February 21st, 2020

Gunsmithing Gone Bad — How NOT to Headspace a Barrel

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales
This barrel’s shoulder was 0.025″ off the action because Red Locktite had been used on the threads.

Gunsmith Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzales offered this interesting report about how NOT to headspace a barrel. Hopefully you never discover something like this…

“A good friend and customer sent this rig in for repair after FedEx damaged the rifle during inbound transport from another smith. After repairing the stock and rebedding it, I decided to re-polish the barrel to make the repair perfect. Well this just added insult to injury as the barrel did not want to come off. After a few choice words, the barrel finally broke free only to reveal something very disturbing. It seems the barrel had been ‘headspaced’ by using RED Loctite to hold it in place.” [Editor: That’s definitely NOT how barrels should be fitted.]

Speedy was not happy: “I hope the smith that did this sees the photos and realized what jeopardy he put my customer in or anyone who shot the rifle for that matter. When cleaned up, the shoulder on the barrel was over 0.0250″ (25 thousandths) away from the face of the receiver.” [Editor: That’s a lot in this business]. Check out the images below to see how much the barrel rotated further inward when cleaned up. The barrel spun in nearly another eighth-turn or more. Not good.

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

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February 20th, 2020

Zediker Book Helps with Build-You-Own AR-15 Projects

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 Glen Zedicker’s book, the Competitive AR-15 Builders Guide. Following on Zedicker’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 AR-15 Builders’ Guide provides a complete list of the tools you’ll need for the job, and Zedicker outlines all the procedures to build an AR-15 from start to finish.

One of our Forum members who purchased the AR-15 Builders Guide confirms it is a great resource: “Much like any of the books Mr. Zediker puts out this one is well thought-out and is a no nonsense approach to AR building. I can not stress how helpful this book is from beginner to expert level.”

Along with assembly methods, this book covers parts selection and preparation, not just hammers and pins. Creedmoor Sports explains: “Knowing how to get what you want, and be happy with the result, is truly the focus of this book. Doing it yourself gives you a huge advantage. The build will honestly have been done right, and you’ll know it! Little problems will have been fixed, function and performance enhancements will have been made, and the result is you’ll have a custom-grade rifle without paying custom-builder prices.” 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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February 19th, 2020

New Barnard SMS Action from Whidden Gunworks

Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver
Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver

Whidden Gunworks has the long-awaited Barnard SMS action. This impressive new 3-lug Rem-footprint action is NOT just another Remington 700 clone, though it fits Rem-inletted stocks and chassis systems. The Barnard SMS is a high-quality, custom-grade action. With the 3-lug design, bolt handle lift is shorter and quicker than its top competitors. And the excellent trigger timing of the SMS provides a smooth, glass-like operation.

Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver

New Zealand-crafted Barnard actions, such as the venerable Model P, have been highly coveted in the competitive long range community based on their high quality, ease of maintenance, and superb performance. Here in the USA, customers have asked for the same Barnard quality in a format that allows the use of Rem 700-configured stocks, triggers, magazines, and other accessories. This new SMS action can be used for long-range competition, PRS, benchrest, silhouette, hunting — any application where Rem 700-type actions are popular.

This new SMS action works with the Rem 700-family accessories which are readily available on the market. No adapters or conversion blocks are necessary for this action. The Barnard SMS is a true drop-in fit with Rem 700-inletted stocks and chassis systems. Likewise magazines and triggers for the Remington 700 footprint fit and work 100% with the new Barnard SMS.

Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver
Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver

Whidden Gunworks states: “Sportsmen all over the world will agree to the unequaled and superb quality of Barnard actions. The internal parts are simple and robust. Disassembly and maintenance can be easily done in the field if needed quickly, returning your firearm back into service. Quality material and proper heat-treating methods ensure strength and longevity for a lifetime of use. The new Barnard SMS is a great new offering. For MORE INFO or to place your order today visit WhiddenGunworks.com. SMS Actions list at $1150.00.

Whidden Gunworks Barnard SMS Remington Rem 700 action receiver

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February 18th, 2020

Tikka T3 and T3x — Value, Performance, Upgradability

Tikka T3 rifle Competition Machine Pre-Fit barrel Criterion

In a recent Forum thread, one member asked for recommendations for a factory rifle with a good action and trigger, under $600.00. Many respondents recommended a Tikka T3 (or newer T3X), and we concur. These won’t run with a $2500 custom, but for a hunting or varminting rig, they offer good bang for the buck with a very nice action. The last Tikka T3 we tried, a .308 Win with 24″ barrel, easily shot sub-MOA groups with factory ammo.

The original Tikka T3 and newer T3x actions are rigid, robust, and well-crafted. They cycle smoothly and have a short 75° bolt lift. The bolt features a Sako-style extractor, with angled-leading-edge bolt lugs for smooth lock-up. These T3/T3x rifles offer smooth-running actions, easy sub-MOA accuracy with good ammo, crisp triggers, and ultra-reliable detachable box magazines. The Tupperware stocks aren’t super-rigid, but they are comfortable and easy to handle.

