Making Your Semi-Custom Rifle Look Custom

By Bryan Chatwell

Learning to shoot at long range accurately is very difficult at best and the learning curve tends to be long. Most people that read articles on this web site probably started off similar to me, buying factory guns and shooting factory ammunition. From this starting point normally comes handloading, and then building and buying custom rifles. Like handloading, custom rifles and the components we make them out of are always evolving, and as we learn to become better shooters we tend to expect more out of our equipment. The point that I am getting at is that many of us have semi-custom rifles built on factory actions that shoot great but just don’t have that custom feel or look. Several companies offer affordable actions based on a Remington footprint that will drop in to a Remington 700 stock with little to no fitting. These actions are cheaper than having a Remington fully blue printed and it seems that there is a definite trend in the shooting world to use these actions. However, if you don’t mind spending a little money on the actions you currently have here are a few ways to customize your current Remington 700. Not only will these upgrades improve the look of your Remington but, more importantly, your rifle will be more dependable and accuracy will be improved as well.

Pacific Tool and Gauge makes replacement bolts for short action Remingtons that have a number of fluting options. These bolts look fantastic and a raceway reamer can also be purchased to make sure the raceway and your bolt match perfectly. If that is more trouble that you want to go to, just tell them that you want a factory replacement bolt and what type of fluting. A Sako style extractor kit will also need to be purchased, which PT&G carries for under $20.00. When you receive the bolt the handle will not be attached, but they (PT&G) will recommend a couple of gunsmiths that can install the handle for you. One such gunsmith is Nathan Dagley of Straight Shot Gunsmithing. Nathan welded the handle on my PT&G bolt. The cost was very reasonable and turnaround wasn’t bad at all. Once the bolt is in from being welded or soldered together it still needs to have the lugs lapped and the barrel will need to be re-headspaced. For these two reasons alone I think this is a better option to have done at the same time as a rebarrel job. That way you are not paying to have a barrel re-headspaced that may need to be replaced in the near future anyway.

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These pictures are of a PT&G bolt in a Remington 40x. Excuse the dirty rifle. I had just finished an F-Class match in Capitan, New Mexico. The oversize bolt knob was also from PT&G.

Making Your Semi-custom Rifle Look Custom

After talking with Nathan and looking at his website (Straight Shot Gunsmithing), I saw that he offered bolt fluting and would install Sako or AR15 type extractors along with oversize tactical bolt knobs to many factory bolts, including Remington. It just so happened that I own a 300 ultra magnum that had a very tight factory extractor and many gunsmiths told me that a Sako style extractor wouldn’t work on the large magnum and were offered no solutions to fix my problem. Living with the factory extractor was not an option. It was too tight and I am sure it was causing accuracy problems by pulling the case sideways in the chamber. Nathan agreed that the Sako style wasn’t the best option, but unlike everyone else he said he had a solution, which was to install an AR15 type extractor. Nathan said this had worked well in the past and that it would work great for the ultra magnum, and he was right. While he had the bolt, I had him flute it and install an oversize bolt knob. Both of these options make the bolt work faster, smoother and truly make it look custom. As of now, Nathan isn’t taking in fluting work, but as soon as he does I highly recommend having it done. The fluted bolt along with the oversize bolt knob will really get you spoiled.

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These two pictures are of Nathan’s work and it definitely makes the 300 ultra magnum look and function more like a true custom rifle.


The final two options are all about function, and involve the bolt and firing pin assembly. There are several upgrades that can be made to a Remington firing pin assembly and to me these two really go hand in hand. A weak spring or a firing pin assembly that is rough inside the housing can cause poor primer ignition which in turn causes vertical stringing. Generally the shot will fall low and there is no consistency of when it happens. In my opinion the most fail safe bet is to replace the entire assembly with a Gre-Tan assembly that is lighter and has a stronger spring. Lock time will be faster and smoother, which will help accuracy, and if you’re having vertical problems hopefully that will be cured as well. The other option is to have a bushing installed in the firing pin hole and the firing pin turned down to .062 or.068. This will help with primer ignition as well as primer cratering and misfires. The reason is that the smaller hole handles pressure better than the large factory firing pin hole. This will allow you to shoot high pressure loads and not washout or blank primers. These two options put together will make for consistent primer ignition reduce vibration and improve accuracy.

Every option listed here will help accuracy and function to a point. Add them all together and your rifle will be more accurate and handle pressure better than before. It will definitely look custom and will be something you can be proud to own and shoot. More than likely these products and services are offered by other companies and gunsmiths, but these are the people and products I have personally used. PT&G, Straight Shot Gunsmithing and Gre-tan all have websites that I recommend checking out. There are several other services and products offered, and they can explain everything mentioned here better than I can.


Bryan Chatwell is a firefighter paramedic in West Texas and a father of two incredible children. Long range hunting is something he enjoys, as is shooting F-class matches. He personally believes that F-class matches are a great way to learn almost all the skills needed for long range hunting.