I would like to explain a few things here for all our friends. First of all there is no one amongst us here at Accurate Reloading that has had any formal training as a gunsmith, except one! And he seems to be at the receiving end of everyone’s trickery. But, what we lacked in training we made up for by being very persistent. All of us have been shooting as far as we care to remember – one of us actually claims he was born with a rifle in each hand! And seeing all the crazy projects he keeps coming up, I do not doubt that for one minute!

A lot of time is spent here in the workshop and lab. We have made a great discovery, though, that as the number of people increases, the amount of work tends to decrease. Generally, what happens is that the more people we have here, arguments tend to increase. Sometimes, these arguments become quite heated. We have not come to blows yet, but a few individuals here have met with some very funny surprises – we were unable to find out who the instigator of all these surprises was, which in turn made every one suspect every one else! This seems to have the effect of encouraging people to plan “things” to happen to everyone else! As you can imagine, this is not very conducive to good working relationships at all!

All the stories that you will read here are based on fact! Every single one of them! We have changed the names and some of the morbid details to protect the guilty.

We have been reloading, fixing and generally messing  up our guns for over 20 years. One day we decided to really splash out and buy a lathe. The lathe arrived while all the staff members were away doing what they are best at, having great fun - on an African safari – more of this later. A son of one of the crew decided to be helpful and pick the lathe from the airport. (Actually he was asked to do that, with a promise of a handsome reward after our return – I really do not wish to convey the idea that anyone here does anything for nothing!) He borrowed a small truck from one of his friends – without telling the aforementioned friend what he intended to carry in the truck. He wasted no time in driving all the way to the airport. He had the lathe loaded in his truck, and he headed to our workshop. When he arrived at the workshop premises, they tried to unload the lathe from the side of the truck – it was one of those funny trucks that have the sides come off.  He seemed to have forgotten that the lathe weighed about a ton, he had managed to gather about eight people to help him unload the truck. They decided to pull the lathe off the side of the truck, and lower it to the ground using some wooden poles. They all got to one side and started to push the lathe to the other side. As the lathe neared one side of the truck – the truck keeled over on its side!  Luckily, the lathe was not damaged, as it was still in its crate.

Upon our arrival from our hunting trip, we wanted to have the lathe installed and balanced in our workshop. We asked a friend of ours who is in charge of a major heavy equipment workshop. He kindly agreed to do the job for us – under the understanding that we leave him to do all the work without any “help” from us. His actual words were “ I can do that in one afternoon without your lot helping me. If any of your bunch of nitwits gets to helping, we’ll be there for a whole month!” We did not want to answer that sort of remarks – we were desperate to have the lathe installed.

Well, the lathe was installed and balanced perfectly, and now a number of us were left twiddling our fingers not knowing what to do with it. It did not take long before a decision was made to try our hands on an old barrel. We have a Remington 700 barrel that had a 222 Remington chamber. 

Now I would like you to go back to the beginning of this story, and remember that none of us knew anything about chambering a barrel. None of us has ever even SEEN a chambering reamer before.

We managed to get hold of a 22 BR Remington reamer. The barrel was put in the lathe, and the whole bunch of prospective gunsmiths watched in awe as “our” gunsmith proceeded to cut the chamber. What really happened was that he spent about half an hour scratching his head – then he admitted that he had never chambered a barrel before!? That really did it! Everyone one wanted to put his pennyworth of advice in!

We were debating how to start the job. We installed the reamer in a chuck, which was in turn installed into the tailstock.

We proceeded to cut the chamber – being very careful to pull out the reamer and clean it and the chamber every 0.300 or so. Some bright character suggested that it might be a good idea to try the GO and NO-GO gauges now. We did and the Go gauge disappeared into the new chamber completely! We tried the NO-GO gauge, and this one disappeared into the chamber too! A fired 22 BR Remington case was tried next, and that one disappeared into the barrel too! We put a 243 Winchester case into the chamber – and bingo! It fits perfectly.

As you can imagine, that barrel was thrown away. We called a friend of ours who is a master gunsmith. We told him about our first reaming job. I thought something must have gone wrong with the phone line, as all I could hear was “OH JEEZ, OH JEEZ, OH JEEZ” repeated over and over again! Eventually – about 20 minutes later - I received an earful of insults intermixed with a few words of advice for us to stay away from the lathe. Well, we cannot really follow that advice, we’ve got the lathe and we are going to make some use of it.

Eventually, we managed to persuade our friend on the phone to give us some advice. He offered to make us a reamer holder, as putting the reamer in a chuck and sticking it in the tailstock is not conducive to good gunsmithing practice.

We had to wait for the reamer holder to arrive, and as soon as it did, we all ran back to the lathe. Among the instructions we received was that we should use a drill to start the chamber, and stop just short of the shoulder, using a drill with a slightly smaller diameter than the narrowest part of the reamer.

Now that our master gunsmith had received some instructions, he was ready to try again. And if you remember the old saying “a little knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all!” It turns out to be absolutely true. As our gunsmith gathered all his calipers, micrometer, reamer, and a set of drills around him, we were all pushing each other trying to get closer to see what is going on.

We were told to watch, but keep our mouths shot. And under the threat of being thrown out of the workshop, we had to comply.

This time we were actually using a brand new barrel from Hart in 30 caliber, and it was supposed to be chambered for the 308 Winchester. The chambering was finished, the bolt was tentatively closed on the GO gage, and to all the relief of everyone, the bolt would NOT CLOSE on the NO GO gage. Success at long last.

Bedding the action was not too difficult, as we have members here who are very good at it. A couple of days later, the rifle was ready to be fired. There was no volunteer to test fire the rifle! So I had to have that dubious honour.  I loaded a round with a minimum charge and fired it. No drama at all. I opened the bolt and – SURPRISE, SURPRISE – the empty case that came out was like no other that I have EVER seen! It seems to have sprouted a brand new shoulder, in addition to its original one! If you look at the picture at the top you will see what I mean!

And as we tend to look at the brighter side of things here – I am afraid we have too, as we generally do not manage to get a job done in less than 150 tries! Everyone was jumping up and down shaking hands and slapping each other on the shoulders, a few received a punch or two on the nose, but we attributed that to over excitement! We were all celebrating the invention of a brand NEW WILDCAT! Now everyone wants to shoot this incredible invention! I had to burst everyone’s bubble by telling them that this was not new at all, as I remember seeing pictures of George Leonard Herter’s Ram magnums, and those had a sort of double shoulder! Now may be we have discovered his secret! I think we can relate to old George, he must have made the same mistake as us!

That did not work, they still wanted to shoot it. We did our usual break in for the barrel, and as usual with the excellent barrels from Mr. Hart, the barrel stopped getting copper fouling after about 10 shots. We picked a load we knew to be accurate with the Sierra 168 Match King bullet, and proceeded to fire our first group. Our first 5 shot group went into a ragged hole measuring 0.350”!? Yes, I know, we were SHOCKED too! A few more groups were fired with the same load, and all stayed below 0.500”! 

Now we have a slight problem. We can only load a case once, as we have no reloading dies for this brand new invention. A heated argument ensued, and a decision was finally made to cut half an inch off the barrel and re-chamber it. This argument won over the idea of leaving the barrel as is, and sending a fired case to either RCBS or Redding to make us a set of dies for it. We decided this was going to take too long for us to enjoy shooting this rifle. Of course, all this happened a LOOOOONG time ago – just a few days really! But we seem to have learnt so much, if the same thing happened again, we would just make our own set of dies. After all, we are ALL seasoned gunsmiths now.


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Last updated 27 December 1999