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  • Frankengun I

    Posted By on December 3, 2016

    Frank-en-gun: Noun, a firearm pieced together with parts from various sources in reference to the Frankenstein monster.

    I’ve been in the process of redoing, re-furbishing, updating and upgrading some of the AR15s I built in the 1990s. Those were all pretty much standard rifles and carbines using carry handle receivers in either A1 or A2 configuration. Over the years barrels, upper and lower receivers, stocks and such have been moved around. The quest was to update some of those with more modern components such as new stocks, pistol grips, sights, optics and/or free float railed hand guards. In essence all of these are Frankenguns.


    Parts from all these guns were used for my full length rifle. None of them are now as they appear in this photo


    When all was said and done I realized I had a bunch of carbines but no full length AR rifle to shoot in CMP Service Rifle Matches. Looking around I then realized I had enough parts to put a rifle together.

    Barrel:   20″ heavy barrel (shown on the top AR in the photo above) taken from an A1 upper I bought during the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban (AWB 1994-2004).  Near the end of the ban people were dumping those post ban configured parts so I gobbled them up for future projects. The barrel had a 1:9 twist and a pinned on muzzle brake (flash hiders were banned). The barrel was very accurate but the muzzle break was obnoxiously loud. I had put it on the flat top upper in the above photo.

    Upper Receiver: The upper receiver I chose to use was from a well used Colt M16 surplus rifle brought back from the Philippines as parts kits. Second AR from top. The guy originally hacksawed the barrel to remove the banned flash hider.  As a result I bought it pretty cheap.  I removed the barrel, had it recrowned and threaded for a flash hider and made a carbine out of it. You might recognize the lower receiver on this as being an original once piece long (stock, pistol grip and receiver) plastic receiver from Cavalry Arms. That stock was sold and replaced with their upgraded shorter model 2 stock.

    Stock: The rifle stock and pistol grip shown on the top AR in the photo was originally on the AR on the bottom. That AR on the bottom was a pre ban Olympic “SGW stop sign” marked lower. That lower with the rifle stock was the first AR I ever built. As you can see I turned it into a carbine but eventually sold the stripped lower to a guy in  the socialist republic of New York who needed it to build a pre ban gun.

    Lower Receiver: The lower was taken from the third AR from the top. It is a Stag Arms lower. I bought 3 stripped receivers in the early 2000s and used them to build various ARs including a pistol. That one was taken from that carbine when I was redoing it into something else.

    Miscellaneous Parts: Internal parts pretty much came from the donor rifles. That includes lower parts kits, hand guards, buffer and spring, front sight base. The pistol grip was a basic A2 from my parts box.

    Barrel donor. Notice the muzzle comp on the end of the barrel.

    Assembly was pretty straight forward with a couple exceptions. The barrel originally had a pinned on muzzle compensator which was removed.  I also had a scope on it at one time. To see through the scope I cut down the front sight base. At the time, low profile gas blocks weren’t available like they are now.  To make it as original as possible I had to get the barrel threaded for a flash hider and replace the front sight base. I have a friend to did the barrel for me at no cost and I took the FSB from the old Colt upper (second AR from top).

    End Result:  Though well worn, a pretty nice full size rifle. The heavy barrel makes it very stable. With AR carbines being so popular, people tend to forget how nice a full size AR feels.

    It's ALIVE! The finished Frankengun


    Marlin 795- Part V

    Posted By on January 8, 2016

    I kind of like my Marlin 795s.  In part IV if you remember, I converted the Marlin 795 to a long barreled hybrid using a Model 60 upper. That was interesting but on the other hand I already have a long barreled Model 60 and having two became redundant.

    Upon further reflection I decided I would try and take the 795 the other way and make it more compact. The regular 795 has an 18″ barrel and an overall length of 37 inches. It is already two inches shorter than a standard Ruger 10/22 and a 1/2 pound lighter. Taking the barrel down to the minimum legal length of 16″ would make if even more compact and lighter still.

