screws and nobody made a good replacement.

So, I decided to install a Lyman Model 66SML aperture sight, made for the Lyman Great Plains Rifle, Trade Rifle, sidelock Thompson-Centers, and similar rifles.

The Model 66SML is mounted on the tang with two screws. It uses the rear wood screw which goes through the tang into the stock, plus an 8-32 screw into the metal of the tang. The tang on my rifle wasn't drilled and tapped so I did that today.

Using a #29 drill on the tang:

Before drilling the hole, I located it by mounting the sight on the tang and marking the spot with a transfer punch. I then dismounted the tang from the rifle and used a pilot drill to ensure the #29 drill wouldn't skip. Only then did I put the twist bit in the chuck.

I then tapped the hole with 8-32 threads. I used #3 Morse taper lathe center held in the mill's head to guide the tap so it started off straight:

I used a little Tap Magic on the tap, but I could probably have done it dry with no problems. OTH, there's no reason not to use a lube and save a little wear on the tap.

A closeup of the newly mounted sight:

And finally, the whole rifle:

This rifle has a 1:48 twist, so it can shoot either patched round balls or conicals like a Hornady Great Plains Bullet or T/C Maxi balls. So far, I've just shot it with PRB and it did well.

Simple work like this is a main reason I bought a small lathe and mill back in 2013. It took me about 45 minutes to do this, which included digging out the rifle and rear sight, schlepping them out to my shop, and doing the work. In contrast, to have a gunsmith mount the sight it would require locating a 'smith locally or shipping the rifle, getting onto his wait list, and probably paying about $75 to $100. Since shooting is my hobby, I will eventually do enough jobs like this to largely offset the cost of the tools.

Of course, that doesn't even account for the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Some Great Muzzleloader Videos on YouTube

I ran across Denny Ducet's YouTube Channel a few days ago. He's got a bunch of muzzleloader shooting videos that are really well done. These boys look like they are having a great time up near Kalispell, MT.

A sample: Flintlocks & Capotes Winter Shoot:

Friday, December 28, 2018

H&B Forge Medium Camp Hawk and a Neck Knife

Today I took a spin up to Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop and came home with these:

The tomahawk is an H&B Forge Medium Camp Hawk while the knife one made by a local 'smith from an old trap spring. There are usually several of them on the shelf at Dixon's.

The Medium Camp Hawk's head weighs about a pound and has a hardened hammer poll, which should be useful for hammering in tent stakes. The edge is about 3.5" wide and the handled measures 19" long. The handle is stained but doesn't appear to be sealed so I'll give it a coat or two of some oil.

It came with a usable edge but I'm going to sharpen it some more. I'm also planning to make a mask for it since it came without any cover.

The knife blade is about 3.75" long and measured 0.055" or 1.4mm thick with my calipers. It's stamped with the maker's initials, "JBG." The scales are curly maple, secured with four brass pins. Wood to metal fit is excellent.

The leather neck sheath reminds me a bit of a center seam moccasin and is nicely stitched. The thong doesn't have a quick release but if it got snagged on something I'd expect it to let go. The knife and sheath together weigh only a few ounces and hang comfortably.

They should make nice additions to my bushcraft kit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Burned Some Charcoal Today

I'm off this week and made it to the range today with my GL Dech longrifle and my Cimarron 1860 Henry.

I've probably posted this picture before but what the heck.

The rifle started out as a left handed Dixie Gun Works Tennessee Mountain Rifle and then was redone as a Lancaster, Pennsylvania style rifle by George Dech. I bought it off the shelf at Dixon's about 10-1/2 years ago. Aside from the new wood and fittings, the barrel was turned to a half-round configuration, which makes it balance a lot better than a stock TMR.

My load today was 70 grains of Swiss 3Fg propelling a Hornady .480 roundball patched with pillow ticking, and lubed with mink oil tallow from Track of the Wolf. The .480 balls seat much easier than the more typical .490s and still provide minute-of-deer accuracy at 50 yards. AAMOF, I was able to shoot 10 shots without wiping and the smaller balls can be thumb seated. This will make reloading in the field much easier.

My flint broke on the first shot. My first inclination was to replace it but then it occurred to me that it would be interesting to see how it would work as-is. It turned out that I was able to fire nine more shots. All 10 shots went off quickly with no misfires or hangfires.

