June 28th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Trio of Tack-Driving Thumbhole Varmint Rifles

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

Mr. Smith’s Tack-Driving Thumbhole Trio
What is it they say? “Can’t have too much of a good thing?” We’ll in the case of Sam Smith of Wisconsin, that goes for beautiful wood-stocked thumbhole rifles that shoot like the blazes. This week we feature a troika of thumbholes, all smithed and stocked by Richard Franklin of Richard’s Custom Rifles (Richard is now retired but still offers DVDs). Not content with a single caliber or twist, Sam commissioned three different chamberings and barrel twist rates.

First, in Fiddleback Walnut — a 6PPC Walking Varminter
thumbhole varmint rigThe most elegant of the three thumbholes is this handsome .261″-neck 6PPC. The blue-printed Rem 700 action is pillar-bedded in a highly-figured stock of laminated Curley Fiddleback Walnut, in Richard’s #004 pattern. Richard uses three sections of wood bonded together so the outside looks like a single piece of Walnut.

The lead photo at top, and the image at right show more details of this rifle. The grain really takes on a rich color in sunlight, with the Tiger-stripe figure showing brilliantly through the clearcoat. Believe it or not, Sam doesn’t even consider this one of his best-looking rifles. Sam tells us, “these three thumbhole stocks are not even close to the prettiest guns Richard has built for me–you should see the Maple ones he did for me–they are unbelievable.”

Sam tells us the gun’s 1:14″-twist Krieger barrel is a hummer — it regularly shoots one-holers at 100 yards. Sam has even logged some groups in the Zeros with the gun–awesome accuracy for a varmint rifle/Sam tells us that, using VV N133 and 58gr V-max bullets, this gun is absolutely deadly on prairie dogs out to 500 yards. (SEE: One-hole Sample Target.)

Rifle #2 — Cherry and Walnut Together in a 6mm Rem Improved

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

When more knock-down power or more distant targets are in order, Sam pulls out his 6mm Rem Improved 1:12″-twist thumbhole Varminter. Like the other two guns, this features a pillar-bedded Remington 700 action and Krieger barrel. While the 6mm AI’s #004 stock shares the same shape and form as the 6PPC above, it is much more colorful, employing a seven-layer laminate in Cherry and Walnut, covered with multiple coats of automotive clear-coat. One of Sam’s favorite varminters, this rifle sees more range use than his 6PPC because “the PPC is so accurate I want to keep the round count down.” That’s not to say the 6mm Improved is any slouch in the accuracy department. Using VV N160 and 75gr V-max bullets, the gun averages in the 2s and 3s. The best group to date was .189″ with the 87gr V-Max (See V-Max Target below). Chalk that up to another superbly accurate Krieger barrel combined with outstanding chambering work by Richard.

6mm Rem Improved with 87gr V-Max at 100 Yards
6mm Rem improved target

Rifle #3 — Fast-Twist 6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

6.5-284 with Benchrest Forearm

Last but not least is Sam’s handsome 6.5-284 (below), also in a laminated Walnut and Cherry stock. The Krieger barrel is a Heavy Varmint contour, with an 8-twist and .290″ neck. This gun hasn’t been shot much yet, but during initial testing it grouped in the mid-threes with 53gr of H4831 and 142gr Sierra MKs. You’ll note the stock is a bit different than the other two guns–this is the #005 stock pattern, which boasts a 3″-wide, flat forearm. It is identical to the #004 from the recoil lug rearward. Sam tells us that the #005 tracks better than the #004, though he prefers the rounded forearm of the #004 for a walking varminter.

Sam’s all-time favorite stock pattern in Richard’s #007, a roll-over comb design with conventional wrist and Cooper-style Beavertail forearm. Sam has a similar Maple #007 that he says is “even nicer than the gun in the picture.”

Nice Wood? You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!
After this trio of thumbhole rifles, Sam commissioned two more rifles — a matched pair in 6mm BR Norma and 6PPC, done up in absolutely amazing 500 year-old Turkish Walnut, sourced from a one-of-a-kind 48″ diameter Burl. What does a piece of wood like this cost? Trust us, if you have to ask, you couldn’t possibly afford it. Let us just say these are some of the most spectacularly figured blanks ever shipped from Turkey and they are priced accordingly. Here’s a preview, taken right before Richard bonded the first stock together. The lower two pieces look lighter because of the flash angle but the upper section more accurately shows how all three pieces appear in natural light. “Wow” is right!

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

Richard Franklin is Now Retired in Montana
The last we heard, gunsmith Richard Franklin was enjoying his retirement years up in Montana. On RichardsCustomRifles.com Richard posted: “I built fine custom rifles and for many years. I was the first stock maker to laminate woods such high-grade walnut, fiddleback maple and other fancy woods. I designed my own ideas into my patterns and carved, finished, pillar bedded thousands of stocks on the rifles I built. My most popular stock pattern was my Model 11 thumbhole.

I love building rifles but my health has forced me to retire and to take time to smell the roses. I made many great videos on how to build rifles and have been selling them for many years. They are still in great demand.” CLICK HERE to check out Richard’s DVDs about rifle building and varmint hunting.

gunday sunday varmint rifles Richard Franklin Custom rifles virginia thumbhole

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June 7th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Barrel-Block F-Open Beast from Ireland

Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

Today’s Sunday GunDay story features a beautiful F-Open rifle from Ireland. This was crafted a few years back, but it’s still one of our favorites. It has a handsome thumbhole custom stock, and it boasts an unusual chambering — the .300 Blaser Magnum. This impressive rig carries its barreled action in a massive barrel block — not often found in F-Class rigs.

