December 22nd, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Speedy’s Stunning 6 PPC Benchrest Rifle

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved
“Ultimate PPC” by Speedy with engraved Stiller Viper action. Titanium Rest by John Loh (R.I.P.).

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedJust in time for Christmas, today we feature a beautiful red rifle built by West Texas gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez many seasons back. With an eye-catching, one-of-a-kind engraved Stiller Viper action, and gorgeous red/black gelcoat finish, we think this rifle is one of the prettiest benchrest rigs ever made — and the color scheme fits the holiday season.

When Speedy set out to build the “ultimate PPC” for his own use, he wanted it to be as handsome as it was accurate. This stunning 6 PPC combines some very trick components with old-world detailing. When was the last time you saw an engraved receiver on a “race gun”? This rig combines modern high-tech components with classic good looks — the best of both worlds.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

This competition benchrest rig features an engraved Stiller Viper action, with integral scope rail, SAKO Extractor and non-fluted bolt. The action sits in a new Millenium BR-X carbon-fiber stock built by Robertson Composites (now closed). The bold red-on-black marbled finish is how the gelcoat came from Ian Robertson’s factory — the stock has not been painted. The slick front rest is a titanium Ultra-Rest machined by the late, great John Loh with design input by Speedy. John built only two of these in titanium, one for himself and one for Speedy. We’re sad to say John recently passed. R.I.P. John. The Leupold Competition scope sits in quad-screw bedded rings from S.G.& Y. Precision Rifles.

Speedy picked a very special barrel for this project–a 1:14 twist, 20.5″, 6-groove barrel, the last original Pat McMillan-crafted barrel in Speedy’s inventory. Speedy runs a .263″ neck. Bushing size depends on the load and the condition of his brass. Speedy’s match load is about 29.2 grains of the IMR 8208 “ThunderBird” powder (he stockpiled this great propellant years ago). Speedy feels that T-Bird may be the most user-friendly BR powder ever made: “Once you have a good load worked up with T-Bird, you can shoot it at most any location in the country, and in almost any conditions. It’s not fussy about temperatures or humidity.”

A Very Unique Viper Action, Two Years in the Making
This is no ordinary Viper action. The full engraving attracts your attention, but there are some slick “performance mods” Jerry Stiller added at Speedy’s request.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedFirst, the action features a plain-Jane unfluted bolt, with a slight taper in the middle, a bit of a wasp-waist. Speedy prefers an unfluted design because it has superior wear characteristics. He’s found, when working with an aluminum action such as the Viper, the sharp flutes on the bolt will wear the inside of the action faster. In the interest of reduced wear, Speedy also requested a smaller-sized loading/ejection port. This provides for a larger front and rear receiver ring, which enhances bolt bearing surface. More bearing surface reduces point loading for less internal wear.

We were surprised that Speedy did not order a drop port for his Viper. He explained: “I’m a bag squeezer, so I keep my forearm right where the cases would exit the drop port. I’ve used the drop ports, but given my shooting style, I prefer a conventional port.” Speedy did decide to fit the bolt with a SAKO-style extractor. He believes this is easier to tune and can contribute to accuracy. Speedy told us: “With a conventional sliding plate extractor, like you find on the Stolle actions, there can be a bit of a side push as you chamber the round. I think this can affect the way the bullet enters the chamber. With the SAKO extractor there is no side-push so I can reduce the possibility of bullet misalignment.”

BR-X Stock — American Design, Canadian Craftsmanship
The BR-X carbon fiber stock represents a third-generation design. The original Millenium, built by Lee Six, was a hollow shell. This modern BR-X is carbon fiber over a foam core. In Light Varmint trim, it weighs just 1.5 pounds. Speedy tells us: “this BR-X has a low center of gravity, slight pistol grip, and the angles are really straight and true. It tracks well in the bags, and won’t lift out of the rear bag during recoil. That’s one of the purposes of the wedge-shaped rear section.”

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

Speedy looked at the various benchrest stocks, and, with input from Tony Boyer, he worked out a design that mirrored many of the better features of existing designs with some significant enhancements. The first thing you’ll notice is that the geometry is very uniform. The flats on the side of the fore-arm are perfectly parallel. The underside of the fore-arm is seamless and completely flat. Speedy explained “one problem we’ve seen with stocks that have a mold seam in the middle is that sometimes the two halves of the mold don’t mate perfectly. Sometimes the mold is mismatched so one side is on a different plane. That creates all kinds of handling issues. If the bottom of the stock is convex, even a little bit, you lose a lot of stability.”

