Kiote LRP rifle
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John Stewart of Kiote Rifles is a gunsmith. I’ve handled his rifles. I’ve seen them shoot 1/2 MOA ten-round groups at 300 yards with factory ammo — and that was just while sighting in. But that’s not why I asked him to build my one-of-a-kind dream rifle.

I asked him to build my rifle because he’s a stubborn man who lives to build quality firearms. He doesn’t compromise on engineering, materials or craftsmanship.

I’ve spoken with Mr. Stewart at length about this design and build philosophy. I asked him to share his expertise with our readers. Specifically, what shooters should look for in a custom rifle. This is the first in a series of articles.

John writes:

There are a few things you should never skimp on when building a rifle. The first is the trigger. While it doesn’t have to be the $250 Calvin Elite Custom trigger (below), anything other than a factory trigger is a welcome upgrade.

Just like a car manufacturer, a gun maker is generally looking for the cheapest part that’ll get the job done — regardless of consistent function. They aren’t trying to make a great trigger. They’re trying to make a trigger that’s good enough to sell.

The aftermarket has to make a great trigger to warrant purchase. For them, it’s a race to the top — not just to see who can get it done the cheapest.

Factory Remington Trigger vs. Timney Calvin Elite (photo courtesy of Kiote Corp)

In this picture, a factory Remington 700 trigger is on the left. It’s made from stamped steel, with a large amount of separate moving parts, riveted together.

The Timney trigger on the right is made of machined aluminum, assembled with the minimum number of moving parts necessary to work (again, machined parts, not stamped parts). It’s assembled to tighter tolerances with screws that’ve been set in place with Loctite.

Factory Remington Trigger vs. Timney Calvin Elite (photo courtesy of Kiote Corp)

In this picture, you can see that the factory trigger’s sear is designed to be held in place by the sear pin. While simple, this compounds the problem of using cheap, stamped parts along with loosely controlled pin quality.

Notice how the Timney trigger’s sear is held in place between the machined body walls by a separate pin (look for the black pin on the right side just short of the sear pin hole). Its fit is very snug, but not tight enough to create friction, which would result in clunky movement.

Factory Remington Trigger vs. Timney Calvin Elite (photo courtesy of Kiote Corp)

Besides the high quality body framework, maintaining tight tolerances on pin quality allows for a cleaner, crisper moving part. This results in a more repeatable and accurate firing pin fall.

When it comes to a custom gun, precise repeatability is what you’re after. The trigger needs to function and feel exactly the same every time. The precise repeatability of the trigger will have a direct result in your ability to shoot with precision, both in terms of short and long term accuracy.

A quality aftermarket trigger is more likely to exhibit precise repeatability out of the box as well as over time. Start there.

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    • I miss the days you could order a Thompson and have it mailed to your house without an FFL or background check or tax stamp.

      • Oh really? When was the U.S. Postal Service in home delivery business for even first-class mail across the country much less “Parcel Post” home delivery business prior to “RFD”? Which “Thompson” was “Thompson” selling then? And how did one go about contacting and paying the manufacturer to get that all set up? What “ended” the ability to do that precisely? Do you remember when you could order a 12-gauge shotgun from the Sears Catalog and get home delivery? When was that? Tell us bout the good old days, Grandpa.

    • The difference in quality of the Timney product between then and now is quite remarkable.

      Timney is even producing a two-stage trigger for the Rem700 now…

    • I think the best $132 I ever spent was on a Tim ney for my Rem 700 VTR (.308). Of course, that’s partly due to the fact that it took Rem 8 weeks just to ship me the box to send it back. God only knows how long they’d have kept it after that.

      The wider blade is also a big improvement, IMHO.

  1. I disagree in part, and agree in part.

    I agree that quality components are the reason you’re having a custom rifle built. If you’re not going to select custom components, then what was the point of paying to have a custom rifle built?

    While we’re on that topic, if you’re paying to have a custom rifle built, then why bother starting with a low-grade action like a Remington, and then having to pour money for gunsmithing time into it for blueprinting, bushing the pin, etc, etc.

    Just buy a high-quality action in the first place, and start there. You’ll likely be break-even with the cost of improving a stock Rem700 action; the only difference is who gets the money? Your local gunsmith, or the company that made the high quality action?

    Where I disagree is the importance of a trigger vs. a barrel in a custom rifle. If you don’t spend the money on a high quality barrel, an excellent trigger will still only take you so far. If you’re going to spend the money on a custom rifle, then get a single point cut rifling barrel, and get it with the correct twist rate for the bullets you want to shoot, and then have it fitted to a high quality action, then hang a high quality trigger off said action, then put it into a high quality stock.

    • “Just buy a high-quality action in the first place, and start there. ”
      Which is the next article in the series.
      He’s written about the action, the barrel, the crown, a few different things.

    • “A low-grade action like a Remington”. That’s funny shit. If you were half the “custom rifle” expert you think you are you’d know it’s harder to find a REAL “custom rifle builder” or “gunsmith” who won’t at least use a “low-end” Remington 700 action as one of several “low-end” factory “American” rifle actions if not prefers or REQUIRES Remington 700 factory actions but might “reject” ones with excessive wear or of course a short-action receiver/bolt if the customer is clueless enough to bring in short-action parts for his long-action custom rifle.

  2. I went to the Kiote website and could not find a phone number, Email or physical address. There is an option to book an appointment but how can a person do that when they have no idea where the business is located?

      • Thanks Jon, I missed it. It’s probably a generational thing but I generally don’t do business with a company that doesn’t provide their address and phone number.

        • You need to get over that. If you run a small businesses out of your home the last thing you need is to have your phone number and physical address on the net. I breed dogs and had my information on the website years ago. People still call in the middle of the night or show up on my doorstep unannotated. If I’m getting a custom rifle. I don’t need someone who has 37 employees and a commercial storefront.

          • “You need to get over that.”

            Actually I don’t need to get over it. I’ll use my own criteria in deciding who I do business with and wouldn’t presume to tell you what your criteria are. I also don’t trade with individuals or businesses who volunteer that they are honest, because IME they never are. When someone says to me, “I’m an honest man and I like to do business with honest people”, I grab my wallet and run. You choose your criteria and I’ll choose mine.

  3. The only Timney I’d have in my “custom” guns is the Calvin Elite. The last regular Timney for a Rem 700 I bought would not go down to 1.5#. Sent it back to Timney and they sent me another one that would not go down to 1.5#. Jewell trigger in most all my custom guns. My gun smith builds a lot of high end target guns with Bix’n Andy triggers. My trigger finger was not sensitive or refined enough evidently to tell the difference. My wallet thanked my trigger finger.

  4. I don’t have any custom built rifle. But I still enjoy good trigger. The worse your original trigger is the more you gain by switching it for good aftermarket one. Imagine my delight after I installed a Timney in my 91/30 Mosin. ☺

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