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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Project 336 to 444 ... Take 2.5

If you don't want to read a little bit of background, or hear about the latest chapter of the soap opera that is this project, skip to the bold font below.

Some of you may remember the many headaches I encountered while trying to source a barrel to get this project off the ground. For those of you unfamiliar.... I was trying to build a 444 for less than it would cost me to buy one, because they're rather expensive in my neck of the woods (due to rarity) and I was unwilling to buy one over the internet. The basis for my build was a 2002 Model 336W in .30-30 that was in pretty respectable condition, but had been floating around my family because it never got anyone's panties tingling (and, well... it was a Walmart special).

Eventually, I obtained a ballard-rifled 444 Remlin barrel that had been completely screwed up at the factory, and made worse during trips back to Remington for repair. I opted to take the barreled action and 444 barrel to a gunsmith, since the dovetail repair was beyond my skill level and I didn't want to buy a bunch of tools to take care of the other issues.
You can read the long version here: New Project: 336W to 444.

I don't want to discuss it, but I had some trouble with a gunsmith.
At least I have the rifle back, and the work I needed done was sort of, mostly taken care of....


And that brings us to the current status:
After the tremendously uninspiring incident with the gunsmith, I lost my motivation to document every aspect of this build, as I had originally planned. So, I didn't take any comparison pictures, any 'before and after' pictures, or any progress pictures.

As of now:
Headspace is good, but on the tight side.
The action has been retimed and it has been test fired. It feeds, cycles, and extracts like it should.
But, that's about it. It's slow work, since there's a lot of test fitting, the 336 family of actions aren't something that just slip together, I'm only using (mediocre) hand tools, and I'm not about to try rushing anything.

So, it still needs:
The lever modified for loading. -The loading gate contacts the lever, and won't allow cartridges to pass through. Started, but not finished. This was expected, but the lever is a hardened part and progress is painfully slow.
The ejector tuned. -I haven't tried the original ejector or the WWG ejector I bought, at all. I'd bet the stock ejector would work just fine, but I do have the WWG ejector on hand... (which will require tuning). For now, I'm removing extracted cases/dummies by hand.
The fore end fitted. -The 444 fore end I picked up is massively oversized for this receiver. It isn't even close to working.

Some photos:

The 336W in .30-30 form:





Condition as test fired, with some of the extra parts:



"Exploded" view?:



The ejection port the gunsmith screwed up:
(It'll work. It' just irritates me, because I gave him a detailed, dimensioned blueprint; and even the 1895 doesn't have a straight line on the top of the ejection port.)



And the pile 'o parts:
(And there's still a few that weren't in the picture....)




(Now that we're on page seven, I have edited the title, and removed some superfluous information from this post.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
So, it looks like I'm on track now, right?

Wrong!

I'm so ridiculously invested in this build, now, that the budget has been blown 4 times over (or more... I lost track).
I've decided to just keep throwing money at this thing, until the magic beans turn into the bean stalk I've always wanted. As of now, I could have bought a very nice ballard-rifled 444 with what I've spent, or even a half-decent (but not perfect) 444P. But, it's still just a half-functional 444 wannabe. So, I pulled out the funny money ...err... I mean credit card. I hit the internet, made some phone calls, and contacted some friends.
I'm in deep, and I haven't even ordered my sights yet!

I do plan to tease with upcoming updates and photos. -- You have been warned. :biggrin:

I still plan to do everything within my skill level, and anything I'm willing to take a chance at, myself. There will plenty of wood and metal removed, before the project is done. Hopefully, no other "gunsmith" will touch this rifle before it's done.

For starters... I called a guy that is well known for supplying amazing pieces of wood for lever guns. When I asked him if he had something that, in some more specific words, "would make the rifle look like I carved it out of a fence post," he said he could oblige.
There's also some new metal on the way, to go with it! :flute:


It may take 2 months, or 2 years, to finish the build, but it'll be worth it.
 

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Hang in there, my 444 Shortie project turned into a money pit for sure... now it is a rifle that I know intimately, it has brought down an odd mulie buck and a freezer filling cow elk within a few days of each other.... sometimes it is the journey that builds character, time invested builds a bond between a hunk of metal and a man. Keep your focus on the goal, let go of the bad stuff, let the labor of love create that 444 in your mind!

James
 

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Franken; Although I started with a new 444 XLR, my Safari Grade 444 project took a number of years to research, design, modify, test, and finalize....and the end product was well worth the time, energy, and money! Read my sig line quote by Jeremy Wade....that says it all!!!!

Of all the rifles you own, that pieced together 336 444 will most likely become your most treasured.........finish it up, hunt it, and enjoy all the blood, sweat, and tears you put in to it!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the kind words. There's plenty of work ahead of me, but plan to just keep things moving along - no matter how slow progress may be.


Last night, I was falling asleep at the keyboard. It looks like I forgot to mention a few things.

