Review: Gunsmither Bolt Bar

Last week I purchased a “Bolt Bar” from Gunsmither Tools. I’ve tried it out and have some comments. Bottom line: I recommend using this tool for bolt removal/installation for anyone who has challenges with finger strength or dexterity; and I recommend its extractor tool for everyone.

(Disclosure: I bought the tool from the Tandemkross website and have not communicated with them or Gunsmithertools in the writing of this review.)

Bolt Bar closeup

Holding bolt handle back

Holding extractor plunger back

Hooked on rear of bolt

The Bolt Bar is one of those tools whose concept and design transcend the simplicity of its material and manufacturing. When you get it, you might say, “Well that’s obvious.” But we didn’t come up with the idea, Joe Beary of Gunsmither did. The Bolt Bar is a 7-inch long strip of aluminum with two bends, and two roll pins sticking out from one side. It does two jobs:

  • Make it easy to push the bolt handle back, and to hold the bolt handle in place while removing or installing the bolt.
  • Make it easy to pull back the extractor plunger and hold it in place for removal and installation of the extractor.

The Bolt Bar has a few quirks but once you learn it, it works very well. For myself, I prefer my own method of using my fingers to remove the bolt, because I can better feel what is happening with the parts and it goes faster. The video below compares using the Bolt Bar to my “standard” method of using two hands and careful finger placement to do the job:

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An Easy Way to Learn the Bolt Release

Many, in fact most, 10/22 owners do not modify their bolt locks for “auto release” function. I have worked with many shooters, not only beginners but also long-time owners, who struggle with locking and closing the bolts on their 10/22s.This was the subject of one of our first posts, and this post shows the inner workings of the bolt lock/release: How the 10/22 Bolt Lock/Release Works
Here is an easy way to learn how to operate the bolt release, and for instructors to teach it:

Think of operating the bolt lock as four separate steps:

Back: pull the bolt back and hold it there.

Up: press the bolt lock lever up.

Release: release the bolt to go forward in a controlled manner.

Down: release the bolt lock lever.

Now make easy-to-remember acronyms from these four steps.

To lock the bolt open, B-U-R-D (pronounced “bird”):

Back (hold it there)
Up (and hold the lever up)
Release (you will feel the bolt catch on the bolt lock)
Down

To close the bolt, B-U-D-R (pronounced “butter”):

Back
Up
Down
Release

When you break the task down into these four separate steps, it become easy to learn, and foolproof.

I hope this is helpful.

Modify message

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Decibullz Ear Plugs

For years I wore Howard Leight electronic earmuffs for shooting. I like the hearing enhancement for normal sounds, and they muffle gun shots fairly well (but not a Barrett .50 BMG from the side), but after a few hours they start to hurt, especially where they press the temples of my shooting glasses into my skull bones.

For the last couple of months I’ve been using a great alternative – Decibullz custom-molded plastic ear plugs (www.decibullz.com).

Decibullz 1

 

The molded piece is made of a thermoset plastic that softens in hot water. Following the directions, I made a pair of plugs in about 20 minutes that fit perfectly. One thing I really liked is that if you don’t like the fit, you can soften them in hot water and remold, just as when they were new. They are rated up to 31 dB noise reduction, but of course that depends on how well you fit them in the molding process. Mine work at least as well as the muffs and are a whole lot more comfortable. They even fit comfortably inside my motorcycle helmet.

I gladly recommend these plugs. (Note, I bought them on Amazon and have had no communication with the maker.) They come in a variety of colors.

A couple of years ago I tried some Radians DIY molded plugs, which are made of some kind of resin that cures on your ear. They never hardened and it took about three hours to clean the sticky gook out of my ears.

One thing to be careful about: since they soften at relatively low temperature, I would not leave them in a hot car for any length of time. Last week I left my first pair of Decibullz in a pants pocket and they went through the laundry. In the dryer they melted onto some other clothes and were ruined.  The ones in the photo are my second pair, which I made today. They fit perfectly and safely inside the case for my shooting glasses.

Decibullz 2

 

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Volquartsen Target Trigger

I’ve never liked the  OEM plastic trigger blade on my 10/22. It feels like it’s bending when I press it; the curved, ribbed face makes it way too easy to pull to the side rather than straight back; and the over-travel is terrible leading to a long, weak reset.

Last Friday at the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia I met Alan Hinchcliffe, the owner of Rimfire Sports & Custom, and bought a Volquartsen trigger. Rimfire Sports (rimfiresports.com) is a great on-line store for all sorts of upgrade parts for 10/22s and Ruger Mk II/III and 22/45 pistols. Their prices are nearly always the lowest I’ve found, especially when you include their free shipping. I’ve bought a number of items there online, most recently a trigger and sear kit for a Ruger 22/45 (which I’ll be reviewing in another post soon).

Here’s a video I made showing the trigger compared to the OEM, as well as the complete installation process:

The new trigger does everything I wanted from it:

  • the machined aluminum trigger is light and stiff. It feels like a direct connection to the sear. It’s like the difference between a 1970’s slushbox automatic transmission and a short-throw 5-speed manual.
  • The straight blade and flat, smooth face contribute to a direct, straight-back motion. The straight blade allows placing the finger lower on the trigger. The leverage effect makes the pull feel lighter.
  • The adjustable over-travel stop screw is just great. Now the trigger moves hardly more than 1/16″ from let-off to stop. Reset is smooth and feels more positive. The improved movement is shown in the video.

Bottom line: If you are upgrading your trigger group with drop-in parts, this is a good one to use. I also looked at the Tactical Innovations trigger, but the long, beveled edges of the trigger face have the same effect as the  curved OEM trigger, and it does not include the over-travel stop screw.

