TEN Shots in 0.303″ (0.289 MOA) at 100 Yards
How does Dan’s XP-100 pistol shoot? Look at that target showing TEN shots at 100 yards, with eight (8) shots in the main cluster at the top. The ten-shot group measures .303″ (0.289 MOA), as calculated with OnTarget Software. Not bad for a handgun! What do you think, can your best-shooting rifle match the 10-shot accuracy of this XP-100 pistol?
Report by Boyd Allen
This pistol belongs to Dan Lutke, a Bay Area benchrest shooter who publishes the results for the Visalia matches to the competitors and the NBRSA. He has been an enthusiastic competitor for an number of years, at various ranges, notably Visalia and Sacramento. The action is a Remington XP-100, to which a Kelbly 2 oz. trigger has been fitted. On top is an old Japanese-made Tasco 36X scope (these were actually pretty darn good). The Hart barrel (a cast-off from Dan’s Unlimited rail gun) was shortened and re-chambered for the 6x45mm, a wildcat made by necking-up the .223 Remington parent case. The custom stock/chassis was CNC-machined by Joe Updike from 6061 Billet Aluminum to fit the XP-100 action and mount a target-style AR grip with bottom hand rest. The gun was bedded and assembled by Mel Iwatsubu. In his XP-100 pistol, Dan shoots 65gr custom boat-tails with Benchmark powder.
This diagram shows the most common 6x45mm wildcat, which is a necked-up version of the .223 Remington parent cartridge. NOTE: The dimensions for Dan Lutke’s benchrest version of this cartridge may be slightly different.
ACAD drawing by Peter Gnanapragasam CC by SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Title Added.
Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Do you own a Springfield M1A (or wish you did)? Then you should watch this 5-minute video from the American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI). This video shows the basics of the operation of the popular M1A rifle, the civilian version of the military M14. In this video, gunsmith John Bush field-strips the M1A and shows how the bolt, op rod, and trigger group fits together and operates. This video contains excerpts from the M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course, AGI Course #1584. The full Armorer’s Course is available on DVD from www.AmericanGunsmith.com.
Watch Highlights of AGI M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course:
Registration Opens for 2017 CMP Springfield M1A Match
The 11th annual Springfield Armory M1A Match will take place during the 2017 National Trophy Rifle Matches. The CMP will host the event on Saturday, July 22, following the John C. Garand Match. Competitors of all experience levels are encouraged to bring their M1A rifles to Camp Perry and compete. Registration for the match will open April 1, 2017, and is open to all individuals ages 12 and above, with an entry fee of $50 (junior $25).
The Springfield Armory M1A match began with one man’s idea and passion. Springfield Armory’s Mike Doy witnessed the waning of classic M1 Garand and M1A rifles from the competitive High Power firing lines. “I really wanted to get those M1A rifles out of safes and closets and back out onto the field. So 11 years ago, I promoted the idea of running an M1A-specific match at Camp Perry. That first year we had over 600 competitors and spectators.” Now the match offers some of the biggest pay-outs at Camp Perry. In recent years, Springfield Armory has donated over $25,000 worth of cash and prizes, including a $2,000 cash award to the overall winner.
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This illustration shows headspace measurement for the popular .308 Winchester cartridge, which headspaces on the shoulder. Image copyright 2015 Ultimate Reloader.
In this Brownells Tech Tip, Brownells gun tech Steve Ostrem explains what headspace is and why it’s one of the most critical measurements for nearly all firearms. Even if you’re an experienced rifle shooter, it’s worth watching this video to refresh your understanding of headspace measurements, and the correct use of “GO” and “NO-GO” gauges.
In firearms, headspace is the distance measured from the part of the chamber that stops forward motion of the cartridge (the datum reference) to the face of the bolt. Used as a verb, headspace refers to the interference created between this part of the chamber and the feature of the cartridge that achieves the correct positioning. Different cartridges have their datum lines in different positions in relation to the cartridge. For example, 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition headspaces off the shoulder of the cartridge, whereas .303 British headspaces off the forward rim of the cartridge.
If the headspace is too short, ammunition that is in specification may not chamber correctly. If headspace is too large, the ammunition may not fit as intended or designed and the cartridge case may rupture, possibly damaging the firearm and injuring the shooter. (Source: Wikipedia)
Headspace is measured with a set of two headspace gauges: a “Go” gauge, and a “No-Go” gauge. Headspace gauges resemble the cartridges for the chambers they are designed to headspace, and are typically made of heat-treated tool steel. Both a “Go” and a “No-Go” gauge are required for a gunsmith to headspace a firearm properly. A third gauge, the “Field” gauge, is used (as the name implies) in the field to indicate the absolute maximum safe headspace. This gauge is used because, over time, the bolt and receiver will wear, the bolt and lugs compress, and the receiver may stretch, all causing the headspace to gradually increase from the “factory specs” measured by the “Go” and “No-Go” gauges. A bolt that closes on “No-Go” but not on “Field” is close to being unsafe to fire, and may malfunction on cartridges that are slightly out of spec. (Source: Wikipedia)
To learn more, read Brownell’s longer article Headspace Gauges and How to Use Them. Among other things, this explains the relative lengths of “Go”, “No-Go”, and “Field” gauges. The “Field” is actually the longest: “The GO gauge corresponds to the SAAMI (Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute) minimum chamber length, while the FIELD gauge usually matches the maximum chamber depth, or slightly less. NO-GO gauges are an intermediate length between minimum and maximum, that, technically, is a voluntary dimension. A firearm that closes on a NO-GO gauge and does not close on a FIELD gauge may not give good accuracy and may have very short cartridge case life from the ammunition re-loader’s standpoint.”
