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.223 Build

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.223 Build

Postby practice-more » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:53 pm

In conjunction with rebarreling my 6mm Creedmoor, I've also decided to build a .223 from the ground up. The goal is a shorter, heavier barreled 223 for coyote hunting and general shooting out to maybe 300 yards.

The last of the major components finally arrived this week. Here's what we have to work with:

1. Savage action with a .384 bolt face for the .223. The action comes with the Savage AccuTrigger and that will be fine for now.
2. Criterion 20" varmint contour barrel chambered in .223. I also ordered a precision ground recoil lug and barrel nut with the barrel.
3. Bell & Carlson M40 stock with an aluminum bedding block inlet for the Savage action and DBM
4. Factory Savage drop box magazine (DBM) and trigger guard.
5. Vortex Viper HS 4-16x44

The action, barrel components and tools all came from James at Northland Shooters Supply. The stock came from Stocky's and other misc. components from Midway.

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About the only thing missing are the rings and I have a Talley set on order now that I have mocked up the components and figured out what height I need.

The plan is to get barrel Cerakoted within the next few days. In the meantime, I will start prepping the stock to be skim bedded over the aluminum bedding block. I'm not sure this is necessary, as the aluminum bedding blocks are pretty good, but why not. As soon as the barrel is back from Cerakote, I'll get it spun on and headspaced and prep the action for bedding. Once the bedding job is complete, I'll install and lap the rings, mount the scope, and get ready to start breaking it in.

The end result isn't going to be anything all that special other than that I picked out all the components and assembled it to meet my exact specs. Hopefully it turns out nice and shoots little bug hole groups.

I'll try to take a few photos along the way and update the thread with the build progress.

Mitch
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:19 am

I got parts back from Cerakote last night. He did the barrel, barrel nut, recoil lug and the bolt shroud.

With everything on hand, it was time to start assembly.

1. Before assembly, there was still a bit of disassembly. The trigger was removed from the action and the ejector button, ejector spring and firing pin assembly were removed from the bolt.

2. I use break cleaner and a toothbrush/paper towel to make sure all the grease/oil and grit are cleaned from the threads.

3. The barrel threads get coated with a copper anti-seize so that hopefully we can get this apart again some day.

4. I locked the action in the NSS Action Vice using a layer of painters tape to make sure I didn't scratch anything. I also put a band of tape on the barrel just ahead of the threads.

5. The barrel nut is threaded all the way on the barrel, the recoil lug is installed, and with the bolt in the action, the barrel is screwed in until it touches the bolt face and then back out a couple turns.

6. Using a go-gauge inserted in the bolt face, I closed the action and screwed the barrel back in until I just felt it touch the gauge. At this point, the bolt still closes without any resistance when the go-gauge is inserted. Switching to the no-go gauge, I checked to make sure that the bolt would not close. As it should, it stopped just as the bolt handle started to go down. The difference here is about 0.003" (if I remember right) between the two and the point is to properly set the head space, or the distance from the bolt face to the shoulder inside the chamber.

7. With the headspace set, the barrel is carefully held in place while the recoil lug is oriented and the barrel nut is tightened. The nut is first finger tightened and then the headspace is re-checked with the two gauges.

8. Finally, the barrel nut wrench from NSS was used to torque the barrel nut to spec and the headspace was checked one last time to make sure nothing moved.

Now the barreled action is ready to go. Next, I will finish prepping the stock for the skim bedding and then dig out the modeling clay, painters tape and Devcon Steel Epoxy.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:42 pm

Tonight I started preparing for the bed job.

As the action sits in the aluminum bedding block, it touches in several areas, but does not make full, even contact. Although it should make about even contact on each side of the block, there is a possibility that there is a high spot that causes some stress on the action when the action screws are tightened. Stress free bedding the action will make an exact impression in the stock that matches the action in an unstressed state.

The first step was to built up a spacer on the barrel near the end of the stock. All it takes is a wrap of painters tape followed by enough wraps of electrical tape to keep the barrel centered in the barrel channel. I just keep adding wraps until I feel the barreled action is just starting to lift off the front of the aluminum bedding block. With a Savage, they say the rear tang is supposed to be free floated and not touching the stock so I added a couple wraps of electrical tape around the tang. Now, when the barreled action is bedded, it will rest on these two tape points and when the tape is removed, the parts that aren't supposed to touch will have proper clearances.

