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Barrel Drilling and Reaming

IN. THIS and the following chapters I shall guide the student step by step through the art of barrel making from a different angle. The standard machine tools used in modern production will not be employed, but the barrel-making tools will be of standard design. We shall1imit ourselves to a lathe and a milling machine. The entire operation may be accomplished on a lathe, but by using a milling machine it is possible to secure any leed of spiral. When, a lathe is used altogether it requires many hours of work and necessitates making wooden drums with a cable connecting two dissimilar sizes. Sprockets and chains could be used, or even a rack and pinions on the back of the lathe to turn the spindle; a number of ways can be devised, but the milling machine affords a more simple and practical method.

Undoubtedly, some people will think these chapters a bit absurd, but before anyone lets pessimism govern his attitude, allow me to cite, as an example. the barrels turned out by Harry Pope. There are men who would pay any price for a barrel with his name stamped on it; yet jf you were to walk into his shop and purchase the lathe on which these super-accurate barrels are made, and were to give him over fifty dollars for it, it would be through the generosity of your nature. Nevertheless, for years he has turned out barrels on this lathe which have never been equaled by modem machinery. Naturally, I do not contend that a lathe should be used in preference to modern equipment, nor am I considering speed, number of operations, or number of barrels produced. This information has been written primarily for the man who cannot afford an elaborate set-up and must do the best he can with what he has at hand. If one is fortunate to possess the complete equipment, the on barrel tools will be a standard in both

drilling of barrels was formerly done by and was regarded as a mystery. Today it is a mechanical operation differing only in from the making of other parts or tools. t:ve'TthPI,,"," . the barrel is the most important part a weapon, and care must be bestowed on it. certain limits of accuracy in manufacture been passed, there are no means of knowing

whether the barrel will be an exceedingly accurate one, or whether it will only pass the ordinary test.

When the steel comes from the mill the barrel is rough-turned to the exterior shape or only the end turned, as will be uggested later, and drilled. The drilling may be done "straight through" from end to end in one operation, as Figure 7 5 illustrates, on a standard barrel-drilling machine, or when a lathe is employed it may be started at both ends and meet in the middle. In drilling and reaming, the drill bits and barrel reamers slide horizontally along the bed of the lathe while the barrel is caused to revolve, Lard oil which acts as a lubricant is pumped into the bole as the work proceeds, and washes out the chips or "swarf." The bore must be straight and concentric with the exterior. Straightness is tested by light and shade effects caused by the multiple reflections of the muzzle down the bore. The slightest lack of concentricity in these repeated circles is an indication that some correction must be made. This correction may be done by means of blows struck on the exterior of the barrel with a copper or babbit hammer, but modern methods favor the use of a special barrel-straightening press. For testing concentricity of the bore, full details will be given later in this chapter.

In their order, tools are made for the caliber and cartridge intended. For drilling a barrel, the drill and oil tube are made, and then the other necessary work upon the lathe is done, which enables one to carry out the operation without trouble. A lathe can be used for the drilling and rough-reaming without removing the blank from it. Our choice is a lathe with a l%-inch hollow spindle with two chucks, as illustrated in Figure 76. If you have not a lathe with a hollow spindle as large as this, select one with a long bed in which it is possible to use a three- or four-jawed chuck and steady rest; howeyer, if this is to bea continuous operation it will be advantageous to purchase a second-hand lathe and fit it up, making the chucks as shown in Figure 76. Remove the first adjusting nut on the opposite end of the spindle and make a chuck which will serve two purposes: to hold the barrel and turn the center for a belt connection. This provides a drive to connect a high-pressure oil pump which can be located on brackets fastened to the legs of the lathe.




Fig. 7S

Rifle·bat~e,j drilling machine 'in operation

The front chuck can be screwed on the spindle and made either of cast-iron or cold-drawn steel. In making the chucks, four set screws are used in each one (Allen headless screws preferred) to true up the barrel blank.

A suitable pan of tin or galvanized iron is made, both for the back and front of the lathe, to catch oil; also a hood of tin to go over the front chuck with an elongated slot for the oil tube, which can be removed at will; and finally a tank for the returned oil. Suitable oil strainers should be made so that no chips can return to the oil pump and obstruct the flow of oil to the drill. The usual practise is to make an angle plate, as illustrated in Figure 76, to clamp to the cross slide where the tool post is situated. This is made of cast-iron or machinery steel, and since there are adjusting features for height, the correct location for center can always be held. Altho the tubing is comparatively light, construct a wooden frame to hold the drill tube in the center and at the end, so that it will not lag. Wooden brackets may be made in place of the wooden frame, and these can be clamped on the ways of the lathe and moved along as the drill ad-

vances in the 'barrel. A rather heavy rubber hose is connected between the oil pump and hose connection, as shown in Figure 61. Fasten with suitable clamps, which can be easily removed when changing from the drilling to the reaming operation.

