Level It And Color It Done

By Les Voth

X-ray just built a new rifle. In his search for the ultimate caliber/rifle combo he has been through many. As a past shooting competitor, he knows what works. Working as a paid hunter, X-ray's real world experience eclipses the fantasy worlds of most.


From .243s to 6mm SLRs, 308s to .338 Normas, 6.5 Creedmoors to 22-243s, his use of and collection of working rifles is extensive. Heck, who needs a .338 Norma to shoot coyotes? X-ray! He called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me of a 708 yard shot he made on a sleeping coyote. That coyote is sleeping deeper now.

He didn't call me because he was proud of the shot. He does that by rote. He was laughing because he curled the canine on another snowbank about 200 yards off the road. Made it look like it was sleeping. Someone is going to try for it - sure as shootin'. Too bad the Norma buggered the fur too much to recover.

The new rifle is in a Manners thumbhole stock with an adjustable cheek piece. A Big Horn Tactical action is holding a 24" Bartlein barrel with a threaded muzzle. Kahles glass zeros in on offending critters, and the 6.5 SAUM is triggered by a Trigger Tech Tactical trigger.

The first five rounds down range, as the new build test stayed on one half of a half inch square target. A good start! Time to add a new piece to his new rifle.

Each of X-ray's rifles has a different level system. There's a Vortex level hanging off the Nightforce scope of one. There's the swing-out level on the scope rail of another. The swing-out level sometimes gets switched to another rifle. Like the time the Norma took out the sleeping coyote, etc.


The new 6.5 SAUM is getting a different leveling system. John, the man with the cool tools, machined a slot in the Manners stock, just behind the action tang. The slot is half the depth of a small round level purchased from a hardware store.


X-ray Cerekoted the bottom, of the see-through level, white. When the level bubble is installed in the dark slot, the white coating on the bottom will ensure the level can be easily read.


Before mounting the level in the prepared slot, the rifle's level was measured with two levels. Instead of centering the bubbles in those two levels, the bubbles were laid against the line on the right side of "level", on each one. This is called a "hard level". Placing the bubble against the line takes the "subjectiveness" out of the measurement. If each bubble is touching the line on the same side, the mounting should be concentric.

Mixing up some steel Devcon 10110, X-ray applied it to the slot. The white bottomed level bubble was then placed in the Devconed slot so its bubble was touching the line on its right side - as were the other two rifle leveling, level bubbles. Alcohol soaked Qtips were used to clean up the excess Devcon, and the project was left to cure.

This will be a great leveling idea. You never leave home without a leveling system. It takes less than an inch of width on the top of the grip. You don't machine deep enough to damage the integrity of the stock. And you can see the level from your cheek weld position.

When X-ray gets his cheek weld and starts looking through his Kahles, who is going to blame him for not wanting to look away? That's one nice scope!

If X-ray would have been two degrees off on that 708 yard coyote shot a couple of weeks ago, he wouldn't have been able to curl the critter's carcass into a comfy looking sleeping position on that snowbank.

Because of how X-ray's rifles are built, there are no proof-marks, caliber claims or listed manufacturers on the barrel. It's not like it's a factory Ruger with liability warnings stamped into the top of the steel barrel.

This time before Cerakoating the completed barreled action, which he does himself, X-ray etched all the pertinent information on the barrel.


A friend made up the stencils according to order. One side has the caliber, barrel and chamber info. 6.5 GAP 4S 8.5L .296NK. The other side has the name "YELLOW MEDICINE". Caliber, twist rate, direction of twist and neck size are represented on the left side of the barrel. The name of the Mythical Magician responsible for doing X-ray's machine work is on the right side.


The stencil was indexed on the barrel according to a pre-drawn line. Then the rest of the area was masked off. X-ray stole the battery out of his son's electric truck - the kids truck that's big enough to ride on. This was to be a job requiring some electric help.


Wire with alligator clips attached to the battery's negative post and to the metal of the rifle took care of the easy part. Cut-up Qtips were readied for the application of a Super Special Secret Solution(4S).

The special solution was salt water. I'm not going to say what the percentage of salt to water was. Personal research into it should be done for anyone wanting to duplicate it. I'm just giving an overview of what X-ray did.

Another alligator clip outfitted wire was hooked to the positive side of the battery. The other end was used to apply the salt bath to the stenciled off steel on the barrel. Clamp a cutoff Qtip in the alligator clip, dip it in the solution and rub it on the steel you want to etch.

I wasn't there but I would say you should carefully rub the solution soaked Qtip on. More like an artist than like an angry kid wiping his sister's accidentally spilled apple juice off of his gaming device.

X-ray said it looked like one of those magnetic kid toys with the metal filings that kids draw with. When he was applying the solution to the metal with the Qtip the metal just flaked off. As you can see by the pictures he sent me, the process provided a clean, easy to read etching.

X-ray's recent activity has been successfully attaching a permanent level, putting the finishing text on his barrel and shooting an accurately built rifle. Yesterday he was shooting at 400 yards - satisfying himself that his choices of parts, caliber and machinist were top notch! His confidence is climbing in his new go-to rifle, along with the round count.

Les Voth learned to hunt whitetail deer and coyotes in his native Canada, and has hunted both as often as possible in eastern North Dakota since immigrating to the United States. Life Les'ons, by Les Voth, is available from Amazon.com, Kindle & createspace.com.