The Tikka T3/T3X is a great action to build a custom rifle on. They tend to be straight, have a decent factory trigger and don’t have a separate M700-style recoil lug. As an added bonus, the barrel tenon uses an Imperial thread (1″x16)- unlike many other imported actions. To learn more about the Tikka T3 and T3x, click here. For a more detailed discussion of gunsmithing the T3/T3X, see Building a Custom Tikka T3/T3X Precision Rifle.
In this post I’ll be building a custom Tikka T3 in 6.5 PRC. The 6.5 PRC is an emerging 6.5mm match cartridge designed by George Gardner of GAP. In many ways, it is similar to a 6.5×284 or 6.5 SAUM, but rather than explain it, take a look at this:
I’ll have more on the 6.5 PRC in upcoming posts. I have the feeling it will become a popular hunting and match cartridge.
Before we get started building a rifle, let’s review the disclaimer:
The contents of Rifleshooter.com are produced for informational purposes only and should be performed by competent gunsmiths only. Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.
Any modifications made to a firearm should be made by a licensed gunsmith. Failure to do so may void warranties and result in an unsafe firearm and may cause injury or death.
Modifications to a firearm may result in personal injury or death, cause the firearm to not function properly, or malfunction, and cause the firearm to become unsafe.
For this project I ordered the following items from Brownells:
- Shilen Select Match 1:8 6.5mm Remington Varmint Contour barrel
- Brownells barrel wrench with universal head
- Viper’s Venom cutting oil
- High-speed steel turning set
- Farrell barrel vise
- Brownells barrel vise
- Manson floating reamer holder
- Depth micrometer
The rifle in this post belongs to my friend Thomas Gomez, the owner of High Desert Outdoor Research. Thomas writes for a number of blogs including; The Firearms Blog, Guns America and this one, rifleshooter.com. He has a 2,000 yard range set up on his family’s cattle farm. When he first learned about the the 6.5 PRC he told me he wanted to build one on an older Tikka T3 hunting rifle he had chambered in 300 WSM. I thought it was a cool project idea and sent him a copy of my FFL so he could ship his rifle right over.
I removed the barreled action from the KRG Bravo stock he had it in and headed over to the barrel vise. I like to grab the T3 actions in a Brownells barrel wrench with a universal head. The head allows you to engage some of the flat on the receiver.
I usually use a Farrell vise in a 20 ton press, that didn’t work this time.
I actually had to switch to a Brownells bushing style barrel vise. I ended up coating the barrel with rosin to prevent slipping and using a MAPP torch for heat. When the barrel came off you can see why it was so tight, there was a little bit of rust on the threads. This was likely from hunting in poor weather conditions. Once the rain gets in there, it can be hard to get the water out.
The front of the T3 receiver had a slight radius, this limits the barrel tenon diameter to 1.15″ if you want to leave it. If you start with a Remington Varmint profile blank, like the one here, you end up with a sharp looking rifle. Alternatively, you can also machine the front radius off like I did in this post (click link). We decided to leave the radius and turn down the shank (above). I simply mounted the barrel between centers on my PM-1440GT lathe and turned down the barrel shank.
With the barrel shank now the correct size, we can start turning some material. For this particular barrel I decided to hold the barrel in place with a spider mounted to the face plate. The barrel passes through the headstock and has the muzzle supported by another spider on the other side. I dial in barrels many different ways. Lately I’ve been dialing in the bore concentric to the lathe by starting with a range rod and indicator, then switching to the long stem indicator shown above. This allows me to take readings inside the bore when I gimbal the barrel.
The tenon shank is turned down to size, the PM-1440GT does a great job with carbide tools.
Now I cut the barrel threads at 16TPI. I always like to make a light pass and check the spacing of the threads with a gauge. This old rusty one actually belonged to my maternal grandfather who was a tool and die maker at Fairchild Republic. I’m glad to see I can still put it to use.
I’m threading with a spindle speed of 250 RPM and use Viper’s Venom cutting oil as a lubricant, it works really well on stainless steel.
The threads look good! I really like this Precision Matthews lathe!
The action fits well, I’m happy!
Time to get ready to cut the chamber. I’ve cut chambers about a dozen different ways and they all work well, provided you do your part. Lately, I’ve been running a Manson Floating holder and a live pilot reamer.
I don’t rush anything when I cut a chamber. The reamer is lubricated, the reamer set in place, lathe turned on and slow pressure applied. The lathe is stopped, reamer retracted, cleaned, lubricated, and the process repeated.
As the reamer starts to cut to the full depth, I begin to tale a series of head space measurements with a depth micrometer.
When the chamber is the correct depth, the bolt handle will close on go and stay open on no go when the action is in place.
The final step is to cut a slight relief on the edges of the chamber. This helps facilitate feeding and prevents brass from scratching. I use a small high-speed steel boring bar to make this cut.
This rifle will be threaded 5/8″-24. To work on the muzzle I swap the barrel around in the lathe and dial in the bore. I then cut the tenon.
Then use a single point tool to cut the threads.
I’ll be making a custom thread protector for this rifle. Above is a 5/8″-24 3A thread protector blank made by my friend Mike Manzella. I screwed this onto my muzzle threads.
Then I turned down the outside diameter of the protector to match the taper and diameter of the barrel.
Finally using a boring bar to cut a false 11-degree crown into it.
Looks good doesn’t it?
At this point I’m ready to put everything back together.
The barrel gets polished on a barrel spinner then engraved with the caliber marking (file photo). The barrel is tightened with the same barrel wrench and vise used to remove it and the barreled action set back into the stock. This is what you get…
Looks a little like a Sako TRG, doesn’t it?
Guess what? It shoots! I tested it with a TRACT Optics TORIC UHD 4-20×50 scope that worked great.
This was my first 5-shot group at 100 yards with 6.5 PRC factory Hornady ammunition. From the 26″ barrel shown here, the Hornady 147 ELD has a muzzle velocity of 2912 feet/second and a standard deviation of 16.0 at sea level and 57F. Note I shot it in the rain and the Rite in the Rain target held up!
We’ll be back with more on the 6.5 PRC!
For everything gunsmithing, check out Brownells!
If you are in the market for a lathe or milling machine, check out Precision Matthews!