The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Hide > The Art of the Rifle: General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old April 16, 2021, 10:10 PM   #1
adn258
Member
 
Join Date: May 12, 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 97
Why Can Some Rifle Barrels Be Changed Out Easily While Others Can't?

So this might sound like a newbie question, but I've mostly had AR/AK style rifles my while life. I've just now got into longer range shooting. I've swapped out AR15 barrels EASILY before.

Rifles, for example the Ruger Long Range Precision Rifles require special tools etc. or the gun can blow up in your face I've heard if the barrel isn't replaced correctly etc.

There are other longer range rifles though like the Thompson Center Dimension Rifle have some sort of modular system where barrel exchanges can be done without special tools or a gunsmith.

Why are some barrel replacements hard and almost require a gunsmith, while others are not hard to swap at all?

As always, you guys are the best! Hopefully I don't sound too ignorant of the idiosyncrasies of this here? I know that on precision rifles you need to use no-go and go gauges to check for heads pacing issues.

Why is this an issue with some rifles?

Last edited by adn258; April 17, 2021 at 12:22 AM.
adn258 is offline  
Old April 17, 2021, 01:15 PM   #2
Shadow9mm
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 21, 2012
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 1,573
Swapping an AR barrel requires special tools... SHM
receiver vise
armorers/barrel wrench
torque wrench
pin punch and bench block depending on your front sight
headspace gauges. Most people don't. but you should have it checked at the very least.

Just because the tools for AR's are reasonably common and easy to obtain does not mean they are not specialized.

As far as AK's, last I checked they were press fit.... isn't that a special tool?

The problem with a easy to change barrel systems it making it repeatable, accurate, and consistent, all while trying to put it in a reasonable form/size factor, and make it affordable.

Its just the way you are looking at it. Replacing a barrel is to some degree a gunsmithing job and thus, generally requires some specialized tools, it goes with the territory. Unless you want to spend the big bucks to get the platforms that are designed for the user to be able to swap barrels and calibers easily.

If you look into the long range and precision shooting stuff. Lots of them are shooting complete custom guns, custom action, custom barrel. Most of them have gunsmiths that ream the chamber to their exact specs, and fit the barrel to their receiver.

If your getting into longer range shooting you will be getting into hand loading. I would focus on getting your hand loads dialed in and see how far you can push your given rifle. Once you have gotten to the limits of your what your gun can do, then look at having a better barrel fitted.
__________________
I don't believe in "range fodder" that is why I reload.

Last edited by Shadow9mm; April 17, 2021 at 01:31 PM.
Shadow9mm is offline  
Old April 17, 2021, 04:24 PM   #3
Jim Watson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 16,932
Quote:
Why are some barrel replacements hard and almost require a gunsmith, while others are not hard to swap at all?
Because that is the way they are designed.
There are a lot of legacy design actions from when the factory barrel was expected to last a lifetime for the hunter or soldier and turning a target rifle over to a gunsmith for barrel replacement was accepted as routine.

I doubt the Savage Nut was meant for easy barrel change by the user, it is a simple system for factory assembly.
Jim Watson is offline  
Old April 17, 2021, 05:42 PM   #4
adn258
Member
 
Join Date: May 12, 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 97
Fair points guys. I also should/need to get myself some no go and go gauges for a lot of the rifles I own.
__________________
Living life in, "The Last Best Place": Montana
adn258 is offline  
Old April 17, 2021, 06:40 PM   #5
KEYBEAR
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 11, 2012
Location: Indiana
Posts: 1,038
For an out of the box Rifle hard to beat the Savage . Not close to top of the line but a good starter and you can learn a lot .
KEYBEAR is offline  
Old April 17, 2021, 07:14 PM   #6
Shadow9mm
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 21, 2012
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 1,573
Quote:
Originally Posted by adn258 View Post
Fair points guys. I also should/need to get myself some no go and go gauges for a lot of the rifles I own.
go/no-go gauges are pricey. I figure factory guns should be set up properly. I would only buy a set if you are changing a barrel on a gun to make sure it is set correctly since you are doing it yourself. Factories generally check after assembly.
__________________
I don't believe in "range fodder" that is why I reload.
Shadow9mm is offline  
Old April 18, 2021, 01:37 PM   #7
adn258
Member
 
