Benchrest shooter Ronnie Smith had the folks at S&S Precision craft a barrel block benchrest gun with a McMillan 50 LBR stock. While the metal work (and block installation) is impressive, the rig’s jaw-dropping feature is an amazing paint job applied by artist David Tidwell of Dallas Airbrush. Ronnie wanted a stock that didn’t look like anything else you’ve ever seen. Working from Ronnie’s concept of a junkyard-sourced rifle, Tidwell created a masterpiece of airbrushing. The finished stock looks like it was hammered from old beat-up metal, complete with dents, grind marks, hollows, Bondo, and wire-mesh patches. Watch the video below to see how this amazing paint job was applied, from start to finish. (Definitely worth watching!)
If you have a stock you’d like painted by David Tidwell, visit DallasAirbrush.com, call 214-529-4410 or email: david [at] dallasairbrush.com. Dallas Airbrush currently sprays out of Texas Body Works, 2415 Midway Rd Suite 111, Plano, TX 75025.
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OK, admit it — you’ve always wondered how they get those color swirls and camo patterns in McMillan stocks. (You’ll be surprised at the answer). And how does McMillan manage to inlet stocks so precisely for so many different action types?
McMillan Stocks is one of the leading fiberglass stock producers, cranking out 8,000-10,000 stocks every year for hunters, target shooters, and members of the military. McMillan employs state-of-the-art, high-tech machinery. At the same time, many processes are still done by hand — such as applying colors to the stocks.
In the videos below, Kelly McMillan hosts Bob Beck of Extreme Outer Limits TV in a tour of the McMillan stock-making facility. We think all avid “gun guys” will be fascinated by these high-quality videos.
McMillan Custom Stock Production
The first video shows the stock-building operation from start to finish — You’ll see the lay-up, color application, molding, and “stuffing”. Watch carefully at 0:16 to see colors being applied.
Shown above are bolts with TAC-6 Fluting and two-tone Vortex knobs. The fluting and knob installation are two different operations, priced separately.
Paul Fakenbridge of Pro Precision Rifles (PPR) is running a “Group Buy” promotion for AccurateShooter.com readers. For the next month, you can enjoy significant savings on a bolt-fluting job OR on the installation of a custom bolt knob. For Rem 700 bolts, the fluting is now $55 ($30 off), while a new custom PPR knob, installed, is $65 ($30 off). (NOTE: Knob installation does NOT include bolt fluting, and vice-versa.) Paul does excellent work, with a wide variety of fluting options. All fluting is done on a Haas TM1 with four-axis capability. Here is how the Group Buy, a limited-time offer, works:
For this Group Buy, PPR offers Bolt Fluting at $55.00 total (with $5.00/bolt going to AccurateShooter.com to help support the site.) The regular price for fluting Remington bolts was $85.00 so you save thirty bucks. You can choose from a variety of fluting styles for Remington bolts. While Group Buy terms apply to Rem bolts, ask about Savage and Tikka bolts — PPR has some options for them as well.
For this Group Buy, PPR offers a new bolt knob, installed, at $65.00 with $5.00 going to AccurateShooter.com. The $65.00 includeds the price of the new knob. The regular price was $95.00 including knob. Again, you save $30 with this Group Buy.
Geissele Automatics manufactures a line of two-stage triggers favored by top Service Rifle, High Power, and 3-Gun shooters. Geissele now offers a variety of trigger models for both large-pin and small-pin lowers, with pull weights from 1.8 lbs to 6.0 lbs. You select the Geissele trigger with the appropriate first and second stage pull for your discipline (refer to chart below for trigger model specs).
Video Shows Geiselle Trigger Installation in AR15
Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com has crafted a video showing how to install a Geissele National Match Trigger in an AR15. This video covers installation of the trigger assembly, the trigger guard, the safety selector lever assembly, and the pistol grip.
Production wood rifle stocks, both laminates and hardwoods, are commonly made with stock duplicating machines. Stock duplicators allow a stock-maker to copy a master design faithfully and efficiently. The video below, from Colorado rifle-maker Michael Cuypers, shows a stock duplicator (in automatic mode) cutting a piece of Turkish Walnut, for a mauser 98. This machine rotates the blank while a spinning vertical cutting head shapes and trims the blank. This duplicator manually tracks the shape/profile of the master blank. To make another stock, this process needs to be repeated, with the master in place. For more information about this duplicating machine, visit www.riflebuilders.com.
Watch Stock Duplicator in Progress
Future Technology: We are starting to see stocks made with CNC milling machines that cut stock profiles based on three-dimensional scans of master stock designs. However, the traditional mechanical duplicator process in the video is still most commonly used by most of today’s stock-makers.
