Original Springfield Trapdoor (TD) rifles are over 125 years old. Many have been shot a lot, improperly cleaned, forgotten and allowed to languish in less than ideal conditions in closets for years and years. Even if the rifle is in relatively good condition it’s common to find pitted chambers and bores and worn muzzles, all of which can result in poor accuracy. Relining barrels is a relatively straight forward process and is the most common solution for restoring old worn-out bores in antique firearms without replacing the entire barrel.
To describe the relining process in simple terms, the barrel bore is drilled out and a new liner with lands and grooves is installed. The liner is either shrink- fitted, soldered or glued in place using various techniques. Many gunsmiths can install liners but some are not interested in working on TD rifles for various reasons. By the way, it may not be obvious, but after the liner is installed the barrel also has to be rechambered. The liner cannot be installed in front of the old chamber. Also, irrespective of how well the work is done, someone that knows what to look for will be able to spot a new liner installation, even if additional work is performed in an attempt to hide the installation. Therefore, regardless of the condition of the chamber or bore, if the rifle has significant collectors value, do not have a liner installed. But you could opt to have a new barrel installed and retain the old barrel to maintain the collectors value if the rifle is sold.
I acquired a well used Model 1877 .45-70 TD carbine several years ago with the intent to clean it up and use it for recreational shooting and hunting. After a good bit of work it’s in very good condition but the last couple of inches at the muzzle was pitted due to rust and worn from aggressive use of a cleaning rod, a common problem resulting in poor accuracy. I could have had the barrel replaced, but I wanted to keep the rifle as original as possible and I was not concerned about its collector value to others. Therefore, relining the barrel was the only reasonable solution to restore accuracy. I thought some of you may be interested in the following details from my research on the subject.
I found that custom liners can be purchased from high-quality barrel manufacturers such as Lilja, Shilen, Douglas or Lothar Walther, but would be a very expensive solution. In keeping with my desire to match the groove and twist rate configuration of the original bore, I specified a 3-groove 1:22 twist .45 caliber liner when requesting quotes on price and turn-around time. After further research it became clear only one company supplies the specified liner as a standard product. The company is T.J.’s, 3652 Neitner Rd., Alexandria, KY 41001, 859-635-5560. The guy that runs the place is Mike Sayers. Mike does not install liners, only manufacturers and sells them. The liners are hammer-forged from 4130 chrome-molly steel and sold by the inch. Hammer forging results in very smooth and well-defined riflings. It also work hardens the metal a bit, resulting in a Rockwell hardness C scale rating of around 28, which is good if a lot of jacketed bullets will be shot in the rifle. The .45 caliber liner bore & groove diameters are .450” and .458” respectively. If your TD happens to be a .50 caliber, T.J.’s also supplies a 6-groove .50- caliber liner with respective bore and groove diameters of .500” and .510”. An online retailer by the name of Track of the Wolf, Inc. (763) 633-2500 that specializes in black powder guns and parts also sells T.J.’s liners by the inch. I did not do an exhaustive search for liner suppliers. Therefore, if you either don’t care or prefer a different .45 caliber liner configuration, there are other suppliers.
Although many good gunsmiths have the ability to reline and rechamber a TD, I was only able to locate five that agreed to do the work. Several declined, either saying they only work on modern rifles, don’t install liners or would not reline a TD because the barrel walls are too thin. Two were not aware that 3-groove liners were available to match the original bore configuration. The gunsmiths that agreed to tackle the job were Lee Shaver (417) 682-3330, John Taylor (253) 445-4073, John King (406) 755-5352, Mike Lewis (970) 846- 8162 and Robert Hoyt (717) 642-6696. All use T.J.’s liners, but Robert Hoyt also offers another less expensive liner solution.
Robert (Bobby) Hoyt was recommended by several TD owners. His contact information is: Robert A. Hoyt, c/o The Freischutz Shop, 700 Fairfield Station Road, Fairfield, Pennsylvania 17320, 717-642-6696. He does not have a website and is a hard guy to reach on the phone, so don’t give up trying if you continue to get a busy signal or message.
If you plan on firing a lot of jacketed bullets through the rifle, Bobby can use T.J.’s liners, but the price for the work will be higher due to the cost of the liner. If you plan on shooting mostly lead bullets, he offers a significantly cheaper option. Bobby makes his own cut-rifled liners from 12L14 cold-rolled steel. The steel is not as hard as the 4130 worked hardened chrome-molly steel used by T.J.’s, but it is harder than the original TD barrel steel and is an excellent solution for lead bullet shooters. I had him install a 3-groove 1:22 twist liner that matched the original bore and with a SAAMI .45-70 Gov. chamber. The resulting groove (0.463”) and bore (0.455”) diameters closely matched the original dimensions of my rifle. By the way, the original Springfield Armory specifications are: bore diameter 0.450” +/- 0.001”; groove depth: 0.005” +/- 0.001” with a twist rate of 1:22 (one turn in 22 inches).
Bobby first drills out the barrel. Then a section of 12L14 round stock is drilled out slightly smaller than the finish bore diameter. The outside diameter of the liner is reduced on a lathe to slightly less than the diameter of the hole in the barrel. The liner is installed with a high-quality high-temperature Locktite adhesive. The bore diameter is reamed to the final dimensions and the grooves are cut to the correct depth and twist rate. Finally, a new chamber is cut and the muzzle is recrowned. So I sent the barrel to Bobby in mid-August and received the relined TD barrel back the end of October 2012. He did an excellent job and I highly recommend his work. I cannot spot any signs that the barrel was relined. I did make a chamber cast and “slugged” the bore. Both are within the specifications I requested. The next step was to “break in” the chamber and bore.
Since the grooves are cut rather than hammer-forged into the liner, I planned to “break in” the relined barrel, a controversial subject, but I believe it’s a necessary step with new cut-rifled barrels unless they are highly polished afterwards. The typical break-in process is lengthy and consists of firing several rounds of jacketed bullets and cleaning between each shot to remove all jacketed material and fouling deposited in the bore, and waiting for the bore to cool before the next shot. But Lee Shaver has developed a much simpler technique. For complete details on Lee's process and Badger Barrels' recommended procedure, click on the following link: Barrel Break-In Process. The intent is to smooth out any reamer marks or rough edges remaining on the edges of the lands after the grooves were cut. A smoother bore is less likely to lead and is easier to clean after shooting lead bullets. By the way, one of the advantages of using the already smooth hammer-forgedT.J.’s liners; a break-in process is not necessary.
Regardless of the gunsmith you choose to do the work, since a new chamber must be cut, the barrel/ receiver assembly and the breech block will be required to ensure the head space is correct. In other words, sending the stock, lock assembly, trigger assembly, etc., is not necessary. The gunsmith can work around the front sight, but he may ask you to remove the rear sight from the barrel if possible, which can be a problem if the sight is installed with “slot- less” screws. So be sure to discuss this with the gunsmith. He may be willing to pull the rear sight off if you can’t, but in the process the screws may be modified. By the way, since TD barrels are relatively thin, if a T.J.’s liner is used, it may have to be “turned” on a lathe to reduce a portion of the outside diameter. So don’t be surprised if the gunsmith mentions this when discussing the work required. Of course, since Robert Hoyt makes his liners, it’s a standard part of his process.
Finally, be sure to ask about turn-around-time and don’t be surprised to find that you’ll have to wait several months for the work to be completed, which is common for most good gunsmiths due to their backlog. If turn-around-time is more important than cost or the type of liner used, you should contact several gunsmiths. I received estimates of one to six months.