Savage Arms manufactures accurate rifles. My Savage Model 10 FCP-SR wasn’t the best out of the box, changing the factory stock for a MDT LSS chassis system made the gun shoot significantly better. Always looking for the extra edge, I decided it was time to barrel it for a high performance match cartridge.
In this post I’ll be building a custom Savage Model 10 in a 6.5 Creedmoor. Most Savage owners will buy and install prefit barrels that are head spaced with a barrel nut system (above, bottom), however, in this post I’ll be machining a Shilen barrel to fit the action without the need for a barrel nut (above, top- this is a factory Remington barrel, however, the tenon on the Savage will look similar).
This is the Model 10 I’ll be working on (above). When it was configured in the factory Accustock, the rifle didn’t shoot particularly well, see Savage Model 10 FCP-SR Review, for more.
Placing it in an MDT LSS (above) enhanced the looks and performance (see:Review: Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) LSS Chassis for Savage Model 10). Still not completely satisfied, I figured it was time to rebuild the rifle.
For this project I ordered the following items from Brownells:
- Shilen Select Match barrel 6.5mm 1:8 twist, #7 contour
- La Bounty receiver mandrel set
- La Bounty truing sleeve
- Brownells oversized recoil lug
- Brownells 3/8″ high-speed steel turning kit
- Brownells barrel vise
- Brownells action wrench
- Depth micrometer
- Oversized recoil lug
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With the barreled action removed from the stock, I needed to unscrew the barrel. Savage has a couple different kinds of barrel nuts, including a notches, smooth and smooth with a hole for a spanner wrench. This particular model has a smooth barrel nut. For reference purposes, a schematic of a Savage 10/110 can be found here.
There are a few ways to remove a smooth Savage barrel nut, some guys will simply grab it with a pipe wrench, throw away the damaged nut and replace it, others will buy or make a wrench for it. I decided to grab it with my barrel vise.
With a set of large aluminum bushings in my Brownell’s barrel vise, I tighten the vise against the barrel nut. A Remington action wrench (the Rem 700 and Savage 10/110 have the same 1.35″ OD) is secured a round the action and the barrel and nut are simply unscrewed.
The Savage action (top) compared to a Remington 700 short action (bottom).
I was torn deciding whether of not to blueprint (or true) this action. In the end, I decided I would true some of the surfaces, mostly due to the machine marks left from when it was manufactured. To begin, I place an mandrel in the raceway. This particular mandrel is a LaBounty, it fits both the Rem 700 and Savage 10/100. The arbor is a tight fit and follows the bolt’s raceway hole.
A La Bounty action trying sleeve is secured on the outside of the action. The sleeve is held in place by a recessed screw that is threaded into the front action hole. The arbor is mounted between centers on the lathe.
The exterior of the truing sleeve is cut. Now, the sleeve is concentric with the bolt hole raceway.
The lathe is used to make a light cut across the front of the receiver ring. This cuts the receiver face perpendicular to the bolt hole. In the photograph above, note how the far face of the receiver is cut, while the close side isn’t. this indicates the front of the receiver was slightly out of square.
While the receiver is mounted in the lathe, a 3/8 high-speed steel boring bar (not shown) is used to cut the receiver lugs perpendicular. This is as far as I am going to machine this action for this project. I could work on the receiver threads, however, I decided against it. Recutting the threads to a larger diameter would limit the ability to use a standard small shank savage barrel in the future.
Time to measure the receiver for the barrel. I decided not to use a standard Savage barrel thread and barrel nut system. While the system certainly works and works well, I would prefer a larger shank than the 1.060″ diameter the original setup limits you too. Note the new aftermarket recoil lug on top of the receiver. The factory recoil lug on this Savage wasn’t very flat, you could actually tell just by looking at it. This lug is a Brownells oversized recoil lug. I selected this particular lug since it has parallel sides that will fit in the MDT LSS chassis. My plan is to cut the barrel tenon long enough to leave a .008″ space between the front of the bolt and the rear of the breech.
I’ve had great success with Shilen Select Match barrels. They are actually my preferred barrel and brand. This one has a heavy #7 profile (also a favorite). Since I will have a finished barrel length of 16.5″ and want to blend a Vais brake on the muzzle end (The Vais varmint brake I am using has a 1.000″ OD and can only be turned down to .875″), I need to spend some time planning. In this case, I chopped a little more than 5″ off the shank, normally I will cut and inch of less.
The barrel is inserted through the headstock of the lathe. A spider is used to indicate the muzzle end in.
The chamber end is dialed in with a range rod and dial indicator.
The end of the barrel is faced and a tenon is turned for the recoil lug.
The recoil lug should slide in place and shouldn’t be too loose.
Dykem layout fluid is used to coat the tenon.
A high-speed steel 35 degree profile tool is used to cut a stop groove for the threads. This make a smooth surface for the recoil lug to sit on.
Savage rifles are threaded at 20 teeth per inch. This is different than the 16 teeth per inch normally encountered on Remington 700 and 700 clones. I make a light pass to check to make sure everything is properly set up.
A view of the finished tenon.
A quick test fit of the action and bolt ensures everything is properly fit.
Time to cut the chamber. I like to hold my reamers with a set of locking pliers. The reamer is driven with a flat MT3 blank held in the tailstock (this allows the reamer to float). A reamer stop on the shank of the reamer helps regulate the depth of cut. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture if the reamer cutting, however, take a look at any of the other build posts on this site and you’ll see how it works.
I like to periodically check the depth of the chamber. Initial measurements are made with a go gauge and a depth micrometer. Cutting a chamber too deep can be corrected, however, it is a lot of work.
As the chamber gets closer to the final depth of cut, I use feeler gauges to measure how much deeper it needs to be. The go gauge is in the chamber and the bolt and action are screwed on. The distance between the action and recoil lug, is how much deeper the chamber needs to be cut.
When the chamber is cut to the proper depth, the handle will close on go.
And will stay open on nogo.
Before I remove the barrel from the lathe, the outside edge of the chamber gets a slight radius. This helps in feeding and prevents the brass from being scratched.
At this time I will be installing the action on the barrel. I use a recoil lug alignment tool to keep the recoil lug in the appropriate place.
The barrel is now mounted with the action in the headstock and the muzzle in the tailstock. I decided to install the action to protect my threads- they looked great and I didn’t want to damage them.
A high-speed steel 135 degree profile tool is used to cut the tenon for the brake.
This particular Vais varmint brake has an outside diameter of 1″ and uses 11/16″ 24 threads per inch. The threads are cut.
A quick test fit shows the threads were properly machined.
The brake will be cut to the same taper as the barrel. To do this, the brake is installed on the barrel and mounted between centers. The compound of the lathe is used to match the taper of the barrel. This is checked with a dial indicator, as the compound is run in and out, the indicator should stay on zero, indicating the compound is following the barrel’s taper.
I used a carbide insert tool to cut the taper.
The surfaces are blended with a lathe file.
And polished with 220-grit wet dry abrasive paper.
Finally the brake is removed a form tool is used to cut a fresh crown on the barrel.
The metal work is now complete and the finished rifle can be assembled into the MDT LSS chassis.
Finished length of the barrel is 16.5″ and the brake adds about another inch to the overall length. A Nightforce, NXS, 5.5-22x56mm mil/mil in Spuhr mount on Nightforce 20 MOA rail, tops the rifle. The total weight of the rifle, including optic and bipod, is 13.4 pounds.
Looks great, doesn’t it? But does it shoot?
This is one easy shooting rifle with mild recoil, I’ll be posting more as we spend more time on the range with it.