Book Review – Tricks of the Trade by Mark Stratton

Stratton's book comes in a three ring binder with space for your own GCA Member Jeff Cochran

Mark Stratton has been a gunsmith and custom rifle builder from Marysville, WA and has had a long career of building custom rifles, primarily on Mauser actions, as well as been a teacher at one of the NRA Summer Gunsmithing courses at Trinidad State College in Colorado.  During that course, he brought the various jigs and tools he had made to class and students would take dimensions for use in their own projects and many students would ask him to duplicate his drawings for handouts in class.  From that project comes his book, Tricks of the Trade – Custom Rifle Metalsmithing.  The book, published by Mark Stratton, is 160 pages of collected drawings, designs and techniques from his career. The book is divided into five sections: Quarter Ribs and Scope Bases, Action Fixtures, Lathe Tooling and Procedures, Octagon Barrels and 1909 Argentine Mauser Fixtures.  A sixth section includes a list of useful businesses mentioned in the book.  While much of the book is dimensioned drawings and schematics for various fixtures and tools, Stratton does show the designs for the actual parts, such as the scope bases and quarter ribs.  In the first section, for example, he walks through his process for designing and building both quarter ribs and scope bases, as well as the process for milling custom scope bases and drilling and tapping receivers.  He also describes the machine setup for these projects. Stratton includes designs for parts, tools and fixtures.He follows a similar process in the second section, describing and diagramming the fixtures he uses for custom rifle actions.  While his designs are for the firearms he works with, large and small ring Mauser 98 actions or Winchester 70 actions, the process is similar for rifles built on Remington actions, though the designs and dimensions will vary.  He does cover Argentine 1909 rifles in a separate section, including the upgrades needed to improve these rifles. The most help for general gunsmiths is likely to be found in the Lathe Tooling and Procedures section.  Here Stratton describes both the custom tools he has designed and built as well as the process to set machines up to use them.  The tools and fixtures are the end result of years of design and practice and are used by many working gunsmiths today, thanks to Stratton’s course teachings and these diagrams.  One particularly interesting topic is where he walks through chambering rifle barrels for sporting rifles.  His goal is a one inch group at 100 yards. Stratton covers his processes in this book as well as including the designs. Stratton retired from gunsmithing in 2008 due to the recession and took a job as a machinist, but has now retired from his work as a machinist and will be producing another book, this one on making gunstocks.  Since his current book is in it’s seventh or eighth printing, I would expect the stock making book to sell similarly.  Stratton can be found in the Hobby Machinist forum, where he is a supporter and authority on gunsmith machining.  His website has, unfortunately, been offline for years so the best way to contact him is in the forum or by US Postal Mail. The cost of this book and the accompanying CD is $80, plus shipping in the US of $15.00.  If you’re interested, send a check to: Mark Stratton Gunmaker 8715 55th Ave NE Marysville, Washington 98270-3135