The time-tested M1917 is still a sweet shooter, even 100 years on. But in many case the rifle will need work, particularly its barrel, to get on target.
M1917s are 100 or more years old now. Nevertheless, they’re still sought after by collectors and people who like to shoot old guns.
But M1917s sometimes need repair, and finding the right gunsmith to do the job can be difficult. Somewhat common problems with old guns are barrel wear and corrosion. Age and neglect, especially on a gun that was built when corrosive ammunition was all that was available, often result in a gun that has a pitted barrel and is not accurate.
But sometimes, even if the barrel is not corroded or pitted, the gun has been shot so much that the headspace has increased to a point that repairs are needed for safety—or just to make the gun fire. That’s the case with the sample gun used for this review of the M1917.
The gun’s barrel was made by High Standard Manufacturing sometime during World War II and replaced the original barrel installed by Remington in 1918. While the replacement barrel still had sharp rifling and a bright bore, the chamber dimensions had increased, probably from firing many rounds, to the point that not all ammunition would fire. A check with chamber gauges showed that the headspace was greater than specifications. The bolt wouldn’t close on a field gauge but would close on a go-/no-go gauge, indicating that the chamber was close to being oversized … although it might still be safe.
The fix was to either install a new barrel or screw the existing barrel in toward the receiver one additional turn. Then, using a chamber reamer, cut the chamber to proper dimensions.
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The M1917 has a reputation for the barrel being extremely tight in the receiver and very hard to turn. Either the barrel won’t budge, even with a great amount of force applied, or the receiver cracks when enough force is applied to turn the barrel. And a cracked receiver is ruined.
The challenge was finding a gunsmith willing to work on the barrel of an M1917—and who had the skill to do it correctly. I consulted a number of gunsmiths, and finally, one who had the experience and tools to do it successfully agreed to take on this project.
This issue didn’t faze Bobby Tyler of Tyler Gun Works (Friona, Texas). When the problem was posed to him, his immediate response was for me to send him the gun. It seems Tyler really likes a challenge, and if another gunsmith can’t do the work, Tyler wants the job even more.
He built a fixture to properly support the receiver and used a very long bar for the leverage to turn the barrel. The price and turnaround time were reasonable, and the gun now works perfectly, igniting every .30-06 cartridge tried. It was important to save the High Standard barrel, and it looks just as it did before Tyler worked on it.
Tyler is also a specialist with metal finishes and is particularly good at color case-hardening.
The article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.