|Building a Muzzleloader - Fitting Barrel to Tang|
I'll tell much of the story with photographs, so each page may be a bit slow to load. Click on any photo for a larger image.
The first thing I noticed about the barrel was that the breech was different from other sidelock muzzleloaders I'd seen, and it was in fact different from the hook-style breech shown in the CVA instruction booklet.
The instructions for fitting may or may not be similar, I figured. Succinct observation, huh? Anyhow, I was much too "into" this project to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for the new instruction booklet to arrive -- it was mailed to me by CVA at no charge, but did not arrive until about a week after I'd requested it.
As directed in the instructions for fitting the hook-style breech, I clamped the barrel, breech upward, in a padded vise. For this I simply used my bench vise, and padded it with heavy cotton cloth, and didn't chomp down too hard -- the steel jaws could still have damaged the barrel if I'd been careless. The tang wouldn't go onto the protrusion on the breechplug (which I'll call a button for the lack of a better term) when I started.
This shot shows the "button" on the rear of the barrel. It's actually a part of the breechplug.
I first faced the front of the tang, holding it flat on a file as I'd done the top of the buttplate. I then dressed up the rear of the barrel just a tad, using a file and being very careful to keep it square and even. All I did to the barrel was remove a few mill marks.
Here you can see how filing helps indicate imperfections. After taking this picture, I continued to work the face of the tang until it was even, and that low spot (visible in the picture) was removed in the process. This must be done very carefully, making sure to keep the tang square on the file.
I worked the forward surface of the top of the button, and the rear surface of the bottom, with 120 grit emery cloth. These are the surfaces which the tang engages. I checked fit often, and worked very slowly. I kept my eye on where the button and tang were binding, by looking at the contact marks on the freshly sanded surfaces after trying the fit. By that I knew where to remove another tiny bit of steel before trying the fit again. When I finally got it close, I forced the fit with a small brass hammer, and was done.
Here's how the tang looked when I started -- wouldn't go on the button at all.
And here's what it looks like once it's fitted and installed.
The new directions call for a much simpler method of fitting, which is no doubt the reason they changed from the hook to the button (because it saves labor in their factory). Their method of fitting is to simply start the tang over the button and hammer it into place, with the muzzle of the barrel resting on the floor. This method would presumably swage the softer tang to fit the button perfectly.
I would add that if this method is used, make sure you pad the muzzle with some heavy cloth or cardboard, so you don't mar it. Also, don't ever hammer directly on any part, especially with a steel hammer. You should always use something soft, like brass, for such work. I'm also leery about what damage the hammering might indirectly do to the face of the tang and/or the rear of the barrel.
My method seemed to work all right, though a tighter fit might have been achieved using their method. If I had it to do again, I'd try their method first. I prefer a hook-style breech myself, since I believe it provides a much better union between tang and barrel, but this should work acceptably.
Next page - Fitting Barrel and Tang to Stock.
- Russ Chastain