Cadet in 32-20 with issues

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  • Last Post 06 December 2020
SkinnerD posted this 03 December 2020

Hi from Auckland NZ. Thought I would garner some thoughts on a recent acquisition.

I have been given the long-term care and use of a BSA Martini Action Cadet single shot rifle. It has been re-chambered and, I believe, re-barreled in 32-20 WCF.  It has some issues.

First the barrel.  It is stamped 32-20 on the side. It has a significant bulge just behind the front sight. The bore looks shiny and mint, like it has done little work. I called my gunsmith and sounded him out about cutting the barrel down and re-positioning the front sight accordingly - would loose about 8cm of barrel length. No problem he said, but its probably an original barrel with just the chamber converted to 32-20, as apparently was done to many. I have got hold of some brass, projectiles and dies for 32-20. Including some gas checked 120gn cast bullets at .313 and some Hornady 90 gn SWC at .314.  Either bullet would have to be driven hardish to enter the muzzle end of the barrel so I'm thinking it is actually a re-barreled action with the barrel at .312. Which would be nice. I understand that if it was the original barrel it would be sized for a .324 projectile in which case the .313 dia would drop right in there - right?  Anyway,  I'm taking it out to him on Monday.

In the meantime I ran up some gentle test loads in fours with each of the projectiles using data for AP70N (for the 120gn) and Titegroup (for the 90gn). The few cases came to me with the rifle, primed probably some 30 yrs ago, so, not knowing their provenance, I full length resized and reprimed them with Federal 205 SRP. I'm used to reloading .22 Hornet so had no issues with producing some nice looking rounds from delicate brass. Crimped with a Lee Factory Crimp die for a firm but not brutal hold. Then I went to test chamber them. 

I have no prior experience of Martini Actions but it doesn't take much to see that with the action open, the round should slide nicely down the ramp, into the chamber and then, with the leaver closing the action the two lugs come up behind the case head to lock it firmly in place and the ramp rises to it's closed position, ready for firing.  Anyway, that's how it looks to me but I may have you rolling on the floor by now. What actually happens is these two lugs stand up proud of the ramp when the action is fully open and there is no way apparent to me that the round can be slid over them into the chamber. I can get it in about 3/4 of the way then it jams up. It is not a COL issue, the projectile point is not hitting the rifling. Moreover the 90gn SWC has a somewhat shorter COL than the 120gn FP but jams at exactly the same point. Just can't get the round past the two upstanding lugs. Maybe some damage happened to the action when the barrel got bulged....

On the outside of the action, right-hand side there is a small lever that feels to have some spring tension under it when moved. David, the gunsmith says this is a cocking indicator, however, while it can be manually turned from vertical  to rearwards almost completely around and back again it does not otherwise do anything. 

Yes, the action cocks and fires with a good solid click of the firing pin. Anyway I guess David will sort it all out when I get it to him, if it turns out to be worth sorting.

In the meantime some quick questions for the experienced and knowledgeable. The owner of the gun, on hearing about the bulge, first suggested re-barreling it  to say 25-20 or .218 Bee. Assuming there is nothing drastically wrong with the action, and that the barrel is indeed a 32-20, and given the good condition of the bore apart from the bulge, I would like to keep it as 32-20. If put into safe working condition it would be used to train any of the 8 grandchilden interested enough, eldest of who are about to turn 13. Not just in shooting but also reloading. We have access to plenty of feral goats as well as rabbits and hares.  If it was to be converted what would you convert it too - there are many options? Thoughts? Opinions? recommendations?  Is it worth the conversion cost? Cheers

PS, I should explain, the gun's owner has never fired it. Bought it at a firearms show trading table more than 30 years ago with some other stuff in a weak moment and it has lived in the back of a safe ever since. Had no idea the barrel was bulged lol.

John.

 

John - New Zealand

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RicinYakima posted this 03 December 2020

John,

First, the two "bars" behind the chamber are the extractor, and they go under the rim, not on top of them. Just push the case in until it touches the extractors, and close the action.

If it is hard to push a .314" bullet into the muzzle, it is most likely a .30 caliber barrel or a .303 British barrel.

