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Thread: Winchester 43 Hornet

  1. #1
    Boolit Man
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    Winchester 43 Hornet

    I’m finally getting started on a project that has been sitting here for some time. It is a complete rifle minus the stock that has was rebarreled with a 1:14 20 inch barrel that tapers to .72 at the muzzle. It was given to me by a retired gunsmith and the barrel was put on by a guy who did great work. He doesn’t remember who made the barrel, but “it is a good barrel.”

    I’ve read quite a bit regarding the propensity of these rifles in 22 Hornet and 218 Bee to “develop” headspace issues when used with “hot” loads. My inclination regarding that is that by “hot” loads, we are talking extreme loads. This makes sense, owners of 25-20 and 32-20 examples would be far less inclined to “hot rod” their loads than owners of one in a varmint caliber. I can also point to books and articles I have read that were published in the 1950’s wherein the wrecking of a rifle from time to time appeared to be expected and not out of the ordinary. I remember one article in which one of the participants needed to stop by the hospital on the way home to have a piece of brass removed from his face.

    The 43 does have a rather small locking surface. But I can tell you this, it is made of darn good steel and both receiver and bolt are quite hard. Not that I intend to shoot any hot loads in this rifle, but it impresses me that it should be good for any reasonable loads. I intend to keep an eye on my fired brass by dropping it into a Wilson Gauge though.

    So, from what I see the recoil in a 43 is taken up by a round stud that is dovetailed into the barrel. My intention is to bore the stock recess out with a Forstner bit and bed that stud tight to Devcon Steel and make up an aluminum pillar and estucheon for the front stock bolt and a similar pillar for the rear stock bolt and bed the action and about three inches of barrel in front of the barrel stud tight and float the rest of the barrel.

    I don’t have any experience with a model 43, and if I am missing something I would appreciated any advice bigly. The trigger looks to be “what you see, is what you get,” and there is not a lot that can be done with it other than to polish up the sear, and maybe the pivot pin. Any advice here would be welcome.

    I’ve got a reproduction stock, butt plate and screws coming and want to keep it looking pretty 1950’s, but unfortunately I traded off my old Jr Target Spots. I still have an old Weaver 12 Power that I intend to mount on it and will probably put the sling swivels away and put studs on it for use with Harris Bipods.
    Last edited by JDHasty; 05-05-2022 at 11:47 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    I'm interested in your project!
    I have a 43 in 218 Bee that has been a faithful companion for me for many years. No, the trigger isn't fantastic!!

    Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    I'm watching this with interest; I'm going to convert a take off 1-14" Tikka barrel nto a .218 Bee liner for a Topper. I don't think that the twist will be a problem.

    Sent from my SM-A716U using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Boolit Man
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    It’s not going to take me long to get it together once the stock shows up. Other than it’s rock chuck shooting time around here and I intend to get some shooting in.

    I was looking it over really closely today and there isn’t any wear on the locking surfaces. I bet the original barrel was rusted out from use of chlorate primers. At some time there was significant enough corrosion that the serial number is almost, but not quite illegible. Either that or a heavy hand on someone refinishing it. The last three digits I had to use my magnifying hood to make them out. I’m going to have the serial number laser engraved next Thursday under the wood or opposite the bolt handle. The days of it being a collector item are way in the past, but other than that the barreled action and all of the hardware is in really nice shape.

    I suppose I’ll have it bedded within a few days of getting the stock, it is the sanding and finishing of the stock that will take time. I intend to put an oil finish on it and there is no rushing that job.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master



    skeettx's Avatar
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    I am looking forward to this thread progress
    Thank you
    Mike
    NRA Benefactor 2004 USAF RET 1971-95

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy hoodat's Avatar
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    My 43 Bee actually has a pretty sweet trigger. Very crisp, and maybe three pounds or less.

    I accomplished a nice barrel float by installing a thin washer under the barrel attaching stud, and if I remember, a shim somewhere under the receiver.(I'll have a look) With a little judicious sanding in the barrel channel, it has good clearance without looking bad.

    Mine had been drilled and tapped for a Redfield/Leupold three screw base. When I was in college machine shop (bout 45 years ago), I machined two piece steel Weaver type clamp ons for it. The rear one only uses one screw, but has never been a problem.

