Marlin Trapper Carbine
This project grew out of both a desire for a trapper-style lever-gun and my dominating tinkerer’s personality coupled with a huge helping of Scottish ancestral penny pinching. Over the years, several lever action rifles have come and gone through the stables of our woods-oriented armory, and an insatiable hankering for a short, relatively light-weight thirty-thirty persisted up through recent days. Finally, last summer when perusing a local pawn shop, a very battered, poorly kept Marlin 336 lever action rifle in .30-30
cried out from the racks of neglected bargain-priced guns to go home with me for some much needed TLC. So, after a minimal amount of paperwork and giving a hundred bucks to the shop proprietor, my project began.
At first glance of course the gun was the typical Marlin model 336, but manufactured right on the heels of WWII, hence while being badly neglected over its life it still has a wonderful velvety smooth action so very typical of the guns manufactured during that time period. While the action is slick, other aspects of this pawn-shop refugee demanded attention.
The bore was grimy and dirty, but a little judicious cleaning revealed a bright bore free of pits. Apparently the previous owner cleaned the barrel frequently, but he did so from the muzzle end of the bore, and without the aid of a bore-protector, because the last inch of the barrel had no rifling whatsoever, and measured a full 0.314” at the crown as seen in the accompanying photograph with a .314” diameter .32-20 bullet inserted into the muzzle of the rifle. In order for this barrel to shoot, it would require some amputation.
Along with the barrel needing to be cut, the rifle came with other deficiencies as well. The butt stock had been cut to an overall length of pull, including the recoil pad of an even twelve inches, and the stock was cracked and split where the tang mated with the wood, and the wood around the tang-screw was split out as well. There was no finish left on any part of the metal surfaces of the rifle, and there were blood stains and etching on what should have been smooth steel. The front barrel-band retaining screw was broken off and unable to be removed without some work, and the overall condition of the wood was beat-up and distressed. A light rust covered most metal surfaces with minor, to moderate pitting resulting in many places on the rifle. Overall, the whole thing needed help!
Since accuracy is the focus of a rifle carried afield, the first step in this rehabilitation program was to disassemble the rifle and to bob the barrel. Since the barrel required cutting anyhow, it just made good sense to make the overall length of the rifle as compact as possible. To that end, the barrel was cut to sixteen and a half inches as measured from the chamber mouth to the crowned muzzle, this gives a half and inch of margin over the minimum legal barrel length of sixteen inches. It’s far better to error a half an inch on the long side of legal than a sixteenth of an inch too short!
Cutting of the barrel was accomplished using a new hacksaw blade and cutting across the barrel where marked by a band of electrical tape wrapped around the barrel. I’ve found over the years that by wrapping the barrel prior to cutting, it helps act as a guide and facilitates cutting relatively straight across the barrel. After cutting, the barrel was squared and trued using a tri-square and a single-cut mill-bastard file until the face of the barrel was perfectly flat, and perfectly square to the axis of the bore. To check the square face, a piece of .300” drill-rod was inserted into the bore, and then squared from the rod as a reference point, rather than the tapered barrel. Actually, once you get a feel for squaring from the axis of the bore, it’s a very simple process to square the face of the barrel very accurately. Then, once the freshly cut barrel was squared, a round, ½” abrasive stone was chucked in a variable speed drill and rotated centered in the muzzle of the barrel until a slightly recessed muzzle crown was created. Then the outside edge of the muzzle-face was radiused using a single-cut mill-bastard file then the whole works smoothed and polished using first 220 grit wet/dry paper followed by 440 grit to finish up the crown.
After cutting four inches off the barrel, the front sight would have to be once again affixed to the barrel, since it was originally dovetailed into the top of the barrel at the muzzle. Too, the front four inches of the barrel also played host to the front barrel-band and the magazine tube retaining screw holding the magazine tube onto the rifle. Both of these issues would need attention. To first address the front sight, I much prefer a dovetailed sight on my rifles, especially one potentially used in a survival scenario, as a sight can be driven out if damaged even with crude means, and replaced if need be by a replacement sight or even one whittled from wood if need be to put the rifle back into service. (Yep, I’ve had to do that in the field once, and it worked like a charm!) So, if a dovetail sight was to go back on, then a new dovetail must be cut!