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A little work with the hand axe, after a trip through the band saw…
A while back, Forum member Preacher crafted a nice varmint rifle for fellow Forum member Dave 0. (aka “Waskawood”). But rather than buy an off-the-shelf stock, Preacher crafted this stock all by hand, starting from a laminated blank panel. He calls this stock project his “Axe Job”.
CLICK for Full-size Photo
This stock is being used on a prairie dog rifle, chambered for a 17-caliber wildcat, the 17 VHA, which is based on an H&K 4.6x30mm parent case. With about nine grains of 300 MP pistol powder, the 17 VHA drives 20-grainers at about 3850 fps. (SEE details at end of article).
The ‘Axe Job’
Report by Preacher
I like carving with the laminates because all the lines are right there in front of my eyes, so it’s easy to follow along and get it just right, until it’s pleasing to the eye. I never use a template, I just keep checking the lines as I go along. I have all the needed equipment to power build one of these, but I really enjoy the time spent on the hand work. From start to completely ready-to-install, I’ll have about six (6) weeks into one of these stock projects. A lot of that is drying time for the clear coats.
The majority of the laminated blank panels I use for my gunstocks are purchased directly from Cousineau Wood Products or from Rutply.com. You have to buy at least four full panels at a time, all the same color, but that will yield eight (8) stocks. Seems like I have a little over $150.00 in a blank large enough to start making a full-sized, benchrest-style stock.
A little work with a chisel…
A little work with a rasp. (Before I was rich and famous and could afford really good rasps, I used a good old horse shoe rasp.)
A little more work with the chisel…
Preacher’s Advice on Carving Your Own Stock
The one main advantage of being older that dirt, and tormented with MS the past 40 years, is lots of free time to enjoy what ever I can do these days, as long as I can set down to do it, and I can make a lot of wood chips setting down.
Any one can do this if they have the time to devote to it. All it takes is time and a good eye for details. I made a lot of firewood over the years, until I got the hang of it. Most all those problems were inletting, and screw hole spacing. Get those right the first time and you’re on your way….
A little more work with the rasp…
A few coats of Auto clear has it about buttoned up…
Micro 17 VHA Wildcat
Here’s the finished rifle built by Preacher for Dave, using the ‘Axe Job’ stock. Dave tells us: “Preacher chambered the rifle for the 17 VHA, a wildcat based on the H&K 4.6x30mm MP7 PDW case necked down to 17 caliber. There are numerous articles in the Varmint Hunter’s Magazine about it. This efficient little round shoots 20gr ballistic tips at 3850+ fps. That’s not too shabby for ‘nine point something’ grains of pistol powder.”
“My intentions for my 17 VHA rifle are to plop down in the middle of a PD town with my swivel bench and shoot prairie dogs. I also thought it would be a nice platform to test the accuracy of the cartridge. If I like the little round as well as I think, I plan to build a more practical rifle that I can carry. I really want to thank Preacher for his patience with me through this project, as it was my first custom build.”
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Forum member Bill Goad’s 6XC II Hunter Rests in a Whitetail Rack taken this past year.
One of the most popular items in our Shooters’ Forum is the ongoing “Pride and Joy” thread. Since 2009, Forum members have posted photos and descriptions of their most prized rifles. Here are some of the most recent “Pride and Joy” rifles showcased in our Forum. Do you have a gun you’d like to see featured there? Just Register for the Forum and you can add your favorite gun to the list.
TT Freestyle’s Husband and Wife Borden Benchrest Rifles
Here’s a pair of “His and Hers” rigs delivered by Santa in December. Forum member TT Freestyle reports: “After our rookie year in Short Range Benchrest with good used equipment, my wife and I decided we liked it enough to get two new Bordens for Christmas!”
FalconPilot’s Fabulous F-Classer in Shurley Claro Walnut Stock
This beauty belongs to Forum member FalconPilot. He tells us that his “Lastest F-Classer features a Shurley Brothers SOD stock in beautiful Claro Walnut.” Components include Bat M action, Bix-N-Andy trigger, and Nightforce Comp scope. FalconPilot has several barrels for this Open-Class rig, including tubes chambered for .284 Win and 6mm Dasher.