    I love my Bee prolly more than any rifle I've got. jd

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    It seems that people who do almost nothing, often complain loudly when it's time to do it.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    At the rear of the magazine housing is a trigger adjustment screw and spring. Won't make it a target trigger, but will do a pretty good job.
    You may find that a layer or two of masking tape on the front half of the recoil stud before bedding helps make disassembly easier. Also, make sure to fill any recesses at the edges of the dovetail with modeling clay or wax to prevent any mechanical lock of the bedding. Also, if you put a small strip of cereal box in the bottom of the barrel channel, near the tip, you can float the barrel when you bed. I only bedded about an inch in front and behind the stud and a small pad under the action at the rear screw. Never was a fan of bedding the whole action on any rifle
    My 43 Bee will keep 5 Lyman 225438 between 3/4" and 1" at 100 yards easily, if I do my part and it isn't too windy. Even have shot a couple groups between 1/2 and 3/4, but that was just being lucky.

  8. #8
    Boolit Man
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    Thanks for the input.

    I have found that the trigger adjustment screw is solidly frozen into the tab on the magazine well. I tried heat and then tried freezing it with dry ice from an upside down can of compressed air and it’s been soaking in Kroil all night and still frozen solid. It looks like the Model 69 screw is the Winchester replacement part and they are available. I may end up drilling it out and then cleaning out what remains with a tap. On this one it looks as though the hole is only threaded part way down. I could be mistaken on that though. It looks as though if I set it up in the drill press to go from the bottom with a snug drill and then change to a smaller drill before going through it that I may then be able to use progressively larger drills until I can see exactly what I am dealing with. It kind of appears that the hole is stepped and only threaded to the step and at some time someone ran the trigger spring screw down “farmer tight.”

    I use .01 Pipe Wrap on the front of recoil lugs, I can see that on the 43 if this were not done on the front half of that lug, it ain’t coming out. My normal MO is to bed the barrel channel to .02 Pipe Wrap to float a barrel. That way if water gets between the barrel and stock it doesn’t get absorbed into the stock. Not that that ever happens in western Washington. I’m pretty careful about taking wood out of the barrel channel so that the line of bedding is barely visible on a wood stock.

    I picked up that dovetail and will have it full of plumbers putty. It seems like when all else has failed and someone has glued the action into their stock my house is where they finally show up. With Devcon Steel, once it’s cured it does not take much of a mechanical lock and it’s not coming out period. That’s some tough stuff. I’ve managed to cut a few out after many hours with my Foredom Flex Shaft tool and X-acto micro saw blades, but if it is deep and it’s a mechanical lock it’s all over but the crying. Actually we measured up another action and located every possible lock and started drilling quarter inch holes until we got one out, but it sure made a mess of the stock.
    Last edited by JDHasty; 05-07-2022 at 10:10 AM.

  9. #9
    Boolit Man
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    OK I answered my own question. It is drilled and threaded all the way through. The closest I can measure it it is 17/64 38 pitch. I guess that makes cobbling one together on the lathe a bit complicated. But the Model 69 part is supposedly the Winchester replacement part and they are available from multiple sources.

    What I thought was a shouldered hole was in fact the Trigger Adjustment Spring was drilled pretty deep and I could not see the demarcation between the screw and the threaded hole because they were even and a little corrosion covered it.

    I set it up in a milling vise and used a drill to index it and locked everything down then went through the next seven number drills until what I had left was about half as thick as a credit card and still couldn’t see any threads. After the first pass it was apparent the hole was not shouldered and had been drilled and threaded all the way through. When I wiped the chips away the heat and cutting oil must have taken some crud away with it.

    Then I set it in front of the space heater and went and had a cup of tea. When I got back I hit the screw with Freon from an aerosol can of compressed air for dusting computers and quickly ran a sharp tap in until it bound and then reversed the tap and backed the shell of the screw out like it had been greased. Didn’t touch a thread on the magazine holder and if I needed to I could use the shell of the screw as a pattern to make one.
    Last edited by JDHasty; 05-07-2022 at 12:05 PM.

  10. #10
    Boolit Man
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    This one is drilled and tapped with three holes and came to me with a Weaver One Piece Base. I’m a huge fan of Burrris Zee Rings so this arrangement suits me just fine.

    I have a few CZ 527 Americans and a H&R Ultra Wildcat that is a tiny little thing that only weighs about 5 1/2 lbs. my guess is this one is going to come in about the same weight of the 527s. The barrel is pretty chubby, but about the same diameter at the muzzle as a CZ 527 Varmint. It’s 4 inches shorter though and I have 4-20x50 Nitrex TR2 scopes on all of my 527s. The Weaver K12 I intend to put on it is quite a bit lighter.

    Something tells me that I am going to become rather fond of this little guy once I get it in the field.
    Last edited by JDHasty; 05-07-2022 at 12:46 PM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeettx View Post
    I am looking forward to this thread progress
    Thank you
    Mike
    Thank you for your service to the country sir!