If you are looking for a hunting rifle, the Tikka T3/T3x is a smart choice, offering good performance for the price (which starts at $569.00 for the T3X Lite version). The current T3x series is offered in a wide selection of chamberings, from .204 Ruger up to the large magnums.

Tikka T3X UPR SHOT Show

We were impressed with the new Tikka T3x UPR rifle we saw at SHOT Show 2020 We liked the stock very much, and thought this was a very versatile gun that could be used for target shooting off bipod, hunting, even PRS, given its detachable magazine. The stock is very ergonomic and feels good. Tikka states the UPR’s stock “features an extra layer of carbon fiber mixed with fiberglass for increased rigidity and accuracy.”

Video Owner’s Review of standard model T3X with polymer stock:

Tikka T3 Upgrades — Barrels, Stocks, and Chassis Systems

Once you acquire a Tikka T3 there are many interesting upgrades available. First, you can improve accuracy and consistency with a pre-fit barrel from Criterion. There are also many chassis systems that fit Tikkas. In fact you can even get an Eliseo Chassis so you can shoot Palma matches F-TR competitions, or tactical/practical matches.

Criterion Pre-Fit Barrels for Tikka T3/T3x

Tikka T3 T-2 prefit chambered barrel 6.5 Creedmoor Solid Accuracy Criterion Barrels

We have always liked Tikka actions, and now there is a great re-barreling option for Tikka T3/T3x owners. Criterion Barrels Inc. (CBI), makers of “pre-fit” barrels for Savage, Remington, and Rem-clone actions, also crafts Tikka pre-fits. These pre-chambered barrels for Tikka T3 actions will be headspaced with a barrel nut, just like a Savage.

Tikka T3 T-2 prefit chambered barrel 6.5 Creedmoor Solid Accuracy Criterion Barrels
Click image for full-screen version

Tikka T3/T3x pre-fit barrels are sold through Solid Accuracy, a respected Texas-based outfit that sells high-end scopes, stocks, barrels and other rifle components. Price is $461-$485 with various contours and lengths available. Order HERE.

Competition Machine Chassis for Tikka T3

Eliseo Competition Tubegun T3

At SHOT Show, we saw some tactical shooters admiring the smooth Tikka T3 action and crisp trigger. They liked the action but they told us they wished they could get the T3 action in a configuration similar to the Ruger Precision Rifle. Well folks, there is a way to build a Tikka T3-based tactical/practical rig.

Eliseo Competition Tubegun T3

Gary Eliseo of Competition Machine offers a tubegun chassis for Tikka T3 actions in both Target and Tactical versions. The T3 kit is set up for AICS short action magazines. This is a “no gunsmithing” installation — no modifications to the action are required and the chassis kit works with the factory T3 trigger and safety. Along with the new Target and Tactical versions, a lower-cost Light-Weight Hunter T3 Chassis is also offered which accepts most AR-type buttstock assemblies.

Full Tactical Upgrade for Tikka T3

Osprey Rifles Tikka T3 Tactical Third Eye Chassis Stock Cerakote Camo

Tikkas are boring, nondescript hunting rifles right? Wrong. Check out this Tikka T3 tactical with “attitude”. For the British Shooting Show a while back, the folks at Osprey Rifles placed a Tikka T3 action into a modern modular chassis: “A standard factory Tikka T3 was fully Cerakoted and dropped into a Third Eye Tactical chassis stock which also had the Cerakote treatment.”

Click Photos to see full-screen version.
Osprey Rifles Tikka T3 Tactical Third Eye Chassis Stock Cerakote Camo

This T3 Chassis can be ordered through Osprey Rifles in the UK. The latest chassis stock system from Third Eye Tactical is currently available for both the Rem 700 short action and the Tikka T3.

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February 17th, 2020

The Art of Arms — Holland & Holland’s Engraved Masterpieces

Holland and Holland Video gunsmithing

Here’s some eye candy for your Monday morning. We’re presenting some stunning Royal shotguns from Holland & Holland, a legendary British gun maker. These amazing arms, which cost as much as a luxury automobile, demonstrate that the “art of engraving” still thrives among a few elite gun-makers.

Holland and Holland Video gunsmithing

What goes into a £77,500.00 ‘Royal’ model hand-crafted shotgun? Watch this remarkable video from Holland & Holland to find out. Filmed in the Holland & Holland factory, this nine-minute video shows all the key stages in the creation of H&H’s prized shotguns and rifles. The video shows barrel-making, stock checkering, metal engraving and more…

Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ Side-by-Side Shotgun

Holland & Holland Double Rifle with Fitted Case
Holland and Holland Video gunsmithing

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February 9th, 2020

Technology Insight: How Carbon-Wrapped Barrels Are Made

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Montana-based PROOF Research has released a revealing video showcasing carbon fiber firearms technology and the company’s barrel-making process. Viewers will find the 8-minute film an intriguing introduction to composite barrel-making, which employs aerospace carbon fiber wrapped around a steel barrel core. The video showcases the high-tech machines used at PROOF’s production facilities.


