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Old April 1, 2014, 02:26 PM   #1
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You want to be a real boy (Hamilton restoration)

So you want to be a “Real Boy”?? That was the ad campaign and selling feature over 100 years ago for this unique firearm.

In 1882 Clarence Hamilton, along with other investors, started the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company. Along with a friend, he started producing an all-metal rifle to be given as a bonus to those purchasing an iron windmill. By 1895, more rifles were being produced than windmills. From 1898 to 1945, the Hamilton Rifle Company of Plymouth MI produced the model 27 and 027 These guns were often given as prizes to young entrepreneurs that sold salve, or seeds and was heavily marketed in the back pages of comic books of the time. This was known as a bicycle gun or boys gun.

Retail Company’s who sold products such as magazines, costume Jewelry, etc. door to door would use the Hamilton rifle as a promotion, offering a free rifle to those who made their quota. Feed Companies promoting their products would randomly place a rifle in feed sacks. If you where lucky enough to buy the right sack of feed, you got a free Hamilton rifle hidden indide (kind of like Crackerjacks with the toy premiun inside). They were the happy meal toy of the time and was a brilliant marketing scheme to get these guns into the hands of as many young boys as possible (My how times have changed. Can you imagine a company offering this premium today??) About a half million of these guns were made.

This Hamilton model was made in 2 versions (model 27 and 027) They were the same except the 027 featured real walnut and a sheetmetal butt plate on the stock The difference in price was .25 cents. Here are some ads from the past.

This particular Hamilton model 027 belongs to a co-worker. It was an attic discovery in his Grandfather’s house after the passing of his grandmother. My plan is to fix what needs fixing (and a lot needs fixing), make what is missing and restore the gun for him. There is not a lot of info available on the web in terms of the firearms internals to help me and I cant find a schematic so I will take lots of pics as I disassemble.
On thing of note about this gun. It made up almost entirely of sheetmetal and the barrel is brass. Not something you would think of when making a rifle but again this was essentially equivalent to a happy meal prize. If they sold them for a $1.50, you can imagine how much they cost to make (perhaps .20 or .30 cents). The parts were cookie cutter stamped and formed and assembled with pins, screws and rivets (no welding) and there are only a few machined parts.

Clearly they took pride in their name and the guns info. They used up the whole receiver with the stamping.

As you can see, this is a tiny little gun when compared to a regular sized shotgun of the same period. The large thumbscrew allowed for fast disassembly down to 2 easy to pack pieces you could carry on your bicycle to plink squirrels.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:27 PM   #2
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If you know anything about rifles you might think this gun is not legal due to its overall size and barrel length but the BATF has exempted this antique as a curio or relic so its short length does not make it illegal to own or use.

Currently this firearm is not in usable condition. It has several issues that need to be corrected if its ever to be fired and shooting this old 22 with his son is the goal of the owner.

First off I cant fit a 22 caliber bullet in the breech. Something is preventing insertion. Even with the extractor moved out of the way, a shell wont go in. I removed the lead and powder from a round and still could not insert it beyond what you see in the picture.

The extractor (when closed) will not allow a shell to be inserted at all. It misformed/bent.

Even if the first two problems are corrected, the firing pin is badly bent and needs attention.

If I correct all the mechanical issues the firearm won’t be able to be accurately fired as its missing the rear sight. I will need to make one since buying one is not an option.

While this is mostly cosmetic, this is the wrong screw. The original had a much shorter screw that did not go through both layers of steel. The hole in the outside was for access for the screwdriver, not the screw. At least this will be an easy fix.

There are several issues related to the wood in terms of cracks, lots of black oil staining, slopped out holes and general ill fitting but again the gun was a very cheaply made product and is over 100 years old.

To top it all off, this guns barrel is lined with a brass tube. I don’t know how many shots these guns could take before the barrel gave out and the rifling disappeared. It was easier (and cheaper) to rifle a brass tube than hard steel so they rifled the brass liner and fit it inside a steel pipe/tube and then wrapped a piece of sheetmetal around it all and blued the sheetmetal.The bore on this gun is very very fouled (which is why I cant load a shell) The old school powder and the brass tube didnt mixt well. It will take a lot of cleaning to see if there is any rifling left in the barrel.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:28 PM   #3
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While this is the smallest firearm I have rehabbed (and the fewest parts) its represents some real challenges if its ever going to be fired again and if it is fired again I will strongly suggest that only CB or sub-sonic ammo be the only thing fired and always in conjunction with eye protection.

