View Full Version : Building a .22LR: The action.

November 26, 2004, 04:20 AM
Hi there. First of all, I'm a long-term reader of this forum's archives, but this is my first post (w00t!?).

Moving on to the subject of the post, I'm in the market for a new bolt action rifle. I'd like to get one for under $50.

Searching around bored one day, I encountered an un-finished stainless .22LR barrel blank, no crown, no chamber, no nothing. Just a rifled tube with a 3/4" outside diameter and a rifled bore to match the .22LR's bullet. Price: $25 and shipping.

In the basement, my dad's got a pretty good workshop: taps, dies, lathe, drills, drill press, hand tools, wierd hand tools, and things I don't even know about.

Right now I'm thinking of making a .22 for myself with that barrel, and I'm working out more than one design -- each with a problem.

First off would be a break-action with manually cocked hammer. The problem here is that I don't know how the barrel locks in place with a break action, and all my ideas are "flimsy" to say the least. Another problem is a shell ejector -- I don't know how these work in a break action either -- but I've got a couple designs in mind that are seemingly rather sound.

My other thought would be to make an interrupted screw bolt-action. My best bet is to have 90 degrees (1/4 of the bolt) be smooth, alternating with 90 degrees (also 1/4 of the bolt) of threaded area -- making for two parts threaded and two parts non.

A source online quoted that SAAMI specs for a .22LR give 24,000PSI... So the question here is what action could I build that would stand up to things?

I have a preference for working with mild steel, and I'm clueless as to tempering metals (like all arts, practive would help). Any thoughts/inputs/wishes for good luck would help... :)

November 26, 2004, 04:41 AM
Google was down when I posted, so I couldn't find this (a link to the barrel):

By the way, what kind of money is a crowning asking these days? *Forgot to ask.*

November 26, 2004, 12:41 PM
In order to build a suitable action, you're going to need a milling machine, and from the sound of it, a LOT more machining knowledge than you have.

Building a rifle action, even for the .22LR from mild steel, and NOT properly heat-treating it is a non starter.

Due to the complexity of designing, machining, heat treating, and properly fitting a home-made action, I'd suggest buying a real action.

What I'd recommend is haunting the pawn shops, gun stores, flea markets, and yard sales to find an cheap .22 rifle.

Even older rifles that have battered stocks, rusted, pitted barrels, and filthy actions, usually have USABLE actions.

Rust and filth can be cleaned off the action, the stock can be replaced or rebuilt, and you're already going to replace the barrel. In short, you'll be shopping for an ACTION, not a complete, usable RIFLE.

Rifles with damaged stocks and useless barrels, typically sell for "give-away" prices because most buyers want a USABLE rifle.

Once you have a serviceable action, all that's required is fitting the barrel, which on most .22's is a matter of turning the barrel to fit the hole in the receiver, and pinning it in place.
You will also probably have to have .22LR chambering reamers, and head space gauges to adjust the head space to safe specs.

This is very do-able in a typical well-equipped basement shop.

Actually manufacturing a rifle action isn't.

November 27, 2004, 02:21 AM
Well, you'd be right in saying I'm not a master machinist. I'm planning on learning alot more in the next few months from my dad, however. As for the milling machine, that's handled using an attatchment for the lathe I mentioned. With the case of hardening and tempering the steel, I probably could learn, but its an issue where-in I haven't got any tools for mesuring exact temperatures, and I don't know how certain temperatures look.

With regards to finding an old action with useless barrel, stock, etc -- that's something I hadn't thought of, but you've got me interested.

As always, thanks for the info.

Jim Watson
November 27, 2004, 07:16 AM
Frank deHaas wrote many articles, collected into several books, about different rifle actions. He designed several of his own, one he called the Chicopee being intended for home shop construction.
I don't know which book it is in, but his son sells the books and you could check with him through

November 30, 2004, 04:22 PM
You need to buy "Mr. Single Shot's Book of Rifle Plans" by Frank Dehaas. I have a copy, its about $20 online, not hard to find if you do a search.
He shows how to make a swinging block rimfire action with very detailed plans, that can be done without a milling machine. It is still a very intensive project that requires a ton of skill working metal.

I can tell you right now though, that the route you have started down is going to be a lot more expensive than $50. Unless your dad has a chamber reamer and head space gauges, you will be needing over $100 worth of tools right off the bat. :( The shank of the barrel will also have to be fit to the receiver. There are several methods for this listed in the book, with the best being to have the shank turned down and threaded. A rough blank, might be very difficult to work with on this.
A much cheaper and alot easier option on the barrel is what I am doing if I ever get my project started again. Buy an aftermarket barrel for a Ruger 10/22, it will have a finished chamber, finished shank (turned down to a uniform diameter, squared face etc.) with a groove cut for a wedge to lock it in place.
For your steel, your best bet is to use pre heat treated 4140, it can be found online. It will be the proper hardness to make a usable gun, but is still quite easily machined. Some of the working parts (hammer, sear, firing pin etc.) will work better if they are made of a harder steel. I'm planning on using O1 for those parts because I am experienced heat treating it (I make knives).

The plans recommend either silver brazing or welding the receiver together. This is very important that you are capable of doing a good job on this part. Any mistakes and its going to be in peices the first time you shoot it. I have very little experience brazing things so I don't plan on trying that method. I have a fair amount of experience welding and plan on doing it that way. You have to really know what your doing for this though to avoid warpage, cold shuts, and all of that though. You have to know exactly where you stand on this stuff before you ever shoot the gun. You don't want to find out your weld was bad by having the tang blow off in your face.

As you can see there are lots of hidden expenses in building a gun, and a lot of different tools/skills as well. I have been playing with the idea for a few years now and haven't gotten much farther than buying a barrel, and doing a lot of reading. Mostly because I can't get ahead on knife orders far enough to start any projects for myself, but also because there is so much involved with it all.
I plan on puting mine in a vice and test firing it a lot before I ever carve a stock or try to shoot it in hand either. Safety has to be the first thing in your mind with a project like this.
I don't want to sound like I'm trying to discourage you from trying this project either. I recommend getting the book. Its an interesting read regardless of whether you ever build a gun or not. I just want you to know exactly what your getting into so you don't get halfway and get stuck wasting a lot of time or money.

November 30, 2004, 08:29 PM
Thanks for your reply. I like your idea of buying a pre-chambered barrel... :)

'Course, I don't think it would be a waste to get the tools either. I'm hoping to become an armorer over at Ruger or Savage someday, so I don't think learning it all would hurt...

November 30, 2004, 09:15 PM
More power to ya :D

I just wanted to point out the need for those tools. There are also places you can rent them which will save you a little money. My problem with buying the reamers (some calibers will require a coarse reamer and a finishing reamer, in the case of a .22 there is very little material to remove and I think its all done with a finishing reamer) is that I can't sell the gun when I'm done with it and I'm not likely to make multiple guns in one caliber for myself. So its basically $100+ for a single use tool. I suppose you could sell the reamers when your done but it would be at a pretty big loss, or if you want to take up gunsmithing they will be handy to have.

You'll also need a tool for cutting the crown. I've heard of guys just using a countersink bit, but your best off to get the right tool with a pilot on it to align it with the bore and set the correct angle.

As far as getting a good barrel and saving money I think the aftermarket 10/22 barrel is about the best you can do. I got a Clerke, match chambered, stainless bull barrel for $105 shipped. Thats less than I could get a blank for, let alone the tools to finish it.