Category Archives: Gunsmithing

Posts that touch on gunsmithing topics such as improving function, finishes, changing parts, and anything else that alters a weapon

Fitting a Csspecs Steel Magazine To A SDS Lynx 12ga Shotgun

Csspecs makes wicked steel magazines for a variety of niche weapons. They make a well respected magazine for 12 gauge Saiga shotguns. That meant it would fit my SDS Lynx 12ga also.

I placed my order on their website and within a week receive to magazines that were built like a tank. I had a problem with some of the plastic SDS 10 round magazines in terms of the follower going all the way to the top. The Csspecs follower shot up in the top so fast I think you could take off a body part ūüôā just kidding but it is very well done.

You have to love a magazine that is so heavily made it can be used as a defensive weapon all by itself ūüôā¬† Seriously, Csspecs makes some wicked mags and they tell you right up front that you may need to do a bit of fitting and I did.

Fitting The Magazines

The magazines come with a small instruction pamphlet for fitting that makes perfect sense to anybody who’s ever had to fit AK magazines. Step one is to make sure that the magazine fits correctly from front to back. If it does not you trim a little bit off the back tab of the magazine.

In my case it set right in. You can see how the mag stops are coming right against the bottom of the receiver.  This is good!  If I did need to trim it, I would have carefully filed a bit and tested over and over until the mag stops contacted the receiver, polished the surface and applied cold blue per the details in the next step.

In my case, the magazine locking lever would not engage the mag’s tab at all. That means that little tab was too thick and needed to be filed down. This is really a situation where you want to use a fine hand file and take off a little bit at a time and test – don’t rush this. Take care to maintain the slight angle. This helps with the lock up.¬† Do not make it flat and try to keep it as straight across as possible.

I can’t stress enough, take your time.¬† The above was done with a single-cut file where one edge was ground down so I can make cuts like this with out damaging the surface.¬† You can sometimes buy files like I show below with one or both edges left plain.¬† In my case, I used my belt sander to remove the teeth on that side.

This is not a situation where you want to rush. Take a little bit off at an angle and test over and over. It probably took me about 5 minutes per magazine. You want the magazine to lock into place firmly. If it is really loose I would recommend welding some material back on and fixing it.

After the filing, I did use a fine rubber abrasive polishing but in my Dremel to smooth the surface out so the lock up process would be smoother.

After I had the fitting correct, I use the little bit of Brownells Oxpho blue liquid on Long dobbers and blued the surface followed by some oil.

That is all there was to it. I hope this helps you out. Kudos to CS specs for making some very nice magazines. These things are rock solid and I may very well pick a couple more up at some point.


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Tuning SDS 10 Round Magazines for Saiga and Lynx Shotguns

Well, Scott, Brooks and I went shooting a few weeks back. I was really excited to take my new SDS Lynx out and I had bought four brand news SDS 10 round magazines that I took out of the wrapper and threw in my range bag. That turned out to be a mistake. The photo above is of Scott trying to clear yet another jam from the Lynx with one of the 10 round magazines inserted – they had feed failures constantly.

One of the things I was told years ago was to test everything before you rely on it. Now granted I was just going to the quarry to shoot with my friends but I really should have tested those magazines. Of the four, only one kind of worked. The followers were all hanging up about an inch from the top. The five round SDS magazine that came with the shotgun ran great but five founds at a time is not the most exciting thing. It was frustrating and disappointing at the same time.

The Lynx and the mags went back in the gun case and I felt pretty stupid for not checking the mags before going. On the other hand, they were brand new and should have worked. I was more than a bit miffed also – clearly there was a manufacturing issue, Followers should spring to the top of a magazine like a rocket – not get stuck part way down. A person should not need to buy magazines and then tune them inside – getting them to fit an AK-style weapon, sure that happens all the time, but not needing to redo the internals.

In the following photos notice how the followers are not all the way to the top compared to the small 5 round magazines.

At that point I made a decision – the SDS magazines really did look well made and rather than send them back, I decided to tune them and document what I did to share with others.

The Lynx shotgun uses Saiga magazines so this design is common and writing up what to do might very well help others out. So with my mind made up, it was just a matter of finding the time to do it.

A couple of weeks went buy before I could dig in but finally the time came. I’m going to try and show you what I found and explain what you need to do to correct it. You’re going to need a Dremel (or similar rotary tool), rubberized polishing bits, felt/wool polishing bits, and a plastic polish – I use Plastix a lot but even toothpaste would work. Yes, toothpaste is a very fine grit polish – you can even use it to polish plastic headlights.

Disassembling a SDS Magazines

The SDS magazine comes apart just like any AK magazine – you push the button on the bottom with a screw driver and slide the floor plate off of the magazine body. Now take a look at it. It can only push off one. All of the magazine Parts in the SDS can only go one way.

