Tuning a 221 Remington Fireball

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With an afternoon of shooting scheduled it was time to decide which rifles would make the trip to the range. One rifle that always seems to miss the trip stood out; a nice Remington 700 Classic chambered in 221 Fireball. This combination should provide a lot of enjoyment, but it never ends up at the range or in the field. The reason? It just doesn't shoot that well. In the ten-plus years this rifle has existed the shooting log shows only eighty-five rounds have traveled down the barrel, with an average group size a little over an inch… a measure that most shooters would not find acceptable. So the Fireball was retrieved from the safe and the decision made to spend some time with the little treasure to see if its accuracy could be improved with simple modifications, changes that many shooters could make themselves, or have done by a gunsmith at a reasonable cost. Read More...
This is a thread for discussion of the article, Tuning a 221 Remington Fireball, By Glenn Burroughs. Here you can ask questions or make comments about the article.
 

philipbrousseau

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i have two of these rifles. a 700 classic put into a mcmillan mountian rifle stock and the laminated stocked rifle sold by remington. had them pillar glass bedded lugs lapped by clarence hammonds in red lion penn. factory ammo shot so poorly that there is no reason for anyone to want one of these rifles but with hand loads and reloader 7 they both shoot the same load and seating depth into three shot groups in the 2's&3's.
 

bounty hunter 2

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The 221 in a rifle is a favorite for me. I built one using a very affordable Shaw barrel with 1/14" twist. I wanted a heavy barrel to dampen vibration but in a weight that was not too heavy to carry.
I decided to go with the varmint contour but cut it to 17" to keep the weight down. That decision has not caused any grief at all and since the 221 was designed for a 10" barrel there is no ballistic loss.
I built the rifle specifically for shooting cast bullets and for that purpose it has worked very well. I have shot some home swaged bullets using 22 RF jackets but for the most part I shoot cast in it.
Since cast bullets are of a homogenous alloy they are shorter length than jacketed bullets of equal weight. My rifle shoots well with cast bullets up to about 63gn at least that is the heaviest that will shoot well for me of the designs I have available.
This rifle excels with cast bullets in the 55gn range of which I have several designs to choose from. I have used this rifle to take a couple coyotes but it is mostly used as a small game rifle for edible game and just for fun shooting.
I shoot this rifle quite a bit so acquired a case form die set from RCBS to make cases from 223 brass. I find enough 223 brass lying about where other folks shoot that now my brass is basically free. Making brass from 223 gives opportunity to fit case necks to the chamber since the 223 brass in thicker where the new neck will form on the 221 case, a good thing.
My rifle is built on a Stevens/Savage model 200 short action that was acquired at a very reasonable price. I stayed with the original synthetic stock by just re inletting the barrel channel. Total build was far less than $500.00 for the donor rifle and new barrel. All in all I am more than satisfied with the performance I get from this rifle with the bullets I intended to use in it.
Most loads I shoot run a 55gn ish bullet to about 2200 fps though some loads will push that to about 2400 fps. My favorite small game loads will run about 1500 fps with like bullet weights. These loads with flat nose cast bullets are very effective on small game but not nearly as destructive as the higher velocity loads.
This rifle is one of my favorite builds that gets fired more than all others combined which is quite a number of other custom builds. Its fun to shoot, accurate, and with the basically free brass and my home cast bullets the ammo is far cheaper than any rim fire. I really like cheap ammo that shoots good!
 

del2les

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A few basic things to start with that do not cost a lot of $$: REMOVE THE J-LOCK shroud, as these have proven over and over to have negative impacts to accuracy. Some varmint rifles have reduced group sizes by 40-50% from this one change, and almost all I have seen or discussed improved at least by 25%.

Trigger adjustment: IF you are not safety minded, then please find a gunsmith, but many shooters can adjust the screws to a safe 1 1/2 to 2 lbs (Use a gauge). THEN use blue Loctite or a dab of your wife's fingernail polish to keep the screws from loosening under recoil and leading to a too lite trigger, or as in this case, a failure to engage when closing the bolt.

The forward stock pressure point Remington often uses may or may not cause any issues. I have several older 700's that shoot wonderfully well, and the pressure points are still intact. Your mileage may vary.

Barrel: Check the crown on EVERY round crown "factory rifle" some are good others not so, and Brownells offers a target crown hand-tool to improve this. Many modern rifles now come with a target style crown, and these are a great improvements.

Also on the barrel, many factory production barrels are rough, have highs and lows and need lapping, and this can be accomplished by any amateur with Tubbs Final Finish kits. While I hand-lap my own barrels, this is not for the beginner. Some tests I have conducted with Tubb's kits showed considerable group reductions, lower SD shot-to-shot, less or eliminated pressure spike induced fliers and far less fouling then before lapping. Given the time it takes for me to lap a barrel, I am leaning toward using Tubbs almost exclusively.

Usually, I begin with these before going on to bedding, stock channel alterations, bolt lug lapping, etc, and depending on the initial results and use for the rifle, it may cease right there.

The 221 and similar lower velocity .224's are often fitted with a 1-14 and even 1-16 twist barrels, so do not begin load development with a boat-tail or Tipped style 55gr bullet or heavier. While some rifles will shoot these somewhat well, begin with the 40-50gr bullets first. If you desire a heavier bullet, then advance to a shorter flat base, lead nose 55. Example, I have an older 222 Rem that has a 1-14 twist, and it will shoot Sierra 63 SMP's into 5/8-3/4 inch groups, but some of the longer Tipped and boat-tail 55's group over 1 inch. The 50's shoot 1/3 MOA.

Also, some rifles shoot better with a fire-formed and partially necked sized case, as often, this helps align the bullet with the bore and reduces case/bullet/bore misalignment in sloppy factory chambers. Some rifles respond better to this than others.

Those are a few lower cost points to begin to test the potential accuracy of a factory rifle, and one can add $$ up from there. Usually, these will make "most" factory rifle owners happy, for the rifle hasn't broken the budget and allows more money to spend on one's spouse and make up for all those days on the range and out hunting. At least that is one theory.
 
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bounty hunter 2

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Another accuracy advantage as mentioned earlier is to form brass from 223. This creates a tight neck situation that you can fit the necks to because the 223 brass is thicker at the point where the neck will be on a 221. What I like to see here is not more than .001" neck expansion from loaded OD to fired OD. That will help with case life as well. I also like to re anneal case necks after about every 5 shots which also enhances case life and makes neck tension more uniform over the life of the case.
 

del2les

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Another accuracy advantage as mentioned earlier is to form brass from 223. This creates a tight neck situation that you can fit the necks to because the 223 brass is thicker at the point where the neck will be on a 221. What I like to see here is not more than .001" neck expansion from loaded OD to fired OD. That will help with case life as well. I also like to re anneal case necks after about every 5 shots which also enhances case life and makes neck tension more uniform over the life of the case.

Yes, that works for those who do not mind the extra case prep. My BR .224's have .246" necks, so that allows me to turn necks to .010" and have .001" expansion. So for some factory chambers, the above is a good approach.
 

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