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Custom 6XC Precision Rifle Build

I recently had custom precision rifle built by Surgeon Rifles to use for tactical/practical rifle competitions. Those competitions typically include shots from 300 to 1,000 yards. As I walked through SHOT Show this year, I was on a hunt to find the best components for each part in a quest for the ultimate precision rifle build (or at least try out the latest and greatest to see how it stacked up to the hype). I’ve already put 600+ rounds through it, and ran it in 2 competitions. One of those was the 2014 Steel Safari, which is a grueling 3 day match in tough conditions. So I’ve become intimately familiar with the weapon, and have already made a few mods to it.

Goals for This Rifle:

  • Great Ballistics to 1200 yards – I plan to primarily shoot this rifle at 300 to 1,000 yards, and may occasionally push a little beyond that. I have other rifles for extreme range, but I wanted this one to be specialized for mid to long-range targets.
  • Low/Moderate Recoil – This helps spot shots in competitions to improve wind calls in the moment. The energy of the round and terminal performance doesn’t matter on targets, as long as your RO can spot the hits.
  • 2,000+ Round Barrel Life – I’d prefer a barrel last a full year. I actually don’t mind having to rebarrel once every year or two, because that’s an opportunity to swap cartridges and try something new (if you want to).
  • Heavy Barrel – For uncompromising precision, and longer strings of fire without the barrel “walking” as it heats up. I still want to keep the overall weight down where possible.
  • Unique Look – It seems like every rifle is either all black or some shade of tan, and I wanted a rifle with a more original and distinct look. Ultimately, my rifle is a tool and I’m not afraid to throw it into brush for a quick, improvised rest. It will get scratched up from lots of use, so I didn’t want an automotive finish or anything too polished.

Custom Surgeon 6XC Precision Rifle

Carbon Fiber Rifle StockManners Folding Stock 6XC

6XC Cartridge

For the type of shooting I planned with this rifle, I knew I wanted either a 6mm or 6.5mm cartridge. I attended the Championship Match for the Precision Rifle Series last weekend, and noticed 100% of the shooters who qualified were running a 6mm or 6.5mm (view last year’s data). That’s because there are many high-BC bullets available, and the cartridges have mild recoil and acceptable barrel life. I was considering these cartridges:

6mm Cartridges6.5mm Cartridges
6mm Creedmoor
6×47 Lapua
6XC
6.5 Creedmoor
6.5×47 Lapua
260 Rem

6XC CartridgeAfter a lot of research and thought, I decided to chamber this rifle for the 6XC. The 6XC is a cartridge created by David Tubb, “the best, and winningest, competitive rifleman in history” according to his website. 😉 David is a fierce competitor, and he developed the cartridge specifically for 600 and 1,000 yard competitions, and won at least four national championships with it. The 6XC essentially provides the same ballistics as a 243 Winchester, but can do it with 7 grains less powder because of superior cartridge design.

Like most modern cartridges, the 6XC has a 30 degree shoulder and long neck. The steeper shoulder and shorter case body resists growth, which means less trimming and longer case life (more firings). The long neck improves concentricity and bullet alignment, and provides more consistent neck tension. The 6XC also has generous magazine clearance to allow you to continue to seat the bullet out as the barrel wears, while still keeping the bullet’s full caliber diameter out of the “doughnut.” And because it can use less powder to achieve the same muzzle velocity, the barrel life is significantly improved over the 243, with the typical accurate barrel life of the 6XC being 2,500 to 3,000 rounds.

AI Magazine

I’m using the exceptional Berger 105gr Hybrid bullet (G7 BC: 0.278, G1 BC: 0.547), and my H4350 load leaves a 24” barrel at 3,010 fps. A couple pro shooters told me the 105gr Hybrid “likes to fly around 3,000 fps,” so that is what I was roughly targeting and why I went with that barrel length.

6XC Cartridge Comparison

Surgeon 591 Action

I went with the Surgeon 591 Repeater Short Action with Surgeon’s gnarled, oversized, tactical bolt knob.

Surgeon ActionSurgeon 591 ActionJewell TriggerSurgeon Short Action

In an issue of RECOIL Magazine a few months ago (Issue #10), Iain Harrison wrote an article with an outstanding summary of the Surgeon Action. It illustrates the extraordinary lengths Surgeon goes to in order to build the most accurate action possible. On a side note, if you haven’t ever checked out RECOIL Magazine … you really should.

Surgeon 591 actions are highly regarded in the long-range shooting community, and for good reason. Based loosely on the Remington 700 design, several shortcomings of the original have been addressed. Remington’s first priority with the 700 was ease of manufacture, with accuracy being a fortunate byproduct — with more than 5-million rifles in circulation, this isn’t a dig at Big Green, which has a hugely successful lineup often used as a base for accurized custom builds. Surgeon, on the other hand, took the outline of the Remington action and transformed it into what it could have been, if the objective were to make a small number of extremely accurate rifles rather than to completely dominate the market.

To this end, the 700’s separate recoil lug has been eliminated, instead being machined as an integral part. This ensures the lug is completely square to the action body and concentric with the bolt face. Also integral is the scope mount, which comprises a 1919 rail with a built-in 20-MOA angle, running the entire length of the action. This removes any possibility of mounting screws loosening up or stripping under recoil and also increases the action’s stiffness. Instead of heat-treating action components after machining operations are completed, Surgeon uses the more difficult and expensive technique of partially machining the actions, heat treating, and then sending them back through the shop for machining to their final, finished dimensions — thus eliminating any potential warping as the parts heat and cool.

Tighter machining clearances are apparent when manipulating the bolt, which glides in raceways that are cut with a wire EDM, rather than being broached. To give dirt and debris somewhere to go instead of gumming up the works, spiral relief cuts are machined in the bolt body, which, like the action, is finished in black Cerakote. Another quality touch is that the base of the bolt handle is machined from the same chunk of 4140 steel as the rest of the bolt body, unlike that of the 700, which is brazed on in a separate operation. One aspect of the Remington design that has always been regarded as value engineered is the bolt stop, which is stamped from sheet steel and can hang up at an inopportune time, causing the shooter to accidentally remove the bolt instead of cycling it. The Surgeon action features a side-mounted bolt release acting in the left raceway, which is beefy and shielded to prevent inadvertent operation.

Terry Cross, veteran shooter and perennial winner of many tactical-style rifle matches, has pointed out a few more benefits of the Surgeon action:

This action also boasts more thread length for the barrel shank. Typical barrel shanks for the Surgeon have a thread length of 0.950″ versus the 0.700″ thread length in Remington Model 700 style actions. This provides a 37% increase in barrel engagement. This action is built to perform and survive in the grueling environment of tactical-type field shooting as well as Law Enforcement and military sniper applications. It is built to the same precision and squareness as the best benchrest action but has fit tolerances that allow it to function under harsh conditions, and where dirt or debris might stop a benchrest action in its tracks.

Krieger 5-R 24” MTU Barrel

I went with a Krieger cut-rifled, match-grade barrel with the Obermeyer 5-R™ rifling pattern. 5-R™ rifling is simply a 5 groove rifling where the sides of the grooves have a “ramped” transition to the lands. Boots Obermeyer observed that with this rifling pattern bullet jackets deform in a way that they remain closer to the lands than the sharp-edge lands present in conventional rifling. This reduces powder fouling at the corner of the grooves and jacket failures in quick-twist barrels.

5R Barrel

Surgeon typically only uses Heavy Palma or MTU contour barrels on their rifles. Those are heavy barrels, but yield surgical precision (pardon the pun). There are top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) running both of those contours. I talked to Dustin Morris about this build, because he took 1st place overall in the PRS last year with a 6XC. He personally runs an MTU barrel, and when I asked about the weight … he essentially said “Yeah, it’s heavy … but you want to hit what you’re aiming at don’t you?!” I believe the GA Precision Team runs Heavy Palma contours, and 5 of them ended up in the top 10 this year. So there are obviously successful shooters running both. With this rifle, I’d rather go too heavy, than go too light and be left wondering if it a heavier contour would’ve performed better.

Dustin said his first 6XC had a 22” barrel, but then he switched to a 26” barrel to get higher velocities. Then for the 2013 season, he backed down to a 24” barrel and said he really liked it. Subsequently, he won that season. He was planning to go back with a 24” barrel when he rebarreled. I talked to a couple of the top PRS competitors who ran a 6XC, and it seemed like most thought the Berger 105gr Hybrid flew best around 3,000 fps. After checking QuickLOAD, it looked like a 24” barrel would put me right there, so that’s what I went with. My muzzle velocity is currently running at 3,010 fps, so it looks like it was right on track.

I was originally thinking about fluting the barrel, but there was a mix-up at Surgeon and it got shipped without flutes. I had a competition 2 weeks away I was hoping to use this rifle in, so they suggested I use it and then they’d pay to ship it back to them and they’d get it fixed and turned around ASAP. But after running it in the competition (which involved hiking 3+ miles per day in tough terrain), I decided I’d just keep it as is. I did talk to Ray Sanchez, a veteran shooter, about it at the competition, and he said he wouldn’t ever flute a barrel after it had been chambered, because he was afraid it could affect accuracy. That played into my head a little bit, but overall the extra 1/2 pound didn’t bother me. Most PRS competitors don’t run fluted barrels, but often that is just because they blow through barrels so fast that it doesn’t make sense to put the extra effort or money into it. Some guys (like Shilen Barrels) believe fluting “can induce unrecoverable stresses” that negatively impacts accuracy and Accuracy International published compelling test data showing that to be true as well. But there is heated debate around that topic, so I’ll just avoid it!

I decided on a 1:7.5 twist on my 6mm barrel. I don’t plan to ever use any bullets weighing less than 105 grains, and I typically subscribe to Todd Hodnett’s approach of leaning towards faster twist rates. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote in the 2013 edition of SNIPER magazine titled The Future of Twist Rates:

More twist rate in the barrel imparts more spin on the bullet, thus more gyroscopic stability is retained through supersonic and into subsonic flight. What we lose in subsonic flight is the loss of BC due to the loss of gyroscopic stability, which allows more oscillation, which is basically more drag, which is loss of BC. If we spin the bullet faster to fight off the effects of transonic shockwaves, we retain more gyroscopic stability, which allows us to retain more BC farther downrange. This results in better groups and less holds at distance.

We spend a lot of money on better bullets, but as we are running slow twist, we may never see the real benefit of what these bullets have to offer. For those few who are willing to step out of the comfort zone of the past, I see great things for long range when we start really optimizing our twist rates with our wonderful new high-BC bullets. The plus side is that our older-design bullets will give us better performance as well.

Thought: What if we shot bigger bullets with higher BCs and faster twist rates to maximize performance – and were able to get even more performance, but with lower velocities, which would extend our barrel life? Is this a wish or a reality? – Todd Hodnett

So that had me leaning towards the 1:7.5 twist. However, Bryan Litz did tell me a 1:8 twist is ideal for the Berger 105 grain Hybrid bullets. I believe Bryan shoots those himself out of his 243 Win, which has virtually identical ballistics, so he should know. So I was torn on this decision. But, it turns out Dustin was running a 1:7.5 twist on his 6XC, so that is eventually what I landed on. I’d prefer to err on the side of a twist that is too fast, rather than risk one that is too slow. I’m sure the 1:7.5 or 1:8 twist barrels would both be excellent choices, and I probably wouldn’t be able to notice the difference. But I have a reputation of over-thinking everything that I need to maintain!

