NM Rifle Build Part 8

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed and adjusted the Jewell Match trigger.
In Part 4, we installed the safety selector, pistol grip and bolt catch.
in Part 5, we installed the pivot pin, recoil buffer components and buttstock.
In Part 6, we installed the forward assist and the ejection port cover.
In Part 7, we installed the delta ring and barrel.

This time, we’re going to install the free-float tube and front sight base.

In the last post, I mentioned one of the differences between a rifle with a free-float tube and a standard AR…the special barrel nut.

Another difference is that the sling swivel is mounted on the float tube rather than the bottom of the front sight base (FSB). That way the pressure placed on the sling when in a sitting or prone firing position is pulling on the float tube, not on the barrel.

The problem with this is that the standard A2 FSB has an integral sling swivel mount. The mount on the FSB will interfere with the mount on the free-float tube and, so, it’s gotta go.

This is where the dremel tool and carbon cutting wheel come into play.

Of course, you want to be careful and consider that the more attention to detail you give this, the better the end result will look, but it’s a pretty simple procedure.

Clamp the FSB into a vise with padded jaws (or cushion it with rags or pieces of wood).

Cut the sling swivel mounting ears off as close to the bottom of the FSB as you safety can.

You could use a hacksaw for this and I would imagine it would work fine as long as you’re careful. I like the control that the dremel tool gives, but if you don’t have a dremel tool, you probably don’t need to buy one just for this job.

If you need to take some excess off, carefully grind the remaining stubs down until they are almost flat against the bottom of the FSB.

Then use a fine jewelers file to square it up and remove all traces of the sling swivel mount.

You probably can’t really tell in this picture, but the bottom of this FSB is not completely flat. The areas where the sling swivel mount ears were just removed angle down slightly toward the center, where there is a narrow flat spot. I didn’t file the FSB bottom completely flat, but maintained this angled contour in the areas where the sling swivel mount was removed.

I took another step and used a fine stone to remove the filing marks. You could also use emory cloth sand paper at, say, 400 grit or finer to remove the filing marks.

It doesn’t have to be polished or anything, but you want it smooth enough to look “stock”.

Basically, you want to hack the sling swivel mount off without it looking like something’s been hacked off.

Finally, clean the filings off and hit the bare metal you just made with some cold blue to preserve it and match the finish.

With that prep work done, let’s install the float tube.

The free float tube consists of (in addition to the barrel nut), the tube itself, which has the handguard retainer and sling swivel mount permanently attached, and a lock ring.

On a standard barrel, the handguard retainer is just fitted over the barrel and is held on by the front sight base.

That retainer can be discarded as the handguard retainer in this case is mounted directly to the float tube.

On my Rock River free float tube, the sling swivel was not attached out of the box. The tube came with the sling swivel and rivet, but they weren’t installed.

Installation is simply a matter of putting the sling swivel on the mount on the free float tube, sticking the rivet through the holes, and smashing the rivet down with a big punch and hammer.

Next, you may have left the locking ring on the barrel nut while you were installing the barrel.

If so, that’s fine.

If not, thread it onto the barrel nut exterior threads. and screw it on as far as it will go, but don’t tighten it.

Note the round dimple in the locking ring. That will come into play later.

Then slide the float tube over the barrel with the handguard retainer and sling swivel toward the end of the barrel.

Screw it onto the barrel nut.

This is why we needed to remove the sling swivel mount from the FSB before mounting the float tube.

You need to verify the position of the float tube before tightening it down.

Get the float tube positioned about where you think it should go…then slide the FSB onto the barrel and into place to check its position.

I didn’t think to take a picture when doing this, so I took one later, after the gas tube had been installed already.

The float tube should be as close to the FSB as possible, without touching it. If they touch, the tube will interfere with the barrel and defeat the whole purpose of free-floating the barrel. If you make the gap too great, however, the handguard retainer may end up too close to the delta ring and the handguards may not fit.

Also note the sling swivel below the bottom of the FSB. had we not removed the sling swivel mount from the bottom of the FSB, the sight base would not have fit.

Once you’ve verified the position of the free-float tube, take the FSB back off again.

Unscrew the float tube from the barrel nut 5 or 6 turns. Be sure to count, you want to be able to screw it back in the exact same number of turns.

Then put a bit of blue thread locking compound right where the edge of the float tube will be when screwed back in. Put enough on that it will also be under the locking ring once it is tightened against the float tube.

Screw the float tube back in the same number of turns that you screwed it out.

Then, screw the locking ring out until it contacts the float tube.

Before tightening the locking ring, be sure the float tube is as perfectly straight up and down as possible.

the gap that the gas tube will pass through needs to be centered over the gas port in the top of the barrel.

Remember that round dimple in the locking ring that I pointed out before? This is where it becomes important. There is a section of the AR-15 multi-tool that acts as a spanner wrench. It’s a half-moon looking area with a small peg at the end.

Place the half-moon part around the locking ring so that the peg on the tool locks into the dimple on the ring.

While holding the free float tube to keep it from turning, tighten the locking ring against the tube firmly to lock it into place.

And the float tube is done.

The FSB installation on a match rifle is different from a standard AR-15 in two ways. On a standard AR (and even some match rifles, for that matter) the FSB is held on with tapered pins that pass completely through the FSB and barrel. One of the accepted modifications for a match rifle is to drill and tap the taper pin holes in the FSB and use set screws to hold it on. This allows the FSB to be adjusted for windage. On a match rifle, you want your zeros to be as close to the actual zero settings on your sights as possible so that you have the full range of adjustments as well as having known starting points for all adjustments.

This also means that the barrel is slightly different between a standard FSB and an adjustable one. With a standard FSB, the taper pin holes are drilled through the bottom of the barrel. With an adjustable FSB, there are no holes, but generally “flats” are milled into the bottom of the barrel for the FSB set screws to mate with.

That simplifies the initial installation of the FSB, but complicates finalization because you have to adjust it before securing it permanently. for purposes of just getting it onto the rifle, however, it’s pretty straight forward.

The front sight base installation involves the FSB itself, the gas tube and the gas tube roll pin.

The gas tube is the final difference that results from using a free-float tube.

On a standard gas tube (top), the bend in the tube that accounts for difference in height between the gas block and the tube position in the receiver is just aft of half-way. Because the free float tube encloses the barrel, the bend in a gas tube used with a free-float tube must be much farther forward (to the right in this picture) than with a standard installation. The modified gas tube (bottom) was provided with the free-float tube.

One other note about the gas tube. When I first tried it, the gas tube that came with the free float tube wouldn’t fit into the bolt carrier key at all. I thought I had gotten a defective gas tube at first; however, the gas tube is fairly soft metal. What I did was push them together and spin them both against each other. After working them for awhile, this shaped and shaved the gas tube enough that it eventually fit inside the bolt carrier key smoothly. I don’t have the experience to really know but they may have made the gas tube slightly oversized on purpose with the intent of fitting it to the key for a tight seal.

Now for the FSB installation:

I suppose you could mount the FSB to the barrel first and then install the gas tube, but it made more sense to me to pin the gas tube into the FSB first.

Be sure that the gas tube is inserted into the FSB correctly before installing the pin…the end of the gas tube with the holes goes into the FSB. The small hole that passes completely through the tube is the hole for the roll pin. The larger hole that does not pass completely through is the gas port hole and needs to be pointed toward the bottom of the FSB (toward the barrel when the FSB is mounted).

Be sure to get the roll pin hole in the gas tube aligned perfectly with the holes in the FSB. The gas tube is relatively soft and you will crush it if you try to drive the pin in with the holes misaligned.

The gas tube was a tight fit, so after getting it aligned, we didn’t have to worry about it moving.

A tiny little pin punch could be used to help you get them aligned, or a piece of wire, dental pick or other object small enough to pass through the holes might help. We just aligned it by looking through the hole under magnification which worked fine for us.