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedMuch thought went into the rear section of the stock. Speedy and Tony found that many stocks would start off tracking well, but by the end of the string they were pulling themselves out of alignment. Speedy noted that with some more conventional designs, they tended to ride up out of the rear bag after two or three shots. The BR-X works differently. It uses a wedge design, rather than a radius, so it tends to drive itself down into the bag on recoil. The BR-X is not the only stock to use a wedge in the rear, but it is different than other wedge designs. According to Speedy: “On most other wedge stocks, the wedge tapers towards the pistol grip, making the ‘V’ wider towards the end of the buttstock. This will change point of aim as the stock moves. The BR-X has a wedge that is a constant ‘V’, with no taper from the end to the pistol grip. This does make the gun track better and stay on target better.”

Competition Benchrest Terminology

Bughole: Very small group.
Mothball: The 10-ring on the standard Benchrest Target.
Tomato Stake: A worn out or otherwise inaccurate rifle barrel.
Screamer: A group measuring less than 0.100″ at 100 yards or less than 0.250” at 200 yards.
Weather Report: A Group “scattered” as a result of poor wind doping.
Wailing Wall: Place where targets that have been scored can be viewed by competitors.
Dope the Wind: Ccompensate for the effects of wind by shifting aiming points on the target.

Barrels–The Hunt for a ‘Hummer’
Top 6 PPC competitors often run through a number of barrels in the quest for a “hummer” that performs optimally. In addition to the Pat McMillen tube on this gun, Speedy uses barrels from Hart, Krieger, and Shilen. He’s tried a few from some other boutique barrel makers and they shot well, but he wasn’t satisfied with the barrel life. Some of them lost their competitive edge after just 500-600 rounds. He won’t name names in print, but you can call and ask. When choosing a barrel, Speedy recommends that you invest the time and call a few well-known smiths who regularly compete in high-level BR matches. Find out what’s working real well currently.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedSpeedy says, “you can read the equipment lists from the big shoots, but the printed results can be deceiving. That winning barrel might have been produced a couple of years ago. Barrel-makers do have good runs and not-so-good runs. Do your homework and find out what’s working best right now.” Speedy prefers 6-groove barrels: “I’ve shot em all one time or another. It seems that the 6-groove barrels are easier to get to shoot. It seems at 200 yards bullets from a 4-groove barrel move more than from a 6-groove barrel. Both windage and elevation. I think Tony Boyer feels the same way.” [Editor’s Note: Speedy’s groove observations were made many seasons ago. Today, many top shooters are using 4-groove and 5-groove barrels, and 3-grooves have been successful in score competition.]

We asked about Speedy’s signature “SpiderWeb finish”. While the web design has esthetic appeal, there is a functional side as well: “Tests have shown that a bead-blasted barrel will shed heat faster than a highly polished barrel. With the SpiderWeb, we leave most of the bead-blast finish on the barrel, but the web effect gives the tube some visual appeal.”

Speedy Speaks — How to Succeed in Benchrest Competition

Let me begin by saying that benchrest competition is the most difficult sport I’ve ever tried. For the newcomer, it can be daunting. From the very word “go” you are thrown to the wolves. Most new competitors have about a two and a half or three-year window. After that, if they are not meeting their expectations, they get fed up and leave the sport. Considering the time, effort, and money they may have expended in that time, that’s an unfortunate outcome.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedSo, how does one improve as a shooter and get to the point where you are meeting your goals? First you need to break down the shooting process into its parts–gun handling, loading technique, wind awareness, time management, bag set-up, and what I call ‘bench management’. Then you need a mentor. Benchrest is like golf–you can have the best equipment (best action, best stock, best rest) but you won’t get far without a knowledgeable veteran to monitor your progress and observe your technique. Without a mentor, benchrest is a rough game to play and you can reach a frustration point after a couple of years.

If you don’t have somebody who can sit and evaluate your loading style, bolt-working, follow-through, and wind-reading etc., you can develop bad habits that are hard to break. If there’s no one to monitor your shooting and see what you’re doing wrong, you’ll keep making the same mistakes. So how does one find a mentor? Well it’s not a bad idea to attend one of the shooting schools. But one-on-one training is best. Look for someone with a strong record in competition, but a person who is also patient. And when you find that person, show some loyalty. With most people who have been involved in the sport a while, if you show them allegiance, they will return that allegiance.

6mm PPC Basics — About the Cartridge

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engravedDeveloped by Louis Palmisano and Ferris Pindell (left and right in photo), the 6 PPC is the “King of the Hill” in short-range benchrest competition, the most accurate cartridge ever invented. It still completely dominates 100- and 200-yard Group BR Shooting. If you want to win in that game, you pretty much have to shoot a 6 PPC, or some close variant of the 6 PPC cartridge design.

Easily made from Lapua 220 Russian brass, the 6mm PPC has a small primer and small flash hole. The small flash hole/primer accounts for much of the 6 PPC’s superior accuracy, though nobody really knows precisely how or why. The “short, fat” shape and nearly straight body contribute to efficient, consistent combustion and good “chamber behavior”.