Regarding the magazine tube, I opted to cut the magazine tube off so that it was just slightly longer than the wooden fore-end on the rifle, thereby adding to the compactness of the gun, and facilitate attachment of the magazine-tube via a dovetailed magazine-tube retainer block that would double as an anchor point for a forward sling swivel.
Cutting new dovetails in a barrel is actually quite simple, and a project most any home hobbyist can easily master. As I searched about the shop for my old dovetail cutting files, I remembered that I had loaned them to a friend several years ago, and that they never came home! Not to worry, as I have a supply of small, ¼” x 6” triangular files, (garnered from a yard-sale for a dime each! A whole box of them!), which are perfect candidates for cutting standard 3/8” dovetails for sights in gun-steel. However, these files needed modification if to be used for cutting dovetails.
It is a simple matter to make a dovetail cutting file from a standard ¼” triangular file by simply hitting one side of the file with a bench grinder or belt sander and smoothing off one of the triangular flats. In this way you create a safe-side on the file and allow controlling both the depth and width of the dovetail as it is cut by limiting the cutting action to only one dimension at a time via the safe-side on the file. Too, taking an eight inch single-cut mill-bastard file, and smoothing one edge of the file (not one of the flats, but an edge) with a grinder or belt sander as done with the triangular file will create a safe-edge on this too, for working a dovetail sight cut. Once both files have been properly modified, cutting the dovetail is a simple task.
First, determine the location of the dovetail to be cut, in the case of our project rifle, two dovetails needed to be cut into the barrel, one on the top of the barrel for the front sight, and another on the bottom of the barrel for the magazine-tube hanger block. Once the location is marked, make sure that the barrel/action are resting squarely on the workbench before undertaking dovetail cutting, as it is essential to make the dovetail flat and square to the axis of the barrel for proper alignment of the sights and the fore-end hanger.
Then, once all is squared and laid out, it’s a simple process beginning with the first cut made using the edge of an eight-inch single-cut mill file. Make this cut down into the barrel 0.075” deep, and as wide as the file is thick. Then, using the safe-side of your prepared flat mill file, make the width of the cut roughly 0.250” wide while maintaining the original 0.075” deep by using the safe-side of the file down in the bottom of the cut. Then, use the triangular file in the cut, with the safe-side down against the bottom of the cut, and cut both sides of the slot, creating the classic dovetail under-cut, gradually widening the slot while maintaining the same uniform 0.075” depth of the cut by applying the safe-side of the file where necessary to control removal of metal. Finally, use the triangular file to gradually finish-out the dovetail cuts to a depth of about 0.080” and overall width at the widest point not to exceed 0.350”. When approaching the finishing point on fresh cut dovetails, use an existing standard sight or slot insert as a gauge to prevent removing too much material from the dovetail. Remember, you can always remove a little more metal at a time, but you can’t grow it back! Proceed slowly, and cautiously for a perfect fit the first time, every time!
Once the fore-end hanger dovetail was cut, an insert was made using simple 5/16” mild steel plate and then cutting and filing to make a snug fitting dovetail insert to fit. Once cut and fit, the insert was drilled and tapped with a 10-32NF tap, the correct thread size and pitch to accept a threaded machine-screw style detachable sling swivel base. The new insert was polished and set aside with other small gun parts needing to be refinished and blued.
At this point in the project the magazine tube was cut off the requisite length to mate up with the new fore-end hanger assembly, the magazine tube and magazine tube cap were drilled to accommodate a 10-32 machine screw, and the various component parts were test fit with the dovetail insert driven into the new dovetail, and the length of the machine-screw sling swivel stud ground off to an appropriate length to fully engage the threads tapped in the dovetail magazine-tube hanger, and hold the magazine-tube assembly firmly in place without having the machine screw protrude through the dovetail hanger and the bottom of the barrel. Once final fitting of these parts was accomplished, they were disassembled, and the dovetail insert once-again driven out of the dovetail and the components were set aside for finishing at a later time.