The gas tube roll pin is very small so we held it with a pair of needle nose pliers and used the nylon mallet to get it started.

Then finished it off with a pin punch.

Next, make sure the channels in the barrel retaining snap ring, weld spring and delta ring are lined up with the notch in the barrel nut.

Then thread the gas tube through the slot in the float tube,

As you press the FSB into place on the barrel, pass the gas tube through the channel in the barrel nut/delta ring assembly and into the upper receiver.

Double check to make sure there is a gap between the rear of the FSB and the float tube, then install and snug down the set screws that secure the FSB to the barrel.

No reason to use thread locking compound on them or torque them down yet…we’ll need to adjust the FSB to zero with the rear sight first.

And that’s it. Starting to look like a rifle.

(Yes, the delta ring is backward in this picture…as I mentioned in the last post, we didn’t realize this mistake until after we tried to install the handguards. I didn’t think to take another picture after correcting it.)

The barrel installation, including free float tube and FSB, were the most difficult part of the whole assembly.

It really was MUCH easier to perform than it was to describe.

Now that I’ve done it once, I think I could do everything described in the last two posts in about 30 minutes tops.

I would say that as long as you invest in the right tools, have any modicum of mechanical ability, and take your time, this is well within the capabilities of your average gunny.

Next time we’ll install the handguards, install the flash hider, assemble and install the bolt carrier group and mate the upper and lower together.

Click here for part 9

NM Rifle Build Part 7

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed and adjusted the Jewell Match trigger.
In Part 4, we installed the safety selector, pistol grip and bolt catch.
in Part 5, we installed the pivot pin, recoil buffer components and buttstock.
In Part 6, we installed the forward assist and the ejection port cover.

This time we’re going to install the delta ring assembly and the barrel.

One of the major differences between a National Match rifle and a standard AR-15 is the addition of a free float tube.

Basically, what this entails is attaching a rigid tube from the front of the barrel nut to just behind the front sight. The hand guards and sling swivels are attached to this tube, rather than to the front sight base. The idea is that, when properly using the sling, there is a lot of tension on the front sling swivel. on a standard AR, this tension can cause the barrel to flex. With the barrel “floating” inside this tube, no pressure, either from the hand guards, or from the sling tension, is placed on the barrel, but is taken up by the float tube, allowing the barrel to resonate naturally with each shot, thereby improving accuracy.

You can free float any AR and improve accuracy, but it is most common on match rifles. With match rifles, also, it is important that the external appearance of the rifle remain stock. Free floating the barrel is an accepted modification, but you have to use standard handguards.

As usual, click all pix to make bigger

The free float tube comes with a special barrel nut that is different than a standard nut.

The standard barrel nut is only threaded on the inside where it mates with the upper receiver and does not extend past the gear-like “head”.

The barrel nut used with a float tube, on the other hand, looks the same up to the “head” but extends past that area and is threaded on the outside. Those extended exterior threads are what the float tube screws onto.

Notice the groove machined into the unthreaded part of the barrel nut on both the standard style, and the free float tube style barrel nut.

The barrel installation involves the special barrel nut, the barrel and the three components of the delta ring assembly: delta ring, weld spring and snap ring.

The barrel installation itself is identical whether using a float tube or not, the only difference in this part of the assembly is which type of barrel nut is used.

First, the barrel nut should be placed on the bench with the exterior threaded part (or the “head” with a standard barrel nut) down.

Place the delta ring over the unthreaded part of the barrel nut. The slope of the delta ring should be sloping in toward the bottom.

We actually installed the delta ring backward initially. I thought it looked funny, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Everything fit fine (although it was harder than it should have been to torque the barrel nut with the delta ring in the way) and we didn’t realize what the problem was until we tried to install the handguards…which wouldn’t fit.

This is what it looks like with the delta ring installed backward.

It shouldn’t look like this. If you can see the weld spring, you did it wrong.

Next, the weld spring goes over the barrel nut and should fit down inside the delta ring.

Then, using the snap ring pliers, install the snap ring into the groove machined toward the edge of the barrel nut.

You’ll have to compress the weld spring a little to get the snap ring on, but it isn’t very hard if you use a properly sized set of snap ring pliers.

You can probably do it without the pliers, but they make it much easier.

With the upper receiver in the action block and the action block securely fastened in the vise, install the barrel onto the lower receiver.

The indexing pin in the barrel extension should seat fully into the notch in the upper receiver threads.

Next, grease the upper receiver and barrel nut threads with a good molybdenum disulfide grease.

Popsicle sticks can really come in handy…and they’re cheap. I bought a bag of 250 for a couple of bucks a few years ago and still have probably half the bag left.

There are as many opinions about what kind of grease to use as there are AR-15’s in the world. As a Honda motorcycle owner, I just happened to have a very good Moly-B (that’s what we used to call molybdenum disulfide based grease in the Navy) that’s used on the drive shaft splines of my bike. That’s what I used.

The only real dire warning I’ve found about the grease selection is to not use grease with graphite in it because graphite can act as an electrolyte and increase the chances of dissimilar metal corrosion due to the barrel nut being steel and the receiver being aluminum.

I have no idea how valid that concern is but it was something I ran across when researching this project.

After applying a little grease with the popsicle stick, I used a rag to even it out and remove excess. You don’t need a lot, just enough to put a light coat on the threads.

The purpose of the grease is to act as an anti-seize compound and to prevent galling of the receiver threads while tightening the steel barrel nut.

Next, slide the barrel nut over the barrel with the external threads toward the end of the barrel and the interior threads toward the receiver.

Thread the barrel nut onto the receiver threads and hand tighten.

The next step is where the AR-15 multi-tool was critical.

There is a square hole in the center of the multi-tool just behind the barrel nut part of the tool. That hole is designed for a 1/2 inch drive torque wrench to fit.

The barrel nut should be tightened to a minimum of 30 pound feet and a maximum of 80 pound feet.

Now…I probably went a little overboard, but knowing that using an extension alters the actual torque from the setting on the wrench, I used the magic formula to make sure the torque setting was accurate:

Torque setting on wrench (Ts) = Actual torque desired (Td) times lever length of the torque wrench (Lw) divided by lever length of torque wrench (Lw) plus length of the extension(Le).

Ts = Td(Lw/(Lw+Le))

Since we’re using pound feet, all measurements have to be in feet.

The lever length of the torque wrench is from the center of the grip to the center of the drive. Mine is 15 inches or 1.25 feet. The length of the extension is from the center of the drive, to the center of the torque wrench attachment point…1.5 inches or .125 feet. With long extensions, you have to account for the angle that the wrench is attached to the extension as well, but for one this short, as long as the angle isn’t too great, it won’t make much difference.

So: Torque desired (Td) = 30 pound feet
Lever length of torque wrench (Lw) = 1.25 feet
Lever length of extension (Le) = .125 feet

T(s) = 30(1.25/(1.25+.125))
T(s) = 30(1.25/1.375)
T(s) = 30(.909)
T(s) = 27.27 pound feet

So, I set the torque wrench to 27 pound feet rather than 30. Not a huge difference, as I suspected, but better safe than sorry right?

After the nut is tightened to the minimum torque, the next step is to see if you have a notch in the barrel nut “head” aligned with the gas tube channel.

You’ll probably have to move the snap ring, the weld spring and the delta ring in relationship to each other to line up all three of the channels with the barrel nut.

A dental pick or “L” shaped allen wrench works well for this.

A good way to check the alignment is to stick the gas tube through the channel and see where it points.

If the tube doesn’t point straight down the barrel centerline, then you’ll need to turn the barrel nut more to get it lined up.

I had an extra gas tube to use because the float tube came with its own gas tube. I just left the tube in place while turning the barrel nut so I’d know as soon as it lined up. I wouldn’t do this with the gas tube I’m going to install because I’d be afraid of it binding and being bent or crushed. If you don’t have a spare gas tube, a piece of thin dowel rod or something like that would work just fine.

