We are now discussing the expensive custom rifles. This level and cost can be done using donor equipment. This would include a donor action such as a Stevens, Savage, and Remington 700 series, Weatherby, Winchester and Howa. All offer low cost rifles but give a sound action to build a great rifle. Buying a used rifle just for the action for a build is not out of the question as long as the action is in good shape. Even though you are using production actions, you can still take steps to make it very custom. Often a term of blueprinted is used to describe a process whereby an action is machined to tighter tolerance and trued so that everything lines up. Also you are now looking at adding an after market trigger such as a Timney, Trigger Basix, etc.
Aftermarket barrels of some type are also part of the process. No longer is the factory barrel worthy of such a build. In doing research you will find that there are companies that will be cheaper than others, but remember, “Buyer Beware.” Some companies definitely produce a more superior product than others. Another factor is twist rate (1:10, 1:12, 1:8), number of grooves and lands (3, 5, 6), and if you want a stainless or chromoly barrel. The stainless barrels are going to last longer but the chromoly barrels are going to tend to be a little more affordable. Another option would be a carbon fiber wrapped barrel. When choosing a barrel, it is very important to know what projectile and its weight in order to optimize the barrel for accuracy. Length and weight of the barrel also come into play. Most long range rifles are built with a minimum of 24 inches and some get as long as 36 to 42 inches. These guns are specific to their purpose and use.
If you want to go with a very custom rifle, then you start to look into custom actions. This would include actions from Badger Ordinance, BAT, Lawton, etc. These are just a few of the many builders. I don’t prefer one over the other; they were just the first to come to my mind. Then follow the remaining processes. This step into custom built actions will develop into a rifle with a lot stronger action with a pretty hefty price. By the time you choose a trick stock, barrel and action you are well on your way to an awesome rifle with a big price tag. These rifles generally start at about $2500 dollars and go as high as $10,000+ dollars. Boys and girls, your marriage is not worth it. If you have the money, buy the best you can afford.
Rings, Base, And Optics
The next process is very important. Though they are not very big and do not seem that important, the scope base and scope rings are very important. These few little pieces, can make your day in the field or at the range either exciting or very frustrating. When trying to decide on what to buy, quality and affordability are key. I use a $40 EGW base. I own two of them and they have performed flawlessly. There are more expensive single piece bases out there that will fit our purpose in a long range build, but again I have to keep mama happy. Other name brand companies offer their own brand of bases in both one piece 1913 Picatinny style and two piece bases.
One piece base by EGW 20 MOA.
The distance you are planning to shoot is important when choosing your base. The reason is that some scopes may not give you the proper elevation within its adjustments to reach the distance you want to go. This is often referred to a 20 MOA (Minute of Angle) greater or less design. That means that if your scope only has 30 MOA of vertical elevation adjustment, the 20 MOA will give you essentially 50 MOA of total elevation. 50 MOA will get most calibers to 1000 yards assuming the caliber that is chosen is designed for that style and distance of shooting.
Burris Signature Z Rings. 20 MOA inserts in the rear and -10 MOA in the front for 10 MOA extra added for more elevation adjustment.
The next thing is deciding on scope rings. Scope rings are numerous in quality and design. A few that we have used and like are Weaver, Burris XTR’s, and Burris Signature Z rings. The nice thing about the Burris Z rings is that you do not have to shim your bases or get a pre-canted design base for extra elevation in your turrets (later to be explained). The Z rings are designed with plastic inserts that allow the scope to stay on a linear plane without binding, or distorting the scope body. Sometimes bases that have been improperly shimmed can damage a scope due to binding in the rings.
Nikon Buckmaster 6-18X40 with side focus and target turrets
Now comes the most or least expensive part of a rifle build. Optics can make or break a person’s ability to be a competent long range hunter or marksman. I can tell you from experience that I did not know what I was missing until I tried a quality glass scope. Growing up, I was used to the old reliable (so I thought) Tasco or Bushnell Banner. These scopes are okay for in the woods shooting to some extent. Because they are less expensive optics, they will not gather light as well as a well made scope. It really didn’t matter for me because I was generally the first one out of the woods with my tags filled at 10:30 a.m.