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Putting an Old Annie Back into Service

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Bob Smalser, Aug 8, 2014.

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  1. Bob Smalser

    Bob Smalser Member

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    As one of the coaches supporting a large junior precision small-bore program, I’ve been buying up old Anschutz rifles as fast as I can acquire good deals, rehab and update the rifle, and as a volunteer, provide them to either families or the club at cost. This 1407 Standard Rifle from 1965 was originally imported as a club rifle in California and came without sights, but for 500 bucks I grabbed it, as our greatest need is rifles with lighter barrels suitable to transition the more experienced youngsters out of our well-worn Achievers and 513’s into a rifle that fits better and they can’t outshoot. This old Annie is in good condition with some minor surface rust from sweaty hands in a hot climate, but still has an excellent bore and crown.

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    The first thing I do with these oldies is check the balance, as while moderate to severe muzzle-heaviness was preferred in times past, today’s target rifles generally balance exactly at the front of the receiver ring. As this one balances almost two inches forward of that, I’ll make some necessary adjustments as I go before doing the final balance by adding lead to the butt, something I like to minimize so as to keep the rifle under 9 pounds for 12 to 14-year-olds.

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    My first task is to pillar-bed the action, as while this is an excellent, tight-ringed piece of European Walnut, a half-century of seasonal movement always calls for a rebed, even in rifles that were glass-bedded when new. Low-velocity small-bores with round actions are extremely sensitive to their bedding, and even the thickest epoxy bedding job only slows down seasonal wood movement and ultimate shrinkage as the wood’s lignin deteriorates with age, it doesn’t eliminate it. I’ll add modern pillars and new, hex-head actions screws as well, to facilitate proper torquing. I do pillar bedding in two stages, the first a simple glass-bedding using custom bedding studs made for the purpose in lieu of the action screws, and in the second stage install the pillars. Bedding studs are important, as they are sufficiently long to sight “centered-and-plumb”, and eliminate the possibility of getting epoxy into the action screw holes. I also use a combination of modeling clay or plumber’s putty, electrical tape and common paste wax as release agents. As both action screws are in the front (a vastly superior design to the alternatives), the 54-Series target rifle actions are free-floated at their rear ends, and while I’ll epoxy the entire bedding area, I have applied electrical tape on the portion of the action I want to float so as to leave a gap when the tape is removed.

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    Because we have unusual and highly-variable weather compared to most of the country, I prefer to make my own bedding compound from a low-shrink 5:1 epoxy thickened to the correct consistency using high-adhesive cabosil with powdered stainless steel mixed in. I can control its’ consistency and how fast it kicks off regardless of temperature and humidity. It’s also considerably less expensive than Steelbed or Devcon, and I never have to fudge with not having enough of it in the middle of a job.

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    After the first stage cures for 12 hours, I drill for the pillars. To insure the action-screw holes remain factory-centered, I carefully ream them out in graduated steps on the drill press until I can use my Brownell’s piloted pillar bedding bit. To their shame, Brownell’s makes a great bit but won’t consider offering interchangeable pilots for folks who work on rifles other than Remington 700’s. I also prefer the purpose-built Brownell’s 3/8” bedding pillars to brass plumbing nipples and other contrivances where I have room to use them. They save shop hours.


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    I’m careful to measure and fit the pillars, and on adjustable pillars lock the collars in place with a couple drops of cyanoacrylate glue so they don’t move during installation. Non-adjustable pillars are marked, cut, and finished in the drill press with a file to insure all surfaces remain square and plumb.

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    I install the pillars from the top to insure their saddles are perfectly aligned fore-and-aft, and set them slightly beneath the surface for a skim coat of epoxy to be applied on top.

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    During both stages of the bedding process, I’m careful to keep the bedding studs dead plumb and centered in their holes.

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    With the bedding done, I turn to the tasks remaining for the rest of the stock. I cut Buick Slots (barrel ventilation) in the jig I built for the purpose, not because the slots accomplish much, but because it’s important for youngsters whose families can’t afford the latest $4000 Annie, that the rifle they can afford look like one. I’ll also install an adjustable comb, and as this stock has been hollowed to save weight, I mill a piece of stable hardwood to epoxy in. I choose vertical-grain Honduras Mahogany, as with a hollow this large, a tight patch has the potential to eventually split the stock if it moves seasonally to a greater degree than the largely vertical-grain walnut of the stock.

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    To adjust the rifle’s balance, I remove wood from the forearm, being careful not to make it too fragile with excessive short grain. Then I lay out the adjustable comb assembly, keeping the bottom of the comb cut parallel with the top of the barrel channel, and mount the stock square and level in a sacrificial cradle made from foam board, using spray adhesive. The wedges used to support the stock are cut from the same hard foam and are glued in place. You can also use heavy cardboard. Both make a stable platform that prevents mishaps and errors. The comb hardware I’m using is made by Doug Keener of Madison, Ohio, who sells these on eBay for around 60 bucks. It’s top quality, with close tolerances solid as a rock and by far the best value in rifle comb hardware I’ve found yet.