Since it is not of importance to use a larger steel bar than 1 0/1 6 inch diameter, there will be ample room for the adjustment of the set screws; this encourages it to run perfectly true. Before setting the bar in place, center it on one end only; this can also be done before the removal of the tail stock from the lathe or the setting of the angle plate to hold the drill. Turn back a true surface and just remove the scale for about 1 inch. This affords an opportunity to have it run absolutely true between the two cbucks with the set screws. Only allow about 1 inch to extend from the nose of the chuck where the drill starts. By turning this straight portion the blank may be trued whenever it is necessary to remove it. It would do no harm to turn the opposite end also for truing purposes.

Before drilling, place the steel in a furnace to normalize it and remove all strains in the bar. Hold the heat in the furnace between 1350 acd













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Fig. 76

Lathe head and chucks, Oil·tube holder. which is cla.mped in the cross slide. Barrel blank and table of barrel·blank turned measurements




FIll'. 77

Barrel·drill end. Bhowlnq the cutttnq edqe. 011 hole. and chip qroove. Sludy thlB llluBtration when qriDdlnq point uf the drill

1450 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and then turn the furnace off and let it cool with the bars. Usually the most convenient time to do this is in the afternoon, removing the following morning. To remove any strains that might occur, anneal the bars after rough-turning and reaming. This precaution eliminates any possibility of ever having the barrel change in firing. Frequently you will get annealed bars from the steel mills that have been cut off in powerful shears; in such cases the resulting ends have a tendency to change positions when the barrel is not perfectly normalized before the drilling and turning operation takes place. In general, the necessity of straightening is not due so much to the fault of the steel as to heavy lathe cuts and turning tools which have not been ground correctly. We have had such barrels, after they become warm, change in grouping as much as 6 inches. One, which was tested after being completed, changed in grouping in rapid fire as much as 14 inches. It remained in that position and necessitated the construction of a special front sight.

Assuming that all set-ups are made with the drill clamped into place in the Vangie plate, the barrel may be drilled. The finest feed on the lathe must be used and watch kept that the drill does not clog. The feel of the drill in the fingers will give evidence of this. The feed of the carriage must be slow, and the feed locking nut should never be tight; it should have only enough friction tightness so that if any undue pressure is exerted upon the drill it will have a tendency to cause the friction clamp to slip on the feed. A very fine ribbon chip should be maintained, passing out freely with the oil pressure. Lathe speed of approximately 1500 r. p. m. should be maintained. The regular double-head drilling machine can only drill a barrel between 30 and 34 inches long unless two separate drill rods are employed; however, in the operation given above, one is not confined to any specific length, provided the milling machine has a long table. Figure 77 shows the drill ground so that it has a small flat on the point; this will keep a true center and emerge true

at the opposite end of the bar. The chip groove must be only 0.002 inch above center (if not absolutely center), for if it'fs 0.002 inch below the center a wire will come out through the chip groove; if the wire should catch in the drill tube the entire effort will be· destroyed and the drill lost in the barrel. . If this should happen, the barrel must be divided to recover the drill at the point of fracture.

In the drilling of the different alloy steels such as 3Y2 per cent nickel steel, spots will be encountered that are inclined to throw the drill off center slightly, but it will find its position again if the point is ground correctly.

To maintain the speed and feeds recommended in the foregoing, it will be found necessary to use the best grade of lard oil. The friction feed is more satisfactory to use than light feeds, as a straight hole is produced when the drill is forced to such an extent, even tho it is ground perfectly.

After the drill has passed completely through the barrel, reaming and rough-turning follow, and then straightening. You may find that thedrill's exit is, say, %4 inch off at the opposite end of the bar; in that case remove and turn the barrel, using the drilled hole as centers, and starting the taper on the end at which the drill ran out. After roughturning the barrel to half the desired finish size, check the bore for straightness. If it is very crooked, straighten and normalize as previously described. The succeeding description may seem somewhat technical, but I shall presume that the reader has the mechanical understanding to comprehend it.

Barrel Straiqhteninq - Barrel straightening must be practically self-taught, and to accomplish this it will be advisable to practise by the old method, then by the more modern method, and lastly by the present method-the overhead clamp with three fingers, the two lower ones being stationary and the inner one movable, actuated by a heavy double screw.

