Many of our readers use AR-type rifles for Service Rifle matches, varmint hunting, 3-Gun competition, or defensive use. AR-platform rifles can be configured in a multitude of ways to suit the application. But if you plan to put together your own purpose-built AR rifle, how do you get started?
For AR Do-It-Yourselfers, we suggest reading Glen Zedicker’s book, the Competitive AR-15 Builders Guide. Following on Zedicker’s New AR-15 Competitive Rifle book (2008), the Builders Guide provides step-by-step instructions that will help non-professional “home builders” assemble a competitive match or varmint rifle. This book isn’t for everyone — you need some basic gun assembly experience and an aptitude for tools. But the AR-15 Builders’ Guide provides a complete list of the tools you’ll need for the job, and Zedicker outlines all the procedures to build an AR-15 from start to finish.
One of our Forum members who purchased the AR-15 Builders Guide confirms it is a great resource: “Much like any of the books Mr. Zediker puts out this one is well thought-out and is a no nonsense approach to AR building. I can not stress how helpful this book is from beginner to expert level.”
Along with assembly methods, this book covers parts selection and preparation, not just hammers and pins. Creedmoor Sports explains: “Knowing how to get what you want, and be happy with the result, is truly the focus of this book. Doing it yourself gives you a huge advantage. The build will honestly have been done right, and you’ll know it! Little problems will have been fixed, function and performance enhancements will have been made, and the result is you’ll have a custom-grade rifle without paying custom-builder prices.” Creedmoor Sports sells this Zediker AR-15 book and many other excellent shooting books. Visit www.creedmoorsports.com/category/Books or call 1-800-CREEDMOOR.
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We know you guys like do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. And we also know that our readers like anything that helps a rifle sit more securely in the bags, and track better on recoil. Here’s a little accessory you can make yourself for pennies that will help rifles with conventional (non-benchrest) stocks ride the rear bag better.
This DIY Bag-Rider is simple in design and easy to make. The invention of Forum member Bill L. (aka “Nomad47″), this is simply a short section of PVC pipe attached to the bottom of a wood stock with a couple of screws. The back half of the PVC tube is cut at an angle to match the lower profile of the stock. Nomad47 painted the PVC Bag-Rider black for sex appeal, but that’s not really necessary.
In the top photo you can see Nomad47’s bagrider attached to a Savage varminter. In the photo below, the PVC bag-rider tube is fitted to an F-TR style rig with a green, laminated thumbhole stock. This rifle also features a Savage action with a custom barrel and “wide-track” bipod. (Note: to be legal in F-Class competition, the muzzle brake would have to be removed.)
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With McMillan’s new “Inlet Ready” series of fiberglass stocks, you can get a customized McMillan stock in just two to four weeks. Use the web-based stock selector in McMillan’s online Retail Store.
To get to the Inlet Ready section, from the McMillan Home Page click “Retail Store“, then select “Stocks in Inventory” from the left-hand column. After clicking “Stocks in Inventory” from the left column, select “Inlet Ready” from the sub-menu. This video explains how to order your Inlet Ready stock for delivery in two to four weeks:
Get Free Shipping with Orders Over $400.00
Here’s another way you can save on purchases of McMillan stocks and shooting accessories. Go to McMillan’s online Retail Store. Choose stocks, bipods, gun cases, ammunition, apparel, triggers, and other items offered for sale. Then, during check-out, use Promo CODE mcm16. This will provide FREE Shipping if your total order is $400.00 or more.
NOTE: Free shipping applies to orders over $400, standard ground delivery in the Continental USA. Shipping charges on previous orders will not be reimbursed. This offer cannot be combined with other promotions or offers.
Product and Sale tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Here’s a new barrel option for Savage shooters. Proof Research, a leader in composite barrel production, now offers “Pre-Fit” barrels for Savages. These barrels come chambered and threaded for Savage actions. Pre-Fits are easy to install — just spin them on, set the headspace with gauges, and tension the barrel nut. (Proof Research does recommend enlisting a gunsmith to help with the process.)
With a finished weight under three pounds, these new Pre-Fit barrels are much lighter than conventional all-steel barrels. Proof Research claims that they are “less than half the weight of comparably-sized steel barrels.” But you will pay dearly for that weight savings. As sold by Stocky’s Stocks, these Proof Research Pre-Fits cost $846.99, more than twice what all-steel Pre-Fit barrels from Criterion or Pac-Nor cost. Criterion Barrels currently charges $370.00 for a 26″ Savage or Rem/Age Pre-Fit.
