A reader’s DIY gun vice

Mounting and adjusting my HW44 just before testing

Mounting and adjusting my HW44 just before testing - Credit: Archant

Airgun World reader, Steve Simpson, builds himself a superb gun vice

Pistol sub-frame

Pistol sub-frame - Credit: Archant

I started shooting in the mid-‘70s, using BSA springers. My last one was a second-hand .22 Airsporter, and I shot thousands of pellets through it over the 25 years it was in regular use. When I decided it was time to retire this gun and invest in a PCP, I bought a new .22 BSA Ultra, and within a few shots it was obvious that this gun’s accuracy was far superior to my worn out Airsporter. It was time that I did some serious pellet and gun testing, so I phoned Uttings and bought an assortment (30 tins) of pellets from most of the well-known manufacturers. The testing went well, but I wanted to achieve maximum accuracy, and to do that I needed to remove the ‘heartbeat’ moment, so I set to and designed this ‘aimable’ shooting vice. It sounds a bit drastic, gripping a gun in a vice, but all it does is gently hold the gun whilst I touch the trigger with a fingertip, and cycle through a full mag’.

The basics

Starting at the bottom is a dedicated tripod made from 80 x 40 x 3mm rectangular, hollow section legs bolted to the vice’s chassis, a 100 x 100 x 8 x 600mm RSJ, using M20 cap head socket screws.

The chassis is mounted on four adjustable, rubber-covered swivel pads, which are used for levelling the vice. Bolted to the ends of the chassis are two Vauxhall Cavalier stub axles and hubs, which make two swivelling turrets – the taper roller bearings in the hubs are over-tightened just enough to eliminate backlash.

My Verminator, ready for testing

My Verminator, ready for testing - Credit: Archant

Mounted on the left turret is the coarse elevation adjuster, comprising a six-flute, pink thumb wheel with horizontal and vertical dovetail rails on top, able to take guns up to 130mm wide and 120mm high. Mounted on the right turret is the fine elevation adjuster, in the form of a horizontal, pink knurled thumb wheel, and on top of the fine elevation facility are horizontal and vertical dovetail rails able to take guns up-to 130mm wide and 120mm high.

Left/right adjustment is done by the six-flute pink thumb wheel between the two turrets, connected to the right turret by two horizontal flat bars. Left, right and fine elevation adjustments are also 0% backlash. Coarse elevation is used for the initial set-up of the gun in the vice, whilst fine elevation, plus left and right adjustment are used during testing.

Quick-release clamps bolted to the inner upper surface of target holder

Quick-release clamps bolted to the inner upper surface of target holder - Credit: Archant

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Maximum pistol

The gun is mounted between the two turrets, effectively connecting them together and all swivel pads in contact with the gun are covered with rubber.

The accuracy of this vice is as good as any scope on the market and it works exceptionally well. It really does test pellet and gun to their maximum potential, weather permitting of course. A full mag’ can be cycled through in seconds without having to re-aim the next shot, although this shot-to-shot accuracy depends on how easy the gun is to hold. My Air Ranger is a very solid, easy shape to hold, the Verminator not so much.

Most of the steel and other items I had left over from other engineering projects, so the vice cost very little financially to make, just a lot of time to design and construct – this is the MK 3 version.

Target holder removed to give a better look, spring-loaded with two rubber pads to grip the card

Target holder removed to give a better look, spring-loaded with two rubber pads to grip the card - Credit: Archant

Sub-frame needed

Last February, I bought a Weihrauch HW44 pistol and the first thing I wanted to do was pellet testing, but the vice was designed for rifles, so I made a sub-frame that accommodates a pistol.

The chassis of the sub-frame is a 20x20mm bar with a dovetail rail milled (milled, cut then welded) along its full length, and enough support arms and swivel pads to take virtually any shape of pistol. This pistol sub-frame and its support arms isn’t as stable and accurate as the rifle vice, but it works very well. Of course, a dedicated pistol vice would be better because stability and accuracy aren’t helped by the pistol having few flat surfaces with which to grip it, and also being made of plastic.

Detachable 40 and 20mm spinners

Detachable 40 and 20mm spinners - Credit: Archant

Target upgrade

When I first started taking pellet and gun testing seriously, I used the cut-out side of a cereal box as a target, with a grid of dots marked in black pen. Each dot was used for one make of pellet, and when a 10-shot string was complete, I made a note at the side of the dot giving basic info about gun, pellet make, distance and weather conditions. My latest design of card allows me to record much more detailed information. I’ve printed a test card on normal 80gsm (grams per square metre) A4 printer paper, but the holes were ragged and torn proving very little regarding grouping, so the heavier the card the better.

Cards in place

Cards in place - Credit: Archant

Pellet catcher

Over the past four decades, I’ve shot a serious amount of lead down the garden, but I didn’t want to poison the garden any more so I designed a target holder/pellet catcher at the same time as I got my first PCP. It measures 730w x470h, x350dmm; the back is 3mm steel plate, whilst sides, top, and bottom are 1.6mm. There’s enough space for three A4 cards, and each target card is held in place with a quick-release clamp bolted to the inner upper surface.

Paul with his Mk 4

Paul with his Mk 4 - Credit: Archant

Definitely worth doing!

The 30 tins of pellets I bought from Uttings some time back are used for gun testing only. I do an annual gun test, and my test cards are saved and compared year on year, to see if there is any change in performance. When I find suitable pellet and gun combinations I chronograph the top three performing brands of pellet, print that ballistic info, and save for future reference.

Yes, creating my gun vice took lots of time and effort but I regard it as a great investment and it adds a new dimension to my shooting!