View Full Version : Chambering a barrel

No Name XII
February 17, 2005, 10:44 PM
How much do you think it would cost to have someone fit a a barrel to an action, as in chambering, threading, etc., basically from a rifled blank that has been contoured on the outside? I guess I am wondering how much a total gun assembly would be having barrel blank, action, trigger, and stock.

February 18, 2005, 03:38 AM
Do you already have a barrel that you like? I was just wandering why you want to start with a barrel blank. Different smith's will charge very different prices for boring and chambering a barrel and threading it. It also depends on what action you want to use as to the price as well. What kind of stock do you want on it? All of these things go into the price. Do you want it pillar bedded or do you want to use a stock that uses a bedding block? Do you have a scope or do you want one added to the price? What kind of accuracy are you looking for? There are just too many variables to give you a complete answer to your question.

The old saying that you get what you paid for and pay for what you get is very true when it comes to building rifles. I would do a search for custom rifle builders. Look and see what they are charging for custom rifles. You may be sticker shocked afterwards. You can save money in the process by providing the action and using a classic caliber. A wildcat caliber will cost more. Using a short chambered barrel will save you more as well. Good luck with the project. Just remember that nothing comes free, the more labor intensive the build, the higher the cost will be.

February 18, 2005, 10:08 AM
$150-$250 to thread, chamber, and fit to an action.

Any of the major barrel providers (Douglas, Shaw, Shilen, etc.) will do this if you buy the barrel from them. If you already have a barrel you want to use, your local gunsmith can do it. If you are handy with tools, have access to a lathe, and are willing to learn, you can do it yourself.


No Name XII
February 21, 2005, 11:47 PM
What do you need to do it yourself? I know you need the chamber reamers, but what else, headspace gauge? With the chamber reamers there were 3 different types, finish, resize, and rough if I remeber right. Would I need all three? I saw an article that was basically a how-to, and it all seemed pretty much straight forward, but I have a hard time believing that I could actually do it. Do you need a special lathe, or can you do it on any machine lathe?

February 22, 2005, 02:44 AM
I would say that if you have a good knowledge of tools and their proper uses, you could learn how to do it. I would suggest that you get a video like the ones AGI produces showing just how it is done. I wouldn't try to do it following directions from an article. There are way too many things that can go wrong and cause a dangerous failure if things aren't done properly. They have tapes on rebuilding a mauser that I think includes rebarreling it and finishing the chamber. Most of the time, this isn't a DIY job. The tools needed will cost enough to buy a rifle.

February 22, 2005, 11:19 AM
If you only have a single chamber you can use just the finish reamer. Things can be sped up by drilling some of the waste before starting reaming (be very careful not to go to far).
You need haedspace gauges for go and no-go (though if you are very careful the no-go is not required).
A lath is required to perform an accurate job, and a pressurized lubricant and cooling system goes a long way to flushing chips away and avaoiding scoring the chamber (chip caught on reamer flute).
A good machinest should be able to do the job - as machine work goes it is not that complicated.
Pitfalls include reaming of-center or out of round (floating holder helps), being to deep or shallow (usually easily corrected by setting back), or producing a rough chamber (cutting to fast, improper/inadequate lubrication, not cleaning the reamer often enough).

February 22, 2005, 03:19 PM
I do all my chambering by hand. It isn't necessary to use a lathe. As far as not using a no-go gauge, how do you know if you were careful enough? This is a guy asking about how to chamber a rifle. Not a guy who is experienced with gunsmithing. I think it is unwise to tell someone who is knowledgable that they can be careful enough not to make a mistake, much less someone who isn't. We are all prone to making mistakes.

No Name, the reason I gave you the suggestion that I did is that without knowing you or anything about you, I would never tell you to go ahead and try this. Chambering a rifle is more than drilling and tapping a hole. It takes knowledge and skill to do the work. You need to know what needs to be done before you ask anyone to do the work for you or try it yourself. Done wrong, the rifle will be dangerous to you and others around you.

Brickeyee, I didn't mean to jump on you, but some folks that read these forums are not the kind of guy you want trying this for himself. I would be hesitant to tell a gunsmith that he could be careful and not worry about safety. Most of the smiths I know would never chamber a rifle without using the no-go to make sure he did it right. Just because a guy is a machinist doesn't mean he knows anything about gunsmithing. There are way too many folks getting sued these days because of things just like this. Be careful with what you say.

