If you have TMBR#3, at pages 167-8 you may have noticed an item headed "Possibilities with a Twist," that tells a little about a shop-made rifling machine built by Bill Webb, of Kansas City, MO. Bill was a retired mechanical engineer, and a master benchrest riflesmith of some 40+ years experience. His machine will drill, ream and rifle a barrel, starting from the solid bar.

Many people expressed interest in having details of this machine, so I visited Bill in May of 1995 and made a video about his rifling machine.

Rifling Machine

Click here to see a larger version of the above photo

NOTE: Bill's machine is not suitable for commercial barrel making, but it is capable of making match grade benchrest barrels for your own use and for friends. Bill could drill, ream and rifle a premium grade benchrest barrel in about 4 hours, on his machine.

This 3 hour video is supplied on two VHS tapes, or two DVD's, together with a 36-page written Supplement. The video covers the following:

You will watch as a barrel is made from start to finish on Bill's machine. Bill tells you exactly what is happening at every stage, and you will see it all: setting up, drilling, reaming and rifling - close up. You can almost smell the cutting oil!
Note: When Bill later installed and tested the 6mm barrel you see made on this video, its first four 5-shot groups measured 0.213", 0.274", 0.300", and 0.165" at 100 yards.
Bill provides excellent explanations, via blackboard diagrams, of the deep hole drill and the rifling head/rifling cutter - their geometry, how they are constructed, how they work, and how to use them. You will also see them right up close as they are turned this way and that, just inches from the camera lens. The rifling cutter is "worked" back and forth - it's almost like you were holding it in your own hands.

At one point you will see the rifling cutter moved back and forth in the rifling head, and you can see the film of oil around the cutter flexing as the cutter is moved!

These details are also shown and expanded upon in the written Supplement, as are details of simple tools you can make (and will see in the video) for measuring bore and groove dimensions of barrels you are making.

Bill's machine was built with a lathe, an old horizontal mill, a drill press, and hand tools, mainly from parts and material obtained as surplus or from the scrap box -- nothing exotic is required.

(Just to make sure you understand the foregoing: Bill HAD ONLY the machines and tools named above when he built his rifling machine. His rifling machine is not a conglomeration OF those items.)

The end result is a stand-alone machine which has a shop footprint about 2' x 8'. Two men could carry it and the simple home-made wooden bench on which it sits a short distance.

Also in this video:

(1) You'll see a Sheffield air gage demonstrated, and its use explained.

(2) Bill's theory on why good barrels suddenly stop shooting good groups.

(3) one job you'll need to do in making the pull tube that draws the reamer through the barrel, and delivers cutting oil to the reamer at the same time, is to turn down a 1/4" diameter x 30" long piece of steel tubing to say 0.236" diameter. Fully dimensioned drawings and notes are provided in the written Supplement for Bill's combined steady and toolholder, which makes this job easy.

This video provides sufficient information to enable any interested and careful basement machinist to build a machine capable of turning out match grade rifle barrels.

Added January 28, 2011
Costante's rifling machine small

Click the photo above to see a larger photo of a rifling machine
following Bill Webb's design, being built by Costante Monzi, in Italy.
Costante's machine appears to be somewhat heavier all around
than Bill's machine, but it is obviously a first class job.

What's more, the video will save you countless hours you might otherwise spend taking the wrong turns Bill did (which cost him about 2 years of wasted time). As Bill points out in the video, there is much published mis-information on barrel making. For example, more than one book says to use negative rake rifling cutters. Negative rake rifling cutters are the last thing you would want to use in trying to rifle a barrel made from modern high tensile steel! This video will steer you straight.

And (just like in real movies) we have a "short"!.... In the last 15 minutes of the video you will meet retired master tool and die maker Connie Grims, and see several very fine (and handsomely engraved) old style single shot rifles which he has built, entirely from scratch - actions, barrels, triggers, stocks, sights, and in some cases, even the scope mounts. These rifles will have you on the edge of your seat for sure.

A question we are often asked by customers interested in this video, is:
How long will it take // How much would it cost to put a rifling machine together?

Bill Webb built his machine in 6 weeks, and at the time, his shop was not lavishly equipped. He had a 9" South Bend Lathe, an antique horizontal mill, a drill press, and hand tools.

As for cost, it depends on how much you can scrounge. Probably the most expensive single item required, and which most people will have to buy new, are a set of pillow blocks. Bill used Sealmasters, (a real "Cadillac" grade bearing!) because he had them on hand. However, Browning or equal standard duty single row pillow block bearings will do fine. You'll probably find that you can get suitable bearings for about $100 if bought new.

You may be able to find most of the rest of the material required in your scrap box, or on scrap patrol in your town. You will need a piece of 8" channel iron, a piece of steel plate about 10 " x 18 " x 5/8", plus 2 pieces of 1-1/4" ground shafting, 54" long, plus 4 bushings to fit same, and a 24" length of 2-1/2" OD x 1-1/2" ID D.O.M. (drawn over manrdrel) tubing.

The machine requires 3 motors:- one for the spindle, one for the oil pump, and a reversible, variable speed gear motor to drive the leadscrew, which powers the carriage when drilling and reaming. (Cutting the actual rifling is done under hand power. It is not hard work.)

3 hours, DVD format *** 

US$95, postage paid in the US and Canada, plus applicable tax (Michigan)