Saturday, November 27, 2010

Metals used and a few vendor links

Due to a handful of questions and comments made by a few friends during a B.S. session the other day, I thought it might be useful to throw in some information about the material used to build not only the Bill Holmes .50 BMG rifle, but a number of other firearms.

Most of the material used on the .50 so far has been 4130 chromoly or 4140 chromoly. A decent write up on the properties of chromoly can be found here.

I guess it should be mentioned that I am NOT building this rifle, or any functional piece on it (aside from the buttstock and the bolt handle) from 1018 steel. Everything on this rifle is built from manufacture certified 4130 and 4140. This is not something I take lightly, given the unreal amount of pressure present in any rifle round, especially the .50 BMG.
This rifle, upon completion, will be taken to a professional for hardening. I would LOVE to have the capabilities to do this in my garage, but the reality is that this is one thing I feel better about taking to a professional. I have hardened steel parts before, such as extractors for AK's and smaller things of that nature, but a whole rifle is beyond my capabilities. I have no problems admitting that.

I have seen a handful of other homebuilt rifles finished and working that were based on the same basic design I am using.Were I purely starting from scratch and designing everything myself, then this might well be a dangerous proposition. I see no reason why anyone with a handful of tools and access to a mill and a lathe and appropriate materials could not build this rifle or any like it.

With all that said, I have a policy of giving credit where credit is due.  From that, I should throw in my personal recommendations to the following metal suppliers, all of whom deal in small quantities of just about any kind of material you could think of.

1. Aircraft Spruce and Specialty. I highly recommend this company, as the price was right, the shipping was fast, and the service was great. I bought the 4130 tubing for my receiver from there. I'm no shill, just a happy customer

2. Online Metals Great service, prices were a little steep on a few things. Decent shipping rates. Again, I'm no shill, just happy enough as a customer that I have no problem recommending them to others. Metals can be purchased by the foot and by the inch.

3. Speedy Metals Pretty much the same as Online Metals, although prices are a bit lower at Speedy Metals. Great service, fast shipping, etc. They gifted me with nothing except a good experience.

Pretty much any metal stock needed for anything I can think of can be acquired from one or more of these three suppliers.

So far, without the price of the barrel, I have about 125 bucks invested in the rifle through the metal I have purchased through these suppliers. If I recall, I paid about 225 for my M3 barrel, so I should have less than 400 bucks in the rifle by the time I am done, prior to purchasing optics. Of course, that does not cover lathe cutting bits, drill bits, welding gas, grinding wheels, end mills, and a few other odds and ends (firing pin springs, fire control group parts, etc). So, I guess I'll be out close to 500 bucks before optics.

For what it's worth, I plan to do another update in the next day or so over more of the build, and I may actually toss up a pic of the assembled rifle if I can get some batteries for my camera. Most of the work on the rifle has already been done and most of what I have posted up is actually stuff I did a couple of months ago.

Stay tuned.........


  1. Thanks for keeping us updated on the progress of your baby! It's all Greek to me, but it sounds good and looks good. :) Also, thanks for adding me to "The Official Redneckengineer blogroll."

  2. Well, that's what this blog is all about, so far.
    Thanks for stopping by, come back and see us sometime.