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Working the Ishapore part 2: Trigger

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    Posted: January 16 2014 at 11:59am

Thanks for tuning in again to my rambling on about how I improved my Lee-Enfield 2A1 Ishapore chambered in 7.62 NATO, transforming it from a boat anchor into one of my favorite shooting rifles. Although excellent in design and materials, the Ishapore suffers from poor quality control that by itself is not a problem, but a little rough here, a bad fit there, and so on all adds up to a mediocre finished product. In this installment I will discuss how I improved the trigger pull from something resembling the action of a 1950's vintage bumper jack to a smooth 2 stage military trigger.  This modification alone tightened my groups considerably and made the rifle an actual joy to shoot. As you will see, the trigger on the 2A1 is pretty much identical to any generic Enfield rifle, so there should be no ground broken here.  

Temper your expectations and be realistic!  The Enfield was designed to be a mass produced infantry issued weapon for field use in combat.  It is rugged, simple, and accurate enough for military needs.  My series is not intended to turn a former issued rifle from India into a 1000 yard tack driver.  It won't happen.  I could, but you would spend way more money than it's worth trying to do it.  What I did  to my rifle is everything the factory should have done, if they wanted to spend the time to do it.  At the end of it all, I can only shoot 3-4" groups with military spec ammo and iron sights.  But that's a durn tootin' better than the "minute of barn" that it shot when I first got the rifle, and that's good enough for me.

Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a professional gunsmith, I do not make any claims that my methods are the best, and any and all modifications you make to your rifle is 100% on you. This series is for informational purposes only, and I highly recommend that any work on a firearm be done by a qualified professional.


Before I begin I need my comfort movie. Today it's Gregory Peck in "The Guns of Navarone".  Settle in, pass the spanakopita and hit "play". Now, let's get our hands dirty!

Part A: Safety

Now listen up, one mo' again:  NEVER WORK ON A LOADED FIREARM!  NEVER PULL THE TRIGGER TO SEE IF THE RIFLE IS LOADED! Tired of hearing that from me? Too bad, I'm not tired of saying it.

To unload the Ishy:
1. Pull the bolt all the way to the rear.
2. Drop the magazine and remove from the rifle
3. Observe the chamber.  Hold the muzzle to a light source and observe the reflection in the empty chamber.  If you can't see the light, then run a cleaning rod from the crown to the chamber. The rifle is clear when you see the rod in the feed ramp area.
4.  Take all of your bullets and move them to a different room in the house so you have NO temptation whatsoever of putting one in the rifle while you are working on it.  Better yet, let your significant other hold them for you.

Part B: Trigger polishing

Photo 1


Observe photo 1. This is about as far as you need to go in disassembling the rifle for all the improvements I did. If you are planning to follow along with me, then be advised to put all the little bits and screws in a sealed plastic container so you don't lose anything- this project may take some time. Every part is replaceable, but why go through the bother of finding one, ordering it and then waiting forever for it to come in the mail when you know you already have it somewhere? Ask me how I know these things.


Photo 2 and 3
 

Photos 2 and 3 show the area I will be working on today.  From here, other improvements can be done as the rifle is reassembled.   I didn't start here on my own project, but in retrospect it's the best place to begin. I did mine in fits and starts over many years, as I picked up a nugget of knowledge I applied it to the rifle.  Oh! If only I had a future me be able to send the me of the past the information I'm putting together here!  I could have saved me from myself! If I had to do it over again, this is the way it would be done.

Photo 4


Remove the trigger from the trigger guard by driving out the pin.  Don't lose the pin!  In photo 4 you will see the pointer showing a sliver area near the pivot hole.  This area was burred from the machining process.  Clean this area with a hobby file or carborundum (silicone carbide) stone.  Only smooth it out, try not to remove any more metal than required.  Polish the area using the motor tool with a polishing attachment and buffing compound.  Inspect those two bumps for burrs or machine tool marks.  Don't touch them unless they are really bad- mine were good so I just polished them up a little with the motor tool. If they are really bad, then it's time to think about getting a new trigger assembly.  If you don't have actual hobby metal polish, you can use common toothpaste as a substitute and get the same results.  Using toothpaste to polish the metal parts has the added benefit of preventing your Enfield from getting cavities. 

Photo 5


Polish the inside trigger saddle on the trigger guard housing.  Observe photo 5, the pointer is showing the area where the trigger rides and the orange circle clarifies where there were machine tool marks and burs. This area can only be cleaned using hobby files, it's too small for polishing. That's ok, just make sure it's mostly smooth.

Photo 6


Now look at photo 6.  This is what I was talking about with the quality control at the factory. This trigger pin is defective, it was either installed incorrectly or was junk to begin with.  I replaced it with a surplus part, but any machine shop will either have something similar in stock, or will be able to make one very easily.  This was causing a bind in the trigger, factory problem number 1 eliminated.

