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American Handgunner March/April 2012 Digital Edition - Page 34

SHOOTINGIRON thumb bustin’ musings from the duke mike “duke” venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino Slugging it Out R ecently a reader sent his Editorship, Roy, a request for a specific column about how one goes about “slugging” barrels. Since I’ve been doing that for decades, I got elected to detail the process. First, a word about why anyone would want to “slug” a barrel. The sole reason is to determine its size, or more precisely, its interior diameter. Why? So the proper size bullets can be sent through it. With most American made handguns of modern manufacture, slugging a barrel is likely not necessary. Tolerances today are that good. With handguns of yesteryear, or modern ones of foreign make, it’s possible their barrels can measure all over the map. Also, there’s this to consider. If you are going to only handload factory jacketed bullets in your handguns, or fire only factory loads, I say don’t bother. You will be restricted by the diameters available anyway. However, if you’re going to cast your own bullets or fire commercially cast bullets, then it pays to know what diameter you need. Duke’s usfA .45 single action’s barrel measures right at .451" in its grooves. get the lead Out F tap the lead slug through the barrel, taking care it lands somewhere soft. you don’t want to damage your slug. irst off you’ll need pure lead “slugs.” For that purpose I bought a wide variety of pure lead round balls for muzzleloaders as sold by Hornady and Speer. For the slugging process I pick one much larger in diameter than the barrel to be checked. For instance, if it will be a .357 Magnum then I use a .375" pure lead round ball. If it’s a .45 caliber then I use a .490" one. Next you need a non-metallic hammer, like a leather or wooden mallet or a weighted rubber hammer. Don’t use a metal hammer of any sort to pound a slug into a barrel! Trust me, you’ll mess up the crown. Also you’ll need a short piece of hardwood dowel a bit longer than the handgun’s barrel. Lay the pure lead round ball atop the barrel’s muzzle. It doesn’t hurt to put a squirt of oil on it. Then pound it in flush with the muzzle using your nonmetallic hammer. See why now? By hammering in a much larger size ball, there will be a lead flange around the muzzle. That’s okay, just toss it aside. Now the slug in the bore will have parallel sides easily measured. Using the piece of hardwood dowel, tap the slug all the way through the barrel. Here’s a tip learned from hard experience. If the barrel is permanently mounted, as with a revolver, place its butt on something soft so you don’t chip the grips. Of course if the barrel is easily dismounted, like a 1911, take it out of the handgun for slugging. Potential Glitches ith many older guns it may just fall through once started. Don’t worry, that’s a sign of a tapered bore. With some other guns you may notice the slug slides through very smoothly. That’s a sign of fine manufacturing quality. With some guns you may notice tight and loose spots. Again that’s not a great cause for worry. It’s a sign of modern manufacturing quality, which often does not equal bygone years. Here’s another tip. Be prepared to catch the slug as it exits the barrel. There’s no sense in going to this trouble and then have the soft lead slug deformed by hitting a hard floor. Now, all one need do is measure the slug with a set of calipers or a micrometer. Is it really that simple? Yes, it is if the gun in question has an even number of grooves. You just measure the opposing ones and that’s your barrel’s groove diameter. Conversely, that’s not possible with barrels having an odd number of grooves. For instance all Smith & Wesson revolvers have 5-groove barrels. What to do then? Well that requires a bit extra and we’ll detail that in the next issue. I like to give an example of what is detailed so my USFA “Custer Battlefield” single-action .45 was slugged as Yvonne photographed the process. I was sure it would measure .451" and sure enough, that was precisely what happened. That’s all there is to it. I could have slugged a half-dozen barrels in the time it took me to write this description, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. W After starting the ball in the muzzle with a non-metallic hammer, tap the pure lead round ball flush with the handgun’s muzzle. there with be some flash around the muzzle as is shown here. 34 * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2012

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