After cutting the necessary dovetails, the entire stripped, barreled action assembly was then polished using both 3M abrasive pads, then 00 and 000 steel wool pads to remove surface rust, and minimize the surface imperfections imparted from several decades of neglect and abuse. The whole idea was to remove the rust, and whatever remaining blued finish remained on the barreled action and component parts of the rifle for refinishing.
Now, with the barrel cut to sixteen and a half inches, the magazine tube bobbed to a half-length configuration, the necessary dovetails cut into the barrel and the component parts modified for reassembly, the time had come to determine how to refinish the metal on this little carbine. In looking closely at the surface of the major component parts, the barrel, action and magazine tube, I decided that the metal was pitted and defaced enough that it would require a huge investment in time and materials to remove all of the defects, if indeed that were at all possible. I determined that it wasn’t worth the effort, and that I would take a turn off of the beaten path in regard to refinishing the little Marlin. Most folks would put a shiny glossy blue finish on the rifle, and try to make it appear as near new as humanly possible. Well, I’ve been accused of being half-a-bubble-off-plumb anyhow, so I chose to create a little trapper carbine with character, and one that would be different than any I’d ever seen before.
The decision was made, and the little gun would retain the character of it’s distressed, decades-old wood, scarred from honest use and perhaps some abusive neglect, something to remind me of its past history, and too, where it had been in its past life. The small metal parts would be polished and re-blued before being reinstalled, which leaves the barreled action and magazine tube. Yep, I wanted to take the road less traveled, so after polishing, they were browned, just like one would finish a fine muzzleloader! I thought the contrast between the freshly blued small parts components with the browned finish would be striking. I wasn’t disappointed! Some might say it’s an acquired taste, but my two teenage kids love the little gun!
The whole barreled action was degreased using automotive clutch and brake cleaner, then evenly heated with a propane torch to facilitate the browning process as per the instructions found on the Birchwood Casey Plum Brown bottle. I applied the solution to the very warm barreled action in smooth longitudinal strokes from 0000 steel wool saturated with the Plum Brown finish solution. After several applications involving reheating the action at least four times, a nice, even brown patina finish was achieved on the barreled action and magazine tube. Following application of the browning solution, the entire assembly was thoroughly rinsed in hot water, then once again heated with the propane torch, then dunked into a container of motor oil to kill the action of the browning solution, and to penetrate the pores of the warm gun-steel.
The resulting finish was a very mellow brown patina with a mild matt appearance to the surface, overall a very pleasing finish and appropriate for a rifle of this description.
I’ve never been one to like using any of the various cold bluing solutions, as the finish is both very temporal and lacking depth and color as well. So, what are the alternatives for the home hobbyist? My choice is simple, the deep, rich luster of niter-bluing! The same process that used to make the deep blue/black finish found on fine custom European guns from a lifetime ago.
Yes, yes, I know that I said a reasonable alternative for the home hobbyist, and that’s exactly what old-world niter-bluing can be! I hope I have your attention by this time, as when I first started doing niter bluing I was so excited that I simply couldn’t wait for my first project! It’s really too simple, and I can’t understand how in the world so many gallons of inferior cold-bluing solution are marketed every year when niter-bluing is so simple and so inexpensive.
Inexpensive? Yes, it surely is! Of course it isn’t if you’re looking through those high-priced specialty gunsmithing supply catalogs. Just the bluing salts alone will set a person back about fifty bucks, not to mention the specialty tanks to use the solutions! However, niter-bluing uses nothing except potassium nitrate for its active ingredient, and potassium nitrate in a suitably pure form is as far away as the local hardware store, nursery supply shop or home improvement mart! It’s called stump-remover, and it sells for about two dollars per one pound bottle of powdered potassium nitrate! For my purposes, a simple standard sheet-metal bread-pan filled with three pounds of stump-remover creates a bluing tank large enough for many small projects including handgun frames, the actions of many rifles (less barrels of course), and all sorts of small firearms component parts that benefit from bluing. Too, the three pounds of potassium nitrate in the bread pan is just about the right quantity of material when it expands and bubbles up when being heated to a liquid. Add no liquid of any kind to the potassium nitrate! The crystals will melt down into a liquid with heat alone, DO NOT ADD ANYTHING ELSE!