The maximum torque is 80 pound feet. Using the formula to adjust for the extension, I came up with a torque setting of 73 pound feet. Set the torque wrench to the maximum and then tighten the nut until the tube is aligned with the barrel or the maximum torque is reached, whichever comes first.

If you reach the max and haven’t gotten the gas tube aligned, stop, loosen and try again. Torque to 30, then try to align the gas tube notch without over torquing. If you still can’t get it, I’d say having it a pound or two under torqued would be better than over torquing it. I’d be very leery of damaging those aluminum threads on the receiver.

If you do have to under torque the barrel nut, I’d check it regularly to be sure it’s not backing out and crushing the gas tube.

After the barrel nut is torqued, the barrel installation is complete.

I did hit the barrel nut with some cold blue after torquing. The multi-tool had scraped the finish off of some of the crowns of the nut and I didn’t want to leave them bare.

No progress picture for you this time…I forgot to take one until after we had the float tube on.

I obviously need more practice at this stuff.

I was originally going to include the float tube installation in this post, but it was getting too long so you’ll just have to be patient.

Next time we’ll install the free float tube and the front sight base.

Click here for part 8

NM Rifle Build Part 6

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed and adjusted the Jewell Match trigger.
In Part 4, we installed the safety selector, pistol grip and bolt catch.
in Part 5, we installed the pivot pin, recoil buffer components and buttstock.

This time, we’re going to start on the upper receiver by installing the forward assist assembly and the ejection port cover.

The forward assist assembly is pretty straightforward. It consists of the assembly itself, a large spring and a roll pin.

The forward assist goes into the large, angled hole on the right side of the upper receiver.

On the “post” part of the assist assembly, there is a flat area. that area is where the pin engages and holds the forward assist in. As the assembly is installed, that flat area needs to be in toward the center of the receiver.

The spring slips over the “post” part of the assembly.

Then insert the assembly into the hole, compressing the spring so that the flat on the assembly’s “post” area will line up with the pin hole.

Then drive in the roll pin.

Pretty simple.

The ejection port cover isn’t much more difficult to install.

It consists of the cover and latch assembly, the hinge pin, the spring, and a TEENY TINY retaining ring (It would be VERY easy to lose this so be careful with it. When I first pulled the components out of the shipping bag, the retaining ring was stuck to the ejection port cover itself and I thought it was missing until I spotted it clinging to the preservative oil coating).

We were, for some strange reason, thinking that this installation might damage the finish (silly us…not much chance of that), so we taped the side of the receiver forward and aft of the ejection port. That was completely unnecessary, but better safe than sorry, right?

First, clip the retaining ring into the groove close to the end of the ejection port cover pin. It went on very easily, but, again, be very careful, if you put too much pressure on it and it pops out of your hands, you will probably never see it again.

As I’ve explained in the past, this is one reason for the towel that I always put down on the work bench. If you drop (or launch) small parts while trying to install them, they have less tendency to bounce when they hit the towel, they tend to stop right where they hit and generally are easier to find.

Then put the spring in place on the ejection port cover itself and position it on the receiver.

Make sure the latch on the cover will be in toward the receiver when the cover is closed.

The short arm of the spring goes against the receiver and the long arm goes into the crease in the ejection port cover.

The easiest way I found to do this was to put the long arm in place on the cover door and stick the short arm in the receiver through the ejection port, then drag the cover down into position between the mounting ears, catching the short arm of the spring on the edge of the receiver as it goes. I had to put my finger across the spring to keep it from bending and popping out of position.

While holding the cover and spring in place, from the front of the receiver and with the retaining ring end of the ejection port cover pin toward the front of the receiver, slide the pin in, through the cover and the center of the spring.

It sounds more complicated than it is. It really was very easy to do.

The retaining ring keeps the pin from sliding to the rear and out. After it’s installed, the delta ring keeps the pin from sliding forward and out.

The spring tension was plenty to keep the pin in place until the barrel and delta ring were installed.

And that’s where we’re at.

Next time, we install the delta ring and the barrel.

Click here for part 7

NM Rifle Build Part 5

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed and adjusted the Jewell Match trigger.
In Part 4, we installed the safety selector, pistol grip and bolt catch.

This time we’re going to finish the lower up by installing the pivot pin, takedown pin, buffer components and buttstock assembly.

The pivot pin is the longer of the two similar pins that secure the upper receiver to the lower receiver after the rifle is complete.

The pivot pin and takedown pin detents and detent springs are identical.

First, drop the detent spring down into the hole on the front face of the lower receiver. The hole is located inside a visible ridge on the upper right side of the magazine well.

Next, the detent goes in on top of the spring. There is no flat on this detent like there is on the selector detent…both ends of the pivot and takedown pin detents are slightly pointed.

The spring is actually longer than the hole so the detent will have to be pressed down into the hole.

For the pivot pin to go in, the detent has to be pressed completely into the hole. Be careful not to slip or you’ll fire that little detent across your work area and probably won’t find it again.

There is a special tool for depressing the detent while installing the pivot pin but I don’t use it. I’ve found that a small piece of flat metal about 1/2 inch in width, and about .020 inches in thickness works very well for this task. Conveniently, a set of automotive feeler gauges provided a piece of flat metal that perfectly fit the bill. You may note that I forgot to include the feeler gauges in my list of tools and picture in the first post. I knew I’d forget something. There are probably any number of other flat, stiff items around your house that would work just as well if you don’t have a set of feeler gauges.

While compressing the detent into the hole by holding the feeler gauge flat against the top of the receiver face, slip the pivot pin into the holes of the receiver. The pivot pin goes in from the right side, with the flat part of the pivot pin head (and the groove machined into the length of the pivot pin) toward the rear of the receiver (and the detent).

Once you get the pin in as far as it will go, pull the feeler gauge out from under the pin. The detent will snap into the groove in the pivot pin, locking it into the receiver. Push the pivot pin the rest of the way in.

You should be able to feel the pivot pin “snap” into place when it is pushed all the way in, but should be able to snap it back out by pushing it with your fingertip from the left side of the receiver. After it snaps free, you should be able to extend it fully and feel it “snap” into place again when it reaches its full extension. It should NOT pull from the receiver.

When you are pulling it out for the first time, be sure to cup your hand over the face of the receiver in case there’s something wrong. If the pin pulls completely out, the detent and detent spring will rapidly depart the area.

There are actually three separate subassemblies involved with the buttstock:

The takedown pin components: takedown pin, takedown pin detent and detent spring

The buttstock: buttstock assembly, stepped spacer, and lower receiver extension self-locking screw

And the recoil buffer: buffer assembly, buffer tube, recoil spring, buffer retainer and buffer retainer spring.

First, start screwing the threaded end of the buffer tube into the lower receiver.

Just get it started, don’t screw it more than a couple of turns yet.

Next, drop the buffer retainer spring into the hole in the bottom part of the threaded area that the buffer tube screws into.

Then drop the buffer retainer in over the retainer spring.

Press down on the buffer retainer and then finish screwing in the buffer tube. When properly installed, the buffer tube should be screwed in just enough to catch the “lip” of the retainer. The “pin” part of the retainer should still be sticking up and the retainer should be able to move up and down with no binding.

The recoil spring is then inserted into the buffer tube.

And then the buffer assembly goes into the spring, and into the buffer tube.

Press down on the buffer retainer to get the buffer assembly past it.

After the buffer assembly is fully seated in the buffer tube, release the retainer, allowing it to “trap” the buffer assembly inside the tube.

Next, insert the takedown pin into the hole in the right rear of the receiver.

The flat part of the head on the pin and the groove machined into the length of the pin should be toward the rear of the receiver.

The hole for the takedown pin and takedown pin detent is in the rear face of the reciever.

With the takedown pin fully inserted, drop the detent into the hole.

Then drop the detent spring into the hole on top of the detent.

While keeping the rear of the receiver up to prevent the detent and spring from falling out, place the stepped spacer on the rear of the buffer tube. The smaller “step” should be pointing up…away from the buffer tube.

