Rebuilding a Ruger 10/22 rifle
I bought a Ruger 10/22 35 years ago. It was 1973 and I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. I paid the princely sum of $69 dollars brand new. Right now I think that the 10/22 is going for over $200. That doesn't seem like much of a change in price, but the gun itself has undergone some substantial changes. Now they use Birch wood instead of Walnut and in trying to maximize profits, they've made many short cuts and also many "safety" related changes.
I don't think there is a rifle on the open market that has as many after-market products as does the 10/22. If you want yours to look like a M2 Ma Deuce, or a Thompson sub machine gun, then you'll find the kits to do that. If you want a pink laminated thumb-hole stock...then go right ahead and place your order.
I'm a little different in that I am a wood and steel kinda guy. I like the classics, and the stock 10/22 falls into that category.
Since I bought this 10/22 I have put tens of thousands of rounds through it. I've hunted gray squirrel and ground squirrels, cottontail rabbit, jack rabbits, crows and everything in between. Not to mention beer cans, paper targets and the like. All the while, this rifle has been the most reliable.
I had thought that I would like to rebuild it a few years ago. The accuracy has fallen off and my groups could be measured in 'minute-of-beer can.' I want to clarify, I'm not rebuilding this to be a competition target rifle, but to put rounds inside of a quarter at 40 yds.
Now that I have the parts to do what I would like, I'll walk you through my rebuild. Hopefully you'll be able to take some of the things that I've done and use them for your own rebuild. I also hope that you'll see my mistakes and learn from them.
Let me set the stage for you. I do woodworking, as you have seen by the gun grips that I make. There are some things that if you work on guns, even if it's just to maintain your own guns, that I feel are a must.
Personally I feel that a gunsmithing screwdriver set is a must have. I bought the set made by Wheeler Engineering and sold through Midway USA.
Let's be clear about one thing, there are tools that if you put the word 'gunsmith' in the description of your search that will add about 35-50% to the cost. Some, if not most of those tools are available through regular woodworking sources for substantially less. Also if you have a Harbor Freight near you, then make sure that you check them out. There are a lot of things that I wouldn't buy from Harbor Freight as the quality isn't what I would like, but there are some products that for the price are very good. I'll try to identify some of those products for you in this tutorial.
Here is what I am going to attempt:
Replace the 'Sporter' barrel with a bull barrel
Cut down the stock and add a forend piece, which I will make
Make and add a grip cap to the stock
Hog out the barrel channel to accept the bull barrel and free float that barrel
Make and install a pillar bed for the receiver
Glass bed the barrel for support
Strip and refinish the stock
Here are the parts that I'll install:
Green Mountain 20" fluted Bull barrel
Power Custom Competition Bolt Handle and Spring
Power Custom Extended Magazine Release
Let's get started.
First of all make sure that your rifle is unloaded.
Now, remove the barreled action off of the stock and remove the barrel band. Take the barrel band and put it in a plastic bag that is labeled. If you don't already have a separate place for gunsmithing parts and stuff, now might be a good time to do that. I use an old fishing tackle box, and it works very well to keep stuff organized. Keep in mind that Murphy's Law will prevail with this project. Just when you think that you have everything, you'll miss a screw, or drop a bolt or something like that.
Remove the shoulder pad off of the stock and also set in a labeled bag. Do the same with the sling studs, if you have them on the stock.
Take your scope off of the receiver. Keep the screws and the Weaver base in a bag. Keep the receiver screw handy, you'll be using this a lot.
Take your trigger group off of the receiver. To do this, punch out the two pins that hold the group in and also take out the bolt buffer which is the rear most pin, which for the most part just falls out by itself.
Please make sure that you set your parts aside in a secure place and label them accordingly.
Wal Mart sells a product called Kleen Strip. This is a paint stripper and it is VERY GOOD. I have used this to take the rock hard finish off of a Remington 700 BDL. I think that this costs about $5.00 for a pint or so. Brownells sells a product that is a 'gunsmithing' quality paint stripper for $20+ shipping. you'll get the same results for a lot less.
We are going to strip the finish off of the stock. We ARE NOT going to sand the finish off of the stock. Why? When the finish is removed, you'll see the dents and dings from knocking about, and we are going to steam those out. When you 'sand' the finish, you'll not remove any varnish IN the wood so removing those dents and dings will not come out as easily.
