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Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser

  Fabricating in Aluminum by Bob Smalser 1 of 7  

An Improved Rifle Rack for Offhand Stands

As a boatbuilder by training who often has to fabricate custom hardware, I designed and made an improved rifle rack that is totally spill-proof.

As an ex-Army competitive shooter who is now a volunteer coach for a large junior program teaching Olympic small-bore, Iím constantly looking for ways to reduce the distractions and inefficiencies of match preparation, and getting the rifle off the ground to speed buttplate and sight adjustments is an excellent example.

While there is at least one commercial model of these ďantlerĒ rifle racks available, it is unpopular with our advanced shooters and coaches because its design allows the rifle to spill out of the rack should the arm screws come loose, and is considered too flimsy in construction, making the offhand stand easy to tip over and easy to damage the standís shaft by over-tightening the set screws.

As a boatbuilder by training who often has to fabricate custom hardware, I designed and made another thatís a bit heavier and shorter, grips the much stand better, and is totally spill-proof. Itís been surprisingly well-received, so I prepared this tutorial on making one in a modestly-equipped home shop, as there are far too many operations required to make this a profitable venture for any but fully-equipped commercial machine shops with forging and casting capabilities.

To improve gripping the offhand standís easily-dented aluminum shaft, I increased the surface area in contact by using thicker stock for the base, and shown are 1Ē-thick aluminum plate scrap acquired locally. Three-quarter inch thick would also work well. Also shown are the remaining materials necessary to make these - half-inch aluminum rod stock, thick-walled latex surgical tubing of half-inch inside diameter for padding, and a handful of assorted-length ľ X 20 thumb screws through one-inch. (Aluminum doesnít like fine threads.)

Alaska Copper in Seattle or McMaster Carr in Baltimore can supply new plate, Tacoma Screw or Home Depot the rods and hardware, and eBay has a good selection of latex tubing. Local scrap yards can also be excellent sources of materials, especially for the heavier stock that can be expensive to buy new and ship. Finding one near a shipyard or other major manufacturer can be very rewarding, even if you have to do business via telephone and UPS.

I cut the plate into rectangles of 2 X 5 3/8 inches on a power band saw with a bimetal blade. You could also cut the stock by hand using a hack saw or take it to your local metal fabricator and pay to have it cut to your specifications.

Length isnít critical plus or minus a half inch Ė I selected 5 3/8 based on the capacity of my drill press. Lubrication isnít absolutely necessary when cutting soft aluminum, but can speed things up and extend blade life.

I clean up the bandsaw marks by taking multiple, 1/32Ē trimming crosscuts using the miter gage and a carbide-tipped blade in my table saw. Care is required, as are adequate safety glasses. Donít expose any more blade above the saw table than necessary, because like in any table saw work, itís only the carbide teeth that do the cutting.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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