I’ll often have family members with an interest in shooting that want to learn more about it. Rather than letting them shoot one of my oddball guns, I decided to build a precision rifle that would work for a wide variety of shooters and tasks. To this end, I envisioned a rifle that would be easily adjustable for different body types and use readily available factory ammunition (308 Winchester).
Instead of building off of some fancy, aftermarket action; I decided to convert an entry level factory rifle, in this case a base model Remington. Below is the rifle before I did any work to it. It’s a Remington 700 SPS in a synthetic stock, with a fixed bipod, 1″ Zeiss conquest scope, and a factory trigger. With a little help, I can turn this into a masterpiece that you wouldn’t recognize.
This will be a multi-post series. I’ll try to cover the more complex aspects of the build; so while I won’t show every step in this post, I’ll try to explain them in writing.
Before we get to the work, please take a look at the following disclaimer:
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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.
I ordered the base and the following tools and parts from Brownells to complete this project:
- Brownells action Remington 700 action wrench
- Farrell Barrel Vise
- Manson Receiver Accurizing kit
- Manson Receiver Ring Facing Çutter
- Manson Bolt Face Truing Tools
- Shilen #7 select match barrel
The factory synthetic stock was in serious need of a upgrade. Bedding a Fiberglas stock is a complex process that takes a lot of experience to do correctly and for many, this is a disadvantage. Rather than use a fiberglass stock, I selected a MDT ESS chassis system. The MDT ESS chassis system offers a series of advantages over a fiberglass stock. It is readily adjustable to fit a wider range of shooters and optics and in this configuration it comes with a continuous top rail for use of additional equipment; and most importantly, the ESS chassis is easy to install.
To start, I need to disassemble the rifle. There won’t be much of the original gun left in the finished product. I’ll be using the receiver, bolt assembly, trigger pins, bolt stop and bolt stop spring. Beyond that, all the other factory parts will be discarded or sold. Perhaps the most challenging part of the initial disassembly is removing the barrel. I’ve been removing barrels from factory 700s for years. They tend to be tightly torqued in place, and some, depending on when they were manufactured are coated with some thread locking sealant.
I have a number of different barrel wrenches laying around the shop. This is my favorite, it is a Brownells Remington 700 action wrench. It uses two machined steel jaws to secure the action. I usually wrap the part of the action I am grabbing with blue tape to prevent it from getting marked up.
To secure the barrel, I use a barrel vise. This is my set up. It uses a Farrell Barrel Vise in my hydraulic press. The hydraulic press has a pneumatic cylinder, so I simply hit the switch and it clamps down on the barrel. This kind of vise uses two opposing “v” cuts in aluminum blocks. Sometimes the barrels will slide in the aluminum. To prevent this, I coat the jaws in a little bit of rosin.
Success! The action is now off and we can get to work! I’m always impressed as to how little is going on with these things, it basically looks like a short piece of pipe with some machine work.
I don’t always blueprint 700 actions. My decision on whether or not to blueprint an action, and to what extent I work on it, really depends on the condition of the donor action. The more work you do to an action, and the more surfaces you cut, the more likely you are to end up with primary extraction issues when everything goes back together. Back when I started building guns, I cut every surface regardless of what it looked like. Now, I take a more nuanced approach. In the case of this action, I feel it is a candidate for a moderate level of work.
My favorite way to true a receiver is to use a Manson Receiver Accurizing kit. Sure, you can single point the receiver any number of ways on a lathe or CNC mill, but I find this kit does just enough without opening up dimensions too much. Manson makes two different kits, a standard size and a .010″ over sized version. I prefer the standard sized version.
The first step in blueprinting this action with the kit, is to insert the two hardened steel tapers bushings that install in the bolt race way. Once those are in place, the tap is used to re-cut the minor diameter of the threads as well as the front edges of the receiver lugs.
I hold the action vertically with some rubber jaws. I like to use a high sulfur cutting oil to lubricate it and prevent damage to the tool.
Next I run the 1 1/16″ tap into the receiver. This re-cuts all the threads.
To re-cut the front of the receiver ring, Manson makes this receiver ring facing cutter to work with the kit. It simply slides over the end of the tap and is spun around by hand. It uses a series of carbide cutters that remove the front of the material on the receiver. It is definitely one of the cooler hand tools in the shop.
In this image you can see how the facing cutter works. Towards the top of the above image, the receiver ring has a freshly cut surface, while at the bottom, the original tooling marks remain. This shows how far out of spec it was.
Next, I go to work on the bolt. I like to check the rear lug engagement on the bolt against the newly cut receiver surfaces. To do this, I put some black sharpie on the receiver lugs and work the bolt a few times. If the marker wears evenly, the rear of the bolt lugs do not need to be trued, which was the case with this rifle.
I also decided to true the bolt face on this gun. To do this, I am using Manson bolt face truing tools. This consists of a tooling block that screws into the front of the receiver and a carbide burr that cuts the bolt face.
The carbide burr is snapped into the bolt under the extractor and inserted into the action and through the tooling block. I then use a cordless drill to cut the bolt face.
I make a series of light passes. In the image above, you can see the cut surfaces around the outside diameter of the bolt face. This shows there was a low spot towards the middle.
I like to put everything back together and inspect it. It looks way more precise than before.
In the next post, we’ll start on the barrel!