Skip to main content

How To Repair A Shotgun Rib

How To Repair A Shotgun Rib

It wasn't all that many years ago that the majority of shotguns sold had plain barrels. As a kid growing up in western North Carolina, I rarely even saw a shotgun in the field with a vent rib. Those I did see belonged to local high rollers, the movers and shakers of our small town. They had the money to buy the fancy "extras" for their guns, like barrels with vent ribs. As worldly authorities on all matters pertaining to firearms at the age of 15, my buddies and I dismissed ribs as just fancy window dressing. We sure didn't have ribs on any of the assorted break-open single shots, economy pumps, and old semiautomatics we used each season.

The Remington 870 shotgun had suffered a shallow dent in its rib and was a good candidate for repair.

That's all changed now. Manufacturers put ribs on the vast majority of shotgun barrels sold in the U.S., and in fact, those plain barrels are now the exception. This is due to a number of factors. First, and perhaps most importantly, guns with vent rib barrels sell better. It seems like gun buyers have more disposable income nowadays, and the extra cost for a vent rib is not a significant factor. Also, new technology has made it faster and consequently cheaper for manufacturers to install ribs on barrels. And, finally, regardless of what my buddies and I thought years ago, a rib does make a shotgun look nicer, and it provides a nice platform for a variety of different types of front and mid-rib sights or beads.


With more and more shotguns sporting ribs, it's to be expected to run across those that have become damaged. Vented ribs are by their very nature susceptible to damage. Ribs normally consist of a relatively thin, flat bar of steel or aluminum attached to the barrel by a number of separate posts. Vent ribs can also be found that are made of a single bar of steel or aluminum in which spaces between the posts have been milled away. Both types of ribs are easily damaged.


In most cases the damage is caused by a shotgun being dropped on its rib, which generally results in a section of the rib being bent down towards the barrel. The real problem, however, arises in repairing the rib.

A rubber O-ring holds the two claws and the crosspiece (L) of the Vent Rib Tool against the shotgun's rib (C), and the elevating screw exerts gentle pressure against the tool's crosspiece as it lifts the claws and the damaged rib (R).

Over the years I have seen numerous attempts by gun owners to repair dented ribs. Seldom were they successful. Typically, the gun owner uses a tapered blade screwdriver to try to pry up the depressed section of the rib. This causes a number of problems. Because the screwdriver blade is tapered or wedge-shaped, the gun owner often inadvertently scars the barrel or the sides of the opening of the vent in the rib below the dent. In addition, the top of the rib may be twisted as it is pried up. This is due to uneven pressure being applied to the underside of the dented rib.


An Easy Fix

Dented ribs can often be repaired quite easily. All it takes is the right tool and a willingness to go slowly and work carefully. It doesn't take much in the way of tools to do this job properly. In fact, it only takes one--and it's not all that expensive.


The tool is called Murray's Vent Rib Tool. I have no idea who Murray was, or is, but his tool is truly the answer to a gunsmith's prayer. As far as I know, the only source for this amazing tool is Brownells, Dept. ST, 200 S. Front St., Montezuma, IA 50171; 800-741-0015; www.brownells.com. The tool sells for only $30, and considering the cost of a new shotgun barrel, it's well worth it!

The Vent Rib Tool consists of two claws that straddle a brass bar. The brass bar, which is about three inches long, 1/2 inch high, and 1/4 inch wide, has a milled cut out along the bottom side. A crosspiece connects the tops of the two claws. An elevating screw runs through this crosspiece and bears against the top of the brass bar. A rubber O-ring holds the two claws against the crosspiece and against the rib when the tool is used. Other than an Allen wrench to turn the elevating screw, that's all there is to it!

Once the job has been completed, there should be little evidence of the damaged rib.

How you actually use the tool will depend upon the seriousness of the damage to the vent rib. A friend gave me a Remington 870 barrel that had a fairly shallow dent in the rib at approximately the mid point of the barrel. It was a simple matter to just place the brass bar base of the Murray's Tool over the center of the dent in the rib. The bar was positioned so the milled relief cut on the bottom of the bar was centered over the mid point of the dent. The two claws attached to the crosspiece were then positioned so they hooked under the lowest point of the dented rib.

