Hey guys, I own/operate a small gunsmithing business here in the mountains of western N.C. for the last 8 years. Since I served as a sniper in the Army for 3 years, I built my business around long range precision bolt rifles and AR's. I guarantee my rifles to produce 5 shot groups at .5 MOA or better - and so far (knock on wood) haven't built one that hadn't performed.
Up till this point, I have been building my rifles by ordering Remington actions from Brownells, as well as short chambered, pre-threaded barrels. I then blueprint the action and lap the locking lugs, square the bolt face, etc, using both Manson and Brownells precision hand tools, and finish cutting the chamber by hand. I then use hand tools to cut target crowns with a slight counterbore (45 degree step down to 11 degree crown).
Well, lately, I have been turning down several possible builds because the client was requiring a chamber like 6.5x284, 338 Lapua, etc, since (to my knowledge) short chambered barrels are not available in these calibers. (Yes, I know Midway has a 6.5/284 Shilen barrel, but its factory contour, and I dont use barrels that are any lighter than a standard varmint contour.
Now, I have operated lathes before at previous jobs, and I do run a small milling machine, so I am not a stranger to precision metalwork - that being said, I have not ever had to do anytthing that requires the precision of cutting a barrel chamber. I am selling my motorcycles to pay for this lathe - so I am looking to spend around $1500 - $2200.... I can possibly push it to $3000 if theres no other options. All the advice thus far has told me to buy one with a spindle bore of no less than 1.5" - but all the ones I find that do this (Like the Grizzly G4003G and Smithy MI-1237L) are too high for me to afford without additional financing - which I'd like to avoid at all costs..
I have read many great things about South Bend and Jet brand lathes - my local Jet dealer has nothing with a spindle bore over 1" thats under $7K... But I did see a South Bend SB1001 on Grizzly's website thats right in my price range...
It has a spindle bore of 1 1/8"... I know thats not enough, (and I will be purchasing the 8" 4 jaw chuck as well) - but ALL I want the lathe for is chambering and crowning. I have absolutely NO interest in "turning" down the barrels, changing tapers, etc... With a 1 1/8" bore, shouldn't I be able to chuck even a fairly large blank mid-barrel somewhere for chambering? Most of the blanks I'd be ordering would be straight taper, 1.25" to .930 at muzzle.. and I would turn down the chamber end and thread it, chamber it, and crown it... Can I do these operations on this lathe?
If not, the next step up would be the larger lathes I mentioned earlier.
Also, is there anyone here using any of the Smithy combo mill lathes? The Granite combo's seem like a decent unit - but I worry that it wouldn't have the capability of either a dedicated mill or lathe would.
Sorry for being long-winded, I just wanted to consult the elders before dropping 2 grand on a piece of machinery LOL.
Thanks in advance for any and all help and/or suggestions!