A Coleman stove or propane burner is perfect for heating and maintaining the temperature for our homemade bluing tank, and the potassium nitrate needs to be heated until it turns into a liquid form, whereupon it becomes a rather translucent yellow when fully up to temperature. When first melting down the powdered stump-remover version of this compound, it will bubble and foam with a brown almost glass-like formation as the crystals melt down, and the trapped air from the powder escapes. This is entirely normal, and merely stirring as the potassium nitrate comes up to temperature, and pushing the hard, clotted clusters of material that form back down into the liquid until all is melted, and the foaming action ceases is all that is needed to prepare your bluing solution. Once all of the material is melted into a liquid state, and the surface has been crystal-free for about fifteen minutes, you’re ready to blue those small parts that have been prepared ahead of time.
Be aware that all parts must be completely free of oil and grease, and above all FREE OF ALL MOISTURE! Keep all water sources away from the liquid potassium nitrate, as a steam explosion will take place similar to getting water in molten lead! However, if you keep the bluing area free of water in all forms, you’ll have no problems at all in the bluing process.
I have a fairly large tablespoon that I’ve drilled with holes to make it almost like a small sieve and use it to support small screws for bluing, lowering the screws in the spoon into the liquid potassium nitrate for bluing. All other small parts are suspended on fine wire for easy retrieval from the hot bluing solution. Simply dunk the degreased parts into the molted bluing salts for fifteen minutes or more to get a nice deep, rich blue color, the longer the part remains in the bluing salts the deeper and richer the color (at least to a point). Upon removal quench the newly blued parts into a suitably large container filled with common motor oil. This oil quench does a couple of things, first it stops the bluing process and kills the bluing salts, second, while the pores of the metal are open and expanded from the heat of the bluing solution, the oil penetrates into the pores and creates a deep, protective layer on the newly blued steel that will last for many, many years.
Most people are absolutely astounded at how easy a simpler niter-blue hot bluing process can be, and more importantly the professional quality that the home hobbyist can achieve with such little expense or effort. The before and after photos of the small component parts to this carbine project speak for themselves.
After bluing all necessary gun parts, simply turn off the heat source under your bluing pan, and allow the potassium nitrate to cool of its own accord, and it will congeal and harden into a solid white mass. Cover the container with aluminum foil, and store away until the next time there is a project that needs blued parts, then it’s a simple matter to once again heat up the bread pan full of bluing salts, get them in a liquid state and get the job done. Saved in the manner described here, your bluing salts and improvised bluing tank will last years, and years and years! If kept from moisture, the pan shouldn’t rust out, and the bluing salts simply don’t wear out from occasional use. So, for six bucks worth of stump remover and a fifty-cent thrift-store bread-pan a person has a lifetime of small parts bluing capability.
As shown in the photograph, once the small parts to the Marlin Trapper Carbine were blued, and the rifled action browned, it was time to assemble the metal parts to the rifle. Since pre-fitting the fore-end hanger components eliminated complications with that modification, assembly of the remaining parts was very straight forward and non-problematic.
As mentioned earlier, the wood on this rifle was quite distressed and marred due to previous hard use and abuse, but with the rather mellow finish of the browned action, the little carbine began to take on a well-seasoned appearance, and I preferred to leave the wood with its beauty marks intact. I originally had planned on taking down the extra wood off the fore-end and taking the “Marlin Belly” out of the wood, and giving the fore-end the sleeker lines of a Model 94 Winchester, but in so doing, the distress marks would have been obliterated, and the butt stock wouldn’t have matched the fore-end, so a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil applied to a lightly sanded fore-end sufficed for finish there.