Turkish Walnut — Where to Get a Beautiful Blank
The Bijou Creek video above shows a Turkish Walnut stock being roughed out. Turkish Walnut is some of the most beautifully figured wood available — but it can be pricy. If you are looking for this kind of ultra-high-grade wood, it makes sense to shop carefully. You’ll find a wide selection of Turkish Walnut blanks at the HunterBid.com website. Hundreds of selections are available at auction. Prices start as low as $150.00. The finest blanks sell for $1,000 or more. New blank selections are added to the website every other day. HunterBid.com is run by Chiron Inc., which is 100% owned by the Ergin family who are of Turkish origin. Chiron maintains warehouses in Dover, NH and Istanbul, Turkey.
Video find by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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A popular feature of our Shooters’ Forum is the long-running Pride and Joy thread. There you’ll find photos and descriptions of dozens of interesting rifles — from rimfire rigs to big-bore boomers. Forum member Ryan M. (aka “Dieselgeek”) posted a handsome .260 Remington tactical rifle built by Short Action Customs in Wellington, Ohio. The rifle features top-of-the-line hardware. The coated, stainless Alpha 11 action (from Defiance Machine) carries a Bartlein M24-contour 26″ barrel with muzzle brake. The stock is a thumbhole T5A from Manners Composites, fitted with APA bottom metal for AW magazines. On top is a Bushnell ERS 3-21x50mm scope with G2 reticle. Riding on an under-mounted rail is an Atlas bipod with quick-release lever.
We know that many of our readers have never seen a “Hammerhead” benchrest stock before. This is a design with an extra wide section in the very front, tapering to a narrow width starting about 6″ back. When paired with a super-wide front sandbag, the hammerhead design provides added stability — just like having a wider track on a racing car. Some folks think mid-range and long-range benchrest stocks can only be 3″ wide. Not so — IBS and NBRSA rules now allow much wider fore-ends. While F-Class Open rules limit fore-end width to 3″ max, there is not such restriction on IBS or NBRSA Light Guns or Heavy Guns for 600- and 1000-yard competition. Here’s a 5″-wide Hammerhead design from Precision Rifle & Tool (PR&T).
Ray Bowman of PR&T sent us some photos of another hammerhead benchrest rig. Ray reports: “Here’s another benchrest rifle that Precision Rifle & Tool crafted. The customer shot this rifle at the 2014 IBS 1000-yard Nationals in West Virginia.” This IBS Light Gun sports PR&T’s “Low Boy Hammer Head” stock in red/black laminate. Other components are a 6mm BRUX 30″, 1:8″-twist barrel, Borden BR Action, and a PR&T 20 MOA scope rail.
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You never want your barrel to get too hot. Accuracy suffers when barrels over-heat, and excessive heat is not good for barrel life. So how do you monitor your barrel’s temperature? You can check if the barrel is “warm to the touch” — but that method is not particularly precise. There is a better way — using temperature-sensitive strips. McMaster.com (a large industrial supply house) offers stick-on temp strips with values from 86° F to 140° F. A pack of ten (10) of these strips (item 59535K13) costs $10.71. So figure it’ll cost you about a buck per barrel for strips. That’s cheap insurance for your precious barrels.
With barrels, one wonders “Can a little more length provide a meaningful velocity gain?” To answer that question, Rifleshooter.com performed an interesting test, cutting a .308 Win barrel from 28″ all the way down to 16.5″. The cuts were made in one-inch intervals with a rotary saw. At each cut length, velocity was measured with a Magnetospeed chronograph. To make the test even more interesting, four different types of .308 Win factory ammunition were chronographed at each barrel length.
Test Barrel Lost 22.7 FPS Per Inch (.308 Win Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. With a barrel reduction from 28″ to 16.5″, the average speed loss of the four types of .308 ammo was 261 fps total. That works out to an average loss of 22.7 fps per inch. This chart shows velocity changes for all four ammo varieties:
Summary of Findings: The average velocity loss per inch, for all four ammo types combined, was 22.7 FPS. By ammo type, the average loss per inch was: 24.6 (Win 147 FMJ), 22.8 (IMI 150 FMJ), 20.9 (Fed GMM 168gr), and 22.5 (Win 180PP).
Interestingly, these numbers jive pretty well with estimates found in reloading manuals. The testers observed: “The Berger Reloading manual says for the 308 Winchester, ‘muzzle velocity will increase (or decrease) by approximately 20 fps per inch from a standard 24″ barrel’.”
How the Test Was Done
The testers described their procedure as follows: “Ballistic data was gathered using a Magnetospeed barrel mounted ballistic chronograph. At each barrel length, the rifle was fired from a front rest with rear bags, with five rounds of each type of ammunition. Average velocity and standard deviation were logged for each round. Since we would be gathering data on 52 different barrel length and ammunition combinations and would not be crowning the barrel after each cut, we decided to eliminate gathering data on group sizes. Once data was gathered for each cartridge at a given barrel length, the rifle was cleared and the bolt was removed. The barrel was cut off using a cold saw. The test protocol was repeated for the next length. Temperature was 47° F.”
