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DIY Bolt Gun Build

AR’s Can Be Screwed Together With a Vise and a Couple of Wrenches. Here’s What it Takes to go a Little Deeper into the Art of Gunsmithing

As a kid, I spent a lot of Saturdays standing around a grimy tool and die shop in a South Florida industrial park. My dad’s friend was a Serbian machinist who had escaped the communist oppression in Yugoslavia and applied his considerable skill to making precision parts for the aviation and marine industries on his manual equipment. Watching Sean, whose thick accent was barely decipherable, turn hunks of metal into functional treasures was a huge influence — I’ve spent the three decades since with a strong desire to make things with my own hands, particularly out of metal. With a keen interest in firearms since the age of 3, I’ve steadily applied my desire to improve and apply shop skills into building my own guns. This is the latest of those builds, a 6.5x47L built with long-range precision in mind.

I’ve been a huge fan of the short 6.5mm’s since before it was cool, before Dave Emary gave the world the 6.5 Creedmoor, and when everyone still thought the .308 was a “long-range” round because the military used it. This rig was definitely going to be a 6.5, but the question of “which one?” caused some heartburn. I’m in the process of building hunting rifles in 6.5-06 and 6.5 Creedmoor, and with more .260s than I can justify in the safe those were off the table. In the end, nostalgia won out: My first published article was a review of a rifle chambered in 6.5x47L, and I didn’t own a rifle in that cartridge, so I decided to build myself one to scratch that itch. It’s not like it’s a terrible choice for such a rifle, either.

barrel channelremington 700

Custom actions are fantastic choices for a rifle build since the best of them come pretty close to perfect right out of the box. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a Remington 700 once the factory tolerances have been addressed, especially if you already have an action on hand. A short-action 700 sitting in the safe was perfect to use for this project. Greg Tannel at Gre-Tan rifles trues actions so well and at such reasonable prices that sending him the work was a no-brainer.

Greg single-point re-machined the action threads, trued the receiver face, bolt face, bolt lugs, and lug seats, and double-sleeved the bolt body with stainless steel to keep the bolt from jumping during ignition. He altered the action to accept his own double-pinned 0.250-inch recoil lug, bushed the firing pin hole, and installed his own lightweight firing pin and spring, turned to fit. All of this work ensures that the relevant surfaces of the action are square and true and, like the foundation on a building, provides a suitable and stable platform for the barrel.

This rifle wasn’t designed to be a lightweight, but given the components involved, it could end up being excessively heavy. I wanted to cut weight where I could without compromising performance, so I chose a 26-inch bull profile carbon-fiber–wrapped barrel from Proof Research with a 1:8-inch twist. What’s great about Proof’s barrels is that they offer the handling and shooting characteristics of an all-steel heavy barrel without all of the weight. All other things being equal, using a Proof barrel cut 4 pounds compared to an all-steel barrel with the same profile.

McMillan’s A5 stock is a great design for the type of shooting that this rifle would be used for, but I was impatient and didn’t want to wait for a custom stock made to my component specs. Grayboe is a McMillan-affiliated company (run by Ryan McMillan) that offers solid fiberglass stocks in finished configurations at very competitive prices. Greyboe’s Renegade is an A-5 clone that comes as a drop-in stock complete with aluminum pillars, a 1-inch recoil pad, sling swivels, and paint. This stock wasn’t designed to accommodate the exact components planned for the build, but since it was constructed using solid fiberglass, I could machine it to fit my needs. Best of all, the stocks are only $349.

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With the majority of the components in place, it was time to start making chips fly. Much is made of CNC machining these days, and that technology is amazing, but CNC really shines when you want to make several of something. For one-off projects, manual machines can be just as precise (or even more so) when used properly. My personal lathe is a Chicom Grizzly that I’ve adapted to better suit my needs — there are far better tools on the market, but since I derive zero revenue from building guns, a larger investment wasn’t warranted.

proof research barrel

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