Posts Tagged ‘IZH-Baikal’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Photos and report by Earl “Mac” McDonald
This is the final report about Mac’s vintage steel-breech IZH 61. We are only doing two reports — partly because the rifle performs just like the one that’s being sold today, but mostly because Mac sold this rifle at the Roanoke airgun show this past weekend. He also bought one just like it that was like new in the box because he got a super price at the same show. That one will be given to some fortunate youngster, as part of Mac’s “Arm the Children” program!
As I reported in Part 1, this vintage rifle has a truly adjustable two-stage trigger, instead of just being able to reposition the trigger blade like on the current gun. Mac had it set to release at 27 oz., and he says it was crisp.
Someone wanted me to post a photo of the entire vintage rifle, but there isn’t that much difference between it and the current one. I didn’t think it was worth showing. Yes, if you’re a fanatic collector, there are some small differences; but I spent the weekend with the vintage gun before it sold, and it’s pretty much the same as what they sell now except for having a steel breech and metal clips.
On the subject of the metal clips, Mac says he has had some plastic clips that got worn to the point that they would no longer stay in the gun as they should. They’re supposed to advance one pellet each time the sidelever is pulled out to cock the rifle, but he said some of his would shoot out the side of the rifle because they’re under spring tension.
I showed the sights on this rifle in Part 1, but Mac tried both the peep sight that comes with the rifle and also a Tasco Pro Point dot sight with a 4 MOA dot. At the 10 meter distance he shot, the dot covered about 0.35 inches He e got equal accuracy with both types of sights, but all the groups seen in this report were shot with the Tasco.
He rested the forearm of the rifle on the palm of his hand and shot off a bag rest at 10 meters. We wanted to keep the results equivalent with those I recently got with the new rifle. And he also shot at 10-meter rifle targets, which is why he elected to use the dot sight. The hole in the factory peep sight is so large that there’s a loss of precision when using the smaller 10-meter rifle bulls. They get lost in the hole (meaning you can’t tell when they’re exactly centered). He could have used pistol targets that have a much larger bull, but he wanted his test to look just like mine.
Mac shot 5-shots groups instead of 10-shot groups. Things got confused in our talks, so we didn’t shoot the same number of shots per target. Still, I think you will see some interesting things as we go.
JSB 8.4-grain Exacts
The first pellet tested was the JSB Exact that weighs 8.4 grains. Five shots at 10 meters produced a group measuring 0.95 inches between centers. That’s pretty big for just 10 meters!
There are some indications of tumbling with the JSB, so it’s possible the rifle wasn’t stabilizing it. That would account for the large group.
Next he tried RWS Hobby pellets. These are often among the most accurate in a low-powered rifle, but not this time. Five Hobbys made a 0.90-inch group.
H&N Finale Match
Next up were H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. Five of them made a group that measured 0.80-inches, but notice that one is apart from the other four. If there was something wrong with that pellet, it could explain why it’s apart. This might be the right pellet for the rifle, and it’s a good example of why one 10-shot group tells you more about accuracy potential than three 5-shot groups.
The next pellet Mac tried was one you can’t buy anymore. The Eley Wasp has left the stage, at least in the version Mac was shooting. It was an oversized pellet that sometimes cured accuracy problems for rifles with larger bores. In this rifle, 5 shots made a group that measures 0.70 inches. You’ll also notice that there don’t seem to be any signs of tumbling like there were with the JSBs.
Five Eley Wasp domes made a group measuring 0.70-inches. This group also has a single stray pellet, which means it might also have more potential than seen here.
RWS R10 Pistol pellet
The last pellet Mac shot was the RWS R10 Pistol pellet. These grouped best, with 5 of them making a 0.50-inch group. While that looks good in comparison with the other groups, it doesn’t begin to equal the groups I got with the new IZH 61 shooting 10 shot groups! That means is we have to revise our thinking about the old steel-breech/metal clip guns, don’t you think?
Mac and I discussed these results at length, and we believe that the steel breech IZH 60/61 has perhaps become more accurate through the long lens of memory. Just as a walk to school was always 10 miles uphill in both directions when we were young, so it’s possible that these rifles were as variable back then as the new ones are now. From the results, we have to say that it looks like the current version of the gun is at least as accurate as the old one, if not more so.