So push the button down and shove the floor plate in the direction of the opening. You may need to use a small Mallet or something hard to give it a little bit of a whack to get it started.

Now once you get that floor plate off the rest is going to want to spring out so use your thumb to keep it from flying across the room or in your face.

Fixing The Problem Area

The problem area in the magazines seem to be in the upper inch to inch and a half. You’ll see a mold seam that needs to be erased using the Dremel tool with the rubberized abrasive tips as well as it being tight in general all the way around.

So the first thing I did was to use a small rubberized abrasive tip to erase the mold seemed entirely that runs around the inner area of the magazine. In the next two photos you’ll see a shiny protruding lip inside the magazine that is just above the follower — that is the mold seam I am speaking of. It’s important to note that the follower is binding even before getting to that seam.

I used a small rubberized fine abrasive tip in my Dremel to literally erase the mold seam flush with the rest of the mold body.

At this point I blew out the magazine body with compressed air and the overall fit of the follower to the magazine body was just too tight. It and the body needed to be thinned a bit – not a bunch, just a bit.

In terms of the trimming, I would definitely recommend that you use the abrasive tip to remove just a little and test over and over. I can’t stress this enough – don’t try to do it all at once. As the saying goes, it’s easier to take more material off than to try and put it back on.

I wound up switching to a bigger rubber abrasive wheel when I did the follower and as far as I could reach in with the bit on the Dremel. The bit is still fine, I would not recommend using anything very aggressive. I used this bit on the follower and the inside of the magazine body. You just need to take a little bit of material off. I went all the way around the magazine body and the follower in that top area. You’ll see just below the scene there is a little elevated area inside the magazine that guides a follower up into position that is too tight.

Now I found I needed to do a second step to really smooth things out. The abrasive bit leaves a rough surface and the next thing I did was to use a felt bob/bit with felt on the end in my Dremel along with Plastix polish to finely polish all the surfaces. I tried skipping this step with a couple of the magazines and the end result was so much better that I went back and polished the surfaces I worked on in all of the magazines.

The polishing with the Plastix really made a big difference and I would recommend you do it as well. You could tell the parts were smoother. Definitely wipe everything down and do not leave the grit in the magazine.

Next, I sprayed the Dupont Teflon dry film lubricant in the magazine body and on the follower. I would not recommend using oil or anything that leaves a residue that dirt will stick to. Instead you want something that is going to leave a dry film behind. This really fixed everything once and for all.

I then reassembled the magazines. As mentioned the parts can only go one way. I never took the spring off the bottom plate so I didn’t have to worry about its orientation.

I went ahead and did one final spray of Teflon around the follower and let it run down in. While it is still a liquid, the lubrication will not be very good. You need to let it dry. In my case, it shot up like a rocket. Job done.

End Result

The magazines all seem to work fine now. I think the problem was a combination of the mold seam and that inside area being just a tad too tight. I hope this post helps you out. Small side note to SDS – you really ought to fix this.

10/15/18: First thing this morning SDS reached out to me and is sending replacement magazines. I will test them and report back. They have sold over 3,000 magazines with just a few problems so I might just literally have a bad batch.


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228-Piece Dremel Rotary Tool Accessories Kit Grinding Polishing Shank Craft Bits

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Dremel Saw-Max Cutting Wheel Kit For Tile Wood Plastic Masonry Metal Tool Blade

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Dremel Rotary Multi Tool Cutting Guide HSS Router Drill Bits Set Attachment Kit

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Dremel Flex Shaft

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Circular Saw Disc Set Dremel Accessory Mini Drill Rotary Tool Wood Cutting Blade

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.223 Upper and Lower Receiver Vise Block Combo Gunsmith Armorer's Tool Kit

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WINCHESTER GUNSMITH PROFESSIONAL GRADE BRASS + STEEL PUNCH SET WITH HAMMER

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NcStar TGSARKT 13pc Rifle Gunsmithing Tool Kit w/Roll-up Cleaning Mat - TAN

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Vortex Optics Crossfire Red Dot Sight – 2 MOA Dot (Sports)

Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight is arguably one of the best NEW and affordable dots on the market. Vortex spares no expense on their optics. The Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight is no different. Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight provides a functionality and durability that is top-of-the-line. With its’ lightweight and ultra-compact design and unlimited eye-relief, the Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight features an amazing 2-MOA easy acquisition dot and 11 levels of brightness. The Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight will not disappoint with its’ rapid engagement of targets while out in the great outdoors. Should you be wanting to buy a top of the line red dot sight that won’t eradicate your bank account, choose the Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight.