Then carefully slide the buttstock assembly over the stepped spacer and down onto the buffer tube.

As the buttstock assembly approaches the receiver, be sure that it pushes the takedown pin detent spring straight into the hole in the receiver and doesn’t bend it over and crush it.

Finally, install the lower receiver extension self-locking screw through the hole in the top of the buttplate and screw it into the rear of the buffer tube.

The screwdriver looking end of the AR-15 multi-tool can be used to tighten this screw, but I like the control of a large screwdriver better for this task.

If you use a screwdriver, be sure to use one with a large enough blade that it fits the slot in the screwhead tightly so that you don’t damage the screw. This screw should be tightened firmly both because it is the only attachment point of the buttstock to the receiver, and to lock the buffer tube in place.

Check the operation of the takedown pin at this time. It should operate just like the pivot pin: “snap” into it’s fully closed and fully open positions and you should not be able to pull it completely out of the receiver.

So…after 5 posts, we’ve gotten the lower receiver completely assembled.

Next time, we’ll install the ejection port cover and forward assist onto the upper receiver.

Click here for part 6

NM AR Rifle Build Part 4

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.
In Part 3, we installed and adjusted the Jewell Match trigger.

This time, we’re going to install the safety selector, pistol grip and bolt catch.

The pistol grip has to be installed at the same time as the safety selector because the pistol grip is what holds the selector detent and detent spring in place.

The detent is the only thing that holds the selector in place, so without the pistol grip, the detent and spring would fall out and, without them, the safety Selector would fall out.

The first step to installing the safety is to cock the hammer.

Astute observers may note that the hammer is not cocked in this picture. I took the picture as my son was trying to get the safety to drop in. It took us a few minutes to figure out why it wouldn’t go. When we did figure it out, I didn’t think to re-take the picture so you’re stuck with a picture of how “n0t” to do it.

Anyway, with the hammer cocked, the safety selector should drop in from the left side of the receiver.

This would be a good time to check the operation of the Safety Selector. I had no problems with mine, but you may have to readjust the trigger or even do some fitting on the safety to ensure that it operates correctly.

With the safety selector inserted fully into the receiver, turn the receiver upside down.

There is a small hole in the right side of the receiver next to the pistol grip mounting area. The detent goes into this hole with the pointy end toward the safety selector and the flat end visible.

The selector detent spring goes into a hole in the right side of the pistol grip.

With the detent in place in the receiver, and the spring in the well in the pistol grip, install the grip onto the receiver. Be careful to mate the end of the spring with the flat of the selector detent as the grip goes into place.

Put the lock washer on the pistol grip screw, then install the screw through the bottom of the pistol grip. My grip screw was a straight slot, but different makers may use different screw types. The picture notwithstanding, It is actually easier to get the screw in the hole inside the grip by placing the screw on top of the screwdriver, and then lowering the receiver and grip onto it. Dropping it into the grip and hoping it finds the hole can work…but generally not on the first try…or second…or third…or tenth…

The bolt catch assembly consists of four components. The catch itself, the plunger, the plunger spring and the bolt catch pin.

Installing the bolt catch is where the packing tape comes in. Some people us duct tape or masking tape but I don’t like either of those options because the glue is too hard to get off later. Painters tape would probably work, but I’ve had very good luck with clear packing tape. it protects the finish, but comes off easily afterward.

Installing the bolt catch requires you to drive in a roll pin along the length of the receiver. If you don’t protect the finish, you could damage it with the pin punch or hammer as you are driving the pin in.

Basically, you want to tape the left side of the receiver, both above and below the bolt catch mounting ears, but be sure not to block access to the well that the bolt catch goes into or the pin holes in the mounting ears. I usually use a double layer of tape to be sure it’s thick enough to protect adequately.

After the receiver is taped, drop the bolt catch plunger spring into the hole below the bolt catch mounting ears.

Then the plunger goes into the same hole over the spring.

Next the bolt catch goes on with the catch at the top of the receiver and the button outside and sticking up above the top of the receiver.

To seat it completely, you’ll have to press it in against the spring tension of the plunger and plunger spring.

Then, from the rear of the receiver, slip a pin punch through the pin holes of the mounting ears and the bolt catch to hold them in position and keep the holes aligned as the pin is going in.

This is the point where, if you don’t have an extra set of hands as my son and I did this time, a hobby vise or lower action block comes in handy.

With the receiver on end, the objective is to drive in the roll pin which will push out the pin punch.

I generally get the roll pin started first by holding it in place with the small needle nose pliers and tapping it with a very small hammer or nylon mallet.

After it’s started, switch to a long pin punch to finish driving it in. I did this by myself when I assembled the first AR (Barack) last spring so it is possible to do it as a one person operation…but it sure is easier when there are four hands involved.

Once the pin is fully seated, the tape can be removed from the receiver.

And here’s where we stand.

Next time we’ll finish assembling the lower by installing the pivot pin, takedown pin, buffer components and buttstock.

Click here for part 5

NM AR Rifle Build Part 3

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.

This time, we’re going to install the Jewell match grade, 2 stage adjustable trigger and go over the adjustment procedure.

The Jewell is pretty plainly not the absolute best trigger out there; and I have read some reviews complaining about them being too hard to adjust or not having the longevity that they should. As far as the first complaint, I’d say they either installed it wrong or were not adjusting it properly. Only time will tell whether the second complaint is accurate or not. I will say that, now that I’ve gotten mine installed, I’m very happy with it so far.

One of the biggest complaints about the Jewell trigger is that the installation instructions suck. That one I can wholeheartedly agree with. Hopefully, this post will come in handy for those intrepid souls who scour the internets for information that will make their lives easier.

As usual, click all pix to make bigger

The Jewell trigger assembly is very different from the standard trigger and hammer assembly.

Fortunately, the hammer spring is already installed in on the hammer out of the box and the trigger and disconnector assembly are already assembled.

This simplifies things considerably.

BTW: The nammer and trigger pins do not come with the trigger. You have to buy them separately. They do make both small pin and large pin versions of the trigger so you can get what you need for your lower.

The first step is to figure out how the trigger return spring fits on the trigger.

It goes on the left side of the trigger.

The spring has a bent leg and a straight leg.

The bent leg goes toward the trigger and the tip should be pointing up. There is a small “peg” on the left side of the trigger that this bent leg should catch on when properly installed.

Place the trigger into the lower receiver with the spring in this position.

It may not stay perfectly aligned because it’s a pretty loose fit. That’s OK, as long as the loop is positioned so the pin will go through it, you’re OK.

Next, while holding the trigger and spring to keep them aligned with the trigger pin holes, insert the trigger pin. FROM THE RIGHT SIDE (I’m yelling because this is important) and with the offset groove to the right.

Don’t put the pin in all the way yet, just enough to keep the trigger from falling out.

Now, slide the first stage adjustment plate in between the trigger return spring and the side of the receiver. If you pushed the pin in too far in the previous step, you may have to pull it back out a little to get the plate to go in.

The plate should be installed with the “teeth” pointing inward toward the trigger and the flat edge down toward the bottom of the receiver.

Line the plate up with the trigger pin hole, be sure that loop in the spring is still aligned with the trigger pin, and finish pushing the trigger pin the rest of the way in.

Next, the straight arm of the trigger return spring has to be brought up to engage the teeth in the first state adjustment plate. This is where the wire tool that came with the trigger came in handy.

One end of the wire is hooked. Use that hook to snag the straight arm of the trigger return spring and pull it up until it engages the adjustment plate. Which tooth it engages isn’t important at this point, as long as the spring is engaged in the adjustment plate teeth.

As you put tension on the spring, if it’s installed correctly, the bent arm of the spring should engage the peg on the left side of the trigger assembly.

Mine hooked right in. I’m sure if it doesn’t, you could just jiggle or move it around a bit until it pops into place.

