View Full Version : Custom rifle build/Home Smithing project

November 7, 2012, 06:29 PM
Hi guys,

In an effort to gain a comprehensive knowledge of what affects accuracy I'm looking to do a custom build on a rifle. Any rifle really.

I'm looking to cram everything into this one rifle so glass bedding, stock refinishing and fitting, trigger work, barrel work etc.

Have you guys got any suggestions for what would be a good rifle to start on? I'm looking for an old wooden stocked rifle. I don't intend to do a tacticool rifle as I want the wood finishing and bedding skills as well.

Should i buy something like a parker hale or should i buy a mosin nagant and bubbadize it (i wouldn't do this with any other milsurps ever, don't worry).

Also as I want to install the barrel myself is there anything i need to know or special tools. I read somewhere that criterion barrels can be fitted at home so im not sure about others. Do i need any special tools for barrel fitting?

Assuming i have no access to a machine shop and only have home tools (dremel, drills, sanding block etc) is this plausible at all?

Feedback highly appreciated.


Jim Watson
November 7, 2012, 06:44 PM
I would buy a pre-Bubbaed '98 Mauser to work with.
You would not be destroying historical value, purchase price would be low, parts and literature are available, and you would have something worthwhile if you did a nice job.

I am not a barrel fitter but can say it is not something to get instruction on in a www post. There are whole books on the subject. Yes, you do need "special tools."

November 7, 2012, 07:03 PM
This might be a good place to get info.
It's an online instruction site for building a custom rifle.

November 10, 2012, 12:02 AM
Not sure how deep you are wanting to take this? Wanting to build a gun from the ground up or buy a used gun and remodel it.

I thought about doing the Remodel job a few times myself.

I'm far from an expert, but I noticed that the Ruger 10/22 is a huge gun for adding on stuff that you may want. SKS is an other one I see a lot about.

Me I was thinking about an 8mm Mouser. You (used to) be able to buy them for $100 or less and they look like crap. So I was going to restock it and bore for scope and give it a reblueing.

Gun that I bought for the project got stolen so never able to do. Now I kind of lost interest.

Looking for extra stuff to buy (Stocks and stuff): http://www.cheaperthandirt.net/ItemListing.aspx?catid=956

Good luck. WOuld love to see a before and after pic.

November 10, 2012, 01:42 PM
I've built a few over the years. My favorite is the Model 70 Action.

Years ago, (early 80s) I bought "6" Model 70 actions for a total price of $235.

I've made some dern nice accurate rifles with those actions. Problem now is I want another Model 70 to build a long range target rifle in 260 Rem.

My 1000 yard match rifle in 300 WM


This one is a Remington 700 in 308, a hunting rifle I built or my Grandson


This is a Model 70 in 243 I built for my wife. It's one of the most accurate rifles I have.


I have several more but I don't have pictures of, One a 416 Rigby on a 1917 Rem action, and another Model 70 Win in 30-06 which I built as a Vietnam Era Sniper Clone.

I do all my own metal work and bluing. I like Bishop Stocks the best (no long in business). I also used some aftermaket fiberglass stocks (as seen on my GS's Remington.

The stock on my wifes 243 is a new Winchester take off I got from a gun smith.

If you don't have a lathe and milling machine, Midway (as well as others) have pre-treaded, pre-chamber barrels for just about any action you want.

You just have to get a finish reamer and HS gages, to do the final headspace.

The quality is based on how much effort and care you put into the rifle.

But it can be done. Something about owning and shooting your own rifle.

November 10, 2012, 11:34 PM
My shcpeal about accuracy for the average guy like me:

There is a whole lot of benchrest ritual that is a waste of time, money, and effort in the pursuit of a 1" group.
It may or may not help getting a .15" group to improve to a .149" group, but it has nothing to do with getting a guy who shoots 2.5" groups to shoot a 1" group.

Big effect on accuracy
1) shoot when there is no wind
2) get a high power scope
3) practice dry firing and keeping cross hairs on bullseye
4) clean out Copper fouling in bore
5) good bullets
6) No expander ball use
7) jam bullet into lands
8) heavy gun and light bullet
9) float the barrel
10) keep barrel cool
11) expensive bull barrels
12) make sure scope mounts are tight to receiver

Little or no effect on accuracy
1) True the action face
2) true the inner C ring
3) lap the lugs
4) true the bolt face
5) chase the threads
6) speed up the lock time
7) glass bed the action
8) pillar bed the action
9) get a 1 ounce trigger
10) turn the case necks
11) weigh the brass
12) de burr the flash holes
13) weigh each powder charge
14) try different powders
15) use benchrest primers
16) lap the scope rings.
17) Dial in bore when chambering
18) re crown the muzzle

November 11, 2012, 07:58 PM
What tools are required to use a finish reamer? Are there any hand finish reamers or would i require access to machinery.

