Fine Tuning a Factory Rifle

Shoot from a solid rest

It does not matter what kind of rifle you are shooting, you have to eliminate yourself from the equation as much as possible to really determine the potential of the rifle.

With a box of ammo, reloads or factory, use a stable front rest and a sand bag at the back under the stock. Never set the barrel on the front rest but instead, set the forearm on the front rest. Note the position of the forearm on the rest before you pull the trigger the first time. For example, maybe you have 1 inch of forearm hanging out beyond the front resting point on the front rest.

It is of the utmost importance that consecutive shots find the rifle in the same position prior to pulling the trigger. Every aspect of rifle/shooter position and hold should be as consistent as possible.

Some things to watch out for.

Never touch the barrel with your finger, for instance, while holding the rifle and preparing to pull the trigger, do not arbitrarily grab the forearm and let any finger or part of a finger touch the barrel.

Level the scope. Look at the reticle in relation to the target prior to pulling the trigger. It needs to look the same on all shots.

Squeeze the trigger, don't slap it. Recently on my 45 Colt, I have been telling myself to "squeeze until it goes bang". In other words, don't anticipate the bang but instead squeeze through it.

Watch your sitting position in relation to the rifle. If you are all scrunched down and in a awkward position, A.) it's hard to repeat B.) Muscles will be tensed that should be relaxed.

After shooting as little as 5 rounds, you should have a good idea of the guns potential provided you have done your part in eliminating the variables.

What Next

Part of the fun of rifle shooting is seeing just how accurate you and your rifle can be. So regardless of how well a rifle has performed to this point, I still tend to do the following.

Lap the scope (see "Lapping Scope Rings")

Polish and adjust the trigger

Lap the bolt

Shoot reloads

Float the barrel. Barrel Vibration is a critical issue in terms of accuracy. While it is best described in the 46th edition of the Lyman Reloading Manual, I will attempt to briefly explain it here. The flight of a bullet traveling through a barrel sets a vibration pattern into motion. Think of a wooden ruler. If you hold the end of it down and let 10 or 11 inches of it hang off the side of a desk, you can set it in to a vibration motion by pulling down on the overhanging end and letting go. The less overhang, the less vibration. If you look at the end of the ruler while it is in motion, it will have a pattern to it.

You can alter or stop this pattern by touching the overhanging portion of the ruler.

For the same reasons that you do not touch the barrel while shooting, the stock should not touch the barrel either. Wood stocks tend to or can change with humidity. If for example the humidity level is 30% and the stock is lightly touching the barrel, that same light touch can dramatically change if the humidity changes. It may not touch at all in higher humidity or it may apply a lot more pressure with high humidity.

Simple enough, raise the barrel out of the stock slightly and see what it does to your groups. This can be accomplished with a piece of a credit card. Pull out an expired credit card or some other plastic card you don't need anymore.

First; use a hole punch or drill and put a hole through the card at the center of one edge.

Second; Remove the barreled action from the stock.

Third; Look at the recess in the stock where the front recoil lug sits. This is where you will put the piece of credit card.

Fourth; With scissors, trim the card so that the hole you punched sits squarely over the hole for the lug bolt.

It's trial and error but you can take off a little more card where needed until it fits down into the recess.

Fifth; Put the gun back together making sure the card stays in place.

If you cannot wrap a dollar around the barrel and slide it all the way to the recoil lug, add another layer of plastic card.

Now you are ready to see what improvement you have made. Typically, if you had shots stringing horizontally across the target, the problem should be gone or at the least much improved.

And for sure, do not touch the barrel while shooting. Remember, we are trying to eliminate any variables that might upset barrel vibration.

This approach will show you whether or not the stock is causing you a problem. If it proves that the stock is all or part of the problem, you have several options at this point.

You can either remove wood from the barrel channel of the stock, glass bed the receiver to permanently raise the action up out of the stock or, buy a new stock.

Myself, I have chosen to simply leave the credit card in place and keep shooting. Plans are to someday glass bed the action but if the gun is now shooting to my satisfaction, glass bedding is not up there on my list of priorities.

Read this article I wrote about changing the stock on my Remington 700. It was a simple project and only cost about $50.



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Last Modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 7:29 AM