-Finished barrel length is 19 inches. (Bolt face to muzzle - I don't include the hood like Marlin.)
--Unlike all other 444 barrels that I have measured, this particular Remlin barrel did not need modifications to the hood to fit this '02 action.
--It was not what I specified, but the gunsmith replicated a factory crown.
--The front sight is in the same position Marlin would have put it, if they sold 19" barrels - 1.00" from the muzzle, with 0.700" screw spacing.
--The rear sight is about 1" farther back than Marlin locates them, because the original dovetail was absolutely thrashed. The mangled dovetail was filed, profiled and polished smooth.
--The "odd" 19 inch length was intentional - culminating from a lot of thought about the future of the rifle. It eliminated all of the damage done by Remington (including a double D/T for the front sight, with broken screws in one set), but took me as short as possible while leaving enough meat to have the barrel ported. And, should I ever get a suppressor for my .458 SOCOM, there would still be enough barrel left on the 444 to chop off the porting and have the barrel threaded, without the need to make it a short barreled rifle.

-Other than the 336W sights and the Remlin barrel, everything up front is new:
--444 mag tube, shipped directly from Marlin.
--Tip cap, tip cap screws, tenon, mag tube stud, mag tube cap, mag tube cap screw, mag tube plunger (FTX friendly), and a new spring came primarily from Midway.
--I don't remember where I got the fore end, but it is new, as well.
--I had used versions of several of these parts, but decided to just go whole hog, after dropping the cash on some other 'upgrades'.

-I got stuck with the Numrich 444SS micro-groove barrel. I'll sell it, or find something else to do with it. The other used parts that I have will follow the barrel's lead.

-The bolt face did not have to be opened. And, so far, I haven't had to modify it or the extractor.

-For test firing, I ran a few of my 275 gr swaged bullet handloads and some Hornady 265 FP Superformance factory ammo through it. I was not testing for accuracy in any way, and never even bore-sighted when I installed the rear sight. But, after I was done with my testing and measuring, my father started smacking our 430 yard steel target with it, off-hand. ...Apparently, centering the sight in the dovetail was good enough; and either my father got lucky, or the barrel is good enough for sub-MoA (it's a 20" wide target). It shows promise.
--After that, we were breaking clays, so I broke out my 444-410 shotshells and reminded my family why I love .444 Marlin so much. I went 5 for 5 with the lever gun and 2 for 5 with the scoped Handi-Rifle. (No one else was able to hit a single bird, as much as they tried with the .444s.) At the very least, this 336/444 makes a great 35 yard shotgun. :biggrin: (But I do need to scrub some plastic out of the bore now...)

I bring up the testing, mainly because it was a lot of fun. It was a really nice stress relief to help get my head back where it needed to be, rather than dwelling on the situation with the gunsmith. Things are looking up...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The bringer of all things good and evil (the Postman) just paid me a visit.

Now I can save a little wear and tear on my good brass, and tear these dummies up, instead.



And, it should now be obvious why I decided to start documenting this build again, with only a partially-functional rifle. ....Cause it's a totally different project, now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Another picture of parts, with a new lever and trigger plate....

The 1895 pistol grip lever will let me finish tuning the action before I pull out the hacksaw. Then, the square lever will be verified for function, and the rest of the fitting work can be done.
And the extra trigger plate... I got a good deal on the assembly. I guess it's a spare, incase the hacksaw goes rogue. :ahhhhh:

 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Not quite, but it does feel pretty close.

At this moment, I'm modifying the Remlin 1895 lever. It appears to have been milled incorrectly from the factory. ....Even the "new" parts need work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Rather than use the stock as a guide for cutting the tang, I chose to use the lever itself. To me, the alignment between the tang and the lever is more important than the alignment between the stock and the lever. Plus, the stock I'll be using is supposed to have a bit of a "whale belly" to it; so there's no worry about screwing up a perfectly straight line from tang to toe.

I made the rear cut as precise as possible, within 0.015" of where I wanted to be for shaping, and then angled proud of my scribed line as I cut forward. That gives me a target to aim for at the rear, as I profile the metal in the middle. It isn't how most people would do it, but it is how I wanted to work this tang.
For jobs like this, I very much prefer the "hobby" hacksaw over a full size hacksaw. You can be much more precise, and you have the benefit of working with a thinner blade. Plus, when they break, you only have to dig 4 inches of blade out of your hand, instead of 8. :biggrin:


There's nothing to it, but to do it....


I removed some ugly casting marks from the back of the tang, scored the cut line with a triangle file, and went for "Little Billy's Hacksaw Jr." that my little brother got for his birthday when he was... 8(?) years old. (The blades have been replaced many times over, of course.)




Getting there....




Thar she blows!!!
Note the change in 'hobby' hacksaws. I ran out of room with "Jr."

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Moving along...

Some observations:
This chamber has a ridiculously short throat. With cases trimmed to 2.215", I only have 0.045" to the throat. Which means max-length brass would only have 0.035" to work with.
The barrel appears to measure 0.4273" x 0.4315". No complaints there. In a perfect world, groove diameter would be 0.430"... but this is .444 Marlin we're talking about. They're special.
Oddly enough, the newer FTX-friendly magazine follower plays much nicer with loading wide-meplat bullets than the flat-faced followers (metal or plastic). ...In my testing, anyway.


So....
Loads. Feeds. Fires. Ejects.

