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Help Me Learn About Building a Custom Bolt Action

Discussion in 'Rifle Discussion' started by Will_Power, May 26, 2011.

  1. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    (Preface: There's a lot of questions in here.)

    As a kid, I was always the one who'd pay no mind to his Lego directions and instead build something his own way. I'd give my Hot Wheels cars new paint jobs and chop up my GI Joes to reassemble them anew. Now that I've been turned on to firearms and hunting, I see the tendency raring its head in this arena, too.

    Trouble is, what I'm trying to teach myself seems to be scattered all rather piecemeal across the internet. So, I might be skipping something important without even knowing it. Mind helping me fill in the missing pieces?

    Keep in mind this is all a theoretical exercise at this point; I just don't have the funds to put anything together yet. But that's not stopping me from gameplanning! And, given the specifics of what I'd like to have as a dream rifle, using something off the shelf isn't available. Custom parts are an inevitability.

    I have in mind an all-weather medium bore woods gun for Roosevelt elk and black bear in the Coast Range and Cascades (and maybe some Rocky Mountain elk and hog if I go to the other side of the state). I'm deliberating between .358 Winchester and .338 Federal with stainless actions and barrel, all set on a mannlicher stock (synthetic, likely laminate).

    Given that I'm looking at rarer calibers (probably the right time to get into handloading, eh?), there are only a few companies that sell them in stainless to begin with. For my price range, it looks like Ruger would be the only option.

    Would my best option be to find a Ruger and acquire a custom stock, then get a local gunbuilder to put it together?

    If I'm unable to find a Ruger to build off of, find one with a shot-out barrel, or otherwise just want to take the difficult road, what are the steps then?

    Do any short actions work as long as they get mated with the correctly chambered barrel?

    If this is the process, does it just come down to finding a base gun to take the action, trigger, and magazine setup out of, then pair it with my choice of barrel and stock? If so, what are the advantages of specific actions? I've heard the Mausers are the king of all actions (can I find them in stainless and short action?), and Remingtons are plentiful, and some folks like the tang safety on the older Rugers (but I keep hearing consistent complaints about their accuracy).

    Speaking of barrels, can something explain contours? I've read that for practicality, a contoured varmint barrel is about as heavy as you want to go. Does the mannlicher fullstock start alter what contours I'd need to look at?

    Thanks for making it all the way through the post here. I appreciate what knowledge you can share.
     
  2. salmonriverjohn

    salmonriverjohn N.W Oregon coast, Gods country Well-Known Member

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    PM sent
     
  3. skywag

    skywag On the Columbia River Active Member

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    If you want the ultimate custom rifle, always start with a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 action. All else pales in comparison.
     
  4. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Savage currently offers some excellent actions to build off of. And Boyds makes a bunch of stocks for Savage,
     
  5. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    So, if I was going to just go from the action-up, instead of taking an existing rifle and tearing it down to one degree or another, where do I go about finding just the actions?

    Or, is it always a matter of buying a junk rifle for just the action itself?
     
  6. Jamie6.5

    Jamie6.5 Western OR Well-Known Member

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    I would hit the pawn shops and older, smaller gun shops.
    I would look for an older Savage M10 or M110.

    Recently I found an old M110 for $200.00, chambered in 30-06. It fits my needs perfectly as I will be building a .338-06 out of it.
    I chose the Savage because of stock availability, barrel availability and barrel interchangeability. The Savage barrel nut system also allows barrel makers to completely finish the chamber, so I don't need a 'smith to finish-ream the chamber and set the headspace.
    (there are tutorials available on the 'net for doing this)

    I can get a pre-threaded barrel kit from Brownell's or Midway for $200, or a bare barrel from E.R. Shaw (in my choice of length/contour) for $160.00. Triggers are available from Timney, Bold etc. too!

    So until I decide to replace the stock, I can have the gun I want in the caliber I want for $360.00-$400.00, with a brand new barrel.

    I have also done the Mauser project, and the gun came out great. It's a shooter for sure, but with the new barrel, shipping, 'smith work and reamer purchase (could have rented) I am in it a LOT more than $360.00.
    I also had bluing costs, but if you're going with stainless that won't be an issue.

    YMMV.
    Good luck and keep us posted!
     
  7. ZigZagZeke

    ZigZagZeke Eugene Silver Supporter Silver Supporter 2015 Volunteer

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    For a new barrel, reboring, and rechambering look here:
     
  8. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    Another plus for Savage- Easy barrel swaps, easy to work on, accurate out of the box, great trigger (accutrigger) for a factory gun, lots of stock options and CDI Bottom metal!!
     
  9. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    for a truly custom gun, and that sounds like what you want, get the winchester model 70 pre 64 type action. For a number of reasons REAL gunsmiths and REAL shooters consider this to be the only action to use in a custom build. First of all the reciever has a flat bottom and a integral recoil lug which both the remington and the savage lack, this allows for a more rigid reciever with more reciever to stock contact. Secondly the winchester Pre 64 type action has controlled feed, which feeds the cartridge from the magazine directly under the extractor, whereas the remington and savage are "push feed", meaning the cartridge is pushed from the magazine and just lays there being pushed forward by the bolt until the bolt is nearly closed at which time the extractor finally engages the rim. The reciever on the model 70, being flat bottomed with an integral lug uses a bit more metal (a few ounces) making it, in my opinion, the strongest of the three. Essential when considering the calibers you suggest. Finally I have found the simplicity of the trigger design of the model 70 to be by far the simplest to adjust and hold adjustment.

    Unless of course you want to go with the ruger #1 or the browning safari, both of which I consider to be in the same league with the winchester.

    As far as barrels go my prefference is Douglas,
    as far as stocks go H&S precision,

    As a matter of fact you can get all of this if you find a Winchester model 70 Laredo. They were available in 300 win mag and 7mm mag. Check gun broker.
     
  10. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    First take all the money you have budgeted for the project and then at least Double it. Any custom rifle build will always lead to more money being spent than planned initially.
     
  11. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I, too, am a fan of the pre-64 Winchester 70 type of action, but if I remember correctly they were never made in a short action and would not be suitable for the mentioned cartridges. Also, they weren't available in stainless. The newer "Classic" Winchester would solve these issues. I've given this a lot of thought as I was considering doing something "goofy" like this myself.
    I'm also a fan of a controlled round feed and a Savage or Remington action would not be MY choice, but both actions have remarkable reputations for the basis of accurate custom rifles. The ability of one to do his own barrel swap with the Savage action has intrigued me, too.
    So, the choice of a stainless Ruger MKII makes sense. Find one in .243 or .308 and you have the action and bolt face needed with no changes. Have it rebarreled, swap the stock and add a good trigger (like a Timney) and you're good to go! The Ruger integral scope ring bases are just a plus.
     
  12. Jamie6.5

    Jamie6.5 Western OR Well-Known Member

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    There is no reason in the world why you can't build a rifle for a "short action" cartridge on a long action. The whole idea of the short action receiver being necessary for accuracy is ludicrous for a hunting rifle. Not to mention the fact that many many match guns are chambered for 300Winmag which all require long action specs.
    There are advantages to putting a short action cartridge in a long action also. The first being a mag length that allows the ability to load long/heavy bullets out farther in the case when the barrel is chambered with a long throat. This frees up case capacity for powder.

    Flat bottom/round bottom receivers have generated debates for years with regard to accuracy, but as far as controlled round feed goes, that debate centers around dangerous game, and shooting from unplanned positions, and has NOTHING to do with accuracy.

    I have no problem with Mauser, Springfield or pre-64 Win actions, (all have flat bottom receivers and CRF) but they aren't necessary for a lower 48 hunting rifle, and I certainly wouldn't spend the additional $$$ for one based on the criteria in the OP's plan.

    If one is dead-set on stainless, then you'll have to look elsewhere anyway.
     
  13. JGRuby

    JGRuby Portland Oregon New Member

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    IMHO - I beleive that the FN Supreme action is everything that the old Pre-64 is and more - its tight as a bank vault - I would look for a older use one of these - again if you look at older actions, most were never made of stainless steel. I treasure mine a great deal - the few winchester bolt actions I have are long gun and the FN's remain.

    Respectfully

    James Ruby
     
  14. cyclesurvival

    cyclesurvival Vancouver Well-Known Member

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    If you want the best of both worlds, Model 70 and Mauser and stainless, then I would look at Dakota Arms model 76 stainless hunter.
     
  15. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    Hey guys, you're all being a veritable treasure trove of info, and I sure do appreciate it.

    As far as the stainless thing goes, it is my intent to have this gun as a go-anywhere in any weather setup, ergo the stainless and synthetic stock.

    In doing a bit of reading online, it appears my other options could be hard chroming and Cerakote (even though its supposedly the most durable of the coats, I still have questions). The nice thing with the Cerakote, however, would be the matte finish, something that's not gonna happen with the stainless, much less the hard chrome.

    So, if I do get on board with the Cerakote option, then that would open me back up to everything.

    Another question regarding actions that I haven't been able to dig up much of a straight forward answer on, yet: where do I find them? Is it a matter of finding a.473 bolt face donor gun to build of? If that's the case, any pre-64 Win rifle I've come across has been way out of my price range.

    Are there any other, more moderately priced CRF options - particularly in short action? The Mausers were all longs, right?
     
  16. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    Those are some really nice guns, but as sick and twisted as this is, I'd really like to piecemeal this thing together specifically using parts I'd like to go with.

    (Not to mention that most of those rifles, exquisite as they may be, are far out of my price range.)
     
  17. Jamie6.5

    Jamie6.5 Western OR Well-Known Member

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    In terms of action length, the Mauser (Mil M98) falls somewhere in the middle by today's long/short standards. They were chambered for 57MM cartridges, which fall between the 63mm (06) length, and the 51mm (.308) case. Both length cases have been used on them though, and some of the old "store brands" like Ted Williams/Sears and J.C. Higgins were based on the FN versions of the Mauser actions, and accept long action cartridges no problem.
    Many of those can be had relatively cheaply too.
    Recently Remington was importing the Zastava version of that same "Mauser" action in their M798 series, and would be a decent choice too.
    If you can decide on a coating that meets your "all weather" criteria.

    There are bare receiver/actions available, but most run as much or more $$ than your average "back-row" donor rifle in pawn shops and gun shops.
    If you insist on stainless, I still think the Savage would be your best choice if you can find a donor rifle.
    Or here's one with a $400.00 "buy it now" that will do everything you want:
    Savage Model 116 338wm Stainless Steel : Bolt Action at GunBroker.com
    There are also a number of .473 bolt face stainless Savages for less than that on GB too.

    Just search bolt action rifles for "savage +stainless".

    Good luck.
     
  18. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    Actually "stainless" is a misnomer. Action debate aside, personally I would opt for a hard chrome satin finish, the finish you achieve is dependant on the texture of the metal underneath. The look is very close to that of stainless only with greater resistance to the elemants. In many cases it it harder than stainless and offers a natural lubricity (slickness). I have actually seen stainless guns hard chromed by folks disappointed in the performance of stainless.

    Sorry I didn't include the controlled feed rugers in my original reply, truly excellent guns.
     
  19. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Actually, Stainless Steel is just that, "Stainless" but not "Stain Proof".

    By Definition:
    If I'm looking for an "All Weather, Low or Minimal Maintenance" firearm I always choose the stainless option as long as the white metal color is not an issue (as in a Tactical weapon). Coatings are just that, something placed on top of the metal. Most of these coatings are subject to chipping or scratching and can't be just "touched up". If camouflage is desired while hunting then just use one of the various "wraps" that are available that can be discarded when the hunt is over and then you can show off the "unadorned" rifle between seasons. It will look better without the scratches and chips some coatings will have acquired.
     
  20. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Wow! Slow down a little bit Jamie!

    I mentioned nothing about a short action or a controlled round feed being more accurate than a long action or push feed, so I don't know where you came up with that! In fact, I even commented on the reputation for accuracy of the Savage and Remington.
    I did assume that since the OP wants a short cartridge that he would prefer a short action. I merely stated my preference, which by the way, seems to be on topic of what the OP wants.
    Your comment about a short case in a long action makes a lot of sense. The ability to seat the bullet waaayyyy out there is a great idea for calibers that may end up with a long bullet when going heavy.

    Now, since the OP has asked about moderately priced, Satinless, short action, CRF actions, I'd still lean towards the Ruger 77 MkII. (the Ruger 77 had the "claw" but was not CRF)