Savage Barrel installation?

entoptics

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Jan 16, 2018
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Have a Shilen on the way to replace my OEM barrel on my Savage 111 LRH 300 Win. Would like some "conventional wisdom" on installation.

Primarily interested in saving $$. Before you say "You just dropped the cash on a custom barrel, spend the money on all the tools and doodads!", remember, those bits add up. I spent a month deciding if I could afford a $550 Shilen. I'd like new dies, I'd like a new chrony, I'd like to put money in optics/bullets/software/brass/etc, I'd like to get my S&W 629 DX fixed. Pennies make dollars, dollars make pain...Buying tools that I'll maybe only use once is hard to swallow. For perspective, a barrel wrench, set of gauges, and an action wrench will run me >$135. That's 25% over the cost of the barrel.

0) I'm a competent reloader, and amateur gunsmith, and have a good array of general tools. I understand headspace, torque, tolerances, etc.

1) Action Wrench. Do I need one? I have some pretty good shop tools available, and feel like I could save $60 with some easy ingenuity.

2) Go, No-Go, no no-go, no go. Do I actually need a no-go gauge? Since it's a belted case, is it reasonable to get the Go Gauge, set the barrel to minimum, then use a piece of fired brass from my old barrel to ensure "no-go"? I've also heard of "scotch tape on the base of the go gauge = no-go gauge." Even if I had both gauges, I'd measure shoulder growth after the first firing to confirm I hadn't screwed anything up anyway. Thoughts?

3) Any other tips/tricks from experienced Savage barrel installers?

As mentioned, I'm well past blindly following "This guy on the internet told me...", but I would like to hear thoughts from those who've been down this road before.
 

Keith1

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Sep 14, 2010
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I think that for sure you need an action wrench. If you don't have one how are you going to break the barrel nut loose? Some of those nuts are tough.
I have only done one so don't have a lot of experience.
Regards
 

entoptics

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Jan 16, 2018
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I think that for sure you need an action wrench. If you don't have one how are you going to break the barrel nut loose? Some of those nuts are tough.
I have only done one so don't have a lot of experience.
Regards

I assumed putting the barrel in a v-block on my vise would suffice to remove the barrel nut. Unless I'm confused, there would be no strain on the action. Will the nut/action be "fused" together such that it will try and follow the nut during turning?

Regardless, is it not possible to devise a clamp setup that won't put much pinching strain on the action? For instance, drilling/milling an action sized hole in a pair of wood blocks? Or even just a set of aluminum or polymer v-blocks?

From my understanding barrel nut torque is only in the 50-80 ft/lb range.
 

Garycrow

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Jan 30, 2011
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I have the action wrench, I've never tried to remove or install one without it. That being said, you MIGHT be able to remove and install one the way you're describing if you're willing to sacrifice the old barrel in the v blocks in the vise. You do have to have the barrel nut wrench, I can't see a way around using that. Savage barrel nuts are torqued VERY tight from the factory, forget 50-80, it's more like 200 ft lbs so you're going to have to have good V blocks or a barrel vise to hold the barrel tight enough to break the nut loose. Once the nut is loose you just unscrew the action by hand. You only need to put the nut back on at 50-80 lbs but they usually come torqued considerably more than that from the factory. When you install the new barrel and torque the barrel nut you're going to have to have some way of keeping the action from turning while you're tightening the nut. I'd imagine you can fashion some sort of piece of wood through the magazine cutout that would be enough to keep it from turning while you snug up the barrel nut.

I'll be blasted as a heretic for saying it but you don't even really headspace guages to set the headspace. I've installed several just using a piece of NEW brass. Do NOT use fireformed brass, only new. Use the new piece of brass as a go gauge and put a piece of scotch tape on the head for the no go gauge. Screw the barrel in with a piece of brass in the chamber until it stops. Tighten the nut and make sure the bolt will close on the brass. Put a piece of scotch tape on the head of the case and see if it closes, it shouldn't. If it isn't right then adjust it until it is. If you do want to use a gauge just get the go gauge and use the tape trick for the no go gauge.

For a belted case there isn't a fixed spec for shoulder dimensions so measuring the shoulder after firing isn't going to tell you much beyond how to set up your dies. The measurement that counts is the belt, that's why you only want to use a new piece of brass, a fired piece out of your old rifle isn't going to match your chamber so whether or not it chambers is meaningless with the new barrel. Different makers of brass will have wildly different dimnsions in the shoulder areas on belted cases. I've seen the shoulder grow as much as .017" on new brass shot in a properly headspaced chamber, the brass maker just made brass that was very undersized in the shoulder area.
 

