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June 17th, 2022

How to Determine a Barrel’s TRUE Twist Rate barrel rifling diagram
Erik Dahlberg illustration courtesy

Sometimes you’ll get a barrel that doesn’t stabilize bullets the way you’d anticipate, based on the stated (or presumed) twist rate. A barrel might have 1:10″ stamped on the side but it is, in truth, a 1:10.5″ twist or even a 1:9.5″. Cut-rifled barrels, such as Kriegers and Bartleins, normally hold very true to the specified twist rate. With buttoned barrels, due to the nature of the rifling process, there’s a greater chance of a small variation in twist rate. And yes, factory barrels can be slightly out of spec as well.

After buying a new barrel, you should determine the true twist rate BEFORE you start load development. You don’t want to invest in a large supply of expensive bullets only to find that that won’t stabilize because your “8 twist” barrel is really a 1:8.5″. Sinclair International provides a simple procedure for determining the actual twist rate of your barrel.

Sinclair’s Simple Twist Rate Measurement Method
If are unsure of the twist rate of the barrel, you can measure it yourself in a couple of minutes. You need a good cleaning rod with a rotating handle and a jag with a fairly tight fitting patch. Utilize a rod guide if you are accessing the barrel through the breech or a muzzle guide if you are going to come in from the muzzle end. Make sure the rod rotates freely in the handle under load. Start the patch into the barrel for a few inches and then stop. Put a piece of tape at the back of the rod by the handle (like a flag) or mark the rod in some way. Measure how much of the rod is still protruding from the rod guide. You can either measure from the rod guide or muzzle guide back to the flag or to a spot on the handle.

Next, continue to push the rod in until the mark or tape flag has made one complete revolution. Then re-measure the amount of rod that is left sticking out of the barrel. Use the same reference marks as you did on the first measurement. Next, subtract this measurement from the first measurement. This number is the twist rate. For example, if the rod has 24 inches remaining at the start and 16 inches remain after making one revolution, you have 8 inches of travel, thus a 1:8″-twist barrel.

Determining Barrel Twist Rate Empirically
Twist rate is defined as the distance in inches of barrel that the rifling takes to make one complete revolution. An example would be a 1:10″ twist rate. A 1:10″ barrel has rifling that makes one complete revolution in 10 inches of barrel length. Rifle manufacturers usually publish twist rates for their standard rifle offerings and custom barrels are always ordered by caliber, contour, and twist rate. If you are having a custom barrel chambered you can ask the gunsmith to mark the barrel with the twist rate.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip No Comments »
June 15th, 2022

Chassis Rifle Genesis — Building a Precision Tactical Rifle Video

masterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CAD

How is a modern, metal-chassis rifle built? This very cool video from Masterpiece Arms answers that question. The nicely-edited video shows the creation of a Masterpiece Arms tactical rifle from start to finish. All aspects of the manufacturing process are illustrated: 3D CAD modeling, CNC milling of the chassis, barrel threading/contouring, chamber-reaming, barrel lapping, laser engraving, and stock coating. If you love to see machines at work, you will enjoy this video…

masterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CADmasterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CAD

masterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CADmasterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CAD

masterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CADmasterpiece arms tactical rifle gunsmithing milling CNC CAD

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June 11th, 2022

Why Barrels Can Deliver Higher Velocities After 100-150 Rounds

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

Editor: Many new barrels will deliver higher velocities with the same load after 100-150 rounds through the bore. The exact reasons for this speed-up are not 100% certain, and velocity increases (if any) will vary from one barrel to the next. But this “speeding up” phenomenon is common, so be prepared if this happens with your next barrel. If you do experience a significant velocity increase you should probably re-tune your load AFTER the velocity stabilizes at the higher level.

From the Sierra Bullets Blog
Article by Mark Walker, Sierra New Product Development Director
In a previous post, I discussed a couple of methods to tune a load to your barrel to help achieve the best accuracy possible. People most often work on load tuning if they get a new rifle or have a different barrel installed. In both instances, the barrel is new and has not been fired very much. According to most competitive shooters, this is the most accurate your barrel will ever be, so getting it tuned and shooting accurately is a priority.

The Speed Up Phenomenon After 100-150 Rounds
Even though after you work up a load and your new barrel is shooting great, a lot of shooters notice that at around 100 to 150 rounds their rifle may stop shooting as accurately. I had this happen to a rifle and I was confused as to why something that worked so well to begin with would all of a sudden quit shooting. I decided to break out the chronograph to do another load work up to see what was going on. To my surprise, the velocity had increased around 80 fps over the original velocity! After performing another ladder test and adjusting the seating depth, the rifle was once again shooting well.

There are several thoughts on why this may happen, however, you can rest assured that it does happen. One thought is that as the barrel breaks in, the tooling marks in the throat of the chamber smooth out and allow less resistance to the bullet as it exits the bore thereby increasing speed. Another idea is that the throat area starts to get a little rough which in turn causes more resistance which increases pressure and therefore more velocity. I’m sure there are some out there who have a better understanding as to why this happens, but it can definitely affect the accuracy of your rifle. So be aware and never be afraid to rework a load to keep your rifle in tune.

Experts Confirm That Barrel Speed-Up Is Common
Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim SeeTwo respected shooters have observed an increase in velocity with new barrels, typically after 100 rounds. Gunsmith and Hall-of-Fame benchrest shooter Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has documented barrel speed-up with testing. Moreover, Speedy’s bore-scope barrel inspections revealed a smoothing of the barrel lands. Jim See, a top PRS competitor, has encountered barrel speed-up many times. Accordingly, he re-tunes his load at 150 rounds.

“Alex Lipworth and I documented this phenomenon about four years ago and I have told all my customers about this. My son Mikee would shoot 100 rounds through all new barrels we planned on shooting before we would begin to do load development. We had a shooting snail that caught all the bullets set up in front of an indoor bench. We called it a wear-in process because upon careful examination of the bore when the ‘Speed Up’ takes place the cut-rifled bore resembles that more of a button-rifled barrels with the lands taking on more the softer look of a buttoned bore.” — Speedy Gonzalez

“Seen it [barrel velocity increase] too many times to count. All my match barrels get a ‘generic round’ loaded for them, which has worked well in barrels historically. After I hit 150 rounds I fine-tune the load and never look back, until the tube starts to slow down at it’s life end.” — Jim See

Barrel Velocity Increase Sierra Bullets Blog Speedy Gonzalez Jim See

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June 8th, 2022

How to Disassemble, Clean, and Re-Assemble Jewell Triggers

6.5 Guys Jewell Trigger assembly disassembly maintenance cleaning

Jewell triggers are still the most-used triggers on competition benchrest and F-Class rifles and they are also popular for hunting, varmint, and tactical rifles (with or without safeties). While a Jewell trigger can work for years with minimal maintenance, if the trigger becomes gunked up, it may be necessary to disassemble the trigger for a thorough cleaning. Our friends Ed and Steve, aka the 6.5 Guys, have produced a helpful video that shows how to disassemble and then reassemble a Jewell trigger.

CLICK HERE for 6.5 Guys Jewell Trigger Assembly Guide

Why You May Need to Disassemble Your Jewell Triggerthe 6.5 Guys
Jewell triggers are a popular choice in the sport of long range precision shooting, and like everything else require regular cleaning and maintenance. In most cases they can be cleaned with charcoal lighter fluid or dropped into an ultrasonic cleaner. Should the situation require, they can be completely disassembled according to the Jewell Trigger Manual.