Join Date: May 12, 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 97
Shadow9mm. As always, you make excellent, logical, and valid points that are very helpful. I always appreciate your help and advice so I just wanted to thank you.
__________________
Living life in, "The Last Best Place": Montana
adn258 is offline  
Old April 18, 2021, 07:27 PM   #8
Txhillbilly
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 5, 2008
Posts: 483
There really aren't any rifles that are hard to swap barrels on if you have the knowledge and tools to do it.
I swap out barrel's pretty often on my precision rifle's with either Pre-fit barrel's or take a barrel blank with my action specs to my local machinist for a shouldered barrel. Chamber Reamer's can be rented pretty cheap.
Txhillbilly is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 05:50 AM   #9
stagpanther
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 2, 2014
Posts: 8,632
Quote:
There really aren't any rifles that are hard to swap barrels on if you have the knowledge and tools to do it.
Got a chuckle out of this. Ever changed out an old Howa or Vanguard?
__________________
If you’re ever hiking in the woods and you get lost, just look up and find the brightest star in the sky and you’ll know which way space is.
I am NOT an expert--I do not have any formal experience or certification in firearms use or testing; use any information I post at your own risk!
stagpanther is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 07:42 AM   #10
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 5,447
Hmmm....You are going to find my response weird, I’ll bet.

Most barrels are “hard” to change because there is post barrel install processing.....for example, Savage has a reputation for something getting in the threads and gumming up like it is red locktite or something!

To me, easy is something like a Remington....I can take that barrel on/off all day long and have the same headspace when done. Switching barrels requires a second barrel cut to the action. When doing that, people often recut the action to true it making the old barrel no good due to changed headspace or barrel threads. Barrels done after truing should be interchangeable. Install with reasonable torque to make it easy and damage free.

To make that easier, just start with a custom action that is true to begin with.

Savage gets a reputation for being easy. Just remove the old, reinstall or replace. Well that is because you the gunsmith are setting the headspacing. Try to remove and reinstall with same exact headspacing....it is a feat of chance! Unless you index mark. It is actually the hardest and puts the most responsibility on the person doing the assembly.

AR15’s are easy enough, but you should check headspacing. I needed a bolt replacement one time to make it work.

Whenever a barrel is changed, go/no go gages should be used. Go gage only and tape can work, but is more risky.

You want easy, check out the West Texas Ordnance Switch Lug! Minutes!
Nathan is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 10:16 AM   #11
Bart B.
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 8,492
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan View Post
Switching barrels requires a second barrel cut to the action. When doing that, people often recut the action to true it making the old barrel no good due to changed headspace or barrel threads. Barrels done after truing should be interchangeable.
National champions have trued up Winchester 70 receivers once then rebarreled them 2 or 3 times a year across decades of shooting.
Bart B. is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 11:30 AM   #12
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 5,447
Yep. Really the same for any action that gets tru’d.
Nathan is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 01:05 PM   #13
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 23,375
Quote:
Why are some barrel replacements hard and almost require a gunsmith, while others are not hard to swap at all?
The answer is simple and obvious, because they were designed that way.

Most were designed before the modern era of "plug and play".

Believe it or not, there was a time when gun designers and gun manufacturers didn't want every 5 thumbed ape with a bench vice and a pipe wrench swapping out gun barrels. And, they had good reasons, beyond their own bottom line.

Quote:
I know that on precision rifles you need to use no-go and go gauges to check for heads pacing issues.

Why is this an issue with some rifles?
This is an issue with EVERY RIFLE!!!

Not just "some". EVERY SINGLE ONE!!! Even when the barrel maker says its not, it still is something that should be checked. For the safety of everyone who will use the rifle.

Consider this, the barrel maker may sell you a barrel that is "fully chambered" meaning they don't expect you to need to do any finish work (reaming) on the chamber. BUT, they do not have your action to check, and they have no control over what you do installing the barrel.

You MAY get lucky, and tolerances will be within safe range, but you cannot know, unless you check. Even the Army uses gauges to check the M16 headspace after a barrel change.

Changing a barrel, and doing it right, in a non-modular designed firearm is not a task for unskilled or semi skilled labor. There are even some guns where no one but the factory is set up to do the work.

Remember that you are dealing with a mechanism that must contain a 50,000psi+ explosion rather close to your face!
This is not something where its a good idea to cheap out, or where you want someone doing it that does not fully understand all the details involved, or cannot do the needed work correctly.
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 04:37 PM   #14
Brian Pfleuger
Moderator Emeritus
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Austin, CO
Posts: 19,492
Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
Remember that you are dealing with a mechanism that must contain a 50,000psi+ explosion rather close to your face!
This is not something where its a good idea to cheap out, or where you want someone doing it that does not fully understand all the details involved, or cannot do the needed work correctly.
Doubtless true, but also not rocket science in many (most?) cases...
Go/No-Go gauges can be rented for less than $10 and swapping the barrel on a Savage (and similar action including the "Remage" hybrid) takes literally 5 minutes.

I think that, like reloading, a lot of people stay away from it because of the "mystique", or perceived difficulty, more than actual complications.

