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A Barrel and a Bed Job

PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:37 pm
by practice-more
I finally had enough of the factory barrel that was on the Savage LRP that I picked up last year. The original plan was to shoot the .243 factory barrel for 1500 round or so and then swap it out for something else. However, after shooting the gun quite a bit, maybe 500 rounds, I just wasn't happy. If anyone followed by .243 reloading thread, try after try, I just couldn't get what I wanted out of that gun.

Back in November I ordered a barrel from James at Northland Shooter Supply. My choice was a Criterion Stainless Match barrel in an MTU contour finished at 25" and chambered for 6mm Creedmoor Match. I received the barrel a couple weeks ago and had a local guy do the Cerakote job on the barrel, barrel nut and recoil lug. Although I wasn't thrilled about the name "sniper gray", it was the nice dark gray that I was looking for.

For those who don't know, Savage guns can be re-barreled with pre-fit barrels using nothing more than an action vice, a barrel nut wrench, and a couple gauges, all available from NSS.

I removed the old barreled action from the stock, removed the scope and base, and removed the trigger assembly (not required for rebarreling but you'll see). Removing the old barrel was as simple as putting the barreled action in the action vice, clamping that in a bench vise and then loosening the barrel nut so that the barrel can be spun out.

After completely cleaning the action and the threads, and applying an anti-seize to the barrel threads, the new barrel was spun on the reverse order. The key is to use a set of go/no-go gauges to set the barrel to the right headspace from the bolt face. Not a hard process, but very important. Once turned in to the right spacing, the barrel nut is re-tightened and you’re done.

Now, before I reinstalled everything, I decided that I would skim bed the action to the stock. The HS Precision stock that came on the gun had an aluminum bedding block, but I ground that down (dremel) about 0.100", prepared the action with release agent, set clay dams in the stock, etc. and then gooped it up. The idea is that the skim bed will improve the action contact with the stock and will eliminate any high spots that cause stress in the action when the action screws are tightened. It also insures that the recoil lug makes full contact with its mating surface on the stock. This isn't a clean process and it takes a lot of pre-thought and dry runs. After the epoxy is mixed is not the time to think of something that you forgot. However, with some careful planning, lots of painters tape, shoe polish (release agent) and some modeling clay, it isn't too difficult.

There are some great videos on this process. I'm not talented enough to run a camera while dealing with the set time on the epoxy and everything else that could go wrong.

Once the epoxy cures, the action is removed, you spend a few hours picking clay, everything gets cleaned up, there is some filing of the epoxy to clearance items ... and you should have a stock with an exact imprint of the action. Overall, I think this one turned out pretty good.


**On a side note I skim bedded a buddy's factory heavy barrel 223 Savage last weekend (first one I've ever done). The gun shot in the 0.5" to 0.6" range before the bed job, but was pretty consistent with throwing at least one flyer 1/2" out of the 5-shot group. Since bedding, we haven't shot it enough to say for sure but we did see three 5-shot groups, all at or just below 0.5" with NO flyers. That's a good sign and should mean that the gun isn't shifting in the cheap plastic factory stock like it likely was before the bedding. We'll know more after another range day or two.**

Next I will get the action re-set in the stock, re-mount the scope and start a 15 or so round barrel break-in with factory ammo. After that I'll start working up a hand load and see what type of accuracy I can squeeze out of it.

I'll do a follow up as I get a feel for how the new barrel will perform.

If anyone has any questions or comments on the process, feel free to post them. I'm no expert but we may have some fun discussion.

I am also planning to build another .223 from the ground up with a Savage action, Criterion barrel and a Bell & Carlson stock. When the rest of the components come in for that build, I will try to do a follow along of the full process with a few more pictures.


Re: A Barrel and a Bed Job

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:30 pm
by practice-more
Barrel break-in:

There are a couple schools of thought here but I usually try the shoot/clean method for a few rounds in an attempt to reduce future copper build-up and make for easier cleanings. I've had mixed results with this in the past and the rough factory Savage barrel that came off this gun never did quit picking up copper.

However, this is the first "custom"barrel that I have played with and I was surprised at how quickly it broke in. The first couple single shot cleanings were pretty blue, but the third was better, and the forth and fifth only had trace amounts of blue on the patch. After a mere 5 rounds, I think I'm going to call it good. I don't have any real accuracy data yet, as you can't expect a gun to shoot stellar groups with a cleaning between each round, but it is rough zeroed and ready to go.

I gave it a final cleaning tonight and hopefully tomorrow I can shoot a couple 3 or 5 rounds groups with the factory Hornady ammo that I have. That should give me a pretty good baseline for comparison to start reloading.


Re: A Barrel and a Bed Job

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:48 pm
by practice-more
Alright, I said there would be results so here they are:

It wasn't the best day for shooting with a variable 10+ mph wind pretty much all day. I shot a total of (6) 3-shot groups with some factory Hornady ammo. Overall average was just OK at about 0.6". This week I will start working up ladder test reloads and then wait for better weather. If I can cut 1/3 of that out, I'll be happy.

My goal for this gun is consistent sub 0.5 MOA groups out to 300 and hopefully 500 yards. Once I get that, then I will stretch it to 1000 and see what I can do.


Re: A Barrel and a Bed Job

PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:15 pm
by Fitter
1000 yards. Damn. That's a helluva shot. About 900 yards further than anything I've ever shot.

Cool post Mitch. Looking forward to more results.

Re: A Barrel and a Bed Job

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:50 pm
by practice-more
I've finished the break in and run almost 100 rounds through the gun playing and testing. It wouldn't have taken nearly that many if I could have settled on one powder that I wanted to use., butI wanted to stay away from the go-to H4350 in favor of a little slower burning powder that may yield a little more barrel life.

I loaded up a series of test rounds to see where velocities and group sizes were going to be. I got some great chronograph data, but the groups weren't great for 100 yards. However, I was NOT shooting my best that day. I just didn't feel comfortable.

Regardless, I used the best data generated and loaded up a few more sets in smaller step increments and gave them a test.

Being a "details" nerd I made a spreadsheet to track and graph individual shot velocities, averages, extreme spread, standard deviation and group size. I was actually very impressed at how much easier it made sorting out all the data. What appeared like a random bunch of numbers actually had some very obvious trends to it once plotted. This helped immensely.

Finally, I dialed it in a little more and shot those rounds tonight. The load with H-1000 powder shot OK but the accuracy node was at a velocity a little less than I was hoping for.

The H4831sc load produced just the right velocity and a pretty good group. I think I will be loading up a larger batch of this to play with.

Photos are the 100 yard test target of a bunch of different loads, the 300 yard target of the H4831 load from tonight (that group measures just under 1.25"), and one of the charts used to analyze the data.

Once the snow is gone I'll work on stretching it out farther.