L.C. Smith springs

One of the skills a gunsmith needs to have is to know how to make replacement parts for firearms. Very often, the repair is on a firearm that does not have replacement parts available. The requirement for this course is to make a mainspring and a bolt spring for an L. C. Smith shotgun. The springs are made from blank spring stock and cut to size.

Spring material cut to size

The next step is to shape the springs.

Shaping the mainspring

Mainspring and bolt spring filing complete

Once the desired shape for the springs is achieved, the springs are heated and bent to the correct shape. Notice the curves in the legs of the springs.

Springs after heat shaping

The springs are then cleaned and tempered in our oven. This can also be done by using any heat source, but care has to be taken not to heat the spring too much as it will become brittle and be prone to breaking.

Springs cleaned and ready for the oven

After coming out of the oven (and cooled down) the springs can be tested. This is merely done by compressing them in a vice. If the do not break and return to their original shape, all is fine. Mine passed the test, even though one of the legs on the mainspring broke. After discussing it with the instructor, we felt that it was most likely due to a small stress fracture in the spring material.

After testing with broken main spring on the right

After testing with broken main spring on the right



For the reloading portion of this class, I chose to do 100 rounds of 12ga shotshell, 100 rounds of .40 S&W (pistol) and 100 rounds of .308 Winchester (rifle). I have reloaded pistol and rifle ammunition before so the only new experience was doing the shotgun ammunition. There is a lot of information available about reloading so I am not going into a lot of detail here.


For the shotshell, I chose a fairly low charge as I have older shotguns. I used previously fired AA plastic hulls,  WAA12SL wads and a 1 oz. of lead Shot. The powder used was 15.8 grains of Clays and the primers CCI 209SC. According to Hodgdon’s reloading data this should generate 7,500 PSI  and a velocity of  1125 ft/s. I used a MEC progressive press.

Shot shell reloading

Completed 12ga shot shells

A change for me in the pistol ammunition was the use of cast lead bullets instead of jacketed bullets. The load date came from the Lee reloading manual. I used 6.2 grains of Unique powder, and a 155 grain bullet which should give a velocity of 1021 ft/s. I used my own Lee single stage reloading press.

Measuring powder for pistol reloads

Completed pistol rounds

For the .308, I used 44 grains of Hodgdon BL-C2, Remington primers and Hornady 150 BT (Boat Tail) FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) bullets. Again, I used my Lee single stage press to do all the reloading.

Half of the completed .308

I did shoot samples from all of these and did not have any issues with any of them.


What a busy beginning to the new year. After spending a little more than two weeks in South Africa over Christmas, I arrived back in the USA on New Years day. But I would not have much rest before our semester start on Jan 7 as I flew to Dallas on the 2nd to attend the Dallas Safari Club/American Custom Gunmakers Guild 2013 meeting, together with a group of MCC gunsmithing students. This was the first time the ACCG was displaying in conjunction with DSC. It was truly an experience to see the high quality of work that the ACCG members had on display. The show also gave us the opportunity to speak to and pick the brains of ACCG members which was very educational. The DSC show was also a very worthwhile experience as there were many manufacturers of fine firearms with booths such as Fausti, Rigby and O’Farril Shirley to name a few. Rigby had one of their gunsmiths on hand and he actually performed some work in their booth and answered any questions about his work and techniques. Another highlight of the show was the opportunity to attend the ACCG banquet on Saturday night. Personally, I was also honored to receive a scholarship from ACCG during their annual meeting on Friday morning.

My thanks goes to ACCG for not only the monetary award, but also the high regard they have for the potential of my work. Since I am busy thanking people, I should also thank Pete Brownell of Brownells for helping defray the cost of the ACCG banquet for myself and all the students of gunsmithing schools that was in attendance at the meeting. Finally, I have to thank my good friend Sydney for the donation of air-miles that helped get to and from Dallas. I am grateful for the help from all of you.

Back in North Carolina, and back into the start of a new semester. This is the 5th of six and is going to be a very busy one.

Friday means I am back on an aircraft, this time heading for Las Vegas and SHOT show 2013. This is the largest trade show of its kind in the world with over 600000 square feet of exhibits and more than 60000 attendees. It is only open to the industry. All the major manufacturers attend and this is an excellent opportunity for networking and learning more about the firearms industry. Most of the suppliers that gunsmiths use also attend and it is a good opportunity to also thank them for their support of our program at MCC and to give them feedback on their product lines. At the end of the show, there were many sore feet but (for me at least) many new contacts made.

The trip to Las Vegas was also special for me this year as I was able to attend the American Pistolsmith Guild’s annual meeting and banquet. This came about as a result of a scholarship that they awarded me and I was publicly recognized as a winner during the meeting. Again, I am honored for the high regard that they viewed my potential.

Some updates

Yes, contrary to perception I am still alive and kicking! I have had an extremely interesting and busy time lately and have really neglected to give any big updates. Some of this is winding down, so expect to see some new posts from now on. I recently also started an Instagram account and if interested you can find me here:


As most gunsmiths have access to a milling machine, they would normally use that to cut any dovetails. However, for this exercise we have to ours by hand. These are practice pieces intended to teach us how to do the work by hand if we need to. I used a pice of barrel that was cut from one of my projects and used that for this project. The dovetails are standard dovetail blanks that was purchased from Brownells. Here I am getting ready to start the first dovetail.

Blank start

The first step is to cut or file the center portion of the cut down to depth.

Starting cut

Once I reached the required depth, I started the undercuts. These are done with a special triangular file cut to 60º with a “safe” edge. The safe edge is smooth and allows me to do the undercut without deepening the depth of the center cut.

Starting the undercut

This does take some time and eventually you will get to this point. The dovetail blank is now fitted in and checked for clearance. The rule is that there can be no daylight seen in the sides and bottom of the cut. In other words, the dovetail blank needs to fit the cut precisely.

Cut complete

The only step left is to install the blank and check the fitting and repeat it for a second dovetail.In the next picture you can see the completed barrel piece with both dovetails. Yes, I know that one was not installed square on the barrel but that was not a requirement in this project. I only needed to fit the dovetails.

Barrel blank with both dovetails

Close up of a dovetail