What is the best lathe choice for barrel work?

Sgt. grizz

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My barreling lathe just bit the dust. I’m looking for ideas for a new lathe to do Gunsmithing on. Any ideas? I am thinking of a grizzly for now. What would you do? I don’t want to rebuild my old enco 110-2033 because I am having a hard time finding parts for it; the low speed rod only works for a few inches, then I have to manually turn it until it starts moving in it’s own. On top of that, the motor just burnt up a few days ago. I want a lathe with around 40” and 1-1/2” center hole through the head, and I also want a number 3 tail stock and a lot of swing. I mainly just turn barrels and true actions on the lathe. I do a lot of Gunsmithing on this lathe and not just for a hobby.
 

shortgrass

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I won't buy a Grizzly. That'd be at the tail end of my list. I'd look around some, I heard very good things said about the Precision Mathews. I'd be interested in getting a good close look at the Jet Elite Series, also. A floor lathe would be a better choice than a bench lathe, even though I've used a bench lathe for chambering for the past 26yrs. I run a "floor' lathe (a 20" x 96) in the job shop. Your new lathe should be metric capable.
 

Deezel

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I'll second a Precision Matthews. I have owned a PM 1340GT for the last 3 years and it's been a great machine. I ordered the 3 phase version and had a VFD conversion custom built for it. I will also add that PM's customer service has been second to none.
 

Sgt. grizz

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I'll second a Precision Matthews. I have owned a PM 1340GT for the last 3 years and it's been a great machine. I ordered the 3 phase version and had a VFD conversion custom built for it. I will also add that PM's customer service has been second to none.

I have heard good things about the precision Mathews lathe. I have never used one and they are hard to find in my area. I also know I would have to buy a used PM because I’m operating on a budget right now. I’ll start looking for a PM 1340gt to see if I can find one thanks.
 

Will Gray

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Feb 21, 2013
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A new lathe would be great but I am too old for that. It is a hobby with me: my brother gave me his 1960's Craftsman/Atlas 12" which does everything I need for taking a rifled blank to a completed barrel. I think all the action work being done on Remington 700's and such is great hype but if the barrel-chamber is right and the headspace is set right, all the rest is just not very important. I find my Savage 110's and Ruger American just a good as my Remingtons: its all in the barrel-chamber! In my view. Want more accuracy, get a bull barrel from a great barrel maker. Its the last thing the bullet "sees" when leaving town...
 

shortgrass

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Mar 31, 2010
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My barreling lathe just bit the dust. I’m looking for ideas for a new lathe to do Gunsmithing on. Any ideas? I am thinking of a grizzly for now. What would you do? I don’t want to rebuild my old enco 110-2033 because I am having a hard time finding parts for it; the low speed rod only works for a few inches, then I have to manually turn it until it starts moving in it’s own. On top of that, the motor just burnt up a few days ago. I want a lathe with around 40” and 1-1/2” center hole through the head, and I also want a number 3 tail stock and a lot of swing. I mainly just turn barrels and true actions on the lathe. I do a lot of Gunsmithing on this lathe and not just for a hobby.
Watch Craigs' List and maybe E-Bay for local pick-up. The PM isn't the only lathe out there to do barrel work on. Look on the web and see if there are any used machine tool dealers in your area. When a guy limits himself to one brand of machine tool, because it came recommended on the interdnet, he is limiting himself, as there are literally dozens of makes of lathes that will all do an excellent job. "It's the Indian, not the arrow". Swing, bed length between centers, head stock length if you chamber thru the head stock, spindle bore, overall condition, and is the power required what you have in your shop without spending more on a VFD or whatever. These are the important things. You didn't specify in you op that you were looking for a used lathe, that would have made a difference in my first post. There are lots of options out there if you just look around some locally, I would bet. Within driving distance.
 

JuddL

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My gunsmith bought brand new Precision Matthews lathe and end mill. After three years I started thinking I wanted to give fitting my own barrels a try...I asked him what his thoughts were. He said if he was buying today (this was a little over a year ago) that he'd buy the grizzly over the PM and reason is parts. He'd been waiting on the light and cover for over three months...fortunately it wasn't anything that kept the machine from running but he said grizzly would've sent him the part in a week.

I bought the grizzly, I'm no gunsmith or machinist but I've had to order parts twice (dumb parts previous owner screwed up) and never waited more than a week.

Something to think about.
 