Like all the firearms I rehab, I start with the wood since there is such a lag time in drying the finish. The only thing holding the foregrip to the firearms is a tiny steel pin. Over time, that hole gets larger and larger until the owner drills it out and runs a bolt and nut through the whole thing. This one was spared that but the hole in the wood is so loose that I could get the pin to fall out by shaking the firearm. How it remained together is a mystery.

I cant put wood back in the hole so I will go up a size in pin but only just enough to make it tight again. Sadly, I don’t have pin material (music wire) in the needed size but I do have hardened steel in just the right diameter but first I have to use it to drill out the wood. Then I used my Dremmle to cut the back of the drill bit off to convert it into the exact size pin I need.

I epoxied the crack running lengthwise from the nose to the middle of the grip and then addressed the oil staining in the wood. Dirty hands and gun oil really darkened this piece of wood. In order to draw out the oil staining and soften that old school shellac I soaked the wood in acetone. As soon as it hit the acetone it started leeching out and turning the clear liquid dark. Sadly some of the stains followed the grain so deep there is no way to get all of the stains out and the piece is so small there is no margin for sanding. There is also a chip/nick in the wood that cant be sanded away

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:30 PM   #4
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I was able to get rid of nearly all the stains but some remain that run all the way through the small piece of wood.

After viewing a lot of 100 year old guns it appears that most have wood that even though is walnut has a reddish hue to it. I don’t know if that was how it looked over 100 years ago or if that is how the shellac aged but I want to restore that reddish color so Im mixing red and brown stain together as the acetone bleached out some of the color in the wood while removing the stains.

The end result is a real improvement. Once the stain has a day to dry I can apply the spar urethane.

The butt stock was not so stained but it does have some issues such as cracks and slopped out holes where the mounting hardware goes. I made the repairs and sanded off the old finish.

Then stained it.

Both pieces of wood will be protected with several coats of Hellsman spar urethane in gloss. (it is a boys gun after all. Gloss seems like the logical choice)

With the wood in progress its time to turn to the metal parts. That means cleaning and rust/blue removal and lots of naval jelly.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:31 PM   #5
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Step one complete. This was a roughly made gun 100 years ago so it would not have been highly polished so I will not go beyond steel wool to shine up the metal.

I also repaired the bent firing pin. I suspect it got bent from trying to close the action while a shell was still protruding. There is no spring in the action to force the firing pin to back out.

I also got the bore clean and 22 cartridges now fit (including long rifle even though LR wont be used in this gun). It was just so fouled and dirty that a shell would not fit. Lots of solvent and elbow grease revealed there is still rifling left in the brass barrel liner.

The last major hurdle is addressing the missing rear sight. I want the sight I make to be as close as possible to the original sight for this model. Web searches provided enough pictures to show me what I need to make. I was able to scale the images to come up with the sizes from web images like these.

I used all the web images to help me make the replica sight drawing (including material thickness).

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:32 PM   #6
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The back of the sight (nearest the sight notch) has a clearance hole for a screw. The problem is the gun is tapped 8-36 (fine thread) 8-32 (course thread) is pretty common but 8-36 is not easily available. I exhausted every local avenue trying to find a store that would carry an 8-36 screw. Online sources (and there are not many) want me to buy a min of 100 pieces.

The small hole at the front of the sight is a pivot. The original sight had a dimple stamped into the metal and that dimple fit in the hole to allow the sight to be adjusted at the rear but keeps the sight from spinning all the way around. I don’t have the tools to create the dimple but I need a pin or detent to serve the same purpose. I will drill and tap the sight 4-40 and cut off a screw to act as the pivot.

The semi-completed sight before bending.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:33 PM   #7
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Then blued.

The 4-40 pivot is then treaded in place with epoxy to keep it where I want it.

Now all the metal parts need a final cleaning and bluing.
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Old April 1, 2014, 02:34 PM   #8
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The receiver is the first part blued and buffed with 0000 steel wool.

Then the lettering is filled with white nail polish.

After drying its wiped down with non-acetone nail polish remover.

All the rest of the metal is blued several times, buffed and then sprayed down with Birchwood Casey Barricade rust preventor.