Here is a comparison of the stability factors between the two twist rates based on my ballistics. This was calculated using the free twist rate calculator from BergerBullets.com.

Twist Rate Stability Calculations for 1-7.5 and 1-8 Barrel Twist Summary

The only downside of a faster twist is that it will produce more spin drift, but that is a deterministic factor that you can calculate before you ever lay down behind the rifle. Plus it is a very tiny difference, which is barely worth mentioning. JBM ballistics engine calculates that the spin drift on the 1:7.5 twist barrel would be 10.1″ at  1200 yards, where the 1:8 twist would be 9.4″. So it is less than an inch at 1200 yards … I can’t shoot between those numbers!

Manners Elite Tactical 100% Carbon Fiber Folder Stock

This was the part I was most excited about with this new custom rifle build. At the 2014 SHOT Show, Manners Stocks unveiled their new Elite Tactical line of stocks … and they stopped me in my tracks. From a distance, this might look like a typical tactical stock, but it is far from typical. First, it is 100% carbon fiber! The strength to weight ratio of carbon fiber is off the charts compared to traditional stock materials. Engineers love it because carbon fiber is 5 times as strong as steel, 3 times as stiff, yet 70% lighter.

When Tom Manners founded Manners Stocks in 2001, the 1st stock he developed was actually a 100% carbon fiber stock for 50bmg benchrest competitions. That stock still owns most of the 1000 yard 50bmg records. Since then, Manners Composite Stocks has become known in the industry as the top of the line manufacturer for super-strong, stiff, lightweight stocks. This new line of Elite Tactical stocks has been both a throw back to the early days at Manners, and introduced a new level space-age technology to the tactical world at the same time.

When you compare the stiffness of Manner’s carbon fiber stock with a traditional fiberglass stock, you can feel the difference. I attempted to capture that on a short little video clip so you could see it for yourself.

Manners Folding StockThe stock I chose was Manners’ folder model. While most shooters are familiar with a folding chassis system like the AICS, it isn’t as common on this style of tactical stock. But a folding stock can make a few things more convenient. First, you don’t have to remove the adjustable cheek rest to get adequate clearance for your bore guide and cleaning rod. So it can be convenient when you’re cleaning or working on the rifle.

More importantly for me, a folding stock makes it easier to transport with a suppressor attached. So instead of having to take my suppressor off before I put it in the case (and then screw it back on next time I shoot) … I can just leave it on all the time. I know there are some suppressors with quick detach connections, but there aren’t many good reviews on those when you’re talking about precision. It’s common to hear shooters claim a quick detach suppressor negatively affected their accuracy, and even if it’s minor … they end up leaving it off more times than not. I went with a direct thread suppressor to avoid that possibility, and the folding stock gives me the option to simply leave it on all the time (and it still fit in a standard size case).

The folded length with a suppressor is just 43”. For comparison, the unfolded length with a standard muzzle brake is 46.3” and the unfolded length with the suppressor is 53.3”. I’m unaware of any rifle cases that accommodate a 54” rifle, but since it folds … I can use just about any case.

Manners Stocks offers a ton of configuration options to help customize your stock. For their folding stocks, there are 2 different forends and 2 different butt sections that you can pick from (4 possible combinations). I went with the TF2 Tactical Folder configuration. Here is the full list of options I chose for my rifle:

Manners Elite Tactical Stock

  • Model: Manners MCS-TF2 Elite Tactical Folder
  • Butt: Features an adjustable cheek rest designed by Terry Cross, an accomplished precision rifle competitor. It also features a butt hook, which helps when using a rear bag or controlling the rifle with the non-trigger hand. This is similar to the T4A adjustable backend on Manners composite stocks.
    Manners Elite Tactical Carbon Fiber Stock
  • Recoil Pad: 1” Pachmayr Decelerator Pad. Manners also offers the popular Limb Saver pad, but those are made from a softer material. Some shooters claim the Pachmayr will hold up to rougher conditions in the field.
  • Spacer System: I added the Manners spacer system for an adjustable length of pull. The spacer system requires them to add a metal plate, which increases the weight several ounces. I originally thought I’d order a fixed stock to minimize weight. But a fixed stock with a 1” pad will only accommodate a length of pull up to 14”. While that is enough for most shooters, with my long arms I need a fraction more to get my desired length of pull (14 3/8”). The spacer system does provide more flexibility, and resale value (although I can’t see myself selling this one!).
  • Forend: Tapered T2 forend – Wade Stuteville, winner of the 2012 Precision Rifle Series, recommended a tapered forend to help when shooting off barricades or other improvised rests. The alternative to this is a forend that runs parallel to the barrel, which Manners does offer. Wade said if the forend is tapered, you can use that to your advantage, because you can slide the rifle forward or backwards on the rest to make minor vertical adjustments. However, if the forend is parallel to the barrel, you have no such adjustment.
  • Hardware: I went with a Badger Ordnance Bipod Accessory Rail instead of the typical sling studs, because I wanted to be able to run a quick-detach bipod. Occasionally you may be able to get a better rest off a barricade or improvised rest if the bipod wasn’t attached. With a standard Harris Bipod connected to a sling stud, you’d need a couple minutes to remove it, but there are a few quick detach systems that work well with a picatinny rail. The picatinny rail firmly secures the bipod body, preventing the skew or twisting occasionally experienced when bipods are attached to stocks with large flat bottoms. I also added two flush cups opposite the bolt side.
    Bipod Rail
  • Finish: Clear Satin – Manners also offers a glossy and painted finish for their carbon fiber stocks, and both look pretty sharp. But I didn’t want a rifle that looked overly polished, and I liked the raw and unique look of the carbon fiber. I definitely haven’t seen any other rifles like it. Tom was concerned that this more raw finish wouldn’t be up to his standards, which are extremely high … and I can appreciate that eye for detail and finish. But this stock certainly exceeds my expectations. I think it looks amazing. It could show scratches and imperfections more than a painted finish, but ultimately the rifle is a tool … not a safe queen.
    Manners Carbon Fiber Stock

One place Manners didn’t try to shave weight was the folding steel hinge. Tom Manner’s definitely understands how important it is for a folding stock to lock-up with absolutely no play, and they accomplished that with this stock. If there were to be any flex in the stock, the hinge is the last place it would happen. The high-strength steel hinge is mil-spec parkarized, for added durability. The stock’s shell is actually molded around the hinge so there are no screws that could come loose or attachment systems that could fail. The entire hinge system is very simple, only consisting of a few parts. To fold the stock, you press a small checkered button, and you can lock it into the folded position with a standard flush cup button built into the butt. When you unfold the stock, the rear housing of the hinge wraps around the front portion to create a rock-solid system. It features a self-locking latch that snaps into place with a super tight, steel-on-steel lock-up.

Folding Rifle Stock Folding Stock Manners Folding Rifle Stock

After using the stock for a few months, and in a few competitions, I really can’t say enough good things about its performance. It is rock-solid, comfortable, and stiff. In the field, this stock is ideal, plus as a folder, it has the added benefit of making standard cleaning/maintenance and transport a little easier.

I can really only think about one thing I might change about this stock. It folds opposite the bolt, which is how most folders are designed to work. However, a few folders have come out that fold towards the bolt. That leaves you one side that is when in the folded position, so if you carried it in a pack or strapped it that way you wouldn’t have something sticking into your back.

The overall weight of this stock is 4.6 lbs., which includes bottom metal (0.4 lbs.), Badger rail (0.1 lbs.), and all spacers (but no action or magazine). For comparison, a folding AICS 2.0 chassis weighs 5.0 pounds. So we’re shaving a little weight, plus getting the benefit from the carbon fiber’s added strength and stiffness.

I was originally considering getting a non-folding model of this stock with fixed length of pull (i.e. no spacer system) to help shave a few ounces. I’d never consider not getting an adjustable cheek, because personally I think it is worth whatever weight it adds. A few people had concerns with how the rifle would balance with that approach. They thought a bull barrel combined with a featherweight stock might cause the rifle to feel awkward and difficult to maneuver. They were probably right, because I love the balance of the rifle I ended up with. If you were to trim the barrel down to a Medium Palma contour, you could likely shave some weight off of the stock and it still be well-balanced. But I definitely wanted a heavy barrel on this rifle, so this was the Manners Elite Tactical Carbon Fiber Folder was the perfect stock to pair that with.

Manners is actively working on revamping their website, to make it easier to navigate and understand what all they offer. But I scanned in their 2014 Product Catalog that I picked up at SHOT Show, and thought I’d share it here if you’re interested in learning more.

Download Manners Stocks 2014 Catalog

Jewell Trigger

Jewell Triggers are the gold standard for precision bolt action rifles. I went with the very popular Jewell Hunter Varmint Rifle (HVR) model trigger, which includes a safety (unlike their Benchrest BR model). This trigger is adjustable from 3.5 pounds all the way down to just 1.5 ounces.

I have a Timney #510 Trigger on a different custom rifle, and I like that trigger as well. After using the Jewell, I’ve decided I personally prefer the Timney trigger’s wider shoe. However, you are able to adjust the pull weight of the Jewell trigger without having to remove the stock, which is convenient. Also the Timney trigger is only able to be adjusted down to 1.5 pounds, where the Jewell can go down to 0.01 pounds (i.e. 1.5 ounces). I currently run my triggers at 1 pound 10 ounces, so that really isn’t an issue for me … but I know guys who like them under 1.5 pounds, and you can’t do that with the Timney.

As far as the crispness of the triggers, both are exceptional. A trigger can’t possibly get any better. There is ZERO creep, and the break is clean and consistent every time. I wish I could get triggers this amazing on all my firearms!

Jewell Trigger

Surgeon Detachable Magazine Bottom Metal

For my trigger guard bottom metal, I chose the Surgeon Short Action Detachable Magazine Bottom Metal. I like that it works with the proven Accuracy International magazines. I typically use a 10 round AICS 308 magazine.

Surgeon Bottom MetalCustom Long Range Rifles

This bottom metal was originally designed by Terry Cross for the KMW Sentinel Combat Stock. It may appear like a simple part, but a ton of thought was put into this design. Here is a little description about the bottom metal and magazine system for the Sentinel design:

The conformal magazine release is easier to use, more damage resistant, and more snag resistant than most other DBM systems. This magazine release is accessible with gloves on and minimizes the chance of accidental magazine loss. Forward sides of the trigger guard are recessed to allow maximum access to the magazine release while still protecting this part from damage. The funneled mag well offers greatly improved insertion of the magazine into the weapon compared to other systems currently on the market. The stock and DBM system offers maximum vertical support of the magazine for reliable and repeatable positioning of the rounds in relation to the receiver’s feed ramp. All inside and outside edges of this unit are radiused so that there are no sharp edges.