While SAKO has created an official SAAMI 6mm PPC round, called the 6PPC USA, most American 6 PPC shooters run tight match chambers cut with custom reamers. There will be variations from one reamer to another, enough so that custom dies are generally recommended for match guns. Here is a PT&G reamer spec’d by Speedy a while back. He prefers a .263″ neck because that works better than .262″ when he needs to use his tightest bushings to get more neck tension.

Speedy thomas gonzalez 6mm PPC 6PPC 6 PPC christmas red rifle stiller viper engraved

The 6 PPC’s case capacity, case size to bore ratio, and combustion properties seem to be just about ideal for the short 6mm match bullets. A 6BR can come close, but when the goal is shooting “zero” groups at 100 and 200 yards, the 6 PPC is the clear winner. Currently most 6 PPC shooters form their cases from Lapua 220 Russian brass. Norma also makes factory-formed 6 PPC cases, but Norma brass is not commonly used as most shooters believe it is less “tough” than Lapua brass and accordingly won’t last as long with very stout match loads.

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January 11th, 2019

Bed It Right! Bedding Compounds Compared by Speedy

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

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.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

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.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

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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November 21st, 2018

Handsome .284 Win F-Class Rig with Polished Borden Action

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle
Note the owner’s name, “S. Limbourne” was engraved on the bolt release (and trigger guard, see below).

Who doesn’t like a spectacular figured-wood stock, particularly when it is combined with a superb custom action and a tack-driving barrel. Here’s some eye candy for Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is a custom .284 Winchester F-Class Open division rig created by gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez for competitive shooter Scott Limbourne. The handsome Bacote wood figured stock comes from Cerus Rifleworks, while the action is a polished Borden RBRP BRMXD. Two Brux 1:9″ twist barrels were chambered for the project, both finished at 32″. The stock is also fitted with a R.A.D. Recoil System. This rig has top-of-the-line hardware all around.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Action: Borden BRMXD – Polished
Rail: 20 MOA Polished
Chambering: .284 Winchester
Trigger: Jewell BR – Blueprinted
Barrel: (2x) Brux 32″ 1:9″ Twist
Stock: Cerus F-Open in Exhibition Grade Bacote
Recoil System: R.A.D. System
Extras: Carbon Fiber Tunnel Plate, Custom Engraving Work on Action, Trigger Guard, and Bolt Release.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

You’ll find more impressive rigs on Speedy’s Facebook Page. If you’d like a superb custom rifle like this, call Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez at 972-672-6630, or send email to: speedy.godzilla [at] msn.com.

SPEEDY GONZALEZ
9023 HUEBNER RD. STE 102
SAN ANTONIO, TX 78240

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July 20th, 2014

Tech Tip: Blue-Printing Triggers

gunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez triggerTrigger Blue-Printing — Why It Can Be Important
by Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez

To Blueprint or Not? That is the Question.
I often get asked is it really necessary to blueprint a custom match trigger. “Abolutely” is my answer. Here is an example that demonstrates why. After I completed a recent rifle project, the gun’s owner and I took the rifle to the range to break-in the barrel. But we quickly noticed a problem. The owner Alex L’s first statement was: “This trigger sucks — better blueprint it when you get back.”

Not only did the trigger feel rough and scratchy, but it failed to hold the cocking piece 2 out of 10 times when cocking the rifle for the next shot. Not good.

No matter what we tried at the range, the problem persisted. As soon as we returned from the range, I had to take the trigger apart to solve the mystery.

As soon as I opened her up on the operating table it was evident to me where the problem was. I have only seen the inside of about 3000 of these rascals and the head of the Over-Travel Screw stuck out like a sore thumb. The head of the Over-Travel Screw was nearly twice as thick as its other brothers and sisters. This caused the relationship between travel adjustment and sear engagement to be nearly impossible to adjust. And that, in turn, created a serious safety issue.

To remedy the situation, I replaced the screw with [another screw with] standard head thickness and ALL PROBLEMS DISAPPEARED… Amazing! Had I blue-printed this trigger before going to shoot, this never would have happened.

gunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez triggergunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez trigger

So, should one blueprint a trigger? I say “Hell yeah” if you are serious about competiting and winning. Otherwise be prepared for the worst. — Speedy

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April 28th, 2014

De-Gunking a Jewell Trigger — Speedy Shows How

Gunsmiths often have to serve as gun “doctors” as well as gun builders. Gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez was recently asked to fix a trigger problem. A customer was complaining about a trigger that was erratic and “mushy”. Speedy quickly diagnosed the problem. The Jewell trigger was clogged with gunk and sludge — left-over solvents and lubricants had gummed up the mechanisms. Here’s how the cleaning process unfolded…

Speedy: “Gee why would I want to blueprint my Jewell trigger….it has just got a little mushy lately. It may just need some adjustment. Yeah right — take a look at this”:

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Speedy: “Should I go get a tetanus shot now?”