AFTER the straight arm of the trigger return spring is engaged in the adjustment plate teeth, it’s time to install the hammer. If you forget and put the hammer in first, you’ll have to take it back out because the trigger return spring won’t fit past it once it’s installed.

The hammer’s pretty straightforward.

There is a cylindrical “roller” type bearing on the front part of the hammer spring. That roller goes against the front of the receiver.

As the hammer is pushed down into position, pry it back against the spring tension and lever the bottom in toward the front of the receiver.

Once you get the pin hole in the hammer aligned with the holes in the receiver, you can insert the hammer pin, again with the offset groove to the right.

It might make it easier to use a pin punch to line everything up and then push the pin punch out with the hammer pin.

Next, the hammer and trigger pin retainer goes in. On a standard trigger assembly, the hammer and hammer spring engage the grooves in the hammer and trigger pins to lock them in place. The Jewell trigger, because of the difference in design, doesn’t have that locking mechanism built in.

That is the purpose of the pin retainer.

From the right side of the receiver, gently push the trigger pin until it clears the side of the receiver. You just need it to clear the side of the receiver, don’t push it completely out.

Slip the loop end of the pin retainer between the right side of the trigger and the wall of the receiver.

the straight arm of the pin retainer should be pointing forward and down toward the hammer pin.

Once the loop is in position, seat the trigger pin fully back into place.

For the next step, the other tool included with the trigger comes in handy.

Use the wedge end of the tool to gently pry the hammer spring away from the right side of the receiver.

You’re trying to create a gap large enough for the pin retainer to slip through.

Once you have a gap between the hammer spring and receiver wall, use the notch in the trigger tool to push in and down on free end of the pin retainer.

Slip the arm of the pin retainer between the hammer spring and receiver wall, and so that the retainer is to the rear of the hammer pin.

Press it down until the half-loop in the pin retainer snaps around the hammer pin.

Once the pin retainer is in place, it should be under tension between the two pins.. The tension should force the two wire loops into the grooves in the hammer and trigger pins and lock them into place.

I pushed the pins back and forth slightly a few times while pressing down on the visible part of the the pin retainer to ensure that it locked into the grooves.

That’s it for installation. That wasn’t so bad now was it? Now for adjustment.

***IMPORTANT NOTE*** it is not good for the lower receiver to dry fire without the upper installed. Dry firing without the upper causes the hammer to impact the aluminum front of the trigger well in the receiver. Since aluminum is a relatively soft metal, this can cause damage to the receiver.

All is not lost, however. What I do is stick a popsicle stick between the front of the hammer and the rear wall of the receiver. When the hammer falls, it hits the popsicle stick versus the aluminum receiver and prevents damage to the receiver wall. This destroys the popsicle stick within about three or four dry fires, but popsicle sticks are significantly less expensive than lower receivers and are not regulated by the ATF (yet). [/NOTE]

There are four adjustment points for this trigger. The first is the first stage trigger pull (aka takeup) that is adjusted by the tension of the trigger return spring. This can be changed by moving the straight arm of the trigger return spring into different teeth of the first stage adjustment plate.

Both of the trigger tools were useful for this adjustment. When the trigger return spring is toward the front (least tension) end of the adjustment plate, the hooked end on the wire tool seemed to work best for pulling the arm back into the higher tension ranges of the adjustment plate.

But after the half-way point, it seemed easier to use the notched end of the other trigger tool to push the spring into the higher range of the adjustment plate’s positions.

I was very impressed with the range of adjustment options that this setup gave for the first stage trigger pull tension.

The other three adjustments are made by turning allen head set screws on the trigger assembly itself.

The first of these adjustments to make is the sear engagement adjustment.

This adjusts how far the trigger moves during the second stage of the trigger pull…after the trigger makes contact with the sear, how far it moves before the sear releases the hammer.

This movement is also called “creep”. The more creep there is, the less “crisp” the trigger is. With too much creep, the trigger can feel mushy or gritty as it releases.

Too little creep is a problem as well though. If there isn’t enough sear engagement, the hammer may fail to lock back after firing and “follow” the bolt down as it closes. At best, this means that the hammer won’t be cocked between shots and you’ll have to manually operate the bolt to cock the hammer. At worst, this condition can cause uncontrolled full auto fire. Not only is uncontrolled full auto bad for your scores in competition, but it can result in an out of battery cartridge detonation which is a very convenient method of turning your upper receiver into a hand grenade.

One other point about adjusting the sear engagement. This screw cannot be accessed with the hammer cocked. That means you should go slowly and make very small adjustments. If you get overzealous, you could adjust it to the point that the hammer won’t release at all. This is bad because, as I said before, you can’t reach the screw with the hammer cocked. If the hammer is cocked and won’t release, and you can’t reach the adjustment screw…there is only one way to adjust it: take the hammer and trigger pins out, remove the whole trigger assembly to release the hammer, adjust some of the sear engagement out, and then reassemble the whole thing.

I’m sure you can imagine how I figured that one out.

At any rate: The way I adjusted the sear engagement is, I basically adjusted it down until I had a hair trigger. Then I put maybe an eighth of a turn of engagement back in to be sure the engagement was sufficient to be safe. After firing my first 20 rounds through it tonight, that method seems to have worked well: no failures of any kind. So far so good.

The next adjustment is the second stage pull.

This is what determines how much pressure is required from the end of the first stage “takeup” until the trigger releases.

This is adjsuted with the larger allen screw on the rear of the trigger assembly.

You can adjust this down to the point that there is no appreciable second stage…the pull is smooth all the way until the hammer releases…or up so that significant force is required to release the hammer.

According to the instructions, Jewell recommends adjusting the first stage pull to 3 1/2 pounds, and then the second stage to 1 pound, for a DCM legal 4 1/2 pounds of pull.

While experimenting and dry firing, that didn’t feel “right” to me. The takeup felt too tight and the second stage release didn’t feel sufficient to give me a distinct release point. I decided to lower the first stage and increase the second stage a little. By my rinky-dink pull gauge, I read a first stage of 2 1/2 pounds and a release at 4 1/2 pounds for a second stage of 2 pounds.

I have to say that, after shooting it tonight, I think I was wrong. I’m going to adjust it closer to Jewell’s recommendation. What felt good when dry firing, didn’t feel so good when actually shooting. The first stage felt OK, but the release was too tight. It was crisp and clean, but just too heavy. I’m going to reduce the second stage, but to keep it within the DCM legal 4 1/2 pound range, I’m going to have to increase the first stage by an equal amount. That’s going to put me right around where Jewell recommended to begin with: 3 1/2 pound first stage, 1 pound second stage.

I guess they actually knew what they were talking about.

The final adjustment is overtravel.

This controls how far the trigger continues to the rear after the hammer releases.

It is adjusted with the small allen screw on the front right of the trigger assembly.

Overtravel (arguably) isn’t quite as critical to a good trigger pull as the sear engagement and pull weights, but it does make a difference in the overall feel of the trigger. When the trigger stops moving to the rear just as the hammer releases, it just feels more precise and actually makes the second stage pull weight feel less than it actually is. In other words, you can probably get away with a long overtravel distance, but the entire trigger experience is improved by reducing it.

The bst way to adjust the overtravel is to turn the screw in until the hammer simply won’t release at all. You can do that with this adjustment because you can still get to the screw with the hammer cocked. Once you’ve got it down to where the hammer won’t release, back the screw out a about a quarter turn and pull the trigger. If the hammer still doesn’t release, back the screw out another quarter turn and try it again. Repeat just until the hammer releases.

That’s the minimum overtravel you can have and still release the hammer.

That’s it. The trigger is installed and adjusted, so here’s where we’re at.

Next time well install the Safety Selector and Pistol Grip, and the Bolt Catch.

Click here for part 4

NM AR-15 Rifle Build Part 2

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.

This time we’re going to install the magazine catch and the trigger guard

As usual, click all pix to make bigger

The magazine catch consists of three components, the catch itself, the spring and the button.