Be easy on the Lee crimp die, you just need enough to hold the bullet in the case. Too much squeezes the bullet down and ruins accuracy.

Many 32/20 barrels here in the US are bulged because the post-WW2 companies loaded them so light with jacket bullets they would stick in the barrel. The next shot bulged the barrel. Never shoot jacketed factory cartridges thru you rifle.

HTH, Ric

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SkinnerD posted this 03 December 2020

Ahhh knowledge is such a wonderful thing lol. Thanks, it chambers perfectly! Instead of just dropping the cartridge in as you describe I was trying to seat it all the way into the chamber with fingers. Silly me...

Yes the Lee FC die I use to just close the little bit of mouth flare necessary to insert a cast projectile.

I think you're correct re the barrel. All it needs is lopping off to remove the bulge.

Cheers

John - New Zealand

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Bud Hyett posted this 03 December 2020

Ric has an excellent reply on the mechanical function and the extractor.  Especially the warning on factory light loads as this cartridge is also loaded for pistol with the ammunition companies worried about pressures. 

Cartridge choice would be aligned with brass availability. Starline makes .32-20 brass and it is available most of the time. W-W and R-P makes .25-20 brass, only in limited runs. W-W makes .218 Bee brass, again in limited runs. I own rifles in all three calibers, I buy when I can. The .32-20 and .25-20 are strictly cast bullet rifles for CBA, ASSRA, and ISSA competition, the .218 Bee is for prairie dogs.

Forming .25-20 from .32-20 is a thread within the forum, look it up. Forming has been easy except for one lot of brass that seemed a little harder and needed annealing before forming. Fortunately, I have enough .218 Bee brass to wear out another rifle.

My choice in your situation would be to chamber a .32-20. The cartridge is known for loading data and the brass is available. The .32-20 has a nominal .312 bore, kind of an orphan in that it is too big for .30 caliber and not big enough for .303 caliber. A double cavity mold in the 120 grain to 135 grain range would make a nice plinker and training round.   

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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SkinnerD posted this 03 December 2020

Thks Bud. I plan to keep it at 32-20. Apart from the bulge the bore looks new. Lopping 8cm off should not be too detrimental.

I have 150 Hornady 9gn SWC at .314 dia that came with the rifle. Pistol projectiles really but ok for plinking. Mind you they would be fairly convincing under 100 m on smaller game I suspect if I can get an accurate load going. And 200 hunting projectiles at 120gn from a Lyman 311008 115 gr mould. The caster tells me the extra 5 gn is a result of his mix of lead and wheel weights. These are a GC FP. I'll get headspace and action checked anyway but I'm picking this as a reasonably strong action and capable of the published max loads. I'll start from min but will definitely be checking for a clear bore before firing the next round lol. In the meantime I'm collecting load data....

John - New Zealand

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Dean D. posted this 03 December 2020

Hi John, I'd second keeping the rifle chambered in 32-20 with the game you've described.  I have an original Win. mod. 92 in 32WCF and love it.  My favorite cast projectile is the Lyman 311316 112gr RFP w/GC.  Mine is wickedly accurate with this bullet.

Good luck, you have a great project going that your Grandchildren will love you even more for!

Cheers, Dean

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RicinYakima posted this 03 December 2020

John, the action is very strong, as I have a cadet rechambered for .357 magnum. The only "weak" part is the firing pin is larger in diameter than modern designs and has a large hole in the block for it to go through. Small pistol primers will start pushing back into the block at about 20,000 psi. Your Federal 205's are good for at least 30,000 psi before the primers start to flow. HTH

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Mike H posted this 03 December 2020

Just another thought Re the barrel bulge,assuming it isn’t grossly huge,perhaps the barrel could be counterbored from the muzzle to past the bulge,you will have the original looking barrel and no need to remove and replace the front sight.

Mike.

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tony1960 posted this 03 December 2020

John, I'm with Mike, counterbore the barrel and you'll never know the difference. The 32/20 was the first small game load cartridge, your eyes must be better than mine as I have a Mod 92 that I'm about to start playing with and I'll be damned if I can see the sights, my cadet is bad enough, way too fine for me.