We think that there were probably some very accurate rifles with steel breeches, and then the rest — which our test rifle seems to be — were only good plinkers. I know this test was hardly exhaustive, nor was it entirely without bias. Even so, I think we must admit that the new rifle beat the old one in this case.
What do you think?
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Photos and report by Earl “Mac” McDonald
This report was promised back when I tested the IZH 60 Target Pro several weeks ago. If you’re not familiar with the discussions about the IZH 60 and IZH 61, both from Baikal, there was a major design change several years ago and the Russian pellet guns that had formerly been made of steel now sport plastic receivers. In the case of the repeating IZH 61 — plastic pellet clips. Knowing that there was controversy over which was more accurate — the old design or the new — Mac promised to test his steel-receiver IZH 61 and report the results to us. It’s a good thing we caught him at this time, because he’s selling his rifle at the Roanoke airgun show this Friday and Saturday.
We won’t go through the traditional three-part report because the new and old rifles are so alike, except for the materials. So instead this report focuses on the differences.
We’ll begin with the sights. All references will be for both rifles, unless stated otherwise. The only difference is the 5-shot repeating mechanism on the 61, and Mac shows that in detail. The sights on the older models allowed standard inserts in the from globe, and each rifle was shipped with one post and one aperture insert.
Mac reports that the front aperture in his rifle sight is on the large side — too large for good precision on a 10-meter bull at 10 meters. He toyed with using a 10-meter pistol bull, which is three times the size of the rifle bull. In the end, he mounted a dot sight that gives approximately the same precision as the peep sights.
The rear sight on the old rifles was a value-added affair. It came as a notch that was mounted far forward for good resolution, but there was also a disk that could be attached in place of the notch. The rear sight was then repositioned to the far back of the receiver, where it was closer to the sighting eye. The disk was an inexpensive part, but it conveyed to shooters the fact that Baikal cared how their little sidelever performed.
The old-style trigger was adjustable for pull length as well as engagement area, effectively giving the rifle a lighter trigger-pull. Contrast that with the new trigger, whose blade can be moved — but nothing else.
Magazine feed mechanism and the metal magazines
The metal magazine is shaped differently than the plastic one — possibly because the plastic needed more material to offset wear. As with the modern gun, the mag inserts from the left side of the receiver and is pushed to the right as far as it will go.
On the right side of the receiver, the silver button is pushed forward at the top, causing it to spring back and retract the bolt. Now, the magazine can be pushed into the receiver from the left side. It comes through the end of the hole seen at the extreme right center of the picture.
To load a magazine, a silver button on the right side is pushed forward at the top. A spring then pushes both the bolt and button to the rear, clearing the magazine channel for the insertion of the loaded mag.
Those are the major differences between the older-style rifles and the guns being sold today. In Part 2, we’ll look at the results on target from 10 meters.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
It’s accuracy day for the IZH 60 Target Pro and this is the big test that everyone has been waiting for. And there are a couple of things that have to be cleared up, too. So let’s get started.
Cosmoline in the bore
Blog reader chasblock mentioned finding Cosmoline in the bore of his rifle and asked if I would take a look at the test gun’s bore. I don’t think he really meant Cosmoline, which is a range of military long-term metal storage lubricants. He probably just meant excess grease or oil. At any rate, I ran a patch through the bore, and it came out dry. There was some anti-oxidant compound on it, but no oil or grease. So, that’s one down.
Front sight element not centered
Then, we had a discussion about the front sight element not being centered in the globe and wondered if that wouldn’t that throw you off. Or at least wouldn’t it be annoying? Well, I shot 82 shots in this test and the front sight position was a non-issue for me. Once I had the black 10-meter bull centered in the front aperture, I forgot about everything else. But I’m posting a photo of a Winchester model 94 front sight so you can see that this is a very common phenomenon, and it isn’t troublesome in the slightest.
Rear sight doesn’t adjust low enough
Another issue that was raised is that the rear sight doesn’t adjust low enough to get on target at 10 meters. I didn’t find this to be a problem, as you will see. I also found the rear sight to adjust very positively in all directions without any backlash. So, that’s now laid to rest.
