Educational Zone #151 – Building an Affordable, Accurate Rifle

I recently had a friend of the Box O’ Truth send me this note:

“How about an article on how to take a base rifle like you would find at (any store) and turn it into a long range gun without having to spend $5,000? The whole idea of bedding and floating and whatnot confused me and in some regards still does. Then there is barrel crowning, etc, as you addressed in your article on your 700. I would think central to choice of gun would be caliber selection.”

Well, I already have two very accurate .308 rifles, a Remington 700 and an Accuracy International AE. They are about as accurate long range rifles as you can get.

But I have recently been interested in a bolt gun in .223 that was accurate. Not really for “long range”, but just as an accurate bench rifle. I wondered how much rifle I could get for less than, say, $2,000? I happened to have recently sold a rifle and had that much in my gun fund.

I began to search.

I was interested in a Savage bolt gun, as I had played around with some at the SHOT Show and liked the AccuTrigger concept. I had also heard that they were great rifles for the money. I decided to see what I could do.

First, I had to pick a model of the rifle. There are sure a bunch of them. But I settled on the Model 12 BVSS. It is a rifle with a laminate wood stock, a heavy stainless steel barrel, an AccuTrigger and weighs about 10 pounds. Looked good and came in .308, .22-250, or .223. The MSRP was $1,040. Not cheap, but not bad for a nice bench rifle.

I began to try to find one, but didn’t have much luck in this crazy economy. My buddy Ted was visiting and we went by Gander Mountain and they actually had a Model BVSS, but it was in .22-250. They wanted $900 for it.

I was getting disappointed, but we stopped by a local gun shop to look for some .22 ammo for Ted. The business is Nederland Hardware, and they are associated with www.DirtKingOutfitters.com. They didn’t have any .22 ammo, it was all sold out, but I asked the owner, a nice fellow named Pat, if he had a Savage BVSS. He told me he did not, but that he could order me one. He checked his computer and said his distributor had one in stock and it could be here in a couple of weeks. The price would be $850. I told him, “I’ll have one.”

I asked him if, by any chance, he could get a Leupold scope for me and he said, “Sure”. He looked up the model I wanted, a “Leupold VX-3 6.5-20x50mm (30mm) Side Focus Target”. The MSRP was $1,115.

Now I know that sounds like a lot of money, but many years of shooting have taught me that cheap scopes just don’t shoot as well as good ones. As my buddy brainksain says, “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?”

I asked what he would sell it for and he said, “How about $779.00?” I told him to order it and bases and rings. He did so and told me he would throw in mounting the scope and bore sighting.

Total cost for the whole rig, rifle, scope, bases, rings, and taxes and everything…… $1,829.00.

That is well below the goal of less than $2,000.

Let’s take a look at it.

The stock is laminated wood, heavy, with a straight stock.

That is no problem, as this is a bench gun and weight doesn’t hurt.

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The barrel is 1 inch in diameter and 26 inches long and has a 1 in 9 twist.

It is fluted forward of the receiver.

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It is completely free-floated forward of the receiver.

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It has the excellent AccuTrigger.

This trigger allows very light trigger pull without the danger of accidental firing.

The center of the trigger had a “blade” that has to be pulled to the rear to allow the rest of the trigger to be pulled.

It can be set to a very light trigger pull.

This one has a 2 pound pull.

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It has a very nice large bolt handle that allows easy bolt operation.

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It has an internal box magazine that holds 4 rounds.

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It also has a nice soft rubber recoil pad, not really needed for the light recoil of the .223, but great for leaning the rifle in a corner and not having to worry about it sliding down the wall.

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The barrel has a very nicely done muzzle crown.

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And the logo in the bolt is a nice touch.

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The scope is the excellent Leupold 6.5 – 20 X 50.

It has a 30mm main tube.

It also has a focus knob on the side of the scope and target knobs.

The reticle has Fine Duplex crosshairs.

I got it in Silver to match the stainless rifle.

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I started with a few shots to foul the bore and then settled down to adjust the scope.

Once that was done, it was time for some groups.

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It was blowing about 20 mph gusts today, not a very good day for shooting groups.

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But the rifle still shot some nice sub 1 MOA groups.

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I will now go to work developing some accurate loads for this rifle.

Different bullet weights, different brands of bullets, different powders and weights of powders, different primers and brass.

A long and hard job.

Sounds like fun to me.

My buddy Steve was at the range with me today and I let him shoot my Accuracy International AE.

He shot a nice group, with 4 shots touching.

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Conclusions:

In conclusion, some folks believe that a really accurate rifle requires a custom built rifle and those can be truly great rifles. But I believe you can also buy stock rifles that are amazingly accurate.

And as Col. Townsend Whelen famously noted, “Only accurate rifles are interesting.”

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