Proof Research claims that its carbon-wrapped barrels shed heat faster than an all-steel barrel. Jason Lincoln, Proof Research’s VP of Engineering, claims that his company’s composite barrels can cool 50% faster than steel barrels, offering reduced point-of-impact shift during extended strings of fire. Is this marketing hype? We have yet to see a definitive test that validates the claims of enhanced cooling…
Proof Research Savage Pre-Fit Options Available
Initially the Pre-Fit barrels will be offered in a “Sendero” profile, very similar to an M24 contour. Available barrel lengths (up to 28″) vary by caliber/chambering (in some cases 24″ is all you can get). The following chamberings and twist rates are currently offered by Stocky’s Stocks:
Multi-time National High Power champion David Tubb has developed an impressive two-stage trigger for Remington 700 rifles, the Model T7T. Priced at $385.00, the T7T Trigger is a true two-stage design: first and second stages are independently adjustable for both weight and feel. Overall (combined stage) trigger pull weight can be adjusted from just under 1 pound to slightly over 3.5 pounds.
The new T7T is a quality product. We’ve used the T7T and it proved crisp, repeatable, and reliable. If you are looking for a two-stage trigger for a precision rifle, this is a good option. We like a two-stage trigger for PRS applications, and the T7T can be adjusted high enough for that role. Or, it can go all the way down to under a pound — low enough to suit most F-Class shooters.
If you are interested in the T7T, watch these two videos. The first shows how to adjust pull-weights for both stages. The second video shows how to modify your stock to provide clearance for the T7T.
This video shows how to adjust the new Tubb T7T two-stage trigger for Remington 700s:
T7T Trigger Installation Tips
While installation of the T7T may require minor modifications to your action, most gun owners with basic mechanical skills can install the T7T by themselves. Note: As installed, the T7T trigger (either Right-Hand or Left-Hand) also requires a companion T7T bolt release, which you can get from DavidTubb.com for $10.00.
This video shows how to modify your stock to fit the T7T trigger:
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What goes into a £77,500.00 ‘Royal’ model hand-crafted shotgun? Watch this remarkable video from Holland & Holland to find out. Filmed in the Holland & Holland factory, this nine-minute video shows all the key stages in the creation of H&H’s prized shotguns and rifles. The video shows barrel-making, stock checkering, metal engraving and more…
Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ Side-by-Side Shotgun
Holland & Holland Double Rifle with Fitted Case
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Montana-based PROOF Research has released a revealing new video showcasing carbon fiber firearms technology and the company’s barrel-making process. Viewers will find the 8-minute film an intriguing introduction to composite barrel-making, which employs aerospace carbon fiber wrapped around a steel barrel core. The video showcases the high-tech machines used at PROOF’s production facilities.
PROOF’s CEO Larry Murphy explains that PROOF’s barrel technology is state-of-the-art: “What PROOF Research is doing is bringing disruption into our industry. We’re doing things that have never been done here before. That’s going to help the warfighter, and it’s going to help the average hunter … it’s going to do a lot of things.” The video shows how the company employs aerospace-grade, high-temperature composite materials to build match-grade carbon fiber-wrapped barrels, and composite rifle systems.
Dr. David Curliss, General Manager of PROOF Research’s Advanced Composite Division, and former head of the U.S. Air Force High Temperature Composites Laboratory, explains how aerospace expertise helps in the development of PROOF’s firearms-related products: “We are able to provide premier materials for PROOF Research for firearms barrels applications as well as the aerospace market. We’re probably the only firearms technology company that has composite materials in orbit around the earth.”
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In our Shooters’ Forum, you’ll find a lengthy thread about accuracy problems with a Savage LRPV, chambered in 6mmBR. The gun would repeatedly split groups at 100 yards, and at 300 yards, the “flyers” would open up the groups to 1.5 MOA or larger. Interestingly, the factory test target (at right) showed a split group — not a good sign.