Features: 

  • The super-light, ultracompact, insanely-fast-on-target Crossfire Red Dot was designed for close-range and general shooting.
  • The daylight-bright, 2-MOA dot, is easy to acquire and promotes rapid engagement of targets, yet is fine enough to more precisely engage targets at distance. 11 intensity levels of brightness let shooters cater the dot intensity to the situation at hand.
  • Skeletonized mount offers two height options (Low and Lower 1/3 Co-Witness) – lending its functionality to rifles, shotguns, and pistols.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission during low light situations. Unlimited eye relief makes for quick target acquisition.
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How to Convert an Aluminum AR-15 5.56/223 Magazine For .50 Beowulf Rounds

When Bill Alexander decided to make the .50 Beowulf round, he really got me excited ūüôā¬† The idea of a heavy thumper round in an AR platform really appealed to me so I bought one and one issue that popped up was where to find magazines that were not really expensive.

Once in a while the answer is really straight forward and this is one of those times.¬† You do not need to change the feed lips or the follower on a standard 5.56/.223 magazine, you just need to bevel the front lip at about 45 degrees (the exact angle doesn’t seem to be a big deal) so the giant .50 Beowulf bullet goes up and, this is the key part, the leading lip of the brass case hits the little ramp and goes up it vs. hanging. In this next photo – see how the lip of the case will catch?¬† It may catch sometimes or all the time – for me it was practically all the time.

All I did was use a medium grit little sanding drum in my Dremel to bevel the magazine’s front lip – you are basically making an ad hoc feed ramp so the case doesn’t catch.¬† The round you see has the big 350 grain XTP bullet – they hit like a freight train.

This is a really quick operation and you don’t need to take a ton off.¬† I do it with the magazine empty of course, insert a round into the magazine and test then do a bit more.¬† I’d repeat the removal and testing until the round went right up into the chamber.¬† After the first few magazines, I had it down pat.

In this next photo, see the shiny little ramp?

That’s all there is to it.¬† I just used quality aluminum magazines and did the tweaking.¬† Polymer mags, such as MagPul take more work and I simply didn’t feel like bothering with them.¬† I did use quality magazines and avoided cheap stuff and I also used the anti-tilt followers – just regular 5.56 followers – nothing special.

In a standard 20 round aluminum 5.56/.223 magazine, you can fit up to seven Beowulf rounds.¬† In a 30 round magazines, you can fit up to 10.¬† I never tried any of the higher capacity magazines so I can’t speak to them at all.

This approach worked great for me and I hope it helps you as well.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else Рeven unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries Рwe get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Beowulf .50 cal Tanker Muzzle Brake Thread TPI 49/64 x 20 TPI Free Timing Nut

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49/64x20 TPI Tanker Style Muzzle Brake,For .50 Beowulf,With 49/64x20 TPI Jam Nut

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.50 BEOWULF 50 Beowulf 10 Round Floorplate

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Competition Short Muzzle Brake .50 Beowulf 49/64x20 TPI

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.50 Beowulf 49/64x20 TPI Competition Short Muzzle Brake with Lock Jam Nut

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for .50 BEOWULF, 49/64x20 TPI Tanker Style Muzzle Brake w/ free 49/64x20 Jam Nut

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49/64x20 Thread Super Thin Jam Nut for .50 Beowulf Muzzle Brake Steel Black

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49/64x20 TPI Tanker Muzzle Brake Compensator, .50 Beowulf With 49/64x20 Jam Nut

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AR .50 Beowulf Magwell ID Decal - Magwell Lower Decal Sticker 7.62√ó39mm

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A-Zoom Rifle Metal Snap Caps .50 Beowulf Package of 2 12302

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AK-47: The Grim Reaper (Hardcover)

It‚Äôs back…but this time with more pages, more information and more photographs. The most definitive study on Kalashnikov pattern rifles to date boasts over 1,100 printed pages covering the AK rifle, as well as its variants manufactured in over 19 countries.

By (author):  Frank Iannamico

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Fixing a Bent Sight and Cocking Lever Tube Bur On The PTR PDWR

Okay, when I received the PTR PDWR I did a quick inspection and noticed two small problems that needed fixing.¬† I’m a bit disappointed that PTR quality control did not catch these two items but they are small issues.

First, the front sight blade was bent sideways – to canted, bent.¬† I’m not sure how this happened but thankfully the HK-style hooded sight uses a sheet metal insert for the front post.¬† The following illustration is from the¬†HK G3 Armorer’s Manual:

I figured the easiest thing to try was to simply reach in with pliers with padded jaws and see if I could simply bend it to the right to straighten it.¬† Out came my purple art pliers ūüôā¬† I literally bought these things back in 2013 for some kind of work that required padded jaws.¬† I don’t recall what and as odd as they look, they have held up to light use.¬† My only complaint is that the nylon jaw covers can slide off under very much stress but that was not an issue here at all.

They actually fit perfectly and I was able to bend the sight post straight.  Plan B would be to take a pair of needle nose pliers and slide rubber fuel line hose over the jaws.  My one concern would be whether the relatively thin jaws could adequately support the post during bending.  The art pliers below fit and did the job perfectly.