However, the butt stock was an entirely different story than the fore-end. While yes, there were cosmetic blemishes that added character to the wood that I wanted to retain, there were also some serious structural issues with the butt stock. Not the least of these were the splits in the wrist of the wood where the tang attaches as can be viewed in the accompanying photograph. Not only was the wood split longitudinally, but the buffer-block that supports the tang screw was broken-out as well and allowed the stock to wobble on the tang, and further added to the failing condition of the rear wood in terms of serviceability. I considered several different options to fix the ailing stock, one was completely glass bedding the tang area, which works well, but still wouldn’t address the splits in the stock, nor prevent them from running further at a later time. I also considered adding brass pins to the wood to pin the wood back together, then gluing, but the idea of several brass pins sticking through the stock didn’t appeal to me too much.
Finally, I thought about the overall appearance of this rifle, and a very simple solution occurred to me. I went to my junk box and fished out a discarded set of old disfigured handgun grips acquired in some trade years ago, and cannibalized the escutcheons and stainless steel screw out of them for use in the wrist of the butt stock of the little carbine. I then very carefully tapped the displaced wood back into the area just ahead of the tang screw hole, while applying copious amounts of five-minute two-part epoxy, then drilled an appropriate sized hole for the escutcheon screw to pass through just ahead of the tang screw hole. I followed up by countersinking the escutcheons with a proper sized drill bit to a depth that allowed a flush surface fit, and yet at the same time gave full thread engagement to the escutcheon screw when it was tightened down securely.
Lastly, before tightening the escutcheon screw in the stock’s wrist, I sprayed the entire tang assembly, including the tang screw with Pam cooking spray and allowed it to dry for a few moments. The Pam spray was to act as a release agent on the metal parts, then the tang area and screw hole were filled with a generous helping of five-minute two-part epoxy that was well mixed, the stock was then slipped onto the tang of the rifle, the tang screw and escutcheon screws tightened incrementally and simultaneously to insure an even snugging of the wood to metal in both directions. The entire assembly was allowed to cure for about four hours, and then taken apart, and the tang area trimmed and cleaned-up where the main-spring actuates in the tang area, thus completing the necessary repairs to the butt stock, and actually strengthening the wrist area of the stock beyond new. Too, with the appearance and feel of the rifle, the escutcheon screw doesn’t look at all out of place on this rustic appearing trapper-style carbine, and the fix basically cost nothing except for a few cents worth of five-minute epoxy!
As mentioned in the first part of this article, the butt on this rifle had previously been cut to a 12” length of pull when measured to the rear of the ventilated recoil pad. The previous owner must obviously have been a person small in stature, and tailored the rifle to fit his frame. I considered getting a used stock to put on this little project from the beginning, especially with the deficiencies of the stock in the tang area, but I do have two teenagers that are fairly small framed, and upon checking, found that the length of pull is just about optimum for them just as it came from the pawn shop! So, why fix something that’s really not too broken, right? Too, I found that even though the length of pull is very short for my 6’3” frame, it still is quite serviceable, and really, if carrying it on a trapline in the winter or while snowshoeing with a heavy wool coat on over a bulky sweater, the little carbine actually fits pretty well. So, the stock remains the length it came.
The recoil pad that came fit to the gun was a Pachmyer White Line one inch model, but while sanded nicely to meet the wood, it didn’t follow the angle of the toe of the stock well at all, and looked a bit out of place on the gun. However, once again practicality won out, and the pad remains, and in the same contour as when the gun was brought home. I’m just too Scotch to tear it off just because the lines are a little wrong on the toe of the stock…. This little rifle simply isn’t ever going to be a prom queen, so the pad stays!
However, I did consider the utility of this little rifle as the project progressed, and decided that it would be just entirely too handy to leave at home most times in the woods, and as such, it would need another utilitarian upgrade in the form of emergency storage in the butt stock.