Note: This upgrade makes my home-made trigger stop article from last year obsolete. For about $25, this is a much better solution in every way.

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It’s Appleseed Season!

We are now in the full swing of Project Appleseed markmanship/history events all over the USA. Every weekend from now through November, there will be dozens of shoots in different states. I’ve been an Appleseed instructor for about four years now, doing 12-15  events per year in Virginia and neighboring states. I heard a comment yesterday from a CMP small-arms firing school instructor to the effect that Appleseed teaches shooting even better than they do.

Teaching Appleseeds is my second-favorite shooting pastime, perhaps even more fun than doing my own shooting. It is so gratifying to see a student, whether a beginner or a Marine, growing in confidence and skill and the look of pure joy when he or she gains total command over the rifle and shoots accurately. Learning rifle marksmanship gives us a personal connection to the experience of those farmers, craftsmen, merchants and ministers who risked everything for their – and our – freedom.

The 10/22 is the most popular rifle among Appleseeders. It allows you to concentrate on your skills without the distractions of noise and recoil. The 10-round magazine works best, but BX-25s can be used successfully. Any sighting system is welcome and can qualify for the Rifleman patch. (I do think that a scope makes it much easier than with iron sights but the older my eyes get the more I like scopes.) If you have physical limitations, worry not. Appleseed is adaptive and we’ll make the experience fit your abilities.

Bring as many friends and family as you can. The more people who learn the story of April 19, 1775, the better our chance of saving the country.

Project Appleseed is a nationwide 501c3 organization which seeks to restore the ethic of active citizenship among all Americans, in order to preserve the constitutional republic our Founders bequeathed to us. It is a non-partisan, educational program.  Every Appleseed instructor is an unpaid volunteer. Appleseed conducts weekend events which combine instruction in rifle marksmanship and firearm safety with inspiring stories of our country’s founding. The goal of the program is to give students the skills, motivation, and confidence to participate actively in public affairs at all levels – to act as citizens, not subjects, as the Founders intended. Full information on Project Appleseed can be found at http://appleseedusa.org

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TD Marine – a Practical Package

A while back I wrote about the Takedown model, concluding that for certain purposes, such as the need for compact storage and transport, it is a great solution; but otherwise it isn’t as good a shooter as the standard model. (See the full article here: Thoughts on the Takedown Model).

Recently I saw an especially neat version, the 11193 Marine model. This is a basic stainless carbine with a polymer stock and a BX-25 magazine, packaged in a hard plastic case. The hard case protects the rifle quite well. The case has a rubber gasket in it, similar to that on an ammo can, to keep moisture out. Just inside the handle are cutouts for a lock.

IMAG1495IMAG1491

It seems the perfect solution for harsh environments such as a boat locker, in the cab or tool box of a pickup, the trunk of a car, or on a rack on a quad or Gator.

I saw two limitations in Ruger’s execution of this product. First, there is no place to store an optic in the case, so you’re limited to iron sights. I’d probably install a Skinner or Williams WGRS low profile peep sight on the receiver to get a proper sight picture, and I’m pretty sure either one would fit. Second, there is a gap in the gasket near the handle portion of the case:

IMAG1493

I think an appropriate blob of silicone caulk or similar product would easily close the gap to make the case truly water-tight. Not a huge problem, but I wish Ruger would do the product 100% right and not leave it to the owner to complete the job.

On balance, I really like this 10/22 variant as it is very well suited to a specific need that many owners will have.

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Radiusing the Bolt

Sanding or grinding a radius onto the bottom rear of the bolt is a popular performance enhancement for the 10/22. Properly done, the radius creates a ramp effect which reduces the force required for the bolt to cock the hammer. (Remember our simple machines from elementary school science?) This can help the bolt cycle fully and prevent stovepipes from short-cycling especially with standard velocity or low-velocity “quiet” ammunition.

Here is a comparison of an OEM bolt and one that has been radiused:

Radius side view

The video below shows what happens:

A question came up recently as to whether this modification could cause the bolt to open prematurely.  The simple answer is “no.” As the video shows, once the hammer hits the firing pin, it rests against both the upper part of the rear face of the bolt and the lower edge of that face, below the cutout for the bolt stop pin.  It is important that both the recoil spring and the hammer spring work together to resist the bolt’s opening immediately after the shot. The radius does raise the bolt’s point of contact with the hammer away from the hammer’s axis of rotation – which increases the leverage the bolt has on the hammer. The initial resistance to blowback gas pressure is therefore slightly reduced from a that of an unmodified bolt. However, the difference is small enough that the bolt does not open prematurely. Once the bolt is pushed back a little, the rounded section glides easily over the hammer.

It is critical to leave that small edge on the lower part of the bolt’s rear face. It is needed to prevent the hammer from hitting the firing pin if the bolt is not fully in battery. The photos below from The 10/22 Companion show how this works:

hammer and bolt 1hammer and bolt 2

If the bolt is back even a few hundredths, the lower edge catches the hammer. If the radius job is done wrongly and this edge is removed, the hammer could hit the firing pin while the bolt is slightly open.

That lower rear face is also important for keeping the correct resistance to gas pressure to maintain the correct timing of the action. You do not want the bolt to open too far while pressure remains high in the barrel, or the case could rupture. If the only point of contact were above the stop pin cutout, the leverage on the hammer would probably be too great, making the bolt cycle too fast. But I’m not going to sacrifice a good rifle to test that hypothesis.

So just as with trigger work, a bolt upgrade done right improves the rifle. One done wrong means buying new parts and starting over.

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