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Correcting excess headspace on model 1894 rifle
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May 25, 2022 - 8:14 pm
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I have an early model 1894 rifle (SN 93,606) that suggests a manufacture date around 1897.  This rifle has what appears to be an original Winchester barrel marked .30 WCF, but I thought that cartridge was not introduced until after that date…so I’m puzzled by this, but today I have a different question:

I have been shooting it, and the primers (factory loadings) are pushed out noticeably, indicating a headspace problem.

I confirmed an excess headspace problem by closing the bolt on a .30-30 Field headspace gauge.  

Subsequently, I’m trying to determine if I can repair this condition.  I understand (well, I read on the internetLaugh) that model 94 locking bolts are marked (when oversize?) and can be used to reduce headspace.  I have found one used locking bolt that is in fact marked (on rear surface) “.005” which suggests to me it is 5 thousandths oversize, compared to a nominal thickness bolt, I suppose.  But I can’t measure any difference in thickness (between the two bearing surfaces) in this bolt and the one I removed from the rifle.  And, when I swap out the two locking bolts, I can close the bolt (and locking bolt) equally easily on the field gage.  The rifle has excessive headspace with either locking bolt.  Perhaps the unmarked one in the rifle is already “oversize”…?

Can someone here confirm that the markings I describe on the locking bolt (see attached photo) do in fact indicate a thicker locking bolt?  Do I perhaps just need to find one with a larger marking?  Most of the others I have seen (on eBay) are either not marked or they have a marking like “16” or “22”, and I don’t know if those marking are indicating a thicker bolt, or just represent some assembly markings.

If I can’t find a locking bolt that alleviates the headspace problem, I have contemplated adding weld metal to the front bearing surface of the replacement locking bolt and filing it back flat to add thickness, but I’m afraid this might be beyond my capabilities.

I will appreciate any guidance you guys can offer.

Thanks,

Ray

Ray James, College Station, Texas

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May 25, 2022 - 9:42 pm
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Ray,

Winchester introduced the 30 WCF cartridge in May of 1895. Model 1894 S/M 93606 is a post-1900 production rifle… several years after the 30 WCF was introduced.

The bolt you found marked .005 is indeed 5-thousandths oversize. Finding one that is larger oversized than .005 is very unlikely.

Bert

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May 25, 2022 - 10:17 pm
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Ray,

If it was my gun I would try to make special ammo for it.

– Make a disc on the front of the rim and use it to bring the cartridge to the bottom of the breech (possibly with tape cut to size)
– When firing these cartridges, the shoulder of the case should be shifted further forward due to fire forming.
– Use these cases for reloading but only calibrate the case neck.

Now these cases should be in contact with the bottom of the breech even without the washers.

I am not a gunsmith and do not guarantee success. The considerations are only theoretical in nature and I’ve never done that. I would appreciate your opinion on this.

 

Stefan

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May 26, 2022 - 12:21 am
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Stefan:

I had considered the solution you suggest, but basically (as I think it through) I worry that it may not address the concern.

I think the hazard of excess headspace in this rifle must be one of two things:  

1) The primer pushes all the way out and gas escapes thru the primer hole and onto the shooter.

2) The case, if too much headspace, may separate where unsupported by the chamber wall, with similar outcome as above, but maybe allowing even more gas flow than above.

Now your suggestion seems like it would prevent 1) but not 2).  Whether 2) is the real hazard or not, I don’t know, but it is my concern.

I have poor-boy-ed two other rifles with excessive headspace; a 30-40 Krag….I cut a shim (forget the thickness) from brass shim stock and epoxied it to the recessed face of the bolt.  That rifle performed fine after the fix, but I eventually had the barrel set back and properly rechambered. The second was a Winchester model 43 in .218 Bee, which is a model notorious for headspace problems.  It would split nearly every other case fired.  That rifle has a two-piece bolt, so I fabricated a .005 steel shim to fit between the bolt and bolt head, reducing the headspace by .005.   That rifle now functions flawlessly, and you can feel the resistance of the factory cartridge when closing the bolt.  Incidentally, when shooting that .218 Bee with excessive headspace, I don’t think I ever felt any gas escaping when the cartridge head separated.  

I wear safety glasses when shooting, but usually not when hunting, and I want to hunt with the 1894, so I’m a bit concerned about fixing it by fireforming longer cases.  I hope I can perhaps modify a locking bolt to reduce the headspace…

Ray

Ray James, College Station, Texas

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May 26, 2022 - 2:01 am
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If I wanted to shoot the rifle I’d have my gunsmith set the barrel back. May need to rent a chamber reamer if he doesn’t have one.  If brass and ammo were easier to find I’d just toss the brass after firing. 

 

Mike

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May 27, 2022 - 1:06 am
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Unless it was a family heirloom or something, I would sell it and put the money toward something else.

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