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Old 11-29-2016, 11:53 AM
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Dakota Model 10 .218 Bee: Rebarreling, Reloading, And Getting Closer To A Reality



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I realize the desire here is to focus primarily on things rimfire, but the powers that be have made provision for centerfire threads, and the Hornet and Bee seem close enough, so, why not share these experiences also, right?

I’ve actually been in Japan for the last few weeks, reaffirming in my mind that I like everything about Japan better than most everything in the US, except that small matter of firearms ownership…basically shotguns only, in Japan, and the police tend to harass anyone brazen enough to want to own one. I also haven’t spoken or written in English for that same period of time, and it was a rather strange sensation coming back this time and being thrown back abruptly into the English-speaking world. So, no posts until now. Some of what follows is a bit of a re-hash, but we re-read magazine rag articles all the time, right?

As some may have read in previous posts, I couldn’t resist buying a well-worn Dakota Model 10 (a rare thing, it would seem) with outstanding English walnut stocks for a very low price. The unusual caliber, .35 Whelen, also likely contributed to the low price. The plan was to rebarrel it, and I was sorely tempted by the little Hornet but opted for the Bee after stumbling onto 500 rounds of virgin Bee brass. I didn’t really want any better performance but was hoping for longer brass life…I guess we’ll see on that.

Anyway, this particular Model 10 ended up being an earlier, transitional model, with a serial number just under 200 and featuring the rear scope base mounted directly on the receiver ring. The current versions without a quarter rib have the rear base mounted on the barrel and cantilever back over the receiver ring. The very earliest models also featured a slimmer profile finger lever, in the area where it wraps around the front of the trigger guard, and a spherical front sling eye mounted in the fore stock that also served as the fore-stock retaining screw. The current M10s, like this specimen, utilize a barrel-band mounted front sling stud, the aesthetics of which I don’t really favor on a slender, sightless barrel.

There also seemed to be a change in the firing pin design, somewhere along the way, after the rifle’s introduction in 1992. I don’t know precisely when all these revisions took place, but I still prefer everything about the very first M10s over the current versions, including the more petite looking non-quarter-rib option. It’s probably just me, but I feel the quarter rib adds an undesirable bulkiness to the otherwise wickedly rakish M10 appearance. I do not plan to retain the barrel band on this .218 Bee, instead I will be replacing the band with the older style spherical front sling eye on the fore stock.

As mentioned, this rifle is chambered for the .35 Whelen, an absolutely superb big game cartridge…that really does nothing for me. With the rifle spitting out a 250 grain bullet at about 2550 fps, I’m guessing this is about as much power as one could get in a standard Model 10 without going to the larger and rather awkward looking “magnum” version. That level of performance nips right on the heels of the .338 Winchester…likely why the first owner opted for the thick recoil pad, instead of the more elegant steel Dakota butt plate. Could you imagine a 6 lbs. .338 with a steel butt plate??!!

Buying online can be very risky, especially when there are few pictures, and the quality of those pics is poor, but I fell in love with the English walnut stocks on this Dakota as soon as I opened the case, as they exhibit my favorite wood color and grain type: honey colored with highly contrasting black mineral streaking. To my eyes, this variety of thin-shelled walnut figure represents the acme of class and elegance. For some reason, this same contrasting dark streaking I see in my wife’s legs does not really appeal to me much…just kidding Dear!