Before I go any farther, I completely mock up the gun (less the scope) to see that rounds properly feed from the magazine. If I had added too much tape spacer, I could possibly have lifted the action up enough that the bolt would side over the top of the round. Everything worked just fine so no adjustments were necessary.

Next, I took a dremel with a ball end cutter and removed about 1/16 of an inch off the top of the aluminum bedding block. This will make room for the bedding compound. I also removed aluminum from behind the recoil lug area and roughed up all the surfaces where I want the bedding compound to adhere to. The photo only shows the front area, but the rear is done the same.

Next will be preparing the action for bedding.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Sat Mar 03, 2018 3:22 pm

The key to a good bed job is preparation. After the epoxy is mixed is no time to realize that you forgot something.

To finish preparing the stock, I built a clay dam just in front of the recoil lug. This should keep the epoxy from oozing down the barrel channel. I used a piece of 1/2 foam (think sleeping pad) to block off the magazine well. And, I built a clay dam behind the back bearing surface to keep the epoxy out of the trigger area. With a top bolt release Savage action, the cutout on the right side of the stock for the bolt release lever significantly reduces the bearing surface for the action. However, the cutout in the stock is usually quite a bit larger that what is actually required. I'm going to let some epoxy fill in this area and I will just file it back out to get the clearance. Beyond that, I just make sure everything is clean and grease/oil free so the epoxy bonds well.

Preparing the action is a little different because you don't want any epoxy to stick anywhere on the action. I masked off the barrel in front of where I will bed to, and I taped off the sides of the action above the stock line. This should help with clean up. Next, I filled all all the holes, nooks and crannies with modeling clay to keep the epoxy from getting in there and locking the action in the stock. To make sure I can get the recoil lug in and out, I added a single layer of tape around the edges and to the front of of the lug. This will build in a couple thousandths of clearance once the tape is removed. Nothing gets added to the back because I want a 100% bearing surface. I use a couple sacrificial action screws that I made with threads on the bottom so I can lightly snug the action into the bedding. The studs also get a few wraps of tape to keep them centered in the holes in the stock. Last, but almost most important, all exposed surfaces of the action and even the tape get a thin coat of shoe polish to act as a release agent. The only place on the stock that gets release agent is the inside of the action screw holes.

Again, the key is preparation. I dry fitted it a couple times and made sure everything looked right before even thinking about mixing epoxy. One note on dry fitting, a healthy layer of shoe polish on the clay on both sides will keep them from sticking together and pulling out of the stock or action when you separate them after the dry fit. Plus, getting a little polish on your fingers makes it easier to smear the clay into place without it sticking to your hands. Just make sure you don't get any on the stock where you DO want the epoxy to adhere.

Check, double check, and triple check EVERYTHING
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Sat Mar 03, 2018 3:50 pm

For epoxy, I use a Devcon Steel Putty. When you mix the two parts together, it is pretty thick stuff. Not quite peanut butter, but thick. This means that you have to work it into all the little areas of the stock, but it also means that it won't run where you don't want it to.

Once I have a batch mixed up, it's go time. I usually mix quite a bit more epoxy than I end up needing, but it's easier to throw a little away than to have to try to mix more in the middle of the process.

The key is to work the epoxy into all the areas of the stock, making sure you get a thin layer on every surface first. Then you can carefully smear in a thicker layer. I try to do this without trapping any air pockets in the epoxy. Again, fill up the stock cavity with more than you will need. It is better to have extra squeeze out than not enough.

I also smear a very thin layer on the bottom of the action. Although I don't want it to bond to the action, I also don't want any air bubbles visible on the surface of the bed job. Smearing a thin layer on the action is supposed to reduce the chances of this.

Before I set the action in the stock, I try pick out any epoxy that is overhanging the action screw holes. I don't want to be pushing excess epoxy down there.

Next I carefully align the screws and set the action down into the bedding. I don't want to torque the action in, but I do use spacers and wing nuts to gently squeeze the action into the bedding. Doing this slowly lets the excess epoxy squirt out the sides. Once I have it settled in, I back the nuts off just a smidge so that I'm not adding tension to anything.