Use the stripper and a plastic scraper to remove the finish. After you think you have everything stripped off...let it dry and THEN use a 200 (or finer) grit sandpaper to lightly go over the wood. If your sandpaper clogs, in other words if you have shiny spots in the sandpaper, then you still have varnish in the wood and go over it again with the stripper.
Here is my 10/22 after testing the stock with Kleen Strip.
Now lets figure out what to do with the forend piece. There are a couple things you could do. First of all you could do nothing, but that won't work with a bull barrel. The barrel band section that is cut into the stock will look ugly. Secondly, you can 'sand' down the barrel band portion of the stock, but after seeing some guys projects where they have done this, I'm just not impressed.
So, let's remove that piece of the stock and add another to replace it. I chose for this job some Gabon Ebony. You can choose whatever you'd like, just keep in mind that if you plan on using a stock sling stud for a sling, that you want the added wood to be as hard as or harder than the stock itself. The sling stud will be a pressure point and you don't want to pull it out with soft wood.
Get your wood that you are going to use for as forend piece and the stock. Measure about 2" off of the stock, and mark it. I made my mark where the stock became parallel. The two stock lines on the top top of the stock, I'll call these the 'rails' for lack of a better term. Anyway, I also measured about 3" on the Ebony and another 3/4" for the grip cap.
Cutting the Ebony and the Walnut stock has to be done precise. Use a chop saw if you have one...and do all of your cutting at the same time. You want to avoid having to come back later after you put the saw away and set things up again. Why? The cuts you make need to be flush with one another. When you have the saw set up at a 90 degree, or whatever angle you choose, I can just about guarantee that if you put the saw away and then come back to it at a later date it will be slightly off.
After you make your cut, then check the forend piece to see how flush it fits onto the end of your stock.
Take your forend piece and trace the cut stock end to the forend piece with a marker. I laid my stock down on a flat surface with the stock rails on the bottom and then just set the Ebony against the stock and made my tracing (like the photo of the forend piece being smacked with the rubber mallet below). Remember, fresh cut end to fresh cut end.
Now that we have the Ebony traced, I can mark on the stock where I want to drill for my dowels. Harbor Freight has some inexpensive dowel kits. The kit will have dowels, a brad point drill bit and inserts to make the matching holes. I think that their kits are about $4.95 or so. Pretty good value, just keep in mind that the brad point drill bits are junk and will dull up the first time you use them. It isn't the drill bits that are whats good about their kits it is the inserts and dowels.
So make your marks. I used 5/16" for the forend and 1/4" for the hand grip. Drill your holes to about half the length of the dowels. Put a dowel into the hole, if it's tight, then take the drill bit and try to slightly enlarge the hole.
After you drill your holes with the 5/16", now you can put in the insert plugs.
Clamp your stock to your work bench and set your forend piece as close to your tracing as possible. Take a rubber mallet and gently but fairly sharply give a rap to the forend piece.
Now you have the markings to make your corresponding holes in the forend piece. However, on the forend piece we want to go the next size up with our drill bit to 3/8." Why? Well, I can assure you that those holes won't be a perfect match, so by going the next size up, they not only will match, but the extra space will give your glue more area to adhere.
We also want to rough up the interior of the both pieces to give our glue more space and grabbing area. A Dremel tool with a small routing bit works perfecly here. Take your dowels and try on the two pieces. Check for fit. Do the two adjoining edges match up perfectly? If not, then work it with some sandpaper, but they both should be perfect.
Let's talk about making a barrel groove in the Ebony forend piece. Notice in the above photo the rectangular groove. I did this using my router and a 1/2" straight bit. I rigged a jig and measured the width and then routed the groove. I would suggest that you not make the groove too deep, as you'll need some area for the half-round rasp and sandpaper which we'll discuss later.
If you don't have a router, then you'll need a round rasp...in the 1/2" to 3/4" range. Harbor Freight would be a good place for this. This rasp doesn't need to be of any decent quality as all you are going to do is to make a groove of about 3/4" depth. Set your piece in a padded vise and break out the elbow grease.
Now that you have the piece grooved to close to the barrel channel depth and width, it's time to glue up.
Walnut and Ebony are not oily woods. That means you can use a good quality wood glue instead epoxy. Glue up both sides, add the dowels and press together. Compress both pieces together with a pipe clamp, wipe off the glue overage and let sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours take off the clamp and let it rest for a couple of days. You want this to be completely dry.
Now, we're going to do the same thing with the grip cap.