Part C: Sear


Photo 7


Photo 7 shows where the sear mounts under the receiver.  The sear is held in with a simple screw and uses a leaf spring for tension.  The orange circle area shows where to inspect for metal burrs or other defects. I found some small casting bumps that I smoothed out with hobby files. Again, just get it smooth enough, you only want to remove the problem, not create a new one.

Photo 8


Photo 8, green arrow, shows where the trigger rides on the sear. This area was horrible. No, horrible isn't quite right. Shocking? No. Terrible? No, not that. Ghastly. Yes, that's the word. This area was ghastly. Notice the red arrow, those were indicative of the deep machine marks that were on the entire surface of the sear. This is where all of your trigger feel comes from, this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. This had deeper grooves than a Saturday night disco in 1976. With the factory finish, the trigger was very heavy and fell only after a considerable effort was applied. It was so bad that you couldn't tell it was a two stage trigger. This alone will account for target inaccuracies; for when the hand has to squeeze this hard to pull a trigger, then the aim is naturally pulled to the side.

Polish this area carefully. Again, don't remove too much metal. As you can see, I still have machining marks in this area, but it's a thousand times better than it was before. Resist the temptation to only polish the small area where the trigger rides, instead, try to use the entire length of the ramp so as not to change its shape . Go slowly. I think it took me about 2 or three hours of slow stone work, polishing, more stone work, more polishing in order to gradually remove those gruesome tool marks.  

Notice also the whitish area around the sear pin hole. This area also had deep tool marks and burrs that needed to be removed.  Again, go slowly and only try to remove the offensive metal and smooth out the area.  Polish with the motor tool when it's done. 

NEVER touch the sear face itself, it is very delicate and you can seriously damage your rifle or render it unsafe. That is the part that engages the firing pin and hold it in the cocked position, filing it or modifying it in any way can cause an unintended discharge that can cause death or serious injury. Stay away from the other end of this part.  I haven't shown a photo of it because it's not to be tampered with.  If it's damaged, buy a new one and have a qualified gunsmith install it. Some things are best left to the professionals.  Remember, it's for your safety I tell you these things.

Factory problem 2 solved.

Photo 9

Ok right then. Photo 9 is the sear screw. Now I'm not a machinist, and I'm not a rocket scientist or an adult film star, nor do I even play those roles on TV. But even I know that's the worst piece of machining Doo-Doo I've ever seen on a screw. How can the sear pivot on something lumpy like that? Jumping jelly rolls, the pin isn't even round! And what in the ham sandwich is that at the end of the pin? Into the trash it goes. Got a new one from surplus. Factory problem 3 solved.

Photo 10

Here it is all put back together. Photo 10 green arrows show the first bump on the trigger contacting the sear when the rifle is loaded and ready to fire.

Photo 11


The two green arrows on photo 11 show the trigger with the first stage engaged. From here the rifle is "set" and ready to fire. Naturally, if you simply yank the trigger from the rest position it will fly right through this stage and fire, you probably won't even notice the trigger is two stage.

Photo 11


Photo 11 shows the trigger fully pulled back and the rifle has fired. As you can see, the trigger bumps slides along the sear where it was just polished-it doesn't take much friction here and in the pins and saddles to add up to a horrible trigger. Now it's done. It's smooth, it's polished, nothing is binding or dragging. Nothing was fundamentally changed, just a little finish work added in. Apply a light coat of oil and it's ready for the next step in its walk towards accuracy improvement.

Conclusion

The first time I pulled the trigger after having done this work, I nearly jumped for joy! For the first time I had a fully functioning, smooth two stage military trigger. I have no idea how many pounds of trigger pull I had before vs how many after. I never cared much to know that sort of thing, so don't ask. All I know it that it went from a two fisted Iron Mike Squeeze-o-Matic to a smooth one finger shooter, and that's good enough for me. 

Smoothing the sear ramp, polishing the trigger support saddles and deburring the all the metal bits is easy to do. As you can see, I did nothing more than complete the quality control finish work that seemed to have gone unnoticed in Ishapore India in the summer of 1967. In doing this work I fundamentally improved the accuracy of my 2A1 more than anything other than relieving the fore-stock wood. But that's a story for another time. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2014 at 8:37pm
Much better, thanks!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ozzlefinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2014 at 8:45pm
I can't take any credit for the reformatting.  I got good advice and directions from forum members.  I would have been clueless if left to my own.  

Now, if the content of what I  posted is useful or at least understandable, then that much the better.  I would be interested in hearing if anybody had done something different to the trigger group that can make an improvement.  I'm always open to learning new things or improving my own skills through the experience of others.  I have no pride in thinking I'm the top dog in anything.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jon287 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 16 2014 at 8:54pm
Very informative!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bear43 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 12:36am
I am amazed at how out of round the pin and screw were. Never seen anything quite like that before.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 1:35am
I think the details, such as the pin, were why Indian rifles got a bad rep in the first place. They weren't "junk" by any means but the lack of attention to detail, loose quality control, & that horrible glopped on preservative paint really damaged the basis for a good rifle.

