View Full Version : Technical: confessions of a first-time builder

February 24, 2001, 18:24
First, I thought to put this in FAQ to answer a few FAQs.

Let me state that I'm not very mechanically inclined. I can change brake rotors and pads, but wouldn't think of changing a head gasket or turbo. That should set the basis.

I know how to completely disassemble an FAL, metric or english. I've installed gas blocks. I've done minor machining and smiting. No problems here- the only thing I hadn't done was barrel.

I have two Imbel receivers and two kits: a beautiful FN StG, and a painstakingly collected T48 look-alike (thanks go to Gunthings and Armscorp and all the dealers of "junk" at gunshows).


I had cut the old reciever stub off with a dremel. This cut through the threads, but no big deal.

I purchased a 17mm wrench for the barrel, only to find that it's too big. Back for a 1 1/16" which I dremeled down to fit the barrel flats. This is the Modified Barrel Wrench (MBW). Put the bolt carrier in the receiver, padded the rcvr with leather, and into the vice.

The barrel turned with difficulty. With about 1/8" of threads still to go, I had to use the wrench- I attribute this to the cut threads. As the barrel shoulder reached the rcvr the vice would no longer hold the receiver still. Rather than FU the reciever by tighten too much, I bought the Elliott rcvr wrench (ERW) (wait, wait, wait) and a Tapco barrel vice (BV).

Armed with the new ERW and BV, now I'm ready to roll! Put the barrel into the BV, tighten down real good, ERW on the rcvr, and start tightening. Barrel will only time to 10:00 before barrel moves in BV.

Off comes the barrel. File off a little. Test fit again (repeat for about 2 hours).

Suddenly, realize that barrel is not straight- shit, stripped first two rows of threads in the rcvr! Out comes dremel- NFW, can't get in there, I know I'll FU something. Hand files? No way. Imbel rcvr #1 goes into safe.

Out comes Imbel #2. Screw StG barrel into rcvr. Times to 10:00 again. WTF? Try two Argie barrels...same thing. Try two R1 barrels- one times at 10:00 the other at 9:30!

More slow filing gets the StG barrel to TDC (Finally!!). I want to use the "gas piston" method to make sure sights are alligned. Push piston through tube, and bang- damn piston hits the rcvr ABOVE the hole! No problem, right? Grab some vice grips and bend the tube down a tiny bit (this is the short tube). Now the piston goes into the hole BUT it now binds so badly inside the tube that I'm sure the rifle won't function! Bend tube back up- now moving the piston through tube takes a light wack with a hammer!

The whole thing goes into the safe. I've had enough.

2 weeks later...

Status: Imbel #1 FU'd, StG kit FU'd.

It's time to try the T48 kit (Argie barrel) with Imbel #2. Barrel hand tightens very nicely to 10:00 (actually, the barrel is in the BV). Using the ERW, start tightening. Before barrel gets to 11:00, barrel turns in vice. This is getting old. Using a breaker bar, tighten the big vice- and bend vice handle 30 degrees. Try using ERW again- barrel still turns.

Time to turn things around. Rcvr in ERW goes into vice- great grip. Screw barrel in. Using the modified barrel wrench (MBW) start tightening. Can only get it to 11:15. Need more power! Hmmm...if I saw the box end off the MBW, I can use a breaker bar (BB).

Out comes the reciprocating saw. 10 minutes gets me a dull blade and 1/8" through the MBW. Time to use the cutoff tool. Out to garage (where compressor is) hook up cutoff tool to air supply...blaahppp. Out of air? Yup. Temperature in garage is 25. I know compressor doesn't run under 50 degrees. Pick up all the junk, back to basement.

Dremel with cutoff wheel does the trick in about 10 minutes. Elapsed time to cut MBW- about 40 minutes. Use grinding stone to take off sharp edges.

Now we're getting somewhere!! With EWR in vice, put MBW on flats, BB over MBW, and pull. Without too much effort (estimate 50 ft-lb) get barrel to 11:30.

Start cranking on BB. Moving, moving, crash! Bang! Whup! MWR slips off flats (slightly rounding them), BB strikes me in the temple..I think I'm in trouble, head doesn't feel right. Go upstairs, grab the phone...dial 911 or not? Wait 10 minutes...still alive, but sore head.

Back to basement! Now I know what to watch for. Crash! same event- this time head is not in the way (got smarter). Let's do this two more times. Barrel is at about 11:45.

Off comes barrel. File a bit. Repeat for one hour, testing marking testing. Should be ready to time properly. MBW on receiver rounds (yes, they used to be "flats" now they're rounds thanks to MBW which has opened up a bit). Pull, grunt, CRASH! Here we go again. Barrel is now at 11:55.

Obviously MBW is not going to stay on barrel rounds. Get smart. Turn rcvr & EWR upside down. Still pulling in same direction. Pretty pleased with myself. And the "bottom" of the rcvr flats are still pretty flat.