No Name XII
February 23, 2005, 07:11 PM
I wasn't planning on doing this in the immediate future, and maybe just have someone else do it when I need it. I was just trying to get an idea of what it takes, so I can make a decision when I need to. And how do you do it without a lathe?

February 23, 2005, 09:01 PM
I use a long 3/8 extension and a Tap wrench with the reamer through the back of the reciever. I use a barrel vise and reciever wrench to attatch the barrel. I then put the barrel in a vise at an angle to allow the shavings and oil to fall away from the reamer. I ream slower than you can on a lathe, but it comes out with a smooth chamber and all that I have done shoot very well.

Look at the Remington 700 in the police setup or varmint setup. Price what you want done and compare it to those two rifles. Look at MIdwayUSA and Brownells and see what the barrel and stock that you like sell for. You have been given the average price for doing the work, add that to the price of the stock and barrel and don't forget to add additional cost like a trigger job and bedding the rifle unless you can do these yourself.. I think you will see that it usually comes out cheaper buying the factory rifle. I know there are smiths that would love to build you a rifle, but unless you are purposely building one to shoot in competitions, I would stick to what you can buy from the manufacturers.

February 24, 2005, 04:06 PM
High accuracy chambering is always done on a lathe. No human can hold a tool as perfectly straight as can be done using the correct machine.
You can easily live without the no-go gauge using a lath and a dial indicator. Cut to just closing on the go gauge. With a dial indicator riding on the cutter you can easily advance by thousandths. Another feature of using the correct tools for the job. A lathe.
The pilot on a chambering reamer is not adequate to guide a tool the length of a chambering reamer straight enough to produce a decent chamber. You may 'get it to work', but a chamber cast will show that the chamber is not perfectly round, and it is also unlikel to be coaxial with the bore.
If you do not have access to a lathe, pay someone to chamber the rifle on a lath. I have a lathe, but it is often still easier to pay someone with a permanent setup to perform the job. It takes time to get the coolent setup installed, the spider for the headstock, and all the other nits checked out before putting cutter to steel.

February 24, 2005, 05:57 PM
I guess me and all the other gunsmiths that do chambers by hand should all just close the doors. I don't mean to bicker with you, but unless you have shot any of the guns that I do by hand, you may not know just how good of a job that we do. I am not saying that it will be as accurate of a job as done on a lathe, but they all shoot pretty dang straight. Even if I was using a lathe to do the job and had the dial indicator set up with the spider gears, I think it is foolish to just trust the gauges and not try the no-go gauge. Gauges are man made and as we all know, anything man made can and will be off from time to time. As you said, we are dealing with a few thousandths. If you don't believe that a gauge can be off a few thousandths, then why do they put the knobs on the calipers to readjust them back to zero. I guess the men that taught me how to do it hand were just pulling my leg cause I don't know much huh. The barrels I chamber are already short chambered. I only cut a few thousandths to finish the chamber. If I was cutting a full length chamber, I would of course use a lathe to predrill the chamber and then finish the job with the reamer. I am not saying that I could do the whole job by hand. Like I said earlier, a machinist isn't a gunsmith, and a gunsmith isn't always a machinist. There are hundreds of smiths that hand cut the finished chamber. Not all of us have a lathe that can do the job. I farm out anything that I cannot do with the tools that I have on hand. This one just isn't one of them unless you figure in to the fact that I use a short chambered barrel.

February 25, 2005, 10:22 AM
And exactly what is "pretty dang straight"?
While probably more than adequate for big game (or even smaller game at shorter ranges), I would not pay a single dollar for a bench or varmint rifle cut this way.
Like I said, high accuracy chambering requires a lath.
If your dial caliper needs re-zeroing, best to clean the measurement faces and check for burrs. The other cause is plain old worn out gear teeth (pinion is common). A jumped rack on a mechanical dial is cause for checking over the entire range against some gauge blocks.
If you have a critical measurement you check the measuring tool against against gauge blocks wrung to the required dimension before use.
How many folks check the go and no-go gauges before use? A real PITA for many cartridges since the reference dimension is often on a taper for modern rifle cartridges.
It is even possible to cut chambers without the action available if a square shoulder is used and a precision setup. And the guys doing this are still gunsmiths.
If you are going to cut by hand you need the no-go since yo have nearly zero control over depth. Good enough in careful hands to produce a chamber. Not anything that would be considered precision.