    In discussing it with a friend he pulled out a cut down Model 60 he had done for another friend of his. He cut the mag tube and barrel to 16″ and threaded the barrel. He added an AR15 flash hider to protect the threads. Makes a real nice little carbine and was going to be used as as Jeep gun i.e, strapped to a Jeep’s roll bar when offroading.

    Regular 22" Mod 60 vs. 16" cut down "Jeep gun".

    Regular 22″ Model 60 vs. 16″ cut down “Jeep gun”.

    After seeing how compact the Model 60 became I was convinced to let him cut mine down. Since he offered I also had him thread the barrel as well.  A couple days later he called and I went and picked up my 795 barreled upper from him. The result was a 16″ threaded barrel with a threaded barrel and  “mud guard”.   The “mud guard” is a cut down AR15 flash hider. Since the goal was compactness he cut the flash hider so that it only adds 1/2″ back to the length. It is intended as a thread and muzzle crown protector rather than a flash hider.

    Top to bottom a regular 795, my cut down 795, the cut down model 60 and a full size 60

    Top to bottom a regular 795, cut down 60 receiver to be used with the 795 guts, the cut down model 60 and a full size 60

    Close up of threads and flash hiders/thread protectors/mud guards

    Close up of threads and flash hiders/thread protectors/mud guards









    Putting the barrel back in the stock I compared it with my regular 795. Not bad but not compact enough. The next step was to take the hollow plastic stock and cut it down 2″. Pretty easy to do cut. I then tapped the screw lugs inside the stock and reinstalled the butt plate.

    Cut down buttstock. I used the screw lugs to reattach butt plate

    Cut down butt stock. I used the screw lugs to reattach butt plate

    In that the stock was narrower the shorter it got the butt plate was too large. I ground the edges down until it fit flush and used the regular screws to reattach it. (A friend of mine who cut his 795 stock down for his son simply used a slip over rubber stock pad). Overall length with 2″ taken off the barrel and 2″ taken off the stock reduced it to 33″. The “mud/thread guard” added 1/2″ back. Overall weight was reduced by 4.5 ounces but that would be offset somewhat the installation of the original iron sights.

    Regular 795 top with the cut down barrel version below it. Not much difference in length overall.

    Regular 795 top with the cut down barrel version below it. Not much difference in length overall.

    Cut down on top. Overall length reduced by 3.5 inches with the mud guard. A little bit better.

    Both stock and barrel cut down on top. Overall length reduced by 3.5 inches with the mud guard. A little bit better.









    Some people might complain that the stock is too short. My experience as rifle instructor has taught me that it is much easier to shoot a rifle with the stock too short than with the stock too long. I am a pretty big guy but have no problem shooting shorter than normal rifles.

    Bottom line is I now have a shorter, more compact version of my 795. Is it worth it? Ideally if you wanted a shorter lighter version you would probably be better off finding a Marlin Model 70 Papoose. The Papoose is a take down version with a 795 action, a half stock and a removable 16″ barrel. The problem is that the Papoose is no longer made and tends to command top dollar if you can find one.  A 795 can still be found at about $150 retail.  Cutting and threading the barrel along with drilling and tapping the front sight holes would probably set you back at least another $100. But then again you don’t have to thread the barrel and using a scope eliminates having to replace the front sight. Cutting the stock is the cost of a hack saw blade providing you don’t screw it up.

    So is it worth it?  Hmmmm……probably not unless that’s what you really wanted and had a specific need. You can now buy Ruger 10/22s with all kinds of short barrels that are already threaded and/or take down models for what it would cost to cut and thread a 795. Unless of course  you had an old beater 60 and someone to do it for free like I did.


    NOTE….Marlin has recently (Sept 2016)  offered a $25 rebate making the 795 the lowest price in about 5 years.  A local sports chain sale had them on sale for $129, the rebate put them around $106 + tax. Still a great bang for the buck.

