Custom Rifle Build


December 27, 2011, 05:33 PM
I haven't seen many custom rifles, but those I have seen looked to be outstanding, both aesthetically and in performance. I was reading another thread in this subforum, and clicked a link to the Howa 1500 thread ( To make a long story short, I liked what I saw.

So I got to thinking of the possibility of assembling my own custom rifle. I see that I can buy a Howa 1500 barreled action, and I know a variety of options for a stock are available online. The question is, what else would one need, as far as knowledge, tools, or rifle materials?

Is there anything that is placed between the action/barrel and the rifle stock? Is this sort of thing something I could likely do in my home, or does it require formal education and/or specialized tools?

For the sake of this thread, suppose I bought a Howa M1500 barreled action in .30-06 (, and bought a Manners MCS-T stock ( to match it.

What else would I need? Or is this sort of task something only a gunsmith should be doing?

Thanks. Apologies if this is a dumb question - never really considered this as an option before.

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December 27, 2011, 05:49 PM
normally, you would want to bed that, unless you got manner's "chassis" system. plenty of threads on THR discussing how to do the bedding, though it is normally something people pay gunsmiths to do.

you might need to inlet the stock. hopefully it would be close, but may need some tweaking.

to be honest, unless you just want to do the project, you could probably find a used custom gun for a pretty fair price, though it will probably have a different caliber and different action.

depending on what school of thought you follow, you might want to thread the end of the barrel for a muzzle device (suppressor or brake) and/or add iron sights or detachable bottom metal. most factory guns aren't "true". people normally pay gunsmiths to "true them up" or "blueprint" them. plenty of threads on that around here too.

Ghost Tracker
December 27, 2011, 06:08 PM
If you like the challenge, enjoy the accomplishment, were the type to build well-executed models when you were a kid, your workbench is well-used, well-organized & well-equipped then you are the perfect candidate to assemble your own rifle. If you're looking to have a nicer rifle while saving money, you're wasting your time. Gun manufacturers have economies of scale on their side. They buy more stuff from suppliers, build more guns, build 'em faster, test them harder & you can't touch 'em in the game of price vs quality. They'll win.
By researching the details, taking enough time, doing some things two (three?) times & enjoying your'll finish the rifle. Is it more "custom" than say...a nice Remington 700 or Winchester 70 (or Ruger 77, or Savage 110) for the price? Only time will tell.

December 27, 2011, 06:11 PM
Agree with taliv, you don't want to "learn" how to bed your custom rifle. Pay a good smith to pillar bed it - it's not that much $$$.


December 27, 2011, 06:46 PM
Almost every time I had the means to buy a rifle, I had so much going on in my life that it seemed foolish to spend the money there, so I never did. The exception was when I was in the Air Force... I had the means, but didn't want to have to store my firearm in the base armory, so I didn't buy any firearms during those years of foolishly disposed income (should have saved it, but alas... I didn't).

Now I'm in a situation where I'm ready, but I can't help but ask myself, it's been this long, why not wait a while longer and do it right?

I've mentioned before that I only plan to have one hunting rifle. Whatever I end up getting, I plan to keep until it goes Kaput, or I leave it to one of my kids. So I know I want something very high quality, both in reliability and accuracy. I also want it to be very aesthetically pleasing. Considering I've never had anything really "custom" in my life, or tailored anything specifically to my interests, and I'm more interested in firearms than just about anything else, this seems like the perfect first (and maybe only) custom item I would ever own.

I'm definitely not set on doing it myself. I wouldn't mind paying a gunsmith to assemble a rifle and "true it up" for me. At this point, I've pretty much accepted that as a step I'll be taking. Even if I have to wait another year, I'm almost totally set on going this (custom) route. So let's move on...

From what I could tell, a barreled action includes every moving part of the firearm. Obviously the stock also needs to be selected and purchased. What else would a gunsmith need that I would be expected to supply, aside from instructions and money?