I only have access to small hand tools at home. For everything else I'd have to take it to a smith with the proper machinery.

This makes me think that maybe i should do this with a Savage action so i can just buy a criterion barrel which wouldnt require any reaming.

Clark it's all the stuff on the 'little to no accuracy improvement' column that im interested in doing like glass bedding and lapping lugs etc.

November 11, 2012, 11:15 PM
What tools are required to use a finish reamer?

A finish reamer, go and no go head space gages, a 12 in. 3/8 drive extension, and a tap handle.

Once the propertly chambered or pre chambered barrel is screwed on the action. Strip the bolt of its firing pin, extractor/ejector. Put check the headspace by putting in the "go" gage. The bolt shouldn't close.

Put the square end of the finish reamer into the female end of the 12 in. extension. Carefully side it into the chamber. Use the tap handle over the male side of the extension. put cutting oil on the reamer and carefully add pressure as you turn the tap handle. After a couple turns bring out the reamer, clean it and the chamber of chips and re-check the headspace with the go gage.

Keep doing this until the bolt barely closes on the go gage. Check with the No-go gage, you shouldn't be able to close the bolt.

It's slow (slower then using a lathe) but its work, and with care you get a nice tight accurate chamber.

Some people use a "field" gage, which is a bit bigger then the no -go gage. I don't even own a field gage. If I can close the bolt on a No-go gage, I set the barrel back and start over.

November 12, 2012, 12:46 AM
So I want to make a barrel at home for black powder.

I've seen some pretty specialized barrel drilling equipment in videos. Is there a practical way to make one and rifle it, even a slow labor intensive way, for a guy with reasonable machining skills and fair access to equipment?

How did they do it in 1850?

November 12, 2012, 01:26 AM
Awesome, thanks Kraig,

There's no places i can hire a reamer here in Australia like there is there in the US so id have to buy one so I now have to figure out whether its worth buying one or whether just go take it to a smith.

Though I'd love for this thing to shoot 1/4 MOA off a rest (or less), I'm not keen to have a rifle where i have to turn necks and full length size because of a tight chamber

mrbachelor, the barrel making process is noted in this link:


Looks pretty labor intensive

November 13, 2012, 07:19 PM
Go with a Savage action. They have a barrel nut you just have to loosen and then you can screw out the old barrel and screw in a new one. I set the head space with a round I make so I know the head space is right for my loads. You then thighten the barrel nut and you have a rebarreled rifle. I picked up a new Shilen barrel in 243 win. on a close out ready to screw in, but I ran a 6-284 reamer into it and am going to have it Nitrited befor I start useing it. I have picked up several 110 Savages for around $200. Their triggers can be adjusted to a good hunting trigger. As for wood only, I also like wood, but you can still bed the synthic stocks, and you may want to put a heaver varment stock on it before your done. Bedding is easy, just make sure you use enough release agent on the action and barrel nut.

November 14, 2012, 01:48 AM
mrbachelor, the barrel making process is noted in this link:


Looks pretty labor intensive

No problem. I'll probably make two tonight!

Seriously, thanks for the link.

I do expect it to be a lot of work, and I don't expect mine will really be very good if i ever get a working one. It's more an intellectual exercise than a desire to "save money" or "improve accuracy" compared to commercial products.

Sort of the same reason I shoot more black powder than smokeless. I don't deny that modern technology has blown way past the old ways, but the modern isn't that interesting to me anyway.

But laying next to my bed is a fully modern revolver with commercial ammo. Some things aren't for intellectual curiosity.

November 20, 2012, 01:09 AM
I've just found a cheap(ish) sporterised M1903 which i could tear apart and use the action from.

Are 1903 actions good ones to build an accurate target rifle off? I'm not looking for benchrest zero groups but the goal would be 1/2 an inch groups consistently.

Would one find a decent stock for this one? I'd like to refinish a stock but i think inletting one is beyond my skill and time.

November 20, 2012, 10:05 AM
Are 1903 actions good ones to build an accurate target rifle off?

The Army used '03 Springfield actions for their Mann Devices, which are used to test 308 ammo.

You wont get much more accurate then that.

But, you might be money ahead putting that '03 action back to the orginal configeration.

November 22, 2012, 04:39 AM
Ok, looking around for actions / cheap sporterised rifles to use the actions from and came across this. It appears to be a Win Model 70 action with a 308 bolt face.


Is the asking price reasonable and from the picture, is everything there? Having never built a custom rifle I have no idea what to look for.


November 22, 2012, 09:18 AM
Now we are talking a different story.

If given the choice I'd go the Model 70 action before any others.

I'd jump on that one.

My best target rifles are made on Model 70 actions.

Nothing wrong with the Springfields except they arn't Winchesters.

November 22, 2012, 11:49 AM
Complete action with bolt and trigger group for two bills?
Snap it up!

November 22, 2012, 05:16 PM
Just had a response back from the guy who's selling the Mod 70 action (i assume as the ad doesn't say it's a mod 70 specifically) and he basically just said that it comes only with what's in the photo.

For you guys that have dealt with actions and the model 70, does that appear to be everything? i.e could i buy that, install a barrel and a stock and be good to go?

November 24, 2012, 04:06 AM
It's missing the trigger guard and magazine group. The only things there are the action, bolt and trigger.

BTW, that's a post-64 action, meaning it is a push-feed. There's nothing wrong with the push-feed M70's, just making sure you know it is NOT a claw extractor/controlled-round-feed like a Springfield or pre-64 Model 70.

November 25, 2012, 04:38 PM
Just had word back from the seller, it's also missing the bottom metal and lugs.

How expensive or big an issue is this? Am i better off to look elsewhere?

November 25, 2012, 08:02 PM

Aftermarket bottom metal can be expensive. For a Model 70, the complete trigger guard, magazine box, bottom metal, etc... could run you another anywhere from $30 to maybe $200 here in the US, depending on the circumstances and configuration.

I have no idea what it would cost in Oz.

Here's what Blackburn bottom metal is currently priced at for various configurations. NB that this isn't a OEM-style bottom metal - this is the type of bottom metal used by high end gun makers here in the US on custom rifles built on top of Model 70 actions. These prices are high because the price of the finished rifles (typically $4K and up) support these levels of parts prices:


January 12, 2013, 09:29 PM
So after searching and searching I failed to find bottom metal for the win70 action mentioned above. The closest I managed to get is an engineering company offering to make one for me for some astronomical cost.

On Friday i came across a full Winchester m70 (it's well and truly post 64 for those getting excited) in 270 winchester. The bore is pitted but the woodwork and action are in excellent condition which is what i was after.

In Australia m70s are usually at least $550 for a short action and $800 - $1000 for long actions in good bore condion but these usually always have bad woodwork and worn bluing. Managed to get this one for $395. I think i did alright anyway.


Now the fun begins! The rough plan is (in this order):

- Rework the trigger at home to break clean and crisply. Ideally i want to rework the original trigger instead of buying a timney but if it comes to that then i'll do that down the line.

- Rebarrel with a target quality 21.75" barrel and in doing so convert from 270 winchester to 30-06. I want to have the barrel cut in an octagonal shape. The stock will have to be reshaped to accommodate for this - but i still haven't decided whether to go with a heavy barrel or a lighter one so i don't know whether to free float the barrel (heavy) or glass bed it all the way through to the end (lighter profile barrel)

Does anyone know whether getting the barrel cut in an octagonal profile will hurt accuracy or perhaps cause stressing of the barrel. It's a question ill ask the smith but i figure id ask here too.

And the other thing - with Jack O'Connor going on about the Win70 in 270 - is the rifle likely to hold it's value more if it's kept in 270 or would 30-06 not hurt things too much?

Archie Otto
January 13, 2013, 09:22 AM
Well it all depends on how much you want to spend and if you have a lathe and mill to play with. I have built several rifles from 98 mausers, krags, 03s and even trapdoor rifles. The 98s and 95's can be had for a relatively small investment if you shop around. Same with 03s but they are more expensive. If you look long enough there are plenty of them "7" (700,70,77,7) actions out there to be had too. So then buy a good barrel like shilen or douglas or what ever in the caliber you like and cut the threads and screw it on the action if you have a lathe. If not there are plenty of gunsmiths out there who can and do install barrels and headspace them. Now find a stock you like. Boyds makes some very nice economy walnut stocks for the above mentioned actions and can be had for around a $100. Then there is richards microfit and there you can have a nicely figured walnut for a couple hundred $. Then finish and inlet the stock and glass bed the action and free float the barrel. Drill and tap for scope mounts and away you go. If you want shinny and pretty you can polish the metal and have it blued or go more utiliatrian and beadblast the apply duracoat in the color you like. Shop around and you can put together a very accurate high power for undder $1000. Or you can go the long way and drop $10,000 or more.