I was told by the folks at Pyramyd Air that the IZH 60 Target Pro can put 10 pellets into a quarter-inch at 10 meters. The gun they sent to me to test had a 5-shot group of H&N Baracudas with it. It was fired into a Shoot-N-C paster, so measuring is difficult, but as near as I can tell, it measures 0.268 inches between centers, so even these 5 shots grouped larger than a quarter-inch, though not by much. But we expect a 10-shot group to be 40 percent larger when the same pellet is used.
The rifle was shot from a rested position at 10 meters. The targets were standard 10-meter rifle targets, and they fit well inside the front aperture. It was very easy to hold on target with this rifle. I laid the stock on the back of my hand that was resting on a sandbag.
The trigger-pull is single-stage and vague as to the let-off point, but it’s light enough to work very well in this rested position. The rifle is very light, but it didn’t seem to move around as much as I’d feared it would.
The first target I shot was with the H&N Baracudas. It took me several shots to get on target because the sight adjustments work backwards of U.S. adjustments. Turn the windage knob in (to the left) to move the pellet to the right, and so on.
The first group of 10 Baracudas measures 0.546 inches between centers. It was larger than expected, but not too bad for the first group.
As you can see from the pellets I had chosen to use, I expected to shoot a lot in this test, so I thought I would speed things up by firing 5 shots and then seeing if it was worth firing 5 more. The next pellet up was the RWS Hobby that sometimes surprises us with great accuracy. This wasn’t one of those times, however, because the first 5 pellets made a group that measures 0.482 inches between centers. No sense finishing that one!
Five RWS Hobbys made this 0.482-inch group. No sense finishing it.
Next, I tried the RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet that I thought might be the most accurate in this rifle. It wasn’t, as 5 made a group measuring 0.452 inches. Once more, no sense going on. So I stopped at 5 and moved on.
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets made this 0.452-inch group. No sense finishing it, either.
Then, I tried the H&N Match Pistol pellet. Something was different with this pellet, because the rifle recoiled noticeably less. It was easy to feel, and I could follow-through much better because the sights remained on target after the shot. The feeling was so good that I didn’t check the target after 5, but went all the way to 10 shots before looking. The 10-shot group measures 0.391 inches between centers and was the tightest group (10 shots!) to this point in the test! It’s not a quarter-inch, but it’s a very good group, nonetheless.
Ten H&N Pistol Match pellets made this 0.391-inch group. This pellet felt like it made the rifle recoil a lot less, so I finished the group without checking.
Next, I tried the JSB Exact RS pellet that often surprises us. This is a domed pellet, so it can’t be used in a formal match (impossible to score), but most shooters won’t care about that. Ten pellets made a group measuring 0.284 inches between centers. It’s a nice, round group, and it’s the best 10-shot group the test rifle shot all day!
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.284-inch group. This pellet also felt like it made the rifle recoil a lot less, so once again I finished the group without checking. This is the best 10-shot group of the test.
This pellet shoots so well that I shot a second group with it. That one didn’t turn out as good, at 0.502 inches between centers. Perhaps I was tiring out?
I then turned to H&N Finale Match pistol pellets, which I thought would be better than the Match Pistol pellets. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Ten of them made a huge 0.675 inch group, which turned out to be the second largest of the entire test..
Then I tried five RWS Superdomes, but when I looked at the group they made I stopped. It measures 0.646 inches between centers, so no point in continuing.
By this point in the test, I knew how the rifle shot. I was also very accustomed to the trigger. So, I thought I’d try another group of Baracudas — just to see if I could improve things from the first time. Ten went into a group measuring 0.702 inches, which was larger than the first group.
By this point I knew I was tired. But was that the cause of the group sizes? Was I no longer able to lay them all in the same hole? To see, I grabbed my FWB 300S, which is the most accurate 10-meter rifle I own. I put 10 RWS R10 pistol pellets into a last group that measured 0.135 inches. That’s for 10 shots. So it wasn’t me!
