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Ask the gunsmith.

Winchester 121 Headspace

Q I am having problems with excessive headspace on a Winchester Model 121 .22 rifle. When it fires, the case ruptures and gas and powder blow back into my face. I know that the head of the bolt can be replaced. Will that solve the problem?


A Simply changing the head of the bolt might not and probably won't correct your headspace problem. To the best of my knowledge, Winchester did not make different sizes or lengths of bolt heads as was done on the British Lee Enfields. With the Enfields you could often correct headspace problems by changing out the bolt heads. Your Winchester is a bit different. The headspace is controlled by the locking lug, which in this case is the shank of the bolt handle. The rear of the bolt handle shank bears against the receiver when it is in the locked position and that determines your headspace. I would be willing to bet that the bolt handle shank or the matching surface on the receiver has worn, resulting in excessive headspace.


A gunsmith could probably correct this by either replacing the bolt handle or building up the locking surface on the receiver with weld. I would encourage you to have a gunsmith check this out and make the appropriate repair. Until then, by all means, please don't use or fire this rifle!

Buffing vs. Polishing

Q I am confused by the terms "buffing" and "polishing." In talking with various gunsmiths I hear the terms used interchangeably. Do they really have the same meaning? Is there a difference between "buffing" and "polishing?"

A I am not sure if this is technically correct but years ago at the Colorado School of Trades where I got my gunsmithing training, I was taught that polishing entailed the removal of surface metal on the workpiece. By removing metal you were able to get down below pits, scratches, and other imperfections. This resulted in a smooth, uniform surface.

Buffing, on the other hand, entails little or no metal removal. The only objective in buffing is normally the removal of tiny hair line scratches left by the final polishing process resulting in a perfectly smooth, high gloss finish.

The compounds used on muslin, felt, or sisal wheels for polishing are normally coarser than the compounds used for buffing. However, some polishing compounds can be extremely fine and produce very high gloss finishes. My experience has been similar to yours in that I find that most folks do tend to use the terms interchangeably.

Index Mark

Q In your articles you some times mention an index mark. Just what is an index mark?

A When you have two parts that go together, you will often have marks on the individual pieces. These marks when aligned are used to indicate the optimal positioning of the two components. For example, it is very common to have a small line on both the barrel and receiver of a rifle that are positioned opposite one another and often actually touch. If the barrel is removed and then reinstalled, it is easy to make sure it is properly positioned or "indexed" By checking the position of these two index marks. If they are aligned with one another, the barrel and receiver are assembled correctly.



Q I am thinking about having a rifle built for a wildcat cartridge that a friend of mine developed. Before I do that; I was wondering how you felt about wildcats.

A In general, I'm less than impressed with the vast majority of wildcat cartridges. More often than not, you can find a standard commercial cartridge that will do basically the same thing. That's especially true if you handload and can tailor loads to your specific needs, I honestly think that many wildcats have been developed just so the person that developed it will have something with his name on it. It's more a function of ego than ballistics.

That said; if you want it, go for it! Lots, of folks enjoy and find it very satisfying to work with a wildcat forming the cases, working up loads, etc. This is especially true for folks that are pretty hardcore handloaders. If, on the other hand, you enjoy shooting a lot more than you enjoy spending time at the reloading bench, you might want to reconsider and stick with a standard cartridge.

Brownell Checkering Cutters

Q Where can I obtain W. E. Brownell checkering cutters?

A The address-is W. E. Brownell Tools, 9390 Twin Mountain Circle, Dept. SGN, San Diego, Calif. 92126, telephone 858-695-2479.
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Author:Coffield, Reid
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 10, 2010
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