Building a Precision Rifle from Scratch, #2

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In the first article we covered the Action, Barrel, and a little about stock selection. Here we will continue along the same, add optics, and more important considerations.

As we discussed in the first article of this series, the barrel is a crucial part of the build. After all, it’s the portion of the rifle that holds the chambered cartridge, handles the powder ignition, and ultimately sends the bullet toward it’s intended target. Because the “business” end of the rifle takes place here, your purchase is crucial to overall weight, accuracy, and length of this build. Once a barrel is decided upon, it must be noted that most barrel manufacturers cut and provide rifle “blanks”. This means the barrel has been roughly cut to length and rifled. The process of chambering, polishing and finishing, overall length, and muzzle are all up to you. Chambering is simply the cut in the breech end of the barrel where the unfired cartridge will rest prior to firing. The muzzle is the end of the barrel where the bullet will exit toward it’s intended target. There are a few decisions to be made with regards to the muzzle. If you want to mitigate recoil there can be a muzzle “Brake” added. This is an additional expense that requires the gunsmith to cut, thread and make or buy the actual brake that will thread on to the muzzle. A brake is generally 2 to 3 inches long, and is vented in order to redirect the gasses that exit the barrel when fired. This redirection pushes the gasses to the side, instead or rearward toward the shooter. Some brakes boast upward of 50% plus recoil reduction. So it will pay to do some research here as well. It is important to keep in mind that muzzle brakes are not permitted in certain competition matches, such as “F” class. The best method here is to have a brake cut to fit, but to also have a threaded sleeve the same diameter as the barrel that can be installed for certain competitions. Lastly, there is fluting. Fluting is where material is removed from the majority of the length of the barrel in concentric notches. Fluting is said to serve two purposes. One is weight reduction, the other is barrel cooling. Proper fluting can reduce the amount of time needed to cool a barrel between shot strings. Since heat plays a major role in both accuracy, as well as barrel life, fluting can be of benefit to some shooters. When it comes to expense, one should expect to spend between $350 to $500 for a new barrel. This doesn’t take in to consideration the fees from the gunsmith for chambering, fluting, muzzle work, etc…….

Rifle Scopes can be so confusing. Simply due to the fact that there are so many brands and choices on the market today that it makes it very hard to decide on the right optic for your platform. Once you decide on a brand, then you need to decide on things like magnification, objective diameter, tube diameter, weight, length, and so forth. When it comes to optics, a world class shooter once told me, “the rule of thumb is to spend as much or more on your scope as you did on your rifle”. That was mentioned many years ago, and I’m not too sure if that still holds true today. There are many scope makers out there today that are turning out world class optics. Manufacturers such as Leupold, Burris, Zeiss, Swarovski, Victor, Sightron, etc……..sorry if I forgot to mention a few, but you know who you are. Deciding on optics can be tough, especially if you’re going to be using your platform for multiple uses as I will mine. Many benchrest shooters prefer a “fixed power” scope, while tactical and police shooters lean toward “variable power”. I am going to go with the variable power on my rig simply because of versatility. Variable power allows the shooter to “zoom in and out”. There are trade-offs however. While in high magnification you field of view is limited, meaning it’s much more difficult to acquire a target if you have to relocate your position. Or if you’re after a moving target. It’s best to make a trip to a retailer with a good optic selection before deciding. While you’re at it you want to consider your budget. High end glass can exceed $4,000. While the low end scopes can be had for under $500. Either way, once you settle on a brand and power, be solid in your decision and have no regrets. Although selection is a great thing for shopping, it can make even the most decisive of personalities second guess themselves after the fact. After you make your purchase be sure and invest in a pair of lens covers. Most scope companies provide them, but they are usually one piece, and are not attached. That’s why I prefer the “flip-up” caps by Butler Creek. They stay attached, and can be removed and installed quickly. It’s a good 25-50 dollar investment that will help tremendously toward protecting your lenses.

While on the subject of optics, it’s a good time to discuss mounting. Does it make sense to buy a $1,000 dollar scope, only to mount it using cheap hardware? Of course not. That’s why it’s very important to spend the time and effort mounting your high end glass to your rig. There are also many companies to choose from in this category as well. Just go ahead and expect to spend anywhere from $40 to $150 on a quality base, and $100 to $250 on a quality set of rings. You don’t want your scope to move once mounted, and high quality rings will ensure you don’t damage or leave marks on your scope tube when mounting. There is a ton of reading material out there on this subject.


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