The IZH 60 shot about as well as I remembered. It certainly cannot group 10 shots in a quarter-inch at 10 meters in anything other than a chance encounter. So, there’s a hat to be eaten!
On the other hand, for what it costs, the rifle is reasonably accurate and the target sights make it even easier to shoot well. I don’t think it can out-shoot a Bronco, but it’s certainly worth considering for informal target shooting.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today is velocity day for the IZH 60 Target Pro. Before we begin, there’s a surprise correction I need to make to Part 1. When I measured the length of pull, I didn’t mention that the adjustable stock can be lengthened an additional inch by relocating the anchor point of the adjustment screw.
Increased length of pull
Mac reads the blog sometimes, but he doesn’t comment very often but he loves the IZH 60/61 family of rifles. After reading Part 1, he called and reminded me of something I’d forgotten. If you pull the butt stock off its post, you’ll see a second spot for the screw anchor on the butt stock post. All you have to do is move the anchor from the first slot to the second, and you’ll add just over an inch to the length of pull on your rifle. I had reported a LOP range of 12 inches to 13.25 inches in Part 1. Now, I’ll revise that to a maximum of 14.5 inches. (Edith will amend the owner’s manual to show this info.)
The importance of follow-through
We discussed the fact that this powerplant is not capable of producing a lot of velocity. There was a comment on Part 1 that low velocity makes you need to follow through all the more, but I want to address that. Low velocity is not why you must follow through when shooting a spring-piston airgun. Even a 1,300 f.p.s. springer requires follow-through because it has the same problem as the IZH 60. In a springer, the pellet does not begin moving until the piston has almost come to a complete stop. The gun is already vibrating and moving in recoil before the pellet starts its journey down the barrel. But if it takes an IZH 60 to drive that fact home, all the better, because the proper follow-through can do nothing but make you a better shot.
As I explained in Part 1, Pyramyd Air sent this rifle to me for this test. They were very confident this rifle would shoot accurately, and they even sent a tin of what they feel are the best pellets. Guess what they are? H&N Baracuda pellets! The website says these are supposed to weigh 10.65 grains, but I weighed the ones sent by Pyramyd Air, and they weighed 10.4 grains. H&N Baracuda pellet weights have changed a lot over the past few years, and I would always recommend actually weighing them rather than accepting the description, because the weights seem to change a lot.
These pellets averaged 382 f.p.s. in the test rifle. The range of velocity went from 371 to 389 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generate 3.37 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. They will be the first pellets I test for accuracy; but since they’re domed pellets, they cannot be used in a formal target match due to the difficulty of scoring the holes. I’ll also test some wadcutter pellets — both target and general sporting types.
The second pellet I tested was a target wadcutter — the H&N Match Pistol pellet. This 7.56-grain wadcutter is a good general target pellet that costs less than H&N’s Finale Match pellet line. As a pistol pellet, it weighs less than 8 grains, making it appropriate to the IZH 60 powerplant.
This pellet averaged 485 f.p.s. and ranged from 481 to 490 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 3.95 foot-pounds at the muzzle. This is the velocity I expected from this rifle.
Next I tried the H&N Baracuda Green — the lead-free pellet that’s performed so well in a number of lower-powered airguns. This time, though, the performance wasn’t as good. The average velocity was 425 f.p.s., despite the fact that the pellet weighs just 6.48 grains. It must be the harder alloy that causes excessive friction with the rifling, because the range for this pellet was from a low of 367 f.p.s. to a high of 489! At the average velocity, the muzzle energy was 2.60 foot-pounds. Even at just 10 meters, a velocity variation this large will cause the group to grow, so I don’t think I’ll test this one for accuracy.
The last pellet I tested was the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet. At just 7 grains, this pellet was the lightest of the lead pellets used in this test. It averaged 525 f.p.s. with a range from 507 to 534 f.p.s. The low shot was an exception and loaded very hard. The next-slowest pellet went 516 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 4.29 foot-pounds of energy.
Overall the rifle performed better than I expected. There’s some buzzing in the firing cycle, but it’s not objectionable — probably because of the low power of the rifle. A “beer-can” tune would probably do wonders for it.