The gun’s owner, forum member LR_Shooter, tried a variety of tweaks: “I did this, done that… [changed] torque, tang floated, bedded action, recut chamber, and [adjusted firing pin]”. But nothing really helped. Frustrated, LR_Shooter asked his fellow Forum members for help. Much advice was proffered, including the novel idea of removing the middle action screw in the Savage 3-screw target action. Some of the advice proved helpful, but none of the suggested remedies produced a major improvement. This rifle, out of the box, tossed flyers and no amount of tweaking (or changes in shooting technique) really cured the basic problem. That is, until, the factory barrel got replaced…
New Criterion Pre-Fit Barrel Works Wonders
LR_Shooter acquired a Criterion pre-fit barrel from Jim Briggs at Northland Shooters Supply (NSS). These pre-fits are designed for easy installation with the standard Savage barrel nut. Wouldn’t you know it, with a new 30″ heavy-contour barrel on the LRPV, the gun started shooting way better. No more crazy fliers, no more split groups, no more excessive vertical. And the improvement came without any other major modifications. LR_Shooter reports: “I got a replacement barrel from Jim at NSS. It is a 30″ bull Criterion barrel. So far, without playing with torque screws and having my old setup… I’m very satisfied with the barrel I got. Now I have no problem getting [groups] under 0.25 MOA. Finally this thing can shoot!” The targets below, shot with the new Criterion barrel, speak for themselves. The left target was shot at 100 yards, while the target on the right was shot at 300 yards (very impressive).
Targets Shot with Savage LRPV Fitted with Criterion Barrel
Moral of the Story — Sometimes A New Barrel Really Is the Right Solution
All of us have struggled at times with a rifle that won’t live up to expectations. This Editor personally struggled for over a year with a .260 Rem Savage with a factory tube. The gun tended to split groups and the POI walked as the barrel heated. I tried one powder/primer combination after another, working through a variety of seating depths over many months. I was persistent. Out of stubbornness, I just believed that sooner or later I’d find the magic load.
Well folks, sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about a sub-par barrel. It is what it is. To really improve a gun’s accuracy (particularly a gun with a factory tube), you may need to open your wallet and get a quality aftermarket barrel. Spending months trying one recipe after another may simply be an overwhelming waste of powder, bullets, and your precious time.
Albert Einstein supposedly said: “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” Well that sort of describes my efforts with my .260 Rem. Once I had enough evidence that my barrel split groups no matter what load combo (and seating depth) I tried, it was time to pony up for a new barrel. When I did finally screw on a nice PacNor 3-groove Supermatch, that Savage suddenly became a true tack-driver. As re-chambered in 6mmBR with the Pac-Nor, in calm conditions, my Savage will now consistently shoot in the twos with heavy bullets, and it can sometimes dip down into the ones with Berger 80gr flat-base bullets. The moral of the story here is simple — don’t waste weeks or months chasing your tail with a barrel that just won’t deliver (after a reasonable amount of testing). Save up for a custom barrel, get it chambered properly, and stop your cycle of frustration.
Contact Information for Northland Shooters Supply:
E-mail: email@example.com (that is Q.com not G.com)
Phone: (763) 682-4296
Fax: (763) 682-6098
P.O. Box 333
Buffalo, MN 55313
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Wouldn’t it be cool if you could shoot .22 LR rimfire ammo from your regular hunting/tactical rifle. That would be ideal for low-cost training right? Well, this IS possible, provided you have a rifle that was designed with a .22 LR conversion in mind. One such firearm is the Sauer 202 from Germany. This impressive centerfire rifle is available with a factory-engineered .22 LR rimfire conversion. Read on to learn how it works…
Sauer 202 Rifle: .308 Win/6.5×55 with .22 LR Conversion
Forum member “Tooms” sent us a report on his very special Sauer 202 with a .22 LR conversion kit. Sauer 202 rifles feature a “Quick-change barrel system”. The barrel is clamped into the receiver with crossbolts providing tension. This allows barrels to be swapped in a few minutes with simple tools. Tooms, from Denmark, explains: “The rifle began as a Sauer 202 Avantgarde Gold in .308 Win. I have added a 6.5×55 match barrel, plus a wide flat-bottom match fore-arm with rail for handstop and bipod. The .22 LR system [originally] cost $1000.00 [including] barrel, bolt, magazine well assembly, and magazine. The barrel is attached by three cross-bolts and the magazine well assembly is attached by one screw that fits into the barrel.”