From the left side of the lower receiver, place the magazine catch into its well. It should fit flush against the side of the receiver.

While holding the magazine catch in place with your finger, flip the lower over and slip the spring over the threaded post.

Then with the knurled part of the magazine catch button facing out, compress the spring with the button and screw the button onto the magazine catch post.

You’ll only be able to turn the button a couple of turns before the side of the lower interferes. At this point, align the button so that it fits into the oblong hole in the lower receiver, then press the button in as far as you can with your finger.

While holding the button in, from the left side of the receiver, turn the magazine catch to continue screwing the post into the button.

Again, you’ll get to the point where the receiver interferes and you won’t be able to screw the magazine catch down far enough.

At that point, use a punch or other long, slender object, padded with a rag to keep from marring the finish, to compress the button further into the receiver.

Continue turning the magazine catch until the post is about even with the top of the threads inside the button.

Line the magazine catch up with its well in the left side of the receiver and allow it the spring tension to press the catch into place.

The Trigger Guard consists of only two pieces

The trigger guard assembly itself contains a spring and pin (the silver piece), but generally come pre-assembled.

The only other component is the roll pin.

For some reason, I didn’t take any pictures of the assembly itself so I’m going to recycle a couple of pictures from the last assembly.

These pictures are from my old camera so you’ll be able to compare exactly how much better the new camera is as compared to the old one.

The end of the trigger guard with the spring loaded pin goes to the front of the receiver.

It can really go in one way because there is only one hole in the receiver mounting ears.

Match the side of the trigger guard without the pin, to the mounting ear with no hole. Angle the trigger guard so that the plain side goes in first. Press the spring loaded pin in with your finger, and then rock the pin side down onto the mounting ear.

As soon as the pin is lined up with the hole in the mounting ear, it will snap into the hole, locking the trigger guard in place.

Next, push the opposite end of the trigger guard into the rear mounting ears and align the pin holes.

It doesn’t hurt anything to insert a small punch to line up the holes and keep them aligned while driving in the roll pin, but it isn’t really required.

Drive the roll pin through the rear mounting ears and the trigger guard mounting hole.

And that’s where we are so far.

Next time, we’ll install and adjust the Jewell two stage match trigger.

Click here for Part 3

NM AR-15 Rifle Build Part 1

I’m going to consider this part one of the series even though I’ve been talking about this for a while now; this is the first of the series that involves the actual assembly and not just picking parts and buying stuff.

Anyone interested in the backstory regarding my reasons for assembling this rifle, the components that I chose and why, the costs incurred, etc can click HERE for all of those preliminary posts. I changed the category of the preliminary posts to “NM Rifle Pre-build” to differentiate them from the actual assembly series posts.

Although I’ve already done a post series on assembling an AR-15 lower, I’m going to repeat those steps here for the sake of thoroughness. the only real differences between this one and the other one I did are that this one uses an A-2 style buttstock so that assembly is slightly different, and the Jewell match trigger installation is significantly different. If you’re interested in assembling a lower with a standard trigger and an M4 style collapsible buttstock, the final post of that series (with links to the other posts in the series) can be found HERE.

As usual…click all pix to make bigger

One National Match AR-15 rifle…some assembly required.

Doesn’t look all that daunting once you get it all spread out does it?

I should have taken a picture with all the little pieces parts just dumped into a big ziplock bag. Now THAT made it look complicated.

To recap (and because I’m sure someone stumbling across this who has’t read any of the preliminary posts linked above is going to ask), the lower is a CMMG. The Upper is a YHM, the Barrel is a DPMS .223, Stainless Steel, DCM Legal, 1:8 twist, 20″ HBAR. The trigger is a Jewell 2 stage adjustable match trigger. The free float tube, handguards, Buttstock assembly, 1/4 moa x 1/4 moa rear sight and front sight post are all from Rock River Arms. The Bolt Carrier Group I don’t know the make but I got it in trade for an SKS trigger job so I wasn’t being picky. The magazines are steel 20 rounders from C-Products. The charging handle is from Model 1 and all the small parts are a mix of DPMS and Olympic depending what MidwayUSA had in stock, what got the best reviews and what was the least expensive, in that order. For costs and the reasoning (or lack thereof) for all of my selections, please click link above to the pre-build posts…I discussed all that in great detail there.

Before we actually get into the assembly, lets talk a little bit about tools.

The lower assembly doesn’t require any particular special tools. Everything for the lower is pretty standard fare: pin punches, needle nose pliers, hammer etc.

The upper only requires a couple of specialized tools: the Armorer’s Action Block, the AR-15 multi-tool (or a barrel nut wrench, combined with a spanner wrench and an appropriate sized open end wrench for the flash hider), and snap ring pliers and a torque wrench (which are pretty standard for piston-heads, and can be purchased or rented at virtually any auto parts store).

The packing tape is needed for installing the bolt catch pin and is only used to prevent the lower receiver finish from being marred during installation. It can be used at any phase of the assembly to protect the finish, but is really only needed for the bolt catch pin.

The dremel tool, jewelers file, fine stone and cold blue were only needed because I was installing a free float tube with a standard A2 Front Sight Base (FSB). The Free float tube has the front sling swivel mounted on it. In order for it to fit correctly, the sling swivel mounting ears on the FSB have to be ground or cut off. Then the area that is cut must be re-finished with cold blue to prevent corrosion and to match the finish. If you’re doing a standard installation without the free-float tube, or using an FSB or gas block that doesn’t have an integral sling swivel mount, these tools aren’t required.

The Jewell trigger tools came with the trigger assembly. The two allen wrenches were also required for the trigger for adjustment purposes…conveniently, the large allen wrench used for the trigger was also the size needed for the FSB set screws that, on a match rifle, replace the taper pins.

The snap ring pliers, torque wrench and multi-tool are needed for barrel installation. The torque wrench needs to go to at least 30 foot pounds and should be 1/2″ drive. If a 3/8″ drive torque wrench is used, a 3/8″ to 1/2″ socket adapter will be needed to fit the torque wrench to the hole in the multi-tool.

The home-made A2 sight tool is only needed if you are assembling an A-2 upper that doesn’t have rear sights already installed. I made that on the fly when I realized that I really did need it. I saw A-2 sight tools for sale but decided I could manage without one…I was right…it was easy to make one out of a humble popsicle stick that worked just fine.

The big straight slot screwdriver is used for the Lower Receiver extension self-locking screw (aka upper buttstock screw) and the pistol grip screw. There are different types of pistol grip screws so be sure you have a long driver for the type of screw you have, whether allen head, phillips, or whatever.

Not pictured is my bench vise…pretty much a must have for assembling an upper receiver. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to properly torque the barrel nut without one and it makes several other parts of the assembly much easier.

The Armorer’s block is really only needed for installing the barrel, but it is very useful for holding the upper receiver during several stages of the assembly. I actually bought an Armorer’s block set which also came with a lower action block as well as the upper action block. The lower action block is basically a chunk of plastic shaped like a magazine. It locks into the magazine well in the lower and then clamps in a vise to hold the lower while working.

During my last lower build, I used a rubber-jawed hobby vise to hold the lower during the assembly. This time, I had an assistant (my son) and those two extra hands meant I didn’t need either the hobby vise or the lower action block. If you are going to be doing this on your own, I’d recommend getting the lower action block as well as the upper action block. It seems to me that the lower action block would work just as well as my hobby vise did if you only have two hands; and, at MidwayUSA, the set was only a couple dollars more than just the upper action block by itself.

You may run across an opportunity to use some other common tools, smaller screwdrivers, different sized hammers, etc…but those really just make things easier, they aren’t really required. The above tools are all that you really need to assemble an AR-15.

Stay tuned…in part 2 we’re going to start assembling the lower.

Click here for Part 2

M1 Garand Reassembly

In previous posts, I covered M1 Garand disassembly, and disassembly and reassembly of the bolt.