The trigger is light enough, if not very positive. It breaks at 1 lb., 7 oz. consistently. I did try adjusting it, but it was set as light as it would go when I received the rifle, so there was no improvement.
One final thought. I went through the box the rifle came in and found a target that proves this rifle can shoot a tight group at 10 meters. It’s shot on a Shoot-N-C target, so measurement is impossible because of the paint flaking off, but it does look like a quarter-inch group. However, it’s only 5 shots and the standard is 10, so that hat is still on the line!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report has a lot riding on it. First, I was specifically asked to do this by Pyramyd Air after I made some remarks about the new IZH rifles with their plastic receivers. I tested both the IZH 60 and the IZH 61 a couple years back and found they did not have the same accuracy as they did a decade ago when the receivers were made of metal. I found the plastic clips for the IZH 61 did not seem to index as well as the older metal clips.
But Pyramyd Air has brought out the IZH 60 Target Pro and the IZH 61 Target Pro air rifles as viable substitutes for lower-end target rifles. I was challenged to test one my usual way; and if the rifle I tested can’t keep 10 rounds in a quarter-inch at 10 meters, well — somebody is going to eat his hat!
Now, I enjoy a slice of hat every so often, nicely broiled with garlic and onions, but I won’t throw this test just to see someone else eat one. Because the second thing that’s hanging on the outcome is a lot of purchase decisions. There’s something about these Russian sidelever springers that attracts people; and when target sights are added, it gets serious!
Back when I wrote the Airgun Revue publications, a lot of airgunners in my area were buying these guns as fast as they could. My buddy, Mac, bought at least 23 of them. Every time he got one, he would show it to someone who would then buy it from him — forcing him to buy another.
One local guy took an IZH 60 and added Anschütz target sights and a custom-made laminated stock to it. He spent less than a hundred dollars for the rifle and then put over $500 into it. People thought he was crazy until he started doing well in local 10-meter target matches. Then they realized that this rifle has the capability to be a lot more than the price seems to indicate. [Note from Edith: I remember this man, as he'd brought his gun to an airgun show. He was accompanied by his wife and their infant. I recall seeing the gun reclining ever so tenderly in the stroller, while his wife had to carry the baby around the show!]
But what about today? Now that the receiver has been changed to plastic, does the gun still shoot? That’s the question this report will answer — and just in time for the holidays for those inclined to add a target rifle to their collections. If this rifle can shoot, then Pyramyd Air has done what it took over $600 to do back in the 1990s, and they’ve done it for less than $200.
Cost and serial number
Both the IZH 60 and 61 basic rifles cost $120. The Target Pro versions like the model 60 I’m testing are both priced at $180. The rifle I’m testing is serial number 126001228.
The IZH 60 is a single-shot sidelever spring-piston air rifle. It has a futuristic stock with an adjustable butt that changes the pull length from 12-inches to 13.25-inches. There are no detents, so the stock can be set anywhere within these limits.
The power is low, producing just under 500 f.p.s. So, the rifle cocks easy. That and the light weight of the little rifle make it a good one for smaller children, except for seating the pellet. On the 60, the pellet has to be manually seated by pushing forward on a thin steel bolt handle, while on the 61 the pellet is automatically seated when the cocking handle is returned home. Sometimes, manually seating the pellet takes a lot of effort. Therefore, the 61 makes a better youth target rifle if you don’t want to load every shot for them.
While the rifle comes with good adjustable sporting sights, the Target Pro guns have an adjustable target peep rear sight and front sight inserts. Daisy supplies the rear sight, and it is all-metal. It’s a lot better-looking than the plastic Daisy aperture rear sight they used to offer on some of their target rifles.
I tried both adjustments on the rear sight and they feel crisp and seem to be repeatable, without backlash. The older Daisy plastic peep sight had a problem with backlash, but this one seems fine. I will test the sight for adjustability after we know how accurate the rifle is.
The front sight has interchangeable inserts, and three of them are apertures, which are the preferred front sight for precision today. When I unpacked the rifle, the entire front sight assembly was canted several degrees to the right; and I was about to fire off an email to get the hat ready. But I discovered that when the sight is disassembled for insert replacement, you can adjust the assembly wherever you want it. So — crisis averted. I only wish my 1917 American Enfield had the same capability! Its front sight assembly was rotated to the right permanently during an arsenal refinish, and was so disagreeable to look at that I sold the rifle.