Last summer, before this little rifle had been discovered, I was in a local commercial recycling center, and found a strip of aluminum about six inches wide, by 0.080” thick and nearly twenty feet long. That strip of aluminum had a dedicated purpose, which you will discover below, and the whole piece was acquired for less than two bucks, and I have a lifetime supply of butt stock trap-doors!
The first step is to determine where the recoil pad attaching screws ( or butt plate screws) are located, and to drill two ¾” holes through the recoil pad, or butt plate. Make sure they are centered, and go all the way through the pad to the wood stock. Don’t worry if the spade bit makes a somewhat ragged hole in a recoil pad, because a little sanding with some sandpaper rolled up onto a wood dowel does wonders to smooth out the irregularities remaining in recoil pads after drilling.
Now remove the attaching screws and detatch the butt-plate or recoil pad from the butt of the stock to expose the holes left from the spade-bit pilot bit.
I removed the existing recoil pad, and marked out on a piece of paper an outline for the aluminum trap-door slider, then cutting and fitting refined the contour of the piece of paper until satisfied with the layout. Once the pattern was finalized, it was transferred to the strip of 0.080” aluminum sheet-stock and cut out using a saber-saw and a single-cut mill-bastard file. Note the finger/thumb tab added to the original paper pattern on the aluminum cut-out, don’t forget this addition, as it is critical to the success of your finished trap-door. When making the layout, be sure to utilize the uppermost screw used to hold on the butt plate or recoil pad to your rifle, this will become the hinge-point of the trap-door as will be seen in the description and photos to come.
Now, using the aluminum cut-out as a pattern insert the stock screw that will hinge the aluminum plate, and trace the outline of the trap-door onto the bottom of the stock. Too, be sure to allow enough relief on the wood where the trap door will swing to give clearance to the aluminum plate to open clear of the holes in the butt without binding. This is crucial to the efficiency of your trap-door design. Then, once traced onto the butt of the stock, use either a router or chisel and files to remove the marked wood from the butt of the stock. In the little Marlin carbine in this article a router was used, and the depth set at 0.100” to allow 0.020” clearance to assure no binding would occur when swinging open the trap door once completed.
Once proper inletting for the trap door has been accomplished, using the existing centers in the butt-stock left by the spade bit when drilling the butt pad, drill vertically into the butt of the stock using a ¾” standard twist drill bit or a Forstner style drill being careful to keep the holes not only centered in the stock but straight and perpendicular to the axis of the stock. Take careful measurements and don’t drill too deeply into the stock, keeping a watchful eye on the taper of the stock as it narrows towards the wrist of the stock. Be sure to pull the drill out of the hole frequently to clean out the hole, and monitor drilling progress. Keep in mind too that it doesn’t take a tremendously deep hole in the stock to be useful for storage when it is already ¾” in diameter!
The idea here, is to create an instantly accessible storage compartment in the rifle stock in which to carry emergency items such as fire-starting kits, small compass, small flashlight, extra ammo, or even prescription drugs that one must take on a regular basis, and a small supply carried in the stock of the rifle might be the difference in survival if forced into an overnight or longer stay in the outdoors. This space isn’t intended for a comprehensive survival kit, but could easily house a small knife or the other listed items and still have space to spare! The two holes in the pictured carbine have depths of 5” and 4” to the aluminum trap-door.
After drilling the holes, test fit the aluminum plate in the inletted space on the stock for fit and alignment. Too this is the time to adjust both the length and shape of the thumb/finger tab on the aluminum trap-door and configure it for best accessibility on the butt of the rifle. In the case of this rifle the angle of the tab was altered by judicious use of a file and the length likewise changed to a more user friendly length. Once the length and shape are established, it’s time to inlet the edge of the stock for the thumb/finger tab so that it is flush with the outside dimensions of the stock. In this particular rifle, the inletted side tab was done with a Dremel tool and a ½” round sanding drum with a medium grit sanding drum installed. Make positive that there is adequate relief of wood around thumb/finger tab to allow easy opening of the trap door, yet at the same time close enough tolerances to preclude it being inadvertently opened..