Eric’s Blacktical .308 Win for Precision Rifle Series
Forum member Eric32 spent months building out this rifle, “getting it to work just right for PRS”. Designed for practical/tactical matches, this rugged rig features a blue-printed Rem 700 action (with 1.5-lb 40X trigger) in an XLR Element chassis. On the end of the .308 Bartlein 5R barrel is a JP brake. Other components include: PiG skins barricade grips, Atlas Bipod, and GGG bungee sling. On top is a SWFA HD 5-20x50mm optic with Vortex scope level and custom throw-lever.
Forum member Willow reports: “Here is my new F-Open gun. It features a hydro-dipped LowBoy stock and LH Barnard Model P action with ‘V’ bedding block. The barrel is a straight profile 32″, 1:8.5″ twist Bartlein 5R, chambered in 280AI by Matt Paroz”. On top is a Vortex 10-60x52mm Golden Eagle in a Spuhr 3001 mount. Willow says his lightning bolt rig is a shooter: “After 42 rounds through the barrel, I’m liking what I am seeing so far”. Check out that trick aluminum base for his rear Edgewood bag.
Stinnett’s 6.4×47 Lapua Tactical Rig
Forum member Stinnett tells us: “This is my third 6.5×47 Lapua rifle — the 6.5×47 is the best cartridge ever! I’m not a huge fan of muzzle brakes. I look at them as tools — use the correct tool for the job. The ’47 doesn’t need a brake. .308 Winchester and up need muzzle brakes. For this rifle, I’m going to start out with 123gr Scenars and Reloder 15. I also like to shoot the 123gr SMKs and Varget. The SMKs are much less seating-depth sensitive. Very easy to find a load! Also gonna try the Berger 130 Hybrids and H4350.”
Components: McMillan A5 adjustable stock in GAP Camo, Stiller TAC 30 A/W action, Jewell HVR trigger, Badger bottom metal and DBM, Atlas Bipod, Nightforce NXS F1 3.5-15×50 with MLR 2.0 reticle. Metal has been Cerakoted graphite black.
6mm BRX Benchgun with Home-Made Cherry/Redheart Stock
You have to give credit to a guy who crafts his own custom wood stock. This 6mm BRX benchgun features a custom-built laminated stock featuring Cherry wood with vivid Redheart pieces on the sides and Redwood Burl on the buttplate. The front of the stock is 4″ wide. The action is a Benchrest Borden RBLP Right Eject unit, with custom titanium scope rings on top. Owner Erick C. is proud of this stock, saying it is “the best one I’ve built so far”. We agree it’s a beauty.
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Ever wondered how the parts inside an AR15 work together? Just exactly how does the reciprocating bolt carrier feed rounds from the magazine? How do the elements in the trigger group work and reset after each shot? How does the gas system bleed gas from the barrel and operate the bolt carrier? These and other questions are answered in this eye-opening video from 45Snipers. Using “cutaway” 3D computer animation, this 5-minute video shows all features of an AR15 inside and out. This fascinating firearms animation allows the viewer to look inside the upper and lower receivers, into the bolt carrier, chamber, barrel, and magazine.
This video starts off slow and has annoying background music, but it is well worth watching if you own or shoot any AR-platform rifle. It illustrates all the key operations during the charging, loading, firing, and ejection processes. The cutaway animation shows how rounds are stripped from the magazine and then chambered. It then shows how every part of the trigger group works, and how the firing pin strikes the primer. You can even watch the bullet move down the barrel before the empty shell casing is removed from the chamber and tossed out the ejection port. Here are sample frames from the video:
Video find by Grant Ubl. We welcome reader submissions.
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A lot of claims are made about accuracy for AR-platform rifles, but much of that is just “sales talk”. But if you want a truly accurate black rifle, there are some key upgrades that, collectively, can transform a plain jane AR into a true tack-driver. Here’s an article by a genuine AR expert that will help you identify those components that really make a difference — the parts that can deliver true “match-grade” accuracy. Built right, a modern AR can deliver half-MOA accuracy with handloads. In this article, Robert Whitley explains how that’s done.
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?” 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.
3. True Receiver Face: We’ve found that truing the receiver face is valuable. Some may argue this point but it is always best to keep everything related to the barrel and the bore in complete alignment with the bore (i.e. barrel extension, bolt, upper receiver, carrier, etc.).
4. Barrel Extension: You should Loctite or glue the barrel extension into the upper receiver. This holds it in place all the way front to back in the upper receiver. Otherwise if there is any play (and there typically is) it just hangs on the face of the upper receiver completely dependent on the face of the upper receiver as the sole source of support for the barrel as opposed to being made more an integral part of the upper receiver by being glued-in.
5. Gas Block: You want a gas block that does not impose pointed stress on the barrel. Clamp-on types that grab all the way around the barrel are excellent. The blocks that are pinned on with tapered pins that wedge against the barrel or the slip on type of block with set screws that push up from underneath (or directly on the barrel) can deform the bore inside of the barrel and can wreck the accuracy of an otherwise great barrel.
