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RELINING A SPRINGFIELD TRAPDOOR
RIFLE BARREL
By Wayne McLerran
Updated 9/5/13

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 standard 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.  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.  Hard-cast lead bullets could be used but many more shots/cleaning
cycles would be required to “polish” the bore as good as jacketed bullets.  By
the way, one of the advantages of using the already smooth hammer-forged
T.J.’s liners; a break-in process is not necessary.

After reading my comments on breaking in the new liner, Lee Shaver graciously
provided his break-in process, which is simpler and much less time consuming.
He said, and I paraphrase, “Many years ago I changed the way I break in a
barrel.  Instead of the typical shoot and clean method, I simply clean the bore
nicely and oil it with a tight patch.  Then, 0000 steel wool is layered on the
patch and the bore is scrubbed with the steel wool patch, the tighter the better.  
After about 15 minutes there will be no further break in required for lead bullet
use.”  I don’t know about those of you reading this, but this is the method I will
be using from now on.  I certainly was not relishing the thought of spending
hours at the range shooting, cleaning and waiting for the barrel to cool between
shots.

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.


Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne