Lathes for precision rifle building

Camrbam

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I’m looking to get into gunsmithing. And truing actions an chambering and fitting barrels is what I’m primarily interested in. I have machining experience but don’t have much experience with different brands/models of lathes. I’d like some input on who makes a great lathe for this line of work. I’m looking for a lathe that in the $4000-6000 range. Thanks!
 

mudpig

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I purchased the G4003G and love it! I've had to upgrade it with DRO and flood coolant and a time or two I wished that I had a little longer bed. The G0776 would have solved all that up front.
 
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Camrbam

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I purchased the G4003G and love it! I've had to upgrade it with DRO and flood coolant and a time or two I wished that I had a little longer bed. The G0776 would have solved all that up front.
How long have you been running your grizzly? How much tuning what needed to true it up? Lining the head up with the bed and tail to the head etc?

Your budget can handle this machine fully loaded with all the bells and whistles.
Im assuming you have this machine? How much tuning did it take to get the head straight with the bed an tail?
 

mudpig

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I've been running the Grizzly for nearly 3 years now. When I installed the lathe, I bolted it down and shimmed as necessary to get it spot on. Then I adjusted the tailstock to zero on the headstock. I made several indicating tools so that I could check straightness of the ways and location of the tailstock at any position along the ways. It was straight from the get go. The tailstock has ability to be torqued so it can be repeatably locked down. I've had zero issues with it being able to dial in barrel/receivers to ZERO to blue print/thread.
 
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Camrbam

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Guys, just an FYI.

I have set up numerous machine shops for various plants and just so you know ( for the last 20 years at a minimum) but almost all of these lathes are actually Frejoth out of Taiwan.

If its jet, anything from MSC(including Enco), Grizzly, Matthews, Nardini, Harbor freight and probably half a dozen others and several chucks (Bison to be specific) ALL come the same 2 plants in Taiwan. ( been there and had to certify it several times for clients).

They have about 20 odd designs and they rotate data plates, accessories, levels of materials selection, tempering and so forth.

This also applies to bandsaws, grinders, milling machines etc.

Doesn't matter the nameplate or who owns it or whether they stock parts- they are all the same family of machines built by the same people at the same foundry and same assembly plant.

Just so you know.

If you don't believe that call grizzly, MSC parts and call their hand on it- see for yourself. Ask them what the Frejoth number is for their machine and request a copy of the parts manual- they all fit each other.
This is the info I was looking for! I’m also wondering if the American companies (Kent USA, bailaughare enough better
Guys, just an FYI.

I have set up numerous machine shops for various plants and just so you know ( for the last 20 years at a minimum) but almost all of these lathes are actually Frejoth out of Taiwan.

If its jet, anything from MSC(including Enco), Grizzly, Matthews, Nardini, Harbor freight and probably half a dozen others and several chucks (Bison to be specific) ALL come the same 2 plants in Taiwan. ( been there and had to certify it several times for clients).

They have about 20 odd designs and they rotate data plates, accessories, levels of materials selection, tempering and so forth.

This also applies to bandsaws, grinders, milling machines etc.

Doesn't matter the nameplate or who owns it or whether they stock parts- they are all the same family of machines built by the same people at the same foundry and same assembly plant.

Just so you know.

If you don't believe that call grizzly, MSC parts and call their hand on it- see for yourself. Ask them what the Frejoth number is for their machine and request a copy of the parts manual- they all fit each other.
Thanks for the info! This is the answer I was looking for! Appreciate it! Are the American companies like Kent USA an baileigh worth the extra money or are these Asian lathes really GOOD an just in expensive cause of manufacturing cost are less?
 

Rubicon Precision

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This is the info I was looking for! I’m also wondering if the American companies (Kent USA, bailaughare enough better

Thanks for the info! This is the answer I was looking for! Appreciate it! Are the American companies like Kent USA an baileigh worth the extra money or are these Asian lathes really GOOD an just in expensive cause of manufacturing cost are less?
These “American companies” are selling Chinese and Taiwanese machines. It’s the same crap. That said, the same crap is just fine for building precision rifles in one’s garage.
 
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Holescreek

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Many years ago The man who owns Grizzly tools posted on the PracticalMachinist forum (user name papagrizzly), mostly in the South Bend Lathe Forum (especially after he bought the rights to the SBL name). He said pretty much the same thing, that the lathes were produced in a common plant, but he also stated that he was able to specify the bearings, material fits and finishes for particular models of his lathes. His gunsmith lathe was one of those with the better internal components. OTOH, some of these "common" lathes can be hard to find replacement parts for at times too.
 

LongRifles Inc.

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I’m looking to get into gunsmithing. And truing actions an chambering and fitting barrels is what I’m primarily interested in. I have machining experience but don’t have much experience with different brands/models of lathes. I’d like some input on who makes a great lathe for this line of work. I’m looking for a lathe that in the $4000-6000 range. Thanks!

My opinion so throw 99% of it in the trash.

First, decide if you want to eat, drive, and live a little. If "yes" is the answer to any of those, you start by vacating the notion that this work is profitable on anything other than a modern piece of equipment.

A slant bed turning center will fast track that process. You'll have to read some, you'll have to spend a shit pile more money, but once over that hump, it's a better life. I promise you.

I've been on a crusade to bring this trade out of the 1950's for 15 years now. I was called a lot of names in the early days because of it. The moment you put equipment on the floor you are competing for the same dollars that every one of us in this game go after.

Do it with a semiauto instead of a musket.

Welcome to a very rewarding career.
 

Camrbam

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I guess we share basically the same opinion so I'll throw both of them away after I post.

To the OP, speaking also as an engineer who does this for a career ( soon to be back in the gun business but not currently is)...

Take those bold portions to heart.

Manual machining has its place and I use it religiously but in commodities there is no substitute for high speed machining.

I strongly suggest that if you are viewing this as a career ( full or part time) that you develop not only your tool and die skills but make a business model and pay close attention to the required start up capital, cash flow, expected gross and net margins and projected sales.

Just friendly advice.
Thanks guys!
 

Camrbam

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My opinion so throw 99% of it in the trash.

First, decide if you want to eat, drive, and live a little. If "yes" is the answer to any of those, you start by vacating the notion that this work is profitable on anything other than a modern piece of equipment.

A slant bed turning center will fast track that process. You'll have to read some, you'll have to spend a shit pile more money, but once over that hump, it's a better life. I promise you.

I've been on a crusade to bring this trade out of the 1950's for 15 years now. I was called a lot of names in the early days because of it. The moment you put equipment on the floor you are competing for the same dollars that every one of us in this game go after.

Do it with a semiauto instead of a musket.

Welcome to a very rewarding career.
Thanks!
 

RonA

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I see good rifles come from both types of machines, and I've run both types for going on 45 years. Doesn't take a great lathe to make excellent shooting rifles so the same is true about CNC's. Even a cheap weak HAAS lathe on linear guides can cut good threads and (depending on tooling) ream chambers. I still believe it's best to learn how to crawl before walking, and a manual suits that purpose well.
 
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THEIS

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Hi,

IMO I do not think anyone was saying you cannot do good work on "subpar" machines but let us look at it like this for a moment....

The industry has an acceptable project cost that the consumer is willing/going to pay.

The consumer really does not care if it takes you 2 hours or 2 minutes to complete that project because they are paying by the project, not by the "time".

So the faster (Super modern machines) will by default (All else being equal such as operator skill, tooling access, etc ) be able to allow faster completion of said project. Which due to the reduction in labor time you will see increase in profit per project, AND be able to increase number of projects.

Sincerely,
Theis
 
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RonA

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If only he had added a zero to his dollar figures. 40000 to 60000 opens up possibilities , with an equal increase in risk.
 

1moaoff

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Let me dovetail off of that. I design and have made almost every type of part known to exist with about every combination of metallurgy and pre/post treatment imaginable for all kinds of machinery.

In engineering/machining terms- a barrel is nothing more that an internally threaded hollow shaft. ( tapering/fluting etc. is just window dressing)

There's no magic, secret formula, hidden knowledge or anything else. A very BASIC machining operation. You make it to a dimension and tolerance out of a selected material.

The only real difficulty is the deep hole ( that does require a machine that holds close tolerance without deflection and precision tooling)

There is more than one set of operations to make one.

A robust lathe with good mass that will hold a TIR of .0015 over the run or tighter will do this just fine.

Both manual and CNC have strengths and weaknesses both in terms of functionality and production.

Depends on your business model, prework and other items but both can and do work well and can be competitive.
My barrels arent internally threaded... got ya
 

fdkay

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as has been said, manual machines come in two flavors, Chinese and Taiwanese.
Buy a Taiwanese one, there is a huge difference in fit and finish alone, let alone the things that can't be seen.
I wish I had gotten mine with a DRO already installed, they are well worth the money.
 

Driftr76

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Or find an older machine that's in decent shape. Check out HGR industrial. They have everything from Leblond manual lathes to mazak quick turn cnc lathes.
 

fng23

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You need to ask yourself this one question......

Do I want to be a large scale production machine shop? If yes, than go CNC and get ready to spend big money to make big money...….hopefully. I also suggest focusing on "non-gun stuff" and doing the "gun stuff" as filler work. There are a lot of small custom builders trying to go CNC (small time.....not like LRI) and they are struggling to make machine payments...…..just sayin'.

Another thing to consider...…….while you are trying to break into the manufacturing game...….the oversees companies are honing their game. More and more American managers and quality engineers are taking training contracts in China and getting them up to speed. I have witnessed this improvement first hand in the quality of racing cylinder head castings.

I have been in this industry a bit (not like others) and don't know if this specific area, precision rifles, lends itself to the benefits of high production/cheap workforce of the CNC game.

If you are looking to continually learn and hopefully pay for your hobby...….stay manual and gain experience.......it transitions to CNC very easily, if you choose that direction at some point.

Thing of note...…..every large scale CNC shop I have worked in ALWAYS has a manual lathe and manual knee mill in it.........and they are never dusty...…..again just sayin'.

Ern
 

LongRifles Inc.

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I see good rifles come from both types of machines, and I've run both types for going on 45 years. Doesn't take a great lathe to make excellent shooting rifles so the same is true about CNC's. Even a cheap weak HAAS lathe on linear guides can cut good threads and (depending on tooling) ream chambers. I still believe it's best to learn how to crawl before walking, and a manual suits that purpose well.

It has nothing to do with quality. TIME is what fucks you. The bulk of this trade is labor. Labor goes by the clock and the minute hand is always trying to take a pee in your ass. Anything a guy can do to put those minutes back on the wall goes towards ensuring he lasts. Its the difference between being a profitable business or owning your own job.

Anyone can spend half a day in a garage shop and convince himself he's doing a better job than anyone else because he's more emotional about it. That is exactly how you go broke in this trade and a quarter century of experience watching shops spring up and die for this exact reason is where I get my information.

You (client) pay for a job. That payment buys you an expectation and time on that clock. Anything I can do to compress that time means instead of paying me a wage,your paying me for my experience and that is where profit lies. That is what fuels growth, keeps doors open, employees employed, and wolves in search of another meal.

The walk before you run ideal is not one that I subscribe to. CNC is made out to be a whole lot harder than it really is. If a guy can add/subtract/posesses reasonable mechanical aptitude, cnc can be embraced and exploited. Maybe you won't be using elaborate macro variables in probing routines right away, but you'll get the job through the shop faster than you ever imagined. Barrel work is pretty simple. It's just 2 axis stuff. No live tooling or sub spindle hocus pocus is required.

I say all this with the best intentions. Its not meant to insult anyone. There is plenty of fruit on this tree and competition keeps the bigger guys from getting soft.

Best of luck.
 
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RonA

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Did anyone else notice in the first post that he was looking for a lathe in the 4000 to 6000 range? I agree with most everything posted in this thread, but the original post had a dollar limit.
 

fng23

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Chad makes very valid points. However, he may be an outlier in this industry. I recently watched a video of a very expensive machine of his blueprinting rem700 actions. I can only assume the CAM time and fixturing/setup time...….let alone the cost of the machine and tooling. I am sure he had it all figured out before diving in...….but damn........he must be running three shifts of rem700 blueprinting ops.

I think LRI's current experience, although valid and honest, might be too large scale to answer the original poster's question from a "garage shop" perspective.

But I don't know shit and never claim to.

To each his own, I wish you luck in your endeavor. Stay motivated.

Ern
 

fng23

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RonA,

Good point to the original poster's (OP) budget. I am 1950s tech per LRI and my chuck almost exceeds the OP's budget.

Ern
 

fng23

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That's true. Truly great people here on the 'hide. Only here can you get legitimate business advice from guys in the know........for someone that may be their competition in the future.

Really cool.

Ern

BofI - by the way, what is your opinion on the Sharp line of machines?
 

fng23

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Ok. Thanks.

I haven't had an issue with mine, I just wanted to get your opinion having seen so many imports through the years.
 

Danny1788

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Basically a huge gap on price from a one man shop to a company like LRI. If you want to do it for yourself and make some money go for it. But I will day after building rifles for myself and knowing all I know now. You probably are t gonna make a ton of money unless you have a full shop and CNC nowadays! I don’t care how much I have into my lathe and plus all my many many $$$ of tooling. I only care that my rifles shoot extremely well for me. That’s not the answer your looking for sorry
 

Camrbam

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Your point is valid but can only be gauged against the following question which the OP did not really make clear.

He said he wanted to do gunsmithing- he did not specify for hobby or full time for profit.

That answer determines which set of suggestions is the best recommendation.

If its a hobby, get the grizzly gunsmith model ( either one) and drive on because its geared close to what he wants.

If its a business, that's a whole different story.

OK OP- you want this as your primary business income and going to devote your life to it or is this just hobby gunsmithing?
 

Camrbam

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have a few friends I’ve been doing some work(bedding and load tuning) for as a hobby. We shoot prairie dogs and long range target so barrels don’t last forever so I’m just looking for a good hobby machine right now and go from there. If it turns into a business and I’m loosing work cause I’m behind then ya I’d love to get a cnc. This has been a good thread! Thanks guys for the in put an don’t let this comment stop it.
 

Camrbam

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You need to ask yourself this one question......

Do I want to be a large scale production machine shop? If yes, than go CNC and get ready to spend big money to make big money...….hopefully. I also suggest focusing on "non-gun stuff" and doing the "gun stuff" as filler work. There are a lot of small custom builders trying to go CNC (small time.....not like LRI) and they are struggling to make machine payments...…..just sayin'.

Another thing to consider...…….while you are trying to break into the manufacturing game...….the oversees companies are honing their game. More and more American managers and quality engineers are taking training contracts in China and getting them up to speed. I have witnessed this improvement first hand in the quality of racing cylinder head castings.

I have been in this industry a bit (not like others) and don't know if this specific area, precision rifles, lends itself to the benefits of high production/cheap workforce of the CNC game.

If you are looking to continually learn and hopefully pay for your hobby...….stay manual and gain experience.......it transitions to CNC very easily, if you choose that direction at some point.

Thing of note...…..every large scale CNC shop I have worked in ALWAYS has a manual lathe and manual knee mill in it.........and they are never dusty...…..again just sayin'.

Ern
That’s how I look at it.
 

mudpig

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OP....keep in mind that tooling is going to run your costs WAY UP! I had no idea how much all the measuring tools, indicating rods, special fixtures...etc etc etc where going to cost. I just keep investing in new tooling as $$ permits.
 

fdkay

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That’s how I look at it.
Pm has a very nice taiwanese made 12x36 that is worth a look. You'll have to buy a decent 4 jaw chuck (PM also has a very nice one around 400 bucks). https://www.precisionmatthews.com/shop/pm-1236-t/
I have a pm 1236, I would have bought the new Taiwan precision model if it had been available. The 1236 works, but the 4 jaw provided was crap, so I had to buy a new one. The 3 jaw scroll chuck is good though.
As has been said, the tooling costs more than the lathe in the long run.
I bought the chinese knockoff quick change tool post from PM and have been happy with it.
I also started with the cheap chinese indexable carbide insert tools while learning how to use the thing, they worked fine.
I bought Warner HSS inserts for actual work.
 