Using this “Quick-change system”, Tooms can easily remove his centerfire barrel and swap in a .22 LR barrel. Then he places the factory conversion kit into the magazine well. This kit provides a rimfire bolt, a fitted sleeve for the rimfire bolt, and a magazine housing. This is a full Sauer factory-designed system so it works flawlessly. With the bolt closed, you can see the “new” .22 LR chamber in the front section of the loading port. On the silver section of the bolt you can see the rimfire extractor on the side.
The 22LR Conversion Really Works
The Sauer 202 Varmint rifle shoots very well with the 22LR conversion, as the 50m target at right shows. Though quite expensive, the conversion kit essentially transforms your centerfire rifle into fully functional, mag-fed precision rimfire. That makes the Sauer 202 much more versatile as a hunting platform. It also allows you to cross-train with inexpensive ammo. You don’t have to purchase another scope, trigger, or stock. And you enjoy the exact same stock fit and ergonomics whether you’re shooting centerfire or rimfire. In some countries where gun ownership is severely restricted, it may be easier, from a legal standpoint, to purchase a 22LR conversion kit than to obtain a permit for a second rifle.
To learn more about the complete line of Sauer 202 rifles visit the J.P. Sauer USA website. You’ll also find more information on the primary J.P. Sauer & Sohn German website, www.Sauer.de.
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Larry Scott, who runs GreatScottShooters.com, has a friend, Ray Mabry, who is a very talented wood-worker and carver. Ray does master-grade decorative work and checkering on gunstocks, and he also carves realistic nature subjects from wood. Larry says: “If you need stock checkering/carving or any wildlife creation, check out a friend of mine, Ray Mabry. His finished products are superb.”
Ray Mabry is a member of our AccurateShooter Forum, and you can see many fine examples of his work in this FORUM Thread. Ray tells us: “I do this work as a hobby. I do checkering and relief-carving on rifles. I also carve out of solid tupelo and bass blocks of wood. Along with rifle stock work, I carve wildlife subjects — I’ve carved eagles, owls, quail, ducks, and even prairie dogs. If you have a project in mind, call me at 270-885-6066 or send email to: rayzr [at] twc.com.”
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Many Remington 700 rifle owners swap out the factory trigger. This is not a difficult task, but you need to follow the proper procedure so you don’t damage any important parts during installation, and so that you don’t interfere with the operation of the bolt and safety. This Do-It-Yourself video from Brownells leads you through step by step how to safely and correctly replace your Remington 700 trigger. This installation video covers the common methods used to install most of the popular after-market Rem 700 triggers. Importantly, the video also shows how to function test after installation, and how to make sure your safety is working properly.
Many Rem 700 owners fit Timney triggers to their rifles.
Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Want to see new-born Pandas? No, not the furry kind — rather Stolle Panda actions produced with state-of-the-art CNC machinery. If you’ve ever wondered how precision benchrest, long-range, and tactical rifles are built, check out video from Kelbly’s. You’ll see actions finished, barrels chambered and crowned, pillars installed in stocks, barreled actions bedded, plus a host of other services performed by Kelbly’s gunsmiths and machinists.
CLICK Triangle to Launch Kelbly’s Video
If you’re a fan of fine machine-work, this video should be both informative and entertaining. You can see how precision gun work is done with 21st-Century technology. Tip of the hat to Ian Kelbly and crew for producing this excellent video visit to the Kelbly’s production center.
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Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.
Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”
Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?
A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.
The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.
And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.
Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.
For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.
Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.
Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.
These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.
The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.
The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.
Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.
Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.
I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.
Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.
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While AccurateShooter.com focuses on rifles, we know that a large percentage of our readers own handguns, with 1911-style pistols being particular favorites. For you 1911 owners, here are six short videos from Brownells showing how to customize a 1911-style pistol with after-market upgrades.
How to Accessorize Your 1911
This six-part series by Brownells provides step-by-step instruction on how to accessorize your 1911. The videos cover changing out the mainspring housing, magazine release, slide release, hammer, guide rod, and installing a group gripper.
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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We often receive questions from varmint hunters and AR shooters regarding barrel length. They want to know how much velocity they will loose if they run a shorter barrel in their .223-Rem rifle. Our friends at Rifleshooter.com did a test that provides some surprising answers to that question.
With barrels, one always wonders “Can a little more length provide a meaningful velocity gain?” To help answer that question, Rifleshooter.com performed an interesting test, cutting the barrel of a .223 Rem rifle from 26″ 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 .223 Rem/5.56 ammo were chron’d at each barrel length.
