How I’ve missed you!

First date with the 1894C. 

In case I haven’t said so anywhere else, let me declare my very deep affection for Marlin lever-action rifles.

I know they have their fans and their detractors and that there are plenty of other very good lever-actions out there, but there’s something about Marlins which I just like.

I didn’t originally. There was the oddly square-looking lever itself and some people moaned about sloppy triggers and jiggly action.  When I first got into shooting, I was more enamoured by the idea of a Winchester. Winchesters were the archetypal cowboy rifle (and the only lever-action that I’d heard of that point).

But it was in conversation with a much more experienced shooter at my club that I learned how simple Marlins were to take to bits and clean. And, in the meantime, I’d had the odd red-hot case drop down the front of my shirt from the club Rossi.

I started to rethink things. I ummed and ahhed for ages while saving up for a lever and, in the end, decided to jump in and try a Marlin.

I got an 1894C in 357 Magnum and pretty much cut my reloading teeth on this calibre for the next 18 months. I got into casting my own bullets for my Marlin and developed an absolutely magic load incorporating a 167 gr flat- nosed projectile backed up by 11.5 gr of H110. I’d been given half a tub of this powder by somebody who just couldn’t get it to work for them and, through careful experimentation, came across this combination. In my rifle, it produced incredible groupings (1.5″ or less) at 50 yards with the rifle’s iron sights.

Time passed by, my hobby expanded and expanded and then I got to the point where I set up JD Reloading. I imported and sold reloading machinery and tools for people. As this developed, it became apparent that some companies overseas were cagey about dealing with us as we weren’t a registered firearms dealership. It had to be done.

Setting up a dealership in the UK is expensive and I was running a bit low on funds and unfortunately my Marlin had to be sacrificed. It was very, very reluctantly that I gave this rifle up in part exchange for some of the work on my new RFD.

The work was worth it but I did pine for my old Marlin!

I always promised myself that if I ever did get another Marlin, I would go up in size and get a 44 Magnum. It’s a somewhat easier cartridge to cater for than 357 Mag, due in part to the additional case volume which just makes everything simpler. And it’s the same calibre as my long barrelled revolver. An ideal candidate for the Dillon, then, once we develop a reliable load.

The other day, I was delighted to finally come across an as-new example at a very reasonable price. Brand-new ones are changing hands at something approaching £1000; not the kind of loose change I generally carry! This one had been marked down, as part of a major sell-off, from someone looking to purchase a very expensive high-end target rifle.

It arrives in a few days time, so I’ll post up more about it then…

By the way, there was a happy ending for my original rifle. It’s in excellent hands and is being very well looked after by its new owner. I even see my “old flame” from time to time at the club.

Watching paint dry

…that’s the plan for this little Anschutz 520 I’ve been working on.

All stripped and ready to be coated. I haven’t completely settled on a colour scheme for the woodwork, but whatever it is I think it should be understated, so that the gun can go on being used for rabbiting if desired.

A work in progress and no great rush to complete it. I’m learning how to do this wooden stock as I go along. So, I’m allowing plenty of time for backtracking and redoing stuff if needed.

A rather drab selection of images, but that’s how it is when you’re rubbing down and preparing a surface. It’s time consuming and not very interesting for others to watch.

Here instead is a picture of the kind of place where I hope this lovely little semi-auto rimfire might again see action.

Look out, rabbits!

“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake, Mr Bond!”

Where Eagles Dare (1969)

I’ve been interested in films for almost as long as I can remember. My father ran a large Scope unit in Cornwall. It was a marvellous place, set in its own grounds and from time to time, we’d have movie nights. A massive, white canvas screen had been constructed in one of the workshops and there was a Bell & Howell 16mm projector and basic loudspeaker. This was the 1970s so no 5.1 surround sound just yet.

Withnail & I (1986)

Eventually, in my teenage years, I took over as projectionist. If the film was something involving big names or a recent major release, audiences would be swollen by family members, staff and significant others. Only the advent of VCR players eventually killed it all off, but by then I had had at least 10 years of saturation in the cinema and had also grown very interested in film soundtrack music.