And speaking of money... just so I have a number in mind during all this. What would a typical or expected number be when all is said and done and rifle is in my hands? Ballparking... I have no idea what gunsmiths tend to charge for any service, much less a service like this one.

Again, I really appreciate any input from someone who's explored and/or taken this route firsthand.

December 27, 2011, 07:29 PM
Well the rifle you're discussing is analogous to say something built by Cooper Arms or there abouts. The Howa is an excellent basis. But there are others. Even good used actions can be barreled and finished to a degree that will surprise you.

Slow rust blued steel is the hardest to get right because one tiny flaw in the metal will always show through. But, if you are OK with modern high-tech finishes like KG GunCoat, or Cerra-Kote, etc. - you can build a beautiful rifle on something less than absolutely pristine action metal. There are high tech fillers that will surface minor pits and such that would not pass muster for slow rust blueing, but will be fine "blocked" under say a KG finish.

As Art says, you might be better off buying a very nice semi-custom used rifle and then doing what it takes to get it to your level of finish. Some of which you can do yourself (like bedding - pillar, glass, etc.). Or, if when you get it opened up enough to see the work, you can farm it out to a good local gunsmith - if you are not comfortable.

In my area, good gunsmiths won't even talk to you for less than $300 for anything other than routine service. They are in demand, so they prioritize their time to the high rollers. I suspect that by your comments, you do not want to compete with those guys?

This ain't rocket science. It's building a machine. The biggest trick is that it must be ergonomic. So all the pieces are pretty much compound curves and such. It takes a reasonably well equipped shop to do all but the most demanding machine work - and that can be farmed out. If you have a reasonably well equipped shop (drill press, bench belt sander, and a buffing wheel] you will be fine. The pieces will sit for a week at time curing or setting up and the hand work goes slow, but it's good therapy.

Stock checkering is an art so if you want a fancy checkering job, you'll either start on a throw-away rifle (as in sell) and work your way up, or you will farm it out. There are plenty of good stock blanks out there if you look. But, as Art said, there are thousands of fine used rifles out there too.

The reasons to build a rifle have to do with a lot of things, but price is not one of them. Most often it is something based on another premise. In my case I have a basket full of parts and some unregistered actions that are going together to be shooters which are not on anyone's list. Or, the opposite as in I have registered actions that were way overbuilt originally (think M1917) and have already been "attacked" by a bubba. These are going to calibers not commonly available in the used market for working mans money or into configurations that please me and are not store bought available.

So the rational needs a bit more thought? What is it you want that you can't buy already built?

As an aside - say I found a "salt stock" Browning Hi-Power with moderate rust under the barrel for $350. I'd grab that rifle in a heart beat. I'd strip the stock and soak it for a month in alcohol to neutralize the salt intrusion (you'll never get all), then I'd relieve the barrel channel to free float it, dry it in attic for 6 months before flooding it with penetrating epoxy and adding a fine finish. All the metal would go off to a friend in Arizona to get Mettacol coated in satin black, and I'd be a happy camper.

Happy to leave that rifle to my kids - it's as fine a rifle as ever produced with a semi-fatal flaw in process. If you can work around the flaw, you have something most others will never have - a fine European action in a beautiful piece of tricky wood. It's not a rifle for the faint of heart, but it is a doable build in a home shop with help.

December 27, 2011, 08:02 PM
there are some very good smiths around here that charge very reasonable rates. bedding an action is usually $150ish

GA Precision does some fantastic work and you can see their price list here

threading a muzzle is $105
Chamber and true the action and bolt and crown muzzle on customers rifle $350
Pillar Bed McMillan or MCS stock with 7075 pillars, skimmed in Marine-Tex $235

all of those prices assume you are providing all parts, just for reference. You will probably find local guys (in most red states) who will do it cheaper and faster. Some of them do great work, others not so much.

you could also do the build off a used action to save some bucks. Toss in $315 for a custom barrel (like a bartlein, krieger, etc). Since the barrel is the most important thing for accuracy, upgrading from the factory barrel will usually give you the best bang for the buck. and you can change the cartridge while you're at it. lots of better options than 30-06 these days.

December 27, 2011, 08:09 PM
I started that thread! You may need to do some inletting and bedding as well as trigger work, barrel floating etc. I recommend you have a gunsmith do it if you feel unsure. On a custom rig things get pricey very quickly so be prepared to spend a lot of dough. Mine was under $500 but I just used a Boyd's stock nothing tactical. I am in the process of glass bedding and trigger work. It will be the 3rd rifle I have bedded. Hope this helps and good luck!

Ghost Tracker
December 27, 2011, 08:12 PM
...a "salt stock" Browning Hi-power...I'd grab that rifle...Ahhh, THAT'S not fair! When you're as big of a BHP (FN P35) fan as I am. You do NOT expect the phrase "Browning Hi-Power" to be a danged ol' rifle! :neener:

December 27, 2011, 08:39 PM
I really appreciate all the comments and help. I have to admit those 'smith prices are more reasonable than I expected.

December 28, 2011, 12:39 AM
and you can change the cartridge while you're at it. lots of better options than 30-06 these days.
Forgive my na´vetÚ, but what would you suggest? I tend to think of .30-06 as a general purpose big game caliber. I was also considering .270 winchester.

I'd be using the rifle to hunting coyotes (I don't care about the pelts), hogs/javelina, deer, elk, and black bear.

December 28, 2011, 05:59 AM
If you wanted to purchase one already built contact David at

A couple of months ago, he had 4 or 5 rifles built on M700 actions. They were priced comparable to an avg priced Cooper (the ones less than $2K). I didn't ask about calibers.

I had them rebarrel one of my M70s to 260 Remington. They did a very nice job.

matt 7mm
December 28, 2011, 06:26 AM
have you looked at e.r. shaw.i heard talk of them in other posts so i looked up there web site looked like some nice rifles built on savage actions i think? prices didnt look bad to me but i think there was a pretty good waiting list like 14 months or so.

December 28, 2011, 08:04 AM
I'd start by looking for the caliber you want. If you know your hunting conditions and distances you'll have a better idea than us as to what will be suitable (though confirmation by those in the know helps).

Once you've zeroed in on caliber, find the barrel you want. Consider the weight and material based on your needs and see which actions it is available for.

If you have a favorite rifle that would make a good candidate use it. If not, buy a new action or find a used one.

Custom is great but only if it serves your purpose. Consider that purpose before spending any money.

December 28, 2011, 09:54 AM
well said skylerbone

December 28, 2011, 02:29 PM
I'd start by looking for the caliber you want. If you know your hunting conditions and distances you'll have a better idea than us as to what will be suitable (though confirmation by those in the know helps).
The problem is, I dont. My hunting experience is limited to a trip I took with my uncles once when I was 13, and tromping through the woods with my brother with our pellet guns throughout our teens.

I live (and will hunt) in AZ (possibly Alaska pending a move), so I expect my shots to be at or under 500 yards. I think that's a reasonable distance for a .30-06 or .270 to take the game I listed (yotes, deer, elk, black bear, and javelina/hogs), but I don't know from experience.

What do you guys think? Do I need to look at a different caliber for this game at thee distances?

December 28, 2011, 02:53 PM
you don't NEED a different caliber. My only point was that you can get similarly or more effective cartridges in a short-action in 7mm or 6.5mm with less recoil and that will be more popular. and by more popular, i mean, you will have better luck selling a custom bolt gun in 7wsm (or several other current fad calibers) than 30-06.

i know you have no intention of selling at the moment, but over the course of putting 1000 rounds or so through it, you will develop your own opinions about what you need and it will likely be different than what you pick starting out.

December 28, 2011, 03:31 PM
Yeah I understand that. It'd be a smarter move anyway, and if I can accomplish the same task with a more popular cartridge, it makes sense to do it.

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