Pull pull pull. Remove EWR. Check timing. Not yet. Remove barrel & file. Repeat 20 minutes.

FINALLY! Barrel is TIMED! Praise to all those who have helped my cause- GP, Gary.Jeter (I'm not laughing at your long story anymore) and all the others.

Which causes me to ask- why is it that these "New Members" get on, ask what type of FAL kit they just bought, buy a Hesse reciever, and with nothing but a pair of pliers and four toothpicks can build their kit in 2 hours? For God's sake, I am a product of "Higher Education". How can this be? But I digress.

Now I'm pretty proud of myself. Barreled in under four hours. Dump the parts bag on the workbench and grab the first part. You know what it is, don't you? Yes, it is the handguard retaining ring. SHIT! GP had warned of that in the damn video! No, I am not making this up!

Right about now I realize that the work emergency pager is not on my belt. It was a while ago- where could it be? Call it. Can hear it, but can't find it...hour later, find it. It's in a box near the workbench, where it must have been propelled when I smashed my head in. Back to T48.

Off comes barrel, handguard ring on, barrel back on.

Using pin guages from MSC, find that a .254 locking shoulder is required. Mine measures .267. Using GP's suggestion (from video) try sand paper. Right. 10 minutes gets nowhere. Switch to file. 40 minutes of filing and measuring gets me there.

Line up locking shoulder, pound pound pound, damn thing lines right up, and fits! Something went right! Except now is the test...happy to say, both "GO" and "NOGO" worked properly! Headspace done properly the first time!

The rest is easy (except finding the lost firing pin spring, which takes 20 minutes).

Total elapsed time for T48 only: about six hours. Two cut fingers, one smashed head, one FU'd receiver, one FU'd gas tube.

Like most projects, this one is one I would never have started if I'd known what it was going to take (and cost). Would I do it again? Yes, now that I've done it, and made my mistakes, and have the tools, why not?

For those like me, who are mechanically challenged, I'd say save the money and aggravation, and send it out to ARS, AZEX, or GG.

If you're new to this, and absolutely want to build one yourself, the following are absolute musts:
1. AGI's FAL video ($40?) to get familiarity
2. GunPlumber's FAL Video ($25) which assumes you already know something about FALs
2. Casey Elliott's reciever wrench ($70)
3. Modified 1 1/16" wrench ($20)
4. Five pin guages from MSC (<$20)
5. Go/ NOGO guages ($35)

And also suggested:
5. Blake Stevens' FAL Book ($100 from Gunthings)
6. Micrometer or caliper ($20 FAC)
7. Punches

To all of those who have posted their success stories, barrel timing adventures, and sobbing failures, I say thanks. I couldn't have done it without you.

To those who are going to give it a try the first time, I say GOOD LUCK!


[This message has been edited by Abominog (edited February 24, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Abominog (edited February 24, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Abominog (edited February 24, 2001).]

February 24, 2001, 18:56
I had simular trouble with my first but not as bad as yours. Great story! Now do you want me to make you an offer on the FU receiver?
I could use it. Rick in FL

February 24, 2001, 19:27


My wife knows next to nothing about guns and gunsmithing outside of making her revolver put the bullets in the right places. I read your adventure to her and she's ROTFLHAO!!

"My gawd, you have a CLONE out there somewhere!" she shreiks.

I feel your pain!


February 28, 2001, 20:45
What a great read! ROTFLMAO indeed!! And this truly pains me to tell you, after all the trials and tribulations you've gone through...

...but I barreled an R1 onto a GL Imbel in the back of my truck in Bellingham, Washington while waiting for a load south. Tools were an ERW with 3/4"-to-1/2" adapter and a 1/2" breaker bar, and a MBR (Craftsman 1-1/16"), using a spot of Perma-Tex anti-seize lubricant. I did not have a vise! Just the "push-pull" method and a lot of grunt. Timed with two 3-foot 3/16" rods from Home Depot ($1.04 each) to get close, then used the R1 gas piston for final timing since it has to be replaced anyway in case I bend it (havenít yet). In the back of my truck! No Vise! No kidding!

Perhaps the secret to my success is that not only are pads and rotors easy, but so are head gaskets and turbos and clutches and rear frigging main seals and the complete front-end rewiring of a 2nd-gen Firebird I once bought from a wrecking yard after an electrical fire.

Please donít hate me,

"Every FAL a planned and wanted FAL..."

March 30, 2001, 00:55
Abominog, I feel your pain. I am so glad I had Derek build my FAL, or that would have been me. Only I wouldn't have done as well.

Oh, and btw, I hate you Radio http://www.fnfal.com/forums/smile.gif


Derby FALs
March 30, 2001, 09:00
OOh My Gawd. You're scaring the Hell outa me. Some of us in Derbytown are planning a Buildfest. Hopefully it all goes well.

Looking to meet some FALers in Louisville, Kentucky. Don't forget the Machinegun Shoot at Knob Creek April 6-7-8.