    Classic Review-Remington Model 81

    Posted By on October 22, 2015


    I like Remington Nylon rifles but occasionally other Remingtons slip into the stable. I recently got a line on a Model 81 that a neighbor of a friend was selling. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about the 81. Some online research revealed that the 81 was made from 1937-1949 and was basically a refreshed version of the a rifle which first hit the fields in 1906 and renamed the Model 8 in 1911 .

    Fixed five shot mag

    Fixed five shot mag

    The Model 8 was interesting in that it was a John Browning design using the long recoil system developed for the Browning Auto 5 aka Remington 11 aka Savage 720 shotgun. Unlike the Auto 5 however the recoil spring on the Model 8/81 was encased in a full length barrel shroud.  The Model 8 was offered in .30 Remington (a rimless version of the iconic 30-30 Winchester), a .25 Remington, .32 Remington and in .35 Remington.

    The .35 caliber Model 8 became popular with police departments in the 1920’s and 30’s to battle the road bandits of that era. It was a 5 shot fixed mag semi auto that could be reloaded using a stripper clip.  The heavy bullet .35 caliber was capable of penetrating the car bodies and engine blocks of the vehicles of the day.   Frank Hammer, the Texas Ranger and

    Lots of dramatic advertising for the Model 8

    Lots of dramatic advertising for the Model 8

    other deputies put an end to Bonnie and Clyde’s criminal careers using at least a couple Model 8s when he and his posse ambushed them. Photos at the scene shows that the basic 5 shot model was used.  However, a company from Missouri (Peace Officer Equipment Co.) did come out with a 15 round detachable single stack magazine conversion that was popular with police and prisons in that area. Remington themselves picked up on it and  contracted with POE to make their Police only version for awhile. Remington also made an FBI version of the 81 based on the 5 shot fixed magazine version but with specials sights and wood.  It should be noted that the .35 Remington remains a popular hunting cartridge to this day most notably in the Marlin 336 lever actions.


    Enter the Model 81 Woodsmaster

    Enter the Model 81 Woodsmaster

    By the late 30’s however the design was a bit stale so Remington spruced it up a bit cosmetically by changing the stock from a straight line to pistol grip and renamed it the Model 81.  They also added the .300 Savage to it’s stable of calibers. The .300 Savage was popular hunting round used in Savage’s iconic Model 99 lever action. It started life as Savage’s entry in the military trials to replace the 30-40 Krag at the turn of the century.  While it lost out to the 30-06 at the beginning of the century it’s shorter case and ballistics were used as the starting point for the development of the 7.62×51 NATO (aka 308 Winchester) round for the M14 in the late 1950s.

    Meanwhile, I got chance to look at the 81 in question. The serial number indicated it was made in 1947. It was in beautiful, pristine condition, walnut and blue steel and at a price I couldn’t resist. Later  inspection indicated that it had probably been reblued and the wood definitely had been refinished. With not a mark or speck of dirt on it, it probably had never been used after it’s refinishing however.  The bluing job was excellent but whoever refinished the wood sanded the checkering down.  The wood is still beautiful but checkering is thin. None-the-less I didn’t buy it as a collectible nor did I pay very much for it.  I was happy to get a iconic Browning designed semi auto hunting rifle at a good price.

    Glamour shot of my 81

    Wood and steel. They don’t make them like that anymore. Notice the the humpback receiver reminiscent of it’s Auto 5 shotgun relative.

    As a bonus it came with a Redfield rear peep sight that is mounted on the rear of the receiver. Standard rear sights were a leaf type mounted on the barrel shroud in front of the receiver. Mounting peep sights were pretty common in that it increased the sight radius and gave a much better sight picture. In that the 8/81 ejected straight up, scope mounts were usually mounted by drilling and tapping the left side of the receiver which off set the scope. Purists argue that drilling and tapping ruins the value.  On the other hand my research indicates that the Redfield sight on my rifle is of good quality and doesn’t hurt the value. In fact, these vintage sights are highly sought after and valuable in their own right.