February 25, 2005, 04:40 PM
hmmmm...I see a challenge in the making......

alright, each of you build up a gun, shoot paper with a witness, and the winner gets the other's gun....yea...

someone else can work out the particulars.

All I know is that there has been alot of fine work done over the years by hand, as well as by machine, but it always come down to the skill of the hand/gunsmith in the end.

February 26, 2005, 02:13 AM
Sounds like a good idea. I know how good the rifles I build shoot. You wouldn't want anyone shooting at you with them for sure.

I am not trying to say that the lathe isn't the best way to cut a chamber. What I am saying is that cutting by hand isn't something that hasn't been done for years. The bore is concentric with the centerline of the barrel when finished as long as it was when drilled and prechambered. I do use a piloted reamer, and I do not use much force so I do keep the reamer straight. The reamer itself will aid in this. This isn't rocket science. The most I ever had to cut was around .010" on my barrels. They do still teach this at gunsmithing schools so I don't think I am wrong for doing it. Not all smiths have a lathe and anyone just starting out like the man who asked about this most likely won't either. It's actually kind of silly to be arguing over it. You said you wouldn't pay money for it, so the point is moot to you. You don't have to buy one from me. As far as the man that asked about it, he can read and see for himself that it's not something that cannot be done. The smith that taught me how to do it has been doing this for about 25 years and he sells rifles that he has built to folks that come back for other rifles as well. I asked him one day why he didn't use his lathe, his reply was that he just never had tooled up to do it since he liked doing it by hand. I never argued with his logic.

Folks have reamed holes for centuries using hand tools and done an admiral job. It's the same thing with using a hand drill to drill a hole to run a tap in. I always centerpunch the hole and I drill the hole small and then use a reamer to finish the hole and then use a tapping jig that keeps the tap perfectly straight. When man doesn't have the ability to keep his hand straight, he uses something to aid him like a bubble level in a drill. I do use a machine whenever possible to make sure of accuracy, this just isn't one of those times.

I shoot some targets for you this weekend and use a Mauser I built for my son for Christmas. I think you might agree that the old military Mauser isn't what a lot of folks would use for a precision rifle. I put a .308 barrel on it. I'll let it do the talking for me. I'll post them Sunday night for you to look at. Just tell what yardage you want up to 200yds.

Harry Bonar
February 26, 2005, 06:22 PM
Dear Shooter:
CNTRYBOY1289 is ABSOLUTELY cortrect. No less authority that James V. Howe of Springfield arsenal fame recommends this, "When you chamber a barrel a reamer will always follow a hole!" QUOTE! from The Modern Gunsmith.
As a matter of fact many set ups I've seen chambering in a lathe leave alot to be desired. No one knows how long CNTRYBOY1289 must work to get the chambers he gets - there is absolutely nothing wrtong with his chamberig.
I used to, before I got my 12x36 lathe use a little 6" Craftsmmmman lathe to fit Mauser barrels, letting the lathe turn the bbl., while I held a three-square file to shorten the shank and I never got one crooked!
Machine work wasn't used making muzzle-loaders either and Warner at 40 rods in practise shooting would "sign" the W of his last name on the bull! I have the reprodution of the target! Hand work is always superior to "machine work and much chambering in lathes is also alot of "hand" work.
CNTRYBOY1289 is absolutely correct!

February 27, 2005, 02:09 AM
I knew if anyone would believe what I have been saying it would be a man like you Mr. Bonar. It befuddles me sometimes when folks think you have to use a machine to do quality work everytime you do a job. As one of my instructors used to say all the time, " guns made these days by some of these fine machinist working at the factories these days ain't worth spit." He felt as I and a lot of other people do that the tolerances of some machines are way off compared to what a man used to do by his hands. I give you an example of what passes these days as quality handguns. A lot of parts for the Colt 45 ACP that are being sold these days are not up to specs of the original pistols. I want mention names, but there are several large retailer of parts that sell aftermarket slide stop pins that are sent out to you when you spend good money for the part, and right off the bat they are under the original specs. They are machined by fine craftsmen with fancy lathes and any of the other mills and so forth, and they are constanly cut too small. The slide stop actually falls in the hole with enough room to see daylight around the pin.

A good machinist will produce excellent parts whether for a gun or anything else. A good gunsmith can do the same thing by hand using nothing but a file, belt sander, drill, grinder or any tool necessary to do the same job. I believe it was a man in prison working with files that built one of the best military weapons we ever used. Anyone remember who he is and what gun he built? I guess I'll climb down off my soapbox, I spend way too much time on it anyway. Good shooting folks.

