June 18th, 2017

Panda Perfected — Ignition Timing for Kelbly Panda Action

Alex Wheeler Accuracy gunsmith Panda Kelbly Stolle action timing receiver benchrest video

Kelbly makes outstanding actions, including the Stolle Pandas. In the past 20 years, Pandas have probably won more benchrest matches than any other action (though BATs and Bordens are increasingly in the winning circle). Recently gunsmith Alex Wheeler of Wheeler Accuracy worked his magic on an aluminum Panda, optimizing the “ignition timing” of the action. This involves many small mods to bolt, camming surfaces, trigger, and firing pin: “The whole cam helix and detent shelf is re-cut. The firing pin and cocking piece are modified as well.” When executed properly, Ignition Timing has a number of benefits, including a smoother bolt opening/closing, improved firing pin fall, and enhanced accuracy (though the accuracy improvements can be subtle).

BEFORE Action Timing — Stiff and Clunky

Alex reports: “Normally Panda actions have plenty of firing pin fall. For one reason or another this one was very low. Before timing, firing pin fall was .210 with a Bix’N Andy (BNA) trigger. After trigger timing firing pin fall is .244 with zero cock on close.” Here is how the action functioned before timing work:

CLICK Photo to start VIDEO

Alex notes: “As you can see, after the cocking piece rides out of the detent notch it then
falls to the trigger and is then re-cocked. This is normal on most un-timed actions.”

AFTER Action Timing — Smooth and Refined

Alex explains the modifications he made for this Panda action: “Moving the trigger back adds cock on close. The whole cam helix and detent shelf is re-cut. The firing pin and cocking piece are modified as well. I do love a timed Panda. In fact, I like aluminum actions, I think there is something to them. But yes, I also recommend Borden as my first choice.’

CLICK Photo to start VIDEO

Fix for Right-Bolt Actions Only
After seeing these videos on Facebook, one poster asked: “I do like my Panda but this is exactly why I bought a Borden action and I love it. It’s good to know you can make a Panda better. Alex, can you time a left bolt Panda?”

Alex replied: “No, the tooling I built is all for right hand actions sorry….”

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June 18th, 2017

6.5 Creedmoor with Howa 1500 Barreled Action in MDT Chassis

Howa 6.5 Creedmoor barrel action tactical rifle Sierra RifleShooter.com
RifleShooter.com built this rig with Howa 1500 barreled action and MDT ESS chassis. READ TEST HERE.

We’ve been telling folks that the Japanese Howa 1500 barreled actions are an attractive option for a hunting, varminting, or tactical rifle. Priced at under $450.00, these barreled actions include the excellent HACT two-stage trigger. These Howa 1500 actions are smooth-running (noticeably more so than some “major-brand” domestic receivers).

Our friends at RifleShooter.com recently acquired a Howa 1500 barreled action in 6.5 Creedmoor and installed it in an MDT ESS modular chassis. This project turned out well. The barreled action mated well to the ESS chassis, providing an ergonomic platform with comfortable grip, adjustable cheekpiece, and adjustable LOP. Most importantly the gun shot well. With virtually no load development, the project rifle delivered 3/4-MOA accuracy right out of the gate.

Howa 6.5 Creedmoor barrel action tactical rifle Sierra RifleShooter.com

As tested with Hornady brass and Hodgdon Varget powder pushing Sierra 123gr MatchKings, the Howa 1500 MDT showed good accuracy right from the start. With more load development (and a few more rounds through the new barrel), half-MOA groups may be possible.

Brownells now sells barreled Howa actions in a variety of configurations. Rifleshooter.com acquired a Howa 1500 barreled action with a 24″ #6 contour barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. RifleShooter.com plans to test this barreled action in multiple modular chassis systems. That should provide an interesting comparison test, providing the pros and cons of various stock/chassis configurations.

Read the Full 6.5 Creedmoor Project Review HERE »

RifleShooter.com’s Editor writes: “I was pleasantly surprised by the number of chassis and stock offerings for the Howa barreled action.” For this project rifle, RifleShooter.com chose the Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) Elite Sniper System (ESS) chassis, for the initial build.

Like MDT’s other chassis systems, the ESS uses any AR-15/M16 M4 pistol grip. The ESS departs from the rest of the MDT product line it does not use a standard AR-15/M16 M4 stock. Eliminating this interface allows for a design that does not increase the length of pull. The stock has an adjustable comb, adjustable length of pull, and horizontally adjustable recoil pad. Comb and LOP adjustments are accomplished with a hand wheel, plus a cap screw and clamp system.

RifleShooter.com’s Howa 6.5 Creedmoor rifle has the following components:

While the HACT 2-stage trigger is very good, RifleShooter.com’s Editor replaced the HACT with a Timney because he favors a single-stage design. The Timney adjusts lower than the HACT, allowing a crisp pull at ~1.5 pounds: “You’ll notice I swapped out the factory trigger in favor of a Timney. I’ve had great luck with their products and Timney’s Howa trigger was no exception. Adjusted to 1.5 pounds, it is a pleasure to shoot with.”

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