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Gunsmith Mike Bryant comments: “I’ve seen a lot of Remington 700 triggers that were gummed up like [that] Jewell was. Also have seen lots of 700 triggers that had the weight-of-pull screw adjusted [by the owner] to where it had no compression on the spring. I wonder how many of the Remington accidental discharges involved triggers with one or the other of these conditions.”

Speedy: “What?! Powder in trigger as well… hmmmmmm.”

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Clean up done with Iosso Lubricant/Cleaner. Speedy says this is the “Best parts cleaner I have ever found if you don’t have an ultra sonic cleaning tank. I just melted that crud off with a Q-Tip”.

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Same Jewell trigger all happy now — clean as a whistle.

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

Trigger ready for final re-assembly, looking better than new. Thanks Speedy!

Speedy Gonzalez Jewell Trigger Cleaning Iosso

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December 15th, 2012

New Accurate LT-32 Powder Coming in January

Midsouth Shooters Supply is now taking advance orders for the new Accurate LT-32 Powder, with initial deliveries expected in January 2013. Price for a 1-lb container is $25.12, while an 8-lb jug runs $190.50. Produced by Western Powders, LT-32 is an extruded powder with extremely small kernels (roughly .0275″). This powder is designed to perform like the legendary “T-322″ powders which worked brilliantly in short-range benchrest cartridges, especially the 6mm PPC. Early testers report that Accurate LT-32 meters superbly and is easy to tune. Western claims LT-32 exhibits very low standard deviation. (Photos below by Speedy Gonzalez).

Accurate lt32 powder Western

Speedy Says Accurate LT-32 is Very Promising
Benchrest Hall-of-Famer and noted gunsmith Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez tested the prototype LT-32 powder from Western Powder earlier this year. Speedy stated: “It pains me to say it, but the new LT-32 out-shot my best lots of [the original] IMR 8208 (T-322)”.

Accurate lt32 powder Western

Speedy reports: “I must say that I was quite surprised by the results of my initial testing of the new Western Powder LT-32. Shooting this morning over my Oehler 35P triple screen chronograph yielded some very unexpected results. My best lot of ‘T’ powder continues to exhibit its age as it continues to lose velocity (as it ages). While the new Western LT-32 demonstrated this morning velocities equal to what my old ‘T’ powder used to shoot like 30 years ago.

This new powder goes through the measure like a ball powder. (Note: I have always felt that one of the reasons ‘T’ powder shot so well was due to the fact it measured so well as compared to other powders. This is a definite advantage for us that rely on consistent volume instead of weight.) I will have to shoot it over a season to see if it is as temperature and humidity insensitive as ‘T’, but it looks very promising from what I saw today.

It has yet to be seen if the new LT-32 proves to not be affected by temperature and humidity like the old T-322. But from these short tests it very much mimics my T-322 of old. My ‘T’ powder was always a blessing to me in the fact that when I went to a match I did not have the same problems everyone else was having [i.e. having] to tune up and down over the course of a weekend or week. I got to shoot and concentrate on the conditions instead of making it a tuning competition. It was always kind of funny watching everybody going up and down on their powders trying to accommodate the changes in weather as the days went on. Hopefully this will allow all to become better shooters by being able to concentrate on shooting and not re-turning every time one comes back from the bench.”

Statement from Western Powders

The Accurate LT-32 is an exact copy of the original T-32 manufactured in the same plant and on the same machinery as the original. Lou Murdica has been extensively testing it and he tells us it is the easiest powder to tune that he has seen in 40 years.

Accurate lt32 powder WesternAccording to Lou, the chamber that everybody was using in the 80s will work with this powder. The bullets do not need to be seated way out in order to get more powder in the case. In testing the powder in our Bond Universal receiver against the original “T” powder, SDs were about 30% lower with the new powder versus the “T” powder. Lou and Don Nielson donated 16 lbs. of the original T-32 lot of powder for our quality control and that is what the new powder is shot against.

All of our powders are allowed to deviate +3% to -5% in pressure from the quality control lot except LT-32 which we cut the deviation percentages in half in order to have the best lot to lot consistency in the industry for this powder[.] We developed this powder specifically for the 6mm PPC and it is QC’d in the 6mm PPC.

Keith Anderson
Western Powders Ballistic Lab

NOTE: Accurate LT-32 should also be available from PowderValleyInc.com in mid-to-late January 2013. Listed Prices are: $24.10 for 1 pound and $182.00 for 8 pounds.

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