Custom Rifle accuracy expectations??

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by SBruce, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    What kind of short/mid-range groups do the best custom rifles shoot, "out of the box"?? What kind of accuracy do you consider acceptable during break in and preliminary load testing??

    The custom built rifles I've played around with, until recently, weren't my own. They belonged to others who had already done the load development. I have however owned a few factory rifles, that with minor improvements and alot of load development eventually shot 1/4 to 1/2 minute groups at 300 and 400 yds, and quite regularly.

    I was told by my great uncle about 20 years ago that a high quality precision rifle will shoot just about any good bullet decently.? I've also heard that fine custom barrels don't take alot of load development, and they are not nearly as picky as factory rifles when it comes to finding a load that will shoot 1/2 minute or better at short/medium range.?

    The problem I've encountered, on 2 of 4 new customs, is that they seem very picky about the loads they will shoot acceptably. I've tried different scopes and that didn't make a huge difference. I am talking minimun of 1 minute to maximum of 3 minutes with some loads. So, I've either got a boatload of expensive "junk" scopes, or a couple of problem childs.

    For me, "acceptable" performance is 1 minute at 200 yds during preliminary testing only, and then we fine tune from there to get the sub 1/2 minute performance. Seems that a fine custom should shoot just about any decent ammo (including todays premium factory loads) into 1 minute at 200/300 yds without any fiddling around. Am I incorrect in that assumption??

    What do you competition shooters require/expect out of a new rifle before you send it back to the smith? What do you gunsmiths require before sending a rifle out?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions/replies.
     
  2. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    Most well made/crafted custom rifles will shoot well under 1/2 MOA at 100 yards with almost
    any ammo. The reason some are pickey is that they are designed arround one type or weight
    of bullet. And as we aLL know every rifle is different and likes one bullet weight and type best.

    It is not unusual for them to shoot under a 1/4 MOA and better with careful loading of the
    components.

    I have had rifles shoot under 1/10th of a inch during break in and end up staying there.

    The reason I use 100 yards is to test the rifle and establish the lowest Standard Deviation
    so that I can move to longer distances to find out which bullet performs best at extended
    ranges.

    The quality and consistency of a bullet realy starts to show up at the longer distance (And
    the ability of the shooter).

    I have found that the quality of the barrel has the most effect on accuracy and consistency
    because you can assemble two identical rifles ,one with a standard grade barrel and one
    with the finest made and the difference will be very noticeable even if all the other accurizing
    tricks have been used and are the same.

    Saving a few bucks on a barrel is a large gamble and not worth it in my opinion.

    J E CUSTOM
     

  3. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    Thanks JE,

    Perhaps coincidence, but both "problem childs" have lilja barrels. Both have custom actions (one Nesika, one Borden). Both have muzzle brakes. Cadillac parts on both, from the scope rings down to the jewel triggers. For $6000 counting the scopes, seems to me that they should shoot 1/2 minute with just about any load.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011
  4. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    Seems like they should be capable of much better accuracy than that with those components, if they were put together reasonably properly. Have you tried several different bullets in your load development?
     
  5. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    Hey Paul,

    Yea, I've tried a few different bullets, and tried a few different seating depths with those bullets also. I haven't played with powder charges, just simply because I worked up till I got the velocity I wanted (about equal to or slightly less than book max velocities) with low ES's, then went to shooting paper for group size. The chronograph says I should get excellent long range accuracy with sigle digit or teen ES's, but the paper at 200 doesn't agree. There's no way I can expect 3" or less at 600 when my best groups at 200 have only been 2".

    I am shooting off a bench in calm conditions, next I plan on having a couple other guys shoot the same loads that gave 2" at 200, to see if they see the same results. I am ultimately looking for 1" at 300 yds on a calm day. I've shot those kind of groups in the past, but it seems like an un-obtainable goal with a couple of these guns.? Certainly don't feel like I got what I paid for at this point in the journey, especially since a couple other rifles are shooting sub 1/2 minute at 400 with random picked fireforming loads.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  6. WyoElk2Hunt

    WyoElk2Hunt Well-Known Member

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    Have you talked with the Smith about the problem as you have upper end components with the build?
     
