Saturday, February 5, 2011

Still alive and kicking

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, life has come at me full force and on top of that, the weather has been abysmal in my neck of the woods. I got some more work done on the striker assembly for the .50 BMG I am building, only to find that the current location of my fire control group was too far rearward to work correctly, so I had to cut the entire assembly off of the rifle and move it forward. I actually shortened the sear arm on the Suomi trigger group I used and then shortened the housing, moved it all forward the amount it was shortened, (about two inches) and welded it back to the main receiver tube. I got that far before the bad weather hit my area.

I can recall a number of nasty winters from when I lived in the Dallas area wherein I had to commute 60+ miles in the snow and ice, blustery winds, rain, sleet and hail. I kinda learned to accept that over the years, but I must admit that I was not expecting anything of the sort when I moved out to west Texas to the edge of the desert. Over the last week, the highs were in the teens, we received a good bit of snow, and had a good bit of ice all over the place.

I have a number of friends over the continental U.S., including the northern states, who laugh and point at us Texans for our reaction/s to inclement weather. The thing is, what I've seen and heard is that while it gets cold as heck and dumps a good bit of snow up north, there is not a daily cycle wherein it gets just warm enough or sunny enough to make the snow melt, which then freezes as soon as the sun goes down, giving you loads of black ice all over the roads. I've driven in snow, and that certainly sucks, but that black ice is downright dangerous. Now, that's not to say that I'm any kind of expert on the weather in any other part of the U.S., I'm not. I could be completely off the mark here. However, I would wager a guess that any one major city north of the Mason-Dixon line has more snow/ice removing equipment than the entire state of Texas combined. Us roughnecks and rednecks down here in southwest Texas just aren't used to that snow and ice stuff.

Not to say it doesn't get cold out here, it does. I've been down in Marfa watching the Marfa mystery lights late at night in the month of June and had to wear thermals and my heavy duster coat to try and tolerate the 19 degree temps. When you get out in the mountains/desert, there just isn't anything that holds in the heat, and it gets downright chilly when the sun sets. Of course, when the sun comes up it gets pretty darn hot, too.

Anyway, I was headed to one of my college classes Tuesday morning, and despite it being about 15 degrees outside, my truck overheated again. Apparently, I had neglected to put enough antifreeze in with the water in my radiator overflow tank, and it had frozen solid, keeping my radiator from properly venting. Couple this with the fact that there was a pin hole leak in a small heater hose I had neglected to replace last week when replacing my water pump. Enough pressure from the cooling system wound up bursting the hose, spraying hot coolant all over my motor and leaving me S.O.L. Yes, only I could overheat a truck on a 15 degree day. D'oh.
I limped the truck home, called my girlfriend and had her pick up the hose I needed from AutoZone, pulled my truck into my garage, and set about repairing the truck. The truck sat in my garage for the rest of the week, as classes were called off for the rest of the week and I had no where else to go and no real desire to test the road conditions. Given that my truck barely fit in the garage in between my motorcycle project, toolboxes, welders, oxyfuel torch, milling machine, and lathe, (as well as two workbenches overflowing with parts and other small projects and also a washer/dryer arrangement), I really had no room to work on anything. The fact that it was frigid in my garage didn't help, either. I normally have a small space heater I keep in there, but after fixing my truck, I found out I had no water in any of my faucets I had left running. Apparently, it had gotten so cold outside that despite my having three different taps running in my house, the water pump tank on my well had frozen over, so I had to take my space heater from my garage and put it in the little shed wherein my well water pump resides. So, cold garage full of crap = no real work done. I sat inside for three days trying to stay warm. I cleaned a few guns, drew up some parts and receivers I need to build for other projects, and tried to avoid going stir crazy.

The weather here has gotten progressively better, as it sits the high yesterday was about 38 degrees. The sun came out and melted most of the ice, and the winds have died down enough to make it tolerable. So, hopefully I'll get some time over the next few days to wrap up the striker mechanism on the .50 and finish the bolt handle and buttstock. I did find a buttstock pad on Ebay that was large enough to work with the 2.25" tube and not look either undersized or gawky and clumsy. I have pretty much settled on a simple stock arrangement for this rifle, if nothing else just for the sake of getting done with it and moving on to the next projects. I found a business up in Salt Lake City that came highly recommended for having the necessary parts hardened. I found a handful of businesses around me that would harden my 4140 chromoly parts, but none of them really had any experience with firearm parts. It will cost me a little over a hundred bucks to get the guys up in Salt Lake City to do it, but it seems they have over 20 years of experience in hardening, annealing, and tempering, and a lot of that has been with firearm parts. My plan is that once the striker is functional and I finally machine the extractor assembly, I am going to make sure the headspacing is correct and then chamber a primed and sized case ( no powder or bullet) and make sure the firing pin protrusion is correct and that the gun will indeed function. Once that is done, the parts get sent off to be hardened, then when they get back I will test the gun at the range from a distance using sandbags to hold the rifle and a long string to activate the trigger from a distance. I'll put 5 rounds through it, and after each of those rounds the rifle will be disassembled and carefully inspected. If it survives 5 rounds with no cracking, bending, shifting, change in headspace, etc. then it should be safe enough to throw some Duracoat and a scope on and call it done. Well, I do need to do some engraving or etching on the receiver. A firearm that is homebuilt and is not to be sold or transferred does not need to have a serial number, but I want something on there in case anyone ever stole it from me. Perhaps I'll just engrave a title or something on there in lieu of a number. Something like, "The Ernest Hemingway .50 BMG Special: A Farewell To Arms." or somesuch.
I am really hoping to get things done and lined up so I can send those parts off for hardening within the next two weeks.

In other news, I wound up picking up a new phone that should allow me to take some better pictures and video of the rifle, so I hope to have more eye candy up before long.
Check back in a few, let's see if I can get this hoss wrapped up.


  1. Red:

    You should be good to go on the BJJF (Bryco, etc.) forum. Admin says that you're cleared.

    We look forward to all of your future contributions, particularly those related to Suomi drums :)


  2. Farmkid,

    You're my new hero!
    I will be sure to keep everyone updated on the drum issue, for sure!