About two years ago I decided I wanted to build an extreme long range rifle. I did my research and knew I wanted to build a wildcat based on the .408 case. After a bunch of phone calls to different people in the industry, I felt comfortable after talking with Joel Russo. His knowledge of long range shooting, his accomplishments with the .338-.408 at extreme range, and his ability to turn a piece of wood into a killer stock, was reason enough for me to have him help me with this build.
I decided on the .338-.408 Big Baer, which is the same cartridge Joel used to shoot that killer 3.8" group at the mile in Ohio a few years ago. I chose Bruce Baer to do the metal work, and Joel Russo to build the stock.
I was having difficulty finding an action available in order to put this rifle together for the upcoming Elk season. I asked Joel if he would entertain the thought of selling his personal rifle chambered in .338-.408. He convinced me that I should build one to ensure the final product was customized for me. Joel offered to sell me a new TAC 408 he had that he was going to use for his next build. I accepted... action problem solved, and we're back on track.
After I picked a piece of Bubinga from his vast inventory of wood, he started the re-saw and glue process to make the laminated blank that I requested. Baer ordered the barrel from Benchmark and we were finally making progress. The barreled action was complete, and I wanted to have some type of coating applied. I called Kampfeld Customs, and talked to Karl about my options. I decided on a two tone Cerakote finish. Karl was easy to deal with, and I knew I had another qualified person on the job.
The Bubinga blank was finished and was ready for inletting, but I had a few major requests for the stock. I am 6'8" with large hands, and a standard stock never really fit me well. I asked Joel if he could move the action inlet forward so that my trigger finger would be in a comfortable position in relation to the trigger. After many careful measurements and a few conversations, we decided to move the action inlet forward 1". My next problem was length of pull. I wanted an adjustable system capable of 16.5" overall. I wanted it to be lightweight and flow with the lines of the stock. We couldn't find anything that would work, so Joel suggested he make a custom system.
Timing couldn't have been any better for a business trip to the other side of the country. My project was completed except for the finish on the stock. I took a day off from working and drove a few hours to meet with Joel to shoot my rifle and do some load development. I was excited to be able to go out to Baer’s shop to meet the guy that I’ve read and heard about for so long and who was building me the once in a lifetime project. I was also looking forward after talking with Joel over the past couple years to put a face to the voice as he’s not only very knowledgeable and experienced on many levels, but he’s a down to earth nice guy that loves what he does. He had me prepping brass and turning necks before I could shoot the beast. It didn't take long to shoot a few .750" groups at 300 yards, after not shooting for seven months! I feel that I can hold my own, but to see the results after not shooting for so long you can imagine my excitement. To say I was impressed with the rifle and his guidance is a complete understatement. At least now I had a baseline for when I got the rifle back home. I was curious with how the finish of the stock would turn out because Joel had it covered in tape to protect it during our shooting session, but I wasn’t worried as I knew it would blow away my expectations. Well, the beautiful finish is evidence of his meticulous attention to detail. I’ve been in and around shooting field since I was a kid and have had to work around using a gun that didn’t always fit well. After speaking with Joel on the phone during this project I was curious to see how everything would go together. Showing up at Baer’s to shoot the final product was absolutely amazing as everything fits perfectly.
I knew going into this project that it would require patience, knowledgeable and experienced people, and money. I was willing to be patient, I had budgeted money, but needed the knowledgeable and experienced people to turn this dream into a reality. I’m grateful for running into Joel at the start of a project that only comes around once in a lifetime. You don’t find many people these days that are trustworthy and willing to do more than expected, and am happy to be able to call Joel a friend. Thanks to Kampfeld Customs, Bruce Baer, and Joel Russo, my dream has been realized.
Here are the specs of my build:
TAC 408 action
Benchmark 31" 10 tw barrel
Chambered in .338-.408 Big Baer
Vias custom brake
Graphite Black/Stainless Cerakote
NF rings and base
Joel Russo custom stock
Last edited by jmermis; 07-09-2010 at 03:43 PM.
Reason: additional pic