Buehler Custom Sporting Arms LLC

Maker of Fine Sporting Rifles

Author: Reto Buehler (Page 1 of 6)

.318 Westley & Richards makeover

Once in a while I get inquiries to do a complete makeover of a vintage rifle. In this case my client had been offered a 1920 Westley & Richards rifle for sale, together with a new stock blank and a duplicated pattern stock. The original stock had been oil soaked and cracked and was completely worn down. The barrel had some corrosion on the inside, and the outside had a thick patina on the metal. Everything was in pretty rough shape. My client considered buying the rifle, then have me re-stock and re-store the rifle to original condition. Is it worth to do a project with a rifle gone that far? My advise was, yes, if it shoots well, and no, if the accuracy is bad from the start. If re-barreling would be required it would be smarter to build a custom rifle from scratch. The original proof marks would have been lost and at that time in my opinion the Westley Richards association would have been pretty minimalized.

My client was given the opportunity to test fire the rifle before purchasing it, and low and behold, the accuracy was a very pleasant surprise. The decision to go ahead was made.

We expected having to re-cut the letterings on the rifle by an engraver. Bead blasting of the metal revealed however that the lettering was deep enough to be left alone.

The stock was carved from the supplied pattern and it is very closely made to the original. I did add about 1″ of length of pull to the stock to accommodate my client better. On the original stock a horrible ventilated recoil pad had been installed. We assumed that the stock originally had a steel butt plate. I was able to locate a period correct trap door steel butt plate. New screws and a drill guide had to be made for the butt plate.

The original grip cap and diamond inlay on the forearm where used, but new screws had to be made and timed. A horn forearm tip was added to the stock.

The checkering of a vintage W&R rifle presents a further challenge and difficulty to the stock maker. Typically on those guns the rear borders of the grip checkering are the master lines and go over the top.

Here are a few pictures of the finished project. I made a period correct sling swivel stud and a new ivory front sight for the rifle as well. Some of the parts where then sent off for case color hardening and the barreled action was rust blued by my friend Stan Tabasco. I really had fun shooting this classic. The accuracy was impressive and dare I say, unusual for an old gun like this. The trigger was a typical Mauser 2 stage. We left the original trigger in the gun. But I blocked the first stage and changed it to a single stage trigger.

It always is wonderful when the client is able to pick up his gun in person. I truly hope that he is happy with my work and I hope the rifle will be a great companion and play an important role in his future adventures. There is a great sense of satisfaction to doing such a project, and I hope to get similar commissions in the future.

Here is a brief history of this rifle in my clients words:

“The rifle was built in 1920, sent to a British officer by the name of J. F. Dobson, who served served in India. No one knows how and/or when the rifle made its way to the hands of an unnamed professional hunter in Africa. Basil Bradbury, of Boone and Crockett fame and former editor of Peterson’s Hunting magazine, brought the rifle back from Africa. By this time, the stock had two cracks in it and the checkering around the pistol grip and foreend had been worn completely smooth. In March of 1993, Basil Bradbury gifted the rifle to my friend Jay Lesser, founder and former owner of Wyoming Professional Hunters and former Boone and Crockett member. Shortly thereafter, former shooting editor for Guns and Ammo magazine, Ross Seyfried, gave Jay a box of Nosler Partition 250 grain .338 bullets, which had been centerless ground to a diameter of .330 so that good hunting ammunition could be made for the old rifle. It should be noted this all happened before the internet and the wide distribution of Woodleigh Bullets, which the rifle currently shoots very well. I bought the rifle, including the Ross Seyfried Nosler bullets, a fine stock blank, a pattern stock, and RCBS loading dies from Jay in November of 2015. I promptly shot two 1.5 inch-100 yard-3 shot groups with the rifle, and delivered the rifle to Reto Buehler for resurrection. An elk hunt with Jay and the Ross Seyfried bullets is being planned for fall of 2021 or 2022”.

Current projects on the bench

This has been a very long summer for us. The ongoing covid mess has not been easy and the kids are pretty restless at home. Heavy wild fires all around us and the mediocre on-line schooling the kids are receiving have presented further challenges.

