March 1st, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Radical Skeleton-Stock Rifles from Texas


A few seasons back, our Editor and his friend Joe Friedrich flew to Texas to visit Gene Beggs and test rifles in Gene’s 100-yard indoor tunnel. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shoot centerfire rifles in such a test facility. Here’s our report…

The South Texas Tunnel

Gene Beggs operates his own 100-yard indoor tunnel and rifle testing facility just outside of Odessa, Texas. Surrounded by tall fencing, this place really looks like a “Area 51″ secret military facility.

In his South Texas tunnel, Gene provides instruction and “tunnel time” for serious benchresters looking to improve their skills and optimize the accuracy of their rifles. Along with teaching the fine points of short-range benchrest, Gene employed his tunnel to develop a pair of radical rifles, one chambered in 220 Beggs, a slightly modified 220 Russian, and a second chambered in 6mm Beggs, a necked-up version of the 220 Russian that retains the original body taper and shoulder angle.


Radical Skeleton Stocks with Aluminum Sled mounted to Barrel
Both rifles shared a skeleton design which uses the Stiller Cobra or Viper action as a central load-bearing member. Remarkably, there is no conventional fore-arm at all. Gene has bolted, directly to the barrel, a 3″-wide bag-riding aluminum sled. The sled was not designed as a mid-barrel tuner, but it might have some beneficial effects in that regard. However, the tuning functions are handled by two concentric rings threaded to the muzzle. Gene believes that with minor rotations of his front tuning rings, he can dial the gun into tune and the tune can be easily adjusted as conditions warrant.

Do Mr. Beggs’ guns shoot? Absolutely. We had the chance to visit Gene in Odessa. We shot both the 220 Beggs-chambered rifle, and its 6mm Beggs-chambered cousin. Both rifles are nearly identical, though the Heavy Varmint-weight 220 has a longer, 27″ barrel compared to 22″ for the Light Varmint 6mm.

In the tunnel, the 220 HV, with a no-turn-neck 220 Beggs chamber, produced three-shot groups in the low ones and zeros right out of the gate, even before the tuner was optimized. With a barrel with over 1000 rounds through it, after firing 40 rounds without cleaning, Gene produced a tiny 5-shot group in the low ones. The first shot was slightly high (a common occurrence in the tunnel according to Beggs). The last 4 shots, rounds 42-45 since the barrel had been cleaned, went into 0.084″. This rig, though radical in the extreme, certainly appears fully competitive with more conventional BR rigs, and it tracked superbly, with no hopping or rocking on the bags.

220 Beggs — Simple, Accurate, Efficient

We were also very impressed with the 220 Beggs cartridge. It’s basically a plain 220 Russian with a sharper radius at the neck-shoulder junction. Gene has commissioned a 220 Beggs reamer with matching seating and full-length sizing dies. The little cartridge achieves 3600+ fps with a 52gr bullet, pushed by Benchmark powder.

Less Recoil Than 6PPC — From what we could tell during our short visit, the 220 Beggs is easy to load for, and performs exceptionally well with either turned (.250″) or no-turn necks. The recoil was noticeably less than a 6mm PPC, making the gun a joy to shoot. This round, we felt, could also be an outstanding varmint cartridge. The velocity is there, and we don’t think any other 22-caliber varmint cartridge is going to beat it for inherent accuracy.

As for the 6mm version, Gene told us: “The 6mm version of the cartridge performs best with Hodgdon’s H4198 Extreme, but the 220 has proven it will shoot well with just about anything you put in it including N133, H322, Benchmark, 8208, Norma 200 etc. It is the most trouble-free, user friendly cartridge I have ever worked with and will compete heads-up with anything. It’s also very easy on the shoulder.”

Gene Beggs sells components (reamers, dies etc.) for the 220 and 6mm Beggs, and also, under special circumstances, offers training/testing sessions in his West Texas Tunnel on an appointment basis.

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March 9th, 2014

Greyfox Has a Cobra Skeleton for Sale

There’s a very cool rifle for sale in our Forum Marketplace. Rick F. (aka “Greyfox”) just posted a listing for his Gene Beggs-built skeleton-style benchrest rifle. What makes this rig so highly desirable is the Cobra Drop Port action. A shorter version of Jerry Stiller’s popular Viper action, the Cobra drop port is highly coveted, and very hard-to-find (people have been waiting for years for new Vipers and Cobras). The gun employs a skeleton design, with the rear triangle attached directly to the action and an aluminum bag-rider secured to the barrel. It may seem radical, but this Editor has shot a Gene Beggs benchgun of this design. I can tell you it was extremely accurate and handled great on the bags. Here is the description of Greyfox’s rifle:

Stiller Cobra Drop Port, Right Bolt. Chambered in 220 Beggs .250 NK, 1:14″ twist, Jewell trigger, Beggs skeleton stock, Beggs Tuner. Built by Gene Beggs. Will shoot in .1s and .2s (can be verified). Includes 125 pieces of formed, fired brass, and sizing die. Scope and rings in photos are not included. $1900 insured & shipped in CONUS. CLICK HERE for details.