    The checkering and adjustable rear peep sight. Original rear sight was on the barrel.

    The checkering and adjustable rear peep sight. Original rear sight was on the barrel shroud. The checkering pattern does not match known factory patterns.

    In regards to checkering. 8 & 81s came in 5 different grade levels. The basic model was uncheckered walnut and known as the “Standard” A grade. Grades B & C featured fancier walnut and two different patterns of checkering. They are known as the “Special” grade.  They are typically marked 81B or 81C on the receiver. Grades D, E, and F are known as  “Peerless, Expert and Premier” grades respectively.  Each featured better wood, more extensive and elaborate checkering and engraving.

    Remington's Police Guns. Not the Browning designed humpback Mod 11 shotgun.

    Remington’s Police Guns. Note the Browning designed humpback Mod 11 shotgun.

    I couldn’t match the checkering on my 81 with the illustrations of the grades I found online nor is is marked as a B or C grade.  I therefore assume my checkering was added later. Otherwise my rifle appears to be a basic Standard A version.

    One interesting aspect of the 8 & 81 is that they take down easily. A lever under the fore stock is flipped down and unscrewed and the whole barrel assembly can be removed. I say “assembly” because the barrel and recoil spring is contained in the over sized barrel shroud.  A bit of trivia is that the 81 is noticeable in the third Mummy film (The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) starring Brandon Fraser.  The producers of those films featured a lot of unusual period guns to make Fraser’s character seem more prepared, adventuress and tactical. His trunk of guns contains a taken down Model 81 mounted in a rack. Unfortunately we don’t see him using it in the film.


    They made about 127,000 model 8 and 81s combined over the span of

    Take down lever allows the barrel assembly to be removed.

    Take down lever allows the barrel assembly to be removed.

    40 some years.  I remember them growing up and recently showed mine to and asked my 87 year old father what he thought of them. He remembers them not being very popular because they were heavy, kind of ugly and one couldn’t easily mount a scope on them. The barrel shroud added weight and was ungainly looking and if you mounted a scope it had to be offset to the left side. I think that is the reason they were not more popular then or now.

    In regards to current value, both the 8 and 81 are most sought after in .35 Rem caliber. .35 Rem is still available while the other calibers are pretty much obsolete.  Obviously condition and grade affect value. The most valuable ones are those that are marked as police guns. On top of that, those that were converted to the 15 round detachable magazine are very highly sought after. Even the magazines command a high price.

    Ready to transport for your next adventure

    Ready to transport to your next adventure

    Overall, depending on condition a basic 8 or 81 in .35 Rem usually run around $400-500. Other calibers slightly less. Of course now that I have one I see them around a lot more. I would guess that the Model 8 might command a bit higher price, but most people I’ve run across who have them don’t know the difference between an 8 and 81. However, there does not seem to be a high demand for these guns therefore prices can often be negotiated down. I’ve seen them for as little as $200 in good condition.  Conversely, police guns and high grade guns can get up into the thousands.

    Do they shoot?

    The 8 & 81 are iconic Browning designs, but how do they shoot?  In order to answer that question I had to locate some .300 Savage ammo.  This rifle should have no problem shooting modern ammo if you can find it. The problem was I couldn’t find any ammo in any store. It is still made but not often carried on the shelves.  Consequently I went on a local gun forum and ended up trading some 9mm pistol ammo for a hundred+ rounds of vintage ammo including some hand loads and 100 empty cleaned, sized and deprimed cases. I don’t have dies for this caliber but I do reload so a set is on my list.

    Vintage ammo for a vintage rifle

    Vintage ammo for a vintage rifle

    I will save the accuracy report for later but suffice to say that reliability was good,  recoil is surprisingly stout. I am looking forward to trying some modern factory ammo and perhaps putting together some loads for next year’s deer season.

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