Questions about a breech plug on a Traditions

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50cal.cliff

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Wow first let me say this the first time I have been on the forum in a very long time. So if I am the wrong place please moderators move the thread!!

I have a traditions St. Louis Hawken 50 caliber cap lock. Somewhere in all the ancient posts is a post where I explained I had a dry ball, (what it happens) that I could not remove with anything I tried and I tried them all! Couldn't get powder under it, so tried to pull it, ripped the center out, made a larger diameter puller, etc. etc. So long story short I had to pull the breech plug. I had always heard that, (you could not do that but, I did). I also managed to put the breach plug back in and used the gun for a couple of years. I was in a hunting camp and leaned it against the back of somebody's pick-up. The they jumped in the truck knocking my rifle over and backed over the stock. Oh yeah it broke it!!

So was getting ready to build it a new stock and when I pulled the barrel under the barrel I had a slight residue build up at the crack between the breech plug and the back of the barrel. Which tells me there must have been some leak in the threads of the breech plug. So this rifle has been sitting in a cabinet in my shop for a couple of years all disassembled! My son asked me about fixing the old rifle and I told him I was hesitant about the idea!

So here is the real question. Given what I have said am I right to be worried about the breech plug????? The residue I spoke was not much but it was there! I remember when I pulled the breech plug I really did not like the threads on it. It reminded me of someone who had a bad die or who had not used a lubricant while cutting the threads! Although every thread was there they looked fragile!!!

So I am open to advice here!! I now Zonie had spoken on this very subject way back when.

If I decide to go with another barrel any advice on a replacement??

I may just build a .50 up from scratch. I would not give my son anything I felt was not safe, and I have my doubts about this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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It sounds like you're not intimidated by stocking those parts so I would use this opportunity to build a good gun with good parts. I've built a good many guns. I can't see myself going through all that work and using a traditions barrel. You can get a brand new straight octagon .50 barrel and new breech plug for $200 delivered from Track of the Wolf. A swamped Colerain barrel is $230 and comes with a fitted breech plug.
 

50cal.cliff

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Yeah, I have idea I would go that route anyway! I would always have that nagging fear in the back of my mind that there was something wrong with the threads. Truthfully I have no idea how many loads were shot with that barrel. Never had a clue there might be something wrong. I pulled that barrel pretty much every time it was cleaned and never saw any residue till after the stock got broken!!

I have seen one of the moderns disintegrate on the firing line! Fool was shooting smokeless powder in it! I heard the two previous shots while I was in the bathroom. I was on my way to the firing line. when I heard the third, it sounded like at lighting strike ahead of me! Well anyway that is another story!! He lived but will have some scars to prove he did it!!
 
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Years ago I had to remove the breech plug from a CVA Kentucky rifle that I had dry balled and only made worse by my ball puller breaking off inside the ball. I did this maybe 35 years ago but modern Traditions rifles look,exactly the same as CVA in the mid 1980s.

Put the barrel into a strong vise. This job is impossible without something holding the barrel strong and steady.
If you are a believer in the power of penetrating oils, apply them
Unscrew the percussion drum or flintlock vent
There is a closely machined “bushing” that the drum/vent screwed into
Using a hexagonal centre punch(or similar objects-you don’t want a protruding tip going into the breech) of just a bit oversized and drive it firmly into the hole with a heavy hammer.
Next unscrew it until it comes out.
Now you need to find a suitable size spanner or wrench and put it on the rear parts of the breech plug. Don’t put it on the tang because you will ruin it.
You might need to slip a length of pipe over the spanner handle for leverage
Unscrew it. You should have a hollow barrel now
 
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My son asked me about fixing the old rifle and I told him I was hesitant about the idea!
That's the proper thought, and here's why;
You didn't like those threads for a reason, and it's all about how they factory install those breeches.

First they get a close fit for the breech plug itself, (as in, close is good enough) then they impact drive the breech to the barrel till it's indexed with the barrel flats.
Then they position and cross-drill through the barrel and breech plug threads, "tap" that hole then install the drum or flash channel through both.
Everything is tight from the factory, those plug and barrel threads have a tight fit, plus the drum threaded through them to stay in position.
BUT, They've been cross threaded!, bored and threaded,,

There is no way to remove that kind of cross drilled plug without damaging the barrel threads and upper section of the plug threads. The consistency of the thread has been damaged by the cross-drill. The simple act of UN-screwing it, re-cut's the integrity of the threads of both pieces. The drum reinstall is gonna be a little off too, it won't have clean threads to go into.
Now corrosion can get in there and start doing it's thing, how long it takes to damage is a roll of the dice.
So, can it be done? Sure. Is it recommended, Never. And that's why.

So now it's been a couple years, and your seeing it.
A thought to ponder;
Your son asked about the barrel, that's great. Let's just say 20yrs down the road he hands it to his son,,
When will that breech fail? When will that drum finally blow out?
Or it gets sold and someone else has the same mishap as you, and decides to pull all the stuff again?
When will that breech fail?
It's thoughts like that,, that make me think sometimes a barrel is better off being made into a pipe hawk on some freinds forge.
Good luck with your choices, 😉
 

sportster73hp

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Just a thought... can you cut the end off the barrel , bore and rethread for a new breach plug? You are making a new stock anyway.
 