The KMW Sentinel rifle stock features a proprietary McMillan stock, which wraps around the bottom metal mag well in a unique way.

KMW Stock

Surgeon started with Terry’s bottom metal design, but modded it to work in a standard McMillan stock. An unintended side-effect of this approach was it left a shelf in front of the magazine (you can see in the photos above), which actually turned into a cool feature. That part actually acts as a stop/block protecting the front of the magazine. If you’re resting the rifle on a barricade, you can sometimes get a more stable position if you slide the rifle forward and lean into the barricade. This is especially true when standing. It’s common for detachable box magazine (DBM) systems to not have that protection in front of the magazine, which means you are jamming the magazine into the barricade. The weight and subsequent force from recoil can damage the magazine, and possibly even dislodge it. Not cool when an AI magazine costs $90. But with the Surgeon magazine system, the tough bottom metal would be taking the load/impact and not the magazine.

I also like that the magazine release is outside of the trigger guard. I probably don’t have to explain why that’s a good idea. But I have another custom rifle built with a Wyatt’s Detachable Magazine Bottom Metal, and the mag release on that is inside the trigger guard. And yes, I did send a round down range once while trying to eject the magazine. I realize I should be more careful … and I am … by buying Surgeon bottom metal instead. Overall, this is just a very well thought out system.

Gunsmith: Surgeon Rifles

Surgeon Rifles is highly regarded in the precision rifle community, and considered by many to be one of the premier rifle builders in the world. Surgeon began by manufacturing extremely accurate custom actions in small machine shop. Preston Pritchett was a long-time machinist, as well as a competitive rifle shooter. The measurable accuracy improvement he found in his action design, was surprising even to him. One of my friends shot with him at the time, and he recalls a competition where Preston was shooting well and my friend congratulated him on his marksmanship. Preston seemed half-surprised and blamed it on “this new action” he’d be working on. My friend thought he was just being too humble, but apparently, he really was on to something. (Of course, it still has a lot to do with the nut behind the gun!)

SURGEON RIFLESIn 2004, Surgeon Rifles was born and they started making both actions and a few custom rifles and over time both the number of action and complete rifles they produce had tremendous growth. In fact, over the past couple years you haven’t even been able to buy a Surgeon Action. Surgeon didn’t have the capacity to produce enough actions to satisfy the demand for their complete rifle build and 3rd party gunsmiths. However, at the first of the year Surgeon moved the bulk of their operation from the small town of Prague, Oklahoma to their new facilities in Arizona. In 2011, Surgeon Rifles was purchased by Strategic Armory Corps, who also now owns McMillan Firearms and they figured there could be some synergy between those groups, although they have no plans of changing either of the products.

While the move to Arizona initially introduced some chaos and extended wait times, it looks like Surgeon Rifles is now settled in and hitting on all cylinders. Just a couple months ago, Surgeon began selling actions again, which indicates their production capacity is now aligned with the demand. I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of spec rifle builds listed on their website, which may mean quicker turnaround times on custom builds.

This website has given me the incredible opportunity to talk to world-class shooters and rifle builders. It’s humbling honestly. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege to get to know a couple guys over at Surgeon, and I couldn’t have more confidence in them. They are honest people, who are passionate about building the absolute best rifle possible. Within my group of close friends, we have 7 different Surgeon Rifles, and our experience is that the guys at Surgeon Rifles don’t cut corners. The fit and finish, and attention to small details are impeccable. Customer service experience and turnaround time has been great as well. I’ve had some bad experiences with gunsmiths, but Surgeon Rifles certainly wasn’t one of them.

Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 DT Scope

Okay, confession time. This is why I did that crazy, in-depth scope field test. I wanted to know what the best scope was, so I’d know what to mount on this rifle. Isn’t that ridiculous? I didn’t expect that test to grow into a 6 month project, but that is what happens when I set my mind to something. If you’re going to do it, do it right!

This scope finished #1 in the field test, so it is topping my new rifle. There isn’t much more to say about the Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56, except that it’s amazing and absolutely the best scope money can buy. Some might argue that it isn’t the best value out there, and they’re probably right. But after spending 400+ hours testing and handling all of the high-end scopes, I’m convinced there isn’t anything better.

Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25x56 Custom Rifle Schmidt and Bender PMII Scope

Just in case it sounds like I’m a fan-boy, I did buy this scope out-of-pocket from a retailer. Schmidt and Bender doesn’t sponsor me, and haven’t given me anything. I also own Nightforce, US Optics, Leupold, and Nikon scopes … but this is my favorite.

Schmidt and Bender is quite different than other optics companies. One big difference is they’re 100% focused on rifle scopes. Although they could easily leverage the brand, they resist urge to diversify into other optics products. You can’t even buy a Schmidt and Bender T-shirt. The only thing they have for sale is world-class, top of the line scopes. Here’s how they see it:

Since 1957, in a small town where Germany’s legendary optics industry was founded hundreds of years ago, Schmidt & Bender has been devoted to one thing only: building the finest rifle scope money can buy.

Scopes are all we make. We don’t make binoculars, or cameras, or crystal, or “amateur” optics, or anything else that would distract us from our commitment to the hunter and shooter.

Some companies build as many scopes in a week as we build in a year. And that’s OK. We’ve never been concerned about quantity. Our concern is with the hunter who has climbed all day, or sat in a blind all night, who has traveled for days or saved for years or who has braved rain and cold and snow for one shot at a trophy. Our concern is with the police officer or the soldier who may have one shot to save a life.

There is an old saying in hunting that “you can’t hit it if you can’t see it.” Our job is to make sure you see it. Under conditions that other scopes simply are not built to handle.

If you’ve not tried a Schmidt & Bender rifle scope, we encourage you to borrow one from a friend or dealer and try it. At dusk, at first light, even by moonlight. Once you’ve seen things our way, you’ll never look at -or through-a rifle scope the same way again.

Like a high-end, custom 1911, much of the assembly process is done by hand, which is why the company can only produce a limited number of scopes annually. Schmidt and Bender scopes top some of the most elite sniper rifles throughout the world, and their performance and durability in the field is legendary.

The specific model I landed on is the Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 DT with the P4L Fine mil-based reticle. A few of my friends use the P4L Fine, and they all love it and it was the reticle option I liked the best as well. I wish the intersection of the crosshairs was open and the outer posts could be a little thicker to help when you’re dialed to a low power, but other than that, the P4L Fine is a good reticle. I prefer it over the popular MSR reticle, because it is less crowded (I’ve never found myself milling targets … I carry a rangefinder), and I like its floating crosshairs.

Schmidt and Bender P4L Fine Fein Scope Reticle P4FL P4LF

Why Not MTC Turrets?

I strongly prefer the DT turret over the MTC. I do like that the MTC turrets are lockable, and I wish my windage knob was lockable, because I rarely dial for wind. But I’ve used an S&B scope with MTC turrets, and am not a fan. MTC stands for More Tactile Clicks, which just means the turret is designed to give feedback you can sense with touch to indicate when you’re at certain adjustments. It does that by making certain clicks slightly more “sticky” than others. On this turret those are on every whole number (0.0, 1.0, 2.0, etc.). MTC designs theoretically allow the shooter to sense where they are on the adjustment just by feel. That means you don’t have to lift their head from behind the scope or could make adjustments in pitch black. Some guys like MTC turrets, others hate them. I’m probably closer to that second group. One downside of MTC designs is that it is easy to accidentally overrun your target adjustment, because you have to apply so much pressure to “break out” of those “sticky” clicks. For example, if you need to adjust from 0.0 to 0.1, you may spin past it to 0.3 or 0.4 and then have to back off a few clicks to get to 0.1 (hopefully without landing back on 0.0 and repeating the whole process). This is especially true for the Schmidt and Bender MTC turret, because it has a stiffer clicks than most scopes. I read a review by ILya Koskin on a Schmidt and Bender scope with these MTC turrets. Here is what ILya said:

Of the two S&B scopes, the first one I got my hands on was brand new straight from the dealer, and the turrets were very stiff. When that stiffness was combined with the MTC click stop, I found it virtually impossible to go one click past the MTC. I spent a fair amount of time with that scope, and I do not think I ever managed to get confident with adjusting the turret without getting visual confirmation. … I still do not like the whole MTC business. I understand the reason for it, but it is not my thing. Every MTC implementation I have seen to date makes ‘no eyes’ operation virtually impossible for me. … Since a bunch of people out there clearly like MTC, I must be odd, which is not all that surprising. – ILya Koskin

I guess I must be odd too, because I have the same impression.

I love scopes with a Double Turn (DT) design, which just means there are only two revolutions. This virtually eliminates the problem of getting lost or forgetting what revolution you’re on. You can see the obvious revolution indicator on the DT model. If you miss that obvious, bright color while you’re staring at the turret, you shouldn’t be allowed to handle a gun. Watch the video demo below to see it for yourself.

The numbers on the Schmidt and Bender PMII scope are huge, and easy to read from behind the gun, even while under stress. The clicks are extremely crisp.

The only downside is it is heavy, weighing in at 2.5 pounds. While that isn’t the heaviest scope out there, I’ve heard more than one shooter lovingly refer to this scope as a “boat anchor.” It probably could pull double-duty if needed.

Spuhr Ideal Scope Mount

From an engineering standpoint, Spuhr mounts are stunningly elegant. Every millimeter of this mount has been carefully thought-out. I’ve used this mount on a magnum precision rifle for a couple years, and it is just tough and ideal in every way.

Spuhr Mount

Here are some of the notable features:

  • Built-in Bubble Level – You need a cant level to achieve consistent hits at long-range. This mount features a bubble level that is integrated into the rear of the mount in a way that is easy to see from behind the rifle, but doesn’t add any bulk. I personally don’t like the idea of attaching a ring-mounted level to my scope, because those typically need to stick out away from the scope to be seen, and if it gets hit or caught on something … the level essentially becomes a lever that is applying mechanical force on the scope tube. Scopes are too expensive to be damaged by a cheap bubble level. This is an beautiful solution.
    Best Scope Rings
  • Super-Compact Profile – The rings on the Spuhr mount are cut at a 45 degree angle, which keeps the mount from obscuring the knobs. This makes it easy to see your exact adjustment with very little head movement.
    Spuhr Scope Mount
  • No Lapping Required – The Spuhr mount is a one-piece mount precisely machined from a single billet of aluminum, which means there is no need to lap the rings. The rings are perfectly aligned, which ensures more surface contact with the scope tube and also prevents stress on the scope tube, which can dent the tube, distort the reticle, and cause adjustment problems.
  • Extensibility – The Spuhr mount has built-in attachment interfaces all over it for mounting a variety of accessories directly to the mount. This could include reflex sights, lasers, cosine indicators, picatinny rails, nightvision equipment, thermal attachments, flashlight, etc. There are really no limitations to what can be attached. I’ve even seen a camera mounted to a Spuhr to catch all the action. This just provides a lot of flexibility.