We ran into a situation where we had to dissemble a trigger due to the entrapment of some sticky dirt that couldn’t be removed with an ultrasonic cleaner. Our first step was to find some step-by-step instructions but we couldn’t find anything.

Recognizing that other shooters might be in the same situation we produced a step-by-step guide and video, published in full on These instructions will work with a left- or right-handed trigger. In our case we worked with a left-handed BR model trigger with safety and bolt release.

Step-by-Step Instructions are provided on website. We recommend you read all the instructions carefully before you even think about disassembling your trigger. This video explains the process so you can get a sense of what is involved.

6.5 Guys Jewell Trigger assembly disassembly maintenance cleaning

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June 8th, 2022

Pre-Fit Solution — Don’t Waste Time with a Funky Factory Barrel

Savage Pre-Fit Criterion Barrel

Get WAY Better Groups with New Criterion Pre-Fit Custom Barrel

Savage Criterion Barrel

Savage Criterion BarrelIn 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
Savage Criterion Barrel

Read Thread on Savage Accuracy Issues Fixed By 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.

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June 5th, 2022

Sunday Gunday: Multi-Tasking .308 Tubegun in Eliseo Chassis

eliseo competition machine tubegun .308 Win Lafevers palma bag rider steel tactical

This article features an impressive .308 Winchester tubegun, crafted with an Eliseo (Competition Machine) RTS chassis, Borden action, and 30″ Krieger medium Palma Contour barrel. Owner Mark LaFevers chambered and fitted the barrel and assembled the rifle himself. What’s more, Mark even crafted his own muzzle brake, front/rear bag-riders, and his own, innovative “big-foot” bipod! Mark’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tubegun has proven as accurate as it is multi-faceted. Optimized to shoot the 155-grain-class match projectiles, this gun is a tack-driver. This Editor has witnessed the gun repeatedly put 3-round groups into one ragged hole at 100 yards. At 600 yards, the gun has held under 1″ of vertical in competition.

When it comes to versatility, it’s hard to beat a tubegun chambered in .308 Winchester. This rifle system can be used in High Power (Palma) competition, F-TR matches, Long Range Steel Matches, and Tactical Competitions. With the addition of a front sled, a modern tubegun can even be competitive in 600-yard benchrest matches, as demonstrated by Jerry Tierney, who, some years back, won the NBRSA 600-yard Nationals with an Eliseo (Competition Machine) tubegun.

Do-It-All Multi-Discipline .308 Win Tubegun for F-TR, Benchrest, Varmint Matches, Palma, and Tactical Competitions

by Mark LaFevers

The Concept — a ‘Do-It-All .308 Win’
This project began with a wish list developed after shooting in a precision tactical match in 2009. From that experience I knew I wanted a magazine-fed precision bolt gun sporting a high-quality, variable-power scope. I wanted a rifle that could be competitive in a broad range of gun games including tac comps and long-range prone events. If the gun could also double as a medium-range benchrest rig, that would satisfy the needs of the monthly club matches I shoot — a varmint steel silhouette match (shot from the bench), and an F-Class style prone event. I also wanted a gun that could shoot Palma matches someday (when I get around to learning to shoot with iron sights).

Because I like to build things, I’m always looking for projects that offer opportunities to customize and innovate to suit my needs. And because I’m interested in trying different shooting disciplines, I hoped to craft a rifle that could be reconfigured fairly easily to fit various needs. To maximize the gun’s potential, I chose to use only the highest-quality components for every aspect of this project. I planned on building as much of this rifle as I possibly could myself — and that would include chambering and fitting a barrel for the first time. Having much to learn, I would be relying heavily on the expert advice and goodwill of others for the gun’s success.

The Do-It-Yourself Approach — The Appeal of Building Your Own Rifle
Not everyone understands the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to life. Why would anyone try to smith his own rifle, when he could have it done by competent professionals? There is the imagined prospect of cost savings. However, a home gunsmith may find that, at least initially, it costs more money to do it yourself when all the costs of tooling etc. are calculated. But doing it yourself is not just about saving money. There is a special satisfaction derived from building something with your own hands. For me the relationship between practiced hands, tools, materials, and knowledge of craft is important. The DIY approach surely means different things to different people. For me it’s about the quest for improvement, and an appreciation of the importance of craftmanship in history, and trying to do my part.

Whatever our craft, the fit and function of the things we care about ultimately define us. In this project I felt a responsibility to uphold certain standards. I also was motivated by the desire to give ‘homage’ to my distant relative Daniel M. LeFever, a gun-maker who left his mark on the firearms industry in the 1870s. “Uncle Dan” LeFever crafted high-grade double guns that rivaled the finest European doubles.*

Choosing Components for the .308 Win Tubegun
Looking over the range of suitable equipment, it did not take long to come across Gary Eliseo’s Competition Machine tubegun chassis kit. Initially intrigued by the beauty of the machine work in this aluminum stock, the more I looked the better this platform seemed. Gary’s RTS kit for Remington 700 and Rem clones accepts the proven AICS magazines and offers great stock adjustment flexibility. For more on that subject read German Salazar’s excellent article on Configuring the Eliseo Tubegun Stock.

.308 Eliseo Tubegun

When I learned that Jim Borden,, was building an action designed specifically for the Eliseo tubegun stock, the decision to go this route was made even easier. I had previously had the opportunity to admire close up the Borden action used by our top Club benchrest record holder, and I knew I couldn’t go wrong there. In selecting a trigger group, I knew I wanted a fully adjustable two-stage trigger that could be set for different pull weights for various shooting disciplines. At first glance Jewell seemed to be the obvious choices, but I asked if there were any products that might be better than the Jewell for my purposes. It was suggested that an American-made trigger by CG Jackson might do the trick, so I talked with Tom Myers of X-Treme Shooting Products. Tom’s company offered a fully-adjustable, 2-stage Mod 22 Tactical trigger that fits Remington 700 actions and their clones. It is offered with a fixed or moveable shoe, with or without a safety. I chose the fixed trigger shoe with no safety.

Eliseo Tubegun

Choosing a Scope
Given my prior positive experiences with Nightforce products, a Nightforce scope was my first choice in optics. But I needed to select between the NXS (side-focus) and BR (front focus) models, and chose a magnification range. Because I wanted to play a variety of gun games from Tactical to Benchrest, it seemed to me that the NXS, with its faster side focus parallax adjustment, would be the more versatile choice. I went with the 12-42x56mm version so that I had plenty of magnification on tap for long-range precision work. I can still dial it back to 12 power for a wider field of view, as needed.

LaFevers .308
Mark bench-testing the gun during Load Development. The front rest is the superb SEB Neo Co-Axial.

Caliber Choice and Load Development

Choice of Caliber — .308 Win Offers Accuracy, Versatility, Long Barrel Life
Rather than agonize over the many caliber choices, I chose to step back and consider what I thought, in my experience, made winning shooters. Was it the caliber they were shooting or their training, skill and intelligence, that made them winners? While it is true that various calibers do have their specific merits, it is also true that an individual with five times as much training as you is likely to beat you with whatever caliber he or she is using. Case in point being the tactical match that got me started on this project, won by a young Marine shooting a .308 Win. While many other competitors had rifles with “faster, flatter, superior ballistics”, the Marine topped the field through his superior training, natural ability, and the keen edge of youth. With the right trigger puller, .308 Win was clearly still good enough to win this kind of match.