Before I go any further I want to say that you are going to need a GOOD half round rasp. Lee Valley Tools sells a very good half round rasp that does a phenomenal job.
Take your rasp and with the flat side, level off the top of the grip.
Mark your holes for a 1/4" dowel. You've done this with the forend cap, so no need for me to go into detail on this one.
Mark the Ebony cap piece.
Drill and check your work.
You want this piece to be almost finished when you install it.
Groove the inside like you did with the foreend piece.
Glue up and clamp.
When this piece is dried, take your rasp and use it to shape the area around the grip to your liking. I left mine to have a nice palm swell on the right side of the grip. It fits my hand very well.
This is how I have to dress when working on woods. My body reacts violently when exposed to some of the exotic wood dust particles. I don't know how I would do with the Ebony, so I have to gown up in a HazMat suit, asbestos quality respirator and gloves.
The things we go through to have fun!
Here is a shot of some of the tools I used doing this project.
You'll see the Wheeler engineering gunsmithing screwdriver set. Irwin tools makes an incredible drill bit set. These are cobalt and made for working with metals. Brownells AcraGlas Gel for glass bedding rifles. I use the gel because it doesn't run like the regular AcraGlas. The AcraGlas kit contains both parts of the epoxy, release agent...which works very well and black and brown dyes. I also have some Brownells atomized aluminum powder for mixing in with the AcraGlas. this gives the already strong gel another level of hardness.
The large round metal can is Lubriplate. Lubriplate is a white grease that I use for my Garand. I also use Lubriplate for an additional release agent when I glass bed or expoy close tolerance parts.
Also you'll see a spade end drill bit, we'll use that in a few minutes. I have a small chisel and an Xacto knife along with the round rasp and the half round rasp.
At this point we want to keep the Ebony unfinished and unformed. The Ebony block makes a great attachment point in your vise. This will keep the rifle stock away from the vise jaws and allow you to sand, rasp and chisel without problem.
This part of the process takes the most time. Using your rasps and some 80 grit sand paper wrapped around a large socket, you'll need to hog out the barrel channel. Use your barreled action to check your progress. When the barreled action fits perfectly, then go to the next step.
Notice the hose end that is attached to the vise. I have this hose attached to my shop vac to remove dust. I wrapped tape around the end and placed a small 'super magnet' on the end. This is a very handy way to set your dust collector where ever there is metal that attracts a magnet.
Now lets get started with the bedding pillar for the rifle. If you'll notice when you take your receiver out of the stock, the 10/22 only has one attachment point for the receiver. Since we're not going to use the barrel band any longer we will need to strengthen this critical part of the stock. This process will involve making or buying a pillar bed, drilling and inletting an area for the pillar bed...and epoxying everything together.
To start with I decided not to purchase a pre-made bedding kit. I figure that for $20 I could do this myself as it it is pretty simple to do.
I started rooting around for a washer and nut which could do the job. I found a machine screw with washer, which was slightly over 3/4" and a nut. One thing you want to check is that the threads on the nut won't interfere with the threads on the receiver screw. Mine did. So I took the nut and a pair of vice grip pliers and drilled out the threads on the nut. Make sure you use some oil to help cool and lubricate the nut and drill bit when you attempt this...it will get hot. I then took the nut, repositioned it in the vice grips and began to grind the edges, with my bench grinder, to be less than 3/8". No need to make the edges smooth or even. The epoxy will need rough edges to have a surface to adhere to.
Like I mentioned before, the washer was slightly larger than 3/4" in diameter and about 1/16" thick. The bit I used was a 3/4" spade type bit.
Now a spade bit will be flat and have one large protrusion in the center, and two small protrusions on the edges. So when you start to drill, the center will go into your receiver screw hole in the stock, and the small protrusions will start into the wood before the flat cutting edges come into contact. Does this make sense?
I used some JB Weld automotive epoxy and mixed a bit of atomized aluminum powder to give it a bit more strength. When you attach the nut and the washer, you'll need to eyeball it for centering. Now, the epoxy and metal will wander a bit, so don't just epoxy it up and leave it alone, you'll need to compress it. I used my bench vise and made sure that I cleared out the run off inside the holes. You can tell when the epoxy is set by using the mix that you have on your mix paper to test.
Here is a good way to make sure you have this centered. Take the spade bit and without it being in the drill, place it into the receiver hole. Eyeball it up and gently tap with a hammer. The two protrusions will leave a mark. Check to see if the marks are centered...if they are then use your marks as the place to begin your drilling.