I have a few really fun custom rifles in the works. Several guns have been out for engraving for some time. The engraver Tim George shared a picture with me of a Buehler CSA .375 H&H rifle that he just finished.

Another project currently awaiting engraving is the 7×57 Mannlicher rifle mentioned in a previous post. The following are some pictures taken of the rifle in process. The picture on the bottom shows off the metal ready for engraving.

Another really fun project is a .505 Gibbs rifle I’m working on. At the heart of this rifle is a very large Hagn action. The barrel started off as a heavy pre-turned blank, weighing over 8 pounds before the contour milling.

I will post further pictures and information about this rifle in a future post.

Oil finish for gun stocks

Some of you are probably stuck at home because of covid19. Perhaps you are attempting to do a do-it-yourself project during this period. Or you are taking the time to clean and inspect your gun collection. In any case, I thought a little article on gun stock finishing might be of interest.

High grade custom guns usually have an oil finish applied to the stock. Production guns often have a polyurethane finish sprayed on. While that holds up great, it is difficult to re-finish a section on the stock without stripping the entire finish. It also is very bland and deadens the warmth and natural color of the wood. The stocks on most high end custom guns are usually finished with a hand rubbed oil finish. A good oil finish for gun stocks will bring out the natural color and 3D effect of the wood grain. It will hold up well in the field. And it is easy to touch up small areas on a stock and blend it back in with the existing finish. Most oil finishes are linseed or tung oil based and have added driers in it.

There are a ton of finishing products available. I’ve tried many of them, and have a closet full of products.

Many of them work just fine and I think it is important to stick with a procedure for a while and learn to work with it. While working in the old world, we primarily used a product named “Schaftoel”. I think it was a walnut oil. Until I came to America, I never even heard of filling the pores on a stock. Back then we applied the oil onto the stocks until a desired color was achieved. Then with cotton balls dipped in varnish we polished the stocks with a clear coat to give it some shine and protection. The results where never very satisfying and the cotton balls where suspect to spontaneous combustion.

I use a wood sealer for the inside of the stocks. Currently the outside I completely finish with a product named TimberLuxe.

After sanding and whisker a stock up to 320 grit, I raise the pores and apply Timberluxe with a brush until the wood does not absorb it anymore. After at least a day of drying I fill the pores per wet sanding and with the same product. The oil and sanding mud is left to dry on the stock. A day later it can be sanded off, and the procedure is repeated if the pores are not completely filled. Once the pores are filled, I apply one coat of finish per day, rubbing it into the wood with the palm of my hand. At one stage the finish usually needs to be sanded back slightly again with 400 grit. Thereafter more coats are applied. After the stock sits around for a while, the pores tend to sink in slightly and I will give the stock a final sanding with 600 grit. After this more coats are applied until the finish feels smooth and silky to the touch. I find Timberluxe to be one of the easiest products to get great results with. And it seems to hold up very well over time.

To maintain a nice finish on on your rifle I would recommend to wipe the stock after use with a soft cloth. The finish should be occasionally nourished. A drop of boiled linseed oil on a cloth will do fine. I’ve found that guitar polish/cleaner that you may find in music stores works very well too. Careful with the checkering. A designated tooth brush works well to clean the checkering and it will benefit too from a very small amount of oil.

Buehler CSA .30-06 custom rifle

After my client received the pictures of this rifle he told me that this is his dream rifle. He thought that it had turned out nicer then he could have imagined. It’s currently in transit and he will shortly receive it. It’s a privilege to make dreams come true and I’m honored that he chose me for this project.

The rifle in the picture is in the caliber .30-06. I’m surprised how popular this caliber has been in my shop over the years. But then again, the overall style of my rifles is very traditional and mostly based on pre-war made rifles. I guess naturally I attract more traditional minded clients and calibers such as the 7×57, .30-06, .300 H&H, .375 H&H, .404 Jeffery continue to dominate my orders.

This rifle is based on my model “English Express”. The pictures where taken by Brian Dierks, an outstanding local commercial photographer and friend of mine. He does all the commercial photography for the Harry & David company. I strongly recommend him for any type of commercial photography. Guns are particularly difficult to photograph, having all these round and shiny surfaces.

The following pictures will provide insight into several of the typical steps I take when building a bolt action rifle. The pictures show the .30-06 rifle in process :

First the action is prepared for barreling, which includes trueing of the receiver ring and the lapping of the recoil lugs. After the barrel is installed the sight ramps are fitted and soldered to the barrel.

At first I fit the quarter rib with in-letting blue, and for a final fit with smoke.

The front sight ramp after soldering, but before cleaning off of the solder and the final shaping.
The quarter rib after soldering and ready for the rear sight installation.

The stock started its journey from a beautiful Turkish walnut blank. This particular blank was purchased and shipped directly from Turkey.

I usually glue the barreled action into a pattern and then carve the stock on a Hoehnig duplicator machine. The picture above shows the stock rough carved, the metal inlet and the ebony forearm tip installed. The outside of my stock patterns are pretty crude and oversize and allow me to shape the actual stock to the dimensions required by the client. I don’t spend much time on pattern work, but rather spend the time on the actual stock.

After hours of chiseling, filing and sanding the stock is ready for the first coat of the finish.

After about 10 days of daily finish applications, the wood is ready for checkering. In this case we chose flat top checkering. The picture above is of all of the tools I used on the checkering.

For this particular stock I think flat top checkering was preferable. It doesn’t cloud the beautiful grain of the wood as much as diamond points . The next step was to prepare the rifle for bluing, but before disassembling everything I tested it one more time for accuracy at the range.

After bluing and final assembly, the rifle was tested once more for function and accuracy with several brands of ammo. I shot it with the Swarovski scope installed and with the open sights. I also tested the accuracy of the scope mount with taking the scope off and on between shots.

My job is done, and I hope it will accompany my client on many future adventures.

Current custom projects amidst a world in crisis

Wow, how quickly the world has changed. The personal impact on all of us is going to be immense during the covid-19 crisis. Unfortunately our politics and News coverage is so politicized, it is often difficult to get honest reporting. I’ve been following the News from my birth country of Switzerland for some time and have been aware that this is going to be serious.

The Swiss army has been deployed to assist. On Monday the 5th hospital battalion has been mobilized (picture above) and put into active duty. On a side note, the Swiss citizens army can partially be mobilized within 24 hours and fully mobilized within 48 hours. This is only possible because the personal gear is stored at home. (In my days inclusive 50 rounds of ammo.)

Times are serious but this too will pass and I hope that despite everything a lot of good will arise from this . New business opportunities will emerge and the economy will recover. And perhaps faith into a higher power will experience a revival. Maybe families grow closer and neighbors will help neighbors.

I’m currently finishing up a caliber .30-06 custom rifle and am planning to post some pictures of it once I receive the pictures from my photographer. Usually I have several projects going at once. One of my projects is a Mauser 98 in 7×57 and it is going to have a full length Mannlicher style Germanic stock.

The action is a re-worked German 33-40 small ring Mauser 98 and I added modern parts and components to it, such as a new magazine box, bolt handle, 3 position safety and a Timney trigger. The trigger bow on the Timney I replaced with an original Mauser 98 trigger, to give it a vintage Mauser vibe.

The barrel in the pictures above is turned oversize and ready for milling into an octagon contour with raised quarter rib, integral front sight ramp and full length rib.

The pictures above are of the barrel in process. I still have the draw-filing and polishing left to do. And the sight installation. I’m planning to a add a few further refinements to the barrel. I’m looking forward to starting on the stock soon.

Another project I have in the works is a .308 Win. custom rifle. This one has a modified Mexican Mauser 98 receiver, with new parts added. The trigger was made by Alaska Arms and is in the Winchester 70 style. The peep sight is only temporarily mounted. The cocking piece mount is a prototype that I will re-do.

I hope seeing some of my work in progress offers you a welcome distraction from the daily News, and I will try to post shortly some more articles.

.375 caliber barrel and stock blanks for sale

Here are a few items I would like to sell:

.375 caliber barrel, 1:12″ twist, with integral machined sight ramps, recoil lug and sling swivel.

The barrel blank was manufactured by Krieger, the contour machining was done by Granite Mountain Arms. It has been Magna-ported by the Mag-Na-Port company. The barrel has never been installed, is un-chambered, and the overall length is 24″. $1000

Stock Blank:

This blank has been dry for at least 30 years. It is California English walnut and has a stunning natural color.

It’s best suited for an English style two piece stock with straight grip. It would be particularly well suited for a lever action rifle or American shotgun. The feather flows beautifully towards the heel. I don’t often work on those types of guns, so it’s time to let it go. $650

Stock Blank:

This blank is from the same tree as above.

This blank is also best suited for a straight-grip stock. It has that awesome feather grain flow that is so often desired for traditional American custom guns. These two blanks would make a beautiful pair of lever actions or shotguns. $600 (or $1200 for both blanks together)

(541) 664 9109, or email to: info@customsportingarms.com

.300 Win. Mag. Buehler CSA rifle

As 2019 is coming to an end I’m looking back at a productive year. The rifle in this article is my latest creation and it was shipped out last week. A high grade Turkish walnut stock blank and a GMA action served as the foundation for this gun. I installed a PacNor barrel with a custom H&H style contour to it. By the way, the PacNor factory has had a terrible fire in October and is currently out of business until further notice. I sincerely hope that they will be able to re-build the company and re-start production. I’ve had excellent results with their barrels over their years. Fortunately we have a good number of excellent barrel makers in the US.

The .300 Win. Mag. is one of my all time favorite calibers. Inherently accurate and with enough energy for all types of North American game. And ammo is available just about anywhere. I installed a Swarovski Z6 1.7-10 x 42 with my custom scope mounts onto the rifle. By the way, I am a dealer for Swarovski and Zeiss. If you are in the market for one of these scopes, let me know and I would be happy to get you a quote. I like this particular scope a lot. It is not overbearing on a rifle, has good dimensions for mounting and the optic is excellent.

The rifle performed fantastic with Hornady 200 grain precision hunter ammo, and shot right away a 3 shot group of 1/2″ at 100yds. I tested it also with Barnes TTSX 165 grain and it performed just as good. I have received great feedback from clients using TSX bullets. A fantastic performing bullet, and yes, legal for use in California.

https://www.customsportingarms.com/
info@customsportingarms.com

The “Express” 7×57 rifle

I can’t believe Thanksgiving day came and already went. As always a good day for some reflection and for appreciating the blessings we take so often for granted. I’m so very thankful to all of my customers for your trust and for your business. Thank you!

I’ve had the privilege of building a very cool custom rifle in 7×57 for a client of mine. It left here just before Thanksgiving.

The client and I both enjoy the looks of the drop box magazines. Perhaps in a practical sense I doubt a good shooter will require the extra magazine capacity in a small bore rifle. But it does lend a rifle that awesome African look.

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The action used is a GMA “Kurz” and I ordered it in a 33-40 style. Basically it has a few additional cuts in the receiver to reduce weight. I also added a thumb cut to the action. This to give it more of that original Mauser look. A problem was the un-availability of a drop box magazine for the 7×57 cartridge. So I shortened a Blackburn 30-06 size drop box almost 1/4″ and welded it back together. The floor plate then required also shortening and re-fitting. The magazine capacity extended to 5 rounds.

Magazine box after shortening

The stock wood is Turkish walnut and has some exceptional figure in it.

At the shooting range the rifle performed wonderfully. The Swarovski 1.7-10 x 42 scope contributed greatly.

Tips on purchasing the right stock blank

Buehler CSA .500 Jeffery rifle with a Turkish walnut stock

Buying a stock blank for a custom gun project can be a little daunting. I usually assist my clients in finding a stock blank that appeals to their taste, is within their budget, and is strong and stable. Currently I don’t have many available rifle blanks in my shop, but I do have a very nice collection of two-piece stock blanks for sale. I have a network of wood dealers and they update me regularly on their inventory. Pictures of the blanks that I find suitable I pass on to my clients.

As you may know, there are different types of walnut. I prefer to work pretty exclusively with English walnut. English walnut is generally stronger then Black walnut, Claro and Bastogne. While these types are fine for certain applications, I don’t think they are well suited for a rugged bolt action rifle. Most of the English walnut on the market today comes from Turkey, some from Russia and other Middle Eastern regions. California-English walnut has been mostly logged, but some nice blanks still come up for sale. Each piece of walnut varies in weight and density. I’ve seen a weight difference as much as 9 ounces between two identical stocks.