6. Free-Float Handguard: A rigid, free-float handguard (and I emphasize the word rigid) really makes a difference. There are many types of free-float handguards and a free-float handguard is, in and of itself, a huge improvement over a non-free-float set up, but best is a rigid set-up. Some of the ones on the market are small diameter, thin and/or flexible and if you are shooting off any type of rest, bipod, front bag, etc., a rigid fore-end is best since ARs want to jump, bounce and twist when you let a shot go, as the carrier starts to begin its cycle before the bullet exits the bore.
7. Barrel Contour: You want some meat on the barrel. Between the upper receiver and the gas block don’t go real thin with a barrel (we like 1″ diameter if it’s workable weight-wise). When you touch off a round and the bullet passes the gas port, the gas system immediately starts pressuring up with a gas impulse that provides vibrations and stress on the barrel, especially between the gas block back to the receiver. A heavier barrel here dampens that. Staying a little heavier with barrel contour through the gas block area and out to the muzzle is good for the same reasons. ARs have a lot going on when you touch off a round and the gas system pressures up and the carrier starts moving (all before the bullet exits the bore) so the more things are made heavier and rigid to counteract that the better — within reason (I’m not advocating a 12-lb barrel).
8. Gas Tube Routing Clearance: You want a gas tube that runs freely through the barrel nut, through the front of the upper receiver, and through the gas key in the carrier. Ensure the gas tube is not impinged by any of them, so that it does not load the carrier in a stressed orientation. You don’t want the gas tube bound up so that when the gas tube pressures up it immediately wants to transmit more force and impulse to the barrel than would normally occur. We sometimes spend a lot of time moving the gas block with gas tube on and off new build uppers and tweaking gas tubes to get proper clearance and alignment. Most gas tubes do need a little “tweaking” to get them right — factory tubes may work OK but they typically do not function optimally without hand-fitting.
9. Gas Port Tuning: You want to avoid over-porting the gas port. Being over-gassed makes the gas system pressure up earlier and more aggressively. This causes more impulse, and increases forces and vibration affecting the top end and the barrel. Tune the gas port to give the amount of pressure needed to function properly and adequately but no more.
10. Front/Back Bolt Play: If accuracy is the game, don’t leave a lot of front/back bolt play (keep it .003″ but no more than .005″). We’ve seen factory rifles run .012″ to .015″ play, which is OK if you need to leave room for dirt and grime in a military application. However, that amount of play is not ideal for a high-accuracy AR build. A lot of front/back bolt play allows rounds to be hammered into the chamber and actually re-formed in a non-consistent way, as they are loaded into the chamber.
11. Component Quality: Use good parts from a reputable source and be wary of “gun show specials”. All parts are NOT the same. Some are good, some are not so good, and some aftermarket parts are simply bad. Don’t be afraid to use mil-spec-type carriers; by and large they are excellent for an accuracy build. Also, remember that just because a carrier says “National Match” or something else on it does not necessarily mean it’s any better. Be wary of chrome-plated parts as the chrome plating can change the parts dimensionally and can also make it hard to do hand-fitting for fit and function.
12. Upper to Lower Fit: A good upper/lower fit is helpful. For quick and dirty fit enhancement, an Accu-Wedge in the rear helps a lot. The ultimate solution is to bed the upper to a specific lower so that the upper and lower, when together, are more like one integral unit. For the upper receivers we produce, we try to get the specs as close as we can, but still fit the various lowers in the market place.
13. Muzzle Attachments: Don’t screw up the muzzle (literally). Leave as much metal on the barrel at the muzzle as you can. People like to thread the muzzle for a flash hider, suppressor, muzzle brake, or some other attachment, but if you really want accuracy, leave as much metal as you can there. And, if you have something that screws on, set it up so that it can be put on and have it stay there without putting a lot of torque and stress on it right where the bullet exits the bore. If you are going to thread the end of the barrel, make it concentric with the bore and make sure what you screw on there is as well. For all muzzle attachments, also ensure that the holes through which the bullet passes through are dead true to the bore. Many aftermarket screw-on things are not so good that way. Anything that vents gas should vent symmetrically (i.e. if it vents left, it should vent equally right, and likewise, if it vents up, it should vent down equally). Uneven venting of gas can wreck accuracy.
14. Quality Ammunition: Ammo is a whole story by itself, but loads that are too hot typically shoot poorly in an AR-15. If you want accuracy out of an AR-15, avoid overly hot loads. Shown below are test groups shot with four (4) different uppers, all with moderate loads. These four uppers all pretty much had the same features and things done to them as explained in this article, and they all shot great.
With all the blacktical rifles and tacticool camo gear on display at SHOT Show, it was nice to see some old style craftsmanship — hand-built rifles with colored case-hardened receivers, fine engraving, and beautiful wood. We found just that at the Shiloh Sharps booth. The heritage style of the Shiloh Sharps rifles harkens back to another era, when the West was still wild, and gifted smiths crafted rifles with pride, skill, and true artistry.