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I have a CVA with the same problem. I have taken a few CVA breeches out with not a problem of replacing it, but this one in which I still have the barrel just doesn't look secure. I have threatened to cut and rethread, but have had better options come along. I am talking rifles made in the 70's. At the time CVA did not want the customer take out the breech plugs. Wonder why. It looked like mine had ben doped with some kind of sealer, back then I don't know what that would have been.
 

50cal.cliff

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I have a CVA with the same problem. I have taken a few CVA breeches out with not a problem of replacing it, but this one in which I still have the barrel just doesn't look secure. I have threatened to cut and rethread, but have had better options come along. I am talking rifles made in the 70's. At the time CVA did not want the customer take out the breech plugs. Wonder why. It looked like mine had ben doped with some kind of sealer, back then I don't know what that would have been.

They used to make a a sealer that was impervious to heat and chemicals, it was primarily for automotive. However I remember using it on a lot of other things as well. You pasted it on with a brush in the bottle and once dried it looked like shellac if you ever had to break the seal! It left a blackish see thru residue but breaking it loose was very hard to do!!

I look at it this way! That tell tale residue has been stuck in my mind since the day I found it! It makes me think a thread had failed and the residue was from the blow back of the BP. Which tells me the breach plug is failing. I could never put that rifle with that plug back into use. The barrel could be used to make a set of .50 pistols!

Anyway it gives me an excuse to build one from scratch!! I already have a blank stock. And I remember buying some hardware. So time to go take inventory of my parts and pieces. What I don't have I will buy! So going to give this some thought as to how I want to go with the scratch build! Hmmm!!
 
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I recently had to take the breech plug out of a Traditions Hawken that was loaded, with a stuck ball others had tried to retrieve. It had been loaded for a very long time.
They tried to shoot it out, but nothing happened.
I removed the nipple, clogged solid. The drum was in very tight. So, I cut two flats on the drum, put the drum in the vise, and used the barrel as a lever to unscrew it.
Drum was solid with rust. Barrel was put in the big barrel vise with octagon jaw inserts. A tight fitting plug wrench did nothing. Tang was starting to twist. So Kroil and rust blaster applied and barrel sat for two days. Still nothing, no movement. Finally I slotted a short piece of 1" by 3/4 " steel bar, and TIG welded it to the plug tang. Then I could get a big crescent wrench on the block.
While it was really hot from welding, it went quickly into the barrel vise, and with some effort, the plug broke loose. The plugs chamber was solid with rust, no passage. Rust cancer and hardened powder filled the back of the barrel. After much laborious cleaning, it was revealed, that the barrel ahead of the stuck load was in nearly perfect condition. Where the load had been was just a rusty hole.
Customer asked us to save the barrel, So the back 1 1/2 inches of the barrel were cut off, and the breech drilled and re-tapped 5/8-18. A new plug was turned on the lathe out of chrome/moly and tightened in hard. Then the tang was profiled in the mill until it fit the rifle. A new drum was machined, and the barrel tapped for it. My best apprentice did the work very easily.
Drum was drilled for the nipple using the Track drill jig.. The barrel rib had to be shortened, and the underlug moved forward by cutting a new dovetail.
A heavy test load revealed no leakage. The plug was machined to be a very close fit in the class 3B tapped barrel. Copper anti-seize was applied before installation.
The plug is flat faced, no chamber. The drum enters the new chamber through the side of the barrel, no convoluted passage. Ignition was fast and positive.
Customer was delighted.
 

sportster73hp

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Sounds like a lot of work. What was the final barrel length? Would it have been cheaper to order a new barrel?
 
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A new barrel would have been cheaper, but they come stripped, and not blued. So, there would have been additional charges for transferring parts and prep work for bluing or browning. The cost was a push either way. Being smug, I liked our shop made plug and drum arrangement better than the factory offering!
 

sportster73hp

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Any ideas as to why a company would make such a mickey mouse set up?
Cheap and makes it harder for a customer to mess it up and hurt themself.
Bought a buckskinner that had obvious pipe wrench marks on it. Don’t think he got it apart . Had intermittent spark and he gave up on it. Changed the chewed up frizzen and later sold it to someone else.
 
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A new barrel would have been cheaper, but they come stripped, and not blued. So, there would have been additional charges for transferring parts and prep work for bluing or browning. The cost was a push either way. Being smug, I liked our shop made plug and drum arrangement better than the factory offering!
Sounds like nice work.
What'd it cost the guy? $400?-$375? (maybe shouldn't ask)
Honest question, as long as you've shared with us the intensive labor involved,, what would/does it cost to do it professional like that?
Serious, There are good machinists all across the country and you've done a great job explaining the techniques and presented in such a professional manner.
What should someone expect in time for a service like that?
 
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