This video shows how PROOF Research employs aerospace-grade, high-temperature composite materials to build match-grade carbon fiber-wrapped barrels.

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Dr. David Curliss, General Manager of PROOF Research’s Advanced Composite Division, and former head of the U.S. Air Force High Temperature Composites Laboratory, explains how aerospace expertise helps in the development of PROOF’s firearms-related products: “We are able to provide premier materials for PROOF Research for firearms barrels applications as well as the aerospace market. We’re probably the only firearms technology company that has composite materials in orbit around the earth.”

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February 3rd, 2020

Video Shows How to Replace Remington 700 Trigger

Remington 700 trigger replacement Timney installation

Many Remington 700 rifle owners swap out the factory trigger. This is not a difficult task, but you need to follow the proper procedure so you don’t damage any important parts during installation, and so that you don’t interfere with the operation of the bolt and safety. This Do-It-Yourself video from Brownells leads you through step by step how to safely and correctly replace your Remington 700 trigger. This installation video covers the common methods used to install most of the popular after-market Rem 700 triggers. Importantly, the video also shows how to function test after installation, and how to make sure your safety is working properly.

Many Rem 700 owners fit Timney triggers to their rifles.
Remington 700 trigger replacement Timney installation

Video find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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February 2nd, 2020

Barrel Twist Rate — How to Determine the True Twist Rate

FirearmsID.com barrel rifling diagram
Erik Dahlberg illustration courtesy FireArmsID.com.

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. 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.

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January 30th, 2020

Good News for Gunsmiths — Changes to ITAR Regulations

Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

On January 23, 2020, the Trump administration published new rules that will significantly help the U.S. firearms industry and American gunsmiths. The new regulations officially take effect on March 9, 2020.

The rule changes modify export control of American firearms, as well as related parts, components, and accessories. Under the new Federal rules, export of common firearms and parts will now be controlled by the Department of Commerce, NOT by the Department of State under its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Those draconian ITAR provisions had adversely affected small parts manufacturers and gunsmiths through hefty fees and burdensome paperwork even if they did not actually ship guns overseas.

Gun author Ryan Cleckner explains: “Up until this change, the Department of State regulated exports of most firearms and their related parts, ammo, and information through [ITAR] which contain a list of covered firearm types called the United States Munitions List (USML). The USML includes all rifles, handguns, and short-barreled shotguns. The Department of Commerce, on the other hand, has the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) which regulates the export of all firearm types on a list, called the Commerce Control List (CCL), including regular shotguns (those with a barrel length of at least 18″) and their related parts, ammo, and information.”

Cleckner summarizes the key regulatory changes in a 1/20/2020 Gun University Article:

1. Manufacturers will no longer have to pay a $2,250 annual registration fee.
2. No long approval process [for exports].
3. No Congressional approval needed for deals over $1 million.
4. Easier sharing of technical information for designs/R&D.

Gun University Ryan Cleckner Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

We caution our readers that these gun export regulatory changes do NOT alter domestic gun control laws in America. And gun exports are still subject to government oversight. However, Cleckner explains: “Instead of dealing with the ITAR rules and State Department licensing, the firearms industry will be able to use the more efficient export system through the Department of Commerce for most firearms. Certain firearms, like machine guns, will still stay under State Department control (under ITAR).”

According to the NRA-ILA: “No more will small, non-exporting businesses — including gunsmiths — be caught up in an expansive regulatory scheme for manufacturers of ‘munitions’ and their parts that requires a $2,250 annual registration fee with U.S. State Department. Americans will again be free to publish most technical information about firearms and ammunition — including on the publicly-accessible Internet — without fear of accidentally running afoul of State Department restrictions that could land them in federal prison.”

The new regulations will simplify overseas travel by hunters and competition shooters. Americans temporarily traveling overseas with their own guns and ammunition won’t have to register them in a government database or fill out commercial exporting forms.

Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

Meanwhile, commercial exporters of non-military grade firearms and ammunition will have fewer fees to pay and will benefit from a more flexible, business-oriented regulatory environment. But note, actual exports of firearms and ammunition will still require authorization/licensing by the federal government. End-users of the guns in the countries of destination will also remain subject to U.S. monitoring.

The NRA-ILA observes: “This latest action is just one more example of how President Trump continues to move forward with his positive agenda to protect the right to keep and bear arms and the businesses that comprise America’s firearms industry. American manufacturing, as well as lawful firearm ownership at home and abroad, stand to make big gains under the president’s export reform initiative.”