The cartridges shown in the photo (left to right above rifle) are: 45-110, 50-100, 45-90, and 40-70.
This video shows how Shiloh Sharps crafts its rifles, from “Foundry to Finish”:
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Can you list all the serious problems that excessive headspace can cause? For that matter, could you even explain what, exactly, is meant by the term “headspace”? If not, you should watch this instructional video from Brownells. This video defines the term “headspace”, explains why proper headspacing is critically important, and illustrates how headspace gauges work.
Headspace is a measurement from the bolt-face to a point in the chamber. This point of measurement will vary based on the type of cartridge. Improper headspace, either excessive or (conversely) under SAAMI specifications, can cause a variety of problems, many serious.
Problems Caused by Too Much Headspace
Excessive headspace issues can include: light primer strikes, failure to fire, bulged/blown cases, case separations, split shoulders, or unseated primers after firing. Case ruptures caused by excessive headspace can lead to catastrophic failures causing serious injury. That is why headspace is such an important measurement.
Problems Cause by Too Little Headspace
Insufficent (or excessively tight) headspace can prevent the firearm from going into battery, resulting in failure to fire or deformation of the cartridge case. Various feeding and functioning problems can be caused by cases with too little headspace, even if a round can be chambered (with effort).
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Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.
Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?
Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.
Is your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.
He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.
Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.
After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!
So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.
Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:
However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.
Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.
This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.
Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.
As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?
Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.
Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!
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A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….
Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”
Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”
Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”
Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”
View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.
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There are many reasons you might want to make a chamber cast. You may have acquired an older rifle and need to verify the chamber dimensions. Or, if you have a new reamer, you may want to check the exact “cut” dimensions against the blueprint specs. A chamber casting is also valuable if you run across a firearm that you believe has a custom barrel on it and you want to find out the dimensions of the chamber. Lastly, you may want to prepare a chamber casting to be used in the making of custom dies. (Most reloading die makers know how to work from Cerrosafe chamber casts.)
Cerrosafe is a metal alloy that has some unique properties which make it ideal for chamber casting. First, it has a relatively low melting point of 158 to 190° Fahrenheit. This makes it easy for the handloader to melt the Cerrosafe in his home shop. Second, it shrinks slightly during cooling which allows it to be extracted from the chamber easily. It then re-expands to the chamber’s original size after about one hour at room temperature. After cooling for about 200 hours, the chamber cast will expand to about .0025″ larger than the actual chamber size.
One of our Forum members has done many Cerrosafe castings and he offers this smart advice:
1. Remove the barrel from the action to make the pour much easier. If you don’t remove the barrel, it can be hard to pour through the action (even with a funnel) and can make a mess if you’re not careful.
2. Pre-heat the barrel for 5-10 minutes in the oven on the very lowest setting (170° F in my oven). (DON’T overdo it!). Allow to cool for a couple minutes so you can pick it up and it is under 120° F. Pre-heating the barrel helps the Cerrosafe stay liquid as you pour the casting. This helps ensure a good, complete fit to the chamber.
How to Use Cerrosafe for Chamber Casting
The basic ingredient of Cerrosafe is bismuth. Bismuth is a heavy, coarse, crystalline metal which expands when it solidifies, up to 3.3% of its volume. When bismuth is alloyed with other metals, such as lead, tin, cadmium and indium, this expansion is modified according to the relative percentages of bismuth and other components present. As a general rule, bismuth alloys of approximately 50% bismuth exhibit little change of volume during solidification. Alloys containing more than this tend to expand during solidification and those containing less tend to shrink during solidification.
What all this means for the gunsmith is that you can make chamber castings using only Cerrosafe and a few, simple hand tools. To make a chamber casting, first clean and degrease the chamber. Use a tight-fitting, cotton patch that’s wrapped around a bore mop or brush to plug the bore just ahead of the throat. I usually leave the cleaning rod attached to the plug until it’s time to remove the plug. Melt the entire bar of Cerrosafe in a heatproof container that you can easily pour the hot Cerrosafe out of. You can use a propane torch or heat over a hot plate or the burner of a stove. Cerrosafe melts easily at 158°-195° F. While the casting metal is still liquid, stir very well, skim off the dross, and pour your chamber. The real trick with Cerrosafe is not to overheat it. If you heat the solid slowly, and keep it within the required temperature range, you shouldn’t get any dross.
Note the time the casting was poured. The casting will take only a very short time to solidify, usually within a minute. Wait 30 minutes and then remove the plug from the bore. Turn the muzzle upward and the casting will fall from the chamber. At 30 minutes after initial solidification, Cerrosafe shrinks slightly, so removal is very easy. Allow the new casting to cool thoroughly then measure the casting exactly one hour from the time it was cast. The casting will give you an exact measurement of the chamber. Cerrosafe casting metal can be used over and over. Remelt the entire amount back together and pour the Cerrosafe into a small mold of the appropriate size. Always melt the entire Cerrosafe ingot to make a chamber casting. For best results, never cut off, or use, just a part of the ingot.