Test Barrel Lost 25.34 FPS Per Inch (.223 Rem Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. The average speed loss of the four types of .223/5.56 ammo, with a 9.5″ shortening of barrel length, was 240.75 fps total (from start to finish). That works out to an average loss of 25.34 fps per inch. (See inch-by-inch data HERE.)
5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Speed Test 26″ to 16.5″
Start FPS at 26″
End FPS at 16.5″
Average Loss Per Inch
UMC .223 55gr
Federal M193 55gr
Win m855 62gr
Blk Hills .223 68gr
*There may have been an error. The 25″ velocity was higher at 3221 fps.
Rifleshooter.com observed: “Cutting the barrel from 26″ to 16.5″ resulted in a velocity reduction of 214 ft/sec with the UMC 223 55-grain cartridge, 244 ft/sec with the Federal M-193 cartridge, 288 ft/sec with the Winchester M855 cartridge and 217 ft/sec with the Back Hills 223 68-grain match cartridge.”
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. 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 45.7° F.”
Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from Rifleshooter.com’s .223/5.56 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 longer than Rifleshooter.com’s .223 Rem start length. Velocity loss may be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths.
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“My daughter’s favorite color is purple, so I built her a purple rifle….”
Here’s a feel-good story about a family that shoots together, and a dad who did something very special for his daughter. All fathers create things for their children, but it’s unusual to find a Dad who has the skills (and motivation) to build a top-level competition rifle for his child. Our friend, Erik Cortina, did just that. Here is the story of the lovely purple maple F-Class rig Erik built for his girl Amberleeana.
AUDIO FILE: Erik Cortina and Daughter Amberleeana Talk about the Purple Rifle. (Sound file loads when you click button).
My daughter would always tell me when I would go to a match, “Remember Dad, only Xs matter, the other stuff on the target is just there for decoration!” — Erik Cortina
A Father’s Gift: An F-Classer for Amberleeana
by Erik Cortina
My daughter Amberleeana has been wanting to shoot F-Class for a long time because I have been dragging her to matches since she was a little girl. She would come into my reloading room and watch me reload while she asked a million questions, all which I tried to answer to the best of my abilities. At age 9, she started hunting with a semi-custom rifle her grandfather gave her, a 6×47 Lapua built on a Remington 700 action with a Bartlein barrel. She has been very successful as a hunter so she decided to move to the next step and start shooting F-Class.
She shot my backup rifle before and she really enjoyed it. Here’s a YouTube video from a while back. This shows Amberleeana, at age 11, shooting at 500 yards for the very first time. You can see she does very well.
After hearing about the U.S. F-Class Under 25 (U25) Rifle Team selection trials in Raton this upcoming summer, Amberleeana wanted to try out for the U25 Team. I told her that was OK, but we had to modify the rifle she was currently using so that it could fit her better. After some consideration, I decided instead to sell that rifle and build her a brand new one.
Her favorite color is purple, so I built her a purple rifle with adjustable cheek piece and butt pad. Shurley Brothers (Austin, TX) crafted the stock from maple, and then applied a purple gloss finish. We think it turned out great. Amberleeana is eager to take the rifle to Raton this summer: “I would like to make the Under 25 U.S. Rifle Team and compete at the F-Class World Championship in Canada in 2017. My main focus now is on the upcoming team try-outs in Raton, New Mexico.”
I hope that my daughter enjoys F-Class as much as I have, which will allow us to spend more time together on the range and in the reloading room.
6.5×47 Lapua Load Development
The purple rifle is chambered for the 6.5×47 Lapua cartridge. Our preliminary load work up shows great promise using Vihtavuori N140 powder, 136gr Lapua Scenar bullets, and CCI 450 primers. We tried a variety of charge weights, starting at 35.7 grains of N140 and ending up at 38.2 grains. The photo below shows an initial series of 3-shot test groups at 120 yards. What do you think is the best node? What charge weight would YOU select among these? [Editor: That final load of 38.2 grains looks very good, but we would want to check for pressure signs and repeat with 10-round strings checking for ES and SD. Also, if you go by the vertical only, the 36.0 and 36.3 loads are worth further testing.]
