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The .17 Predator on a Savage Axis Action
Old 10-30-2014, 12:40 PM
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Default The .17 Predator on a Savage Axis Action

First, here are the "tags" I used for this thread: ".17 caliber, .17 predator, action wrench, axis, barrel profile, chambering, fire-forming, lathe, mill, obt, ocw, optimal barrel timing, optimal charge weight, savage, switch barrel, threading, wildcat". You can use up to 25, so don't be stingy, but try to use words that describe what the main theme of the thread is. However, no need to use words that are obvious: In this case no need for "making stuff", because this is the "Making Stuff" forum.

So, I am back to the shop, picking up 'dropped' projects. At the top of the list of those projects is making a .17 Predator barrel to put on the Savage Axis rifle I have that is factory-chambered in .223 Rem. The primary reason this project is at the top of the list is that I have all of the "pieces" in hand: 27" .17 caliber barrel blank, .17 Predator chambering reamer, lathe, mill, and action to put the barrel on. Having 'stuff' in hand is no small matter when it comes to prioritizing "to do" lists. There was one small item that I did not have on hand; the full-form inserts for cutting 1"-20 external threads. (I have them for cutting 1"-20 internal threads.) However, those are readily available from Ebay, and they should be in hand today.

In my lexicon, "in hand" can also mean "I can make it". And such is the case here because I did not have a Savage action wrench in hand, but I could certainly make one. Of course they are available commercially, but the cheapest price I could find DELIVERED was $86. I'm not going to pay that when I can make one. What the heck did I buy the mill and lathe for if I'm not gonna use them!

This thread is really going to be more about the "making" aspects of this project - lathe and mill setups, solving problems, and the WORK one has to do when one isn't working in a production shop, than producing a new rifle. The details I provide are NOT to "toot my own horn", but rather to demonstrate a couple of things: 1) If I can do it- a guy with no formal machine training - so can you!, 2) "how can I make a 'work-around' if I don't have exactly what the "doctor ordered"", 3) the significance of "order of operations" in metalwork.

I suppose I should give a little background on the cartridge - .17 Predator. Simply put, it is mostly just a .17/.223 Remington Ackley Improved. It was conceived by a fellow named Dan Clements that wanted a longer-range .17 caliber cartridge that could launch heavier bullets (30 grainers) at muzzle velocities that would allow more energy to be carried out to longer ranges. http://www.rmvh.com/17PDanC.htm As for me, I just like small, really fast, bullets. I've always been a big fan of the .17 Remington. It's an amazing cartridge. This one just has a little more 'oomph'. Like getting a 25-grain bullet over 4500 f/s at the muzzle.

This particular project has a 'snakey' ontogeny. It started with j0e_bl0ggs wanting a .17 caliber barrel, and so we went looking, and found some REALLY cheap ones at Green Mountain. Like $50 cheap! So I bought a few of them. Then there were thoughts of putting the Predator on an AR, but after lots of paper-whipping, it was clear that the AR platform - a semi-auto - is really not the right action for a 'hot-rod'. If not AR, I would have to find a cheap action. I have plenty of Mausers, but that meant bolt-face modifications, and long actions, and "big" magazines. No go. The Savage switch-barrels were a logical choice, and I found a WHOLE rifle, "new-in-the-box" for about $280 delivered. An added plus was that I could use the factory .223 Rem barrel too.

All zounds good, no? Well, recall all the hassle I had getting the barrel off of the Savage 110 I have. I fully anticipated the same with the Axis. I wasn't wrong. I wasn't going through that headache again, so first on the docket was making an action wrench.

I have "made a lot of words" here, so I'll stop that and get to "the good stuff" - Pictures.

Here's a link you can look at to see a commercial action wrench: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/710...ProductFinding

Basically, it is two pieces of steel profiled to fit the action. In some cases - including mine - there is an aluminum shim between the wrench and action. This provides greater 'grab' and protects the action from the wrench. Took me at least 8 hours of labor to make the wrench, and - I kid you not - I used it for about 5 seconds!

Remember what I said about "order of operations". Since the aluminum bushing has to fit both the action and the steel jaws, the bushing was the first item to be fabricated. The receiver is 1.350" in diameter at the front. Therefore, the bushing had to be close, but just slightly - about 0.005" - smaller in diameter. The wall thickness could be just about anything that wouldn't crush - I decided on 0.200" - making the overall outside diameter (OD) of the bushing 1.75". I started with some 2" OD aluminum round stock:

Notice the 4-jaw chuck. I'll get back to that. It wasn't necessary for this particular part of the fabrication, but I already had it on the lathe, so it was the one used.

Next, came cutting the inside diameter. This is always a pain to me. The main reasons are that inside cutters have to be "flimsier" than outside cutters are. That means shallower cuts, and constant vigilance for 'chatter' because the flimsy boring tool is extended out so it can reach into the work-piece. Quality boring bars are expensive. I'm a cheap 'bloke', and since I don't do TOO much boring, I have a cheap set of Chinese boring bars. They are right on the edge of usable and useless. As it was, I still had to grind the outside profile so that it wouldn't hit the bushing below the cutter. All of which TAKES TIME not spent making the "thing"! Here is a photo of the start of the boring. First a drill point makes a "hole".