The stock is shaped to perfection, with that gorgeous, slender wrist and fore stock, and, combined with a weight of just 6 lbs., it feels in the hands like a fine English double. And, like a fine double, it seems to fly to the shoulder. The checkering is also superbly executed, as is the wood-to-metal fit. I think only the addition of a jet-black ebony fore-end tip could make the stocks any better. Here are a few pics of the rifle:




With the new Bee barrel. Kind of makes the otherwise elegant Ruger #1 look rather clunky, doesn't it:



As mentioned before, there were some significant hiccups on the barrel. I was hoping to avoid the tedious handwork involved in inletting, shaping, and checkering stocks, because that would push this project back months, if not years. It was critical, then, that the barrel match the existing fore stock, the figure of which also matches the butt stock perfectly…no doubt from the same blank, something that doesn’t seem to be the case with Dakota M10s anymore. I also needed the forestock to still match the original .35 Whelen barrel, so I didn't want to scrape or do any fitting of the fore stock. This means that any oversized dimensions in the barrel needed to be taken off of the barrel, instead of opening up the barrel channel in the fore stock. Consequently, any undersized dimensions on the barrel would mean gaps in the nigh perfect wood-to-metal fit. Unfortunately, Dakota uses a proprietary barrel contour on its rifles, resulting in this Douglas .224" 1:12" barrel costing as much as a primo Lilja would have. The fit was close but not perfect, as the pics show.




The barrel machining work and chamber reaming is relatively straightforward and requires only a few hours on the lathe and mill, making it possible to make significant progress in a short amount of limited time. For reference sake, to those interested in possibly doing something like this, the Dakota 10 used two thread configurations over time for the barrel tenon, and mine is the earlier 15/16" x 16 TPI, with .275" wide extractor slot cut at a 45-degree angle. The original barrel came off about like a Ruger #1 barrel, which is to say not very tight at all. I was able to get all this done before I left for Japan, and I even got a scope mounted in hopes I could get to the range. Alas, all I managed to do was load 50 rounds of ammunition.




I had also acquired an extractor from Dakota that was labeled .22 Hornet/.223 Rem when it arrived. This gave me hope the design would require little fitting, but the extractor ended up merely being an oversized blank. The action had to be disassembled probably four or five times to get the proper fit and function, through trial and error. The overlong blank would lock up the action when the lever was lowered, and there is really no way to measure and cut once to get the proper fit. Perhaps having an existing .218 Bee extractor as a pattern would have gotten it closer faster, but the final fitting would still need to be done. I guess this was the most frustrating part of all.

Fortuitously, the contour was close enough that the front scope base and fore stock hanger were a good fit, both held on with dual 6-48 screws. In contrast to the more recent Dakotas, with the rear base mounted on the barrel with 8-40 screws and cantilevering back over the receiver ring, the rear base on mine is mounted directly on the receiver with the traditional gunsmith 6-48 screws (the old and new front bases are secured with two 6-48 screws)...again, for reference sake.

Back to the reloading. Had I opted for the Hornet, my life could have been made quite a bit easier, as I am all equipped to load this smallest commercial round, but I had a hankering for a Bee, requiring new dies, shell holder, and I went ahead and bought one of those really nifty Sinclair priming tools…and that was to become my biggest frustration so far.

I really like the precision and concept of this little hand-priming tool, but it is quite a pain to get set up. First, there was a small burr just inside the threaded shell holder cap, and, with the already tight tolerances, it took me about 30 minutes to get the flat shell holder installed. Exacerbating this was those microscopic set screws used to secure the shell holder…surely some other means could have been devised, and you would think Sinclair could provide a hex key...c'mon guys! Also, since the shell holder is basically screwed into place, various shims of differing sizes are needing to get the shell holder mouth timed to a convenient location. Finally, once that was accomplished, it was clear the travel on the ram needed adjustment, requiring disassembly of the whole unit. I suppose once set up, this would be a great little tool, but I wouldn’t want to try to reload two different calibers with this thing. In the end, after messing with the Sinclair for about two hours, I pulled out my old RCBS priming tool (I had an old 32-20 shell holder in the tool box) and had 50 cases primed in about 10 minutes. No, it is not as precise a feel, I guess, but the RCBS tool is thoroughly debugged and highly effective.