CLICK HERE to Read the Rifleshooter.com Test. This includes detailed charts with inch-by-inch velocity numbers, multiple line charts, and complete data sets for each type of ammo. Rifleshooter.com also offers ballistics graphs showing trajectories with different barrel lengths. All in all, this was a very thorough test by the folks at RifleShooter.com.
Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from Rifleshooter.com’s .308 barrel cut-down test are quite different than the results we recorded some years ago with a barrel chambered for the 6mmBR cartridge. When we cut our 6mmBR barrel down from 33″ to 28″, we only lost about 8 FPS per inch. Obviously this is a different cartridge type, but also our 6mmBR barrel end length was 5″ longer than Rifleshooter.com’s .308 Win start length. Velocity loss can be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths (and bigger cartridges). Powder burn rates can also make a difference.
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Our friend Darrell Buell has a new Beast — a monster 64-inch-long .375 CheyTac that weighs more than 70 pounds! Designed for ultra-long-range shooting (two miles and beyond), this beast represents the state-of-the-art in extreme long-range rifles.
Darrell reports: “This rifle is pretty much purpose-built to shoot 2+ miles extremely accurately. It is a .375 CheyTac (lengthened) built on a BAT 2.5″ action. The custom 35″, 1:10″-twist Brux barrel is a fat, 2″-diameter ‘straight taper’ with fluting. A custom 5″-long muzzle brake is fitted at the end. All barreled action work was done by R.W. Snyder Custom Rifles. The stock was created to fit the build by PDC Custom, and the massive muzzle brake as well.” The “bridge” at the end may look like a barrel block, but it’s not — the barrel completely free-floats. (The Picatinny rail on top of the bridge allows use of an overhanging bipod as an alternative to the JoyPod).
Darrell has lots of elevation on tap: “With 150 MOA in the Ivey rings, another 20 MOA in the scope rail, 55 MOA in the Nightforce Competition scope, and 10 MOA in the FCR-1 reticle, there’s an impressive +235 MOA available.”
Machinist/gunsmith Paul Fakenbridge (aka “Boltfluter” on our Shooters’ Forum) recently completed an interesting upgrade to his favorite 22BR varmint rig. This rifle, Paul’s “Rock Chuck Killing Machine”, was originally fitted with an HS Precision fiberglass stock. Now Paul’s 22 BR sports new hardware — a sleek new Eberlestock M2 Cobra Chassis in “Dry Earth” color. The $995.00 M2 Cobra is a one-piece metal stock system that mounts a Rem-700 type action in a V-block. The cheekpad height and LOP are adjustable via spacers. The M2 Cobra uses AICS-type mags and can fit Picatinny rails on the side.
In our Shooters’ Forum, one member recently asked: “What makes an AR accurate? What parts on an AR can really affect accuracy — such as free-floating handguards, barrels, bolts, bolt carriers?” He wanted an honest, well-informed answer, not just sales pitches. Robert Whitley posted a very comprehensive answer to this question, based on his experience building and testing dozens of AR-platform rifles. Robert runs AR-X Enterprises, which produces match-grade uppers for High Power competitors, tactical shooters, and varminters.
Building an Accurate AR — What is Most Important
by Robert Whitley
There are a lot of things that can be done to an AR to enhance consistent accuracy, and I use the words “consistent accuracy” because consistency is a part of it (i.e. plenty of guns will give a couple great 5-shot groups, but won’t do a very good 10- or 20-shot groups, and some guns will shoot great one day and not so good on others).
Here are 14 key things we think are important to accuracy.
1. Great Barrel: You’ll want a premium match-grade barrel, well-machined with a good crown and a match-type chambering, true to the bore and well cut. The extension threads must also be cut true to the bore, with everything true and in proper alignment.
2. Rigid Upper: A rigid, heavy-walled upper receiver aids accuracy. The typical AR upper receiver was made for a lightweight carry rifle and they stripped all the metal they could off it to make it light to carry (which is advantageous for the military). The net result are upper receivers that are so thin you can flex them with your bare hands. These flexible uppers are “strong enough” for general use, but they are not ideal for accuracy. Accuracy improves with a more rigid upper receiver.
Here is a very interesting rifle, a true metal/wood hybrid that combines an aluminum front section with figured walnut in the rear half. As you can see, this unique rifle also features a barrel block that allows the Savage action to float. You may be wondering “how is the metal section connected to the wood?” The gun’s owner/builder epoxied a stainless steel tube in the wood and that tube is secured in the aluminum fore-end with set screws.