I think there are two categories... those that are really not that big of a deal, all you need is a "5 thumbed ape with a bench vice and a pipe wrench" and then there are the "impossible" ones, such as an unmodified Remington that simply cannot be done correctly without specialized tools.
__________________
Nobody plans to screw up their lives...
...they just don't plan not to.
-Andy Stanley
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 05:05 PM   #15
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 5,447
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Pfleuger
such as an unmodified Remington that simply cannot be done correctly without specialized tools.
I wonder how Remington does it. I assume they make their action as best they can to a nominal tolerance. Chambering seems like a smaller tolerance operation, so I would suppose the make plus, nominal and minus barrels....then fit them up on a fitting line?? or do they make several lug sizes....lugs would make more sense.

I wonder how Tikka does it? Is it raw machining capability, or some other fitting secret.....

I think as a volume manufacturer, you could achieve interchangeable barrels by assembling actions, measuring bolt face to action face, then final cutting the action face so they all have the same bolt face to action face length.
Nathan is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 05:37 PM   #16
Bart B.
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 8,492
Some years ago I asked Remington and Winchester how they installed chambered barrels to headspace correctly. Both said they used the arsenal method with Garands

Each barreled action was headspace gauged with different bolts then used the bolt that closed on the GO but not on the NO GO. Then the bolt was marked with the receiver serial number.
Bart B. is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 06:28 PM   #17
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 23,375
There are several different methods to install and correctly headspace barrels, dependent on the design of the rifle. Rifles that have multiple bolts (or bolt heads) available. Some guns get the barrel installed and any needed headspace adjustments are done by swapping out bolts until it passes the gauge check. SMLE .303 British rifles had several difference "size" bolt heads in their field armorer's kit, so they could correct headspace by swapping out bolt heads.

We do the same with the M16 at Army direct support level maint. When we replaced the barrel, we would reinstall the original bolt carrier group and check with the gauges. If it passed, it went out the door back to the user unit. If it didn't, we changed the bolt with one from our shop stock, and repeated the process until the rifle passed the gauge check. Something similar was done with the M1s and others.

Now, civilian bolt actions (or other designs) do not lend themselves to this, simply because multiple replacement bolts are rarely available.

One method used for rebarrelling Mausers, Remingtons and other such rifles is that the newly installed barrel is "short chambered". This means that the barrel does not have the chamber cut to full correct depth. Intentionally.

The short chambered barrel is installed on the action, and then the gunsmith finish cuts the chamber to its final correct depth based off the existing bolt face. This is what "finish reamers" are for. And its why, for these kinds of rifles, a skilled professional with the right machine tools and the skill to use them is the way to go.

Other rifles, don't have the barrel screwed into the action, it slips in and is held in by a retaining nut ( the AR system in principle) which screws onto the action and traps the barrel in place.

There are other guns where the barrel is press fitted into the action using a powerful hydraulic press and removal and installation of those barrels is a job for the factory, where such tools are available.

SO, it all depends on what the design is, and allows for.
I can, and have done it all on ARs, I can do everything BUT the barrel on most other guns, because I don't have the right tools which might include a lathe and the skill to use it.

I've built numerous sporters on Mauser actions, from .22-250 to .458 Win Mag, but I had the machine work needed done by a professional. Cheaper for me, and worth every penny I paid.
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 08:56 PM   #18
stagpanther
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 2, 2014
Posts: 8,632
Quote:
Other rifles, like the Savage 110 series don't have the barrel screwed into the action, it slips in and is held in by a retaining nut
__________________
If you’re ever hiking in the woods and you get lost, just look up and find the brightest star in the sky and you’ll know which way space is.
I am NOT an expert--I do not have any formal experience or certification in firearms use or testing; use any information I post at your own risk!
stagpanther is offline  
Old April 19, 2021, 09:52 PM   #19
Bart B.
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 8,492
stagpanther and 44AMP,

Here's a diagram of all the Savage 110 parts. Part numbers 52 and 53 are the ones used and both appear to be threaded.

https://www.google.com/search?q=sava...StsVikDLq2e1_M

Last edited by Bart B.; April 19, 2021 at 10:58 PM.
Bart B. is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 12:17 AM   #20
Geezerbiker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 20, 2011
Location: Willamina, OR
Posts: 1,639
Anyone here have any experience with the Remington that used a barrel nut like Savage does?

I can't say I'm thrilled with the bolt set up on the Savage not that there's anything wrong with it, I just think it's weird... If some one were to make a very Mauser like rifle that had user changeable barrels like the Savage system, I think it would be a hit. Like if FN decided to start using barrel nuts on the Model 70 Winchester...