Among the arguments in favor of the .308 Win caliber for this project were:

  • I had positive previous experience with the .308 and was already set up to reload for it.
  • Very wide selection of performance-proven bullets.
  • Some popular disciplines, such as F-TR and International Fullbore, specify .308 Win (7.62×51) as one of the “permitted” chamberings.
  • Top shooters could provide guidance on .308 load development, and effective shooting techniques.
  • .308 Win offers long barrel life.

Weighing against the .308 Win were higher component costs and heavier recoil compared to many popular, smaller, mid-distance calibers, such as the 6mmBR, 6 Dasher, 6XC, and 6.5×47 Lapua.

Selecting the Optimal Barrel Configuration for my Bullet Selection
One way of narrowing the field of .308 bullet options is to choose a specific bullet that has performed well for winning shooters, and design the gun around the bullet. The weight of the bullet and its preference for a specific seating depth dictate the twist rate of the barrel and the depth of the chamber, which is also dependent upon whether you choose to single feed or magazine feed. Because I have had very positive experiences with Berger bullets, and becasue Berger Ballistician Bryan Litz was very positive about Berger’s 155.5gr Palma bullet, that was my starting bullet choice for this gun. Because Bryan had great 1000-yard success with a 1:13 twist barrel with the 155.5 bullet, but thought he might go with a 1:12 twist next time, I felt it would be interesting to try a 1:12.5″ twist. Krieger Barrels was able to privde this specific twist rate, and we hoped Krieger’s 5R rifling with a 30″ length would yield a fast barrel. Some extra velocity would help offset the velocity loss I might suffer by being limited to a mag-length COAL. (If I could load longer than mag length I could stuff in more powder and get more velocity.) The Krieger 5R proved a very good choice. From the start the barrel has cleaned up easily, it has delivered awesome accuracy, and it holds very tight elevation at long range. I’ve also been able to achieve very low ES/SD with this Krieger.

Gun Set-Up and Initial Testing
The first break-in of the rifle was done at 100 yards on home turf at the Ojai Valley Gun Club in California. Your Editor and I put 40 rounds through it using Krieger’s recommended break-in procedure. Our impression was that in less than 10 rounds the barrel was ready for competition. I shot the second 10 rounds looking at the performance of the variable muzzle brake I had built. Firing initially with only the one built-in baffle in place, a tremendous amount of gas was still blowing forward, made visually more pronounced by the frosty 29° air. Maximum recoil reduction was achieved adding the front baffle spool, so this is how the brake will be used. On disassembly after firing the forward faces of the baffle spool show descending amounts of powder residue from the gas entry to exit end, with almost no residue at the final baffle wall, showing most of the gas has exited to the side by that point. Attention to precision alignment shows the brake having no adverse effect on accuracy, as the last 20 rounds seated to various depths yielded a couple three-shot, one-hole groups at 100. At the end of the session I was pleased to find that the Krieger barrel cleaned extremely easily. Two wet patches cleared the powder residue and just a little copper showed up at the muzzle end by visual inspection.

Muzzle Brake with Baffle

The Jim Borden action has a really nice feel when single round loading, and good consistency feeding from the magazine with an authoritative hand. The ejector is very aggressive and will pitch the brass off the bench if it isn’t blocked from escaping. This action cycles very smoothly, and the beautiful workmanship shows even with the tubegun chassis mostly surrounding it.

Eliseo Tubegun
Mark crafted two front sleds for the gun, one from metal, another from wood (which worked a bit better). Mark notes: “With the wood bag-rider in place the gun became quite stable, and you didn’t notice the high center of gravity so much.” Mark also made his own rear Bag-Rider.

Tubegun Wins First Fun Match
Shortly after breaking in the barrel, I took the gun down to a nearby range to compete in an informal 300- and 400-yard paper competition. I thought it would be fun to test loads while shooting in a club-level fun match. I was getting the best grouping at 44.5 grains of Varget, hotter loads were not doing so well, leading me to believe I needed to work up loads from 44.0 to 44.5 by tenths to find the sweet spot. In the 10-competitor match I squeaked out a win by 1 point. Still, a win is a win!

Load Development

I took the rifle up to the Ojai range at daybreak to run some load variations at 600 yards in still 26° air. I printed targets (sourced from’s FREE Target Page) that had a 1″ red dot within a 5″ grid box. The dot made an excellent aim point at 600 yards. Here the capabilities of the Nightforce 12-42 NXS optic really became apparent. In the exceptionally clear, early morning conditions, I could see the dot AND the bullet holes — all at 600 yards downrange! I had set up my 72-power Meade spotting scope but didn’t use it as the Nightforce scope had more clarity and sharpness. There was no need to go downrange to check the targets, as bullet holes were clearly visible on the targets. This is great because I can make better use of the narrow window of perfect air in the morning, before the sun stirs thermals and mirage.

In this rifle, the Berger 155.5gr Fullbore bullet likes to be seated .010″ off what I’m calling “Max Jam”, using a Hornady OAL length gauge pressing the bullet softly into the lands, so the bullet just barely sticks there when the tool is removed. [Editor’s Note: At his optimal seating depth, Mark’s bullets are still in the lands, just .010″ shy of the max length he can load them without set-back.] The rounds are loaded to 2.850″ OAL to magazine feed. Even though I cut a “no-turn” chamber, I do lightly turn the outside of the case necks to uniform them. I like to look at bullet bearing surface length variations, using a Sinclair comparator body and two .30-cal inserts, one on the nose and the other on the tail of the bullet. With very uniform bullets like the Bergers this method is really only attempting to spot that random outlier bullet that varies in length enough to separate from the group. This is no knock on Berger, just a nod to the challenges of maintaining incredibly tight manufacturing tolerances.

Eliseo Tubegun

Today’s five shot groups of Varget, jumping by tenths of a grain from 44.0 to 44.5 grains, showed the best grouping to be at 44.1 grains. The hotter loads were breaking the 2900 fps level, but the groups were not as tight as they were at the lower end. At 44.1 grains of Varget the five-shot group had a vertical dispersion of 1.9″ and a horizontal dispersion of 1.25″ at 600 yards, making that a keeper load.

Competition Load Selection and Performance
With a NBRSA 600-yard match fast approaching, I realized that with all the focus on testing I didn’t have enough Lapua brass to shoot the entire match. My solution was to fall back on once-fired Hornady Match brass, with which I have also had excellent luck. So, the day before the NBRSA match, I loaded up the best combinations of the Berger 155.5s with Hornady/Varget, Lapua/Varget, and Hornady/8208 for a final trial, and headed out to a 1000-yard range that’s a two-hour drive from home. Expecting to see the faster IMR 8208 edge out the Varget at this range, I was surprised to see the performance basically identical. With this last minute perspective I decided to shoot the six target NBRSA match using Berger/Hornady/Varget for the first three matches, then Berger/Hornady/8208 for the last three matches when the extra speed might help in a rising afternoon wind.

Match Results
Best results were in Match 1 using 44.0 grains of Varget to push the Berger 155.5 from the Hornady Match brass. Fortunately four bullets flew to a 1.44” group in the blue, unfortunately it was a five-shot match and one bullet flew high left. Excellent promise also showed in Match 6 with the IMR 8208 XBR powder yielding less than an inch of vertical at 600 yards. The lesson I learned from the event was that operator consistency was a much bigger factor than the technical limitations of the hardware or the ammunition. The gun can definitely shoot better than I can hold. I had the opportunity to shoot off a beautiful SEB NEO front rest in this competition. Although I am not a fan yet of joystick controls, this rest performed flawlessly and definitely had a positive effect on performance.