Fixing a Bur on the Cocking Lever Tube

The second problem I needed to fix was a steel bur on the tip of the cocking handle catch.  It bugged me every time my hand hit it and should not have been there.  Here it is in the next photo Рsharp and pointing out.

From years of experience, I knew the pistol needed to be field stripped first otherwise the resulting debris would be messing with the action.    The following is a good video on what to do:

In terms of the repair itself, first, I reached in with a Dremel using a small medium grit sanding drum and the tool on slow speed to knock down the sharp irrgular edge from the inside.¬† Take your time – remove a little and look.¬† Your goal is always to remove as little material as possible.¬† As the old saying goes, it is easier to take more off than try and put it back on ūüôā

In the next photo, you can see the “point” has been sanded down but there is still material on the surface:

Next, I used a 120 grit small flap sander in my bench mounted rotary tool to sand down that lip.  I could have used my Dremel but I use the little flap sander attachment so much that I routinely leave it in my bench tool:

Again, the trick is to go slow and take your time.¬† After that, I used compressed air to blow out the tube and receiver and then used carb cleaner spray to “wash out” anything that might have stuck and blew it out one last time.¬† The bur was gone and now it was on to lubricating the weapon.

(Note, that last photo above has the bolt back in when I was testing it later).


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit Рno purchase needed.   With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else Рeven unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries Рwe get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.



 


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Dremel 8220-1/28 12-Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool (Tools & Home Improvement)

The Dremel 8220 variable-speed cordless rotary tool offers the highest performance and versatility of all Dremel cordless rotary tools. The strength of its motor facilitates maximum performance at all speed levels. The ability to use all existing Dremel accessories and attachments let the Dremel 8220 complete a wide range of projects. A slim ergonomic body provides a 360-degree grip zone for control in any position. Powered by 12VMAX Lithium-ion battery technology, the Dremel 8220 has a 33-percent longer run-time than the Dremel 8200 cordless rotary tool when cutting screws.

Features: 

  • Compact size and weight allows access into tighter areas and reduces user fatigue
  • This product is made of high quality material
  • Can be used with all Dremel accessories and attachments
  • Quick collet lock for fast accessory changes
  • One-hour charger for minimal downtime. High-performance motor designed for demanding applications
  • Kit contains 28 accessories, carrying case, 1-hour charger, and one 12V max lithium-ion battery
  • Can be used with all Dremel accessories and attachments
  • Quick collet lock for fast accessory changes
  • One-hour charger for minimal downtime
  • High-performance motor designed for demanding applications
  • Kit contains 28 accessories, carrying case, 1-hour charger, and one 12V max lithium-ion battery

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Improving the Feed Reliability of the Rock Island 52000 10mm 6″ High Cap Pro Match Pistol

As some of you may know from a previous post I did, my Big Rock would not feed Underwood 10mm ammo.  Neither Armscor/Rock Island nor Underwood helped resolve my issue though Armscor did take the pistol back and tell me there was nothing wrong with it Рprobably with FMJ ball ammo.

At any rate, the solution came from a discussion with my friend and FFL, Scott Igert, of Modern Antique Firearms, about the mechanics of the 1911.  A lot has to come together correctly for a 1911 pistol to work correctly.  In watching the pistol jam, I could see that it always hung on the pronounced shoulder edge of the Underwood 10mm ammo right on the edge of the chamber.

Any 10mm ammo that did not have that pronounced shoulder fed just fine.  In doing some digging, I elected to do two things.

First, I polished the feed ramp.  To do this, I fieldstripped the Big Rock and removed the barrel for easy access.

I then used my cordless Dremel with with a felt bob and Flitz polish to give the feed ramp a mirror polish.

Second, I used one of the fine rubber POLISHING tips in my Dremel to polish the edge all the way around the chamber.¬† To be clear, I am talking about light polishing and not removing a ton of material.¬† Do not use a sanding wheel or you may take off too much material in the blink of an eye.¬† Take your time and be patient.¬† My goal was to enable the 10mm case’s shoulder to slide over and into the chamber vs. hanging.¬† My recommendation is to always go light, test and repeat as needed.

After the polishing, I then used some of the big 10mm cleaning Q-Tips called “RamRodz” repeatedly along with visual inspection to make sure all the grit was gone and not mess up the testing.¬† Yeah –the RamRodz look goofy because they are huge and caliber-specific but they sure make cleaning easy.

For me, it just took one try Рeven I was surprised.  Whatever the case was catching on was either gone or rounded over.  The feed problem was solved Рround after round cycled perfectly with no more jamming.

A few months after this I decided to sell the Big Rock to move on to other projects.¬† I can’t say that Armscor’s support impressed me given I had one of their top of the line pistols.¬† I gave them a very elaborate explanation of what was happening and they did not resolve the problem whereas a good talk with someone with a lot of 1911 knowledge, Scott, did.¬† It definitely shows there are benefits to having a smart friend.