I also happened to have stumbled onto a set of Wilson .218 Bee dies at the LGS for a ridiculous price, so I used these to size and seat bullets. In contrast to the Sinclair tool, the Wilson tools are so basic and intuitive, it was a real joy using them. I will also say the feel these tools provide (I didn’t bother using an arbor press, just hand strength) really enhance the loading experience and serve to underscore the variation of the brass from case to case, something that would have been lost using a massive reloading press with heavy leverage.


So, here is the wicked little Bee, 12.5 grains of Lil' Gun behind a 40 Nosler BT, ready to be shot when I get a chance. Stay tuned for a range report.



TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 11-29-2016 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 11-29-2016, 02:45 PM
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Welcome home, TBR!

It's good to have you back. Having done a bit of International travel myself, I can relate to the inevitable culture shock one gets upon reentry into this culture. (After one such trip, I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle of the local grocery store. Truly, how many different kinds of Cheerios do we need anyway?) Simplicity is its own reward and complexity contains its own curse.

I like your Dakota project very much, and can't wait to see how the little Bee shoots. I have no experience with that caliber, but I have always loved small fast light recoiling rifles. You have a beauty with that Dakota, and that marble cake swirl figure in the stock is to die for.

Again, welcome home. It's always fun to see your new projects come to life.

BRP
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Old 11-29-2016, 02:51 PM
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Looks like 30 ACC blackout in shrunken format! Honey, I shrunk the ammo! Neat.
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Old 11-29-2016, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueRidgeParson View Post
Welcome home, TBR!

It's good to have you back. Having done a bit of International travel myself, I can relate to the inevitable culture shock one gets upon reentry into this culture. (After one such trip, I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle of the local grocery store. Truly, how many different kinds of Cheerios do we need anyway?) Simplicity is its own reward and complexity contains its own curse.

I like your Dakota project very much, and can't wait to see how the little Bee shoots. I have no experience with that caliber, but I have always loved small fast light recoiling rifles. You have a beauty with that Dakota, and that marble cake swirl figure in the stock is to die for.

Again, welcome home. It's always fun to see your new projects come to life.

BRP
Yes, it is the language and the culture differences that are shocking to me. This may be unique to Japan, but there is a very high level of politeness and sincerity inherent in the Japanese language, and it was so refreshing to be immersed into it again. I get it a bit at work here, but not the total immersion one experiences living in Japan. Also, I cringe when I hear people talk about how this country has no peers, and I always wonder whether or not those claiming so have ever experienced life in any other first-world country. Yes, from a raw liberty and freedom perspective, there are no peers, I guess, but the respect and courtesy shown in Japan, even from the no-nonsense, dead serious police, immigration, and customs officials, tend to breed the same respect and courtesy from everyone. In contrast, upon entering this country, the condescending attitude and disrespectful treatment from most everyone, whether it be from immigration, customs, or the local Starbucks employees, tends to breed similar contempt, disrespect, and, in my case, outrage at their attitudes. It's like my presence constitutes a huge inconvenience to them, as they avoid eye contact, show a total lack of interest, and hold separate conversations with fellow workers while dismantling my luggage. Excuse the heck out of me being here and making you do your job!!!

Sorry, end of rant.

TBR

Last edited by TEDDY BEAR RAT; 11-29-2016 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 11-29-2016, 07:43 PM
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The Bee is a great round IME. It performs well and is easily twice the cartridge the Hornet is overall. Now compare it to the K Hornet and we are a lot closer. I shoot Nosler 40 grain bullets too and seem to have good luck with them. I am sure you will have a shooter with that combo.
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Old 11-30-2016, 07:09 AM
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Trying to decide whether the 218 Bee or 222 Rem. is my favorite 22 caliber centerfire would be a very difficult decision.
That Dakota is the stuff that dreams are made of for me. It would be a great retirement gift from me to me (if I could find one!)

As an aside, your observations on other cultures and the US are well taken TBR. While I'm sure the contrast is more pronounced between here and Japan, it is certainly obvious when returning from Europe or the UK as well. We'd do well to learn a little more humility and manners, but that's just my opinion.
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