Eliseo Tubegun Target

My Overall Impressions of the Project
For use as a benchrest rig, the tubegun provides an interesting challenge, because the pistol grip seems to make the gun much more sensitive to steering errors than a typical low-profile benchrest stock. You have to focus on consistency of grip. A light grip and firm cheek weld combination seems to work well at the bench, but the gun also responds well to a very firm grip and heavy shoulder pressure when fired in the prone position. Building an Eliseo tubegun is a great project and the finished product is a very versatile, fun-to-shoot gun! To encourage others with similar interests, let me just say that the products and components used in this project all get my five-star endorsement, without exception or hesitation.

The biggest challenge with this rifle lies in my own skill development — particularly for tactical matches. If you only have experience with known-distance shooting matches, you’ll need a whole new set of skills to be successful in unknown-distance (UKD) tactical competitions. These UKD matches require high levels of shooting intelligence and training. However, now that I have a rifle that instills confidence, I can work to improve my skills. Overall, I am very happy with the results of this project — the gun has certainly lived up to my expectations. It is rugged, accurate and very adept at “multi-tasking.”

DIY Machining — Chambering My First Barrel

One of my main objectives with this project was to do my own barrel chamber reaming and fit-up work. I had been studying and working from John Hinnants’s excellent book on Precision Rifle Barrel Making, building tools and working with the concepts, and felt myself to be ready to tackle the machining aspects of the project. Having local ace gunsmith Mac Tilton to talk to really helped me understand what would be needed. Greg Tannel’s excellent GreTan DVDs on how to set up a high pressure thru-the-barrel reamer flushing system and align the lathe tailstock properly for precision chamber reaming were invaluable. Greg’s off-the-shelf, hardware-store flow control layout makes the flushing system easy to regulate for other purposes as well. I built the reamer holder Greg describes in his DVD, and it too works well.

I began at everyone’s recommended starting point, which was to recheck the level of my lathe, a Jet 1340 gearhead belt-driven model. To accomplish this I used a precision 12” machinist level from Grizzly Tools. I can’t say the tool was easy to use because the leveling process is tedious as hell, but the level worked very well.

Manson .308 Reamer

Dave Manson Shares His Reamer Knowledge
In researching which reamer maker to use to create the custom reamer for the Berger 155.5 fullbore bullet, which seems to like about .015″ jump to the lands, I was drawn by name recognition to Dave Manson’s products. In my years of thumbing through Brownells catalogs I was impressed with the thought Dave had put into the development of so many of his tools. During several phone conversations, I greatly benefited from Dave’s experience with chamber tolerances, cutting fluids and reamer modifications specific to thru-the-barrel flushing. To help spec the reamer, I sent Dave a couple dummy rounds built to magazine length so he could make a custom reamer to yield .015” jump and a no-turn neck. In no time I was using the Dave Manson reamer to practice with the flushing system on pieces cut from a take-off barrel, then checking dimensions using Cerrosafe castings. The dimensions were exactly as we had discussed, and I do mean EXACTLY! From the way Dave’s reamer worked in practice chambers, I knew this tool would produce a superior chamber.

Grizzly Tailstock DRO

Chambering Process with Tailstock DRO
For this project I set up a lathe tailstock digital readout from Grizzly, part # T10118, to help keep track of boring depth. Unlike relying on counting revolutions of the tailstock handwheel, with the DRO you are looking at the total travel measurement on a digital display, which is equally precise to the alternate dial indicator method. The chamber was cut in the stainless Krieger barrel at 60 RPM, using Mobilmet 744 heavy cutting oil diluted with mineral spirits, flushing chips from the reamer flutes at 100 PSI. For the last few thousandths of cut, lathe power was shut off and the cut completed by turning the reamer holder by hand while in-feeding with the lathe tailstock handwheel for precise depth and chamber dimension control.

To shorten this article up a bit and keep it on point for those interested in the rifle and not the process, let me just mention that details of some of the additional parts I made can be seen at my website: Those parts include a muzzle brake of my design, my fast attach bipod design, a drop-leg level, wood grip, and wooden as well as metal front and rear bag riders for benchrest work.

For their participation and patience in supporting this project, and their tolerance of my myriad questions about parts and processes, I would like to thank, in alphabetical order:

Berger Bullets — — Berger 155.5gr Fullbore Match bullets.
Jim Borden — — Stainless Rem. Clone action for Eliseo tubegun.
Gary Eliseo — — RTS tubegun stock kit.
Grizzly Industrial —
Krieger Barrels — — 30″ Medium Palma, 1:12.5″ twist 5R rifling, tight bore.
Dave Manson — — Custom .308 Win finish reamer for Berger 155.5 fullbore bullet.
Tom Myers — X-tremeShooting XTSP — CG Jackson Mod 22 Tactical 2-Stage Trigger.
Nightforce Optics — — 12-42×56 NXS Scope with NP-R1 ranging reticle.
Greg Tannel — — Lathe set-up and chambering DVDs.

*According to Chuck Hawks: “‘Uncle’ Dan Lefever was one of the greatest gun designers of his, or any, time. He founded several companies….The largest and best known of these, Lefever Arms Co., was eventually acquired by the Ithaca Gun Company around the time of the First World War. In the hey day of the classic American double there were guns galore and many different grades and price points, from plain field grade guns to masterpieces rivaling the best European guns. The Lefever Arms guns, for example, won medals at an International Arms Exhibition for ‘Best American’ and ‘World’s Best’ shotgun.”

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June 1st, 2022

Big Boomer .50 BMG Boasts Impressive Half-MOA Accuracy

.50 BMG Richard King Texas half-MOA

A few seasons ago, Texas gunsmith Richard King built an impressive .50 BMG target rifle for a customer. Equipped with a beefy McMillan stock, this rig has delivered some very impressive accuracy. Check out that target shot during break-in. Using On Target software, we measured this 3-shot group at 0.476″ or 0.454 MOA. Not bad for a beast with VERY serious recoil. Do you think you could beat that 0.476″ with your AR15 shooting puny .223-caliber bullets?

.50 BMG Richard King Texas half-MOA
Compare the dimensions of that massive 50-Cal action to a Rem 700 action in the middle. When you’re shooting a Fifty, size matters!

On Facebook, some folks were surprised a guy could wring that kind of accuracy out of a monster .50 BMG. One wag posted: “Yikes! He will need flinch therapy after shooting that beast.”

Another Facebooker joked: “When shooting a .50 BMG you say…In your best Crocodile Dundee voice…that’s not a gun, THIS is a gun!”

Richard King responded that this customer has quite a bit of experience with jumbo-caliber rifles: “Remember this is the guy that shot a .338 Lapua in a two-day F-Class match. Recoil might actually be easier on this 50, given the fact that it has more weight and a brake.”

.50 BMG Richard King Texas half-MOA

Richard King showed us the monster 13-lb BAT action for this rifle at the 2018 Berger SWN. Honestly, the big BAT .50 BMG action was HUGE — with the bolt fully extended it was the size of your forearm (to the finger tips). Richard joked “This weighs almost as much as an F-TR rifle (before optic) all by itself”.

Richard King Berger SWN BAT action

Specialty Tools for the Big .50 BMG
Yes, the .50 BMG is one huge cartridge. Thankfully, there are some special tools for loading the jumbo-size round. Giraud Tool produces a specialty comparator for the 50-Cal cartridge. The double-ended .50 BMG comparator is quite versatile. In one orientation you can measure base-to-ogive bullet length and also measure cartridge OAL from rim to bullet ogive. When reversed, you can use the comparator to measure cartridge headspace. Priced at $33.00, Giraud 50 BMG Comparator gauge is constructed of 303 stainless and fits most any vernier, dial, or digital caliper. CLICK HERE for more info.

Giraud Tools 50 BMG comparator gauge

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May 26th, 2022

Brownells Memorial Day Discounts and Dream Build Giveaway

Brownells Memorial Day Sale contest dream build giveaway 2022

Right now through 5/30/2022 at 11:59 pm Central Time, you can get significant savings on the vast majority of products Brownells sells, along with FREE Shipping. This is through the Brownells Memorial Day Sale Event. In addition, if you’re feeling lucky, Brownells is running a contest. The Grand Prize winner will receive all the components for a dream rifle along with a full-paid trip to Brownells Headquarters. Total prize value is $4500.00.

Here are the current DISCOUNT CODES for significant savings when ordering in the next few days. Take note — these codes expire at 11:59 pm on Monday 5/30/2022. These promos apply to domestic sales only in the continental USA and is not valid on international purchases.

Brownells Memorial Day Event Discount Codes
MEMSHIP: FREE Shipping on Orders $150+
MEMORIAL30: FREE Shipping and $30 Off Orders $300+
MEMORIAL50: FREE Shipping and $50 Off Orders $500+

Along with the discount codes, a number of popular products are on SALE this week, including ammo, optics, magazines, AR components, barrels, triggers, and complete rifles and handguns. CLICK HERE to see ALL current items on sale at Brownells.

NOTE — These discount codes are not valid on these brands: B&T USA, FN USA, Franklin Armory, Galco Int’l, Glock, Holosun, Kahles, LabRadar, Law Tactical LLC, Leica, Leupold, Nightforce, Raven Concealment Systems, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Swarovski, Vortex Optics, Trijicon, Zenith Firearms, and Zermatt Arms. Additionally, some product types are excluded.*

Brownells Memorial Day Sale contest dream build giveaway 2022

* Discount Codes not valid on these products: barrel blanks, benches, barrel hones & accessories, barreled receivers, barrels, bluing salts, bullets, case tumblers & accessories, cleaning rods, color case hardening, parkerizing, progressive presses, reloading kits, rifle barrel blanks, rifle barrels, rifle stocks, shot, shotshell presses, specialty bluing chemicals, ultrasonic case cleaners, water storage, bake-on finishing curing oven, Neycraft manual control fiber furnace, bluing system kit, roll-around compact bluing system, first step bluing kit, HT-1 heat treat oven, color case hardening kit, Aztek Unlock Key Software, and Match Precision Optics (MPO).

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May 20th, 2022

How Muzzle Velocity Changes with Different Barrel Twist Rates

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz
Many barrel-makers mark the twist rate and bore dimensions on their barrel blanks.

Does muzzle velocity change with faster or slower barrel twist rates? Absolutely, but much less than you might think. Faster twist rates do slow down bullets somewhat, but the speed loss is NOT that significant. With Bartlein .308 Win barrels of identical length and contour, a 1:12″-twist barrel was only 8 fps faster than a 1:8″-twist barrel. That was the result of testing by Applied Ballistics.

The Applied Ballistics team tested six (6) same-length/same-contour Bartlein barrels to observe how twist rate might affect muzzle velocity. This unique, multi-barrel test is featured in the book Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Vol. 1. That book includes other fascinating field tests, including a comprehensive chronograph comparison.

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz
Barrel Twist Rate vs. Velocity — What Tests Reveal
by Bryan Litz
When considering barrel twist rates, it’s a common belief that faster twist rates will reduce muzzle velocity. The thinking is that the faster twist rate will resist forward motion of the bullet and slow it down. There are anecdotal accounts of this, such as when someone replaces a barrel of one brand/twist with a different brand and twist and observes a different muzzle velocity. But how do you know the twist rate is what affected muzzle velocity and not the barrel finish, or bore/groove dimensions? Did you use the same chronograph to measure velocity from both barrels? Do you really trust your chronograph?

Summary of Test Results
After all the smoke cleared, we found that muzzle velocity correlates to twist rate at the average rate of approximately 1.33 FPS per inch of twist. In other words, your velocity is reduced by about 5 FPS if you go from a 1:12″ twist to a 1:8″ twist. — Bryan Litz

Savage Test Rifle with Six Bartlein Barrels
Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics

Most shooters don’t have access to the equipment required to fully explore questions like this. These are exactly the kinds of things we examine in the book Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Vol. 1. In that book, we present experiments conducted in the Applied Ballistics lab. Some of those experiments took on a “Myth Buster” tone as we sought to confirm (or deny) popular pre-conceptions. For example, here’s how we approached the question of barrel twist and muzzle velocity.

Six .308 Win Barrels from Bartlein — All Shot from the Same Rifle
We acquired six (6) barrels from the same manufacturer (Bartlein), all the same length and contour, and all chambered with the same reamer (SAAMI spec .308 Winchester). All these barrels were fitted to the same Savage Precision Target action, and fired from the same stock, and bench set-up. Common ammo was fired from all six barrels having different twist rates and rifling configurations. In this way, we’re truly able to compare what effect the actual twist rate has on muzzle velocity with a reasonable degree of confidence.

Prior to live fire testing, we explored the theoretical basis of the project, doing the physics. In this case, an energy balance is presented which predicts how much velocity you should expect to lose for a bullet that’s got a little more rotational energy from the faster twist. In the case of the .30 caliber 175 grain bullets, the math predicts a loss of 1.25 fps per inch-unit of barrel twist (e.g. a 1:8″ twist is predicted to be 1.25 fps slower than a 1:9″ twist).

Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics

Above, data shows relationship between Twist Rate and Muzzle Velocity (MV) for various barrel twist rates and rifling types. From fast to slow, the three 1:10″ twist barrels are: 5R (canted land), 5 Groove, 5 Groove left-hand twist.

We proceeded with testing all 6 barrels, with twist rates from 1:8″ to 1:12″. After all the smoke cleared, we found that muzzle velocity correlates to twist rate at the average rate of approximately 1.33 fps per inch of twist. In other words, your velocity is reduced by about 5 fps if you go from a 1:12″ twist to a 1:8″ twist. [Editor: That’s an average for all the lengths tested. The actual variance between 1:12″ and 1:8″ here was 8 FPS.] In this case the math prediction was pretty close, and we have to remember that there’s always uncertainty in the live fire results. Uncertainty is always considered in terms of what conclusions the results can actually support with confidence.

Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied BallisticsThis is just a brief synopsis of a single test case. The coverage of twist rates in Modern Advancements in Long-Range Shooting Vol. 1 is more detailed, with multiple live fire tests. Results are extrapolated for other calibers and bullet weights. Needless to say, the question of “how twist rate affects muzzle velocity” is fully answered.

Other chapters in the book’s twist rate section include:
· Stability and Drag — Supersonic
· Stability and Drag — Transonic
· Spin Rate Decay
· Effect of Twist rate on Precision

Other sections of the book include: Modern Rifles, Scopes, and Bullets as well as Advancements in Predictive Modeling. This book is sold through the Applied Ballistics online store. Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting is also available as an eBook in Amazon Kindle format.

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May 18th, 2022

Optimal Barrel Twist Rate — Factors to Consider

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth
Here’s an extreme range of .224-Caliber bullets: 35gr varmint bullet and 90gr match bullet. Of course, along with bullet length/design, you need to consider MV when choosing twist rate.