In closing, I will go back to a recommendation I always make.  Before you rely on a pistol, definitely practice with the ammo you plan to use to make sure everything works the way you want.  The Big Rock liked S&B FMJ, SIG HPs and further crimped Underwoods from Scott but not the factory-direct Underwood 10mm ammo until I did the above tuning.


 

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon to buy something.¬† ¬†With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else ‚Äď even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries ‚Äď we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.¬† Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


 


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Dremel 8220-2/28 12-Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool with 28 Accessories (Tools & Home Improvement)

The Dremel 8220 variable-speed cordless rotary tool offers the highest performance and versatility of all Dremel cordless rotary tools. The strength of its motor facilitates maximum performance at all speed levels. The ability to use all existing Dremel accessories and attachments allows the Dremel 8220 to complete a wide range of projects. A slim ergonomic body provides a 360-degree grip zone for control in any position. Powered by 12-volt max lithium-ion battery technology, the Dremel 8220 has a 33 percent longer run-time than the Dremel 8200 cordless rotary tool when cutting screws.

Features: 

  • Can be used with all Dremel accessories and attachments
  • Quick collet lock for fast accessory changes
  • One-hour charger for minimal downtime
  • High-performance motor designed for demanding applications
  • Kit contains 28 accessories, carrying case, 1-hour charger, and two 12-volt lithium-ion batteries

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Yes, 922r Does Apply to Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs)

Please note that I am not an attorney and this does not constitute legal advice.

The topic of 922r compliance and parts counts came up the other day as whether it applies to Short Barreled Rifles (SBR). In reading the conflicting ATF documentation, the last guidance given in technical branch letters from 2009 and 2010, the ATF does say it applies.  I put it this was as you should look at the trend over time which does seem to point towards 922r being applicable.

I am a very conservative guy and always try to stay on the safe side of legal issues so I would recommend ensuring your SBR is compliant with the 922r parts count requirements.  If you do this then you do not need to worry about it and I am sure there are folks who would disagree with me.

Here is the 2009 letter:

Here is the three page 2010 letter:

Again, please let me stress that I am not an attorney.  If you have any questions on this, I would recommend doing your own research and/or retaining legal counsel.

 


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Upgrading the Big Rock’s Sights With Help From Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms

The Rock Island Armory Model 52000 Pro Match Ultra 6″ – 10mm pistol is affectionately known as the “Big Rock” to folks who own one. ¬†When I got mine, one of the few things I wanted to improve were the sights. The front fiber optic segment was a dim red and the back white dots were just paint. ¬†When I’d sight down the pistol, the sights didn’t really “jump” out and catch my eye the way I would like.

 

Scott Igert, owns Modern Antique Firearms, in Benton Harbor, MI, and is a good friend of mine. I told him about the sights because I knew he could upgrade them to be more visible. So, one day I ook the pistol to his shop and and snapped some photos while he worked his magic.  Now Scott does this all the time so he has all the supplies on hand and knows exactly what to do, which was real obvious as I watched and he explained what he was doing.

First up was to replace the front fiber segment. He showed me how the fiber is held in place by flared ends that were created by heating the fiber.  He simply snipped the fiber in the middle being careful not to hurt the rest of the sight that held it in place and then just pulled it out.

Next, we talked about the color of fiber I wanted and it was bright orange. He had these big lengths of fiber in different colors and diameters that he picked through to get the one that would fit the Big Rock, cut it longer than needed and scraped it until the outside diameter was such that it could slide into the old sight base’s holders for the fiber.

Scott gave the fiber segment a quick spritz of weapons oil to get it to slide into the holder. He then trimmed the fiber so there was still enough protruding to melt into the bulged shape needed to secure the fiber in place. With that, the front was done.

For the rear, he selected a very eye catching yellow paint to fill the two round depressions that were painted white. He used a small rod to apply the paint and a business card to wipe away the excess and let it dry.

Wow – what a difference now. The combination is eye catching and a huge improvement. ¬†I’ll need to get an after picture that does the new sight justice. ¬†If you are disappointed with your pistol sights, definitely contact Scott.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon to buy something.¬† ¬†With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else ‚Äď even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries ‚Äď we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.¬† Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


How to get what you want from epoxy – for me it is long life, shock resistance and strength

 

Folks, I work a lot with epoxy and reply on it as a structural adhesive to both fill gaps and bond parts together. ¬†I’ve done everything from fixing car parts, wood furniture, tools, rifle bedding, scope mount bedding, custom knife handles and much more with epoxy. ¬†It is incredibly versatile but you need to do some planning to really get what you want out of it predictably.