As we're finding out its fixable.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote A square 10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 1:42am
and photos are same foir me too , seem OK 

interesting  info - keep it coming 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ozzlefinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 2:59am
Quality control was certainly the main issue with the Ishapore.  The rifling is top notch, the metallurgyis much stronger than the .303, and some even had exotic wood stocks, as does mine with it's combo of teak and rosewood.

The other problem I think is the total lack of understanding when it comes to the .308 vs 7.62 NATO.  Apply that confusion to a rifle with an Enfield name, and .303 purist usually stick their nose in the air and walk away.  It's not a "real" Enfield unless it's a .303, just like it's not a "real" Harley if it's water cooled.  There shouldn't be any confusion with the .308/ 7.62 debate.  There is nothing to debate. Facts are facts, measurements are measurements.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 6:04am
In a world of collectors its largely about having yet another "variation" to collect I guess.
To me its still an Enfield, albeit one with a funny accent no matter if its a .303 or a 7.62. I'd actually thought of getting one of the British made 7.62 Enfields but I just couldn't justify the cost as I had a .303 & a 7.62 in a different type already.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote A square 10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 7:22am
while i never got fully into the indian rifles i did once own an RFI no1 mk3 in 303 , a 2A and a 2A1 in 762x51 as well as two indian conversions to 410s [one was reamed for the US 410] , all shot as you describe yours originally shooting except the 410s , since all of these  were made on british tooling and most started under british supervision , ive always considered them an enfield , 

just as ive never questioned the lithgows , longbranches , and savages being true enfields , 

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ozzlefinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 8:30am
That is the wonderment in my mind about the 2A1, if it was built pretty much using the same tooling, the same craftsman in the same factory as the other Enfields, then why is the Ishapore such a red-headed step child?  Why was the quality so poor? Was it that at the time the Indians just didn't really care and simply cranked out rifles to meet the stop gap needs? Or was every day at RFI a Friday afternoon about 3:30?  Does anybody other than me actually shoot the bloody thing?

No matter, I've got one, I like the stupid thing just fine, and I've taken a lot of deer with it.  The bore is fantastic, the head space is tight, and it's got a lot of decades of shooting left in it.  The bad part is when I die my family will probably sell it at a yard sale for $20 and it will get Bubba-ized.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 9:17am
Unless you stipulate in your will that your firearm(s) and ammunitions be sold at a recognized auction. I did this in my will for my firearms as well as for my extensive coin collection.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ozzlefinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 9:43am
I am going to look into that for my will also.  It sounds like a good idea and one I hadn't considered before.  I am thinking along the lines of leaving my collection to my sons, but they have shown little interest in firearms of any type.  But they are still young, and things can change.  I didn't get interested in the shooting sports until after I joined the military.  Not to date myself, but when I first joined I was issued the M16, 1911 and M3A1 Grease Gun (probably where I got my love for the .45 ACP). When I retired we had M16A4 with reflex sights, M9 Berettas, MOLLE gear and digital radios.
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I think its partly a mindset in India, & partly a consequence of taking semi-literate peasants from the fields & dropping them into a factory environment all in one big lump. They simply don't have any experience.

I bought a 3-axis vice & it was so bad it had to be returned as it broke the first time I turned a knob. Look At the Royal Enfield motorcycles made there the same lack of giving a darn. They were so bad many dealers simply scrapped the ones in stock. I've found machinery lubricated as a factory preservative with very obvious old (used) filthy engine oil!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ozzlefinch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2014 at 9:47pm
I would tend to agree with you Shamu.  You can't use the words "Indian" and "quality" in the same sentence.  The Indians largely made the Soviets look like competent builders. As for the RE motorcycles, I had a 500 Bullet years ago before I got my Triumph.  As you pointed out, there was little to no quality control in it's construction, BUT, as in the Ishapore Enfield, the foundations are solid and it can be saved with some work.  I stripped the bike down to the frame and put it back together very carefully, inspecting every part for correct fitment and alignment- making adjustments as required to ensure proper fit.  When I was done, the bike was great!  never leaked, always started, and ran smooth as Chinese silk.   I traded up to the Triumph for it, but in retrospect I wish I had kept it- it really was a pretty thing with the black and gold trim over the alloy tank.  I didn't get much on the trade, so it's not like I would have lost any money keeping it.  

But then again, that's part of the history, part of the collector interest.
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But, but!
British 'Bikes are supposed to sweat oil from every seam. Its to give Brit motorcyclists something to do when its pi$$ing down with rain over the weekend again. You list your hobbies as "finding oil leaks."Clown

We used to have a saying back in Blighty:
"You never see a rusty Norton, or a rusty Norton owner"!Cry

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