Even with the same caliber (and same bullet weight), different bullet types may require different rates of spin to stabilize properly. The bullet’s initial spin rate (RPM) is a function of the bullet’s muzzle velocity and the spin imparted by the rifling in the barrel. You want to ensure your bullet is stable throughout flight. It is better to have too much spin than too little, according to many ballistics experts, including Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. The late Glen Zediker put together some basic tips concerning barrel twist rates and bullet stability. These come from Glen’s book, Top Grade Ammo.

Choosing the Right Twist Rate
I’d always rather have a twist too fast than not fast enough. Generally… I recommend erring toward the faster side of a barrel twist decision. 1:8″ twist is becoming a “new standard” for .224 caliber, replacing 1:9″ in the process. The reason is that new bullets tend to be bigger rather than smaller. Don’t let a too-slow twist limit your capacity to [achieve] better long-range performance.

Base your next barrel twist rate decision on the longest, heaviest bullets you choose to use, and at the same time realize that the rate you choose will in turn limit your bullet choices. If the longest, heaviest bullet you’ll shoot (ever) is a 55-grain .224, then there’s honestly no reason not to use a 1:12″. Likewise true for .308-caliber: unless you’re going over 200-grain bullet weight, a 1:10″ will perform perfectly well.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth

Bullet Length is More Critical than Weight
Bullet length, not weight, [primarily] determines how much rotation is necessary for stability. Twist rate suggestions, though, are most usually given with respect to bullet weight, but that’s more of a generality for convenience’s sake, I think. The reason is that with the introduction of higher-ballistic-coefficient bullet designs, which are longer than conventional forms, it is easily possible to have two same-weight bullets that won’t both stabilize from the same twist rate.

Evidence of Instability
The tell-tale for an unstable (wobbling or tumbling) bullet is an oblong hole in the target paper, a “keyhole,” and that means the bullet contacted the target at some attitude other than nose-first.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo MidsouthIncreasing Barrel Length Can Deliver More Velocity, But That May Still Not Provide Enough Stability if the Twist Rate Is Too Slow

Bullet speed and barrel length have an influence on bullet stability, and a higher muzzle velocity through a longer tube will bring on more effect from the twist, but it’s a little too edgy if a particular bullet stabilizes only when running maximum velocity.

My failed 90-grain .224 experiment is a good example of that: I could get them asleep in a 1:7″ twist, 25-inch barrel, which was chambered in .22 PPC, but could not get them stabilized in a 20-inch 1:7″ .223 Rem. The answer always is to get a twist that’s correct.

These tips were adapted from Glen’s popular 2016 book, Top-Grade Ammo, now $38.95 on Amazon. That work has numerous helpful articles on technical topics. Here are links to this title and other books by Glen Zediker.

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May 17th, 2022

Krieger Cut-Rifled Barrel-Making — Start to Finish on Video

Krieger Barrels Cut Rifling Cut-Rifled Barreling

How Krieger Builds Barrels

This video shows the process of cut-rifled barrel-making by Krieger Barrels, one of the world’s best barrel manufacturers. Krieger cut-rifled barrels have set numerous world records and are favored by many top shooters. The video show the huge, complex machines used — bore-drilling equipment and hydraulic riflers. You can also see how barrels are contoured, polished, and inspected.

For anyone interested in accurate rifles, this is absolutely a “must-watch” video. Watch blanks being cryogenically treated, then drilled and lathe-turned. Next comes the big stuff — the massive rifling machines that single-point-cut the rifling in a precise, time-consuming process. Following that you can see barrels being contoured, polished, and inspected (with air gauge and bore-scope). There is even a sequence showing chambers being cut.

Click Arrow to Watch Krieger Barrels Video:

Here is a time-line of the important barrel-making processes shown in the video. You may want to use the “Pause” button, or repeat some segments to get a better look at particular operations. The numbers on the left represent playback minutes and seconds.

Krieger Barrel-Making Processes Shown in Video:

00:24 – Cryogenic treatment of steel blanks
00:38 – Pre-contour Barrels on CNC lathe
01:14 – Drilling Barrels
01:28 – Finish Turning on CNC lathe
01:40 – Reaming
01:50 – Cut Rifling
02:12 – Hand Lapping
02:25 – Cut Rifling
02:40 – Finish Lapping
02:55 – Outside Contour Inspection
03:10 – Engraving
03:22 – Polish
03:50 – Fluting
03:56 – Chambering
04:16 – Final Inspection

Krieger Barrels

Pratt & Whitney Cut rifling hydraulic machine

“At the start of World War Two, Pratt & Whitney developed a new, ‘B’ series of hydraulically-powered rifling machines, which were in fact two machines on the same bed. They weighed in at three tons and required the concrete floors now generally seen in workshops by this time. Very few of these hydraulic machines subsequently became available on the surplus market and now it is these machines which are sought after and used by barrel makers like John Krieger and ‘Boots’ Obermeyer. In fact, there are probably less of the ‘B’ series hydraulic riflers around today than of the older ‘Sine Bar’ universal riflers.” — Geoffrey Kolbe, Border Barrels.

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May 14th, 2022

M1A Tech Tips and Springfield M1A Match at Camp Perry

Springfield M1A gunsmith armorer's course AGI

Do you own a Springfield M1A (or wish you did)? Then you should watch this 5-minute video from the American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI). This video shows the basics of the operation of the popular M1A rifle, the civilian version of the military M14. In this video, gunsmith John Bush field-strips the M1A and shows how the bolt, op rod, and trigger group fits together and operates. This video contains excerpts from the M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course, AGI Course #1584. The full Armorer’s Course is available on DVD from

Watch Highlights of AGI M1A Rifle Armorer’s Course:

Springfield M1A rifle camp perry m14 .308 win AGI

Springfield M1A gunsmith armorer's course AGI

2022 CMP Springfield M1A Match at Camp Perry

The 15th annual Springfield Armory M1A Match will take place during the 2022 CMP National Rifle Matches. The CMP will host the event on Sunday, August 7, 2022, the same weekend as the Garand/Springfield/Vintage Military matches. Competitors of all experience levels are encouraged to bring their M1A rifles to Camp Perry and compete. CLICK HERE for Online REGISTRATION. The match is open to all individuals ages 12 and above. For more information contact the CMP at or call 419-635-2141 ext. 724 or 714.

Springfield M1A match high power rifle

The Springfield Armory M1A match began with one man’s idea and passion. Springfield Armory’s Mike Doy witnessed the waning of classic M1 Garand and M1A rifles from the competitive High Power firing lines. “I really wanted to get those M1A rifles out of safes and closets and back out onto the field. So 11 years ago, I promoted the idea of running an M1A-specific match at Camp Perry. That first year we had over 600 competitors and spectators.” Now the match offers some of the biggest pay-outs at Camp Perry. In recent years, Springfield Armory has donated over $25,000 worth of cash and prizes, including a $2,000 cash award to the overall winner.

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May 12th, 2022

Good Resources for Do-It-Yourself AR-Platform Rifle Projects

AR15 Varmint rifle AR gunsmithing robert whitley
AR15 Varmint rifle AR gunsmithing robert whitley

AR15 construction guideMany 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 the late Glen Zediker’s book, the Competitive AR-15 Builders Guide. Following on Zediker’s The Competitive AR15: Ultimate Technical Guide, 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 Competitive AR-15 Builders’ Guide provides a complete list of the tools you’ll need for the job, and Zediker 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.” Other good resources for AR projects is Gunsmithing the AR: The Bench Manual, and the Building Your AR from Scratch DVD.

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May 5th, 2022

How-To Feature: Jewell Trigger Installed in Kelbly Panda Action

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

In the video below, Forum member (and F-Class ace) Erik Cortina shows how to install a Jewell Benchrest trigger into a Kelbly F-Class Panda action. You could follow the same simple procedure to install a Jewell in a standard Panda action. Kelbly’s sells both standard and long versions of the F-Class Panda action. Both versions feature integral recoil lugs in the front.

To see more detail in this “how-to” video, you can zoom it to full-screen size. Simply click the full-screen icon (4-cornered frame) just to the right of the YouTube logo in the lower right.

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

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May 1st, 2022

Sunday GunDay: Falling-Block .50 BMG — Beauty of a Beast

.50 BMG J.T. 50-caliber Smith breech block falling block custom rifle
.50 BMG J.T. 50-caliber Smith breech block falling block custom rifle

This is one amazing .50-caliber rifle. Along with the lever-actuated falling block, it has a massive swing-out breech block like you’d find on a field artillery piece. The action is so wide that the sights and scope are offset. You’ve heard of the “Beauty and the Beast”? Well here the Beast IS a Beauty….

View looking down at the action from above. Note the hinged Breech-Block.
.50 BMG J.T. 50-caliber Smith breech block falling block custom rifle

This extraordinary example of gunsmithing art was crafted by the late J.T. (Jack) Smith of Sudbury, Massachusetts. This unique .50-caliber rifle features an aircraft machine gun barrel cut down to 38-1/4″, and turned octagon to round (in the style of Schuetzen rifles). The round portion of the barrel is tapered with a heavy boss at the muzzle. The barrel is inlaid in gold on both left and right side top flats. Custom scope bases are fitted to the receiver and to the top of the barrel. These hold an externally adjusting Unertl 15X target scope in offset scope mounts.

.50 BMG J.T. 50-caliber Smith breech block falling block custom rifle

Huge Falling Block Receiver
The massive receiver (8″ long x 2-3/4″ wide x 3″ deep) is remarkable in design and construction. Machined from solid steel, the action incorporates several unique features. Note the hinged Howitzer-style breech block which swings to the right and mortises into the back of the receiver in the loading slot, providing a back-up for the falling block. We’ve never seen anything like that on any rifle. The one-piece floorplate/lever incorporates a Ruger No. 1-style latch which locks into the bottom of the trigger guard. The entire floorplate and lever retract downward. Firing is accomplished by means of a striker mounted in the hinged (swing-out) breech block. This is manually cocked with another lever on top of the breech block. Dropping the falling block activates the extractor which removes the spent case.

Offset Sights
This rifle features a custom-built, windage-adjustable offset front sight plus a custom-built vernier tang sight with aperture offset to the left side. The sights are offset to the left for a right-handed shooter, to correct for the extreme width of the receiver, allowing a more comfortable head position.

.50 BMG J.T. 50-caliber Smith breech block falling block custom rifle


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April 30th, 2022

Barrel Tech — Precision Barrel Bore-Honing Technology

Sunnen honing barrel hone CNC computer honer machine Pac-nor

Some custom barrel makers are now honing barrels (after drilling) to improve bore diameter uniformity, smooth the interior finish, and reduce barrel lapping times. For years, large-scale manufacturers of hammer-forged barrels have employed honing. Now the process is being used by smaller, “boutique” barrel-makers. This article explains how and why barrel honing is done. Take the time to watch the video. For anyone with an interest in barrel-making, this video from Sunnen Products Co. is an eye-opener.

Barrel Honing Process Demonstrated (Worth Watching!):

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

For custom barrel makers, honing is a time-saver and cost cutter. A few minutes on a honing machine can cut lapping times in half, leaving a cross-hatched surface finish in single or low double-digit Ra. Honing is the same process used to make diesel fuel injectors with bore roundness and straightness controlled to fractions of a micron (<0.000040"), with surface finish Ra ≤0.15 µm (6 µin).

A key manufacturing process used for hammer-forged barrels is now getting attention from the makers of custom button-rifled barrels. This process is precision bore-honing. Honing produces a high-quality bore surface fast, which is critical to hammer forging. (Why is honing so important with hammer forging? Surface finish is the one feature of the barrel that cannot be controlled in hammer forging. Surface imperfections in a barrel blank tend to be amplified as the blank is formed on the rifling mandrel. And if the bore is chromed afterwards, imperfections in the surface finish become even more obvious.)

Honing dramatically improves bore diameter size uniformity and accuracy, surface finish and roundness throughout the length of the barrel. It can certainly be used in place of a pre-rifling lap. The chief difference between a lapped and honed bore is the direction of the finish lines in the bore. Honing leaves fine spiraling crosshatch lines, while a lap leaves lines going longitudinally in the bore. After rifling the manufacturer can remove the crosshatch finish with a quick lap if desired. Honing is fast, accurate, and can be automated. Its surface quality and geometry can duplicate lapping, except for the longitudinal lines of the lapped finish.

In 2015 Frank Green of Bartlein Barrels told us: “We worked with Sunnen and we did all the initial testing on the prototype machine for them. The machine works great! We ordered and received … a new manufactured machine with the changes we wanted on it and [subsequently] ordered a second one.”

Pac-Nor PacNor Barreling honing hone Sunnen lapping barrel
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.

Sunnen states that: “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. 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.”

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Computer-Controlled Bore-Honing
Honing can be done with great precision through the use of advanced, computer-controlled honing machines. Sunnen Products Company offers an advanced machine for .17 to .50-caliber barrels (see control panel below). The spindles on this machine can correct bore size imperfections so small only an air gauge can measure them. The consistency this allows improves bore uniformity, which, in turn, produces more accurate barrels for the precision market.

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Sunnen Products Company is the world’s largest vertically-integrated manufacturer of honing systems, tooling, abrasives, coolants, and gauging for precision bore-sizing and finishing. Sunnen’s customers include manufacturers of diesel and gas engines, aerospace components, hydraulic components, oil field equipment, and gun/cannon barrels. Sunnen employs more than 600 people worldwide.

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April 30th, 2022

Brownells Do-It-Yourself Videos Show How to Upgrade Firearms

Brownells do it yourself videos

Brownells’ Do-It-Yourself (DIY) video series provides logical, step-by-step installation help for triggers, stocks, and springs. Nine separate videos cover Brownells various DIY Kits. Not sure if you’re up to the project? Just watch each video to see what’s involved. The nine DIY kits are:

  • Brownells DIY Remington 870 Stock Upgrade Kit 080-000-850
  • Brownells DIY Power Custom 10/22 Trigger Upgrade Kit 080-000-851
  • Brownells DIY Remington 700 Trigger Replacement w/o Trigger 080-000-852
  • Brownells DIY Remington 700 Trigger Replacement with Timney Trigger 080-000-853
  • Brownells DIY S&W J Frame Revolver Upgrade Kit080-000-862
  • Brownells DIY AR-15 Performance Upgrade Installation080-001-155WB
  • Brownells DIY Magpul MOE AR15 Stock Upgrade Installation084-000-386WB
  • Brownells DIY Glock Pistol Sight Upgrade Kit 080-000-919WB
  • Brownells DIY Ruger MKIII Upgrade Kit 930-000-046WB

This video shows Remington 700 after-market trigger installation:

In the Do-It-Yourself videos, Brownells’ Gun Techs proceed step-by-step, showing you exactly how to install the parts on your gun. Each kit also comes with complete, illustrated instructions you can take to the bench. To learn more, click the links above, or CLICK HERE to visit Brownells’ DIY Kit online page.

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April 29th, 2022

Top 10 Lever Guns of All Time — Do You Agree with This List?

Greatest top 10 lever RifleShooter magazine Winchester Savage Ruger

A while back, RifleShooter Magazine released a list of the Ten Greatest Lever-Action Rifles of All Time. Writing for RifleShooter, Brad Fitzpatrick examined a wide selection of lever guns produced in the past 150 years, and came up with this short list of ten “all-star” lever action rifles:

Rifleshooter marlin 336 1894 1886 lever gun

1860 Henry Rifle
Browning BLR
Marlin 336
Marlin 1895/444
Ruger 96/44

Savage Model 99
Winchester Model 1873/73
Winchester Model 1888/88
Winchester Model 1892/92
Winchester Model 1894/94

As with all “Top 10″ lists, this will be controversial. Where is the Winchester model 1866 “Yellowboy”, the favorite of Native Americans? Where is the iconic Winchester model 1895, the beloved gun Teddy Roosevelt called “Big Medicine”? But other choices are hard to fault. The Henry Rifle, the first popular cartridge lever gun, surely belongs on the list. And, believe it or not, the Winchester Model 94 is the best-selling sporting rifle of all time in the USA, according to RifleShooter.

Greatest top 10 leer guns yellowboy 1866

Greatest top 10 leer guns yellowboy 1866

So what do you think of RifleShooter’s Top 10 list? Does it make sense, or did RifleShooter magazine get it wrong? NOTE, on the Rifleshooter Lever Gun Page, to see descriptions/photos of ALL the guns, you need to click the gray arrows that appear (barely) below each gun description (see below). That will scroll through the ten guns horizontally, back and forth.

Rifleshooter marlin 336 1894 1886 lever gun

Fitzpatrick writes: “The lever action played a very legitimate role in America’s westward expansion. It could bring meat to your table or protect your land and assets against rustlers. Nostalgia aside, the lever gun is an effective hunting tool for those willing to live within its limitations. While it can’t beat a bolt gun with a light trigger and free-floated barrel in a long-range shooting competition, a lever action in the right hands can be rather accurate, especially given new advancements in rifle design and bullet technology.”

Historic American Arms — Teddy Roosevelt’s Lever Guns
These two lever action rifles, owned by President Theodore Roosevelt, are part of the NRA Museum collection. First is a Winchester 1886 rifle known as the tennis match gun because Roosevelt used winnings from a tennis match to buy it. Below that is a suppressed Winchester model 1894 rifle. Roosevelt liked to shoot varmints around Oyster Bay (Long Island, NY) with this gun so he wouldn’t disturb his neighbors — the Tiffany and Du Pont families.

Teddy Roosevelt Winchester 1894 1886 lever gun

Teddy Roosevelt Winchester 1894 1886 lever gun

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, Hunting/Varminting No Comments »
April 26th, 2022

Modern Day Master Engraver — The Artistry of Jesse Kaufmann

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering
Impressive engraving by Jesse Kaufmann. Note how the scope rings have been engraved to perfectly match the engraving pattern on the Remington 547 action.

Who says fine craftsmanship is dead? There’s a modern day engraving wizard up in South Dakota, Jesse Kaufmann, who produces some of the most handsome engraving we’ve seen. Jesse, who operates Black Hills Gunstocks and Engraving LLC, is a true master at metal engraving and he also does superb stock checkering. Here are some examples of Jesse’s engraving work:

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering

This 14-minute video showcases dozens of Jesse Kaufmann’s Engraving examples:

CLICK HERE to see many more engraving examples »

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering

Jesse Kaufmann Black Hills engraving remington stock checkering

Jesse Kaufmann engraving stock checkering black hillsAbout Jesse Kaufmann, Master Engraver
Jesse Kaufmann was a professional stockmaker for Dakota Arms for over a decade. In 2009, he was inducted in the American Custom Gunmakers Guild as a checkering specialist. In January 2017, Jesse was awarded his Master Engraver certification by the Firearms Engravers Guild of America. With his broad skill set, Jesse is able to offer his clients a unique and complete package of stock work, finish, checkering, and engraving for a custom package that is all completed under one roof by his own hands.

Jesse Kaufmann’s work has been featured in American Rifleman, American Hunter, FEGA’s The Engraver, Sports Afield, Waidmannsheil Journal of German Gun Collectors Assn., Gun Digest 71st Edition, Modern Custom Guns Volume 2, Dangerous Game Rifles 2d. Edition. For more info, visit, email blackhillsgunstocks [at], or call Jesse at (605) 499-9090 after 5:00 pm. SEE Gallery of Work.

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
April 26th, 2022

The “Remage” Option — Pre-fit Barrels for Rem-Type Actions

Mcree Precision Mcrees Savage Remington pre-fitted pre-chambered pre-fit barrel system kit nut
McRee’s Precision Remington DIY Barrel Kit includes Criterion Pre-Fit Stainless Barrel, Barrel Nut, Recoil Lug, Thread Protector, and Barrel Nut Wrench:

Need a new barrel for your Rem-actioned hunting or tactical rifle? Here’s a great DIY option for riflemen. McRee’s Precision offers complete, no-gunsmithing re-barreling kits for Remington and Rem-clone actions. These feature a high-quality, pre-chambered “PRE-FIT” stainless barrel from Criterion, a Savage-style barrel nut, a recoil lug, and a special barrel-nut wrench. Most of the Pre-Fit barrels are 24″ long and threaded at the muzzle. CLICK Here for all Pre-Fit barrel specs.

With this system you can easily re-barrel your favorite Remington rifle yourself in less than an hour. You don’t need to pay gunsmithing fees, or wait weeks (or months) for a busy smith to do the job. And the price is under $500.00. Kits are currently available for these chamberings: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, .243 Win, .308 Win, .308 Winchester Magnum. (call for other cartridge options on special order). You can buy with confidence — McRee’s Precision offers a Half-MOA Accuracy Guarantee with its pre-fitted barrel kits: “Our barrels are made to specific standards that [ensure] sub-1/2 MOA of accuracy”.

Mcree Precision Mcrees Savage Remington pre-fitted pre-chambered pre-fit barrel system kit nut
The stainless steel Barrel Nut is set up for 1 1/16 x 16 barrel threads, while the stainless steel recoil lug has a 1/8 inch removable locator pin and is set up for 1.0625 dia barrel threads.

McRee’s Precision sells Rem-action Pre-Fit barrel packages complete with chambered barrel, barrel nut, recoil lug, and wrench. Choose from three chamberings: 6.5mm Creedmoor, .308 Win, and .300 Win Mag each priced at $499.47. These Pre-Fit barrel kits come ready-to-install. All you need to do is remove your current barrel, place the recoil lug, spin on the new tube, follow the instructions for setting head-space with standard go/no-go gauges, then torque the barrel nut against the lug. NOTE: You may require a barrel vise and action wrench to remove the original barrel. Chambering-specific headspace gauges required. Minor inletting changes may be needed forward of the action.

Mcree Precision Mcrees Savage Remington pre-fitted pre-chambered pre-fit barrel system kit nut

The folks at McRee’s Precision say their Pre-Fit system offers many advantages: “Remington Pre-Fitted Barrel Kits have become popular over the years. If Savage can do it, why not for our Remingtons? Our [Criterion-supplied] barrels are spec’d to the McRee standard of performance. There are several places to get the tools required to remove your factory barrel correctly. Once you have your barrel removed all you have to do is follow the normal Savage procedure to install your new barrel. We recommend that you contact your local gunsmith for the install. Feel free to call us with any questions.”

Product Tip from Ed LongRange. We welcome readers’ submissions.
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