In case you didn’t know it, “epoxy” is a general term for a wide range of cured polyepoxide resins glues with different physical characteristics such as how long they cure, strength, temperature resistance and so forth (click here if you want to learn more about the chemistry). ¬† There are a ton of options out there as quality manufacturers experiment with different resin and hardener formulations. ¬†In short, not all epoxies are the same and for people concerned with the quality of what they are building, they need to think things through. ¬†For quite some time I’ve wanted to write down a series of tips for folks to get strong reliable results so here they are:

Buy a quality brand epoxy to begin with

What I have found over the years is that not all epoxies are created equal so spend the money and buy quality epoxy. ¬†There can be a huge difference in how well the epoxy will last over time and/or how strong it really is. ¬†Do not buy the bargain basement junk. ¬†In general, if the maker lists all the physical properties then it is a well thought out and executed formula. ¬†I have three epoxies that I use the most in order are Brownell’s AcraGlas liquid (not the gel), Locite¬†E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel. ¬†Once in a while if I need a fast cure epoxy, I will get a retail blister pack of some five minute epoxy and I’ll explain more in a moment.

Strongly consider what your application is

Epoxy comes in many formulations.  They can vary the chemistry of the resin, the hardener and the filler to behave differently.  Consider the following example characteristics:

  • Liquid, Gel/Paste or Putty/Bar — The liquid can seep into pores and fibers plus it can be spread but it can run into places you do not want. ¬†Gels and pastes tend to stay put better but do not seep in as well. ¬†The really thick puttys and bars are great for filling space or creating an impromptu clamp or to seal a hole but they definite don’t sink in much.
  • Temperature – you need to think both about the temperature when you are mixing and applying the epoxy as some will not set up at all if too cold. ¬†You also need to think about the heat when in operation because many epoxies soften and lose their bond the hotter they get. ¬† For example, you may apply epoxy to an exhaust manifold but it will blow off when it gets hot.
  • Pot life – this is how long you can still apply it before it starts to thicken. ¬†Some folks will refer to this as working time. ¬†You need to mix the two parts together, apply the epoxy, position and clamp the work before you run out of time. ¬†Keep this in mind.
  • Cure time – this is how long until the epoxy reaches full strength
  • Color – you can get epoxies in different colors
  • Ratio / mixing – some are by volume or by weight. ¬†The easy consumer stuff is usually 1:1 by volume but when you get into the more sophisticated epoxies the volumes vary or a digital scale is needed
  • Heat resistance – some epoxies resist heat better than others before they soften and “let go”
  • Shock resistance – some formulations hold up better than others before they start the break apart and “sugar”. ¬†Sugaring refers to the powdery look epoxy gets as it breaks apart. ¬†Brownell’s AcraGlas, Loctite E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel have all held up very well for me under shocks. ¬†My go-to epoxy for most work is Acra-Glas liquid because it holds up so very well.
  • Others – there are other factors that may matter to you but the important thing is to think through your application

Go with as long of a curing time as you can for maximum strength

What many people do not know is that the faster an epoxy cures, the weaker it is.  Conversely, the longer the formulation takes to cure, the stronger it is.  All things being equal, a 24 hour curing epoxy will be stronger than 90-second, 5-minute, 30-minute and so forth epoxies.  Now there is a time and a place where speed is needed and also situations where strength is paramount.  When I make khukuri hands and other things where strength is critical, I always use a 24 hour epoxy.

Use the Proper Ratios

Be sure to carefully follow the mixing ratios. ¬†For volume ratio work, I use 10cc or larger syringes without the needles on them to meter liquid resin and hardener. ¬†For example, I like AcraGlas and it is 4 parts resin to 1 part hardener. ¬†I keep two syringes separated that I re-use over and over. ¬†With the syringe in the holding cup labeled “resin”, I use it to draw 4 cubic centimeters (CCs) of resin out and squirt it into a mixing cup. ¬†With the hardener syringe, I meter out 1 CC of hardener into the cup. ¬†Now you can vary that. ¬†If you need a smaller about, meter out 2 CC of resin and 1/2CC of hardener. ¬†The syringes really help. ¬†If you are doing larger volumes then either use bigger syringes or disposable cups that have measurements printed on the side. ¬†Also note how I pour from the bulk container into the smaller intermediary containers that are easy to work with plus I avoid contamination, dropping a big bottle, etc.

The Loctite E-120HP comes in a specialized dispenser tube that uses a gun and tip to do all the mixing. ¬†It’s cool as can be for volume work where additional coloring or fillers are not needed.

For the Devcon Plastic Steel, I use my digital scale.

Here’s one thing not to do: ¬†Some guys have heard that if they add more hardener it will cure faster. ¬†This may be true but the resulting cured epoxy will be weaker. ¬†Do not deviate from the manufacturer’s recommendations if you want the physical properties they report.

Mix thoroughly

Folks, I can’t stress this enough. ¬† Mix the heck out of the two parts and combine them thoroughly. ¬†If you are doing larger volumes, consider doing what is known as a double pour. ¬†Pour the two parts into a first container, mix them thoroughly and then pour the combination into the middle of a second container and mix. ¬†What a double pour does is avoid having unmixed materials that have stuck to the walls of the container come out when you are applying the epoxy. ¬†Keep your pot life / working time in mind.