Now, generally speaking, I do not recommend shooting more than a few shots with a flint missing about 1/3 of it striking edge because it will lead to uneven frizzen wear. But I was curious to see how it would work and the experience reinforced my impression that the Miroku lock is really good.

I'll be replacing the flint tomorrow morning. I'm planning to go out for PA's late flintlock deer season in the afternoon with my brother.

After I cleaned up the smokepole, I put 50 rounds through my Cimarron Firearms 1860 Henry Rifle. They were my .44 Henry Flat-equivalent handholds of a cast 219 grain bullet, 28 grains of Goex 3Fg black powder, with 0.5cc of cornmeal as a spacer. Recoil in the nine pound Henry is about like a .22. (Full power loads with 35 grains recoil more but it's still pretty mild.)

I forgot to bring a .44 caliber cleaning jag with me to the range so I ran a couple wet patches through the bore using a slotted jag, to let it soak on my drive home. After getting home, only another 3 or 4 wet patches were required before they started coming out clean. Cleaning up after shooting black powder .44-40s in a rifle really is no big deal.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Few Cool 1860 Henry Rifle Videos

These videos were posted by InRange TV last year but I only saw them tonight. I thought they were worth sharing.

The first one is an operator's guide. The one thing I would have added is mentioning the use of a glove on your support hand. In my experience with my Cimarron Firearms 1860 Henry Rifle in cool weather, it doesn't get too hot, even with black powder loads that generate more heat than smokeless powder. On the other hand, if the weather is warm, the rifle can get uncomfortably warm to hold in extended shooting.

I especially like his PVC speed loader. It's a modern equivalent to the Blakeslee Cartridge Box produced in limited number for use with the Spencer Rifle. (Link to replica.) With such a speed loader, reloading is faster than an 1866 Yellow Boy or 1873 Winchester.

The next video shows Karl running his Uberti Henry in a 2-gun match. (tactical lever guns, anyone?)

This video is valuable for a couple reasons. First, it demonstrates why lever actions are difficult to operate from prone. Second, it shows that you can deliver quite a lot of accurate lead on target with a manually operated rifle in a short time, and that they can still be a viable weapon 158 years after the debut of the Henry Rifle.

I'd be lying if I said the final video didn't make me cringe. In this one, Karl and Ian subject the Henry to a mud test.

Given the open slot on the bottom of the magazine and the lack of an ejection port cover, it did surprisingly well. The 1866 Yellow Boy and later Winchesters with wood forearms, ejection port dust covers, and fully enclosed magazines were definitely a step up, even without King's Patent Improvement loading gate, but it appears that the Henry's magazine with a full length slot for the magazine follower tab isn't quite the weakness that it's historically been made out to be.

My Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle is my favorite rifle and I would feel well armed with it should I ever need to rely on a rifle for self defense. It's about a pound lighter than the Henry, has a wood forearm, a loading gate, and less drop in the stock, thus fitting me better. I've put both the 1873 and the Henry through lever action rifle matches and find that I'm faster with the '73 because of the stock design.

That said, the 1860 Henry Rifle remains a formidable weapon in the right hands. The modern replicas hold up to 14 shots of either .44-40 WCF or .45 Colt ammunition in a reliable, easy to shoot package.

Inside My 1860 Henry Rifle

I removed the right side plate from my Cimarron Firearms Henry tonight. This was the first time I’ve done so after buying it back in March.

Side plate removal required loosening the screw which acts as the pivot for the lever, then tapping the plate out with a mallet, toward the top of the receiver. It was snug, but I was able to remove it pretty easily, unlike when I tried to get into my 1873 Sporting Rifle for the first time. (That required the use of my mill and a broken screw extractor.) Likewise, putting it back on also required the mallet to tap it back down into the dovetail. The machining is very precise.

The side plates and matching receiver recesses on Uberti Henry rifles are known to be razor sharp. Despite being careful, I still sliced my left thumb on the receiver recess. Managed to NOT bleed all over the rifle, though.

I have put a few hundred black powder handloads through the gun, both full power .44-40 WCF and reduced, .44 Henry rimfire-equivalent loads. There was zero BP fouling inside. .44-40 cases seal the chamber really well, especially with full charges.

It was dry inside so before reassembly I lubed it with FP-10 and put Kroil on the ends of the lifter spring screws, which don’t want to turn. They can be adjusted to reduce the amount of effort required to work the action but it’s already easy so I’m not going to worry about them.

Seeing how clean it was inside I don’t plan to remove the side plate more than once every several years.

Monday, December 10, 2018