The barrel is what made the IZH 60 and 61 stand apart from most other spring rifles in the same price range. It’s hammer-forged, which is known to give a more consistent bore if done correctly; and the Russians have always been noted for the accuracy of their barrels. But as I said, we shall see by testing. After all, there’s a tasty hat at stake.
The rifle’s trigger adjusts for the pull length, which means where the let-off point is. It’s a single-stage trigger that’s very light but also very vague. It’s not a target trigger, but it’s much better than the trigger on a Daisy 953.
I plan to test the heck out of this rifle. If it’s as good as I’ve been told, I’ll shout it from the bell tower. But if not, there better be a hat ready!
by B.B. Pelletier
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Today, blog reader CJr tells us about his first-time project of making a left-hand grip for his IZH 46m single-stroke pneumatic pistol. Enjoy!
I’d been looking for a suitable entry-level competition target pistol that I could use for the AirgunArena.com eMatch pistol events and finally decided on the IZH-46M match pistol from IZH-Baikal. Back in March 2006, BB said, “The 27.5cm (just a hair shy of 11″) barrel is world-class. No human can shoot as well as this barrel permits, which is true of every world-class target pistol.” That’s what I was looking for! The bold print was his. If these barrels still exist on today’s pistols I will be a happy camper. And the $379.50 price tag isn’t bad either, for a good entry level competition pistol.
This pistol had all the features I was looking for except one –- it didn’t have a left-hand grip option. Since this was the gun for me, that was sad news. But it wasn’t sad news for long. While Pyramyd Air didn’t offer left-hand grips, I hoped someone else might. I searched the web and queried this blog but came up with nothing to my satisfaction. It was then that I decided to make my own.
Now, mind you, I am not a woodworker, woodcarver or carpenter. My only previous experience working with wood was helping my sons build their Pinewood Derby cars for Cub Scouts. But I was determined to make my own grips. After all how hard could it be?
Let’s get started
I started by visiting the local big box hardware store. Without much searching, I found a piece of baseboard trim that was just the right size and for only $2.38 for a 3”x5”x1” slab. Perfect — almost. They were soft pine, but they were cheap and looked easy to work with; and if my idea fell through, I wouldn’t have much invested in my folly. I bought two –- one for each half of the pistol grip.
What follows is a step-by-step approach I used to fashion my grips. I took each step with the intent to determine if it was feasible to continue or if continuing was heading outside my comfort zone. My main objective, of course, was to not damage the pistol in any way. As you’ll see, there was never any danger and no airgun was killed or injured during the making of this grip. I did have to be careful not to get sawdust into the vital areas of the pistol.
Remove the grips from the pistol
My first step was to remove the old grip halves from the pistol. Each grip half is held to the pistol grip tang by one screw through the grip and into a threaded hole in the tang. There’s one screw below the tang that goes through both grip halves to hold them together at the bottom. I removed those three screws and separated the grip halves from the tang, thereby removing them from the pistol. There was also the adjustable wooden palm shelf at the bottom of the grip’s right half held by two bolts through the adjustment slots. I removed that, also. All the hardware I removed I put in a zippered plastic bag to prevent loss.
Trace the grip outline on paper, transfer to wood and cut out new grip halves
I laid the grip halves on a piece of 8.5″x11″ computer print paper and traced their outlines to make patterns. I cut out the patterns with scissors, laid them on the blocks of wood I bought, traced the outline onto the wood, and used a jigsaw to cut out the shape of both grip halves.
Trace the outline of the pistol’s tang inside both new grip halves
Now that I have the new grips cut out, I want to make sure they’ll mount on the pistol. Since the left-hand grip I’m making is made up of two separate halves, I’ll call them the left side and the right side.
I took the freshly cut right side, reversed it and set it on the table in the new left side orientation. I set the gun carefully down onto the now-new left side and traced the outline of the tang onto the wood.