Now double check the inletting job for clearance both for the thumb tab which opens the trap-door, and for dimensional clearance for the trap-door itself in terms of thickness of inletting to allow freely opening door, as well as relief of enough wood around the hinge-screw area to facilitate opening without binding on wood obstructions. If all is properly inletted and the trap-door will swing properly, the exposed raw wood now needs to be positively and permanently sealed. End grain wood is notorious for wicking moisture, so all inletting work must be sealed with a waterproof substance. While both tongue oil and boiled linseed oils will do the job, I much prefer for this application to use some marine spar varnish. It seals well, especially end grain, is waterproof, and will positively seal the grain in your drilled holes as well. Once the varnish is applied, then hang the butt stock by the tang-screw hole using a piece of wire or twine, so that any excess varnish will drain out of the drilled storage holes, and that the inletted portion of the stock doesn’t pool finish an gum-up what is inletted for the trap-door.
After passage of proper curing time, affix the newly created trap-door assembly to the butt of the rifle with the original butt-pad attaching screws. Firmly tighten the screws, then check the trap-door for function and fit. If the trap-door should open too easily, with not enough resistance, slightly bend the trap door in the center, just enough to create a pleasant friction-fit that won’t come open of its own accord, nor open accidentally by catching on clothing or brush in the field.
This treatment of the butt-stock of this little Marlin carbine may be replicated on most any long gun with a wooden stock, and even many with synthetic stocks as well. The storage compartments could be used for extra shotgun shells in the case of shotguns and for rifle ammunition as well. However, be very cautious regarding storage of rifle cartridges in these butt-stock carriers, because the taper of many rifle shells is such that if shells are placed in the holes in the butt, the shells will perform as dual acting wedges, and lock themselves into the holes making them a real ugly task for removal.
Something that has worked well for me in using these trap-door storage compartments are thin plastic tubing sleeves with plastic plugs in which to put items for storage, then staple to the plastic sleeve a length of satin ribbon (yes like that used to tie up women’s hair, or as in found sewn into quality books and bibles) found in craft and fabric shops. Then, when the time comes to extract something from the trapdoor, even with cold hands, one can pull on the length of ribbon to pull the contents from the butt of your rifle.
Another thought is to sew lightweight cloth (preferably nylon) sleeves that will just fit for length and diameter of the holes drilled in the butt of your firearm, then line the hole with the cloth sleeve, add your desired contents and extract with a string or ribbon attached to the cloth sleeve. The only limitation to the uses for these trap doors are one’s imagination and the physical size of the storage space!
This project was great fun, educational and very rewarding. The end result was a great little Marlin Trapper carbine with a 16.5” barrel, an overall length of under 33” and a weight of under six pounds empty. The half-length magazine, after cutting the magazine spring to the proper length allows loading four .30-30
cartridges into the magazine, for an overall capacity of five rounds when one is in the chamber. The rifle sling is set up to attach to a sling swivel stud either at the traditional location an inch or so from the toe of the butt, or an inch up, centered on the side of the stock so the rifle can lie flat on the back when slung over both head and shoulders, with the muzzle in a downward position, (a most comfortable carry).
Further more, the whole project, including bluing necessities (which will be reused over and over again), sling swivel studs, Plum Brown finish, the cost of the gun, and all other items was less than $120.00 at the time of this writing! That’s some utility and bang for the buck! Besides, we ended up with one really slick little carbine out of the deal too!
For the time being, the original factory sights remain on the gun, but in the near future either a Lyman 66LA or a Williams Fool Proof receiver sight will round out this package and make it more user friendly for my tired eyes. This however is about the only significant change I can see necessary to this little rifle, and for me is very noteworthy, as usually once I finish a project like this there are at least a half a dozen aspects that I would change if I had it to do over again. For me, the only thing that I would do differently is that I wouldn’t have let the rifle sit around for nine months before getting around to doing the project!
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