Most of the time I am using a generic 5oz plastic cup and plastic knife to do the mixing. ¬†I buy them by the hundreds for Ronin’s Grips and they are cheap regardless. ¬†Do not use styrofoam.

Prepare the surface

Whatever you want to bond epoxy to had better be clean and free of oils, greases, waxes, release agents and so forth. ¬†Second, the more abraded the surface the better. ¬†If you abrasive blast a surface not only can you double the surface area being bonded together but the irregular surface creates many opportunities for the epoxy to get “under” material to create a better grip. ¬†If you can’t blast then at least sand the surface with 80-100 grit sand paper.

So here are two rules to bear in mind when it comes to the surface:

  1. Clean, clean, clean and wear gloves to not contaminate the surface with oil from your skin
  2. Shiny is bad.  A polished smooth surface will not give you anywhere near the bonding strength that a blasted or abraded surface will.  I blast everything that I can Рmetals, micarta, plastic and even wood.  It makes a world of difference Рseriously.

The following is a bakelite handle from an electric griddle of my parents’. ¬†The unit works great and has sentimental value so I cleaned it, blasted it, cut a quick cross hatch pattern to give even more grip and then cleaned it again. ¬†It set up like a rock and we used it all Memorial Day morning to cook hundreds and hundreds of pancakes with no problem.\

Heating Epoxy

Heat can help you two ways.  First, by warming epoxy it tends to flow better.  If you need to to soak into wood or other surfaces, consider using a heat gun to blow/chase the epoxy into the wood.  Do not burn the epoxy Рjust warm it up.  Second, in general, warming epoxy up tends to make it cure faster.  Now there are limits and you need to either experiment or talk to the vendor before doing anything too radical.  I will often use a halogen light or other heat source to warm the surface up to 80-100F.  In chemistry, there is a formula known as the Arrhenius Equation that notes that for each additional 10 degrees Celsius added, a reaction rate doubles (click here for more info on the equation).  My experience is that you want the heat to penetrate and warm all of the epoxy and not just the surface and you also do not want to burn the epoxy.  In general, I do not exceed 100F but that is just me.  I found something that works good enough and have just stayed there.

Also pay attention to the minimum temperature requirements for curing.  Some epoxies will not do anything at all at freezing.  Some take forever to cure at 50F.  It just depends.  When in doubt, use a lamp or something to gently heat the part.

Coloring Epoxy

What many folks do not know is that you can actually color epoxy.  I have found two approaches that work.  First, use powdered tempera paint.  You can stir in a bit of black powder to get black epoxy.  Now I did this starting out and have since moved to using epoxy dyes so I am added less powder to the mix because I want to save the volume for glass fillers which we will talk about next.

Fillers

You can modify the physical strength of epoxy by adding a substrate or fillers. ¬†For example, fiberglass is matted glass fiber that bonded together with epoxy made for that purpose. ¬†Folks working with carbon fibers are using epoxy for bonding that together. ¬†I add 1/32″ milled glass fibers to my epoxies to get more strength. ¬†If I want more of a paste, I add more glass fiber and if I want it to be more of a liquid, I use less. ¬†The exact volume of glass fiber depends on what you are trying to do. ¬†Some vendors will give you recommendations and others will not.

Clamping / Work holding

In general, you want to apply the epoxy and then clamp everything together really well and then let it sit.   You may choose to use traditional clamps, vacuum, etc.  Bear in mind two things:

1. ¬†Be careful that you secure the material and that it can’t shift while curing. ¬†I can’t tell you how many times I have checked stuff and found out it moved and had to change my approach. ¬†Figure this out before you apply the glue in case you need to make something, change your approach, etc. ¬†Check it regularly to make sure it hasn’t shifted regardless. ¬†Every time I think something can’t move – it does.

2.  The epoxy will run out of what you are working on.  Decide how you are going to deal with it.  Wax paper can protect your tools and table.  You can scrape the epoxy off after it has partially cured.  You can wipe things down with acetone when partially cured.  Just think it through otherwise you are going to glue stuff together really well that you do not want bonded Рtrust me.  It is a real headache so plan for seepage/dripping and how you will deal with it.

Patience

This is something I have gotten better at over the years Рwait the recommended amount of time.  If they say 24 hours then wait 24 hours.  If you have questions about using the part sooner then ask the manufacturer.  For example, you might be able to assemble something after 10 hours but not actually put it under strain for 24 hours.  Factor in the temperature.  The colder it is then the longer it will take.  Remember what I said about the heat from lamps above.

Safety

Yeah, I had to add this. ¬†Follow all guidance from the vendors. ¬†The resins aren’t too bad but some of the hardeners are nasty. ¬†Wear rubber gloves, use eye protection, work in a well ventilated area and wear a real good dust mask when sanding. ¬†I use N99 masks now for everything.