Then the boring bar enlarges it to final dimensions. (You'll see the actual boring bar in future pictures.)

Then some checks for fit.

(Note that all pictures so far were taken with cell phone. Taking photos while working is a pain.)

Once that piece is parted off, it's time to start on the steel jaws. The first order of business is to cut the 'long' bar into two similar pieces. I don't have a power hack saw, and unless you have actually cut some 'larger' steel bar stock, you have no idea how long that takes "by hand". That wasn't gonna happen. I took a small end-mill cutter and milled the 'long' bar into two pieces.

As I approached the full cut, I turned the workpiece over and put the uncut part "up". This held both pieces as the final cut was made.

Next, comes making the two pieces "fit" together. That meant milling both of the faces that mate at the same time, ensuring that they would "mate".

And the last step on the mill was drilling and tapping the holes for the bolts that clamp the jaws together. I didn't take any pictures of that because it's "just" drilling and tapping. But it was tedious. Very tedious. You just can't start drilling with the drill size of the final hole dimension. It took four separate drills to get the DEEP holes - 3" - drilled. The holes in the "top" jaw are larger than the bolt shank and aren't threaded. Only the "lower" jaw holes get threaded. Because of the relatively small size of these jaws - 2 3/4" x 3" - there wasn't room for a bolt larger than 1/4". Doesn't matter. 1/4" is plenty big enough.

After the holes were drilled and tapped, and the jaws bolted together to make sure the mating faces were "dead flush", it was time to bore the hole for the aluminum bushing. You can't center a square object in a 3-jaw chuck. Hence the requirement for using the 4-jaw chuck. For those not familiar with lathe chucks, the jaws on a 3-jaw chuck move in and out in synchrony. The jaws of a 4-jaw chuck move in and out independently. Therefore, centering a workpiece, be it round or not, in a 4-jaw chuck is a pain in the rear. HOWEVER, the alternative is NOT DOING IT. Actually, with square workpieces, it's pretty easy to get centered.

Again, started with a 'drill point'

Then moved out to a 1/2" drill bit, then to a 3/4" drill bit,

Then to the boring bar. Remember that the hole had to be 1 3/4" in diameter.


Once it was close, the aluminum bushing was tried until it 'just' fit.

Almost ready to actually USE it! But not quite.

The bushing needs to be parted so that it can "grab" the receiver. All of the commercial action wrenches I have seen us a two-part bushing. That was my plan, but j0e_bl0ggs had mentioned that he often uses only one slit on crush bushings, and after I made the first slit, it appeared to me that a single slit might be best. It was.

I put the bushing on the barreled receiver,

Put the bushing and receiver in the jaws of the wrench, and tightened the bolts. DANG! Making the hole in the jaws EXACTLY the OD of the bushing meant that when they were closed, there was no "clamping" by the bushing. Couldn't make the hole in the jaws smaller, and couldn't make the bushing larger. The only solution was to take a little off of the mating faces of the jaw(s). It didn't matter which jaw face got reduced, so I chose the top one because the holes weren't threaded. I took 0.010" off. This means that BOTH sides of the jaw were 0.010" "above" the mating face of the lower jaw when the bushing and receiver were inserted. Tipping the upper jaw to one side to 'close the gap' on that side, left a gap on the other side of a little less than 20 thousandths.

I put the assembly together again, and voila'!, it 'grabbed' like I knew what I was doin'.

I slipped the barrel nut wrench on the barrel nut

and inserted the 1/2" drive of the torque wrench in the hole in the barrel nut wrench

and 'gave a yank'.

No joy.

The blasted thing was so tight that the action wrench slipped in the vise jaws. I "leaned" on the vise jaw handle, tightening them as tight as I was able and gave another pull. SAME RESULT. First, some swearing, then reorient the wrench in the vise so that the torque of turning the barrel was perpendicular to the long axis of the vise jaws. The BARREL came off like 'nuthin'. Notice the all-caps on the "barrel". That's because the @#$%^&*ing nut is on the BARREL so tight that the barrel came out of the receiver - with nut attached - the nut did not loosen from the barrel!

In the above dark picture, the action wrench has the receiver still in it, and the barrel WITH nut still on is laying in front of action and wrench. I will have to clamp the barrel in a vice and remove the nut. "Switch-barrel", aye.

Next comes barrel work. Stay tuned.

Be nicer than necessary.

Last edited by gitano; 11-17-2014 at 04:37 PM..
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.17 caliber, .17 predator, action wrench, axis, barrel profile, chambering, fire-forming, lathe, mill, obt, ocw, optimal barrel timing, optimal charge weight, savage, switch barrel, threading, wildcat

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