For a nice English stock blank, you are looking anywhere from $750 to $3000. I would say the blanks used for my custom rifles average at $1400. No question, the prices of blanks have been increasing and the supply has been dwindling. As there is no precise formula for the pricing of stock blanks, often the price is determined by the eye of the beholder. A high price tag does not always mean that it is the best and nicest blank. In choosing a blank, here is what I look for:

  • Age: The blank should have been stored for a minimum of 4 1/2 years after harvesting and before using it for a gun stock. It takes at least that long for it to stabilize.
  • Moisture content: About 8 – 10 %. Depending on the climate, this varies. I’m more concerned with the age of the blank. We have a low humidity in Southern Oregon, and the blanks dry pretty fast.
  • Cut: Typically there two types of cut. Flat sawn and quarter sawn. Looking at the end grain (front and back) of the blanks, if the lines go sideways, it’s quarter sawn. If the grain lines flow vertical, it has been flat sawn. I’m not convinced that one cut makes for a stronger blank over the other. But it is considerably easier to predict the final appearance of the stock with a quarter sawn blank.
  • Top view and bottom view: Just as important as the side views are the top and bottom views of the blank. Often the dealers don’t show it on their websites. It is very important that the grain flows straight and does not curve to one side. Should the forearm warp for any reason, it would probably move in the direction of the flow.
Top view of a blank with a pretty good grain flow through the forearm
This top view shows less then ideal grain flow through the forearm. This is a blank I would reject.
  • Grain flow: What I’m looking for is a straight flow through the grip and magazine box. On the forearm the grain should go slightly up, towards the barrel. Behind the grip, it really is not that important, but I have seen broken off toes because of bad grain flow. You might want to pay attention to it, especially if a steel butt plate is to be installed.
Great grain flow on this blank.
Erratic grain flow. This layout will produce a weak and likely unstable stock. I would reject this blank.
  • Color: A natural warm color is always ideal. Staining can help, but is tricky and the results are not always the best. Tastes vary of course when it comes to the wood color. I very much prefer dark mineral lines over brown ones. Again, a matter of personal taste.
  • Fiddle back: Fiddle back are the finger like lines going from top to bottom. To me, it is an added bonus and gives a beautiful 3D effect.
  • Imperfections: It’s wise always to be on the lookout for knots. And sometimes little holes can turn into big problems.
This stock blank revealed a deep internal crack after sawing the contour on the band saw. I didn’t see any indication from the outside and this blank had to be re-placed. This is a rare occurrence, however.
  • Price tag: I shudder when I see a blank with a big price tag but terrible grain layout. Walnut is a very strong material, but a bad grain flow will weaken it for sure. Not everything that glitters is gold.

I made a couple of plexiglass stock templates that are a great aid in determining the layout of the stock. The dealers sometimes outline the stock contour onto a blank. Often I don’t follow their layout. Keep in mind, they have experience in wood cutting but probably not in stock making.

For good examples of grain flow and stocks check out the guns on my website:

https://www.customsportingarms.com/

Springfield custom rifle

Not many custom rifles utilizing Springfield military actions are being built today. Back before aftermarket magnum actions where not widely available, due to the receiver length American custom gunsmiths often used them for big game projects. The work involved to turn one of these actions into a worthy custom rifle is pretty extensive, and once all done the action rivals the cost of a Granite Mountain Arms action.

The rifle in the picture is my version of a Springfield custom rifle. I modified the action pretty heavily with a new safety, new bolt handle, new bolt release and re-contoured housing. A new bottom metal was added, custom machined scope bases and a Lilja match grade barrel. The stock is made of a beautiful piece of Turkish walnut.

I should mention, this rifle is in the caliber .22lr. It is prefect for charging squirrels and dangerous rodents. The clip is hidden inside the magazine box.

This rifle is so much fun to shoot! My client owns 2 Buehler big game rifles, and this is the perfect training rifle, as it has the same feel to it. I think he will shoot it more then any of his other rifles. My boys where a little jealous when I showed it to them.

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