  7. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    Yea, I sure have. But, I haven't talked with him since I tried a different scope and the same exact load he suggested, and I still wasn't impressed. I kinda figured I'd get some opinions from here, and have a couple other guys shoot it (also with the load suggested) and go from there.
     
  8. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    If you've run several different bullets down them and still not finding sub 1/2 moa accuracy, something is amiss IMO. That's a bummer. Let us know if they come around, or if they need corrective gunsmithing?
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
  9. Varmint Hunter

    Varmint Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Just for the heck of it I'd try a box of quality factory ammo. This would eliminate any chance of a reloading induced accuracy problem.

    After that, at least one of the rifles would be headin' back to the smith for an evaluation and test firing.

    I had a similar problem with a custom .223 which just would not shoot any bullet under .5moa consistently. Occasionally, but not consistently. The smith re-bedded the rifle and test fired it at the shop. Three different loads shot sub .5moa for the smith and targets were returned with the rifle. It has shot great ever since.
     
  10. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    Thanks VH, I have shot a couple brands of factory ammo in both guns, 1 type (Winchester Supreme) in 1 gun was 1 moa at 200 yds. The other types were no better and some worse than the handloads I tried, in both guns. It's supposed to be calm, for the next couple of days anyway, so hopefully I'll get those other guys to shoot the big one here soon.
     
  11. GNERGY

    GNERGY Guest

    The idea you have of working up a load to a certain velocity and expecting it to shoot 1/2 moa should be thrown out the window. The gun is going to select the amount of powder that will make it accurate. You just have to pick the bullet that you want to use and the powder that will get you to the desired velocity, load up starting from a little above recommended minimum in 1/2 grain increments to the max load, or until the bolt gets a little hard to lift. Load 3 or 5 of each one and test them at 300 yds on paper. Pick the best group or 2 and then change seating depth a little and see if groups improve. Use your chronograph for load development and down range ballistics. Forget the extreme spread that everybody worries about.
    You didn't say what caliber or weight bullet you want to use. Some of the heavier bullets don't stabilize ( or go to sleep as they say ) till after 200 yds.
    When I was loading for my 338 Ultra mag the guys on this site to test my loads at 300 yds and not waste my time at 100. I wanted to shoot the Noslers and tried 4 different powders with out any acceptable results. I tried the 225gr. Barnes TTSX and got them to shoot like a laser. Here was some of my testing with a custom build.
    http://www.longrangehunting.com/forums/f17/finally-got-shoot-my-338-ultra-mag-part-2-a-57447/

    http://www.longrangehunting.com/forums/f17/338-ultra-mag-225gr-barnes-results-57973/
    Tarey
     
  12. SBruce

    SBruce Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Tarey, I haven't got to read completely through both links yet, but I will.

    Reading this post somewhat takes me back in time to how I USED TO develop loads for factory rifles. It worked great for me back in the mid 90's. I would test one bullet at most powder charges, working up to max (seated out to the lands or .010 shy) and if that bullet didn't shoot, I'd try another with same powder. If after trying 3 or more bullets and no avail, I'd change powders and repeat. Once I found the best possible load (bullet and powder combination) I'd vary seating depth and fine tune. Then, finally I'd chronograph just for an average velocity and hope it had a low ES...........usually, alot of rounds later I'd have a pet load that would shoot absolutely great. Again, alot of rounds later.

    I'd still do this method if I had time and favorable winds to do a ton of load testing, which I don't unfortunately. This leads me back to the whole purpose of buying a full blown custom.......I simply don't have the time to shoot 200-300 rounds plus break in to develop a load that will shoot sub 1/2 minute, so far as I understand, custom rifles and barrels dont require that usually.? They should shoot just about any decent bullet well.........well, at least that's been my understanding:rolleyes:

    I wish I had the time to develop loads like I used to, would of saved me a ton of money, I could have 2 factory or Semi Customs for the money I've got in this one particular rifle.

    The main "problem child" is a 300 WSM, so far shooting 180 grn bullets in a 10 twist Lilja. 3000'/sec is obtainable without excessive bolt lift, and that was my target velocity. I tried 69 grns H4831 SC behind 178 A-Max at 3 seating depths. Also tried 68 grns of R-22 behind the 180 Nosler BT with 3 seating depths. Also tried 2 brands of premium factory ammo with 180 Accubond and 180 Ballistic Silvertips.......Nothing was under 1 moa for 3-5 shots at 200 yds.
    I'd try 300 yd testing (that's usually where I try load development at) but this gun is shooting groups big enough that 300 is a waste, I'm afraid some shots wouldn't even hit paper at 300!

    Thanks again for the reply, and perhaps I do need to go back to the "tried and true" method of load development.? But if that's what's needed, I'll be selling some rifles. I simply dont have the time to shoot, load and analyze 300 rounds through each barrel before it's ready to use. If I did, I'd have bought factory rifles. Instead, I've got 4 customs and 2 are problems......... Even the two that I have no accuracy complaints on, still need a little work to get that magical "1/4 minute or less" that I eventually want.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  13. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    Question?
    What contour are the barrels on the two that won't shoot? I use lighter weight barrel contours than most use for their LRH rifles on this Forum. Like #3 and #4 contour barrels. And I find it does take more load development than others seem to describe with their heavier contoured barrels.

    But I've read quite a few Kirby Allen posts, and his experiences with the customs coming out of his shop is similar to your expectations. Very little load development necessary to get the heavier barreled customs to shoot 1/2 moa or less. Often, he reports that the first load he tries will demonstrate 1/2 moa accuracy.

    Trying to get 1/4 moa? I think that might require some more load development.

    But with the efforts you've described invested in the 300 WSM already (even if it's got a lighter weight contour), I would be sending that one back to the smith, and asking him to demonstrate better accuracy. And to consider the possibility of something gone awry. Just my thoughts.
     
  14. rscott5028

    rscott5028 Well-Known Member

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    SBruce,

    My experience is limited. But, I thought you might find this feedback useful.

    My son and I just finished building our 3rd custom rifle.

    The first 2 were warmup/learning, truing up a factory Model 70 and Mauser 98 and rebarreling.

    The Mauser 270 Win with $75 Shilen barrel shoots just under MOA out to 300yds, but I have to admit my threading/chambering was a little loose on that barrel. We will try again later.

    The Model 70 6.5x284 with a used Kreiger Palma barrel with a 1" setback shoots 1/2" at 100 with very little load workup. We've shot several 1/4" groups. But, it's consistently 1/2" including a cold/clean bore fouling shot and stays there for 30-40 shots without cleaning.

    My son was ringing a 5" steel plate at 500 yds right and left a couple of weeks ago. And, the one 5 shot group he put on paper at 500 measured 2". Wind was near 0.

    Feeling a little more confident, we just completed a 6br with a Stiller Tac-30, Bartlein 5r 1:8 twist, Manners T4a. We shot one box of factory Lapua ammo that was all under .5 MOA. Yesterday, we handloaded that brass without any load development using 30gr Varget and Berger 105's .010" off the lands.

    Every group shot under .5" @ 100yds with 15fps ES. ...single digit if you disregard the 2 where I tried to force a standard decapping pin through the Lapua BR flash hole. :)

    We still need to bed the rifle, but we just couldn't wait to go shoot.

    We're probably just going to stop right there and start collecting dope until after hunting season.

    These are not big magnums. So, I expect it's easier to get good results. But, it seems that even a hobbyist can build 1/2 MOA rifles with good components and modest effort. It may take some effort to get there due to the law of diminishing returns. But, our future goal will be consistent 1/4 MOA.

    Hope this helps.
    -- richard