Now the fun part ... clean-up. The epoxy is going to ooze out everywhere. Using popsicle sticks, toothpicks, paper towel, etc. I carefully clean off the excess epoxy from both the outside and INSIDE of the action. On the first wiping or two, I leave the epoxy a little proud of the top of the stock. Once it has had a chance to settle or sink a little, then I will wipe it down flush. Clean up takes a while, but the more you get off while it is soft, the easier it is later. As it starts to firm up just a little, I remove the tape from the sides of the action and the stock to clean up any epoxy that may have seeped under the tape.

That's it, now it just has to cure.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Sat Mar 03, 2018 4:00 pm

And how did it turn out?
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I don't know yet. Once it is cured tomorrow, I will attempt to pull it out. If I did everything right, it will separate with a few good taps and the stock will be a perfect mirror image of the action.

Meanwhile I'm wearing two layer of this and trying not to think about all the ways it could get messed up. Either way, good or bad, I will share my results.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:41 pm

It's ALIVE ... well, not alive, but out.

Everything separated nicely from the stock with just a couple taps. I've learned to pull the action screws out the bottom rather than to let them come out the top with the action. This seems to make it separate much easier.

Upon the initial inspection it looked pretty good. The major bearing surfaces looked smooth and contoured to the action. I had a little more, (a lot more) epoxy than I needed up by the recoil lug so it mushed up my clay dam under the barrel. It didn't hurt anything, but the front of the epoxy isn't a clean, straight line like I wanted. As I started to pick out the clay and file off some of the over run, I noticed a larger air bubble right next to the front action screw. It must have just been skimmed over and then broke open. Now, as it was, it would still have way more bearing surface than the stock aluminum bedding block would have, but the small void bothered me.

I cleaned up about 75% of the stock and the action and then I decided that I would try to fill the void. This is a little bit risky because if it is just a void in the middle, there is nowhere for excess to go if you try to re-bed that little spot and it turns from a void into a yucky hump. (humps are way worse than voids). However, this void extended to the action screw hole and I felt that any excess would squeeze down the hole and be easy to clean out as long as I waxed the screw and the inside of the hole.

I also took this opportunity to bed the bottom metal into the inlet on the bottom of the stock. I'm not sure how necessary this is, but it can't hurt.

I didn't take any pictures of this little re-bed, as it was just a smaller scale of what was done before.

However, here is one of what it looked like when it was separated and one of the void.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby Fitter » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:32 am

It's all well beyond me, with the exception of the deodorant, but I enjoy the reading and appreciate the fact that you include some pics. The pics help someone like myself visualize the process.

Always a good read Mitch.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:39 am

Thanks Fitter!!!

Nearing Completion

The small patch job to the bedding turned out ok. There are a couple other very small air bubbles but I'm not going to worry about them. The original aluminum bedding block would have provided bearing along a thin line on either side of the action, almost like setting a round cylinder into a "V". Actually, it is exactly like that. The bedding job should give at least 95% positive bearing where possible.

I finished cleaning up the action and the stock and then did some file work on the bedding. I tried to relieve all sharp edges and had to file back clearance for a couple trigger parts, etc. Then I cleaned it again to get all that file dust off things.

Last night I installed the scope rings and lapped them so that they achieve a good bearing surface on the scope. When the rings are mounted they may not be perfectly round or squared to the scope. Lapping is as easy as taking a steel bar the same size as the scope, covering it is 220 grip lapping compound and working it back and forth in the rings. This will "grind" the high spots off of the rings and get them to shape. Doing so will improve scope to ring contact and it eliminates the high pressure points on the rings that can leave marks or even pinch the scope and cause damage.

Looking at the photos, the silver areas are the areas that have been ground down. In the first photo of the ring, you can see that opposite corners were the high spots that were ground down first and I just kept working until I got about 70% contact. I didn't take pictures of the caps, but as I went I just kept tightening them so that they were worked too. I use a piece of tape to label the caps so that they go on the same from the time I start lapping until the scope is mounted.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:46 am

OK, one last pic of the final lapping progress. This should be at least 75% contact if not more.

Next, I clamp the gun in the vice and level the action side to side using a steel bar that rests on the bolt raceways and sticks out the back of the action. This is an easy way to level the gun, but once you start setting the scope it hard to get a level back in there to re-check it. They make fancy little levels for this but I don't have one.

