When you mess around with firearms, especially OLD firearms, it is important to be able to inspect them before putting them into service. One area that is difficult to inspect is the bore.
The device you would need to inspect a rifle or pistol bore is called a “Bore Scope”
These devices are used in many types of industry and medical. Ever have a colonoscopy? Â Well then you are intimate with a Bore Scope!
The best Bore Scope for the home gunsmith is the Gradient Lens Corp – “HAWKEYE”
It is available from Brownell’s Gunsmith Supply as a very convenient kit
But at nearly $700, it is a bit rich for the “Kitchen Gunsmith”. I had one a few years ago that I bought when the kit was $475. I sold it to a friend as I needed the $$ for another project. Figured I could always borrow it when needed……….he moved 2500 miles away! Ugh….
There must be something available that performs reasonably well for much less cabbage!
Ebay has dozens of bore scopes listed. Dozens of them under $100 and many under $25! Most of them have a lens diameter of 7mm (.284) . This diameter is too large for anything under a 7mm bore. But it would work great for inspecting a chamber or a larger bore……we hope.
The Hawkeye bore scope has one HUGE advantage. It is a “Direct View device. You are looking through a series of lenses in a long thin tube with your eye. Â All the less expensive devices are using a tiny camera on the end of a cord and you view the picture on a TV screen. The resolution of the camera, the computer and the TV screen all come into play. The cameras at best are low resolution and very slow processing. But , what do you want for $25!
I decided to buy two versions of the Ebay cameras and test them out.
The first camera sold for $13.68 with free shipping! How on God’s green earth can they make something in China, package it in a nice metal box with a bunch of accessories, ship it to the USA and then ship it to a dealer and then ship it to me for under $15!!!. I couldn’t ship a single package to china for under $25!
Waterproof 7mm 6LED USB Borescope Endoscope Snake Inspection Camera+ï¼ˆMetal box ï¼‰
We’ll call this CAMERA #1
This bore scope is of the Spaghetti variety. A long thin flexible wire with the camera attached to the end. On the other end of the wire is a USB plug with a small thumb wheel to dim the LED lights that surround the camera lens. It includes a disc for the needed software, a 45 degree mirror adapter, instructions, and a metal box to hold everything. The diameter of this camera head is 7mm
The 45 degree mirror is useless for what we are doing. The focal length of the camera (distance something needs to be from the lens to focus) is about 2″. With the mirror right up against the surface of the bore, you see practically nothing. Might work in a 10g shotgun barrel or a cannon, but not in a rifle barrel.
The second camera is of the Viagra variety. The camera is mounted on the end of a semi rigid rod. The rod can be bent to go around corners, but can also remain stiff to insert in a bore.
Dia 5.5mm USB Endoscope Borescope Inspection Camera Video DVR W/6 LEDs
We’ll Call this CAMERA #2
This camera is a whooping $33.89 with free shipping! It has a nice handle with a button that when depressed takes a snapshot of the video. NICE! The light intensity thumb wheel is on the handle…DOUBLE NICE! It includes a CD for the program and instructions. Nothing else. The real advantage to this bore scope is the camera head is only 5.5mm in diameter!
Using the camera as you receive it is simply not very good. Â The focal length and the light pattern does not work well in the confines of a small firearm bore. In my estimation, as delivered, Â it is a waste of time. But with hours of experimenting I figured out a way to make these cameras useful.
The word “Photography” is Greek for “Gathering Images Of Light Of Subjects That Won’t Stand Still And Have Fake Smiles”…..or something like that. But LIGHT is the important thing. The better the light…..The better the picture. We need to figure out a way to put light at the exact correct focal point and at the correct intensity. Both of these cameras have a bunch of setting in the software for contrast, brightness, saturation, etc…but without the light in the right place, the setting do near nothing to help you see your bore.
If you insert the camera into the breech end of the barrel and a flashlight in the muzzle end, you will find that you get a great picture about 2′ from the muzzle of the barrel.
Ahah!…The light needs to be about 2” from the front of the lens. Now , how to do this throughout the length of the barrel?
I experimented with a small “grain of wheat” bulb and a white LED bulb. Both attached to a wire and a variable DC power supply. This worked OK but was cumbersome and too involved.
The bore scopes all have a nice set of miniature LED lights surrounding the camera. I just needed to figure a way to get this light 2″ in front of the camera.
Here’s what I came up with:
Gauge Pins……..These are sold in a set depending on the diameter you need and are used to accurately measure holes in machining operations:
I selected two pins. One would be a slip fit in a 38-55 barrel from a 1881 Ballard. This barrel is a “sewer pipe” from back in the black powder era. And the other pin was a slip fit into a modern Uberti 45 Long Colt barrel with about 500 rounds down the bore.
My plan was to insert the pins in the bore, and push them along in front of the lens with the cameras LEDs bouncing off the shinny end surface of the gauge pins to illuminate the bore. But the machined ends of the gauge pins proved too shinny and overpowered the bore scope camera.
So I covered the end with white medical adhesive tape.
This proved just about the perfect amount of light. You don’t need to run out and spend over $100 on a gauge pin set for a few barrel diameters. A wooden dowel or even a pencil with a piece of white tape on the end would work well. But I found the more I sealed the bore with a tight fitting pin, the better the image.
To keep the pins exactly 2″ from the camera, I attached a simple piece of thin copper wire to the camera body with electrical tape. Use copper so you don’t scratch the bore and bend the end over so you don’t give yourself a hypodermic injection!
Insert the pin into the bore with the camera after it and simply push it along:
OK, so let’s cut to the chase! What are the results!
Camera #1 without the illuminating pin in the Ballard barrel:
Camera #1 with the illuminating pin in the Ballard barrel:
Camera #1 Still Picture with flashlight at muzzle and camera approx 2″ away:
Camera #1 with pin in bore inspecting the chamber of the Uberti barrel:
Camera #1 Without illuminating pin in Uberti barrel:
Camera #1 with illuminating pin in Uberti barrel:
Camera #1 still picture 2″ from illuminating pin:
More Bettah! The software was better…The video was better….the resolution was better. This camera was leaps and bounds better than the other. Best $20 you’ll ever spend!
Camera #2 with illuminating pin in Uberti barrel:
Camera #2 Still Photo with illuminating pin Ballard barrel:
Camera#2 Still photos with illuminating pin Uberti barrel:
So there you have it! A way to make these cheap bore cameras usable. No, it isn’t a Hawkeye! But it isn’t $700 either! The images I’ve been seeing are usable to see bore condition, tool marks, throat wear, etc.
Hope you enjoyed it!
Lyman Introduces Low Cost Bore Scope!
Lyman Reloading Company just released info of an under $300 bore scope for the gunsmithing community. I ordered one from Optics Planet for $269. As soon as it arrives I’ll add a review to this article.