Purple Rifle Specifications:
Stock: Shurley Brothers Lowrider XL stock (Maple)
(Finished by Shurley Brothers, bedded by Speedy Gonzalez)
Action: Kelbly F-Class Panda
Trigger: Flavio Fare
Barrel: Brux 32″-long, 1:8″-twist, 4-groove stainless, chambered in 6.5×47 Lapua
(Barrel work and assembly done by Erik Cortina)
Barrel Tuner: ECTuner (matches barrel contour)
Scope: Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition
Front Rest: SEB NEO front rest
Rear Sandbag: Edgewood
Load: VV N140, 136gr Scenars, CCI 450 primers
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If you are at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits today, you might want to visit the Remington booth. 2016 marks Remington’s 200-year Anniversary, and Remington’s booth features displays showcasing the company’s rich history over the past two centuries. Layne Simpson notes: “When Eliphalet Remington II hammered out his first rifle barrel in his father’s commercial iron forge in 1816, little did he realize that 200 years later we would be celebrating such an exceptional milestone.”
NRA Publications has created a free 68-page eBook that traces the history of Remington, America’s oldest gunmaker. The book includes many well-researched historical articles, a company time-line, and the 2016 Remington Gun Guide. Get the FREE Remington 200th Anniversary Commemorative Book HERE: Remington History Book and 2016 Gun Guide.
The book contains many interesting feature stories. A fascinating article by Garry James, Remington Goes to War, covers the history of Remington firearms used by the American military. Interestingly, the first complete rifles built at the Remington factory were Model 1841 muskets contracted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department in 1845.
In another in-depth article (featuring a fascinating, illustrated Remington timeline), NRA Museum Senior Curator Philip Schreier recounts the remarkable history of Remington firearms and ammunition. The From the Forge article by Layne Simpson highlights the key rifle models developed by Remington, from muskets to the legendary Model 700. Finally, John Zent writes about Remington’s manufacturing plants in Ilion, NY, and Huntsville, AL. Zent explains the processes (both traditional and ultra-modern) Remington uses to make all types of firearms.
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Pac-Nor Production Manager Casey Dichter says the Sunnen hone produces a consistency in bore diameter that is much superior to hand-lapping. The Sunnen machine has all but eliminated the standard pre-rifling lap. “You can really tell the difference between a bore that was honed before rifling and one that was [only] lapped”, notes Dichter.
Gun Barrel Honing System Hits Target for Pac-Nor Barreling
Manufacturing precision rifle barrels has always been something of an art that involves hand lapping of the bore surface twice, before and after the rifling profile is cut or swaged in by a rifling button. In fact, a bright, hand-lapped bore is considered one of the hallmarks of a precision rifle barrel, despite the inherent variations from manual work done by people who get bored and tired from the monotonous chore. Pac-Nor Barreling, Inc. set its sights on this issue more than a year ago and hit the X-ring with the newly developed Sunnen HTE honing machine. The machine has all but eliminated Pac-Nor’s pre-rifling lap, which is the more difficult and time-consuming of the two laps. Pac-Nor is also producing as many custom barrels as ever, but with a slightly smaller staff. “Our objectives with the hone were to build a better product with less labor, and the honing machine has exceeded my expectations,” said Pac-Nor Production Manager Casey Dichter. “The hone produces a consistency in bore diameter that is head and shoulders above lapping, within two to three millionths of an inch end-to-end when it’s really dialed in,” he said. “This, in turn, improves the consistency of the rifling process by minimizing variation in the depth of the grooves. We still finish lap after rifling, but it’s easier because we just polish off the fine crosshatch finish that may be left after honing and rifling.”
The Sunnen hone secures the barrel blank in a 3-jaw chuck, with honing oil pumped into one end while the tool works from the opposite end. Sunnen’s specialized Long Bore Tool uses metal-bond diamond or CBN superabrasives to quickly remove reamer marks, waviness, tight spots and other imperfections left by upstream processes.
Honing is an ideal replacement for hand lapping barrel blanks before rifling. It quickly removes reamer scratches and surface waviness without labor-intensive hand lapping. A typical 600-grit abrasive can produce a 6-10 microinch Ra (0.15 to 0.25 µm) finish in a reamed barrel blank. By producing a consistent bore diameter (±0.0001″ or less), parallelism, roundness and surface finish end to end, honing yields more consistent performance from rifling buttons and cutters, resulting in a constant groove depth. The ideal bore geometry reduces distortion of the bullet shape.