February 27, 2005, 03:13 PM
it was "carbine" williams(?)...in jail for murder....developed the m1 carbine...

February 27, 2005, 11:35 PM
You win the money Yekimac. He did most all of the work using files from the prison shop. Reckon how a man with nothing but time on his hands work with hand tools to develop such a gun using a fence post for a stock and steel he found laying around?

James K
February 28, 2005, 07:08 PM
I don't know what gunsmiths do nowadays, having been out of the business for a while, but if I was chambering an unchambered barrel, I would use a rougher, not a drill. A drill close to the dimensions of the chamber would help, but drills do not have pilots so getting them to track isn't always easy and it wouldn't take much error to mess up the chamber and then have to start over. (And barrels aren't $2.50 at the surplus store any more.) I would prefer to use the rougher then go in with the finisher. And yes, I did it by hand for the final cuts, though I did often start on the lathe before installing the barrel.

When the barrel is short chambered, of course, only the finisher is needed to get the headspace adjusted. And yes, I did use both a GO and a NO-GO gauge. There is no use starting off with some "guess and bygawd" gimmick to set headspace. Facing an irate customer (or a lawsuit) is not worth the cost of one gauge.


March 8, 2005, 11:20 AM
You asked about prices and the following may be helpful
E.R. Shaw - Barrel - contoured (choice of five contours) - threaded - short-chambered - $135.00 - installed and test-fired on your action - $60.00
Richards Microfit Stocks - Laminated Sporter - $109.00 - oversized (1/16th) inletted - $13.00
Zastava 98 Mauser action - $199.00 (GPC)

But the above prices are just the beginning. What you'll have is a barreled and headspaced action and an inletted stock, both of which you'll have to do the finishing work on. The action is already finished, blued, drilled and tapped - it's the barrel that will need to be polished and blued. Shaw provides that service also. The stock will be inletted for glass-bedding and the exterior will need to be shaped and final-finished.

Additional but recommended work will be truing the receiver face ($25.00) - lapping the locking lugs ($25.00) and truing the bolt face ($25.00) - not really necessary for a hunting rifle, but vital for a target or bench-rest rifle.

Mounts and rings are available from Brownells - prices vary wildly on this and of course, your choice of scope.

Add all these numbers up and you can see this is not a cheap proposition. Even more so if all of the work has to be paid for. Depending on your gunsmithing skills, the cost of finishing can be cut down or eliminated. If you're tooled up to do the machine work, then the cost can be cut even more.
Hope this helps and good luck

James K
March 8, 2005, 02:55 PM
I won't go into the whole list, but I can pretty well demonstrate that (unless you do the work yourself and don't count your time) to take an old military action and build a rifle the equivalent of an American factory sporting rifle will cost just as much or more than a Remington 700/Winchester 70/Ruger 77. A used sporting rifle will cost a lot less.

No one should get the idea of building a custom rifle to save money. You build a custom rifle to distribute chunks of your money through the American economy.


March 30, 2005, 09:52 PM
I could probably buy a couple of new remchesters for what I end up with turning an old Mauser into a decent sporter. Not near as much fun though!

Harry Bonar
May 14, 2005, 05:09 PM
Dear Shooter:
Listen to cntryboy 1289. Hand work was the originator of quality work. As I said, James V. Howe of Springfield arsenal (think I'm right on the arsenal) author of "The Modern Gunsmith" told of chambering and said, "A reamer will always follow a hole."
When building muzzle-loaders hand work is par-excellance" the art and fitting is splendid.
Where did schools originate? Generrally from one or more talented men who by their skill (not learned in a school) wanted to impart their knowledge to others!
Granted, chambering a bbl from a rifled blank all the way in is tough, but is is and can be done. I think cntryboy1289 is using "short chambered" barrels and that is the best practise to use - in a lathe you can get that reamer in too far too quick! I've done it! By hand for .010-.022 depth the hand method id the best.
Nor do you need an utterly mirror smooth cham,ber for you need that grip of the case on the walls to limit case head thrust on the bolt. We all learn (I do) by mistakes and we've ALL made them.
Good shooting and fiddling!
Harry b. :)

May 14, 2005, 09:31 PM
I am so glad to know that those of us that use lathes are wasting our time. Every bench rest gunsmith I have herd of chambers on a lathe. What a horrible waste of time. Yo9u should tell the folks over at Benchrest they are wasting there time doing it this way.