The barrel is the last part to be blued.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:35 PM   #9
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Then the replica sight is attached to the barrel. I was able to locate a 8-36 fine thread screw buy purchasing a set of scope mount bases that use that screw size.

Now the metal parts can be reassembled back into a gun.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:36 PM   #10
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I need to test fire a primer to see if the old gun will work so I removed the lead and poured out the powder from a round to see if the repaired firing pin would work.

It works.

Here is a video of the primer test firing. If you are expecting a bang from a rimfire primer discharge you are going to be disappointed. The hammer smack is louder than the primer .

Attaching the finished stock pieces is the next step
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Old April 1, 2014, 02:37 PM   #11
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The Hamilton Boys rifle restoration is complete.

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Old April 1, 2014, 02:38 PM   #12
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Despite the 15 F degree temp this morning I went out and test fired it. Here is a short video.
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Old April 1, 2014, 02:51 PM   #13
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That is just flat a * * awesome!

Must have been a ton of work but it looks like it was worth it.

Damn great job, I love when people restore old guns!

You sir are a gentleman and scholar
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Old April 1, 2014, 04:08 PM   #14
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Very nice... I have a long term project of doing similar to a pair of Stevens Crackshots... all the mechanical work is done on mine, including new barrel liners, as I want them to shoot similarly, for friendly old man galley competition ... wood will be later... I've got them both shooting now
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Old April 1, 2014, 04:47 PM   #15
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I was at the Santa Barbara Historic Arms Show a few months ago and there was a guy with a display booth that was ALL Boys Rifles, probably 50 to 100 rifles on display, you would have loved it. Wish I had the guy's name for you but I didn't catch it.

What a beautiful restoration you have done on this rifle, congratulations!
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Old April 1, 2014, 05:07 PM   #16
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FYI, Numrich has some parts for the Hamilton 27.
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Old April 2, 2014, 08:31 AM   #17
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A number of years ago, I had a collection of "kid's rifles" - 22s - Strevens, etc. I found one of these at a gun show minus the butt stock. I made a new one out of beech (which the fore stock was made from on mine) - someone sent me a tracing of the butt stock profile. I sold my collection a few years ago but I was always fascinated by the Hamilton. A great pice of history for sure and a neat little curiosity.

Tanks for the great post! You did a wonderful job on it and I'm sure had lots of fun along the way! Really enjoyed reading it and all the nice photos!
If a pair of '51 Navies were good enough for Billy Hickok, then a single Navy on my right hip is good enough for me . . . besides . . . I'm probably only half as good as he was anyways. Hiram's Rangers Badge #63
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Old April 2, 2014, 12:36 PM   #18
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Awesome great job on it
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Old April 3, 2014, 11:53 AM   #19
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Outstanding job!
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Old April 3, 2014, 01:29 PM   #20
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Great work.
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Old April 3, 2014, 01:35 PM   #21
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That's fantastic, very well done.
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Old April 5, 2014, 01:15 PM   #22
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I picked one up years back, but it was a bolt action. I bought it at a flea market and thought it was a BB gun at first glance. It would be wise to use CB caps only. I don't know what yours has stamped on it, but mine said ".22 Short only". Maybe why you had problems inserting a .22? The barrels were brass, but not solid bar stock. It is an insert of rolled sheet brass stuck inside a steel tube. I believe they rolled the sheet around a mandrel and pressed it at the same time because mine was rifled. It may have been designed for black powder, so be careful. Nice job on the restore.
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Old April 5, 2014, 02:26 PM   #23
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I figure the brass barrel insert was thought likelier to hold up to corrosive priming than steel. Black powder is dirty but its heavy fouling dilutes the potassium chloride. I have read that there was no way to keep a .22 from rusting out when shot with corrosive priming and smokeless powder, other than by wet cleaning at the range. Otherwise it would be rusty by the time you got it home.

Neat work.
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Old April 15, 2014, 11:27 AM   #24
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Nice job. Great to see a piece of Americana rediscovered and brought back to its beauty the way it should be.I love the old sale flyers.
Im going to go out on a limb and make you an offer for double the original price.
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Old April 17, 2014, 12:15 AM   #25
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Lemme pile on....

What a great job.

I Learned a heck of a lot of outstanding techniques.

Just great!

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