A while back, I ordered a new G2 and a 204 Ruger barrel in Stainless Steel for a customer. At the same time I ordered a 204 Ruger Contender blued barrel for my self. I had wanted one for a long time and thought this would be a good time to get one.
My customer wanted me to mount the scope and do some shooting with his rig to make sure it was a shooter. I did this, and yes it would produce sub MOA with factory ammo. He also wanted me to do some load development to save him time with reloads. I was able to get some loads for him that were close to ˝ MOA at 100 yards.
After doing this, it was time for me to start shooting my barrel. I fired one and then run a wet patch followed with a dry patch or two to do a nice slow brake in just like I did on his. This was done with Hornady factory ammo. Keeping the barrel cool, and a light clean after each shot for around twenty rounds. Then I started doing three shot groups and keeping the barrel cool and clean after each three shot group.
After a couple more boxes of factory ammo, it was time to start some more load development. As I worked with different powders and bullets, I noticed I could not get any better than 1 MOA. I also noticed that POI kept changing from time to time, but no large move. I began to think I had a scope problem so I changed to a different scope. No change. Now I noticed that the random pattern of the rounds started to show some vertical stringing. Because I have three thousands of barrel to frame gap, I knew it was not a barrel bumping problem causing the vertical stringing. Just might be a forend problem. I tried with the forend loose, tight and removed. No change. I even machined some pillars and installed them into the forend, again no change in the groups.
I then began to notice that I had stringing down and right. So one day I just keep shooting until the barrel got real hot….guess what, it started to shoot nice tight groups with the barrel smoking hot. This is when I decided I had a barrel that had not been STRESS RELIEVED. And it was a barrel stress problem.
Now is time to explain a little about barrel stress: When a barrel is drilled and then rifled, this process creates stress within the barrel; this is corrected with a heat application in an oven for a given temperature and time. But there is also another cause of this problem. If the barrel is drilled with a few thousands variation from center, you create thick and thin spots within the barrel. To small to be seen with the eye in most cases. But as the barrel heats, this will also cause this problem of stringing the shots. This is more common in rifle barrels than the shorter pistol barrels, but can happen in any barrel.
There is nothing I can do as a gunsmith to correct this, so I called TC to let them know what was going on. I spoke with Brian, the head of the Custom Shop, and explained to him what this barrel was doing. His comment was "sounds like it is a stress problem", just what I had already figured it was. He said to ship it in and let them redo the heat treating. He also stated this may or may not correct the problem. And they would "make it right".
So off to TC the barrel went. After three weeks I got the barrel back. The work order stated "Cleaned", "Lapped" and "Re-crowned". Nothing about a stress relief.
The barrel was super clean when sent to them, so I thought this was strange. Upon inspection I noticed a forty five degree cut into what use to be a nice flat recessed crown. It was the ugliest cut I have ever seen….quality work? I think not……..
So now it is time to shoot it, and see if it is any better. After eight rounds of factory ammo it moved down six inches one half an inch at a time, and one and one half inches right, one eight of an inch at a time. It is obvious that nothing was done to correct the STRESS PROBLEM.
I have contacted the TC Factory once again and am waiting for a call back to see just what they will do about this problem.
I think it is time for a NEW BARREL.
After talking on the phone to second in charge of the service dept, I was told they would call me back after checking on what was going on.
Two days later I got a call from TC telling me that the main man wanted to shoot this barrel himself. They arranged for a "Call Tag", and UPS picked it up today.
Now I am waiting to see what TC is going to do….replace the barrel is the only proper thing to do.
The barrel was received by TC on 10/4/07. A week later 10/12/07 they still had not shot it or even looked at it. I called today and talked with #2 and found this out. Was told they would shot it Monday 10/15/07, we will see.
Well…..FedEx just brought me a barrel box today 10/20/07. Inside the box is a brand new barrel, and a computer reproduction of the target they shot at 100 yards.
It is a three shot group and measures .300, not bad with Factory ammo. They were using a 39gr bullet, but did not tell me if it was their load or factory ammo. I will be calling them Monday to thank them, and ask questions about the ammo they used.
I found out that it is Federal Factory Ammo they used to test with.
When I get some free time, with the wind not blowing, I will do some load development with this barrel. When I get it finished I will post a "Range Report"
I know this was a long winded story…but thought it might shed some light on just one of many problems we see as Gunsmiths and add a little to your knowledge base.