    NRA Benefactor member here as well, and I bought each of my three kids (ages 6,8&13) NRA life memberships when they were born.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master
    Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    I had a Model 43 in .22 K-Hornet for a short while. It had been sold to me as a stock rifle in .22 Hornet, so I was quite surprised when the K Hornet case popped out of the chamber. I'd have kept it, except whoever reamed the chamber somehow managed to do it off center and the cases had a very unsightly bulge of about 0.025" above the web.

    I liked the rifle, other than the chamber. It was picky about feeding from the magazine, it did not like to be topped off after loading the first round.

    I'd buy another if I could find one for a decent price.

    Robert

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I bought my 43 in 218 Bee for $175. It lacked a magazine and the owner was convinced that it would be impossible to get.
    I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through it. I also owned a 43 in 22 Hornet for a short time - paid $125 for it, someone offered me stooooopid money and I took it. Been 7 years and I still feel good about the deal.
    The trigger on them is ....yeah... factory trigger. Even adjusting to the lowest possible setting makes them light - but mushy.
    I wouldn't trade my 218 for a pile - shoots moa all day long. I have killed roughly 2500 ground squirrels with it and will likely double that in the next 24 months.



    Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk

  14. #14
    Boolit Man
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    It is really interesting to hear about everyone’s 43s. I had not paid attention to Hornets and Bees until about ten years ago when the large ranches we have shot all of our lives… we had pretty much shot down the chucks shooting our 22-250 and 243 rifles and a rancher offered to let me shoot chucks right next to his finishing yards, but not with anything like that. I have a Savage Anschutz Sporter in 22 magnum that worked really well, but I like loading my ammo and went out and bought a CZ 22 Hornet and the fun really began. I could shoot in vineyards down by the Columbia River and orchards and small ranchettes with it and had a blast walking around prairie dog towns in Montana with it.

    Then when my oldest daughter got close to getting a hunting license I bought her an EABco Contender carbine barrel in 17 Hornet and let her borrow one of my treasured frames. We all know how that turns out. Yea, it’s hers now. Since you need a hunting license to shoot chucks in Washington and she hadn’t passed Hunter Education yet, I put a man stock on it and took it to central Washington with two friends. Right out of the gate I saw a real monster of a chuck at about a buck fifty and off handed him right there. My buddy ask me: what are you shooting? I told them I had Bridget’s 17 Hornet and the long and short of it is for the next two days we shared that one rifle and shot north of 200 chucks (and a peacock, but that was with a 10/22). When we got home we all went out and bought CZ Americans in 17 Hornet. The hell of it is, Bridget’s Contender outshoots all three of our CZs and my two little kids now have a MGM barreled Contender that also shoots half inch groups. My 22 Hornet and 204 Ruger CZ 527 both shoot half inches, but the best any of us are getting with our 17 Hornets is about .7 for ten shots. Which is plenty good for the ranges we shoot them at, but I still feel cheated.

    I really like these small cartridge Varmint rifles so well that my buddy who is now in his eighties and a retired gunsmith gave me this project rifle to finish up and I am finally getting round to getting it done and am quite excited about it. I ran into another guy shooting chucks with a 22R2 Lovell and a K Hornet that were his father’s rifles. He was from upstate New York and brought them out here in the 1960’s. The son never understood why his dad didn’t want a 220 Swift like his, but the dad had a Lindahl Chucker on a Mauser and 22 Donaldson Wasp on a High Wall and was just fine with them. It was 15 years after his dad passed and he inherited them that he took one out and found out how much fun can be had with them.

    He still sets up his bench, range finder and spotting scope and shoots 500 yards with his Swift and a Ruger #1 in 6mm Remington, but like me now spends as much or more time with a small caliber rifle and cross sticks. I use Harris Bipods, but we both get our kicks just hiking around looking for a shot or sitting up in the basalt waiting for one to come out in the alfalfa a hundred or hundred fifty yards away.

    I’m really looking forward to getting this little gun up and going. My daughter? She wants to shoot way out past where her 17 Hornet quits her. She has a new 26 inch barreled 20 Practical in a Boyd’s AT-One that I made up for her on a Howa Mini action. Kids seem to never change, I know that when I was that age I wanted speed and I wanted to be able to shoot dead any chuck this side of the horizon.
    Last edited by JDHasty; 05-08-2022 at 11:11 AM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Man
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    The stock showed up yesterday with some brass set screws for RCBS die lock rings. I went down to put the set screws away before making myself some dinner and five hours later looked at my watch just as I was finishing inletting the barreled action and it was a quarter after eleven. By the time I got out of the shower and had dinner it was tomorrow. There was a lot of wood to remove to get it in and I really need a new set of chisels and gouges. The Millers Falls set I have my mom bought for me in 1982 when I was thirteen and have been sharpened so many times they’re used up.