Tony
Geezerbiker is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 06:05 AM   #21
stagpanther
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 2, 2014
Posts: 8,632
Quote:
Here's a diagram of all the Savage 110 parts. Part numbers 52 and 53 are the ones used and both appear to be threaded.
I've done dozens of 110 barrel changes--never encountered one that did not have a threaded tenon for screwing into the receiver. Must have been referring to an AR I guess.

Quote:
I can't say I'm thrilled with the bolt set up on the Savage not that there's anything wrong with it, I just think it's weird... If some one were to make a very Mauser like rifle that had user changeable barrels like the Savage system, I think it would be a hit. Like if FN decided to start using barrel nuts on the Model 70 Winchester...
The idea behind the free-floating bolt head is to minimize the necessity for blueprint truing. Like the barrel, it's pretty easy to swap out when changing cartridge head size. I totally agree about the Model 70 set-up would be nice if an end user could easily swap barrels. The bolts would have to match the barrel and set headspace at the same time, that's the tricky part. And there's getting the original off, which is generally the hardest part in rifles with no barrel nut or a nut that does not have a good surface for tool leverage.

Savage recently changed over to a small firing pin in their LA bolts which generally is a good idea IMO, but they also changed to a more complex internal system for adjusting the firing pin spring tension. In principal a good thing, too, but in the process they introduced a couple of components which are pretty weak IMO, the lock rings for the collar for example. One of those goes down and your rifle's day of shooting may be over.
__________________
If you’re ever hiking in the woods and you get lost, just look up and find the brightest star in the sky and you’ll know which way space is.
I am NOT an expert--I do not have any formal experience or certification in firearms use or testing; use any information I post at your own risk!

Last edited by stagpanther; April 20, 2021 at 06:37 AM.
stagpanther is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 09:00 AM   #22
Jim Watson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 16,932
Quote:
The short chambered barrel is installed on the action, and then the gunsmith finish cuts the chamber to its final correct depth based off the existing bolt face. This is what "finish reamers" are for.
My gunsmith, who was active in the Golden Days (pre-GCA68) did a lot of barrel changes.
He points out that the "modern" short chambered replacement barrel requires a finish reamer and headspace gauges.
In his day, barrels were chambered to maximum depth or a bit long because any serious gunsmith was going to have a lathe he could face the breech off with. No expensive reamer required, just headspace gauges. Not to mention the numerous barrels chambered with only a factory load for reference.
Jim Watson is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 11:50 AM   #23
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 23,375
Apologies for my error about the Savage 110. I have removed the incorrect information.

Quote:
My gunsmith, who was active in the Golden Days (pre-GCA68) did a lot of barrel changes.
He points out that the "modern" short chambered replacement barrel requires a finish reamer and headspace gauges.
In his day, barrels were chambered to maximum depth or a bit long because any serious gunsmith was going to have a lathe he could face the breech off with. No expensive reamer required, just headspace gauges.
He's entirely right, of course, no expensive finish reamer required, just an expensive lathe, which a gunsmith would have but a garage hobbyist most likely would not.

Back in those days, gunsmiths also dealt with a lot of barrels that had sights on them (or the holes for sight mounting) and not only did the chambers have to be right, the barrels often had to be turned a bit so that the sights would line up properly (not leaning). I have heard the term "clocked" used to refer to this, and other things.

Point is, most older designs were made with the idea that barrel replacement was something done by skilled craftsmen and usually required the use of machine tools, special tools, and the needed gauges, and was not something done by the hobbyist.

An interesting sidenote, Savage sold their rifles for many, many years, never advertising about the ease of barrel changes. It was, apparently, not considered a selling point back then. Today, from what some of you have written, it is, for you, at least.
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 12:09 PM   #24
stagpanther
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 2, 2014
Posts: 8,632
Quote:
Apologies for my error about the Savage 110. I have removed the incorrect information.
I figured it was an inadvertent error.
__________________
If you’re ever hiking in the woods and you get lost, just look up and find the brightest star in the sky and you’ll know which way space is.
I am NOT an expert--I do not have any formal experience or certification in firearms use or testing; use any information I post at your own risk!
stagpanther is offline  
Old April 20, 2021, 12:09 PM   #25
Geezerbiker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 20, 2011
Location: Willamina, OR
Posts: 1,639
I think one of the major reasons people want user changeable barrels is for the desire for less than common rounds. How many times have you heard someone say, I'd really like a rifle in ____ caliber but I can't find one...

With user changeable barrels a fellow can try a round he's always wanted and not be out several hundred for a custom barrel job. If the round doesn't live up to expectations, that barrel isn't all that hard to sell for a small loss rather than the bath taken on selling a custom rifle.

Tony
Geezerbiker is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:46 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2020 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Page generated in 0.15506 seconds with 8 queries