Camrbam

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OP....keep in mind that tooling is going to run your costs WAY UP! I had no idea how much all the measuring tools, indicating rods, special fixtures...etc etc etc where going to cost. I just keep investing in new tooling as $$ permits.
Exactly!
 

RonA

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I agree with your plan to step into it gently. Machine shop tooling and supplies will add a lot to your start up cost.
Not everyone that starts out wanting to build rifles, keeps doing it. It's a hobby, and your taste for it can change over time.
I got bored with it after 10 years or so(25 years ago), and decided I like production machining more. Having the option to quit, or keep it as a hobby you enjoy is nice. Having a $2500/ payment staring you in the face can get old real fast if things slow down, you get sick,
or you flat out get tired of dealing with assholes.
 
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cattleman99

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I have a Grizzly G0750G and I like it, its nice and accurate. If I were to do it again I would get one without change gears. Grizzly or Precision Mathews are great options for new lathes in your price range.
 
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The King

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To be honest - a pre-owned machining center is the way to go here if $$$ are on the line.

I remember the first time I told a machining center to make a barrel thread boss and drank coffee while it said "fuck yes we can do that and now buddy". Mounted an indicator for the grizzly rod in one of the tool holders...brought it in and adjusted the chuck to dead nuts. And said "fuck it - we will do it live!"

Add in a Kennemetal floating reamer holder and it was all over before I could say "your 60 seconds are up machining center". We made our own chamber runout gauge that had an o-ring to hold it in the chamber and acted as a stickout headspace indicator. Brought in the Haimer and ran the QC program and it was all good to go. It checked the threads, headspace stick out, and runout on the chamber.

Eventually you get a feeling for when the inserts need to be changed and some better processes and you are flying.
 

Patriot Cerakote

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I purchased a PM 1236 and I’m very happy with the results. At first I was concerned I should of purchased the Taiwanese lathe for better results. After tramming the head it’s within .00005-.0001 of a taper over 12”. I can true a receiver within .0001-2in. of concentricity. The same with barrel threads. I’d love to buy a domestic made lathe or CNC machine. There’s just too much competion for few dollars, imo.View attachment 7169434
 

Rubicon Precision

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To be honest - a pre-owned machining center is the way to go here if $$$ are on the line.

I remember the first time I told a machining center to make a barrel thread boss and drank coffee while it said "fuck yes we can do that and now buddy". Mounted an indicator for the grizzly rod in one of the tool holders...brought it in and adjusted the chuck to dead nuts. And said "fuck it - we will do it live!"

Add in a Kennemetal floating reamer holder and it was all over before I could say "your 60 seconds are up machining center". We made our own chamber runout gauge that had an o-ring to hold it in the chamber and acted as a stickout headspace indicator. Brought in the Haimer and ran the QC program and it was all good to go. It checked the threads, headspace stick out, and runout on the chamber.

Eventually you get a feeling for when the inserts need to be changed and some better processes and you are flying.
His budget is $4k. A remanufactured power supply for my turning center was $4k.

A guy in his garage doesn’t need a turning center or any CNC lathe to fit barrels. If his budget allows for it, and he can power it, cool, but it’s not needed.
 
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werew

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If you're going manual, last year I experienced using VFD lathes at my Universities lab for the first time(mechanical engineering/CAD-CAM student). I own a geared head 13x40 Jet w/ DRO at home and now sometimes I miss dialing in rpm's on the fly with a VFD, fine tuning if you will... but it's just my impatience and a novelty i'll soon outgrow... not a necessity. I couldn't be happier with my Jet's precision, tho i've pestered my professors into advising me how to get the most juice for my squeeze (setup/alignment/calibration tips).

To date, the best deals i've seen on a manual with or w/o VFD is in the precision matthews lineup. The 11x27 has a 1 1/2" bore thru spindle and the 12x28 bumps you up to 2hp. It'll sharpen a fairly big pencil. (y) The 12x36 and up are geared heads and no VFD, but great machines nonetheless. I've read their customer service is great, good warranty and the lathes are full featured.

If gunsmithing was my full-time job, I'd go with a HAAS ST or Yamazaki QT. Just sayin.:geek: