Tips & Tools with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 10A
Tips & Tools #10A: Attaching the Barrel Part A.
T&T#9 described the bedding of the barrel in the stock. Whether you chose to epoxy bed or not, now is the time, while the stock is still “in the square” to attach the barrel with either pins or keys. For the standard 42” length barrels in fullstocks, I usually use four pins or keys. For the standard 36” and shorter barrels, I use three keys or pins. For halfstock rifles like Hawkens, I almost always use two keys.
The barrels in most early fullstocks (including Jägers) were pinned. Pinning using 1/16” diameter drill rod is relatively easy. Keying a barrel is considerably harder. Both methods will be described in Part B. Here the making and attachment of barrel tenons (also called underlugs or loops) will be shown.
Commercially available tenons are widely available in a variety of forms (Fig. 1). See supplier’s list at the end of this chapter. The traditional ones are installed by sawing/filing a shallow dovetail slot across the underside of the barrel. Make sure you mark what is the underside when you have the barrel out of the stock, particularly if the breech plug is not installed (I know you are probably saying “Duh”; however, one bright but absent-minded fellow came to me years ago asking how best to fill a slot cut into the wrong barrel flat). While the dovetailed tenon is OK, I do not like to cut a slot all the way across a barrel flat, particularly in thin-walled barrels such as 13/16” diameter x .45 caliber. On one heavy-walled large caliber halfstock rifle, I used a tenon attached with screws (Fig.2) and reinforced with Hi-Force 44TM low temperature silver solder (see suppliers’ list) Very sturdy, perhaps overkill, but style dictated a single key, so I wanted to make sure nothing came apart.
The barrel loop (Fig. 3) is a good one to attach if you are using keys since it provides some latitude for differential barrel/stock expansion and plenty of room for a key. The legs of the loops are notched; shallow holes are drilled into the barrel wall and the legs of the loop inserted, then staked into place (indicated by arrows). These must be installed using a drill press or some other method that provides a positive control over the depth of the holes (ML barrels do not benefit from ventilation holes other than the flintlock touch-hole or the percussion drum vent). You will also need a spacing punch and a staking tool to install these easily and properly.
My favorite method is one I developed myself. Little T-shaped tenons are milled on my homemade milling machine (see Fig. 4 for set-up and shape of tenon). Little slots are then milled into the bottom barrel flat to a depth a little more than the thickness of the ears on the T-shaped tenon. Each tenon is then filed to snugly fit the slot. The sides of the slot are then punched over the ears the whole way around the tenon (Fig. 5) to stake it securely. Note that the tenon is offset to the right from the centerline of the barrel. This provides clearance for the drilling of the ramrod hole (to be described later). A very clean and versatile method removes minimal material from the barrel wall and will accept either pins or keys.