I bought the SP-4001 model, which is a designed for a 34mm scope tube, mounts to a standard picatinny rail, and doesn’t have any cant built-in. Cant is also sometimes referred to as slope or tilt, and essentially pitches the scope forward to allow you to use more of the scope’s internal elevation adjustment. The integrated picatinny rail on the Surgeon Action already has 20 MOA of cant built into it, and since the intended range of this rifle is out to 1,200 yards, it didn’t make sense to add more than that.

One downside of the Spuhr mount is that it has a ton of screws to tighten. The rings alone have 6 screws … each. That makes it time consuming to mount or adjust, but its secure. If I have to choose between rock-solid and convenient … I’d pick rock-solid every time.

Another downside is it costs about the same as a kidney on the black market. $400 for rings is hard to swallow. Remember when we used to buy $25 rings from Walmart? Oh, the simpler days. I guess I never got that rifle to shoot to a grand though.

JEC Customs 6mm Recoil Reduction Muzzle Brake

Aren’t all muzzle brakes the same? Nope. There are a lot of muzzle brake designs out there, and some are simply more effective than others. So when trying to decide on which muzzle brake I should use on this rifle, I first looked at what the pros are using. Of the top 50 shooters in the PRS from this past year, 1 in 3 used a JEC Recoil Reduction Muzzle Brake (see the data). They had almost twice as many brakes represented as any other company. I know some of the shooters, and have immense respect for their opinion. Those numbers include shooters like George Gardner (founder of GA Precision), the entire GAP Team, Wade Stuteville, the Surgeon Rifle Team, members of the legendary US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other knowledgeable shooters who represent the best in the country. When guys like that talk, you listen.

Although there isn’t any hard data out there on how effective different muzzle brakes are at reducing recoil, the next best approach is to simply go with what the experts are using. So I thought I’d try out a JEC Customs muzzle brake on this rifle.

JEC Muzzle Brake Muzzle Brake

One thing I liked right off the bat, was that I could order a caliber-specific muzzle brake. Many muzzle brakes are only available in 30 caliber, similar to suppressors. But JEC Customs offered options for 22 caliber, 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, or 30 caliber. In theory, it seems like this would make the brake more effective … but at this point, I have no hard data to support that. I definitely like the idea. I ordered the 6mm version.

You can also select either a stainless steel or black model. I actually chose stainless steel and had the guys at Surgeon Cerakote it along with the barreled action. The brake is directional, which means Surgeon had to time it on my barrel. JEC also offers shim kits and crush washers as DIY alternatives. I prefer the shim kit option.

The JEC brake was designed with competition shooters in mind. It features a standard 5/8×24 TPI thread, which was important for me since I was also planning to run this rifle with a suppressor at times. Its 1.0” outside diameter was a great fit on my MTU barrel.

The JEC brake has outstanding recoil reduction compared to other brakes I’ve used. After shooting my rifle, one of my close friends replaced his Badger muzzle brake with a JEC brake. There was noticeable improvement behind his 6.5 Creedmoor. Now, they are loud … really, really loud. That actually is a sign that a brake is doing its job. I’m wearing hearing protection anyway, so that isn’t a huge drawback for me … but it could be for the guy on the line next to you.

Thunder Beast (TBAC) 30P-1 Suppressor

Choosing a suppressor seems like such a big decision, because of the ridiculous lead-time involved with getting government approval (mine took 11 months). But once again, since there is virtually no hard data or objective comparison available on precision rifle suppressors, I went with the next best approach to figuring out what to buy, which is looking at what the successful shooters and experts in the field are using on their rifles. Of the top 50 shooters in the PRS from this past year, most of them actually used a muzzle brake instead of a suppressor in competition. This is likely due to the reduced weight and improved maneuverability a muzzle brake provides compared to a suppressor.

However, there were 13 shooters using suppressors out of the top 50, and the most popular was Thunder Beast, also known as TBAC (see the data). I’ve known a few shooters who’ve bought TBAC suppressors, and none of them regretted that decision. I’ve personally talked with Zak Smith and Ray Sanchez (the guys running TBAC) at the Steel Safari the past few years, and they’re passionate and accomplished long-range shooters. Zak has even shared some about the state-of-the-art CNC machines they’ve invested in as they’ve grown. It sounds like an impressive operation, and a lot of world-class shooters are using them … so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I ordered the Thunder Beast 30P-1 Suppressor. Here is what TBAC has to say about that model: “The model 30P-1 is our flagship long-range precision rifle suppressor. It offers best-in-class sound suppression levels in a very light weight format, and is built with accuracy as its first priority.”

Precision Rifle Suppressor Thunder Beast TBAC 30P-1 Suppressor

Here are a few key features about the TBAC 30P-1:

  • Titanium – 360° fully-welded baffle cores are made from 100% billet titanium (takes 15” of bar stock to produce the baffles for this 9” suppressor). Titanium provides an outstanding strength to weight ratio. My 30P-1 suppressor weighs 17.6 ounces, where some stainless steel suppressors weigh double that.
  • CNC Precision – Baffles and other parts are precision machined using cutting-edge CNC equipment (not stamped or cast). Manufacturing processes ensure baffles are perfectly aligned with the bore, and the axis of the threads and rear should are perfectly square with the bore. They hold tolerances to 1/1000th of an inch on most parts. Precision of threads is critical, so they thread to a Class 3 thread standard using a single-point CNC lathe.
  • Expert Tuning – They have a secret tuning process they run through on each individual suppressor to ensure the highest accuracy potential for every unit they ship.
  • Designed with Accuracy as 1st Priority – Incorporates specific design features and construction that support accuracy, even though they increase manufacturing costs.
  • Magnum Rated – The 30P-1 is rated up to a 300 Win Mag, so it can take anything you can throw at it. But it’s ideal for popular long-range cartridges like the 6XC, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5-284 Norma, 7mm Rem Mag, etc.]

The results? I know a lot of guys using TBAC 30P-1 suppressors, and have met many shooters using these suppressors at competitions I’ve been in. I’ve never met one that wasn’t completely satisfied, and didn’t report rock-solid POI repeatability. In fact, Ray told me he did an experiment in 2011 while competing in the Steel Safari, which is a competition that attracts talented shooters from across the nation. He wanted to prove the claims about the TBAC suppressor’s POI repeatability, so he actually removed the suppressor between each stage and screwed it back on before the next string of fire. Ray got 1st place that year. Now that’s hard to argue with.

I’m using a thermal mirage cover made by Armageddon Gear, which is what the guys at Thunder Beast recommend. Suppressors can really heat up, and this ensures the created by that heat doesn’t disrupt your sight picture.

Harris Bipod BRM-S with LaRue LT706 QD Swivel Mount and JEC Spikes

While some shooters have opted for an Accushot Atlas bipod, the lions share of precision shooters still use Harris Bipods. They’re just tough. They’re what are decorating most sniper rifles in Afghanistan, and what demanding shooters are using in competitions as well. I’ve personally used them for years, and they’ve never let me down.

But I was hoping to get a bipod with some kind of quick detach, so I could remove it rapidly in a competition. Occasionally you may be able to get a better rest off a barricade or improvised rest if the bipod wasn’t attached. With a standard Harris Bipod connected to a sling stud, you’d need a couple minutes to remove it, but there are a few quick detach systems that work well with a picatinny rail.

I started by buying a Harris RBA-1 RotaPod Adapter. This adapter provides a quick detach feature, and allows the bipod to rotate left and right. The rotate feature sounded interesting, but I really liked the idea of being able to use it with all my existing Harris bipods. However, after using it for a couple weeks … I hate it. It increases the distance to the bore, and I underestimated how much that would affect the feel behind the rifle. It just doesn’t feel as stable. That adapter quickly found its way off my rifle into a drawer somewhere.

Next, I bit the bullet and bought the LaRue-improved version, which they call the Harris Bipod BRM-S and LT706 QD Swivel Mount Combo. The spine is a Harris S-BRM (aka BRMS), which has adjustable 6-9” legs with notches, and it swivels side to side. LaRue then replaced the Harris OEM stud attachment with a custom chassis featuring an integral, low-profile, LaRue Quick Detach lever mount. This eliminates the possibility of the stud screw or grabber becoming loose. In the process, they lightened it slightly and lowered the profile by 0.25”. They even added a large knob to adjust swivel tension.

While it was hard to stomach paying over $200 for a bipod … the LaRue Harris Combo is exceptional. Like most things LaRue produces, it feels so solid. I think I could drive over it in my truck, but I’m not going to try it for $220! There were a few clunky things about the Harris design that they modernized, and the result is great.

As if the LaRue upgrade on the Harris wasn’t enough, I actually decided to change out the feet as well. Loading a bipod is important (i.e. leaning into the rifle with a consistent amount of force to take the slack out of the bipod). But sometimes when loading the bipod, the rifle may creep forward. This usually happens most when you’re shooting off hard dirt or rock/concrete that has a thin layer of lose dirt on top. You either won’t dig in as well as you’d like, which can send shots high, or you waste time trying to dig the legs into a little hole, and hope it holds until you can get the shot off. Am I alone here? Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Well, over the past couple competitions … I’ve developed a hatred for that. One of my friends had replaced his feet with spikes, and that looked like the ticket. So I bought some JEC JPEGs Harris Bipod Spikes. These are replacement feet designed for the competitive shooter that require no adapters, and are installed by simply removing the roll pins from the existing feet and installing the new feet with the provided roll pins. Well, it’s not exactly that easy. Removing the roll pins from the OEM feet can be a chore if you’ve used it for a while. JEC recommends you soak it in oil overnight, and that might help. While the process wasn’t enjoyable, the results are.

LaRue BipodLaRue Harris BipodHarris Bipod SpikesBipod Rail

The problem of a sliding rifle is a thing of the past. Now I have a new problem of scratching up my wife’s dining table or anything else these spikes come within 5 feet of. They’re awesome for shooting, and terrible for furniture and marriages. So I picked up some little rubber caps from an auto parts store that slip over the spikes, and now it’s the complete package. JEC say they’re working on a (more professional looking) product like this that will be released soon, but these will keep me out of marital counselling for now.

Harris Bipod Spike Caps

Tenebraex Tactical Tough Scope Covers

The Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 came with Butler Creek Scope Covers. I had tried those on a Nightforce scope in the past, and broke off the eyepiece cover the second time out. But on Nightforce scopes the entire eyepiece turns when you adjust the magnification, so when I tried to quickly change to a lower magnification as a 300 pound hog approached … I snapped the cover clean off (see the pic of the hog on the About page, and notice the absence of scope covers on the rifle).

During a 3 day match a couple months ago, the Butler Creek Scope Covers on my Schmidt and Bender got hit on something and tore slightly. Then at my next big competition, they broke clean off. I know a lot of people use Butler Creek … but I’m done with them. We just aren’t compatible.

Butler Creek Scope Cover

I remembered hearing Todd Hodnett, an authority in the long-range world, talk about some kind of scope covers on The Art of the Precision Rifle training DVDs (which are 5 star by the way). I went back, and found it and made a little video clip of what I’m talking about:

It took some creative Googling to figure out how to spell it, but it turns out he is referring to the Tenebraex Tactical Tough Scope Covers. I just installed these, but I have a feeling we’re going to get along great. They feel much less fragile. While I’m sure they’re technically some form of plastic like the Butler Creek, they feel more rubbery/malleable and less rigid/brittle.

Tenebraex Scope Covers

Keep in mind these don’t mount like typical scope covers. The objective cap will not mount to the scope without an adapter. So you actually need to buy 3 parts. Here are the specific parts I bought for my Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56:

Tenebraex Tactical Tough Scope Covers

Cerakote: Flat Black

I got the guys at Surgeon to Cerakote the barreled action and muzzle brake in flat black. I thought that would look go with the scope and mount, and also compliment the carbon fiber stock. In related news, did you know painting a Schmidt and Bender scope voids the warranty? The warranty period is only 2 years, but that was surprising (and confirmed by Schmidt and Bender representatives).

Cerakote is an extremely durable, weather- and corrosion-proof, ceramic-based protective finish that resists scratching, chipping, and abrasive cleaning solvents.  It is spray-on and ovencured.  Hardener and paint chemically bond into an ultra-thin coating that adheres to almost any surface for a clean, professional finish.  There are similar products out there, but none compare to the how tough Cerakote is. To see the difference, the results from a lab abrasion test for popular coatings are provided below (view more details).

Cerakote Taber Abrasion Test Results

Price

After I published this, several guys asked me what a rifle like this would cost. Sorry I didn’t think about adding that from the start. I honestly hadn’t added it up … probably out of fear mostly. I bought parts from different places over the past year, and it took me a while to pull all the prices into a spreadsheet. The breakdown below should include everything I highlighted in this post.

Note: All prices are as of Oct 2014 and are for informational purposes only. For the current price, please contact the individual companies. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Item Price
Surgeon Rifle Build (configured as shown, excludes buyer-supplied stock and muzzle brake)$4,400
Manners Elite Tactical Folding Stock (configured as shown)$1,294
JEC 6mm Recoil Reduction Muzzle Brake$110
Thunder Beast 30P-1 Suppressor$1,095
Armageddon Gear Suppressor Mirage Cover$70
Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 DT P4L Fine Scope$3,739
Spuhr SP-4001 Scope Mount$410
LaRue’s Harris Bipod BRM-S and LT706 QD Swivel Mount Combo$220
JEC Harris Bipod Spikes$40
Rubber Caps for Bipod Spikes$8
Tenebraex Tactical Tough Scope Covers$76
Accuracy International 10rd Magazine$88
Total (before shipping, taxes, fees, etc.)$11,550

Wowza! That is painful to see honestly. I told the first person who asked that I’d guess it was just under $10k … but that was apparently pretty optimistic! This does include the suppressor, so without it you are closer to $10,400.

Honestly, I didn’t cut any corners on this rifle. I tried to pick what I thought was the best possible part for every single component, and then I might have upgraded or modded it further if I thought it would help. I have a friend that literally has 25+ rifles, but not a single match-grade rifle that he has confidence in. On the other hand, I only own 5 rifles … but they’re outstanding. This 6XC is the crown jewel of my collection. For the first time in my life, my favorite rifle isn’t “the next one!” It’s this one.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the founder of a famous car company. It encapsulates how I feel about this rifle:

The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
– Sir Henry Royce (Co-founder of Rolls Royce)

So what do you think? What would you change to improve this rifle? Any cool new products this is missing?

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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58 comments

  1. Cal, very nice write up, exceptional rifle I am sure. Pardon me if I missed this, but did you have the mini chassis system built into the Manners stock? This is very nearly the same configuration I intend to go with for my short barrel 700, and would like to hear your thoughts on the subject (and if you wouldn’t mind sharing the retail $$$$). I’m afraid I keep getting overwhelmed with the options on the stock-builder section of their web-site.

    • Hey Clete, great questions. I didn’t use the Manner’s mini chassis system. The way I see it (and I could be wrong), the mini chassis system is a good option if you want to build a rifle yourself without much gunsmithing expertise or specialized skill/equipment. A V block chassis virtually eliminates the need to bed a stock to the action, because it self-aligns and ensures the action is supported in a consistent way. The mini chassis does add a few ounces to the overall weight, and I knew I wanted Surgeon to build the rifle … so opted to let Surgeon do traditional bedding on the stock using Marine-Tex.

      And, someone else also asked about the price. I should have included that, but honestly just haven’t added it all up yet … somewhat out of fear! I bought stuff over time, from different places … so it’s been an evolving project. I just now have it to a place where I can pretty much call it “done” … although I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak. I’ll try to work up an itemized breakdown of prices tonight, and I’ll update the post with that when I get it together.

      Thanks for the comments!
      Cal

      • Dude if you post up the costs a certain lady, who’s dining table was damaged by a spiky bi-pod, might see it. Let’s just round it to $500 and leave it there.

        Loved the article, look forward to the next.

      • Haaaaa!!! You’re exactly right. I’ve seen a T-shirt that said, “If I die, someone tell my wife what my guns are really worth.” I love it.

      • Hey Clete, I updated the post with the price breakdown. Looks like it is $11,550 if you include all the stuff I highlighted in the post.

  2. Great article. Keep them coming.

    Ted Bristol

  3. Normally my comments would be ‘ outstanding build and thanks for sharing ‘ but your work invites and deserves more considered opinions so here goes:

    1. Calibre choice – while the 6XC is an exceptional round, I would have chosen a 6.5 to take advantage of the ballistics of projectiles such as, and for example, the Lapua 139g Scenar. While terminal performance isn’t so important in a paper puncher, with BC’s being close I would choose a heavier pill to ride wind over a lighter one;
    2. The trigger choice is interesting in a rifle that may get bumped, dropped and knocked on a multi-day course of fire – I have a number of Jewel triggers ( both BR and HVR ) on rifles and while they are unsurpassed for precision and certainly not thought to be in any way ‘delicate’ they are not known to be overly robust. For this game I may have chosen a slightly lesser but more durable trigger such as the Timney 510 you already have on your 7mmRM;
    3. Magazines – in my view AICS are the best of all aftermarket magazines so clearly this was an outstanding choice 🙂 but you may find benefit in adding a 5-rounder to your kit as sometimes in positional shooting a shorter box may be preferred over the longer 10 rounder;
    4. Bipod – if there is a weak part to your build this would be it. While Harris is very good – I have nearly a dozen on various rifles – there are better bipods for a tactical rifle and the one I would recommend is from an American company called Long Range Accuracy. I recently purchased on for my PGW Coyote ( a folder that, incidentally folds towards the bolt ) and I have to say that other than being a bit wide when folded this is an exceptional addition and is simply a superior shooting platform to that offered by the Harris and its’ clones.
    5. Scope – this is the crown jewel and could not have been bettered. I have S+B Pmii in the 12-50×56 flavour for my F-Open rig and the glass and features are the best. Simply put, if one can buy S+B then one should. As an aside though, I recently purchased the Bushnell 3.5-21×50 DMR based upon your review as, clearly, if one cannot afford the S+B price tag the Bushnell DMR represents excellent value;
    6. Suppressor – as you may know, sound moderation devices are banned in Canada – largely because of the mis-perception caused by film and TV so reading this section made me jealous and also made me dislike Hollywood even more LOL !

    My comments notwithstanding, all that remains for me to say is that is a great build and you run an outstanding blog – Well Done !

    Bob

    • Wow, Bob. Thanks for the great feedback, and all the thought you put into this. I’ll try to give a quick response to a few of them.

      1. Caliber Choice – I’m not sure what 6.5mm cartridge you’re shooting, but if it’s a similar mid-size cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor, there actually isn’t a ballistic advantage … at least not looking at the cartridges setup in similar barrel lengths and safe loading pressures. If anything, the 6XC seems to have an advantage. I have a friend who shoots 6.5 Creedmoor, so I have all of his actual muzzle velocities (hundreds of shots recorded with an Oheler 35p). He has had a few barrel lengths, and I’ve posted some of that data. I calculated the ballistics between the 6XC with the Berger 105gr Hybrid and the muzzle velocities I’m experiencing from my 24″ barrel with a 6.5 Creedmoor with the Lapua 139gr Scenar you mentioned at a muzzle velocity of 2840 fps, which would be between the 26″ and 22″ velocities my friend has recorded. You can see the comparison below. The upside of the 6.5 Creedmoor over the 6XC is extended barrel life. The 6.5 Creedmoor has about 3,750 rounds of accuracy barrel life, but the 6XC only has 2,500-3,000. That slight ballistic advantage always comes with a price. I thought about a 6.5 Creedmoor VERY serious, because of the $1.20 per round match grade ammo you can buy from Hornady (which features SD’s in the 9-12 fps range … not bad). But eventually I decided I was okay with the shorter barrel life, because of the improved ballistics.
        6XC and 6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics
        If I missed something here, please correct me. I sure might have.
      2. Trigger – You could be right … I’ve heard similar experiences, and that is exactly why I chose the Timney 510 for my 7mm Rem Mag, like you mentioned. I use that rifle hunting for mule deer in the sand dunes, and I didn’t like the open ports in the bottom of the Jewell trigger for that environment. I’ve heard a little sand can stop a Jewell. I do carry lighter fluid in my pack during competitions, which can remedy a lot of trigger problems. Honestly, I wanted to try a Jewell just to see what the fuss is about. This is my first one. I guess I’ll keep it until it burns me!
      3. Magazines – Yep, AI mags are the way to go. I’ve tried a few others … and they weren’t the way to go. AI mags are expensive, but I’ll learned that I actually want to pay $80 for a mag … because I know what happens when you buy a cheaper one! I actually have a couple 5 round AI mags (shown in the 4th photo in the post) … I just ALWAYS reach for the 10 round mag. It really doesn’t add any inconvenience for me, and most comps I’m in involve 6-7 target stages. But even if it is a 5 target stage, I always load 1-2 rounds more than I’ll actually need in case I have a malfunction and need to run the bolt. I’ve seen too many guys just load what they need and end up running back to their pack while on the clock. Who needs that added stress? David Tubb always said “Come to line prepared,” and this is part of it. So I may have just got used to the 10 round, but I typically leave the 5 rd mags in the range bag.
      4. Bipod – Thanks for the tip! I heard about those bipods recently, but I have no experience with them. It’s good to hear someone’s review. I’ll have to check them out! I would like to run an Atlas at some point too, because I don’t have any experience with those either. I can’t say anything bad about the Harris … just the only one I’ve had good experience with so far. Be hard to toss a $300 bipod though!
      5. Scope – Couldn’t agree more.
      6. Suppressor – All the more reason to move south, right?! Okay, Canada might have a little better scenery than the Texas desert. You should see our dirt storms! The pic below is just 1 mile from my range. Look at Wikipedia’s page on “Haboob”.
        A haboob moves across the Llano Estacado toward Yellow House Canyon, near the residential community of Ransom Canyon, Texas (18 June 2009)

      Thanks again for taking time to leave some great feedback. I appreciate your thoughts, and I’ll seriously have to check into that bipod.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. So how does it shoot? What would you do different if you were to do it again?

    • I LOVE it! I honestly don’t know of a single thing I’d change at this point. I did already tweak a few things before the post, like the bipod attachment, bipod feet, and scope covers. I’m sure that will continue over time. I do like to tinker and experiment with different things and new products. But, I honestly believe there isn’t a better choice out there for any of parts … at least that I know of … today. So for me, this is my ultimate dream rifle.

      I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to do load development with it, because I’ve been working on the scope field test. How painful do you think that was?! This rifle was really just sitting in my safe for 2-3 months as I was trying to get all that data published! If anyone ever wonders if I’m really committed to my readers … that should prove it! It almost killed me. My average 5 shot group is around 0.3 MOA at this point. That is with very, very little effort on load development. I think I’ll get that down. The SD of my ammo is 9-15 fps at this point, which isn’t great. With a little more tweaking and attention to detail, I hope to shrink that to 0.2 MOA … maybe better. Of course, it already rings a lot of steel. It’s already accurate enough that any misses are my fault, not the rifle. But if you shrink the group, you’re effectively increasing the shooter’s margin of error … and I need a lot of margin!

      As far as the balance of the rifle, and how it feels behind the gun … couldn’t be more pleased. This rifle and cartridge combined with the JEC muzzle brake is AWESOME!!! The sight picture literally doesn’t change when you fire a round. That makes it easy to spot shots, even on close targets. I have been shooting a magnum rifle in competitions before, and I didn’t realize how much being able to spot the shot matters. I can essentially see if I hit the left 1/3 of the plate of a shorter target and correct a bad wind call before I miss a longer target. I didn’t realize how much not being able to spot shots was handicapping me before.

      • Sounds like a fantastic rifle, I’m very jealous. Looking at building a .300win mag for longer range Tahr and Chamois (yes, I’m from NZ) hunting based on the same principle of surgeon and krieger.
        Interesting that you say you have .3moa accuracy out of your rifle. I recently bought a Remington 700 varmint .308. It has the factory Hogue stock – the only ‘modifications’ are a suppressor (which you can buy from any gun shop) and a Konus m30 scope. Following some load development I was able to shoot a .33moa group at 100meters. Following this I took the rifle out into the hills and set up on a 650 meter target achieving first round hits consistently on a 15x15cm rock. Do you think I just got incredibly lucky with an (effectively) off the shelf 700 or is this a normal occurrence with Remington? Cheers for the awesome post by the way, made some great reading!!

      • Hey, Ben. Thanks for the compliments on the rifle. I love it. And I’ve been able to get a lot better groups than that on occasion. That may have more to do with what I’m able to hold and less about what the rifle is capable of. This past week I shot a group with it that measured 0.11 MOA!

        6XC Group

        I had another group that measured just under 0.20 MOA. I think my average for the day was probably just over that. I was shooting better than normal that day.

        And, I am going to say you probably did get lucky on the Rem 700. I’ve never experienced anything that accurate out of the box from any factory rifle. So congrats! You won the lottery! 😉 If it was a normal occurrence, I’d have a lot more Remingtons!

        Good luck with your build. I do love this rifle. For the first time in my life, my favorite rifle isn’t “the next one.”

        Thanks,
        Cal

  5. Very nice, detailed article, and nice rifle.

    • Thanks man, that means a lot coming from you. I appreciate it. I’ve liked the positional shooting articles and prone analysis you’ve been cranking out lately. Good stuff.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. This is the method that we used in Australia to build tactical rifles several years ago. But the more matches we shot, and the more positional shooting we did, the more we found that the rifle was “bipod benchrest” and not versatile enough across multiple stress positions and forced timings.

    This has caused us to rethink our approach. I did a lot of research into weight and barrel length and looked at what worked well in the past, and therefore could be improved. Benchmark weight is the Steyr SSG. And the thinking behind the XM-3 by Chandler is quite useful too.

    The key test now is, can you shoot a string comfortable offhand without the weight of the rifle adversely affecting your result. Second test is – can you shoot comfortably and therefore accurately from the Hawkins and Prone Sling. Finally, if you want to be hard core, can you do a belly stalk with your rifle comfortably. (The repetition of the word “comfort” is deliberate here.)

    Current competition rifle is therefore a SA Rem 700 in an AICS with an 18.5 inch barrel chambered for 6.5 Swede and using 123 grain Lapua. Noteworthy too the 139s can be seated deep to fit in the SA magazine.

    When conditions are tricky, which is most of the time here, the 6.5 is the go to calibre for us. My ideal rifle is in 6.5 x 47 but the barrel is too long and heavy to shoot across an intense and complicated (i.e. not Prone Supported) CoF.

    • Outstanding feedback. You’re exactly right. I have carried this rifle in a 3 day match, where you walked around 5 miles per day in some tough terrain. But … while I do shoot off sticks and other improvised shooting positions, most of my shooting is from prone. I’ve been able to watch several veteran shooters in competitions find ways to work themselves into an improvised prone position. On one times stage one guy rushed to stack some wood up, then put his pack on top of that, and a bag on top of that like firewood, and was able to lay down on a big rock behind it and stretch out to the other stuff for a front support. He cleaned the stage (i.e. 6 hits in 6 shots on 6 targets), with a few seconds to spare. While I on the other hand, tried to shoot it off sticks and dropped a couple targets. The position might not be comfortable or sustainable long-term, but my first thought at every stage or even in a hunt is: “Is there any possible way I can shoot this prone? Can I use anything around to get me up high enough? Is there anywhere flat enough to lay down?” Sometimes the answer is no, but I’ve learned if you spend time trying to get prone it will increase his score. Now don’t tell anybody that, because now they’ll beat me!

      Of course, I hear your point. I have taken standing shots with this rifle, but mostly off sticks … rarely offhand. And it is a bit of a bear offhand. My 7mm Rem Mag is designed for the field conditions you’re talking about. I think its around 5 pounds lighter, after I recently chopped the barrel down a few inches. It has a lighter profile barrel, and a more streamlined, simple stock. I designed it with hunting in mind, and have used it to take some big animals. I could belly stalk with it … ask me how I know! With this rifle, I really wanted something that was really comfortable to shoot from prone. Kind of a fat and sassy Cadillac, instead of a sporty but rough-riding Mustang. “Bipod benchrest” might actually be a good description of that. 80% of my shots are taken from prone with this rifle.

      Having said all that … here is a photo I took of a very talented shooter I saw at the PRS Championship Match weekend before last. He had asked to try out Wade Stuteville’s rifle, and I believe he hit relatively small targets at 600 yards and very close to hitting some further than that. Wade’s rifle was VERY similar to this one, exception the barrel was 2 inches longer and it wasn’t a carbon fiber stock! So it can be done with this rifle. I’m not saying I can do it. I’m not in near as good of shape as this guy, or as good of a marksman honestly. But it can be done. I saw it, and even got a picture of it.

      Offhand Shots at 2014 PRS Championship Match

      What is the weight of the competition rifle you mentioned fully loaded (i.e. including magazine, bipod, scope, mount, etc)? The 6.5 Swede is an awesome cartridge. It’s funny how the old is new again! Here in the US people abandoned the 6.5 for a while. Now these cartridges are all the rage, and are pretty similar to the 6.5 Swede. You like that setup? Anything you’d change?

      • The 6.5 Swede is still heavy but with Atlas bipod and scope is closer to 15lbs (unlike the 18 odd lbs of the 6.5 x 47). Ergonomically, the short barrel and AI stock makes it point and shoot quickly and easily.

        Would I change anything on the Swede – no because I have worked hard to change from having a belly bipod mindset to hits on and centre mass with my Tactical rifles. They are stripped down to functional units now!

        I would like to look at a SSG 69 in 6.5 x 47 and see how that runs. A bare SSG 69 runs at about 9lbs and gives some wriggle room.

      • Cal:

        I was interested in the position and especially the use of a long magazine as a palm rest. To the best of my knowledge no custom stocks have an adjustable palm rest. If you have short arms compared to your torso, i.e. a low ape index, then impossible to rest support arm on hip bone. Overall gentleman used a target shooters standing position. I would very much like to know what Accuracy MOA and SD MOA that gentleman was able to obtain.

        Rick

      • Hey, Rick. Most guys I see shooting offhand use an AI mag as the palm rest. And you’re right, I don’t know any stocks with an adjustable palm rest. Honestly, there are not many shots taken standing off-hand in the precision rifle world. It’s less than 1 in 100. This sport is very different from high-power. There are some competitions that may mix in 1 shot off-hand out of 200 shots in the whole match, but most matches don’t require any standing off-hand shots.

        I’ve been in a couple competitions with offhand shots, and I believe the targets for a standing offhand shot were around 4-5 MOA. I watched the guy in the photo hit steel … but we didn’t gather any of the stats you’re asking about. I couldn’t even tell you the exact size of the targets he was hitting. I’d bet the wobble of even the best shooters would be over 2 MOA. When their wobble gets to that level, most start to use various techniques of sweeping a target. They “wave” the rifle in a defined pattern and pull the trigger as their crosshairs start to enter the center of the target. It definitely is something that is easier said than done. It just takes a lot of practice.

        From your comments on the other posts, it sounds like you’re mostly interested in off-hand standing stuff. I’d say if you’re looking to get good in the precision rifle world … I wouldn’t spend too much of my time practicing standing off-hand. It really isn’t a common shot in our style of competitions … nor in the real-world in long-range hunting or tactical scenarios. It’d be like a college basketball player practicing that last minute hail marry shot from the opposite end of the court … instead of practicing free throws.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  7. Extremely enviable build and great write up. I would like to hear about your experiences of growing into the rifle; load development; accuracy and precision; and if, now that you have some time behind the rifle, what you would change and what you would absolutely insist remain the same.

    Thank you for article

    • Well, I’ve really only done some quick and dirty load development at this point … because ALL my spare time has been going to the scope field test and getting all that data published. So this fine rifle has been sitting patiently in my safe for the past 2-3 months, which almost killed me!

      I have used it in a couple competitions, and have shoot long-range a few times with it. At this point I love every single detail of it, and honestly don’t think there is a better option for any single part … at least based on what I know about today.

      With very little effort in load development, I’m averaging groups around 0.3 MOA … but I bet I can shrink that considerably with a little time and effort. I’ll probably write up some additional content as I do more detailed load development, similar to the load development series I did for my 7mm Rem Mag. So I’ll keep you posted.

      I appreciate your feedback,
      Cal

  8. CAl – thanks for pointing out the ballistics 6xc vs 6.5 Creedmoor – yes, it was that cartridge that I had in mind as well as the .260 Remington. I was focusing on the heavier bullet and in particular the 139 Lapua Scenar and also considering barrel life. Looks like you thought that all through though before commissioning the build.

  9. Great article!

    You just built the rifle I envisioned in my head without me knowing it’s what was in my head….I think that makes sense…and probably saved me even more reading.

    I recently started looking into long range and after reading, and more reading, decided on the 6xc. Then more reading I came to find out Surgeon Rifles are homegrown boys as I live about an hour north of Prague in Stillwater Oklahoma.

    Anywho, very nice gun and article. Thanks!

    • Wow, then you are near a lot of outstanding shooters. I’ve started crunching the data for this years PRS finale, and I noticed more shooters qualified from Oklahoma than any other state. Yes, even more than Texas. I’ve met a few outstanding marksmen from OK.

      It’s crazy they were born in such a tiny town. When you drive by their shop in Prague you’d completely miss it if you weren’t careful. Very inconspicuous little shop, but OUTSTANDING products. They’ve moved some of the operations out to Arizona recently. I’ve heard the rifles are built in AZ, but the actions are still made in Prague. I’m not sure how trustworthy that is, but just what I’ve heard.

      Let me know how you like your build when you get it. I’d be glad to share any load data or lessons learned.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • In the mid nineties I actually used to deer hunt and fish on a buddies parents land in Payden which is the town, if you could even call it that, directly to the east of Prague. We bought fish bait at the shell station as you came into Prague from I40 and got grub at the Sonic at the intersection in town.

        Needless to say when I saw they were in Prague my first response was “where!?, there’s nothing in Prague”.

        Yeah if you look at their website it says Prague, but if you go to the custom gun part, it has an Arizona, I believe Phoenix area, number.

  10. as I read through the article, the part where the scope cap was broken when you tried to quickly change to a lower magnification, I thought: “what if you had the MGM Switchview™ Magnification Adjustment Throw Lever (Model 1650SV)” you could have avoid that from happened.

    also, if I have a chance to purchase a used Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 for $500-$800 less than retail price, would you recommend go for it?

    • ABSOLUTELY!!! Talked to a rep from S&B today. He owns 9 of those personally. Zero 3-20, Zero 3-27 … Nine 5-25. He could have any of them. But the 5-25 is special. I have to agree. It’s amazing.

  11. I’ve been reading on your posts and have been very impressed. I also have an engineering background and appreciate all the effort and research you have performed and your willingness to share this with us. I recently purchased a surgeon scalpel rifle chambered in 6XC and have been very impressed. I mounted a S&B 5-25 PMII in the P4F reticle on it prior to the completion of your series and was glad to see the results. This is my first precision rifle as well as first time reloading and I look forward to seeing what your load development reveals. I too went with Berger 105 Hybrids. I have Norma 6XC brass and am using H4350 powder and settled on 38.6 grains after performing a ladder test at 200 yards. My group with this was around 0.75″ at that range. I ended up finding that a 0.005″ jump worked best and shrunk the group to 0.6″. I decided to coat the bullets using HBN and am curious if you have feelings about coating bullets based on your research and if you use this or not? I do not have a chrono yet so am unsure of my velocities but am planning to get one at some point. I have a Kreiger MTU barrel in 1:7.5 twist and 26″ length. My rifle came with the McMillan A5 stock and a Jewel trigger. I have never shot another rifle of this quality so I do not have anything else to compare too but have been very pleased. Again, thank you for your time and willingness to share.

    PJ

    • Wow. We have VERY similar rifles. Like we’re almost long lost brothers or something! 😉

      I used to coat bullets and one of my extremely OCD friends did too. He actually has been able to achieve ammo in his 6.5×47 Lapua with SD’s of 3fps. I’ve seen him do that multiple times with 10 shot strings over an Oheler 35p. It’s crazy. He couldn’t do that when he was HBN coating bullets. He tried it without and it instantly shrunk his SD. So I quit using them as well, based on that.

      On a side-note, he’s also able to produce 338 Lapua ammo with a 3fps SD! I didn’t even think that was possible for a magnum, but it is. He uses pharmaceutical scales and bunch of other specialized equipment. He’s writing a loading book right now, and I’ll link to that once it’s published (and buy a copy myself!).

  12. That’s interesting. I am not surprised as I think that coating the bullets has to alter your bullet weight as it doesn’t seem like it is super consistent. What was your experience with the claim that the cold bore shot would no longer give a significantly different then those with a hot barrel? Also, did you feel there was any substance to the claim that barrel life was significantly longer? I was never able to find any very good scientific evidence that these claims were true. I had spent a significant amount of time researching calibers and scopes as my most recent purchase of my rifle and scope were expensive and I am still poor. After getting a Master’s degree in bioengineering I went on to go to medical school and am in the middle of surgical residency so eventually I hope to be able to afford other builds. Your blog has been awesome to read and has confirmed a lot of the impressions I had when deciding on what to build! The runner up was a 6.5 x 47 Lapua one of which one of my friends is in the process of building. I have always been a big 22-250 fan growing up shooting varmints so I felt partial to the 6XC given it’s history. Again great work on your blog and thank you so much for sharing this to the community. It’s a huge resource and I am really impressed that you have done all this without financial support from the factories. I look forward to your future posts.

    • PJ you might be right about the coating consistency. I bought some loaded 6XC ammo from David Tubb, and those bullets were coated. They looked more even than the DIY HBN coating I put on my bullets, but the SDs were still high. I fired 3 10-shot strings over an Oehler 35p, and the SDs of those strings ranged from 11-18fps. I really prefer to see those in the single digits for precision work.

      I personally haven’t seen a lot of shift from cold bore shots, with or without HBN coatings. I know some guys do, and maybe I just haven’t paid enough attention or can’t shoot well enough to tell! I think barrel contour has something to do with that, but especially with this monster MTU barrel, the first shot goes into the same group as subsequent shots.

      HBN coating absolutely does reduce barrel friction, which is why your muzzle velocity drops with the same exact powder charge using coated bullets versus naked bullets. Barrel friction is one of several things that cause barrel erosion, so theoretically it could improve barrel life. There have even been some studies done that have actually shown that to be true. I wrote a post that breaks down the factors that effect barrel life that you might be interested in. It talks about bullet coating specifically, and highlights some of the results from the studies I’m aware of.

      http://precisionrifleblog.com/2012/07/09/practical-tips-to-extend-barrel-life/

      Thanks for the comments! Great questions.

      Cal

  13. Cal-
    I probably should have typed this (reply/comment) on the last post, but- Since the two are interconnected to a degree or two, I will just try to be the first here. 🙂

    First off- Thank you for the time and sacrifices you have made, to generate these amazingly posts.
    I came across your website around 3 months ago, looking for 7mm load data. When I clicked on this website, I knew rather quickly, that it was going to become a place I would spend A LOT of time!!!
    I love the data driven and scientific approach, and while I understand being “bias” is near impossible, I think you have come as close as anyone, I have found thus far. I actually put PRB.com,on my desktop, and basically use it as my “Google Search Engine”, for all information related to Precision shooting and Marksmanship.

    OK, there is my “fan-boy” introduction describing how appreciative I am, of your Blog. 🙂
    So, now for the Questions???
    Did it ever gain any serious consideration from your mind, to go with the ‘TK2’ in the 6XC, and put yourself up against D.T.? I mean, you could have taken the gun he helped design, along with the cartridge he helped/or invented, and tried to compete and beat him! I think that rifle is now being produced by a company down the street here in Phoenix, known as McMillianusa, under the name ‘Alias’. I’ll look into that this week, perhaps the availability was lacking at the time you decided to start putting all the pieces together. Your choice was still Awesome.

    Have you ever had a chance to get some time on a ‘Huber Concepts’ two-stage trigger?
    I would think that all the math and thought that went into that design, would be right up your alley!
    I’m currently working on getting the list of components squared away, for a “Back Country/ Backpack deer rifle” with Precision and Pack ability as the Main Goals. Heavily leaning toward the 6.5 Creedmoor, for a little more terminal performance and bullet choices.
    Perhaps in the future, you could ask some of these “pro competition shooters” what caliber they would go with, for a Mid-Sized game rifle? I wonder if many of them would say 6.5 in that application?!?!

    Anyways, thanks again for all the info. and the “ancillary” links that you provide in your posts. I have been Fully entertained reading your posts, and clicking on the COUNTLESS links that you provide for further research.
    IN the event, that you have not had much time (if any) on looking into the ‘Huber Concepts’ trigger, here is a link, to a guy on YouTube.com that I enjoy watching. He is knowledgeable, and seems to try to stay “bias” like yourself.

    Look forward to reading upcoming posts!

    Best of luck and preparation in upcoming shooting competitions, and hopefully Fall Hunting. 🙂

    Jeff M. Valunas

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPAWMKSdkLc

    • Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. I’m glad you find this content helpful.

      I did think about a Tubb 2000 rifle. That just makes sense for a 6XC, right? Ultimately, I guess I wanted a complete custom. I also wanted to try out a Surgeon action. I did look at the Alias at SHOT this year. McMillan Firearms makes it, which is owned by the same company that bought Surgeon Rifles a year or two ago. The Alias looks awesome. They’ve kind of morphed it into a modular rifle platform with a few purposes in mind. It isn’t exactly the same rifle Tubb created, but it is very cool … maybe cooler. I went to a high power match at Raton last month, and several were using Tubb rifles and doing VERY well with them. And one of the top 50 shooters in the PRS was using a Tubb gun. I’m sure its awesome … I just didn’t go for it. And, honestly … David Tubb could smoke me in a competition. While I may be good at writing about rifles, David is WAAAAYYYY better at actually shooting rifles. 😉

      I haven’t heard of a Huber trigger, but I guess I should look into it. I’m not a huge fan of a two stage trigger though … at least based on the ones I’ve experienced so far.

      I’m not sure the pros would have much input on the hunting side of the things. Some might be into it, but there might be a lot that just do the competition thing. I’m a big hunter. I personally love the 7mm Rem Mag (or 7mm WSM) for whitetail, mule deer, or elk sized game. There is no such thing as overkill, and it has outstanding ballistics (external and terminal). There are VERY high BC bullets for the 7mm, especially when you look at the BC to weight ratio.

      For deer, I think you should ethically have at least 1,000 ft/lbs of energy for deer (1,200 ft/lbs for elk). That puts the ethical lethal range of the 6.5 Creedmoor for deer at 700 yards, which is probably beyond what most people should shoot without practicing a whole lot. You should be able to put 10 shots inside a 10″ target under a variety of conditions to ethically take a shot at an animal. Some guys might only be able to do that at 300 yards, for others that might be 1,000. But the 6.5’s lethal range on deer of 700 yards is probably enough to not be the limiting factor for most. I personally can’t see myself taking a shot beyond that, unless it was absolutely ideal conditions and the range was known. My 7mm Rem Mag carries 1000 ft/lbs of energy all the way to 1100 yards. So the rifle is never the limiting factor … its always my own ability. I like it that way. And the 7mm Rem Mag should always have more energy than what is really required. But something can’t be too dead. I hate wounding animals. Can a car be too fast? Its like that.

      Thanks again for the encouragement.

      Cal

      • A stray finger/”flier”, lost a detailed response… I’ll sleep on it, and hopefully come up with something more educational. I was using 800 ft/lbs, as a MINIMAL Terminal performance; However, it should be noted that- I was mainly thinking of Coues’ Deer and Desert Mule Deer, which are Very light skinned, as apposed to Rocky Mountain Mule Deer or Elk. I DIDN’T mention that above, so you would not have known that! And (might) have agreed or presented your opinion differently. I also have put a limit on range of a big game animal at 600 meters. This is “self-imposed”, until further precision can be made at longer distances, with near 100% accuracy in ALL conditions. I PREFER, finding a way, to be within’ 350 meters!!!