Pac-Nor’s barrel-making process starts with cutting and facing premium bar stock, followed by gun drilling, done by four Pratt & Whitney twin-spindle machines and an Eldorado CNC twin spindle. After reaming, the barrels are gauged for size. Depending on the condition of the reamer, 0.0004″ to 0.0007″ of material is left in the bore. This must be manually lapped out or honed out to final size for rifling. “Everyone who works here has done hand-lapping,” said Dichter. “It’s an unpleasant job, particularly if the reamer is starting to get dull. Lapping may take 10 to 45 minutes, depending on the caliber of the barrel. We tried to shorten this, but when chatter marks get ‘ironed’ into the surface by the rifling button, the finish lap is even longer and more difficult, so there is no advantage. With lapping, too, there is potential for variation, simply because it’s a manual process. Lapping can also be a production limiter and in our region we have a very small labor force to draw on when we want to grow.”
Pac-Nor cuts and faces premium bar stock, then gun drills on one of five twin-spindle machines, followed by reaming of the blanks. This rack of barrel blanks awaits completion.
The company had explored honing in the nineties, but re-visited the idea when Sunnen introduced its HTE honing machine in 2014. The HTE is a horizontal machine that can hone small-bore rifle barrels, with a diameter range of 0.150″ to 0.790” (4-20 mm), and lengths up to 60″ (1,524 mm). Designed specifically for long small bores, the machine features an extremely sensitive drive and tool feed system that provide maximum protection against tool overload/breakage. Tool specific force limits and run settings are stored in the touch-screen PC control, allowing the system to sense tight sections in the bore and correct them automatically.
Sunnen also developed a new Long-Bore Tool (LBT) designed to take on industry’s most difficult honing challenges in small bores of .17 caliber rifle barrels. The tool quickly remove reamer marks, waviness, tight spots and other imperfections left by upstream processes. The LBT utilizes metal-bond diamond or CBN super-abrasives for high productivity, long life and fast cycle times. Precision-machined of through-hardened tool steel, the LBT can produce bore accuracies of 0.000027″ (0.0006 mm) for diameter, roundness, and taper – from first part to last.
“We are currently honing about 80 percent of what we make and will do more as we acquire the tools in different calibers,” said Dichter. “Although there is a trade-off in cycle time and abrasive cost for additional honing, we are still able to run our reamers two to three times longer than when we lapped alone. With a hand lap, the time and effort increase when the reamer is getting dull.”
After honing, each barrel is inspected again before rifling with a pull-button. Pac-Nor makes its own Accu-Twist carbide rifling buttons and can provide different rifling styles, including polygonal, per the customer’s choice. A button is attached to a rod and the rod is pulled through the barrel. The company’s hydraulic rifling machine utilizes a CNC-machined twist bar with a helix angle that matches the twist rate requested by the customer. The final twist rate is confirmed afterward using a Barrel-Scan electro-optical twist measurement system.
The barrel is then stress-relieved in a tempering furnace, followed by contouring of the outer shape and final, finish lapping of the bore. “During the finish lap, you can really tell the difference between a bore that was honed before rifling and one that was lapped,” said Dichter. “You can easily sense any remaining tight or loose spots in the bore. The diameter uniformity and roundness of the honed bore are superb. The lap also feels different in a honed bore.”
In competitive shooting where winning scores may be separated by thousandths of an inch, a few millionths of an inch improvement in the uniformity of a Pac-Nor barrel may make a big difference for a skilled shooter. For more information, visit www.sunnen.com or contact:
Sunnen Products Company
Mr. Bob Davis
Global Communications Mgr.
Sunnen Products Company
bdavis [at] sunnen.com
About Pac-Nor Barreling Inc.
Pac-Nor Barreling is a true custom manufacturer catering to bolt-action rifle shooters. The company’s principle markets are law enforcement, military, competitive shooters and hunters. Started in 1984 by avid shooter and company President Chris Dichter, Pac-Nor is now in its second generation under his son, Casey. In addition to barrel manufacturing, the shop will install the barrel on a customer’s action, or add features such as muzzle brakes or fluting on bolts and barrels etc.
The shop runs two shifts per day. A day shift of ten people produces 30-40 custom barrels of different calibers in 416R stainless or chrome-moly steel. A night shift of three people produces one type of barrel — about 50 AR-15 barrels per day for a rifle OEM.
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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.
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.