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January 30th, 2020

Can You Predict Useful Barrel Life? Insights from Dan Lilja

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

NOTE: This article was very well-received when it was first published last year. We are reprising it for the benefit of readers who missed it the first time.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

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January 29th, 2020

The Dummy Round — Why You Need One for Chambering

Gre Tannel GreTan, Gre-Tan Rifles dummy round chambering gunsmith reamer chamber

How and Why to Create a Dummy Round
When you have a new custom rifle built, or a new barrel fitted to an existing rifle, it makes sense to create a dummy round. This should have your preferred brass and bullet types, with the bullet positioned at optimal seating depth. A proper dummy round helps the gunsmith set the freebore correctly for your cartridge, and also ensure the proper chamber dimensions.

Respected machinist, tool-maker, and gunsmith Greg Tannel of Gre-Tan Rifles explains: “I use the dummy round as a gauge to finish cut the neck diameter and throat length and diameter so you have [optimal] clearance on the loaded neck and the ogive of the bullet just touches the rifling.” He recommends setting bullet so the full diameter is just forward of the case’s neck-shoulder junction. “From there”, Greg says, “I can build you the chamber you want… with all the proper clearances”.

Greg Tannel has created a very helpful video showing how to create a dummy round. Greg explains how to measure and assemble the dummy and how it will be used during the barrel chambering process. Greg notes — the dummy round should have NO Primer and No powder. We strongly recommend that every rifle shooter watch this video. Even if you won’t need a new barrel any time soon, you can learn important things about freebore, leade, and chamber geometry.

This has been a very popular video, with 244,000 views. Here are actual YouTube comments:

That is the best explanation I’ve ever seen. Thank you sir. — P. Pablo

Nice video. You do a very good job of making this easy for new reloaders to understand. I sure wish things like this were available when I started reloading and having custom rifles built. Once again, great job, and your work speaks for itself. — Brandon K.

Beautiful job explaining chambering clearances. — D. Giorgi

Another Cool Tool — The Stub Gauge

When you have your gunsmith chamber your barrel, you can also have him create a Stub Gauge, i.e. a cast-off barrel section chambered like your actual barrel. The stub gauge lets you measure the original length to lands and freebore when your barrel was new. This gives you a baseline to accurately assess how far your throat erodes with use. Of course, as the throat wears, to get true length-to-lands dimension, you need take your measurement using your actual barrel. The barrel stub gauge helps you set the initial bullet seating depth. Seating depth is then adjusted accordingly, based on observed throat erosion, or your preferred seating depth.

Stub Gauge Gunsmithing chamber gage model barrel

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January 23rd, 2020

The “Remage” Project — Building Rem 700 with Pre-Fit Barrel

Remage Savage Remington Rebarrel Rifleshooter.com 6BR 6mmbr
Barrel nut system allows “Pre-Fit” barrel installation on a Remington action. CLICK photo to zoom.

REMAGE Project Report by Bill, Rifleshooter.com Editor
Installing a new barrel on your Remington 700 (especially without a lathe) may seem like a daunting task, but thanks to companies like McGowen Precision Barrels, there are easier alternatives. By adopting a Savage-style barrel nut on a 1 1/16″ thread for a Remington 700 receiver, pre-chambered (aka “pre-fit”) barrels can be easily swapped with just a few hand tools. This system is sometimes called a REMAGE conversion (for “REMington savAGE”). With simple tools a “Pre-fit” 6mmBR-chambered barrel was installed on the author’s Remington action — no machining or lathe-work required.

Remage Savage Remington Rebarrel Rifleshooter.com 6BR 6mmbr

Using a few tools from Brownells: Remington 700 Action Wrench, Barrel Vise, Go and No-Go Gauges, Recoil Lug Alignment Tool, and a Savage Barrel Nut Wrench, I was able to swap the .308 Winchester barrel off of my Remington 700 short action and install the new McGowen pre-fit, pre-chambered barrel, converting it to a tack-driving 6BR (aka 6mmBR Norma).

The existing barrel is simply removed from the action (normally the hardest part) and the new barrel is screwed on with the Go Gauge in place. After headspace is verified with the Go Gauge, the barrel nut is tightened against the action and you are off to the range. It takes all of the machine work out of the barreling process.

Note: Because barrel nut has a slightly larger diameter, some stocks may require minor inletting. Also, if you are shooting fired brass from another rifle with the same chambering, you should FL-size the brass before loading it for your new pre-fit barrel. And always check the set-up with a dummy round loaded to normal cartridge length BEFORE you head to the range. With Pre-Fits, the freebore should be adequate for your cartridge, but always check and adjust your seating depth as needed.

remage 6mm BR 108 berger best group 360

My McGowen Remage barrel looks and shoots great. I’ve written two longer articles that provide greater detail about this project. To learn more about how the barrel was installed, read: Rebarrel a Remington 700 without a lathe: McGowen’s Remage barrel conversion. To see how the rifle performed at the range, read: McGowen Remage Barrel Review: Spoiler Alert — It Shoots!.