The oldest method employed was to stretch a fine steel wire inside the barrel from end to end, touching the sides at each end. One side of the barrel was hammered until it touched all along the wire. The wire was then moved to the opposite side of the barrel and if it touched all along the wire it was straight. The fixture illustrated in Figure 78 may be employed in this operation as well as in! others for barrel straightening.

The method of shading the inside of barrels is much better and quicker if once practised. To determine whether a barrel is straight, hold it a few inches from your eye upon the knife-edge rolls shown in Figure 78 with one end of the barrel


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pointing toward the top of a high shop window. The rays of light being horizontal, and the fixture and barrel at a slight angle, about half the bore will be in shadow; if the shade is irregular the barrel is bent or crooked. If the shade is perfectly level from breech to muzzle as the barrel is being turned around, the barrel must be a. perfectly straight one. To straighten a barrel that is already finished, you should note where the swellings appear on the shade, and strike the barrel in those places with a hammer of lead upon. a hollow anvil also padded with lead. If it is still in the rough, the padding may be removed for a more solid foundation. It can also be straightened from the indentation of the shade, in which case the barrel must be struck on the opposite side to the one shown on the indentation in the shade. After becoming skilled in this operation you can make a barrel perfectly straight with a few taps of the lead hammer.

A simple expedient for detecting the straightness of a gun barrel is as follows: Place the barrel at a slight angle in the fixture. Make a smaIl frame, cover it withwhite tissue paper, and place it about six feet fromJhe muzzle of the barrel, facing the window and good light. Point the barrel toward the top edge of the frame, and a dark shade will at once be seen upon the bottom side of the barrel. Turn the barrel around upon the rolls and if the shade keeps a perfectly true edge, the barrel is straight ..•. Pla<;e, at any point between the frame and fixture, a lighted candle about three inches below the barrel. This test will cause the barrel to bend, and an irregularity in the shade will be immediately observed; when the light is removed, the barrel will return to its original form or very nearly so. This experiment can be carried out with a perfectly straight barrel. Use the candle a number of times to see· the shaded lines and to observe by removing the candle, and the barrel will return to its original straightness.

The following explanation will probably give the reader a better understanding of barrel straightening. The barrel is revolved between the two knifeedged rollers on each end, and it is then possible to see the different light reflections as you revolve it. By this means you can straighten a barrel to a greater degree of precision than by any other process unless you visualize it for deviations from its long axis. Under these circumstances every part of the surface is a mirror and should register an image, true to the laws of light-ray reflection, which, when normal, pronounces it perfect; for the slightest deviation will cause a manifest distortion of that image in the process of straightening barrels, . by the reflecting broken lines. After drilling the barrel we have a very rough surface, and the internal

mirror is not secured until a reamer has passed through. Then we proceed to ream the barrel, as described furtJaet on. Reaming eliminates a considerable amount of the rough surface and gives the interior a mirror-like appearance; thus the light rays can be detected more easily. Whatever objects are reflected to the eye from any portion that lies beyond a certain distance, will be reflected under very small angles of incidence. f Naturally the interior surface of a barrel is not a technically true mirror, and the reflection image can not be correct for the reason that for every 0.001 part of an inch that a barrel. may be out, a marked difference is registered. If the bore is straight the image will show a normal distortion, due to the transverse of the mirror. Suppose there: are longitudinal flexures or crooks; in this case, there will be abnormal distortion of the image, which will reveal the defect.

When the eye looks through a gun barrel the interior surface appears to be spread out in a circular disc as far from the eye as the other end of the barrel. Through the center of this disc is a circular orifice, and surrounding it, at equal distances from each other, are several well-defined circles dividing the disc; thus the second, third, fourth, etc., are images formed by light reflected two, three, four times. In order to see how these images are formed and to find their respective points of location in the bore, turn the barrel in the fixture and you will see the changes that take place, by the breaking up of these images. It will be observed that these images are located at a certain point in the bore nearest the eye. In two-thirds of the length of the bore, none of these images appear, so it is to this part of the bore that you must direct your attention, for it is here only that you can cause the reflections to appear which disclose the crooks in the tube if any exist. When this part is straightened, reverse the barrel in the fixture and work to the opposite end to see if the images appear pronounced. Figure 78 will give a fairly definite explanation of the above. If the bore is perfectly straight the set will always remain a true and a symmetrical parabolic form growing more and more pointed toward the apex until it reaches the further end of the tube, but if there is even the slightest flexure or crook in it, the parabolic figure of the image will be distorted. If a distortion is discovered, revolve the barrel Slowly about its axis after it is retained in the rest on the knife-edged revolving rollers, and you can then easily detect the slightest deviation. Of course it will require experience to tell how far the point of distortion is from the eye, but when that is learned you will be able to place your forefinger at this point, holding it there until you place the barrel on the anvil or overhead press to straighten and W



"Fig. 79

Standard method of straightening riDe barrels in the Remington Arms plant and other arms-manufacturing plants

know how much elastic limit the steel will require to bend it the correct amount.