" When building muzzle-loaders hand work is par-excellance" [sic] the art and fitting is splendid. "

I have yet to see a 0.2 MOA muzzleloader.

I use a pilot and a holder 9floating) that lets the reamer follow the bore (not just 'a hole'). A chamber cut by hand is going to exhibit more run out and eccentricity than one cut using a lathe. I spent more than 25 years in aerospace design and engineering. Reaming holes by hand is about the lowest level of accuracy allowed, and is usually used for holes that will be taped since threads are more tolerant of eccentricity.

The floating holder for a reamer is intended to make up for the last few thousandths of error in the machinery. It still holds the reamer parallel to the bore.

But of course the benchrest smiths have no idea how to cut the best chamber possible…

May 14, 2005, 09:58 PM
Not to throw massage oil on this love fest, but we use a CNC lathe to chamber..we taper our own blanks too


May 15, 2005, 03:30 AM
I do use short chambered barrels most of the time and use a good many Shilen barrels and use my lathe to face off the barrel to headspace it. I have seen quite a few barrels chambered too deep with a lathe, like I said earlier, it just makes sense to check with a no-go gauge.

The original thread was about the cost of having a blank contoured and fitted, not about the benchrest gunsmiths and there quality versus a smith doing work by hand. I applaud you for your work if you have ever done any. You remarked that you would never spend a penny on a rifle built by hand. That is fine and dandy. I haven't been a machinist, but I have been smithing for several years now. Sir, I would suggest to you that just because a barrel is done on a lathe doesn't necessarily make it more accurate. I have seen many barrels done on lathes that were set up wrong to begin with and were cut off centerline with the bore. I would suggest that a lathe is only as accurate as the man who sets it up. The pilot on the chambering reamer will follow the bore and will provide accuracy as long as it was machined correctly. A reamer that is cut incorrectly will cut incorrectly whether it is used in a lathe or done by hand.

To put the matter to rest, let's just show what our rifles will do. You take any rifle you own that has been smithed by your benchrest smith and I will take one that I have built and we shoot them and post the results. Shoot it at 100 yds at a benchrest target and shoot all 25 targets and score them and post a pic of the target. I should have time this week to shoot and post mine. Good luck to you!

Harry Bonar
May 15, 2005, 04:09 PM
Dear Shooters:
Muzzle-loader accuracy; oh! yes! There has never been a modern rifle built that would equal the accuracy of a fine muzzle-loader!
At 220 yards Warner would, for practise, sign the W of his last name on the target - I have the target picture!
Cntryboy1289 is taking flack wrongly shooters. He is using "short chambered" barrels and this is a very correct practise on those barrels.
I ask; how many lathes have no run-out radially? How many of you have a lathe with a 3 or 4 jaw chuck with no axial or radial run-out - how many know how to test that. Headstocks on even fine lathes are not alweys aligned properly. Rare is a 3 jaw chuck, or a 4 jaw in alignment !
When you do this "short chambering" by hand you elimanate all run-out! A lathe uaually uses for chambering a "floating-head" reamer holder - even Douglas barrels uses a floating head reamer holder! Why? I'll tell you - because NO lathe is perfectly aligned unless done by a PROFESSIONAL ALIGNMENT TECHNICIAN!
Enough said.
Now, abnout muzzle-loader accuracy - I want to see ANY modern "tack driver bench rest abortion" sign their last name initial like Warner did! As the old gunsmith said, "there aint no such animule."
You measure your groups over a month - then average them - a rifle that will shoot a ragged hole at 100 meters may, over the course of that month open up to 1"! A five shot group proves nothing, but over a month of shooting every-day at the same range WILL prove what it actually do.
Do not despise hand-work; it is the finest!
Harry B. :)

June 20, 2005, 04:55 PM
In response to the request for info on barrel and action work, you might take a look at the information in John Hinnant's book on barrel and action work ... The Complete Illustrated Guide to Precision Rifle Barrel Fitting -Third Edition” by John L. Hinnant!

It is a very well informed look at the how-to of barrel and action work... well worth a look!

I know John personally, and he is a dedicated and experienced machinist with many years experience in his craft! His book is excellent in my view! :)

For those interested .. here is the link... good luck