I'd probably keep my range to 100mt/yds as the little projectile is going to shed some velocity past that.

 No-one has mentioned yet, but the least amount of sizing is best, just kiss that mouth so it will hold the projectile.

I might suggest that you seriously think about a chamber cast, always nice to see what you have to play with.

 

Glad to have you on board.

 

Tony

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Squid Boy posted this 03 December 2020

SkinnerD, I think your best bet is to have your 'smith slug the bore to be certain of exactly what you have, then go from there. I don't see how cutting the barrel will do any harm as it is already damaged. Just be sure you take all of the bulge out when you do it They can carry back somewhat and cannot be measured from the outside. It needs to be true to the new muzzle. I have a Cadet that was re-chambered to 32-20 but still has the Cadet bore. I shoot the same CBE 130 RN as I do in the Cadet and also a custom bullet from an Accurate mold. Both are amazingly accurate. Good luck, Squid Boy

"Squid Pro Quo"

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JeffinNZ posted this 04 December 2020

Not wishing to rain on your parade but those .312-.314 projectiles are not going to shoot at all accurately in a .310 Cadet barrel  This is where our US cousins came unstuck so many times.  They ran a .32-20 reamer into the chamber to increase the depth of the rim recess and shot undersized bullets without joy.  

If you shorten the barrel and rechamber ot .32-20 you would need to throat the barrel such that it will accept a heel bullet the driving bands of which will be .320-.324 inch.  I wonder it you would be better off ditching that barrel and using something else entirely. 

Cheers from New Zealand

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SkinnerD posted this 04 December 2020

Thks Rick, so your saying stick to SRPs? To avoid that blowback?

John - New Zealand

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RicinYakima posted this 04 December 2020

John, depend upon your load pressure. My favorite plinking load is 4.0 grains of Bullseye in the 357 case, about 12,000 psi and I use SPP. My field load is 158 grain Semi-wadcutter at about 28,000 where I use a small rifle primer.  

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SkinnerD posted this 04 December 2020

Thks. The bulge begins behind the front sight and extends back toward the breech -in a typical format. The muzzle is not bulged and is true internal diameter. It will not receive a .213 diameter projectile so is likely as someone else suggested, a .303 calibre barrel at .311 dia or thereabouts. But yes, will slug the barrel once chopped. My gunsmith did his apprenticeship in the US. Then went back and did several more years as an adult. Unlike a lot of US gunsmiths he did not specialize. Bit hard to specialize in NZ with such a modest population. He is pretty familiar with the 310 Cadet and all sorts of other stuff. I'm sure he will sort it 😁

John - New Zealand

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SkinnerD posted this 04 December 2020

I'm pretty sure it is not an original. 310 barrel but a new or newish replacement when chambered to 32-20. As above, likely a .303 barrel at a nominal. 311 dia. Will find out for sure next week. The bore looks so good to me it would be a shame to ditch it when losing 8 cm probably will have little impact on its intended use. Of course if it turns out to be a .303 barrel I do have a a couple of old 303 bush rifles that could use an upgrade lol

John - New Zealand

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SkinnerD posted this 04 December 2020

That is a possibility except the bulge looks a bit like a snake with a rabbit in its gullet. I think I want it gone. Gunsmith sees no issue with shortening and refitting the sight.

John - New Zealand

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bigbore805 posted this 06 December 2020

What Accurate mold do you use in the Cadet? I just acquired a Cadet that has the original barrel but has been rechambered to .32-20. It slugs out at .314 and I would like to get an Accurate mold for it. I'm looking at a 31-105C but would like some advice from an expert.

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SkinnerD posted this 06 December 2020

Update.

Dropped the rifle off to the G'smity last night. Barrel is definitely a near new replacement in 32-20 with that stamped on the side. Rear sight is a Remington. Action is tight and strong. He is going to lop the bulge off, thread it in 14x1, and refit the front sight. So looks like I might have a decent shooter in my hands. Will be making up test loads while I wait. His advice - put a bit of muscle into them, it can handle it and will avoid another bulge - but yes, I will work upwards slowly. Will post some photos when it comes back. It will make a great "bump" gun .

John - New Zealand

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