John Barry (1933-2010)

I thought I might put the occasional post up on here regarding films that I’ve discovered/consider to be classics. Not full-blown reviews particularly; just personal thoughts and impressions. Maybe the odd thing about film music too.

“I don’t like the tails!”

That’s what many people who dislike mice or rats will give as a reason. Personally, the tails have never bothered me. It would soon bother the animal though, if it didn’t have its tail . A mouse relies on its tail for balance and to control its body temperature.

– I once found eight mice inside a 410 shell box I had given them. They had opened just the one corner and all got inside. How they managed to breathe still baffles me. –

Mice come in a huge variety of colours and markings, but most of mine tend to be either selfs (single colour all over) or sealpoint, bluepoint (like the respective feline breeds) or sometimes tans (dark top, lighter underbelly and with a clear demarcation).

– Basil was enormous. Fully grown, his body alone was 14cm long. –

If you decide to get mice as pets, please do consider getting them from a breeder. Mice from breeders tend to be larger, more resilient and and better socialised. Pet shop mice are generally smaller, poorer specimens and often totally stressed out due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. That said, one of the loveliest pet mice I ever had came from a shop in Norwich.

– Niffler. A truly incredible little creature. She really attached herself to me. She was actually a pet shop mouse and tame from day 1. –


Anschutz 520/61 makeover

New project on the go is this Anschutz 520/61. Currently in pieces for a complete makeover. It came to me in good nick but in need of a tidy up.

If I don’t hold it for this image, it would drop to bits. That’s where we are right now.

Stripped receiver and fore-end.

Receiver all stripped down. Not sure what finish we’ll use yet. I want to use some creativity on this gun.

Receiver again.

Vomit! Orange varnish and nasty chequering that both need to go. Watch this space!

Way to go, Dillon!

I’d like to thank Dillon Precision Products, Inc in the US for their outstanding customer service.

My XL650 turned out to have a badly bent failsafe return bracket, when I finally got to putting the kit together.

Oops, oh dear.

I e-mailed Dillon and they were back within 24 hours, no questions asked, “we’re sending you a new part right away”.

Loosening the blue wingnut to remove my temporarily repaired bracket. The only way to get it back into shape was to apply a good deal of heat and some careful pressure.


There we go, it’s free. Just push down on the bushing once you’ve loosened the wingnut enough and the failsafe rod assembly swings out of the way.

The nice new bracket, which arrived in record time from the US.

Old and new together. Nuff said.

Securing the two hex screws that secure the bracket.

Looking OK again!

Dillon toolhead rack

Here’s a really tidy little invention from Kinetic Arc Metalworks LLC in the US. A Dillon toolhead holder with five stations, each with slots for the spare dies and other gizmos you need to swap out when changing over.

All beautifully CNC-machined and powder-coated, it’s bigger than you might expect but it’s sooo handy at keeping the benchtop clutter down.

The item below was a surprise freebie with the toolhead rack; storage for spare primer tubes. No more faffing about; once you have them loaded up, there they wait until the low primer beep goes off. Then you’re right back in business.

Six strings

Another of my interests is classical guitar.

I’ve played on and off since I was 18, but was trying to teach myself from a book and always stalled at about the same level. The longest “off” was 20 years!

I thought it might be interesting to post occasionally about what I’m working on or maybe the odd video.

Workshop revamp done

It’s taken months longer than I had expected, largely because of the joiner, who seemed to vanish every time I needed something doing. That sentenced the household to many weeks of my crap all over the hall, kitchen and living room. But it’s finally done.

I’ve quadrupled the storage space, de-cluttered a lot and sold off all the reloading stock. Amazingly, I am forced to concede that more space would still be nice.

I can remember naively asking on a forum when I first began, “how much space do I need for a reloading setup?” The reply was a withering, “twice as much as you originally thought!”