Building a precision rifle on a custom action can offer a number of advantages. In addition to custom features such as heavier tangs, specialized extractors, one piece bolts and upgraded bolt stops, there can be a significant labor savings. Starting with a custom made action, the gunsmith can focus on chambering and threading the barrel, without having to worry about blueprinting the action.
For this project we will be using a custom stainless steel action made by Blackheart International (BHI), supplied by Brownells. Our example is a short action with a .223 bolt face, but, it is available in long action with standard, magnum and Lapua bolt faces.
The Blackheart International action has the following specifications:
CNC machined from 416R stainless steel and hardened to 41 Rockwell
bolt bore raceway is wire EDM’ed with the rails to ensure exact tolerances are held
rails have an anti-bind rail for smooth operation when cycling across ejection port cut out
bolt is spiral fluted and clearance through bolt bore is held to .004 -.006
bolt handle is straight with a black knurled tactical knob and black bolt shroud
action has a standard Remington 700 magazine cut out
includes one-piece 20 MOA Picatinny rail with four 8-40 mounting screws and two 1/8 dowel pins to ensure rigid mounting
recoil lug is surface ground and pinned
front and rear of action is the same diameter to provide for greater rigidity
the .223 uses a Sako style extractor, .308 and larger use an M-16 style extractor
bolt stop is on non firing side above stock line
When discussing caliber selection, we initially thought about chambering it in .223 Ackley Improved but later decided against it. Settling on .223 Remington since we were considering competing in some mid-range F-class matches in the target rifle division which only allows rifles chambered in .223 and .308.
It is worth noting that this build moved along significantly faster then those we have completed on a factory 700. The ability to move straight into threading and chambering the barrel is a huge time saver. If you are looking at building a precision rifle, the price tag associated with a custom action may cause you to initially look away. However, if you factor in the cost of the tooling and the parts needed to end up with a similar end result from a standard Remington 700 action, you will find that the price isn’t too far off the mark.
We ordered the following supplies from Brownells to complete this project:
The following documents the process we used to build our custom .223 bolt action rifle, it is for informational purposes only and should not be considered instructional advise. If you haven’t chambered a barrel before, make sure an experienced gunsmith checks your work.
For the stock selection, an Accuracy International AICS 2.0 chassis system was selected. The AICS has an aluminum chassis surrounded by plastic skins. The advantage of this system is that it eliminates variables with stock bedding or inletting. The receiver sits in a V shaped bed, secured by the action screws. Additionally, the wide barrel channel allows the user to easily remove the barrel as needed. This would be a good choice for a switch barrel application.
With a Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×56 scope mounted, we headed to the range for the rifle’s debut. All shooting was done from the prone position, with a Harris bi-pod and a rear bag. Ammunition consisted of factory Federal Gold Medal 69 grain HP and Asym 75 grain OTM.
The rifle shot well. The selection of heavy parts resulted in a heavy rifle with almost no perceived recoil. It felt like shooting a 22. Initial accuracy results seemed promising, with both factory loads shooting well below 1 MOA. The bolt cycled and function well. Unfortunately, the .223 AICS magazines we ordered still haven’t arrived and we are stuck loading single rounds.
Moving forward, the barrel will likely be cut and crowned to a shorter configuration; primarily because, the overall length of the rifle prevents its easy storage in our safe.
Update: July 8, 2013: We cut and crowned the barrel to 24″. Fired six groups of Federal Gold Medal 69 SMK. Range conditions were 95F, with 15 MPH half value winds. Groups were .461, .631, .387, .422, .648 and .410″ respectively from a bipod and rear bag. Average group size was .493″.
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