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    I cut and round over the slot for the elevation wheel, using the drill press instead of a router for more precision in what will be a curved-bottom mortise to accommodate the round wheel. I finish the mortise bottom using a chisel. I’m not happy with my slot width. For the next one I’ll acquire a smaller, ¼” router with a non-ball-bearing roundover bit that will allow me to machine a narrower, rounded-over slot.

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    I cut the comb, clean the cuts using a palm sander, and drill the mortise for the elevation assembly. The bottom of the drill press table makes a perfect index to clamp to, insuring plumb holes. I finish the mortise using a chisel, as the plunge router operating at this depth is too risky..

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    The elevation assembly is mounted using screws, but the screw holes run sufficiently close to the clearance holes for the elevation shafts to result in a fragile mounting. So I cut the bottom of the mortise oversize and bed it in epoxy to insure a solid assembly that won’t eventually break its’ screw holes. Then I use nail polish as an index fluid to mount the comb. I’d normally prefer to mortise the upper section of the elevation assembly into the comb for strength, but as the rifle will be used by several people in its’ new life, I want to insure I can change the cast of the comb by plugging and moving the screw holes, a relatively simple job. Slotting the countersunk screw holes in the elevation assembly would accomplish the same task, but there isn’t enough room to work on those screw holes without making a mess of the hardware.

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    Fortunately this old stock was finished in old-fashioned nitrocellulose lacquer, so removing the old finish without the tedium of preventing sanding damage was easy, using proprietary furniture refinisher solvents and #0000 steel wool, followed by drying and thorough cleanup using a vacuum and tack rag. In finishing, sunlight is essential to match color and see flaws, and powerful shop vacuums are far superior to compressed air, as they minimize airborne particles that can get into the finish. White Scotchbrite also works for this chore, but is more expensive, and regardless of whether the resulting dust particles are steel or plastic, they all have to come off anyway before applying the finish.

    I’ll apply a utility finish of Truoil, my preference for working guns. Like all wiping varnishes, it is soft and wears off, but unlike hard, piano finishes, it doesn’t chip in mishaps and is renewable without having to remove it. Simply clean and key the surface using #0000 steel wool dipped in mineral spirits, and topcoat it. To bring the walnut’s color back and minimize the finish coats required to level the open grain, I apply “Herter’s French Red” stock filler (sold by Brownell’s) as a first coat. This is simply an oil stain containing diatomaceous earth, and is allowed to set up before wiping off across the grain to fill any open pores or small voids. Add a drop of cobalt or Japan drier to your small pan of Truoil for the first coat, as amalgamating chemically with the staining coat takes much longer to dry than will subsequent coats applied atop each other. Five thin coats of Truoil achieve the protection I want, each coat rubbed back using steel wool.

    Continued...
     
  2. Bob Smalser

    Bob Smalser Member

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    As there is a waiting list for these accurized intermediate rifles, this one goes back into service as soon I get it finished, assembled and tested. I don’t have the luxury of allowing the Truoil to cure in the drying box for a week or more before rubbing it out with carnauba wax and more #0000 steel wool. Nor do I have time for a nice-to-have reblue job. Fully assembled, the balance is still almost an inch forward of where I’d like it to be, but as I’m also disappointed that the rifle came in at closer to 10 ½ lbs instead of the sub-ten I would prefer, I’ll let the youngsters use it for a while and get their feedback before adding any lead to the butt.

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    Testing on the bench at 50 and a hundred yards in a variable headwind proves satisfactory, and all it needs is for the hook buttplate and front-sight bubble level to arrive for a youngster to take full advantage. The sights are from a surplus Kimber 82G probably converted to a benchrest rifle, and cost a hundred dollars for the set. They are as good as the older Anschutz sights. Total cost in parts and materials was $790 (including what hasn’t arrived) plus shipping, slightly more than half the price of the Annie 1903’s offered by the Civilian Marksmanship Program..




    Bob Smalser

    http://www.wkfinetools.com/contrib/bSmalser/bobSmalser-index.asp
    http://www.woodcentral.com/cgi-bin/articles.pl#smalser
     
  3. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

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    Excellent write-up! Thanks for taking the time to do this.
     
  4. Reloadron
    • Contributing Member

    Reloadron Member

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    Thank you Bob for an enjoyable and well illustrated read. Sweet rifle!

    Ron
     
  5. Drail

    Drail Member

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    It certainly is nice to see kids being taught something useful for a change. You are to be commended on teaching AND on that rifle work.
     
  6. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    Bob, Nice write up. Thanks for sharing. And allowing more youngster to enjoy the sport.
     
  7. KMcCoy

    KMcCoy Member

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    Instructive and entertaining! Thank you sir!
     
  8. 03fatboy
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    03fatboy Member

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    Very impressive work and for a good cause to boot.
     
  9. carbine85

    carbine85 Member

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    Very nice. I love these project threads. Thanks for sharing.
    Which Eley Match are you using?
     
  10. Bob Smalser

    Bob Smalser Member

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    Black Box, their grade immediately below Tenex.
     
  11. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    Another great thread showing you honing/maintaining skills for a very good cause. i cribbed a couple of tips from this one in screen captures. Thanks.
     
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