I mentioned in the disassembly post that I neglected to disassemble the clip latch mechanism…that was an oversight that I’ll rectify at some point and add the procedure to these posts. I also already mentioned that I didn’t disassemble the rear sight. I also didn’t disassemble the trigger group. I may decide to do that in a separate post at some point. The reason I’m reluctant is because my trigger is just THAT good. I don’t want to mess with it unnecessarily. The M1 Garand was blessed with arguably the best issue trigger ever to grace a military rifle. My particular specimen is particularly crisp and clean in my humble opinion and I simply don’t want to mess with perfection.

I will probably, at some point, take the risk and make the sacrifice of breaking mine down and building it back up just for the benefit of my much appreciated readership, but I just wasn’t up for it this time.

If you REALLY need to see how either the rear sight or the trigger group is disassembled and reassembled, leave me a comment. If there is enough interest, I’ll bite the bullet (so to speak) and do a post on the trigger group and/or rear sight.

As far as reassembling the rifle…here we go:

First we need to reinstall the follower assembly. It isn’t difficult, but does take a little coordination.

Stick the “t” shaped end of the follower arm through the slot in the bullet guide.

The mounting pin holes in the bases of the follower arm and the bullet guide should align.

Then slide “t” of the follower arm into the grooves
on the bottom of the follower. the narrow end of the follower points away from the follower arm.

The grooves in the follower go all the way through so it will basically just fall apart if you don’t hold them together.

With the receiver upside down, and the narrow end of the follower pointing toward the rear of the receiver, the follower goes down into the slots in front pillars of the receiver.

As soon as you get the follower started in the slots, put your fingers under the receiver. The slots in the receiver go all the way through so if you don’t use your fingers to stop it, the follower will just fall out the other side and the whole thing will come apart again.

Then seat the bullet guide against the pillars. There are tabs on the bullet guide that fit into notches on the pillars which hold the pieces relatively steady after it’s in position.

Next the operating rod catch goes in.

The “arm” on the catch goes on the left side of the receiver (at the top in this photo). The bent part of the arm should be bent toward the top of the receiver.

The arm will slide under the corner of the bullet guide, and then the mounting “ears” of the catch will straddle the bullet guide and follower arm.

The pin holes should all be fairly well aligned at this point.

With the operating rod catch in place, be sure that the bent part of the arm is above (below in this picture because the receiver is upside down) the tab on the clip latch that sticks through the side of the receiver there.

Then the pin slides in from the right side of the receiver. If you put the pin in backward, it won’t seat completely because only one side of the receiver is recessed for the head on the pin.

You may have to jiggle things a little to get everything lined up for the pin to go through, but the pin doesn’t fit tightly so it shouldn’t be difficult.

Once the pin is in, the follower assembly will stay together so you can stop holding the follower.

Next , on the top of the barrel, with the metal clip toward the receiver end, the front of the upper handguard fits in to the ferrule.

Then the rear of the handguard is pressed over the barrel. The legs of the clip will snap into the slots on either side of the barrel.

One idiosyncrasy of the M1 Garand is that it needs grease to operate correctly. Oil just doesn’t cut it.

There are as many opinions about the best grease to use on the M1 Garand as there are M1 Garands in the world, but I’ve had very good results with Tetra gun grease. It’s available from Fulton Armory, Midway USA, and probably any number of other outlets as well.

Basically, anywhere that metal moves against metal, you should grease. Before installing the bolt and operating rod, I usually grease the rails that the bolt lugs ride in, the rail that the operating rod rides in, and the inside top of the receiver where the bolt rubs when the rifle is in recoil.

It’s pretty easy to see where metal rubs metal because the finish will be worn away in an obvious pattern.

CAVEAT: Don’t put oil or grease on the gas piston part of the operating rod (the shiny part that goes into the gas cylinder). The gas system is designed to operate dry. If you’re storing a Garand, you can use grease or oil in the gas system as a preservative, but be sure you completely remove it from the gas cylinder and piston portion of the operating rod before firing.

It shouldn’t take any force to get the bolt in, but you do have to play around and find the right angle and orientation to get it to go in. Sometimes it’s like figuring out a puzzle, but you shouldn’t have to force it in any way.

Lay the operating rod in place underneath the barrel and hold it loosely in place with your hand.

Place the operating rod into position alongside the receiver, fit the bolt lug into the well in the operating rod.

There is a tab on the inside of the operating rod that rides in the rail on the receiver.Keeping the bolt lug in the well in the operating rod, place that tab against the rail at about the midpoint of the receiver; then slowly move the operating rod back toward the rear of the receiver, pressing it in toward the rail.

Just before reaching the rearmost travel of the bolt, the tab on the operating rod will line up with a slot in the receiver rail and will pop into place.

That will trap the operating rod to the receiver and keep it mated to the bolt lug.

The front of the operating rod still isn’t secured at this point so hold it in place against the underside of the barrel for the time being to keep it from flopping around.

Slide the front handguard over the barrel and seat it into the ferrule.

The operating rod will go into the U-shaped part under the front handguard.

Then slide the gas cylinder assembly over the barrel.

As it is going into place, the front of the operating rod will seat into the gas cylinder.

align the splines of the cylinder assembly with the grooves in the barrel and firmly seat the assembly in place against the front of the front handguard.

I’ve never needed to do so, but if you have to tap the gas cylinder into place to seat it, I’d probably use a small piece of PVC pipe or a similar tube that the barrel will just fit inside. Slip the tube over the barrel and against the front of the gas cylinder assembly; then tap the end of the tube with a mallet to seat the assembly. That should enable you to seat it without putting any undue lateral forces on it or damaging the finish.

Next, the gas cylinder lock spins over the barrel.

As I said in the disassembly post, mine doesn’t fit tightly so I can put it on by hand. If yours is tight, you can use the special tool (also available from Fulton Armory) to wrench it down.

Then screw in the gas cylinder lock screw and tighten it down with a ginormous straight slot or phillips screwdriver…or the M1 Garand combination tool like I use.

The screw should be pretty snug. You don’t want to go all Hulk Hogan on it or anything, but if you don’t snug it down pretty tightly, you take a chance of it loosening up on you during firing…which is bad for proper operation of the gas system.

This is a good time to check for binding. Hold the rifle barrel up and the bolt and operating rod should fall completely open under its own weight. Tip the barrel forward and the bolt and operating rod should fall forward and the bolt should close and lock, again under its own weight.

If the bolt and operating rod don’t move freely under their own weight, something is binding and you need to find and fix the problem before continuing. Binding could be caused by something not being assembled correctly, the gas cylinder being dented or bent, the operating rod being bent, a burr or rough spot in the receiver rails that guide the operating rod or bolt…basically at any point where the moving components travel, there could be a problem causing binding.

Next, put the narrow end of the operating rod spring over the rear (straight) end of the follower rod.

It should fit tightly. If it is a loose fit, you’re putting the rod into the wrong end of the spring.

Then feed the operating rod spring into the hole in the operating rod.

By the way: see that shiny spot on the bottom of the barrel in this picture? The operating rod rubs there under recoil. I grease that area any time I have the rifle apart.

With the receiver upside down, the bent part of the follower rod should be up toward you.

With the bolt closed, put a finger underneath the follower to hold the follower arm up and forward.

Push the follower rod far enough into the operating rod to hook the “ears” on the follower rod onto the small pegs on either side of the follower arm.

Then gently release the follower and allow the operating rod spring tension to be taken up by the follower assembly.

Manually cycle the action a couple of times to make sure that everything is working correctly. The bolt should lock back when pulled all the way to the rear and you’ll have to push the follower down to release it.

Next, place the front of the stock into the ferrule on the barrel.

Then push the rear of the stock down onto the receiver.

With the rifle upside down, open the trigger guard as far as it will go.

Push the trigger group straight down into the receiver and stock until it is fully seated.

Close the trigger guard and push it firmly to lock it into place.

It looks like I’m putting pressure on the rear sight to lock the trigger guard into place in this picture.