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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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What do you get when you cut a 6.5 Creedmoor-chambered barrel down to just over 16 inches? A lot more velocity than you might think. Our friends at Rifleshooter.com recently did a barrel cut-down test with 6.5 Creedmoor test rifle, shortening the barrel from 27 to 16.1 inches in one-inch increments. Surprisingly, with a 142gr Sierra MK, the total velocity loss (as measured with a Magnetospeed) was just 158 FPS, an average of 14.4 FPS per inch of barrel length. With the lighter 120gr A-Max bullet, the total velocity loss was 233 FPS, or 21.8 FPS average loss per inch of barrel.
Five (5) rounds of each type of cartridge were fired at each barrel length and the velocity data was recorded with a MagnetoSpeed V3 barrel-mounted chronograph. The rifle was then cleared and the barrel was cut back one inch at a time from 27″ to just over 16″. NOTE: During this winter test, the air temperature was a very chilly 23° F. One would expect higher velocities across the board had the outside temperature been higher.
The photo below shows how the barrel was cut down, inch-by-inch, using a rotary saw. The barrel was pre-scored at inch intervals. As the main purpose of the test was to measure velocity (not accuracy) the testers did not attempt to create perfect crowns.
6.5 Creedmoor vs. Other Mid-Sized 6.5mm Cartridges
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a very popular cartridge with the tactical and PRS crowd. This mid-size cartridge offers good ballistics, with less recoil than a .308 Winchester. There’s an excellent selection of 6.5mm bullets, and many powder choices for this cartridge. When compared to the very accurate 6.5×47 Lapua cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor offers similar performance with less expensive brass. For a tactical shooter who must sometimes leave brass on the ground, brass cost is a factor to consider. Here’s a selection of various 6.5 mm mid-sized cartridges. Left to right are: 6.5 Grendel, 6.5×47 Lapua, 6.5 Creedmoor with 120gr A-Max, 6.5 Creedmoor with 142gr Sierra MK, and .260 Remington.
When asked to compare the 6.5 Creedmoor to the 6.5×47 Lapua, Rifleshooter.com’s editor stated: “If you don’t hand load, or are new to precision rifle shooting, get a 6.5 Creedmoor. If you shoot a lot, reload, have more disposable income, and like more esoteric cartridges, get a 6.5×47 Lapua. I am a big fan of the 6.5×47 Lapua. In my personal experience, the 6.5×47 Lapua seems to be slightly more accurate than the 6.5 Creedmoor. I attribute this to the quality of Lapua brass.”
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A 7mm Snake for Santiago
Our friend Dennis Santiago has a reptilian rig in his arsenal. It’s actually an Eliseo R1 single-shot tubegun chambered in .284 Winchester. The eye-catching aspect of Santiago’s .284 bolt-gun is the snakeskin dip job on the exterior. This really creates a distinctive look. Dennis tells us: “It was Gary Eliseo’s idea to try a water-transfer printing finish for this rifle. There are many patterns to choose from — this is the WTP-260 Snakeskin Illusion-Fall Copper from WaterTransferPrinting.com. For a single shot LR gun, I figured something on the bright side would be interesting and pick up less heat from the sun in the summer.”
Dennis will use his new rifle in prone matches, where a single shot works fine. He says: “Underneath the hood, it’s a Rem 700 Long Action, chambered in .284 Win. Yes it’s a single shot! I don’t need anything else for a prone gun. Nothing to get in the way of building the perfect position.”
Dennis says: “Length of pull, offset and cast initially set the same as my similar RTS .308. My gun, my body dimensions.”
A FFP 6-24x50mm Sightron Rides on Top
The optic is a Sightron 6-24x50mm, FFP MOA-2. Dennis reports: “I looked at many scopes (within my determined price range), and this is the one that had the best combination of features for for this gun’s particular application. The sight line sits about 3 inches above bore line on these guns. It’s been leveled, bore-sighted and pre-dialed for a 200-yard estimated zero for the ammo I plan to use. Those are Gen II A.R.M.S. rings. Super easy to tailor to different rail widths. Same rock-steady steel performance.”
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Our friend, gunsmith/stockmaker Doan Trevor recently created a lovely, one-of-a-kind silhouette stock for an Anschutz rimfire action. Built as a true custom design, this stock combines ideal standing position ergonomics with light weight — the entire stock weighs a mere two pounds. This project really showcases Doan’s remarkable skills with wood. Read the full story about this project (with more photos) at DoanTrever.com.
Doan explains his design process: “A customer came to me wanting to know if I could build a silhouette stock that was 2 pounds or less. I used the Koa wood because it is a lower specific gravity than Walnut (which makes it lighter) and stronger. I was still able to use pillar bedding and keep the weight down. The fore end could be shortened to reduce the weight even more. Since the drops on a silhouette rifle are different than a prone rifle, I kept the pistol grip from the prone rifle which is comfortable and tried to come up with a higher cheek piece and more drop to the buttplate. All of this required lots of hand carving.”