Before the overhead screw press came into use, the method used was to place the barrel upon two wooden stands or V's, the barrel facing a window across which a wire was stretched. Where the bend was discovered, the barrel was laid on a hollow anvil in which two pieces of lead were used to protect the finish. The striking was done with a lead hammer at the position of the bend. This method is superior to the modern overhead clamp press wben rifle barrels are made from the proper steel and given the proper beat-treatment. A hammer blow does not break the steel structure as does the sudden twist of the overhead screw clamp. The hollow anvil and bammer method is far more difficult to master for the person who is just gaining experience, but once mastered, better results will be obtained. The beginner must learn to regulate tbe blows of the hammer, making it produce the desired results without any effort. Since weights of barrels vary, tbe larger the barrel and the nature of

the bend, the heavier the blows that must be struck upon the tube; and because this required force varies so, the truing or straightening will require more time. For the person who is just starting to do this work, it will be convenient to use chalk on the point hammered to tell just where the location was and also to tell just how much good was obtained from the last blows struck.

Nearly all the large arms plants use the overhead clamp press for straightening barrels. Figure 79 shows the clamp in use. The lower side of this device has two heavy steel fingers about six inches apart; between them is the center finger which is fastened to the screw j the pressure is regulated by the large hand wheel. The barrel is pointed directly toward a shop window which has a small rod, lath, wire, or a clearly visible line in front of it, throwing a distinct shadow along the bore at the bottom. If the shadow's edge appears perfectly straight, the barrel is straight in its entire length. If the shadow breaks or shows a curve or bend you will know there is a crook or bend at that point.



The skill of the beginner in using one of these presses lies in his ability to judge by eye the exact location of crook or bend and its proper location and direction or position, and to slide the barrel backward or forward on the lower fingers to the exact spot. In order to straighten the bore, turn the wheel to the required amount of pressure. This is accomplished by sudden jerks, giving the barrel a springing effect as tho sudden blows were struck with a hammer, except that these are more severe on the steel. By watching the shadows carefully it only requires a few minutes to straighten any barrel. Care must be used in this operation so that too much pressure is not placed upon any size of barrel. The only pressure required is that of the short, sharp jerks of the wheel, which is enough to bend the barrel slightly in the opposite directionjust sufficiently so that when it springs back it will return to a straight line. Too little pressure will not remove the crook permanently, and too much will place a bend in it the opposite way. If you have a press of this nature it will be wen to test both methods and judge the best results between the press and the hammer and open anvil.

Reaming - Let us suppose we are completing a .25 caliber. An allowance of .012 inch is made for the reaming; therefore the drill is made to measure . 238, the first roughing reamer .244, and finishing reamer .247. This now allows . .003 inch for the burnishing reamers. Figure 54 shows the roughing reamer, which is made on the same principle as all the other reamers, except that it only has four flutes, and finishing and burnishing reamers have six flutes. It is now in order to complete the reamers and sweat them to the oil tube. Make the necessary fixtures for the end of the tube, like those made for the drill tube with a hose connection. Clamp the tube in the V-fixture on the cross slide of the lathe in the same manner as the barrel drill was clamped. As this is drawn through, reverse the feed and start the machine. It is not necessary to change the clamp of the tube in the V -fixture on the cross side, as this can move back to a much greater distance without undue strain upon the tube. Provisions were made in the drilling operation to extend the oil pad back far enough to catch the oil as it passes from the rear end of the barrel. After the roughing reamer IS passed through, pass the finishing reamer and check the alinement. The barrel is now turned to the desired size, allowing 732 inch for finishing; to complete this process, pass first, second, and third burnishing reamer, to bring bore to the desired size of .2 SO. These are illustrated in Figure 54.