Other than the firing part (couldn't test that, safely), it was flawless with 265 Superformance factory loads and my 275 gr swaged handloads. That stupid cross-bolt safety actually came in handy.
It was flawless with the A-Zoom dummies.
And, other than fully chambering (wrong bullet for the job), it was flawless with some dummies that had Lee 310 gr RFs stuffed in the mouth (sized .432"). I tested the Lee 310 (.340" meplat) from a COAL of 2.480" to 2.620", and it feeds just fine out to 2.560". Beyond that, it gets a little sketchy. However, even though I had everything loading smoothly with the Remlin lever, this Guide Gun lever won't let anything with the Lee 310 RF go through the loading gate. So, there's some work to be done there in the coming days (not for the Lee 310, but for other .320"+ meplat bullets).


Final shaping of the tang will be done after the tang is inletted in the stock. Some minor shaping may be done before then, but it is not likely. For now, it'll just have that hump in the middle.




The tang screw is just poking through the lower tang, about 0.015" shy of being flush. Perfect! (For now... There's plenty of time to screw that up. :flute:)





Oh. I used the Remlin trigger plate. The tang wasn't tweaked and bowed like the others, and fit the action better.
Man was that pistol grip lever a piece of crap... Aside from the shaping I needed to do to finish it, the lever loop actually cut me ...twice!

Anyway.... I don't really like the way the trigger plate and receiver mate. I'll see about getting the courage to blend the joint.

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I need to recheck lockup and headspace, to make sure the bolt is fully locking with the new lever installed.
Maybe I'll try to do that tomorrow, while my son naps.

And I need to size and order some shims. The GG lever is a little loose in that trigger plate.

Edit:
The stock .30-30 ejector was used for testing. It's running just fine, but I'll eventually fit the WWG 'bear proof' ejector. ...Probably around the time I figure out what to order for sights. (I'm in no hurry for either, since I have something that's usable.)
 

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Text Line Font Parallel Screenshot

Here is a chamber blueprint from Ranch Dog. You will notice he has the same short .035" throat length. That is normal. I use .050" prebands (like Ranch Dog) and it is perfect for any throat from .035" to .050". I haven't heard of a factory stock 444 Marlin with a throat longer than .050".
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Interesting. We had a discussion about .444 Marlin here (reloading forum, maybe?) where I thought I remembered the majority of posters saying they were dealing with 0.050" to 0.055".
Perhaps I'm mis-remembering.

Thanks for the image.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Lockup and headspace are good.


More importantly....
I don't think feeding can get any better than this.

My sarcastic post about wadcutters in the current discussion about 'long range' bullets reminded me that....
I consider the ultimate feeding test for any firearm, to be feeding empty cases and/or full-diameter wadcutters with a sharp base (no bevel or fillet). And, I had not yet tried that with this 336-444-1895.

Tonight, that test was passed with flying colors. Slow cycling. Short cycling, then finishing. Short-cycling, backtracking, then finishing. "Normal" speed cycling. And, of course, "B-Movie Western" speed. Upright, and tilted in every possible direction.

It didn't even stutter or try to hang up.

I ran 3 Lee 200-RF dummies to see how they did. (Sized .432", with COAL at 2.485. -There's one in the background of the photo.)
Then I made 3 dummies with 3 of the Lee 200-RF seated backwards with the base band sticking out like a full diameter wadcutter. (2.303" COAL.)
Then I popped the crimp (couple taps with an inertia bullet puller), seated the bullets flush with the mouth, to support the case mouth during loading, and ran the "empties" through the rifle. (COAL 2.215".)

I loaded them in various orders, mixed in the A-Zoom dummies, mixed in some 265 FPs, and just tried to mix things up as much as possible.

Everything ran like butter. I knew this was cycling really well, but even I was surprised to see the WCs and simulated empties run through there like there was nothing to it.

Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy...


 

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She's coming together, been an interesting journey to follow along with your trials and tribulations. Thanks for bringing us along with your "rodeo", will help guide others through their project. DP
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Edit:
I seem to be causing some confusion with this post, even for people that have been following my progress. So, I've edited the post to simplify and clarify.
---


Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to pull out my other 336, a '79 336C that found its way to me, super-cheap, because it was suffering from constant jams. I've already done 95% of the work to fix the jamming issue, but I hadn't considered this action for the 444 build, because it would have needed more work than the '02 336 in order to work with the ballard barrel.

To satisfy my curiosity, I tossed it in the barrel vise, pulled the .30 WCF barrel, inspected everything, and threaded in my spare 444SS barrel (Micro-Groove).
It appears to clock perfectly, and the action will require only minor modification to work with the 444 barrel. (Bolt and carrier mods should do it.)

So, this spare/extra/other 336 may turn into a temporary micro-groove test rifle for some bullet tests I want to run, before I find something else to do with it.
To be clear.... This would be another 336-turned-444, but not the one that is the primary build in the thread (the '02).


Every post needs some gun porn:

 

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Fascinating thread! You now have me yearning to have a 444 built........
 
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Would any modifications to the second 336 in order to function with the 444 round prevent it from returning to its 30-30 function with a barrel swap? Not sure what all is entailed.


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