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Craters may look interesting on the moon, but you don’t want to see them on your primers. Certain mechanical issues that cause primer craters can also cause primer piercing — a serious safety problem that needs to be addressed. If you have a gun that is cratering primers (even at moderate pressure levels), there is a solution that works with many rifles — send your bolt to Greg Tannel to have the firing pin hole bushed.
Shooters who convert factory actions to run 6BRs, 6PPCs or other high-pressure cartridges should consider having the firing pin bushed. These modern cartridges like to run at high pressures. When running stout loads, you can get cratering caused by primer flow around the firing pin hole in the bolt face. The reason is a little complicated, but basically the larger the hole, the less hydraulic pressure is required to crater the primer. A limited amount of cratering is normally not a big issue, but you can reduce the problem significantly by having a smith fit a bushing in the firing pin hole. In addition to reduced cratering, bushing the firing pin often produces more consistent ignition.
This is a highly recommended procedure that our editors have had done to their own rifles. Greg Tannel (Gre-Tan Rifles) is an expert at this procedure, and he does excellent work on a wide variety of bolts. Current price for a bushing job, which includes turning the firing pin to .062″, is $80.00, or $88.00 with USPS Priority Mail return shipping.
If you have a factory rifle, a bushed firing pin is the way to go if you are shooting the high-pressure cartridges such as 6PPC, 6BR, 6-6.5×47 and 6.5×47. This is one of the most cost-effective and beneficial upgrades you can do to your factory rifle. For more info on the Firing Pin Bushing process, visit GreTanRifles.com, or email greg [at] gretanrifles.com. (After clicking the link for GreTanRifles.com, Click on “Services” > “Shop Services” > “Bolt Work”, and you’ll see a listing for “Bush Firing Pin Hole & Turn Pin”. Select “View Details”.)
Firing Pin Hole Bushing by Greg Tannel
Work Done: Bush firing pin hole and turn pin.
Functions: Fixes your cratering and piercing problems.
Price: $80.00 + $8.00 return shipping Total Price: $88.00
Actions for which Bushing is Offered: Remington, Winchester, Savage multi-piece pin, Sako, Kimber, Nesika, Stiller, BAT Machine, Kelbly, Lawton, Surgeon, Borden, Wichita, Hall, Ruger, Howa, Weatherby, Dakota, Pacific Tool, Phoenix, and Defiant bolt action rifle or pistol.
Actions for which Bushing is NOT Available: Case hardened receivers, ARs, Accuracy International (AI), Barnard, Big Horn, Cooper, Desert Tactical Arms, Kimber, Rosenthal, New Savage single piece pin, Rimfires, Falling block, Break-open, Lever, Pump rifles, 1903-A3, CZ, Mauser.
How to send your bolt in to be bushed:
You can send your bolt snail mail, priority mail, or UPS (Please do not use FEDEX as it sometimes has delivery delays). Pack your bolt carefully and ship to: Gre’-Tan Rifles, 24005 Hwy. 13, Rifle CO 81650. Please include your name, phone number, and return shipping address.
Due to the high volume of work, turn around is 5 to 8 weeks on bushing a bolt. Three or more bolts will be sent back to you UPS and we will have to calculate shipping. We can overnight them at your expense. You can pay by check, money order, or credit card. For more information visit GretanRifles.com.
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Want to upgrade your AR’s trigger? Shooting USA and Brownells have created a video tutorial that shows how to remove a factory AR trigger and replace it with an upgrade. This video illustrates the procedures to follow and the tools you’ll need. Step-by-step, the video explains how to swap the factory trigger group for a self-contained ‘box style’ drop-in trigger module or a traditional (multi-part) trigger system with enhanced performance.
Many AR-15s come from the factory with a military-type trigger that has a long, gritty, heavy pull. Replacing that trigger is one of the best ways to improve your AR’s performance. You’ll be rewarded with a smoother pull, shorter take-up, and reduced pull weight. You will also have a choice between a single-stage and a dual-stage trigger.
The box-style, self-contained drop-in systems from companies like AR Gold, CMC, Timney, and Wilson Combat are the easiest to install. John Scoutten explains: “These self-contained systems … are very simple to install. In fact, all you do is remove the factory parts, drop in the whole system, replace your pins, and you’re done.” Conventional two-piece trigger groups are offered by DPMS, Geissele, JP Enterprises, and Rock River.
The key points of the video tutorial are also explained on the Shooting USA website with text and still pictures. Before you start your trigger project, review Shooting USA’s AR Trigger Upgrade Page. You’ll find helpful close-up photos on that page.
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Brux Barrels, based in Lodi, Wisconsin, has earned a reputation for producing great-shooting tubes. Brux-made barrels have won their fair share of matches, and set some notable records in the process. A few years back, Rodney Wagner shot the smallest five-shot, 600-yard group (0.336″) in the history of rifle competition, using a Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher.
