By Jason Montagna
The performance of rifles has increased over the past ten years and so has the price- to a point where a custom rifle is too expensive for many of us. So how can we get near custom performance on a working man’s budget? UPGRADE!
I own a few custom rifles, however for this build, I wanted to see what could be done with my off the shelf action. I am starting this build with a stock Remington Sendero in 300 RUM and starting the upgrade build with the 700 action at its core. Remington actions are strong, accurate, reliable, and upgrading it gives us a lot of options.
First, I upgraded my stock. A high quality stock will handle the considerable recoil of the 300 RUM and with the cost in excess of $750.00, make sure you pick one that specs to your length of pull. I then had it both pillar and glass bedded to ensure that my action and barrel are perfectly mated to the stock and stable while shooting.
Second is the trigger. Most factory triggers are set around 5 lbs and have a lot of slop. I prefer a Timney trigger upgrade for hunting. The Timney safety crosses the trigger rather than the sear, which is safer in the field. I run my trigger a bit lighter than some for hunting, about 2 lbs.
My pick is stainless steel and although it is more expensive than chrome moly, data suggests you get longer barrel life and lower maintenance with stainless.
I prefer a 5r cut rifled barrel versus button rifling. In a cut rifled barrel, a rifle head with a “blade” is pulled repeatedly through the bored barrel, each time taking a small amount of metal until it reaches the appropriate inside diameter. This process is expensive. However, a sharp and well made cutting head coupled with a savvy barrel smith, makes cut rifling less stressful on stainless steel resulting in a more consistent barrel.
A button rifled barrel uses a steel “button or plug” that is forcibly pulled through the barrel. The grooves are formed around the button at high pressure and the button is sized at a minutely larger diameter than the actual caliber. The steel then snaps back into the caliber size after the button is run through. This is a very fast and efficient method for rifling but it can require additional finishing, stress relief, and is viewed as creating a cheaper and less accurate barrel. However, we can argue that final point for days as I know many great button barrel builders that produce quarter minute shooters.
Either way, a fine match grade rifle barrel with have uniformity along its length that should not vary more than .0002. What that means is the bullet is being contacted, compressed, and spun evenly down the entire length of the barrel. A well made barrel will have “choke” at the muzzle. A very minute choke ensures the bullet is released from the barrel with optimal contact and control. Hand lapping and muzzle finishing will complete the fine barrel’s build work and make it ready for use on your new rifle.
The chamber is also an incredibly important part of the process that is not often discussed with custom rifle buyers. Most manufacturers do a good job of making off the shelf rifles that will sometimes shoot sub-moa. However, for a shooter or hunter wanting to shoot well under MOA consistently, a fine chamber cut with a high quality reamer is a must.
You can have your chamber cut to SAAMI specs if you want to use factory ammunition. Or if you’re going to handload, most reamer manufacturers will produce reamers to customer specifications for a specific bullet. These are useful to benchrest shooters or hunters who are willing to trade off the compatibility of shooting “any bullet” or by those who may use the same rifle for both hunting and precision shooting. Having a well made chamber ensures consistency and accuracy in bullet to lands jump, brass insertion, expansion and chamber pressure with every shot.
Finally, having a reputable and experienced gun company or rifle smith put it all together may take 3 to 6 months. This includes blueprinting the action and correctly finishing, assembling and certifying the accuracy of the rifle. The good builders are busy for a reason and planning your timetable is important, so make sure you have a very candid conversation with your smith about your needs and timing to ensure your completion date.
Spending about $3,250.00 for the components and labor on my now new 300 RUM is quite a bit compared to a stock rifle. However, I use handloads and now get consistent <.30 groups with my build. My groups have no flyers and I can create consistent D.O.P.E. and have complete confidence that every shot will go exactly where it’s aimed.
If you have the funds, I highly recommend designing and building a fully custom rifle. Just keep in mind that a good one will start in the $4,500 range without optics. If you can’t spend that much and you are thinking about extending your effective range hunting, consider upgrading your current rifle to increase your performance.