Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage

Saving An Old Friend

Back in about 1965-1966, when you could still order firearms by mail, the Herter’s Company of Waseca Minnesota was a leading supplier of outdoor gear, reloading equipment and rifles. They imported barreled actions from a number of European suppliers, most notably the German made, FN copy, XK-3, the CZ Yugoslavia XK-3 and J-9 and from England, the BSA U-9.

Hawkeye Bore Scope Kit

Herter’s sold rifles through their catalog as either barreled actions or completed rifles. The company also offered a complete line of rifle stocks. To get a custom rifle a customer had simply to choose the action and caliber, turn to the stock section of the catalog, select the desired wood and options and Herter’s would build their rifle.

Most of the BSA U-9’s that Herter’s imported featured an integral dovetail receiver, similar to that found on today’s Sako rifles. Sometime around 1968 the U-9 action was changed to a round top design, eliminating the dovetails. When the gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted all mail order sales of firearms was prohibited. No longer able to sell rifles through the mail, Herter’s continued to offer rifles to FFL holders. A changing market, with reduced sales, brought a stop to Herter’s firearms sales shortly after 1970.

Recently I stopped in at a gun show just to look around with no intention of buying anything. As is usually the case I always find something that just says buy me. This time it was a Herter’s U-9 rifle that showed signs of rough use. The previous owner had made a half hearted attempt to cover up the worst damage with cold blue and polyurethane before trying to sell the rifle. Still, it was a U-9 with a round top receiver and it was chambered for 6mm Remington, a caliber I have a special fondness for; it even had a 3-9x Bushnell scope mounted on it. The price was reasonable enough, so after some figuring and dealing I bought it.

Later, at home, closer examination of the rifle got me to wondering about the condition of the bore. Was it in good shape, shot out or something worse. Inspection with a Hawkeye Bore Scope (#338-115-017) revealed something worse, serious pitting the full length of the bore, but only along one side.

If you want to know the truth about the condition of your rifles bore, the Hawkeye Bore scope ber and throat were in almost new condition. The borescope also revealed another bit of useful information, the barrel had been chambered with a very long throat. I began thinking in terms of a new barrel.

Before deciding on a course of action I had to take the rifle to the range and shoot it. I needed to establish an accuracy base line to determine if a new barrel was needed. To help achieve the best accuracy I took the old Bushnell scope off and mounted a Swift 6-18x in its place. The barrel was thoroughly cleaned with Bore Tech Copper Solvent (509-101-004)and JB Bore Cleaning Compound (#083-065-002).

Finalfinish Bore Fire Lapping Kit

At the range, shooting Sierra 60 gr.. and 100 gr.. bullets I was just able to keep 3 rounds in a two inch circle at 100 yards. Not great accuracy but probably better than I had any right to expect considering bore condition. There was no indication the bullets were unstable and keyholeing.

As rough as this bore was I figured if any rifle was a candidate for fire lapping this was it. It’s cheaper than a new barrel. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain. The David Tubb Final Finish Kit (#840-000-002) should provide a quick and easy solution to smoothing the bore. According to the kit instructions I should experience easier cleaning and better accuracy.

Very easy to use, the kit has seventy five bullets with five grades of abrasive evenly bonded to the longest bullets available for that specific caliber. For the 6mm that is 105 grain bullets. There are ten bullets for #1 and #2 grit, 15 for #3 grit and 20 bullets for #4 and #5 grit. The extra bullets are bonus bullets for rejuvenating a worn bore at a later date.

The technique calls for loading the bullets over the lowest powder charge for the bullet weight. This keeps velocity down allowing longer bullet time in the barrel and better lapping action. Ten shots of each bullet/grit are fired with a through cleaning before firing the next grit.

I began to feel a noticeable improvement in bore smoothness by the second cleaning. After firing all fifty rounds I thoroughly scrubbed the bore to remove any trace of abrasive. The bore bore was considerably smoother than it was when I began. Again I inspected the bore with the Hawkeye Bore Scope. This time the dark spots were gone, the bore was shiny and bright, however the pitting remained. There isn’t much to be done about that. The rifling was still sharp, plus the throat didn’t appear to be changed.

Before firelapping I used a Stony Point Overall Length Gauge (#829-200-246) to measure bullet seating depth to .005” off the lands. The throat was so long that a 100 gr. Sierra bullet was 1/8” beyond the case mouth before engaging the rifling. Re-checking the seating depth after fire lapping showed no change.

So how would it shoot? After waiting a week for weather and time to agree, I made a quick trip to the range one evening after work. Using a bench rest I easily put the first three shots into a group that measured just less than 1" . Fifteen rounds later it was still putting all shots inside an inch. I decided to call that good and go home. A few weeks later I fired ten more rounds, again all shots stayed within an inch. The smoother bore greatly reduced fouling, even with the severe pitting. The bore came clean with minimal effort using only Bore Tech Copper Solvent.

Just to be correct and completely fair, I should mention that between the first and second trips to the range I glass bedded the action and free floated the barrel. While that should have made a large improvement in accuracy, another U-9 in my collection, chambered for .222, shoots into 1" at one hundred yards without the benefit of bedding or floating the barrel. Based on that, I feel the 100 percent improvement in accuracy is a direct result of fire lapping.

Click Here to view 'bt002048.pdf' in another window.