.300 Blaser Magnum Cartridge F-ClassHere’s a very impressive F-Class project from Enda Walsh of Custom & Precision Rifles in Ireland. This rifle features a free-floated BAT Machines ‘M’ action with a Benchmark barrel chambered in .300 Blaser Magnum (300 BM). The barreled action is secured with a large barrel block. This handsome, long-wheelbase F-Class rig demonstrated some stunning accuracy at 1000 yards when it was brand new. Enda tells us: “I couldn’t wait until the rifle was fully polished before testing. I went to MNSCI (Midlands National Shooting Centre of Ireland) to shoot my new barrel block rifle. I came home with a huge smile on my face after shooting a five-shot group with 1.5″ vertical and 3″ horizontal at 1000 yards in an 8 mph wind.”

Click Photo for full-screen version
Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

AUDIO FILE: Enda Walsh Talks about his New .300 BM Barrel Block F-Open Rifle.

Below you can see the barrel block in the handsome Padouk wood and carbon fiber stock. Enda uses high-spec epoxy layered between the barrel and the aluminum barrel block. Yes, those three “super-sized” cartridges are .300 Blaser Magnums loaded with with 230gr Berger Hybrids. The smaller cartridge is a .308 Win (with 150gr bullet), provided for comparison. This .300 BM drives the 230s at 3140 FPS.

Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

CLICK HERE for Horizontal Version of above photo.

.300 Blaser Magnum Cartridge F-Class.300 BM Runs 230-grainers at 3140 FPS!
Enda tells us: “I wanted something to beat the 300 WSM. After studying the .300 Blaser Magnum, I decided this was the [chambering] that could deliver high accuracy consistently and be able to shoot the 230gr Bergers at 3140 FPS. Using H1000 powder, they do very well but the case life is short at these speeds. We have backed them off a little and retained the accuracy and extended case life considerably.”

Enda says the 230gr Hybrids at 3140 fps drift much less in the wind than do 7mm 180gr Hybrids launched from a 7mm WSM. A quick run through JBM Ballistics for a 10 mph, full-value crosswind at 1000 yards (sea-level) tells the tale. JBM predicts 4.2 MOA horizontal deflection for the .30-caliber 230s at 3140 fps vs. 5.0 MOA for the 7mm 180s at 3050 fps. That 0.8 MOA difference represents more than 8 inches at 1000 yards. When you consider the small size of the F-Open X-Ring, you can see how the enhanced ballistics could be a game-changer in the wind.

Note the metal bag-rider “keel” on the underside of the buttstock.
Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

Barrel Block Acts as Heat Sink
Enda needed a way to beat the heat, with this big case. He explains: “Because of the large case volume (roughly 82 grains of usable capacity) there are two issues. Firstly, throat wear, and secondly heat. To combat this I have a new reamer on order with slight alterations which will help the throat wear. To combat the heat affecting a 34″ barrel I decided to build a barrel block rifle. It was previously mounted in a standard stock, and when the barrel got too hot accuracy was an issue. The barrel block acts as a heat sink and also shortens the overhanging barrel considerably, which has greatly improved accuracy over a complete string. The block is made from aircraft grade aluminium.” As a final note, Enda wanted to thank Pacific Tool & Gauge for the special-order reamers.

More .300 Blaser Magnum F-Classers from Enda Walsh in Ireland
Here are three more .300 Blaser Magnum F-Class rifles Enda built for the 2014 European Championships at the Bisley Range in the UK. The color scheme comes from the Irish Flag.

Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

And here is Enda Walsh himself shooting of of these rifles in Ireland:

Enda Walsh F-Class Ireland

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August 14th, 2014

Thumbhole F-Class Stock by Carl Bernosky

Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpieceMost of you know Carl Bernosky as a great marksman and 10-time National High Power Champion. But you may not realize that Carl is also a superb stock-maker. A true craftsman, Carl produces outstanding laminated and fancy wood stocks for hunters and competitive shooters. Visit CarlBernosky.com to see a selection of Carl’s competition and hunting stocks.

One of Carl’s latest creations is a thumbhole F-Class stock. Designed for F-Open shooters, this stock features a flat, 3″-wide fore-end, ergonomic grip, and adjustable cheekpiece. The laminated Bernosky stock featured here was crafted for Chesebro Rifles, which offers a turn-key stock package for the Barnard ‘P’ action, one of our favorite custom actions. This particular build features a MT Guns Vee Block Bedding System, MT Guns 3-Way Adjustable Butt Plate, and B&D Precision removable cheek piece.

Click Photo to view full-size image of stock.
Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpiece

Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpiece

As you see it, complete with all hardware (including short fore-end rail for bipod) this stock runs $1275.00 ready to ship. Just attach your Barnard barreled action and you’re ready to compete. The stock (by itself) weighs 6.5 pounds. Contact Chesebro Rifles, (661) 557-2442, for more information.

Cheek-piece close-up shows high-quality adjustment hardware.
Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpiece

Cheek-piece is relieved to allow full bolt travel.
Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpiece

Short accessory rail on the underside of the fore-end can be used to mount bipod.
Carl Bernosky Thumbhole Laminate F-Class Barnard Rifle Stock long range adjustable cheekpiece

Stock tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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