Next, I had to make sure that when I traced the tang onto the new right side, both grip halves would be properly positioned with the tang and aligned with each other. With the left side still on the table and the pistol in the correct position on top of it, I placed the new right side on top of the tang, aligned the two grip sides flush with each other — making sure I didn’t move the one on the bottom — then, carefully picked up the pistol and only the right side together and, while holding this arrangement, traced the tang outline onto the right side. This procedure was tricky because I had to make sure the wood didn’t slip on the tang. Actually, the shape of the grips at the top helped stabilize them against the pistol.
I’m glad I had a free hand in this
I had a Dremel rotary tool, so I bought a plunge router attachment for it for $27 at Sears and a 1/2″ router bit to cut out the tang groves. It’s kind of a free-hand operation following the traced outlines with the router bit, but the depth is constant because of the router attachment. Besides, imperfections will be hidden from sight. The old standard grip was shimmed inside. If I cut too much, I could shim it. As it turned out, both fit snug and flush.
Drill, baby, drill!
The next step involved drilling the holes in the grips so they could be screwed onto the tang. I did this with a drill press by first drilling through the screw holes in the tang and into the new left side. Caution: Care must be taken so the threads in the tang are not damaged by the drill bit. To prevent tang thread damage, I first used a drill bit smaller than the hole in the tang. Next, I removed the grip and enlarged the hole with a bit the size of the original screw. I now knew that the left side would always match up with the tang using those holes.
I laid the left side on top of the right one, making sure they were flush with each other. With that larger drill bit, I drilled through the left side holes into the new right side. All the holes would line up and both grip sides would always properly align with each other on the tang and flush. The last step in this part of the process was to countersink the holes in the grips. With that done, I was ready to start carving.
Now, the real fun begins
Using the Dremel and router bit without the plunge router attachment, it was easy to make a free-hand rough carving of the grips. I had to always keep an eye on the original grips as a model while carving these.
At this juncture, use your imagination to visualize a lot of sanding and cutting and wood filler. I used a router bit, rasp files and 150 on up to (down to?) 320 grit sandpaper. What a beauty I finally turned out!
After carving, sanding, wood filler and a bit of drilling — this is what I was able to do. For proof of concept, I could have stopped here and used these but now I’ve been bit by the wood finishing bug.
Time to stain my reputation
I decided to stain the grips a dark wood grain color to resemble the original grips. I’ll tell you right off the bat that this part of the process was a complete failure. I read some stuff on the internet, watched a few videos and felt I knew enough to proceed. I bought a can of MinWax Wood Finish, Tung Oil Wipe-On Finish and mineral spirits. I followed to the letter the instructions printed on the can of Tung Oil Wipe-on Finish for producing a semi-gloss, uniform, wood-grain appearance but ended up with the ugliest, blotchy chunk of wood seen by man. I’d show you a picture, but my camera refuses to download it.
Changes made that differ from the standard grip
I rounded off the trailing edge of the palm shelf because the sharp edge was very uncomfortable. My grips are smaller than the originals, but that’s a given. My next pair will be even smaller. The originals are purposely made large to allow for customization to any hand size. On the next pair, I’ll move up the grip flare (at the bottom of the grip) a bit higher. I’m talking about the part of the grip that flares out at the bottom on my new right side and not the adjustable palm shelf. I believe this flare is supposed to be designed to minimize any yaw in the barrel, whereas the palm shelf is designed to minimize droop caused by the wrist. Because my hand is small, the current flare does not quite reach my hand, and the palm shelf is adjusted as far up as it will go. Finally, on my next pair, I will choose a wood that doesn’t need stain. I will need something to make them waterproof and sweatproof. Staining is not my forte.
Time to assess the results
My efforts were a success. These grips fit me like a glove — very comfortable, giving me a much more stable sight picture. I can’t wait for the stain to dry so I can start shooting. I wanted to make a set of left-hand grips that were suitable for competition shooting, and I succeeded. Can you do it? I believe you can.
I don’t think I possess any talents that you don’t have. Can I do it again? I think so. I’m emboldened, now. Would I do it for economic gain? I don’t think so. It’s too time-consuming the way I did it to make it affordable to a customer. However, I think I can make a set in about 4 hours, probably less with the proper equipment.