The elevating screw in the crosspiece was then turned in so it lifted the claws up. Since the claws were hooked to the underside of the dented rib, the rib also rose. It was just a matter of carefully raising the rib until it was just slightly above the normal level of the top of the rib. When the lifting screw was disengaged, the rib flexed back down just a bit. You may have to do this a couple times until you get the rib back into its correct position.

Because they engage both sides of the rib at the same time, the two claws eliminate the possibility of twisting the rib as it is raised. The lifting force is equal on both sides of the rib. This is certainly something you would never get using a screwdriver as a pry bar!

More Severe Damage

If the dent is more severe, you have to approach the job a bit differently. For example, suppose the top of the rib is touching the top of the dented barrel.

In that case you have to raise the dent in stages. You first engage the claws as close to the center of the dent as possible on the breech side of the dent. Once the claws are engaged you raise the rib just a bit, perhaps no more than 1/32 to 1/16 inch. You then move the Murray's Tool to the muzzle side of the dent and position the claws the same distance from the center point of the dent as before. Again, you raise the rib just a bit, certainly no more than 1/16 inch. You need to elevate the dented rib

just enough to allow the claws to extend under the lowest point of the dent. Once that is done you are ready for the third and final positioning of the tool.

As with the Remington 870's repairs, the Murray's Tool is placed directly over the lowest point of the dent, and the claws are engaged on either side of the rib. Make sure that neither of the claws is canted to one side or the other. They should both bear firmly and squarely against the sides of the rib. Engage the elevating screw with the Allen wrench and slowly raise the rib. Again, you will need to raise the rib just a bit above the normal level of the top of the rib. When you disengage the tool, the rib will tend to bend back down just a bit. If all goes well, even a severe dent in a rib like this can be repaired so that there is virtually no trace of the original damage.

If you're a shotgunner or a gunsmith hobbyist, the Murray's Vent Rib Tool is one of those unique, inexpensive tools that you really should have in your toolbox. I know I'm awfully glad I have one!

Until next time, good luck and good gunsmithing!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06.Get the Most Out of the .30-06 Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished walnut stock. Magazine capacity is four rounds. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field.Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review Rifles

Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review

Steve Gash - August 17, 2020

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished...

The Remington Model 700 PCR is a long-range rig built for punching paper, ringing steel, and hammering hogs, deer, and coyotes.Remington Model 700 PCR Review Rifles

Remington Model 700 PCR Review

Sam Wolfenberger - April 15, 2019

The Remington Model 700 PCR is a long-range rig built for punching paper, ringing steel, and...

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the company's 395-grain Sub-X (Subsonic–eXpanding) bullet that is designed to expand and penetrate but not break up.Hornady .450 Bushmaster Subsonic Ammo Ammo

Hornady .450 Bushmaster Subsonic Ammo

Steve Gash - August 13, 2020

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the...

See More Trending Articles

More Gunsmithing



One of the most fascinating things I learned years ago in my gunsmith shop related to brokenThe Best Sources for Gun Parts Gunsmithing

The Best Sources for Gun Parts

Reid Coffield - June 05, 2013

One of the most fascinating things I learned years ago in my gunsmith shop related to broken

Precision barrelmaker, inventor, and writer, Harry M. Pope was also a match-winning shooter.Harry M. Pope: Accurate Rifle Barrels Gunsmithing

Harry M. Pope: Accurate Rifle Barrels

Joel J. Hutchcroft - September 11, 2019

Precision barrelmaker, inventor, and writer, Harry M. Pope was also a match-winning shooter.

Some forms of rifling are a bit easier to clean, some have a bit longer accuracy life, and some break-in a bit quicker, but when the smallest group possible is on the line, there is no The Mark of a Real Gunmaker Gunsmithing

The Mark of a Real Gunmaker

Terry Wieland - July 28, 2020

Some forms of rifling are a bit easier to clean, some have a bit longer accuracy life, and...



Many factors contribute to accuracy, such as ammunition, barrel fit, the tolerance of howIs Slide-to-Frame Fit Important for Accuracy? Gunsmithing

Is Slide-to-Frame Fit Important for Accuracy?

Brad Miller, Ph.D. - August 19, 2016

Many factors contribute to accuracy, such as ammunition, barrel fit, the tolerance of how

See More Gunsmithing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now