RT2506

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Jan 10, 2008
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Go to YouTube and see what people have come up with to help you out. Yep there is really no way around a nut wrench and be sure that you get the right one. Depending on the vintage of the rifle the nuts are different. The factory barrel nut is REALLY TIGHT. YouTube shows a guy that put a vice on a big post outside his house to hold the action and used a breaker bar with a long piece of pipe slipped over the bar to get his off.
 

Barrelnut

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I use an action wrench and a barrel nut wrench. No need for a barrel vise or V blocks.

Guys above are right, the factory barrel nut feels more like 2 tons. An easy way to get it loose, is to put the action wrench and barrel nut wrench on at about a 45 degree angle (or more like 50~60 degree is even better). Then lay the action/barrel with the wrenches on down on a piece of carpet, so the whole thing stands kinda like a rifle with a bipod on it. Then step on it with firm pressure. It will easily pop the nut loose. It is the easiest way.

You can actually put it back together the say way. Just change the orientation of the wrenches, so they tighten things up instead of loosen when you step on it.
 

phpd1295

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Jan 17, 2011
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Deep South Texas
I just removed my Savage factory barrel and it was a bitch to get the factory barrel off. They put that sucker on super tight. The go/no gauges are necessary and so is the Savage barrel nut wrench. This guy used a split 2x4 with a hole drilled in it for a barrel vise and it worked for me. Give it a try. He has a whole series in his Savage build. He mentioned putting a piece of masking tape on the bottom of the go gauge. The thickness of masking tape is around 003 and that will turn your go gauge into a no go gauge so if you’re on a budget that saves you the expense of a no go gauge.
 

Andy grubb

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On the belted magnums you must use a go guage to set headspace. If you were to use a new piece of brass you would most likely limit yourself to just that brand of brass due to manufacturing differences and then hope they maintain lot to lot consistency. Forget the no go and use the tape on the go for a check. I just built a Savage with a shilen and have been very impressed so far. You will need the nut wrench and a barrel vise. I drilled a hole in a piece of oak and used a bench vise. Worked great. Shilen recommends no more than 45 ft lbs for barrel nut torque FYI. I set mine at 40 ft lbs and has performed flawlessly.
 

dsculley

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Feb 13, 2014
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There are many good threads about this subject on SavageShooters.com. At the minimum you will need some sort of barrel vise. If you are going to replace the barrel nut then you can use a pipe wrench to get the old one off. I would still get the barrel nut wrench. The action wrench/vise makes everything easier as you have a bolt in one of the action bolt holes that keeps the action/barrel from spinning. I used a hammer, striking the barrel nut wrench to loosen the nut and that worked well. (The first time I removed my barrel I did not have the action wrench/vise and I could not stop the barrel from spinning in the barrel vise I made of wood so I tried striking the wrench and it worked.)

You can use a piece of new brass whether belted or not. You MAY not be able to change brass manufacturers without re-setting head space on belted cases, but if you have enough brass for the life of the barrel that is not an issue you will have to address. I installed my 7RM with a piece of brass and had no issue with multiple brands of brass.

As to torque on the barrel nut, there are guys on SavageShooters.com that only hand tighten the barrel nut to make swapping barrels at the range easier. I have mine at 60 FtLbs.

If you want to provide a refundable deposit and will pay shipping you can use my action wrench/vise and nut wrench. Shipping would be inexpensive in an "If it fits it ships" box.
 

waspocrew

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I put together a 22-250 AI on a Savage 10 this past summer. I went with a barrel vice with oak blocks and it worked great. That'd be my recommendation over the action wrench. Also, you could look at renting the gauges if you don't want to buy.
 

Browning300

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Jan 18, 2015
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Maybe if you'd put some leather like an old glove in the jaws of the pipe wrench it wouldn't mess up the barrel nut much. They are tight tho I just took off my first barrel nut and I put the factory barrel in the vise and put a cheater on the vise and it still wanted to slip so I hit the barrelnut wrench with a hammer and that worked. I got a go gauge for $25 and barrel wrench for $30-35 I think on fleabay so they are not to expensive.
 

entoptics

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Jan 16, 2018
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Thanks for all the tips!

dscully, I'll probably take you up on your generous offer! The barrel won't be coming for a few weeks, but I'll send you a PM with my address and such, and we can work out details from there.

I have a new barrel nut coming (NSS version), so I'll probably just pipe wrench the old one (smooth style). With dscully's action and nut wrench, I should be ready to rumble. I'll likely buy myself a go-gauge and use the scotch tape to check no-go.
 

Rich Coyle

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Aug 14, 2013
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I made both a barrel vice and action wrench for a new gunsmith in our town. It was good enough for him to get a start. If you have a welder you can probably do as well as me.

Last year I did my first "do it yourself" Savage barrel swap. I didn't need a go or no go tool. The project came out very well.
 
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