Jjlo63

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Oct 18, 2018
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Lee gardener precision does my smithing and a lot of other people’s target rifles and he uses south bend and grizzly lathes. I believe he told me they were made in Taiwan and Japan. An American made lathe would be great but probably expensive.
 

bigngreen

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My gunsmith bought brand new Precision Matthews lathe and end mill. After three years I started thinking I wanted to give fitting my own barrels a try...I asked him what his thoughts were. He said if he was buying today (this was a little over a year ago) that he'd buy the grizzly over the PM and reason is parts. He'd been waiting on the light and cover for over three months...fortunately it wasn't anything that kept the machine from running but he said grizzly would've sent him the part in a week.

I bought the grizzly, I'm no gunsmith or machinist but I've had to order parts twice (dumb parts previous owner screwed up) and never waited more than a week.

Something to think about.

I've seen the opposite, Grizzly has been a joke to get the right parts from, we actually got a fix for a grizzly lathe from Matt at PM, scrapped another Grizzly just out of warranty because of workmanship, Grizzly won't stand behind their machines nearly as well as PM does!!
 

Sgt. grizz

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Watch Craigs' List and maybe E-Bay for local pick-up. The PM isn't the only lathe out there to do barrel work on. Look on the web and see if there are any used machine tool dealers in your area. When a guy limits himself to one brand of machine tool, because it came recommended on the interdnet, he is limiting himself, as there are literally dozens of makes of lathes that will all do an excellent job. "It's the Indian, not the arrow". Swing, bed length between centers, head stock length if you chamber thru the head stock, spindle bore, overall condition, and is the power required what you have in your shop without spending more on a VFD or whatever. These are the important things. You didn't specify in you op that you were looking for a used lathe, that would have made a difference in my first post. There are lots of options out there if you just look around some locally, I would bet. Within driving distance.
I have worked on several lathes and I agree with you about the swing, headstock spindle bore etc. if I buy a used lathe it can not be worn out because I’m very particular about accuracy, I want my stuff to be spot on. The only reason I was thinking of a grizzly or PM at first was because it would be new, if I bought it used it would have to run sae and metric. I want to buy a quality lathe or something cheaper $5,500 or less. I figured I’d be buying a new high quality lathe in about three years, I just need something to get me by until then. I’m going to work towards getting a Cnc lathe and mill after several years but I need to go to school or Intern somewhere to learn how to run one and write programs.
 

sable tireur

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I’m going to work towards getting a Cnc lathe and mill after several years but I need to go to school or Intern somewhere to learn how to run one and write programs.

I can suggest that you develop a very deep set of pockets before you even consider pursuing this. Used CNC lathes in good running condition without a ton of wear or lots of hours of run time usually cost just a tad less than the new machine did originally and they're harder to finance if that makes a difference.

Tooling up a CNC lathe will make your eyes bug out and your blood pressure go through the roof. It may all sound cool right now but do your homework on costs first.
 

yoteslayer

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Feb 4, 2013
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Most people agree that a Taiwan lathe is a step above a Chinese one I think some of grizzly are maid in Taiwan I know speedy Gonzales uses a sharp lathe and is one of the top gunsmith in the country I would look for a lathe with a short head stock at lest 1-1/2 bore the bigger the better and heavy is better most lathes that are very accurate use American or Japanese bearings in the headstock not sure where you live but usually there is a machinery dealer that from time to time you can find a used lathe that hasn’t been used very much good luck
 

6MM06AI

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I leaned on a used south bend, they are a great lathe. But ended up buying a PM 1340 and got the DRO, it saves alot of time. But would reccomend a good used south bend if you can find one. The one I learned on was 3 phase and had to use a converter, but they are good and will last you a lifetime if you care for it, Good luck with your choice
 

IdahoCTD

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I can suggest that you develop a very deep set of pockets before you even consider pursuing this. Used CNC lathes in good running condition without a ton of wear or lots of hours of run time usually cost just a tad less than the new machine did originally and they're harder to finance if that makes a difference.

Tooling up a CNC lathe will make your eyes bug out and your blood pressure go through the roof. It may all sound cool right now but do your homework on costs first.


This is the truth. I bet I spent 5k just in tool holders for my mill in the last year or two. Granted I have more than most people need but they aren't cheap. Good vices are 500+ each too. A Blake spinning indicator is near 400 and a Haimer 3D indicator is 400 and the list goes on. It makes manual machine stuff seem like child's play. Most of the time machines like a Haas TL-1 or TL-2 will be just about as cheap new, if you get it on sale, as the used ones are. Plus phase converters for the bigger machines are spendy if you don't have 3 phase power. I just bought a 60hp one for my Haas VF4 and it was rather painful.
 

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