Folks often ask us why Brux barrels shoot so well. “What’s the secret?” they ask. We can only answer with what Brux explains on its own website: “To make a cut-rifled barrel you have to start off with the proper ingredients: the best steel available, skill, and experience. Since there are really only two main suppliers of barrel-quality steel, the skill and experience is what really makes a barrel maker stand out.” Here is how Brux’s co-owners, Norman Brux and Ken Liebetrau, explain all the procedures involved in making a Brux cut-rifled barrel:
Brux Barrel-Making Process, Start to Finish
We start out with either 4150 chrome-moly or 416R stainless steel double stress-relieved bar stock. The bar stock starts out at 1-9/32″ in diameter and 20-24 feet long so we cut it to length.
Step two is to rough-contour the outside of the barrel blank in a lathe.
Thirdly, the blank gets mounted into a Barnes gun drill. The cutter bit has holes through which oil or coolant is injected under pressure to allow the evacuation of chips formed during the cutting process. This is called “oil-through” or “coolant-through”. Without this, you wouldn’t want to even attempt drilling a hole 30” long and under ¼” in diameter. The combination of a 3600rpm and good flushing allows us to drill a beautifully straight and centered hole .005” under “land” diameter at a rate of 1” per minute.
Clean the barrel.
Next the blank is sent back to the lathe to machine the finished contour of the outside.
Clean the barrel again.
Now, the blank is sent on to the Pratt & Whitney reamer in which an “oil through” reaming tool is used to cut away the extra .005” left in the drilling process. The reamer makes an extremely accurate bore size and after it is finished the bore will have a better surface finish and will be at the proper “land” diameter.
Clean the barrel again.
In the sixth step we hand lap each barrel to remove any slight tool marks that may have been left by the reamer and inspect every one with a bore scope. If the barrel doesn’t meet our standards for surface finish and tolerance it doesn’t get any further.
Clean the barrel again.
The barrels then go onto the rifling machine which is responsible for cutting the all so familiar grooves in the bore. A caliber/land configuration-specific rifling head is used to progressively shave away small amounts of steel to form the rifling grooves. This is accomplished by simultaneously pulling the rifling head through the reamed blank as the blank is spun at a controlled rate. After each cut, the blank is rotated 90 degrees (for a four-land configuration) and after one full rotation (360 degrees) the rifling head is slightly raised to shave off the next bit of material. This process is repeated until we reach groove diameter.
Clean the barrel again.
Lastly, the barrel is hand-lapped again (to ensure a smooth bore), and a final inspection is performed with the bore scope.
The barrel is cleaned one last time, wrapped, packed, and shipped to [the customer].
Anyone reading this detailed description of the Brux barrel-making process will doubtless come away with a new appreciation for the time, effort, and dedication required to produce a premium match-grade cut-rifled barrel. Obviously, there are no easy shortcuts and great attention to detail is required each step of the way. As shooters we’re lucky that we have barrel-makers so dedicated to their craft.
Credit James Mock for steering us to this Barrel Making 101 feature on the Brux website.
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You may not be aware, but the Civilian Marksmanship Program runs a reliable, reasonably-priced maintenance/repair facility for USGI-issue rifles. Since October 2013, the CMP Custom Shop (Anniston, AL) has provided gunsmithing services for a wide range of U.S. Military rifles, specifically those issued in early eras. As well as repairs and troubleshooting, the CMP Custom Shop can upgrade, accurize, customize, and refinish the types of rifles the CMP sells.
CMP will work on the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, 1903 and 1903A3 Springfield, the 1917 Enfield and the Krag. Other rifles like the Remington 40X, Mossberg 44, and H&R Model 12 can also be serviced. CMP will NOT work on shotguns, pistols, revolvers, M14/M1A, AR15-style rifles or other commercially-produced modern rifles. For a list of services (with prices) visit the CMP Custom Shop webpage.
NOTE: Before you can send a rifle to the CMP Custom Shop you must be a customer on file in the CMP system. Customers must meet the same eligibility requirements as for CMP rifle purchases. Once qualified, you can purchase a rifle from the CMP and have the CMP Custom Shop make modifications to it prior to shipping.
CMP Custom Shop Can Work on USGI Rifles Purchased from Other Sources
The CMP Custom Shop can work on rifles that may have been purchased elsewhere as long as they were made by a USGI contractor. Some examples include: Springfield Armory (not Springfield Inc.), Harrington & Richardson, Winchester, International Harvester, Remington, Rock Island, Eddystone, Inland, Underwood, Rock-Ola, Quality Hardware, National Postal meter, Standard Products, IBM, Irwin-Pederson and Saginaw. NOTE: There are many NON-USGI copies of the M1 Garand, 1903 Springfield and especially the M1 Carbine that CMP will be unable to work on.
For more information, call (256) 835-8455, x1113, or send email to customshop [at] thecmp.org. Shipping and Correspondence address for the CMP Custom Shop is: