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Building a bolt gun?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by coloradokevin, Feb 17, 2019.

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  1. coloradokevin

    coloradokevin Member

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    Have any of you built a precision bolt action rifle at home? I've built quite a few AR-15's, but that platform tends to be ideal for the home builder. Bolt guns have always seemed to be another matter.

    I'm currently picturing a gun I'd like to build, but I don't know how easy it would be to pull this off. In essence, I'd like to setup a .300 PRC or .300 RUM in a way that would allow it to function as a hunting rifle, while still filling a role as a reliable precision rifle... that's always a tough balance since hunting rifles tend to be light and nimble, and precision rifles tend to be heavier. I kind of want to strike a balance between the two.

    I've thought about doing something like a Proof Research carbon fiber wrapped barrel, running my existing suppressor for noise and recoil control, and then putting that setup into a precision action and stock.

    Anyway, the long and short of it is that I don't know how practical it would be to do something like this at home. I've heard of the RemAge conversions, I've heard of short chambering, and I've wondered about other practical ways to make this happen. I do not have a lathe at home, so any kind of gunsmithing work that would require such a device would put this beyond my capabilities at the moment. It also seems that stuff for magnum length actions is less supported for the home builder, but that could be a misconception on my part.

    Basically, I was just wondering if anyone has built a bolt gun themselves, and what they thought of the process? Any tips on the best way to go about achieving these results at home? If it isn't practical I may go another route, but I do like building stuff myself, particularly when I'm picturing a setup I haven't seen for sale anywhere.
     
  2. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Buy an Impact, Seekins, or Bighorn action and order a prechambered, drop in barrel. Bed it into a good stock. Slap in a TriggerTech trigger or Jewel. Pick your bottom metal. Done.

    Buy any other Rem 700 clone and order a Remage style barrel from any of a half dozen makers. Bed it into a good stock. Slap in a TriggerTech or Jewel trigger. Pick your bottom metal. Done.

    I’ve done short chambered barrels in the past, but by the time I paid for piloted finish reamers and micrometer reamer stops, barrel vise and action wrench, cutting oil, throating reamer, etc, I had spent more than I could have paid a smith to turn the shoulder to headspace on a standard short tenon barrel, and about the same price as having a smith do the full thread and chamber job - definitely more price overall, since I spent the money at the barrel maker doing the short chamber and thread work. The first one I did was for a Ruger M77 because I couldn’t find a local smith who would even take on the barrel work. I did a few more Ruger’s for customers when I had my shingle hanging and FFL, and did a few Rem 700’s. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it doesn’t yield as good of results as chambering done on a lathe, and is remarkably stressful to consider ruining your barrel on your first time touching the tools.

    The barrel nut style rifles are really the easiest way to do it yourself with the least cost and least risk.
     
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  3. horsemen61

    horsemen61 Member

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    It’s on my project list for sure!
     
  4. z7

    z7 Member

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    There are actually a lot of actions that you can build from. There are some that you can get a prefit for, others that use a barrel nut, triggers and stocks are easy

    Your struggle will be the balance, a heavy hunting rifle (10-12lbs scoped) could be a decent target rifle, but a 10lbs 300 magnum will still kick a good bit. I would look more closely to what you need and why the magnum, a 12lbs 6.5 Creedmoor or 260 rem is good medium game and a dandy target rifle

    I’d look at chassis vs stocks as well, a chassis can be had for 2-3 lbs and is as easy as 2 bolts, no bedding necessary
     
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  5. LoonWulf

    LoonWulf Member

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    To nut, or not to nut, THAT is the question.

    I'd suggest going with a decent action and a nutted barrel as well.

    I dislike the look of barrel nuts, and used a short chamber barrel for my . 375 Ruger Abolt, and 7mm stw 700.
    I did the reaming by hand with just a rented reamer, t-handle, and guages. I got lucky and both guns are very accurate, but as VT said, cost (even tho tooling was minimal) was about 1/2-2/3s what my local Smith would have charged.

    I've rebuilt a few savages and those are much easier to do consistently.

    Pretty much AR assembly level of tooling, and skills, good components, and you can consistently assemble a well built rifle.
     
  6. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    what do you want to use the rifle for?. if i had the money to even think of a research barrel then i would do like what varminterror said and go for a nice custom action, there are a few under $1000. bye time you got a ation and blue printed it you'd be close to a custom. i would do a rem/age to.
     
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  7. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I also don’t like barrel nuts. It’s a means to an end, but when you consider the compounding tolerances of the receiver thread, barrel thread, but thread, and nut “shoulder,” it just makes my brain itch. So I would much rather pay a Smith for the chamber/shoulder/threading work and skip having my brain itch so much wondering how much better my rifle might shoot if it didn’t have a nut.
     
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  8. Chuck R.

    Chuck R. Member

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    I'm looking at the same thing right now....but for another target rifle. I like the looks of a traditional barrel on a hunting rig.

    Zero experience other than building a few ARs and re-barreling my Ruger RPR this past spring. Based on that experience, my next target style rifle will wear a barrel nut. It was kind of cool having the barrel ordered and show up while I was still shooting the original. Once I was ready it was literally a 1 hr job to screw the new barrel on and start load development. Down time was measured in a couple day to include working up a load.

    I've got a REM 700 SA that's been blue printed and should be due a new barrel next year. Thinking going with a Bugholes prefit Bartlein and one of his "bugnuts".

    https://www.bugholes.com/category-s/2041.htm
     
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  9. taliv

    taliv Moderator Staff Member

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    barrel nuts have their place. i like building my own ARs at home because i get exactly what i want, because nobody sells exactly what i want as a complete rifle. but that's not the case for bolt guns.

    if you go through a lot of barrels, cause you wear them out or switch calibers a lot or something, and you don't want to send your rifle back and wait for a gunsmith to get around to your rebarrel, then a barrel nut is probably the cheapest option.

    but i would much rather not have a barrel nut if i had another choice
     
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  10. LoonWulf

    LoonWulf Member

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    Yeah, I agree the nuts imo arnt the "Best" option.
    Ershaw uses Savage actions on some of their custom rifles, but doesn't use the barrel nut.

    For home gun builders tho, they make life a lot simpler and easier.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
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  11. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Contributing Member

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    This. I don't, and won't, own a rifle that uses a barrel nut. Even if it weren't for the mechanical drawbacks, they're fugly. An exception was made for my wife's compact Axis .243, but that was because A) I didn't know if she'd take to centerfire rifle shooting, so didn't want to invest a lot and B) the scoped combo was on clearance for $199, so hard to go wrong.

    The Proof barrels are gonna be your best bet for a dual purpose rifle of acceptable weight. But you pay for that flexibility. I have put a lot of them into Remington, Surgeon, Defiance and other actions, and people are very happy with the results. All of my customers report sub-half MOA with good handloads and sometimes premium factory ammo.
     
  12. stillquietvoice

    stillquietvoice Contributing Member

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    You could even get a carbon fiber wrapped Bartel to shave weight for hunting.
     
  13. Chuck R.

    Chuck R. Member

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    Has anybody ever seen any accuracy comparisons of "nutted" vs "un-nutted" rifles?

    The reports I've seen of accuracy testing for pre-fits seem to be pretty good depending on a lot of the same factors that go into shouldered barrels (load, bedding etc.).

    Here's a really decent article by Criterion:

    https://criterionbarrels.com/media/practical-pre-fit-accuracy-testing/

    and another about a pre-fit McGowen:

    https://rifleshooter.com/2015/03/mcgowen-remage-barrel-review-spoiler-alert-it-shoots/
     
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  14. Picher

    Picher Member

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    My first rifle was a Savage 110 30-06, and being about 15 years old and earning my own money, Savage 110 seemed to be the only affordable one, but I was WRONG! That low-comb beast kicked the heck out of me!!! I bought a semi-finished (inletted) block of wood from Bishop and carved a pretty nice-looking copy of a Weatherby stock, marine epoxy bedded/free-floated.

    The rifle served its purpose and was very accurate, but the chamber was much more generous than necessary and wasn't compatible with my buddies sizing die setting for their Win 70's, so not knowing what the problem was, sent the rifle back to Savage and they replaced the bolt...which didn't help.

    To make it short, it didn't stop having problems until I got my own reloading equipment and set the sizer die for my own rifle. It took a lot of carving on a blank, using only files, sandpaper, and a pocket knife. (At 15, I didn't have access to power tools.)

    My point is that a 15 year old kid with minimal ability and some knowledge, could make a hunting rifle shoot sub-MOA groups, even with a 2.5x Weaver scope. I just don't see the need for spending way over a thousand bucks to get a hunting rifle that only needs to shoot about 1 MOA groups, unless you're going to shoot over 500 yards at small game. It also doesn't matter as much how accurate your rifle can be if you're going to shoot factory hunting ammo through it.


    My old Savage with Bishop stock, carved/finished when I was about 15 years old (Old slide is yellowed from age):
    IMG_2817.JPG
     
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  15. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    The big secret that’s not a secret which everyone seems to miss:

    In some ways, barrel nuts make life more complicated for a home builder.

    A typical shouldered barrel takes more time on the front end, but then is faster and easier to install than a barrel nut barrel every time after.

    For the special case of Seekins, Impact, and Bighorn actions, drop-in barrels are available which are properly headspaced, like AR barrels, such they can be user replaced far faster than a barrel nut barrel, even on the first go.

    But even for a typical action without regulated headspace - once a gunsmith has your tenon dimensions, they can spin a barrel without having your rifle in hand, and mail it to you, ready to install. They also typically get better pricing on barrels than an individual, especially if they do enough buying to get volume discounts. So once you have it in hand - mount the old barrel in the vise, spin the action off, mount the new barrel in the vise, spin the action on. Done in a cool 20min. These barrels can be removed and replaced multiple times quickly and easily with a simple witness mark or torque setting (or both) and be the same every single time.

    A barrel nut barrel can be different every time it is installed. How much tension the user applies on the go gauge can vary from one day to the next, and the cleaning state of the chamber, threads, bolt lugs, bolt face, etc all can affect the new barrel install - meaning the headspace can shift in or out.

    A guy really needs to be tearing down their bolt when installing a barrel nut barrel as well - which is extra time and effort a pre-chambered, shouldered barrel just doesn’t need.

    The advantage to the home builder is REALLY exaggerated, and building around nut barrels does limit the shooter to a much smaller list of barrel makers and smiths.
     
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  16. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    They can shoot well, no doubt about that. But there are also real reasons we see elite and pro competitors who try them go back to a shouldered barrel system.

    It speaks volumes when you see guys having shouldered barrels cut for Savages.
     
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  17. Legionnaire

    Legionnaire Member

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    I don't compete (though I might some day post retirement). All of Varminterror's cautions are worthy of consideration. Nevertheless, as a budget-minded, dyed-in-the-wool do-it-yourselfer, I like being able to install a barrel myself. So I like the barrel nut. I have built two rifles with McGowen barrels to date, and have everything but the barrel to build a third (just waiting for McGowen's next sale).

    Here's a link to my .260 Ackley build. I don't know what you want to accomplish with your build, but I am satisfied with a nutted barrel for my purposes.
     
  18. boom boom

    boom boom Member

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    What do you think about the Sauer 100 type system where the bolt lugs lock, like the AR, into the barrel extension and not into milled recesses in the receiver?
     
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  19. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I’m not as familiar with the Sauer system as I am the AR; but from what I have heard of it, it’s not quite the same as an AR. In an AR, the barrel only threads into the extension, and then the barrel nut pulls the extension, and with it the barrel, into the receiver, sandwiching the extension flange between the receiver and barrel nut. From what I understand of the Sauer, never having one apart myself, the “lug bushing” or receiver ring isn’t threaded, but rather floats on the barrel tenon as it is threaded into the receiver, more akin to a recoil lug. So the bushing is sandwiched into the receiver by the barrel, tensioned by the barrel and receiver threads, and the barrel shoulders against the bushing instead of the receiver.

    To me, the Sauer really works as if the recoil lug on a Rem 700 had control over headspace, but doing so requires even more precision cuts. Locking the bushing to the barrel makes headspacing easy; but what about the other aspects of precision in the action? What about concentricity and coaxiality?

    Compare what a guy has going on in a shouldered barrel rifle like a Rem 700. Affecting headspace and concentricity/coaxiality (parallelity), moving back to front in a Rem 700:

    1) Boltway cut into the receiver (concentricity/coaxiality)
    2) Lug bosses cut into the receiver (headspace)
    3) Lug rear faces cut on the bolt (headspace)
    4) Boltface cut on the bolt (headspace)
    5) Threads cut into receiver (concentricity/coaxiality)
    6) Receiver face cut (headspace and coaxiality)
    7) Rear and front faces of the recoil lug (headspace and coaxiality)
    8) Barrel tenon threads (concentricity and coaxiality)
    9) Barrel shoulder (headspace and coaxiality)

    For the Sauer lug bushing system:

    1) Boltway cut into the receiver (concentricity/coaxiality)
    2) Bushing mortise cut into the receiver (concentricity & coaxiality)
    3) Receiver face cut (Coaxiality)
    4) Lug bosses cut into the bushing (headspace)
    5) Lug rear faces cut on the bolt (headspace)
    6) Rear shoulder and front face cut on the bushing (headspace & coaxiality)
    7) Body OD cut on bushing (concentricity & coaxiality)
    8) Boltface cut on the bolt (headspace)
    9) Barrel tenon threads (concentricity and coaxiality)
    10) Barrel shoulder (headspace and coaxiality)

    Kinda lost interest in spelling this out, but you get the point here... Adding pieces to the system means more cuts with their contributions to tolerance stacking.

    So while I’m quite certain adding the bushing means they can control headspace in mass production, but I also expect it carries with it more tolerance stacking influence on concentricity and coaxiality in the cuts.
     
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  20. taliv

    taliv Moderator Staff Member

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    That said, accuracy internationals quick change is legit solid
     
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  21. lightman

    lightman Member

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    I've done most of the work on a few of mine. I have fitted a stock, bedded a stock, replaced a trigger or 10, replaced a firing pin assembly or 10 and did most of the work threading, chambering and crowning a barrel. I hope to do the whole barrel job on my next project. I'll tell ya, its takes some courage to take a cutting tool to an expensive custom barrel the first time!
     
  22. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    What I did - the first time I decided I was going to finish chamber my own barrel - looking at a $300 blank in my hands and thinking about how bad it was going to hurt if one hiccup, sneeze, mouse fart happened while I had hardened tooling in proximity - was buy a few take-off barrels and practice with the reamer. Wasn't my idea, as I was apprenticing under an experienced smith at the time. But it sure did add a lot of confidence and helped avoid potential heart break.
     
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  23. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Contributing Member

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    My son’s Savage model 12 BVSS .233 with Shilen match barrel and nut shoots 90 VLDs very well

    5 shot groups in the 2’s and 1’s at 100 yards

    01935D0E-0509-4F2A-A81E-62FB3E3C1943.jpg

    He has an NRA F Class Master classification pending with this rifle for mid range (all 600 yards)

    Now, I don’t know if this is a fair comparison, but I have an ARC Mausingfield in .308 win that can accept a nutted barrel, but my smith recommended going with a shouldered for all the reasons folks above have stated. It’s hard to make that rifle shoot bad, but it’s never shot a group in the 1’s

    Having said that, that rifle earned both me and my daughter our High Master classifications.

    Bottom line: barrels either nutted or shouldered are capable of satisfactory accuracy depending on your goals.

    PS, cost comparison is a non factor here. If you're going with a nutted barrel you have to get the go/no go gages vice and wrench, which ends up being about the difference in paying a smith to chamber and fit a blank to your action. The only way you start to save any money is if you're doing a lot of barrel buying and swapping, and if you're doing that you're spending a lot anyway
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
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  24. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    My wife and I have a pair of 12 BVSS's. Her 3rd - 8th shot she ever fired in her life was a group under .2" with this rifle and cheap Rem UMC 50grn JHP's. I've never seen another factory rifle shoot as tightly as Savage 12 BVSS's.

    We do a lot of things which make logical sense in theory, but with very little real world influence on group size. Neck turning, weight sorting of brass/bullets/primers, meplat trimming, pointing bullets, etc etc etc... All of these tools largely just eliminate variables in case we see issues, we KNOW it's not the things we've "fixed," which limits it to the other things we still need to fix...
     
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  25. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I’d rewrite this a little:

    If you’re shooting out barrels to the point of replacement, you’re spending a lot more than the cost of a smith.

    Comparatively, most nut compatible barrels are only about $150ish more than a standard blank, and smithing is typically in the $300-400, so a guy might save $150 per barrel, which can turn into savings on your second or third barrel, once you get through buying the barrel nut, go/no-go gauges, nut wrench, and barrel vise on the first one.

    But let’s look at a 6.5 creed with a 2500rnd barrel life, shooting $1/rnd reloads - you’re quibbling over $150 per barrel when you spent $2500 burning out the last one. The barrel is a drop in the bucket, comparatively.

    I have both styles, and I’m sure I will for the foreseeable future. But guys make WAY too much fuss over not wanting to pay a smith.

    Hell, have your Smith thread the barrel and remove it after headspacing. After the first barrel, your Smith never needs to touch the action ever again anyway, so you’d be getting drop in barrels from then on. You’ll get just as much satisfaction installing that barrel as you do screwing on a nutted barrel, or screwing in a lightbulb...
     
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