I remember, albeit through a rosy lens, the formative days of my long range shooting interest. These were the days when I learned about the daunting nature of precision handloading and five hundred yards seemed like it may as well be as far away as Mars. I fondly recall the first time I rang steel at a thousand yards and the trials I had to pass to get there. These articles have special meaning to me in that they are, to a degree, the realization of a youthful dream and the heavy heart of a lost passion.
When I began this project there was a clear aim in mind: build the best Remington 700-based rifle as I could using a method that was easily accessible to you, my audience. I wanted to do this in a way that allowed a challenge for a beginner that was more involved than building an AR. Almost everything in this article can be had from my great friends at Brownell’s, including the barreled action I used.
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- This project started innocently enough, as most do, and eventually became the complete gun you see here. I was talking to a few guys I know around the gun counter before Thanksgiving and things just went from there. My friend behind the counter lamented the general nuisance of his patrons to me time and again, but the conversation he had with a young and enthusiastic customer while I waited left him with a struck nerve. The customer was a young man and in him, as he walked out discouraged, I saw my young self.
My friend gave me a look of exhaustion. “I just don’t know why anyone would ever buy a bolt action in today’s world. You can build an AR that is more accurate with less cost and it will be a better gun. I just wanted him to understand that an AR is better than the bolt action he wanted.”
I smiled. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that the customer is always right?”
“Josh, you know that that’s not true when it comes to guns.”
“I suppose. Why is it that gun stores are the only place that tells people what they should want? Imagine going to a restaurant and having the waiter tell you what food to eat because he knows better.”
“Not the same thing.”
“That guy wants a bolt action. He wants to build a gun like in the books he reads about snipers and heroes. He wants to embody something ideal to him, not buy what may be best. Guns have culture and not everything needs to make sense.”
“Guns should be practical.”
I looked around at the racks and racks of guns around us and gave him a sly glance. “If practical was the only thing that sold, you’d be out of business.”
I decided right out the gate that this project would need to be in a .308 Winchester as it is, aside from .30-06, the greatest American rifle round ever made. As a kid I always valued the .308 for both power and versatility when compared to other available options and it is one of my favorite rounds.
This project was to be a semi-custom build and I wanted to build something like I had when I was younger, long before the days of chassis guns. I wanted it to have the features of a hunting rifle while offering a set of traits that could be easily used at the range and offer accessibility to people wanting to build something similar.
To accomplish this, Brownell’s supplied me with a barreled Model 700 action in .308 Win with a 20” heavy barrel and 5/8-24” threaded muzzle. This setup was pretty much ready to rock and, because I didn’t have to headspace the barrel, it would offer me an easier build. I would strongly recommend this barreled action as a solution to a home bolt gun builder. There is some deception involved when people talk about the ease of building an AR at home. The barrel on an AR comes with what is called a barrel extension where the bolt locks in. This area on the gun is delivered pre-headspaced and is sort of like a disembodied receiver. The 700 action’s ‘barrel extension’ is the receiver itself so, in my mind, it is not so different than an AR build in terms of general difficulty.
Headspacing a bolt action is a daunting task to a new builder. I recall my earliest attempt at getting a Savage barrel off of the action and the painstaking effort of headspacing the new one. It was so new to me then. I was terrified of the gun blowing up! Looking back at my inexperience made me chuckle while writing this. I probably checked that chamber depth fifty times before I felt confident it was correct.
With the action in hand, I cleaned it up and removed the factory trigger to replace it with a Timney drop-in.
I wanted to do a more traditional stock on this gun than what I had originally intended on doing. If I had intended on going straight for a chassis or something more modern it would take away the fun of bedding. Yes, bedding a rifle is more difficult and frustrating than most people have the time and patience for, but it can yield great results if done correctly and is a worthy challenge for the hobby builder.
I received a new stock from Grayboe, a young stock company that is already making waves with the quality of their products. The particular model that I received is called the Terrain, a mix of modern ‘tactical’ and classic hunting lines. Grayboe is to traditional stocks as Sig Sauer is to 1911 pistols. Classic lines and respect of tradition are ever-present, with new advances and great materials used in place of old methods. Grayboe is worth a look to anyone who wants to buck the chassis trend and do so without breaking the bank.
Along with the stock I received a Grayboe-recommended bottom metal set from Mesa Precision Arms. This is a great addition and allows the use of any AICS-type magazines. For the uninformed, the AICS-type mags have become a standard for modern bolt actions and there is no reason for any current rifle to lack in this department. The nice thing about a detachable magazine, aside from the ease of reloading, is that it doesn’t immediately distract from traditional lines. Rifles like the British Enfield had detachable magazines well over one hundred years ago and considered classic, not tactical.
Brownell’s supplied me with MarineTex to bed the rifle with. MarineTex is an epoxy that has exceptional strength properties and essentially bonds with the stock material to make a perfect footprint of the action. The theory behind bedding a rifle like this is that it allows for a custom action-to-stock fit, thus removing any ability of the action and stock to shift or otherwise move around during firing. This then translates to an increase in the overall accuracy of the weapon.
When I showed some friends the process of bedding, they were overwhelmed. The prospect of putting what is essentially glue into a gun is a foreign concept to many new shooters or those who grew up shooting AR-type rifles. This came as no surprise, as most of modern gun building is like building a LEGO set and offers less complexity than many said toys.
The first step in this process is to lightly sand the interior areas of the stock to increase the bond with the MarineTex. Use the bedding epoxy to fill small gaps and fit parts like the bottom metal to the stock precisely. I use olive oil cooking spray as a release agent on the stripped action and metal parts. A light spray is all it takes and the surface should show a thin coating. Obviously one should avoid spraying the interior of the stock as this would defeat the purpose of bedding.
The light oil spray will generate no problems with the curing of the epoxy. From there it is a walk in the park. With the trigger and all internals removed, I applied the MarineTex generously on the contact areas in the stock and simply screwed it all together. The epoxy will squeeze out in some areas, but luckily MarineTex has a long cure time. I cleaned up with water and paper towels and let it set.
After I let it sit and cure, I removed the action screws and cleaned up the metal parts. Remove excess material from the stock with sandpaper or a hobby knife. Knocking blobs and edges off takes only a few minutes and you don’t necessarily have to go crazy with it.
I double-checked all the fit and finish and decided that I had a great fit. In my next article, I finish building the rifle using more great parts from Brownells and take the dream gun of my youth out to the range and field.
Special Thanks to
About Josh Wayner
Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.