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When Nick and I visited Accurate Ordnance  last year, I made a proclamation in the car as we left. “I’m going to find a way to have these guys build a rifle for me. Hell or high water.” Fast forward a year, and the right rifle, the right project, and the right companies have all come together. Welcome to the first installment of the Project Ugly Duckling rifle . . .

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Embarrassing as it is, I don’t own a single accurate bolt action rifle. Not a one. Oh sure, I’ve got a reasonably accurate hunting rifle, but not accurate in the truest sense. In the last year, I’ve been really wowed by the amount and quality of gear that companies want TTAG to test and evaluate. The problem of course isn’t ammo availability or range time. The problem is having a boringly reliable and consistent rifle to use as a platform.

As an example, Geissele gave me a scope mount at this year’s SHOT show that’s guaranteed to not have any point of impact shift after being removed and reinstalled. Problem is, I don’t have a single rifle that I can mount it on that will reliably shoot in the sub-MOA range for five-shot group after five-shot group. I’ve tested it on some ARs, and the results are murky to say the least. Seems good, but is it really? Who knows?

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Further complicating the issue is a relatively new relationship with the fine folks at both Silencer Shop and Capitol Armory. We have an open invite, schedules allowing it, to come out and shoot silencers for any reviews we want to do.

One of the big things I’m interested in is repeatable point of impact shift when screwing a brake or a can to the end. Nothing I currently own a) shoots that well or b) is chambered in .308 WIN. That means we can’t do sound metering of .30 cal cans and we certainly can’t see if they move the point of impact. Beyond that, we get regular requests to test all manner of rifle-related shooting gear and ammo, and our reviews are going to be subjective at best without an objectively good rifle.

I spent a morning with Mark Kuczka at this year’s SHOT show walking the aisles and getting introduced to various people in the industry. While we walked, I talked with him about the aforementioned problems. Mark enthusiastically agreed to do what he could.

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Moving forward a few months, and I came into possession of a very well used Remington 700 with an aftermarket AAC .260 Remington barrel screwed to the receiver. Normally I’d take a pass, but this rifle also sported a McMillan A5 stock, a Timney trigger, and a CDI Precision Detachable Bottom Metal. The previous owner had used it as his first precision rifle, but had upgraded to a nicer gun. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to get it out of his safe, and I obliged him.

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I called Mark to let him know that I had a rifle for him to beat on, and he went to work on his side pulling some strings and calling in some favors. I boxed it up with a note that said “Make this a cool rifle I can use to write cool articles” and kicked it out the door.

Friday rolled around a week ago and Mark called to let me know that they’d received the rifle, and that it was, shall we say, rough. I’d removed the aftermarket oversized plastic bolt knob, but the receiver had been torqued down without pillars, so the A5 is a little crushed and dented. Mark tells me that bedding will sort this out, and I shouldn’t worry.

He also let me know that the fine folks at Rock Creek had donated a barrel of my choosing to the project. A couple more calls around and Seekins Precision donated a rail to adorn the receiver. Many thanks to both companies for their contributions to the project.

Accurate Ordnance is going to open the action screws from the factory 6-48 to 8-40 to mate up with the base that Seekins sent over.

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I’ve given Mark quite a bit of creative license to do with it what he sees fit. We’ve come to an agreement on it being a 1:10 twist, M24 contour barrel chambered with a .308 WIN Match chamber. Mark mentioned that they’ll be cutting the throat to accept both the 168 and 175 gr Federal Gold Medal rounds that we’ll be using for a lot of our testing. The action will be going under the knife to be trued and squared before it is all screwed back together, Cerakoted, and bedded. Any problems that arise along the way will be handled by the AO team.

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Mark and crew expect that they’ll be able to get started on this rifle sometime in the next week or so, and  you should expect to see regular updates on our Instagram page and here with details on where they are in the process. This project isn’t just about getting a cool rifle for testing. It will also be a showcase for the work that goes into turning a stock Remington 700 into a true semi custom precision rifle. Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.

15 Responses to TTAG Rifle Build: The Ugly Duckling

  1. There are two ways to build an accuracy rifle off a Remington action:

    1. True the receiver, run out the bolt raceway to accept a PTG over-sized one-piece bolt, (or you sleeve the bolt), bush the firing pin (if you kept the original bolt), replace the Remington extractor (if you kept the original bolt), hang on a good trigger, surface grind the recoil lug, chamber a Bartlein/Benchmark/Hart/Krieger barrel, etc, etc. Lots of work to keep a gunsmith busy for a week or more. An entire cottage industry has been created around trying to turn a stock Rem700 action into a premium action on which to build a precision rifle.

    For those guys who are going to crank out tuned 700 actions quickly, both Dave Kiff and Dave Manson have toolkits for about $700 where you can drop in a tool based on an arbor that goes into the bolt hole, allows you to run out the threads in the receiver, true the front face of the receiver, etc all in one shot, no lathe required.

    2. Sell the rifle as-is, go buy a Defiance, Surgeon, Stiller or other action, a Bartlein/Benchmark/Krieger/Hart/etc barrel, bottom metal, McMillan (or other) stock of your choice, etc, and just build a rifle.

    When you do the math, unless you got the Rem700 action at a real fire-sale price (like $200), option 2 actually might cost less.

    • Hey DG,

      I’m thinking about getting a 6.5×47 bolt gun built. Purpose is just for the fun of accurately punching paper/steel from a bench or prone. I want it to be a one-stop shop, not sending this and that around. Which shop would you pick, Surgeon, GAP or some other?

      I have a Surgeon-built 591SA and a GAP M40A5 replica, they’ve all been amazing and I cant tell the difference in precision and quality. But forum talk says Surgeon is dwindling in quality, is that true?

      And the recoil lug, is it that important for it to be integral?

      • I can’t/won’t offer a recommendation on which shop to have build your rifle. There are many accuracy ‘smiths out there, and I’d look for one who is an accuracy shooter himself – in benchrest, F-class or other type of pursuit.

        Recoil lugs: The recoil-lug-as-washer system that Remington uses is yet another result of their cost-cutting moves. By eliminating the integral recoil lug of the Mauser or Winchester type actions, the Rem700 action becomes just a mere tube of 4140 steel that’s nice and round and easily dialed into a lathe. The barrel no longer needs a relief cut behind the threads – you just thread as close to the shoulder as possible, and use a thick enough recoil lug/washer to cover the ends of the threads.

        Personally, I prefer the integral recoil lug system of the Mauser or Win70. But it comes with attending issues for speed and ease of manufacturing. Since I’m not manufacturing actions, I’ll put up with the issues to get an integral lug.

  2. Ohhh ohhhh ohhhh bought this, got that, called a few folks and what pops we’ll send the team in.

    Uuughhh. F&@k F@&k fiddledee F?K.

      • No….jealous. See Stinky back in the day before shot shows and Internet, regular folk had to endure the standard model and make due with notchy fiddle bits, scrounge, beg, appropriate and polish actions with jewelers rouge.

        Now hand carve a stock, forge your own twist barrel with brass sights on a muzzy loader

  3. We’re honored Tyler chose us to build this for him. There are a lot of great custom shops out there that would produce a tack driver for him, so we’re humbled he is letting us do the work. If you are looking for custom work, of course we’d love to talk with you. But some other shops I can vouch for include (in no particular order) Robert Gradous/Gradous Firearms, McWorther Custom Rifles, Short Action Customs, Meredith Rifles, Stuteville Precision, GA Precision, Whidden Gunworks, and APA. There are others too but these are all top shops that come to mind and many are good friends.

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