Even if you are not a benchrest competitor, this would make a wicked Prairie dog rifle to be shot off a portable bench. Having shot a Beggs “Tinkertoy” rifle with Gene himself, this Editor can tell you the “stockless” concept can work, and the Drop Port action is a joy to use (I own a Viper-action benchgun myself). The Greyfox rifle is a .220 Beggs so it is ultra-easy to form brass from the parent .220 Russian case. Whoever buys this unique, easy-to-shoot rifle will get a heck of a lot of accuracy for $1900.00.

Beggs Stiller Cobra Drop Port Benchrest Rifle

Beggs Stiller Cobra Drop Port Benchrest Rifle

See this Rifle in Action at the 2013 UBR Nationals
Note How Cartridge Drops Out Bottom of Action When Bolt is Retracted:

Beggs Stiller Cobra Drop Port Benchrest Rifle


220 Beggs
Simple, Accurate, Efficient
We were impressed with the 220 Beggs cartridge. It’s basically a plain 220 Russian with a sharper radius at the neck-shoulder junction. Gene Beggs has commissioned a 220 Beggs reamer with matching seating and full-length sizing dies. The little cartridge achieves 3600+ fps with a 52gr bullet, pushed by Benchmark powder.

From what we could tell during our visit with Gene Beggs in Texas, the 220 Beggs is easy to load for, and performs exceptionally well with either turned (.250″) or no-turn necks. The recoil was noticeably less than a 6mm PPC, making the gun a joy to shoot. This round, we felt, could also be an outstanding varmint cartridge. The velocity is there, and we don’t think any other 22-caliber varmint cartridge is going to beat it for inherent accuracy.

Photo shows bag-rider on Gene Beggs’s own .220 Beggs rifle that we shot in Texas.

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January 8th, 2013

Centerfire Benchrest Shooters Explore Benefits of Tuners

Barrel tuners have been used successfully in rimfire benchrest for many years (see photo below). While there are competing theories as to how and why barrel tuners work on rimfire rifles, there is no question that the accuracy of some rimfire barrels can be improved with the addition of a tuner. By changing the position of weights at the end of the barrel, we’ve seen shooters shrink their average group size as well as adjust the “sweet spot” for different lots of rimfire ammo. On the other hand, tuners can be the source of great frustration; some installations may yield little or no benefit. A shooter may have to experiment with a variety of different tuner designs (and weights) to find the optimal configuration.

Anschutz Tuner

Gene Bukys Barrel Tuner 333smittyCenterfire Tuners–Still a Work in Progress
In centerfire benchrest competition, the vast majority of competitors do not use tuners, though a few short-range shooters such as Gene Bukys and Jackie Schmidt have enjoyed considerable success. Gene has won major championships with tuned rifles. In 2011 Gene won both the Super Shoot and World Benchrest Championship (WBC), and Gene recently set a new NBRSA Sporter Class Grand Agg Record.

Centerfire benchrest guns typically employ shorter barrels with a much fatter contour (larger diameter) than rimfire rifles. Because centerfire rounds produce much higher pressures and velocities that a 22LR, a centerfire barrel also exhibits much different vibration characteristics than a typical rimfire barrel. Nonetheless, there are pioneers working with centerfire tuners who believe that tuning may be the “next leap forward” in centerfire accuracy.

Shown below is a switch-barrel benchrest rifle built by Forum member Eddie W. of Texas. It features a dual-port Hall “M” action with a ShadeTree Engineering Tuner crafted by Butch Lambert. The gun is designed to take both a 6PPC barrel for group shooting and a 30BR barrel for score shooting. The gun was barreled by Wayne Shaw, and Eddie did the stock work himself. Eddie reports: “It is a very accurate rifle.”

Lambert Tuner

Will we see more tuners on centerfire rifles? Only time will tell. Some folks believe that, since one can easily adjust the loads shot by centerfire guns (by tinkering with the powder charge and seating depth), tuners have limited utility. On the other hand, tuner advocates such as Gene Beggs believe tuners can help keep your group sizes small even as conditions (temperature, humidity) change. Gene believes that, with an appropriate tuner, you can spend less time fiddling with the load specs (changing your powder charge) and instead “dial in” your sweet spot using the tuner.

Lambert Tuner

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