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RELINING A SPRINGFIELD TRAPDOOR
RIFLE BARREL
By Wayne McLerran
Updated 5/31/15

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-forged T.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.

Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne