View Full Version : Should I get my headspace checked?

June 6, 2010, 05:33 AM
I had my Savage 30-06 at a gunsmith to get the re-crowned and just got it back a few days ago after he had it for 3 months. I was just looking at it and it the barrel isn't indexed in the same position as it was before. I can tell because it the barrel used to have sights on it that I removed and put fill plugs in the holes. If you are looking at the barrel from the butt end towards the muzzle, the plug is slightly to the right of where it used to be. I'd say it is to the right about the width of the plug, so I'm not sure exactly how many degrees that would be. I also just noticed that there is now a slight gap between the recoil lug and the receiver that I've never noticed before.

What should I do? I'm not sure I want to take it back to the same guy that is 90 miles from here as a simple project that he said would be 2-3 weeks took three months to get done and now I seem to be having a problem with how he put the rifle back together. I do have a gunsmith that is local, but he messed up a set of sights on me last year, so I'm not really sure I trust his work either. I suppose that he could at least check the headspace.

June 6, 2010, 09:14 AM
Certainly wouldnt hurt.

I'm sure if the smith removed the barrel and replaced it, for what ever reason he would have checked the Headspace.

But.......like I said, checking it certainly wouldnt hurt anything, it would make you feel better.

Shooting in 90% mental anyway, any worries you can remove can't to anything but help.

Jim Watson
June 6, 2010, 09:41 AM
If the screws are offset to the shooter's right, then the barrel is not screwed in as far as it was at the factory. A gap between recoil lug and barrel is not a good sign. Headspace is set in the Savage by screwing the barrel in until it touches a Go headspace gauge, then tightening the nut. The nut wrench and a Go gauge would not be a big expense if you wanted to try it yourself, although you would have to have or improvise a barrel vise.

Procedure is illustrated at:

June 6, 2010, 02:31 PM
I would take the trip and have a talk with the "gunsmith" you used. The barrel is not tightened, or there would not be a gap between the recoil lug and the receiver, and the headspace is not as tight as it was previously, as witnessed by the plug screws. You might try explaining the fact that the barrel is not tight and the dire consequences of that condition if you should decide to actually fire the rifle, or you might try explaining "righty tighty, lefty loosey" to him, or you might try explaining that your lawyer can beat up his lawyer, or whatever you choose to do to get the point across. But he needs to make it right.

James K
June 6, 2010, 02:31 PM
I don't think a couple of degrees out would cause a headspace problem, but it would be enough to look funny and make the sights look offset. I am pretty sure the gunsmith removed the barrel to crown it* and probably did install it using a GO gauge as Jim Watson says, but either he didn't tighten it up enough or his gage doesn't quite match the factory gauge.

It is not a hard DIY job; I would probably just loosen the nut and turn the barrel in a tad without bothering with the GO gauge.

*A good reason to spring for a lathe with a hollow headstock.


June 6, 2010, 05:36 PM
After I posted this I was thinking about it and looked up how much a set of headpace gauges is and I think I'm going to order them and check the headspace myself. I'll order a nut wrench too. I have actually wanted to order a new barrel for a while, so they would more than likely be able to be used in the future.

I'm definitely going to be calling the gunsmith Monday afternoon to have a chat with him. The guy came very highly recommended, so I didn't figure I'd have a problem when I took it to him. He's very busy and his shop has a ton of rifles sitting there, waiting to be worked on. A few weeks ago I became a little leary tho. I'm a mod on a regional website and someone had came on there, going off about how the same gunsmith put a muzzle break on for him and had it installed crooked and wouldn't admit that it was crooked and that he wouldn't fix it. I guess I'll just have to see what he says. Is it possible that maybe he didn't take apart the bolt like you are supposed to when you are setting headpace and the gauge wasn't fully seated against the head of the bolt? I would think that could make a difference like this, but that wouldn't explain the gap between the receiver and the recoil lug.

If I do this myself, I'm thinking that maybe I should put a better recoil lug on while I'm at it and have it apart. From what I've read, the stamped steel ones that come factory from Savage aren't very concentric.

Jim Watson
June 6, 2010, 05:59 PM
You don't really need a set of headspace gauges.
Turn the barrel down against a Go gauge and tighten the nut. Shoot.
I have read that torquing the nut adds about .0015" to the headspace but since the Go is at the minimum spec, that is not bad.

James K
June 6, 2010, 07:14 PM
A lot of gunsmiths don't want to crank that barrel down against a GO gauge because they are afraid of damaging the gauge. One way to avoid a problem when it is necessary to remove and reinstall a barrel is to stamp witness marks on the bottom of the barrel and receiver before removing the barrel, then lining them up on re-installation. It is a lot more accurate than eyeballing the sights or even using a headspace gauge.


June 7, 2010, 03:06 AM
I agree with the above, but am more worried about putting a ring in the chamber with the gauge.

Jim Watson
June 7, 2010, 08:22 AM
Lot of discussion on the Savage board. There are people changing out barrels every weekend. Some use gauges, some use brass fireformed in that chamber, some use witness marks.

June 7, 2010, 02:48 PM
If your recoil lug is not tight against the receiver , then your barrel is not tight ! I think maybe your "gunsmith" left your job half done ! not to mention the indexing issue . It should have been put back where it was .

June 9, 2010, 04:42 PM
I called the gunsmith yesterday and he said if I bring it in he will take a look at it. I'll be taking it there on Friday and will post what the outcome is.

June 12, 2010, 06:26 PM
Well I took the rifle to the guy to look at and thats about all he did and all he wanted to do. He pulled the stock and showed me a couple witness marks that he had made and said they were "pretty close". His witness marks made no sense to me tho. There was one on the barrel nut and one on the barrel. With using witness marks like that he coulda turned the barrel out even farther and made the marks match. I asked him if he would check the headspace neways and he just told me that it was fine. As far as the space between the receiver and the recoil lug he said it was because it was a stamped lug. The lug actually touches at the bottom of the receiver and doesn't towards the top.

He pretty much seemed like he had gotten my money and didn't want to help anymore. Instead of sitting there and arguing with him I just took my rifle and left. I guess future business and probably some referrals don't matter to him. I definitely won't be going back to him or sending anyone to him either. I'm just going to order the stuff I need to make sure everything is right and do it myself.

June 12, 2010, 08:06 PM
I wouldn't dream of treating someone that way , I'm not satisfied until my customer is happy ! That must be why the same people keep coming back and bringing someone new now and then . If you're a Savage man , buy or build the wrench and do a little studying and change your own barrels , they are a piece of cake . Close heh !

June 12, 2010, 08:12 PM
One flaw in the Savage is that those recoil lugs have been known to sometimes take a bend. Usually it is only when firing magnum rounds, but it can happen. You can get a nice beefy one to install that's flat. Wrenches and those flat, strong lugs both are available from Sharp Shooter Supply (http://www.sharpshootersupply.com/), and outfit that specializes in Savages. I think the lugs are only in stainless, but you could send it out to be blued if your gun is not.

Putting the witness marks on the barrel and nut is fine if there was also a second set between the nut and receiver. Without that, the barrel could be anywhere. Setting up your barrel wouldn't require a gauge because the front sight plug will get it back where it belongs, as long as you get within a turn of the correct position. Then a fired case that was fired in that particular chamber will get you close enough to start look at that plug's position. You may need to unscrew it and put in a long screw with the same threads to get an upright to line up with a plumb line or a laser level's line.

James K
June 12, 2010, 09:26 PM
The witness marks go on the barrel and receiver. It doesn't matter where the barrel nut ends up just so it's tight. You have to make sure the barrel isn't a full thread out, but anyone who can't do that shouldn't be working on guns.