Forum member Justin V. reports: “Sometime last fall my buddy wanted to build barrel-blocked Bavage. He is a machinist by trade so he was able to build all of the custom components himself. I know he put a ton of time into this thing over the winter, taking his time to get it done right. If you shoot in Cadillac or Midland, Michigan you will probably see him around. He tried to shoot a match this past weekend but was rained out. Hopefully it will stop raining in Michigan so he can see what it can do at 600 yards. Here are the results….” Learn more about this gun in this FORUM Thread.
Brownells’ Do-It-Yourself (DIY) video series provides logical, step-by-step installation help for triggers, stocks, and springs. Nine separate videos cover Brownells various DIY Kits. Not sure if you’re up to the project? Just watch each video to see what’s involved. The nine DIY kits are:
Some folks think you need a new (or nearly-new) barrel to win a benchrest match. That may be true in the centerfire game, but in the world of rimfire benchrest, things are different. Good barrels can remain accurate for a long, long time. That was demonstrated by our friend Joe Friedrich who recently set a new ARA 4-target Aggregate record. Joe was shooting his trusty old “Sweet Pea” rifle with a very well-worn barrel. In fact, Joe’s record-setting Benchmark barrel has logged well over 100,000 rounds. That’s right, a barrel with over 100K rounds shot the best 4-target ARA Agg ever. Will wonders never cease…
In this video, Joe talks about his rifle, the amazing longevity of his Benchmark barrel, and the ELEY ammo he used to shoot two 2500s on the same day (with a 2475 average for four targets):
Here are exclusive “Spy Shots” of a soon-to-be released project, the all-new F-Open chassis system from Competition Machine (Gary Eliseo). Dubbed the “F1″ stock by Gary, this radical new chassis system is designed expressly for F-Open competition. With a super-low Center of Gravity (COG), the F1 boasts many innovative features including an epoxy-lined barrel block that allows the action to float. The F1’s length-of-pull is adjustable for length while the buttpad holder adjusts for height.
The stock, which will work with any type of action, should sell for about the same price as a fully-adjustable fiberglass stock. Competition Machine hopes to start shipping F1 stocks in summer 2015.
The F1 stock will accept any action, long or short, right-hand or left-hand. The F1 is shown below with a Pierce magnum long action.
There’s a great new way to apply an eye-catching finish to fiberglass and synthetic stocks. Water Transfer Printing (aka Hydro-Dipping) can apply beautiful, stylized patterns to your stock, and the process costs less than a custom paint job. Hydro-dipping is ideal for applying amazing photo-realistic effects such as stone, wood burl, snakeskin, or faux carbon fiber. Hydro-dipping requires no harsh chemicals or high heat so there are no negative side effects. You just end up with an amazing, patterned finish on your stock.
Hundreds of different patterns are available. We like the carbon-look finish on benchrest guns and the snakeskin patterns on hunting and varmint rifles. Natural snakeskin designs, in this Editor’s opinion, are the most effective camouflage for the largely arrid backcountry in the American southwest.
Here’s some eye candy for the tactical guys out there. George Gardner of G.A. Precision sent us some images of a cool tactical rifle. GAP fitted a Bartlein barrel to a Stiller TAC 30 action. The barreled action was placed in a J. Allen Enterprises JAE-700 modular stock by Performance Arms of Witchita, Kansas. On top is a U.S. Optics SN-3 scope in Badger rings, with an Atlas Bipod up front. Very nice rig, and the JAE-700 has some nice options installed, including an adjustable palm rest and rear mono-pod.
Even in the “tactical” world, hand craftsmanship is not dead yet. Chad Dixon of Long Rifles Inc. (LRI) is building the lastest Sniper’s Hide Cup Trophy Rifle. These photos show the exquisite stock crafted by Chad and Jesse Kaufman of Black Hills Gunstocks & Engraving. Chad cut the stock on his CNC mill and Jesse did the final sanding and finishing on the wood. Here’s what master craftsman Kaufman had to say about the project: “We delivered the Long Rifles Inc. Mausingfield today! I was so very pleased that Chad and the staff at the shop thought it looked great. It means a lot to be able to support my family and household with the income I receive from my labor. May the Lord bless you all. — Jesse.”
In our Shooters’ Forum, there is an interesting thread showcasing a number of new varmint rifles built for the 2015 season. Here are six of the noteworthy builds highlighted in the thread. See more rifles in this Forum thread: Let’s See Your New For 2015 Rigs.
From member Greg T
6mm AI on RBLP Bat Three-Lug Action
Krieger 1:14″-Twist, 28″ Tube
.274 Neck throated for 75 gr V-Max
Blue / Black Shurley Brothers Lowrider Stock
Comment: I think I have found my favorite caliber as now I basically have twins – one for 87 grainers and one for 75 grainers. Yes this is overkill (and financially not the best decision) but it’s fun, so what the heck. With such a slow twist rate, I think I can push the 75s to 3850 fps or so.