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    I’m going to have to get to someone with a lathe and get some pillars made up. I’m sure there is some combination of off the shelf sets that would work, but finding that is more work than making a pair. I have three friends with lathes and might manage to get that done today. I’m going to set the pillars and then come back and bed the action and first few inches of barrel on this one. Usually I do both in one session, it just depends how I feel about the rifle I’m working on at the time.

    Im inclined to leave the trigger guard proud, like the originals.

    So, I am minus a Trigger Adjustment Screw and spring, Safety Detent Plunger and spring and maybe a pin or two at this point. It looks like a Model 69 Safety Detent Plunger should work. The stock doesn’t need much in the way of shaping. I might have it together by next weekend. Finishing the stock will take another week though.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    I bedded and floated the one I discuss in my " Seeking .22 Hornet Propellant Nirvana" thread and it is currently acting like it wants to deliver the goods. Given the fact that we're not exactly dealing with bone-crushing recoil here, I don't know that the whole benchrest/sniper rifle level of bedding minutae is required - so long as you've got a solid clamping surface around the two bolts and recoil. . ."lug?". . .you should be in a happy place. I used two layers of heavy tape to establish the free-float and also bedded the barrel channel to stiffen up the wood against warping.

    Regarding the potential headspace issues, I came across a Winchester collectors website thread that discussed design changes during the production of the 43 to address this. Aside from the visual differences that tell you "early" from "late", it wasn't really clear what the engineering changes were. I hope that someone knows and can get a reply in to what that was all about.

    My experience with the trigger was that if you take it down too far, it has issues staying cocked when working the bolt briskly. The result in my case is that it's a bit on the heavy side from a "bench gun" perspective, but it's nice and crisp - dandy for a field rifle. It's primary mission in life is to be a cheap practice deer rifle simulator for offhand and expedient shooting positions, so I didn't feel extreme need to turn it into something it isn't. Fun little plinkster!
    WWJMBD?

    Is the mightiness of the pen still relevant after we roll the writing paper into cartridges for a Sharps?

  17. #17
    Boolit Man
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    I looked it up and IIRC this one was made in 1949. It is an early one.

  18. #18
    Boolit Man
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    The barrel is 20 inches and tapers to .71 at the muzzle. It sure looks a lot heavier though. I am going to see if I can get the Weaver base drilled tonight to fit the existing holes that were drilled and tapped in the receiver. I have a Weaver K12 that I sent to El Paso about thirty years ago and had overhauled that will look real nice on it using Zee Rings.

    Not long until we know how it shoots.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    tward's Avatar
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    Looks great! I remember drooling over the model 43’s at the Cabin Range in Lockport, NY as a kid. They had 22 Hornets! 218 Bees and of course the old fashioned 25-20 and 32-20. All were in the $75 price range and way out of my budget. Let us know how it shoots, pictures please!! Tim

  20. #20
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by tward View Post
    Looks great! I remember drooling over the model 43’s at the Cabin Range in Lockport, NY as a kid. They had 22 Hornets! 218 Bees and of course the old fashioned 25-20 and 32-20. All were in the $75 price range and way out of my budget. Let us know how it shoots, pictures please!! Tim
    Coming soon. I’m tied up this weekend, but should have it to the range next Saturday. I used the trigger spring I had on hand and was able to adjust the trigger to a real nice 2.5 lbs pull.

    It’s sitting there waiting on a Safety Detent Plunger and Spring from Outback Gun Parts. I drilled the base and mounted the Weaver K12 in matte finished Zee Rings and my buddy said it looks absolutely like it belongs on that rifle. I agree with him, I’ll get some photos up soon as I get back from our Memorial Day camping trip.

    The guy I got it from told me “it is a good 1:14 barrel, but I don’t remember who made it. It’s chambered real close.” Yes it is chambered real tight. I had set aside 200 new Privi brass for it and they stick in the chamber. So I put them back on the shelf and tried some RP and it goes through like crap through a goose.

    I’ve got some Hornady 45 grain Hornet bullets and some of the HP Bee bullets as well as some 35 and 40 grain V-max. I’m going to start with those. By the way, Hornady has the 45 grain Hornet bullet on the schedule for June and the 35 V-max for July - August.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check