I hope you found this general epoxy guidance helpful!


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Here are links to some of the stuff I use:

AcraGlas at Brownells.  As a reminder, I prefer and recommend the liquid, not the gel:
http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-tools-supplies/stock-work-finishing/stock-bedding-adhesives/acraglas–prod1033.aspx

Loctite E-120HP [note that most sellers on Amazon charge a fortune for this so dig around at industrial supply houses such as McMaster, Zoro, MSC, etc.  Also, remember that you need the tube of glue, gun and disposable tips.  When the glue hardens in the tip, it protects the cartridge and you then replace the tip for your next work session but it does mean you need multiple tips.  I use this glue mostly for big projects like bonding together larger pieces of wood, etc.]
http://na.henkel-adhesives.com/product-search-1554.htm?nodeid=8797913677825

ITW Devcon Plastic Steel

JB KwikWeld – note that this is a thicker grey liquid. ¬†I use it if I am in a rush and need an epoxy. ¬†I’ve used it to bed rifles and repair stuff mainly. ¬†I have not used it on knife handles. ¬†Also, due to its grey color, you can go darker towards black but not lighter.

Now I have used a ton of their sticks to create clamps, fill voids, etc.  I typically have 2-4 sticks sitting in my supplies because when I need them, I need them.

Epoxy Dyes – there are a bunch on Amazon but I don’t know them. ¬†In general, I use So-Strong dyes from SmoothOn when I need small amounts. ¬†My black dye is bought by the pound in bulk containers.
https://www.smooth-on.com/product-line/strong/

10cc Syringes

Digital Scale – it will get filthy so buy something cheap but with good reviews.

Clamps Рthere are so many ways to clamp stuff together.  I use everything from woodworking vises to spring clips to C-clamps to the big heavy duty Irwin clamps that can do up to 600 pounds of pressure with one hand.

Wax paper

Plastic Cups – I’d recommend checking around. ¬†You need to balance cost and quality. ¬†Some cups are absurdly thin and you can’t use them for mixing. ¬†I get mine from GFS and you can tell they have made them cheaper and cheaper over the years. ¬†5oz is still good but 9 and 16oz cups aren’t so red hot any longer.

Plastic Knives Рagain, check around.  I get mine from GFS in a big box and they work just fine.

Heat gun – I have burned out a ton of them. ¬†This DeWalt D26950 is the first one to last longer than a year. ¬†I’d guess I’ve been using it for almost three now.

Dust Mask – I used Moldex 2310 N99 face masks now exclusively. ¬†They hold up fairly well and aren’t hard to breath with.

Nitrile Gloves – the best deal I have found is from Harbor Freight for their 5mil gloves. ¬†When they go on sale or you get a coupon for $5.99/box of 100 gloves, go get them. ¬†They are thin and don’t hold up to tough use but to keep your hands clean and balancing off strength and cost, they are a pretty good deal. ¬†Even at $7.99/box without shipping they are a pretty good deal.

 

ATF letter stating you can build an AR pistol from a receiver transferred as such and never assembled as a rifle

Okay, I posted a couple of ATF letters and a guy sent me a message asking if I had the letter specifying that an AR pistol can be built from an AR receiver that was transferred as a receiver and never assembled as a rifle.  It just so happens I did save that one back when I built a couple of AR pistols a few years back.  I like to have the letters of anything someone may ask about and keep them in my case with the weapon when I take it shooting.  At any rate, here is the ATF letter in case anyone else needs it:

Please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.


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The actual March 2017 ATF letter approving stabilizing braces has a section about customization you need to know about

Yes, I am late to the game on actually reading the March 2017 ATF letter clarifying the use of stabilizing braces. ¬† It’s been on my to-do list for some time and I finally did. ¬† I do think this is very helpful – notably:

With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not ‚Äúmake‚ÄĚ a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD, it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder.

With that said, folks need to bear in mind  the very next paragraph:

If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock – for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently¬†affix it to the end of a buffer¬†tube (thereby creating¬†a length that has no other purpose that to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a stock, that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA.

So what this means is if you put a brace on a pistol, use it as-is.  Do not remove the Velcro straps, stick foam in the brace to make it solid, and/or attach the brace in such a way that it is permanently so long that it could not connect to the forearm.

I always recommend that people read guidance directly for themselves. ¬†Here is a link to a PDF copy of the letter so you can do so:¬†Reversal of Stabilizing Braces – ATF-letter – March 2017¬†— please note I changed the file name when I saved it but the content is all original.

All in all, I think this is a much needed clarification overall.  Just bear the customization clause in mind when you are building, or modifying, your weapons.

Yes, for the record, I do not like the fact that short-barreled rifles or shotguns need special regulation per the NFA but the braces do provide an option for folks. Also, please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.


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