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Keep Your Bolt Running Right

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Sinclair International’s bolt maintenance kit.
Sinclair International’s bolt maintenance kit.

One of the most overlooked areas of the bolt-action rifle is the bolt itself. We clean the rifle chamber and bore with care and diligence but many times the bolt is never taken apart until it doesn’t work. This is unacceptable for any rifle let alone a precision or professional rifle. Most of this is attributed to unfamiliarity with the bolt and lack of tools to take them apart.

I have used a vise and some elbow grease for years to get the bolt apart and the spring out. The hard part is holding the spring tension while trying to get the stay pin lined up and in. Then there is the sending the ejector spring into orbit when trying to get it out. There must be an easier way.

Disassembled bolt and tools.

I decided to give Sinclair International’s bolt disassembly tool a try. It comes with all the tools to easily take apart the bolt for routine maintenance. It can also be used in the field because it doesn’t require a vise or tools other than a punch and small hammer to get the spring retaining pin out. The tools are stored in a neatly divided plastic box to keep them all together and organized.

The tools can be purchased all together in a kit or separately if you want to put it together to suit your needs. The tools include a firing pin removal tool, which replaces the vise as a holding device. This tool holds the spring tension pushing the upper part of the firing pin assembly out so the bolt shroud and firing pin assembly can be screwed apart. The mainspring disassembly can be done with the disassembly tool, and there is a tool to hold the ejector in place while removing and replacing the ejector-retaining pin. Also with the kit is a plastic block for holding the bolt while tapping out pins.

The firing pin removal tool fits over the Remington bolt shroud and has a hook that reaches over the bolt block. By screwing the hook tight the shroud is pulled back and can be unscrewed from the bolt housing because the spring tension is relieved. The firing pin assembly is easily removed by unscrewing the shroud from the housing. There is no chance of damage to the block sear edges because it is not clamped into a vise like most guys do without the tool. The bolt housing can then be cleaned out with a brush of any residual solvents and dried and coated with a light lube. My housing was wet with residual lube and only had to be wiped out. Sometimes this oil over time will harden and grit will stick to it causing build up.

Replacing mainspring retaining pin with bolt block.

Next is taking the firing pin assembly apart. This can be done without the tool but is really not much fun and can be dangerous to the eyes should the spring get away from you. This is a good time to mention that any time you are taking apart a compressed spring (with or without a tool) eye protection is a must.

The mainspring tool is a tube that the firing pin assembly fits into and uses a thumbscrew to compress the spring and push the block out the top of the shroud far enough to push out the retaining pin. The spring and firing pin remain trapped in the tube so they can’t be launched. Once the retaining pin is removed, the mainspring tension can be removed by loosening the thumbscrew and the spring and firing pin come out for cleaning. Again, mine was wet with residual solvent, which could cause a build up because of grit and fouling sticking to it. Worse, if there were no solvents on the pin, it could become victim to rust and pitting.

Once the retaining pin is exposed it can be removed by placing the bolt on the bench block and tapped out with a small hammer and punch. When replacing the pin, if it is a little tight, a brass hammer will keep from deforming the pin due to the hammering. A good wiping and a light coat of lube was all my firing pin assembly needed. Don’t leave the parts wet with lube; use only a light coat. We want to inhibit corrosion not collect grit and dirt. The tool really shines putting the firing pin assembly back together. God didn’t give a man enough hands to compress the spring, line up the holes, and get the pin back in. The tool does all the holding, you just put in the pin.

Firing pin mainspring retaining pin.

The final part that needs attention — and can cause problems if it sticks from fouling — is the ejector. This is the little spring-loaded plunger that protrudes from the bolt face. It is retained with a small pin and if it sticks down flush with the face of the bolt it will not push on the base of the fired case and throw the brass clear of the rifle. I have had this happen and it is a pain. The difference between this spring-loaded part and the firing pin mainspring is its size. It is a lot harder to find when launched to parts unknown around the shop. The Sinclair ejector spring tool traps the plunger and spring and holds it until the retaining pin is punched out. It can then be controlled while releasing the spring tension and all the parts remain on the bench. It can then be wiped and lubed and the hole it lives in cleaned with a Q-Tip. It doesn’t take much fouling to freeze this part in the cave.

The ejector spring tool fits over the end of the bolt and is tightened against the spring by pushing it in and turning it to lock it on the bolt lugs. It comes with two bolt face fittings for small bolts like .223 and larger bolt faces from .308 to the magnums. This is invaluable for replacing, maintaining, or shortening the ejector spring. Once the spring is trapped the bolt is placed on the bench block and the pin tapped out. The extractor can then be cleaned in the bolt. There is no reason to remove the extractor unless it is broken, which doesn’t happen very often on a Remington bolt.

After everything is cleaned and lubed it goes back together quickly and the rifle is ready for the next mission. Many believe bolt maintenance can be neglected for a very long time, as they will function for years before any problem arises and are quite reliable. I can’t abide by that philosophy. The bolt should be taken apart periodically and cleaned and also inspected for any upcoming problems that would be better addressed prior to that hunt of a lifetime or important mission. Sinclair’s bolt tools make the job quick and painless.

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