Bill has been a serious shooter for over 20 years. A former Marine Corps Sergeant, he’s competed and placed in High Power Rifle, ISPC, USPSA, IDPA, 3-Gun, F-Class, and precision rifle disciplines. In addition to being an NRA-certified firearms instructor and range officer, Bill has hunted big game in North America, South America, and Africa. Bill writes extensively about gunsmithing, precision rifles, and the shooting sports on his blog, Rifleshooter.com.

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January 19th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Merkel RX Helix Straight-Pull Hunting Rifle

Merkel RX Helix straight-pull rifle

This Sunday we feature the German-crafted Merkel RX Helix with straight-pull bolt. We shot the Helix a few years back during Media Day at the Range. One notable difference between the German Merkel and the Austrian Strasser, another straight-pull rifle, is the bolt travel. During cycling, the Merkel bolt stays completely inside the action (see video below at 00:30). By contrast the Strasser bolt moves pretty far back, outside the action. For some folks that makes the Helix better for fast follow-up shots. All we can say is that Merkles and Strassers BOTH cycle way faster than conventional bolt-action rifles.

Merkel RX Helix Range Report

One of the most innovative rifles we have ever shot was the Merkel RX Helix, a very impressive piece of rifle engineering. Merkel claims the RX Helix is the fastest-cycling centerfire bolt action in the world. We can’t confirm that claim, but the Helix certainly cycles faster than any other centerfire bolt-gun this Editor has ever tried. (Yes, a Fortner biathlon action can be worked more rapidly, but that’s a rimfire). Both Jason and I really liked Merkel’s RX Helix. It balances well, the action is smooth, the wood is gorgeous, and the overall design thinking that went into this German-engineered take-down rifle is very impressive. The Helix’s universal-sized action lets you shoot anything from a .222 Rem to a .300 Win Mag with the same gun. And — get this — you can really swap barrels (and change bolt heads) in a couple of minutes with no tools, employing a dead-simple bolt-release lever concealed under the push-button-released removable forearm. (Watch VIDEO BELOW to see Barrel Swap procedure).

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifleRotary 7-Lug Bolt
While the RX Helix is a straight-pull rifle, it retains the strength and safety of a rotary bolt head with seven locking lugs that seat in a barrel extension. Unlike a Blaser, the RX Helix has a fully-enclosed action housing. That’s an important safety feature. Moreover, since the RX Helix employs a closed action, the bolt body doesn’t travel outside that action. This means the shooter can maintain his cheekweld with an eye on the target as he cycles the bolt.

The RX Helix’s linear (back and forth) bolt-handle motion is transmitted to the bolt head through a 1:2 ratio “transmission” gearing system. This allows smooth and fast cycling without the rotational or tipping movement found on other straight-pull, bolt-action rifles, such as the Blaser.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The Merkel linear-movement action cycles exceptionally fast, which allows for faster follow-up shots — a good thing if you’re hunting dangerous game. The RX Helix features a manual cocking lever on the tang and a direct trigger system. And here’s good news for southpaws — though Merkel does not make a dedicated left-hand version, lefties can very easily use their right hand to work the bolt while maintaining cheekweld. That may sound awkward, but with practice, it’s actually pretty efficient.

Fast, Easy Disassembly and Barrel Exchanges
The video below shows how the Helix can be disassembled (for cleaning or transport) in a matter of seconds WITHOUT TOOLS. The forearm slips off with the push of a button. A short lever on the left side of the action holds the barrel. Simply rotate the lever and the barrel (with bolt head) slips off. That’s it — in 30 seconds the rifle is apart, and you don’t even need an allen wrench as with a Blaser.

The RX Helix has a universal action length that covers calibers from .222 Rem to .300 Win Mag. Changing calibers (or chamberings) takes less than a minute with the appropriate barrel, bolt-head and magazine. Weaver rails are integrated into the action, and iron sights with three-dot rear and one-dot front fiber-optic inserts are standard.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The RX Helix is available with a standard black finish as well as four levels of design — Arabesque, Wild Boar, Spirit, and Deluxe. An all-carbon-fiber version was also available either with or without a carbon-wrapped barrel. The RX Helix comes in a wide range of calibers including .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5×55 SE, .270 Win, 7×64, .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg., 8×57 IS, 9.3×62, 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag. Barrel lengths vary according to caliber, and barrels, bolt-heads and magazines are available for caliber changes. EuroOptic sells the Merkel RX Helix, but most models are back-ordered.

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January 16th, 2020

Gorgeous F-Class Rifles from KW Precision

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Cerus Brux barrel Panda Action

Forum member Keith W. (aka “Cigarcop”) of KW Precision LLC is a talented riflesmith whose projects display outstanding finish work and attention to detail. Keith does some of the best bedding work we’ve ever seen. Back in 2018, Keith built a stunning F-Class rig for a shooter in Delaware. It’s a beauty, that’s for sure. Keith has posted more details about this rifle in a Shooters’ Forum Thread.

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Cerus Brux barrel Panda Action

This handsome rifle features a polished Stolle (Kelbly) Panda Action, and two (2) Brux barrels, both chambered for the .284 Winchester cartridge. The real eye-catching component of this rifle is the stunning Cerus F-Open stock. This features multiple laminations with highly-figured Walnut on the sides. This certainly ain’t your “off-the-shelf” laminated stock. This just shows the beauty that can be achieved with carefully-chosen lamination layers (plus 12 coats of clear).

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Cerus Brux barrel Panda Action
This beautiful F-Open rig features a laminated wood stock with stunning figured walnut on the outside.

Keith of KW Precision LLC is renowned for his bedding work, and this rifle shows why. Keith takes great pride in his work, and his attention to detail is second to none. This bedding job is as good as it gets.

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Cerus Brux barrel Panda Action

Bringing out the figure in the wood requires multiple finish coats (and careful sanding between coats). But the results are worth it. Shown below is the Cerus stock, BEFORE the finish coats were applied. It took time and effort to transform the “naked” Cerus stock into a true stunner. Keith applied twelve (12) coats of PPG Automotive Clear with wet sanding between each coat.

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Cerus Brux barrel Panda Action

And Another Beauty — This One Built for Capstone’s Boss

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Borden Action F-TR

CigarCop recently completed a handsome rifle for Bill Gravatt, President of the Capstone Precision Group, distributor for Berger, Lapua, Vihtavuori, and SK products. This F-TR rig is another example of beautiful craftsmanship. Look at that bedding job in the lower photo! To learn more about this rifle, which features a black Borden Rimrock BRM action (with fluted bolt), read this Shooters’ Forum Thread.

Delaware F-Open F-Class rifle Borden Action F-TR

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January 15th, 2020

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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January 14th, 2020

Forum Member Carves Superb Maple Hunting Stock

Maple laminate figured wood carved carving .338 Win Mag rifle stock Brett Minnesota
Believe it or not, this is the first stock Brett M. carved by hand. We’d say he did a darn good job!

AccurateShooter Forum member Brett M. from Minnesota (aka Spitfire_er) recently completed a handsome laminated maple gunstock. This beauty wasn’t produced with a stock duplicator. It was made the old-fashioned way — by hand. After laminating three sections, Brett carved the complete stock with hand tools. You can see the entire carving process, start to finish, in Brett’s time lapse video.

MUST-SEE time-lapse carving video. Every second is one minute in real time. This 15:54 video shows 15.9 hours of carving! Brett says the whole job took nearly 20 hours:

Maple laminate figured wood carved carving .338 Win Mag rifle stock Brett Minnesota

Maple laminate figured wood carved carving .338 Win Mag rifle stock Brett Minnesota

Maple laminate figured wood carved carving .338 Win Mag rifle stock Brett MinnesotaHandsome Maple Blank Was Lumber Yard Return!
Brett reports: “Here’s a stock I carved up over the past year or so. I found this wood as a return at a lumber yard about 7-8 years ago. I asked the guy in the yard about it and he said it had been returned because it had too much figure for the job the customer was working on. First thing I thought was “That would make a nice stock!” I finally got around to finishing it a couple months ago.

I fit it around a 1917 Enfield in .338 WM that I purchased a while back. I usually do all the work on the receiver and barrel, but this one was done up in an OK fashion already.

This stock was almost completely made using hand tools over the course of about a year. This is a piece of laminated 1x8x1″ maple that was glued together. After it sat for about eight years, I finally got around to carving it up. This stock design/shape was from my own ideas and was carved as I went along. It turned out pretty good.”

Maple laminate figured wood carved carving .338 Win Mag rifle stock Brett Minnesota

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January 13th, 2020

Water Transfer Printing for Rifle Stocks

hydro-dip stock finish

There’s a great new way to apply an eye-catching finish to fiberglass and synthetic stocks. Water Transfer Printing (aka Hydro-Dipping) can apply beautiful, stylized patterns to your stock, and the process costs less than a custom paint job. Hydro-dipping is ideal for applying amazing photo-realistic effects such as stone, wood burl, snakeskin, or faux carbon fiber. Hydro-dipping requires no harsh chemicals or high heat so there are no negative side effects. You just end up with an amazing, patterned finish on your stock.

Hundreds of different patterns are available. We like the carbon-look finish on benchrest guns and the snakeskin patterns on hunting and varmint rifles. Natural snakeskin designs, in this Editor’s opinion, are perhaps the most effective camouflage for the largely arrid backcountry in the American southwest.

hydro-dip stock finish

hydro-dip stock finish

Hydro-Dip of Idaho Does Great Work
While there are a half-dozen companies offering water transfer printing for rifle stocks, Forum member Francis B. recommends Hydro-Dip, LLC of Meridian, Idaho. Examples of Hydro-Dip’s work are shown above. Francis writes: “Scott, Adam, and old man Rod Springer own and run Hydro-Dip. This is a company that will ‘paint’ your rifle, tool box, trailer, airplane, whatever and will do an excellent job while doing it. Check out their archives of jobs done. You will be amazed. I’ve not had one of their jobs done for any of mine (yet) but I’m considering it. Those who have had their rifles done tell me the cost is very reasonable. I have seen a few stocks done and they are works of art.”

Hydro-dipping (water transfer printing) can be performed on virtually any metal or plastic surface. You can Hydro-dip car parts, archery gear, rifle stocks — you name it. Watch the process in the video:

CLICK VIDEO to See Hydro-Dipping Process!

Hydro-Dip of Idaho

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January 12th, 2020

Sunday Gunday: Buell’s Beast — .375 CheyTac for ELR

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35
Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35

Buell’s Beast with Massive 35 Inch Barrel
A few seasons back, Our friend Darrell Buell built a new Beast — a monster 64-inch-long .375 CheyTac that weighs more than 70 pounds! Designed for ultra-long-range shooting (two miles and beyond), this beast represents the state-of-the-art in extreme long-range rifles. NOTE: to see more details, click the two images above to open Full-Screen Photos.

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35

Darrell reports: “This rifle is pretty much purpose-built to shoot 2+ miles extremely accurately. It is a .375 CheyTac (lengthened) built on a BAT 2.5″ action. The custom 35″, 1:10″-twist Brux barrel is a fat, 2″-diameter ‘straight taper’ with fluting. A custom 5″-long muzzle brake is fitted at the end. All barreled action work was done by R.W. Snyder Custom Rifles. The stock was created to fit the build by PDC Custom, and the massive muzzle brake as well.” The “bridge” at the end may look like a barrel block, but it’s not — the barrel completely free-floats. (The Picatinny rail on top of the bridge allows use of an overhanging bipod as an alternative to the JoyPod).

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35
Darrell has lots of elevation on tap: “With 150 MOA in the Ivey rings, another 20 MOA in the scope rail, 55 MOA in the Nightforce Competition scope, and 10 MOA in the FCR-1 reticle, there’s an impressive +235 MOA available.”

Counter-Weighted SEB Joy-Pod Up Front
The bipod Darrell will be using for his ELR sessions and the ‘King of 2 Miles’ match is a custom counter-weighted JoyPod crafted by Seb Lambang. With the counter-weight, Darrell says his monster 70-lb gun “adjusts as smoothly as an F-T/R rig”. The glass is a Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition scope carried in Ivey +150 MOA rings, which in turn are mounted to a +20 MOA BAT scope rail. Darrell says: “It’s been a heck of a couple months, getting this monster built in time, thanks particularly to Southern Cerakote, which turned it around in less than 24 hours.”

Buell’s Beast runs 350gr solid bullets at approximately 3250 fps. Check out the massive .375 CheyTac cartridge compared to a .308 Winchester:

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35

Darrell Buell ELR Rifle .376 Cheytac BAT Action 35

Bipod F-Class F-TR Sebastian Lambang PodPad Joystick Joypod

This one-of-a-kind “JoyPod” was produced by Seb Lambang specifically for Buell’s big .375 CheyTac rifle. Darrell needed a JoyPod that wouldn’t sink under a heavy load. Seb explains: “This is the world’s first JoyPod equipped with an adjustable counterweight, to balance his 75-lb gun. I did some experiments and put some weights ranging up to 60+ lbs on the top, and I found that the joystick action works like a regular one….it’s smooth, light, and precise. In addition, the counterweight can be bent down to not interfere with the bottom of the barrel. The counterweight is secured into the front center shaft by a thumb screw, and there is a tightly fitted pivotal joint on the counterweight to allow angle adjustment.”

Darrell is happy with his customized coaxial bipod: “In addition to the adjustable counterweight system on the front, this JoyPod comes with a longer, solid joystick. These additions will make for extremely smooth, precise adjustments, even if the rifle weighs in at 75 pounds or more. Not including the counterweight, the actual structure of this bipod weighs in at a mere 1.09 pounds — exactly what the standard JoyPod weighs. It is extremely strong, however. Seb has pictures of himself standing on the pod … and he weighs 150 pounds!”

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January 9th, 2020

GUN INFO 101 — Headspace Defined and Illustrated

Ultimate Reloader Brownells headspacing go gage gauge barrel gunsmithing
This illustration shows headspace measurement for the popular .308 Winchester cartridge, which headspaces on the shoulder. Image copyright 2015 Ultimate Reloader.

In this Brownells Tech Tip, Brownells gun tech Steve Ostrem explains what headspace is and why it’s one of the most critical measurements for nearly all firearms. Even if you’re an experienced rifle shooter, it’s worth watching this video to refresh your understanding of headspace measurements, and the correct use of “GO” and “NO-GO” gauges.

Headspace Definition
In firearms, headspace is the distance measured from the part of the chamber that stops forward motion of the cartridge (the datum reference) to the face of the bolt. Used as a verb, headspace refers to the interference created between this part of the chamber and the feature of the cartridge that achieves the correct positioning. Different cartridges have their datum lines in different positions in relation to the cartridge. For example, 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition headspaces off the shoulder of the cartridge, whereas .303 British headspaces off the forward rim of the cartridge.

If the headspace is too short, ammunition that is in specification may not chamber correctly. If headspace is too large, the ammunition may not fit as intended or designed and the cartridge case may rupture, possibly damaging the firearm and injuring the shooter. (Source: Wikipedia)

Forster Headspace diagram belted magnum rimfire

Go gauge gage NOGO no-go field gaugesHeadspace Gauges
Headspace is measured with a set of two headspace gauges: a “Go” gauge, and a “No-Go” gauge. Headspace gauges resemble the cartridges for the chambers they are designed to headspace, and are typically made of heat-treated tool steel. Both a “Go” and a “No-Go” gauge are required for a gunsmith to headspace a firearm properly. A third gauge, the “Field” gauge, is used (as the name implies) in the field to indicate the absolute maximum safe headspace. This gauge is used because, over time, the bolt and receiver will wear, the bolt and lugs compress, and the receiver may stretch, all causing the headspace to gradually increase from the “factory specs” measured by the “Go” and “No-Go” gauges. A bolt that closes on “No-Go” but not on “Field” is close to being unsafe to fire, and may malfunction on cartridges that are slightly out of spec. (Source: Wikipedia)

To learn more, read Brownell’s longer article Headspace Gauges and How to Use Them. Among other things, this explains the relative lengths of “Go”, “No-Go”, and “Field” gauges. The “Field” is actually the longest: “The GO gauge corresponds to the SAAMI (Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute) minimum chamber length, while the FIELD gauge usually matches the maximum chamber depth, or slightly less. NO-GO gauges are an intermediate length between minimum and maximum, that, technically, is a voluntary dimension. A firearm that closes on a NO-GO gauge and does not close on a FIELD gauge may not give good accuracy and may have very short cartridge case life from the ammunition re-loader’s standpoint.”

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January 6th, 2020

Giant BAT Sighted at Bruno Shooters Supply

BAT 50 BMG Action

BAT .50 BMG Model EX– Now That’s an Action!, by GS Arizona
A few seasons ago, I stopped into Bruno Shooters Supply for a jug of powder and looked into the display case where the new actions are kept. Amid the usual array of BAT Machine, Kelbly and other actions, there was something unlike any action I’d seen before — all I can call it is the BIG BAT (It’s officially the BAT Model EX 2.5). I wasn’t too surprised at the weight (a beefy 13.7 lbs.), but until you lift it it’s hard to appreciate how solid, chunky, hefty, massive (pick your favorite adjective) this thing really is.

The action is a 2.5″-diameter, 12″-long BAT for the .50 BMG cartridge. It is simply the biggest, slickest custom action on the planet. In order to give you some sense of scale, I photographed the action alongside a conventional BAT action for short-range Benchrest shooting and I put a .220 Russian case and a .30-06 case into the picture. I’ve handled and fired other .50 BMG actions/rifles before, but this BAT puts them all to shame, as far as fit and finish go.

BAT 50 BMG Action

The action is actually quite conventional in design and execution. The bolt is fluted and has two front lugs with a conventional, although super-sized, firing pin assembly. Any Remington-style trigger will mount by way of a normal trigger hanger, allowing for simplified maintenance or replacement in the field. The loading port is 5.5″ long and the barrel threads are 1.5″ x 16 tpi — nothing about this beast is small! There is a conventional rocker-type bolt release on the left side of the receiver body and a recoil lug is built into the bottom of the receiver. In reality, the action is very similar to any other BAT except for the size and it adheres to all of BAT’s high standards for quality of design, manufacture, fit, finish and just plain good looks. Slide that bolt back and it feels as tight as a small Benchrest action!

BAT 50 BMG Action

BAT Machine states: “Our model EX is our largest action we make. It was designed to work with the .50 BMG cartridges. This action is 12.00″ long and has two exterior shape options. Starting weight is 128 oz. and varies with options chosen. This action requires a 1.75 inch diameter barrel.”

Given the BIG BAT’s $3,200.00+ sticker price (before options), not many of us will ever have the opportunity to own or shoot one of these beauties (I certainly won’t). However, it is nice to know they exist and can be bought and enjoyed in many places. CLICK HERE for BAT EX configuration options and purchase details.

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