Now, you want to be very very gentle at this point. Start your drilling, and if at all possible use a drill press. You want to use the outside protrusions to go to a depth of about 1/16".
Here is what you are trying to achieve.
You see that there is not much wood removed at this point. The spade bit will also give you some 'tear-out'. This means that the outside edges will be slightly larger than the 3/4" of the drill bit. This worked perfectly with my washer and I didn't need to grind any of the washer for a fit. Do you see the area inside the outside edges of the drilled area? Well this needs to be chiseled out.
Using a small chisel takes just a few moments to remove this material. The overall goal is to have your washer/nut combo to be slightly higher than the original bed.
Once you have this done, now let's drill out the area for the nut. Remember I said that I ground down the nut to be slightly less than 3/8"? Well we now want to use the next larger size drill bit, a 7/16" bit. Measure the overall thickness of your nut and mark your drill bit with some tape to give you a reference for depth.
How do we center the bit into the original receiver screw stock hole? If you have a drill press, chuck the drill bit and bring your stock onto the platform. Without the power on get a general idea where the drill is to make contact. Now without a lot of pressure on the stock, turn on the power to the press and GENTLY, GENTLY lower the bit until it barely makes contact. The stock will move as the spinning bit will center itself...now clamp the stock with your hand and drill out your hole.
If you have not done this before you might want to practice with another piece of wood...it works pretty good.
Notice that I have now taken the Dremel tool and routed/grooved the area for the bedding material as a barrel support.
With the holes drilled, check for fit. Again the ideal is to have the washer/nut combo to be slightly higher than the surrounding area.
The epoxy I used for the pillar bedding was some of the inexpensive Harbor Freight 2 part stuff and some atomized aluminum powder.
Tape up the bottom of the receiver and put a small hole so your receiver screw will fit. Use some of the Release agent that came with your Brownells Acra Glas kit. If you don't use Brownells then some Lubriplate grease or any quality lithium grease should do. Make sure you use some grease inside the receiver screw hole and on your receiver screw. Coat all areas where you can think that epoxy might come into contact with wood or metal.
Mix your stuff, insert the barreled action and tighten. You want the barreled action to give you plenty of space in your stocks barrel channel. Mine was up buy at least 1/8" and it was perfect. Let it dry...and leave it alone to cure.
Next we want to tape off the stock and make a dam for the bedding material with modeling clay.
Once you have this done, now take your barreled receiver and tape the bottom and then start applying Release agent. Make light coats. I used three coats and extended the coating along the barrel and into the flutes. Remember Mr. Murphy? This is where he can show up. Apply Release agent to everything...two or three times. If you make a mistake here, you'll have to cut your stock in two and ruin it to get it apart.
Scared? Don't be...just have a healthy respect for the power of this bedding material.
Mix you stuff and if you want to add the coloration to try and match you stock, go ahead. Here is where I made my mistake. Notice in the photo below that the 'cured' bedded flutes are misshapen. What I did was to mix my bedding material, color it and fill up the dammed area. I pressed my bedded action into the clay and inserted the receiver screw. That's how you should do this. My mistake was that I didn't allow for the flutes. They took alot more material than I thought. Once I screwed the action down, I didn't have much in the way of 'squeeze-out.' Squeeze-out is the excess bedding material that should squeeze out of the action. I knew I made a mistake the moment I screwed things together, however, I let it harden to see exactly what I had. This stuff takes about 8-10 hours to harden.
Take a rubber mallet and whack the action to get it to pop out of the stock. Before you do, make sure you remove the received screw (duh) and take an exacto knife to slice away any of the material between the stock rails and the barreled action.
I had a decision to make here. I had abvout 1/3 of the holding area I wanted. So I could leave it alone and be satisfied with a crap job, or chisel the entire thing out and start over, or used this as a base to build on. I decided to take the Dremel and sand out the flutes and rough up the are. I'll redo the bedding part, with an emphasis on filling the flutes.
Now, Mr Murphy decided to poke his head in...I was completely out of brown dye. So I decided to use the Black dye and try to match the color of the barrel. I reapplied the Release agent, made miy mix and re-did my action.
This is what a good squeeze out looks like.
This is what your completed bedding job should look like.
Here are some photos of steaming out a dent.
After you're finished with your bedding job, now finish up the stock.
This is the Gabon Ebony forend piece after sanding and forming. I really like the variegated white color that runs through this wood.
And the finished rifle.
What do you think about this?