Rather, once the gun is held level, I just clamp a home made block out on the barrel and set it level. Mounted out on the barrel, out of the way of the scope, I can re-check the level any time throughout the process.

Now it is as simple as setting the scope in the rings, setting proper eye relieve and then leveling the scope off of the top turret while tightening the scope caps to spec. Some people use a hanging plumb line, but so far I have found that leveling off the turret works just fine.

Hopefully this weekend I can start breaking in the barrel and then loading up test ammo.

This gun isn't perfect. There are a couple nicks in the finish here and there, the bed job is just OK .... but it has been a fun project and so far I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. I'll be even more happy once I know it shoots well.

I'll try to get some better pictures of the completed rifle once I get it outside to shoot.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:20 pm

Here it is.

I've got everything together and started the break-in, which so far is going ok. It has taken a few more rounds than the 6 Creedmoor barrel but seems to slowly be getting to a stable point of not picking up as much copper. I'm up to shooting 3 round groups with some inexpensive ammo that I've had good luck with in the past.

I'll know more once I get more groups in, but tonight's group was 3 rounds at 100 yards measuring right at 0.5". I will take at least partial responsibility for the one high left as that shot did not feel as good as the other two. Either way, it is showing some potential and I'm excited to see what I can get out of it with some tailored handloads.

Other than a follow up post to confirm final accuracy, this is about the end of the story. It has been a fun build and; overall, I'm happy with the results.

Mitch
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:18 pm

Alright, I'm not quite done with my load work-up yet but here is the data from this weekend.

The top right spot (Target F) was just 3 rounds of factory Fiocchi 50gn V-max to warm up the barrel after a cleaning. You can also ignore the bottom right spot (Target AR), it was just a quick zero verification with my AR and some hand loads.

I shot 6 sets of 4 rounds each in increasing powder charges from near book minimum to near book maximum of H-322 under 53gn V-max bullets set about 0.025 off the lands.

Every time I load a batch like that, I letter mark the brass cases for each of the groups. That mark gets recorded with all the load specs and that set of rounds gets shot at the same letter marked target. That way when I sit down to analyze the data, it is very easy to keep organized.

Overall results were good. Everything I fed it shot under 1", and actually the worst was about 0.8". Three of the six loads shot under 0.5" with the best being Target C at 0.44". I could probably live with loading up a big batch of the recipe for Target C. They shot well and were very reasonable velocity wise at about 3100 fps. I try to shoot all my test loads past the chronograph so I can check the velocity consistency. In this case the best velocity consistency was also Target C and the worst was Targets D and E.

I think I will load up a quick test batch with Benchmark powder too and see if anything remarkably better jumps out at me. Otherwise I stick with what I found above. A little longer range testing will also help verification.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby practice-more » Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:40 pm

It was cool out this morning but I had the day off and the wind was only 5mph or so over my left shoulder.

This was a test batch of varying charge weights of Hodgdon Benchmark powder over Hornady 53gn V-max set 0.025" off the lands.

Results were pretty similar to the other test of H-322 last week. Nothing terrible and a couple fair to pretty good options. In this set, target 4 had the best 4-shot group at 0.44" and also the best chronograph data with a 4 shot average of 2,999 fps, extreme spread of 10 fps and standard deviation of 4.4 fps.

I should be able to push these bullets faster, and there may be another accuracy node at a higher charge weight, but I think I'm happy with this.

I'm calling it a wrap and going to load up 50 or 100 and just have fun. Maybe I'll take the gun out hunting in the morning. This snow and cold temps could get them moving once it breaks.

Mitch

P.S. Now it's time to start planning the next build, just don't tell my wife!
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Re: .223 Build

Postby Fitter » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:09 pm

This snow has changed things that's for sure.

Around here the sight of the first Robin is a sure sign of spring. We got 8 inches of snow yesterday, Saturday, and I saw my first Robin of the season pecking around in my driveway today, Easter. Perhaps it was an April Fools joke on the poor bird. Either way another 6 to 10 inches of snow is forecasted for Monday through Tuesday.

I hope that bird likes black sunflower seed because it's not going to find much more to eat around here for a while.
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Re: .223 Build

Postby Alaska Dave » Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:57 am

I was suppose to go to the farm and sight in the 6.5 Grendel yesterday but the wind and the rain never let it happen. Looks like you are on track with your 223. :o
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