That is an optical delusion (yes, I meant to say delusion…attempted humor). If you look closely, you’ll see that I didn’t even have the trigger guard all the way closed yet. I really shouldn’t have had the sights on the bench at all and I’m not sure I actually did. It looks that way in the picture but I don’t believe I had any weight on it at all if it’s actually even touching.

Basically, the timer went off and the picture was snapped just as I was gripping the trigger guard, receiver and stock to press the trigger guard into place. When I do this, I grip the top of the receiver and the stock with my fingers, put my palm over the trigger guard, and then squeeze to lock the trigger guard into place.

Basically that was a long way of saying: if it looks like I’m putting pressure on the rear sight in this picture, I’m not. You should not do that…it’s bad for the sight.

Finally, the sling. I use a standard cotton web sling just like they did in WWII.

I really like the versatility of this sling and it’s more practical than the leather M1907 sling on a rifle that isn’t a dedicated match gun.

I actually put mine on backward compared to most people, but I think it is the most comfortable when using it to stabilize a shooting position this way.

On the rear sling swivel, I hook the clip on from front to back.

Then, making sure not to twist the sling, I put the tab end through the top sling swivel from back to front with the part of the clasp that opens facing away from the rifle.

Open the clasp, slide the tab through it, adjust the sling to the desired tightness, position the clasp to secure as much of the excess as possible, and close the clasp.

When I’m using the sling for stabilizing a shooting position, the opening part of the clasp and any excess sling is to the outside of the sling and my hand and arm are on the inside. This keeps the clasp from biting me and the excess sling hanging free and out of my way. Also, I can make minor adjustments to sling tension with my trigger hand without having to completely extricate myself from the sling.

I honestly don’t understand why most people put the sling on with the clasp and the excess sling to the inside. I started doing it this way before I knew the “right” way because it made the most sense to me. When I realized that, judging by how others were doing it, I was putting the sling on “wrong”, I just never changed. If my way works better for me, why should I worry about what anyone else is doing?

Anyway, that’s it. Another post series in the can. I hope someone finds it useful.

M1 Garand Bolt Disassembly/Reassembly

Other posts in the series: M1 Garand Disassembly, M1 Garand Reassembly

OK…da bolt.

The M1 Garand bolt is put together almost exactly the same way as the M1 Carbine bolt…just on a larger scale. Like the M1 Carbine bolt, the extractor has a pin that passes through the body of the bolt and holds the firing pin and the ejector in.

Also, just like the M1 Carbine bolt, there is a spring and plunger underneath the ejector that places spring tension on the ejector, allowing it to catch and hold the rim of the cartridge as the bolt closes and locks.

Again, like the M1 Carbine, the ejector is a simple post (you can see some significant wear on mine…65 years of use will do that to you…but it still works flawlessly).

And finally, like the M1 Carbine Bolt, there is a special tool for assembling and disassembling the Garand bolt. Had I known that before taking mine apart the first time, I probably would have anticipated it being just as difficult as the Carbine and would have invested the $50 to $70 in the tool. I didn’t know any better though and, by trying it without the tool, discovered that it really isn’t very difficult at all.

There are two features that make it easier than the Carbine bolt…first it’s just bigger and easier to work with. Secondly, the extractor has a beveled edge that helps to push the extractor spring and plunger down as it’s going into place. You don’t have to manually compress the extractor spring to get the extractor seated over it…which is a major headache on the M1 Carbine bolt.

Disassembly is simply a matter of driving the extractor out of the bolt body with a pin punch.

Put your thumb or a finger over the bolt face as the extractor is coming out in case the extractor spring tries to escape.

Conveniently, as the pin punch goes in and drives out the extractor, the punch itself locks the ejector into place so that it doesn’t fire itself across the garage. The thumb or finger over the bolt face will ensure no mishaps in that respect as well though.

With the extractor removed, pull the extractor spring and plunger out and set them aside; then, again with your thumb over the bolt face to catch the ejector, and with the your pinky over the rear of the bolt to keep the firing pin from falling out onto the floor, slowly work the pin punch back out of the extractor pin hole.

I apologize for the blurry photo…My new camera does MUCH better than the old one, but having it on the tripod and taking pictures with the timer means that I can’t check every picture every time and in a few cases, the lens seems to have autofocused on something in the spirit world rather than the intended subject of the shot. Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple that are much worse than this one coming up.

After the pin punch is pulled out, the firing pin will basically fall out of the bottom of the bolt and the ejector and spring can be pulled from the front.

That’s all there is to disassembly.

You’ll probably notice that in subequent pictures, I start wearing nitrile gloves. I actually shot the disassembly and reassembly on two different days.

On the second day, I was cleaning and then lubricating as I was reassembling. My skin soaks up Hoppe’s Number 9 like a sponge and if I don’t wear gloves, I can smell it (and, more importantly, my wife can smell it) on my hands for days no matter how many times I wash.

One of the little tricks I use is I keep a cotton rag (piece of an old t-shirt) lightly impregnated with gun oil in a zip-lock bag.

For general lubrication and protection of metal surfaces after cleaning, I simply wipe each component down with the rag to give them a light coating of oil. I’ve been using this method (and probably this same rag) for years.

It’s important that areas like the firing pin, ejector, extractor, etc. have a light coating of oil to lubricate and protect against corrosion, but too much oil in those areas can trap dirt, carbon and powder residue which can bind things up. This oiled rag method allows me to put the perfect amount of lubrication on these areas; and, because I re-use the same oiled rag over and over, I don’t waste a bunch of gun oil by oiling directly and then wiping off and discarding excess.

To reassemble the bolt, first drop the ejector spring and ejector into their well in the bolt face.

Be sure to turn the ejector so that the notch that the extractor pin engages is aligned with the extractor pin hole.

Then the firing pin goes in from the bottom.

Here’s the secret to putting the Garand bolt back together without the tool: I secure a fairly large pin punch in my bench vise.

This picture is VERY blurry and I apologize for that. I included it anyway because I think you can still get an idea of how I’m using the pin punch in the vise to put the bolt together.

Basically, you press the ejector against the face of the pin punch with enough force to push the ejector back into it’s proper position in the bolt.

Be sure to keep the firing pin seated by putting pressure on it with the pinky of the hand holding the bolt.

After the ejector is seated deeply enough, slip a smaller pin punch through the extractor pin hole to temporarily hold the ejector and firing pin in place.

Next, drop the extractor plunger and spring into the well in the bolt lug.

Observant people may notice that there is no pin punch sticking out of the bolt in this picture.

That’s because I did it in the wrong order when taking the pictures. I put the extractor plunger and spring in before securing the ejector and firing pin with the pin punch. After doing it, I realized that it was stupid to do it that way because I could have dropped the extractor plunger and spring and lost them while I was pressing on the ejector with the punch secured in the vise.

I’m putting in the pictures out of sequence with the way I ACTUALLY did it, in order to tell you the CORRECT way to do it. In other words…do as I say, not as I do…er…did.

Meanwhile…back in the garage…

With the extractor and firing pin held in by the pin punch, and the extractor plunger and spring inserted into their well in the bolt lug, now is the time to place the extractor on the bolt.

Carefully back the pin punch out (be sure cover the top and bottom of the bolt with fingers just in case you go too far and release the firing pin or ejector) until enough of the extractor pin hole is clear that you can start the extractor pin into the hole.

Then, while still holding everything together carefully to keep anything from slipping and rapidly departing the area, lay the top of the bolt against a solid, but relatively soft surface…a block of wood works perfectly.

the bolt should be placed extractor down, the handle of the pin punch should be straight up in the air.

Then give the top of the bolt a firm tap with a plastic, rubber, rawhide or possibly brass mallet.

The extractor should seat and push the pin punch out of the bolt.

When properly seated, the top surface of the extractor should be flush with the top of the bolt body.

Viola…there you have it.

Next time we’ll reassemble the rifle.