Free Floating Barrels: Panacea Or Pain-in-the Neck?

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Free Floating Barrels: Panacea Or Pain-in-the Neck?

Free Floating Barrels: Panacea or Pain-In-The Neck?
By Don Bitz - Owner - Stocky's Stocks

We get a lot of calls before and after the point of sale debating the relative merits and pitfalls of a stock that does not touch the barrel. The term "free floating barrel" seems to have become synonymous with accuracy in some circles. Many of the top gunsmiths build their rifles free floated so are vocal proponents of it. Gun...
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Litehiker

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Interesting and detailed article. Lots of info there.

OK, My 6.5 CM Ruger American Predator was free-floated, as was the Boyd's Classic laminated stock I put on it later. It shoots 1/2 MOA with either factory or Boyd's stock!

BUT... I very much disliked the plastic Ruger factory stock's wimpy forearm. Using an "arm wrap" hasty sling support I could pull the forearm onto the barrel. So I epoxied an arrow shaft the full length of the forearm with JB Weld. Now it is much stiffer in all directions. So Stockey's advice to not mess with the factory stock only applies to higher priced rifles with quality stocks, IMHO. Mess with any cheap plastic stock you want. They are cheap to replace if you screw it up.

And in some ways, like pillar bedding or epoxy action bedding, you can mess with better plastic stocks like my .300 Win mag Browning A-Bolt's stock. I did it and improved the accuracy. Yeah, maybe a Mauser M18 stock is good as-is... maybe.

But I may use an adjustable pressure "pad" on the forearm of my .308 Savage 99 C lever gun. Free floating that barrel is not an option as configured. An adjustable pressure pad with a visible indexed brass escutcheon around the (very finely threaded) adjustment bolt can help give some quantification to the pressure applied to the barrel. Good for load development.

Finally, the excellent carbon fiber stock on my Browning A-Bolt Pro is well bedded and well designed so I would not even dream of messing with it - or replacing it. SAKO would be fortunate if their Carbonlight stock was as good. Jus' sayin'

Eric B.
 
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HARPERC

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"Free Floated" has become dogmatic for many, changing very thing else in the system, and never questioning the "free floated". Unfortunately not all rifles deliver their best results that way.

Trial and error need not be complicated, a few layers of tape in the fore end, will tell you which is best, and is easily removed.

I've seen too many improve dramatically with a bit of fore end pressure to discount it.

The best way to bed a rifle is the one that compliments the rest of the system, and validated on the target.
 

Litehiker

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Harper,
I agree some barrels absolutely need a pressure point to shoot decently. And I think this is likely because those barrels and/or bores are not perfectly straight or were straightened at the factory (happens all the time) and have a "memory" when they warm up after a few shots.

But well made barrels should not need pressure points as their harmonics are fairly uniform the full length of the barrel in that they change in a predictable rising frequency pattern as they move toward the muzzle. This is also greatly dependent on barrel stiffness and, of course, load differences such as powder type & charge, bullet type & weight and primer brand among other factors.

Eric B.
 

HARPERC

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I agree free floated is where to start.

Barrels come in all degrees, but some that aren't performing can be attributed to some of these cheap stocks available. Add a magnum cartridge, and a muzzle break and slow motion video, and WOW! Forces involved can test the construction of the best.

Some fore end pressure is generally a patch for other issues, but can get you by when nothing else works.

In the opposite direction, I have Ruger No. 1 that never shot regardless of what happened to the fore end. I sent it off to restock, thinking re-barrel when it got back. It works perfectly now, some problem in the butt stock I was unaware of resolved. Fore end pressure helped, but now free floated it's just fine.
 

Varmint Hunter

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While it sounds totally ridiculous; a guy in our club took a rifle that refused to shoot and bedded the entire barrel in silicone rubber from the lug to the end of the forearm. He swears that it cut the groups in half.
 

cohunt

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Look at the lightweight nulu rifles and lightweight barrett fieldcraft rifles...both use a similar barrel profile close to a pencil profile--- both are bedded from tang to tip of forearm. Just recently noticed this and wondered if the pencil profile "dictated" a full receiver and barrel bed.
 

robert l

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i use bell&carlson m 40s and i bed the action and the first 2 to 3 inches of the barrel. And i get great results with this.But i am using gr douglas 28 and 30 inch heavy barrels.And i am still breaking them in.I am getting 1/2 inch groups with 30 rounds in one riffle which is a 338 edge. And 3/4 inch groups with the 338 win mag with 60 rounds. I might add the recoil is about like a 270 caliber.
 

Litehiker

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cohunt,

My new Browning X-Bolt Pro has a fluted "pencil barrel" to save weight (it's 6 lbs. 1 oz.)
and in my very first zeroing shots it amazed me. As mentioned above it is factory glass bedded in its carbon fiber stock but fully free floated.

After bore sighting at 50 yards four shots put me on the X ring.
THEN I moved to 100 yards and the next 3 shots were a bit less than 1/2 MOA in the X ring. I quit shooting there and went to our steel silhouette range where I hit 14 of 15 shots from 212 years to 547 yards. I missed one shot on a 400+ yard narrow gong.

The Warne Pic rail and Burris rings come off soon and I'll put burnt bronze Cerakote Talley rings on. Their color match the Cerakote on the rifle. Gives it a more custom look.

Eric B.
 
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