The oil pressure need not be as strong as it was

in the drilling operation; accordingly provisions must be made for a valve to reduce it. It is only necessary to remove-the fine chips that follow the reamer. Figure 54 shows the spiral reamer, but its employment is not necessary; a straight reamer answers the same purpose except that the former eliminates much of the chatter which follows when the straight reamer is not made exactly as it should be. This point should be taken into consideration thoroughly, as the burnishing reamers will not be able to cut out some of the deep chatter marks left, and these will have a tendency to pick up metal if not entirely removed" Burnishing reamers are the only kind that will eliminate all tool marks and leave the bore a perfect mirror surface, doing away with minor abrasions that a regular cutting reamer leaves and which can be seen under the magnifying glass. As you look through the barrel, after the finishing reamer has passed, a mirror-like surface presents itself; however, if you should take that same barrel and sectionalize it, you would find deep scratches that the tool left. After passing the burnishing reamer through, observe a small section and you will see the difference in the results of these two forms of reamers. If one wants to eliminate the least possible error in the finished barrel, it is necessary to have three reamers, .001 in steps, which, after passage in order of size, will be followed by the most desirable results .

After the roughing reamer is passed through the barrel it is checked for straightness, and since the rough interior finish has been removed' the shadows may be seen more distinctly, When reaming barrels it is advisable not to have any more material to be removed by the reamers than is absolutely necessary. When drilling rather hard barrel steel, frequently 0.010 inch left for a reamer to remove is hardly sufficient, but as the size of the bore increases in rifle barrels, drills must be comparatively reduced in size to allow more for the roughing reamer to remove.

The student will find various reasons for the inefficient working of a roughing, finishing, or burnishing reamer. The most common are: (a) chattering, when the flutes are not evenly stoned, milled back of center, or when they are stoned with too great a clearance; (b) chips clinging to the flutes, caused by a high revolving velocity, Or the flutes being stoned out, allowing saw teeth to form on the cutting edge; (c) enlarged holes caused by the reamer cutter being oversize--often from holding the oil tube too rigidly. A floating holder should be provided which is held in the V holder, for with this it is often possible to ream a barrel on a lathe without any change. There are various methods adopted to prevent reamers from chattering; I have



1st 2nd 3rd
Drill Rough- Finish- Burnish- Burnish- Burnish·
Diam- ing ing ing ing ing
CALIBER eter Reamer Reamer Reamer. Reamer Reamer
.22 .207 .212 .2145 .2155 .2165 .2175
.25 .238 .244 .247 .248 .249 .250
6.5 mm. .244 .250 .253 .254 .255 .2563
.270 .256 .264 .267 .268 .269 .2703
'1 mm. .262 .270 .273 .274 .275 .2766
.30 .285 . 293 .297 .298 .299 . .3003
;303 .285 .297 .300 .301 .302 .3033
.32 .295 .304 .308 .309 .310 .3113
.350 .332 .343 .347 .348 .349 .3504
.375 Mag. .350 .360 .364 .365 .366 .3673
.404 Mag. .397 .407 .411 .. 412 .413 .4143
.405 .388 .398 .402 .403 .404 .4053
.45 .430 .443 .447 .448 .449 .4503 found. that when making these tools it is advisable to test them in a sample piece of metal and continue to stone the high point until an even full chip is noted in each flute. This edge is kept by rubbing an Arkansas stone over the flutes lengthwise before a reamer is pulled through the barrel. A free supply of oil must be continually flowing to the reamer well lubricated.

The surface speed for reaming should be rather , on a regular barrel-reaming machine, the reamer turns; but on a lathe, the barrel turns and reamer is stationary. Instead of using an open with a high speed to drill this, it now requires speed with the back gears in position. The . can be made faster when used for drilling, as

barrel reamer is pulled through and used for a f depth and has more cutting edges in contact the barrel. For the roughing reamer you can a feed twice as fast as that for finishing. When supply of lard oil is used, the burnishing

reamer should have a very slow feed as well as. a slow speed. Usually three reamers are used for this operation in order to obtain the finest results. A steady flow of oil must be passirtf through to remove the fine chips, and before the next reamer is used the barrel should be wiped out thoroughly.

After the roughing reamer is. used, the barrel is checked for straightness and then turned down within Ys2 inch of the finished size, and again normalized. The barrel is again checked for straightness, If perfect, the burnishing tools are next in order and the bore is ready for the rifling operation.

After the drills and reamers are made-and kept in order-many barrels can' be turned out with them. It is a simple operation, and with this information and the tools to produce a barrel, the student will become enthusiastic over the results, especially when he has the tools working perfectly.

The following is a table of drill and reamer sizes: