If you were to ask 10 rifle owners to explain the term accurizing a rifle, chances are you would get 10 different answers. The reason? Accurizing is subjective. What is accurizing to one shooter might not be to the next. And to add more fuel to the fire, the degree of accuracy expected with the cost associated with it will dictate the amount of work to accurize a rifle.
Simply put, accurizing is the process of making a rifle more accurate. For the purpose of this article, we’re talking about building a rifle from scratch.
Accurizing a rifle is expensive, but they are not built by accident.
Though all styles of rifles can benefit from accurizing, by and large the most common candidate for accurizing is the bolt action rifle.
Choosing the Components
If you are accurizing or having a rifle built from scratch, take the time to research your options for actions, barrels, and stocks, as well as any other accessory you might want or need on your rifle.
Many shooters have an action in mind long before they begin their build, and without a doubt the Remington 700 or one of its clones is by far the most popular action to build up. Some shooters prefer the control round feed option of the Winchester Model 70 and even the Mauser is still popular. This is merely a personal choice.
If you’re going to spend good money accurizing a rifle, don’t skimp on a barrel. A perfectly trued action superbly bedded is all for not, if the barrel is subpar.
Today, several fine barrel makers like Shilen, Kreiger and Lilja are producing barrels of any contour and rate of twist a shooter can imagine.
If building a rifle for a specific need or bullet, check with the bullet manufacture and barrel maker to see what rate of twist matches a favorite bullet weight or type.
The Right Person for the Job
In days gone by nearly any gunsmith was capable of accurizing a rifle, but today riflesmiths, those who specialize in building and accurizing rifles, have taken the art to the ‘nth degree.
Blueprinting, machining all surfaces square or exactly perpendicular to the bore of the rifle, requires specialized cutters, tools and knowledge of how to use them. This work doesn’t come cheap, but it is well worth the price.
There is some difference of opinion on what is the best method to accurize a rifle. Some riflesmiths claim an action can only be trued on a lathe, but just as many professionals use the methods described below.
In a nutshell, the riflesmith bores the raceway, where the bolt rides in the action to a uniform dimension. Specialized piloted cutters that correlate to the freshly machined actions are used to cut the lugs of the action to a uniform height and square the threads where the barrel attaches.
In most cases a new one-piece bolt with a minimum clearance to the action replaces the factory bolt. The bolt is lapped to the action. After careful measurements are taken to determine the headspace, the action is now ready to be re-barreled.
Threading and chambering of a barrel is done on precision lathes. The barrel tenon, the part that screws into the action, is turned to the appropriate dimension in both diameter and length. The riflesmith then cuts the threads on the barrel. The action is given a test try to ensure it threads onto the barrel.
The next step is chambering the barrel. A chambering reamer is held in the tailstock of the lathe using a special holder and is slowly fed into the barrel.
The reamer is advanced only a few thousands at a time and kept well lubricated and clean to avoid scratching the chamber. Headspace gauges and the measurements taken earlier determine how deep to run the reamer.
After the barrel has been chambered it is time to install the barrel onto the action.
A special vice called a barrel vice is used to complete this job. The headspace is again checked and fine-tuned if needed.
Now the riflesmith measures the barrel length and cuts the barrel to the proper dimension and crowns the barrel. The metal work is complete other than test firing and final assembly and finishing. Once this is completed it is time to bed the barreled action.
Bedding a Rifle
Most rifles built by riflesmiths today are stocked in a synthetic stock. When choosing a stock examine and try as many different styles as you can get a hold of to determine what best fits your style and needs.
There are as many ways to bed a rifle as there are professionals who do it because everyone has their own unique way to bed a rifle. Bedding a rifle isn’t rocket science, but preparation is the key to a great looking, professional job that will hold up for a long time.
In addition there are many products to use to bed a rifle. I prefer a product that is impervious to any petroleum-based products and provides a good bond to the stock being used.
Putting the Bedding Down
When bedding a rifle, I dry fit the barreled action onto the stock to eliminate last minute surprises when the bedding compound is applied to the stock. I prefer to free float the barrel and accomplish this by using precut shims to keep the barrel from bottoming out on the stock. Next, tighten all the screws with the shims in place and ensure the barrel does not make contact with the stock. Many riflesmiths will apply tape to the barrel to gain clearance or fill cavities on the barreled action with clay to keep the glass from seeping into the action where it is not wanted.
If you glaze over any step while bedding your rifle, do not skip this step. Apply release agent preferably the one designed for the bedding compound. Do not skimp on the release agent; use plenty on the action and any other parts you do not want to be part of the stock permanently including the action screws. A little bit of release agent around the outside of the stock will keep cleanup at a minimum.
Mix up the bedding compound according to the directions.
The bedding compound should be placed in the action mortise, behind the recoil lug and anywhere the action makes contact with the stock. Be sure to tighten the action screws hand tight. Do not use a torque wrench.
Once the glass is applied and sets up, the receiver is supported by the bedding compound; while the barrel is free floating in the barrel channel.
Once the bedding has cured remove the screws. A rawhide hammer may be needed to persuade the action from releasing the stock. Once the action breaks free the task of clean up begins. Remove any unwanted or stray bedding compound. I use a sanding drum mounted on a Dremel tool for the job.
Once the stock meets approval, the rifle is now ready for reassembling and ready to shoot.
Now for the perfect scope.
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