        As for the line you ended with above- …’ Can a car be too fast? Its like that. ‘…

        I Personally believe a car can be to fast, in the WRONG hands/driver!!!

        Anything moving faster than a human can walk, is WRONG, being operated by someone NOT paying attention to ALL the factors and details. Those that, (TEXT, talk, eat, put make-up on, change radio stations and are intoxicated to some capacity), ARE IN A CAR, moving to FAST!!!

        But- WE are talking about Precision Rifle Shooting… It should be understood, that we are paying attention to every factor, to the best of our knowledge… Which makes the “analogy”, hard to grasp!

        Maybe a better line, would have been… Velocity vs. BC… ??? Somewhere, in one of the links you have posted on your posts, links to a statement about that…

        I believe the line was… “Velocity is like a new car taken off the lot… It depreciates immediately. Ballistic Coefficient, is like a diamond… It lasts Forever”.

        It might have been D.T., I can’t recall atm.

        Still, thanks again, and hopefully I contributed in a small way, with that video.
        I don’t have that trigger yet, but it was HIGH on the list, along with the 6.5 Creedmoor. 🙂

        Thanks-
        JMV

      • I’m a big desert mule deer guy. Here’s a pic of the buck I took this past year. One has been spotted on the property this year bumping 200 gross. Pretty excited about that.

        Cal Zant's 2013 Mule Deer

        I personally prefer to have 1,000 ft/lbs. for any deer, but there is A LOT of debate around that and you definitely aren’t “wrong” for setting that bar at 800. There are MANY factors that play into it beyond just energy, and some could even be more important (like bullet design, impact velocity, and terminal performance). The 1,000 ft/lbs is simply a rule of thumb, and you can certainly kill them with less. In fact, you can kill them with a 22 if you place the shot right. But especially for longer range shots, I want to ensure I have more than enough stopping power. I get depressed and sometimes physically sick if I lose a wounded animal. I almost stopped hunting all together on the last one. So I may have just become overly sensitive on that front. Honestly people that quote figures like that like it is an unquestionable law are ridiculous. That’s not me.

        One a related note, have you tried the Nosler Accubond Long Range bullets? Its a series of bullets have amazingly high BC’s and the proven terminal performance of an Accubond. I have a friend that set up an Oehler chronograph at the muzzle and downrange at 800 yards, and he verified the BC they advertised was correct. He figured it could be overly optimistic marketing hype, so he tested it out. He tested the 7mm 168gr bullet, but they make a 6.5mm 129gr bullet that I’d expect to be an excellent hunting bullet.

        I like the quote about BC vs velocity: “Velocity is like a new car taken off the lot… It depreciates immediately. Ballistic Coefficient, is like a diamond… It lasts Forever.” I don’t think I wrote that, but my wife would tell you I have a TERRIBLE memory, so it could have been.

        Thanks for the comments.
        Cal

  14. Cal-
    Sweet deer! And I have heard of the Nosler ABLR’s, in fact I am on the “notify me” list at MidwayUsa.com It won’t happen this year, but hopefully by next Fall Hunting season, I can get my hands on some of those. I love my 7mm Rem. Mag, but other than the stock it is STOCK! Rather than dumping all sorts of money into that, starting with a (chamber blue-print), I thought it would be wiser to just start from scratch and go with the 6.5 Creedmoor as my “go to gun” for Desert Deer hunting. That 7mm is quite accurate as is- I must have been one of the “lucky ones”, in that regard… Maybe it was one of the first made after a re-calibrated chamber reamer, or barrel grooving!?!? Thanks for the info. on those Noslers being accurate BC’s. I was leaning toward the 175 gr. which have Amazing BC’s. That gun could then be used for Rocky Mountain Mule deer and Elk…(should I ever draw a tag, 15 yrs. without ever being drawn yet, in AZ).

    After thinking a little harder, I think that line I used above…”BC vs. Velocity”, may have actually came from one of Brian Litzs’ published papers, and he was pulling it from someone named Germann, I think?!? He references someone named that/or close to that, but I can’t seem to remember the “maze” of links to get to it.

    Anyways, regardless of ANY of these cartridges, (7mm Rem. Mag., 6.5 Creedmoor, or 6XC), they are ALL AMAZING cartridges. Each has a place and application, with some “over-lap”. Thankfully, bullet makers are coming out some amazing bullets in all of these!
    Someday, my collection will include ALL of these!!!

    Thanks for the correspondence, and Thanks Again for all you have created here!
    I have some deer hunts coming up soon. Hopefully, I can share some pictures.

    Be Well-
    JMV

  15. Cal-
    Thanks for this article and for the rest of your blog (especially the scope tests). I have found it very useful and unusually thorough.

    I would love to know your opinion on a few related pieces of kit that you haven’t mentioned yet:

    1. Throw-levers for the scopes. I have never used one, but they seem to be fairly popular. I am concerned that I might too easily over torque the ring on the scope and damage it, but it seems that it would really help for those times in winter when I’m handling it with thick gloves on. What’s your experience?

    2. I’m curious what laser range finder you use with this? I like to carry a small pocket one, but it sure gets hard to hold steady enough for ~1000yd targets. What’s your solution?

    3. In one of your pages you mentioned that Larue was well represented amoungst scope mounts used by the best shooters. In your experience, are the good quick-detach mounts (not just Larue, but Larue, Bobro, etc) able to return to zero well enough that they are competitive with the bolt on mounts like the Spuhr you used? I know switching optics isn’t that important for many, but I would like to swap between a NV scope for hogs and day scope for everything else including 1000yd competitions without re-sighting -is it possible?

    Keep up the great work.
    Martin

    • Hey Martin, thanks for the encouragement. I’m glad you’ve found the info helpful. I’ll do my best to address your questions:

      1. I’ve yet to use one, but I’ve thought about it. I was actually looking at some last week. I’ve been hesitant to order one for the same reason that I don’t like hanging a bubble level off my scope. I’m afraid I might accidentally hit it on something or it would get hung up and simply become a lever that applies mechanical force on the scope. Plus I don’t really fumble around dialing magnification right now, so I’m not sure what problem I’m trying to solve. Sometimes you just have to try something to understand what you were missing!

      2. I use a Leica Geovid HD-B. It’s amazing. I did a rangefinder field test several months ago, and all that data is published. It was designed to answer that exact question! http://precisionrifleblog.com/2013/12/03/rangefinder-binoculars-reviews-field-tests-overall-results-summary/

      3. I remember Todd Hodnett, one of the premiere long-range rifle trainers in the world, said he conducted an experiment with the LaRue quick detach mount. He essentially fired 100 rounds through a rifle, and took the scope off the rifle between each shot. At the end of 100 shots, he said there was a hole in the paper that matched what that rifle was capable of shooting. That means there was absolutely zero error introduced by the mount. You do have to ensure you apply forward force as you tighten down the mount. That ensures it won’t shift during recoil (the mount always wants to slide forward under recoil). But if you do that, Todd said it should be extremely repeatable.

      Great questions!

      Thanks again,
      Cal

  16. Hi Cal,

    I didn’t see it listed, but I’m curious to know what twist rate you ended up going with and bore diameter. Great article overall. You give a great in-depth reasoning of each component. I really enjoyed reading it.

    ~Rick

    • That’s a great question. I should have included that in the post. I went with a 1:7.5 twist. I don’t plan to use any bullets under 105gr, and I typically subscribe to Todd Hodnett’s approach of leaning towards faster twist rates. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote in the 2013 edition of SNIPER magazine titled The Future of Twist Rates:

      More twist rate in the barrel imparts more spin on the bullet, thus more gyroscopic stability is retained through supersonic and into subsonic flight. What we lose in subsonic flight is the loss of BC due to the loss of gyroscopic stability, which allows more oscillation, which is basically more drag, which is loss of BC. If we spin the bullet faster to fight off the effects of transonic shockwaves, we retain more gyroscopic stability, which allows us to retain more BC farther downrange. This results in better groups and less holds at distance.

      We spend a lot of money on better bullets, but as we are running slow twist, we may never see the real benefit of what these bullets have to offer. For those few who are willing to step out of the comfort zone of the past, I see great things for long range when we start really optimizing our twist rates with our wonderful new high-BC bullets. The plus side is that our older-design bullets will give us better performance as well.

      Thought: What if we shot bigger bullets with higher BCs and faster twist rates to maximize performance- and were able to get even more performance, but with lower velocities, which would extend our barrel life? Is this a wish or a reality? – Todd Hodnett

      Now Bryan Litz did tell me personally that the 1:8 twist rate would be ideal for the Berger 105 grain Hybrid bullets that I was planning to use. He knows that because he shoots those himself out of his 243 Win, which has virtually identical ballistics. So I did go against his recommendation a little on this. But only after talking to Dustin Morris, the 2013 Precision Rifle Series Champion, who also runs a 6XC, and he told me he runs a 1:7.5 twist barrel. So that is what I ended up going with.

      The only downside of a faster twist is that you get more spin drift, but that is a deterministic factor that you can calculate before you ever lay down behind the rifle. So that isn’t a huge deal to me, but is worth mentioning.

      As far as the bore diameter, I actually didn’t realize there were different options for the 6mm barrel until you asked me. It looks like other calibers, like 6.5mm and 7mm, just have a standard bore diameter, but Krieger offers a choice of .236″ or .237″ bore diameter on their 6mm barrels. I honestly couldn’t tell you which one I have. Surgeon had Krieger 5-R MTU barrels in stock and actually already had one chambered in 6XC … so I went with that barrel instead of ordering my own. So I’m afraid I can’t be much help on that one.

      Great question!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  17. What does your complete custom build weigh loaded? Thanks

    • Great question! Believe it or not, I hadn’t even weighed it before … so I was interested to know myself. Just went out to the shop and weighed it, and tips the scales just under 18 pounds (287.6 ounces to be exact). That is weighed exactly as the rifle is shown in that first photo, including an empty AI 10 round magazine, all the butt spacers, bipod, and the JEC Muzzle Brake (no suppressor). I’ve carried it in a couple competitions, including the 3 day Steel Safari match where you have to hike 3-5 miles per day in rough terrain, and I never regretted the weight. It’s a heavy rifle, but a shooter!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  18. Cal,

    Thanks so much for your work. You’ve really opened my eyes to the world of precision shooting. I am very green but I have enjoyed all the resources your site has to offer. Curious if you have had a chance to put your hands on an Atlas and/or have any regret about the Harris? I am trying to make a decision and don’t want to waste any time with having to sell or exchange something. Thanks for the help!

    • Thanks, Ken. Glad you find this helpful. Helping new guys like you get into this sport is the #1 reason I started the website years ago. Glad it’s making a difference.

      I have played around with an Atlas, and still prefer the Harris for my use. I like how simple it is and quick to deploy. With one hand, you can easily slap the legs down quickly and flop them back up out of the way quickly. I never feel limited by my Harris, and it just always works. Some guys love the Atlas, but I still prefer my customized Harris bipod at this point.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  19. Hi Cal, I was wondering if you would mind sharing a little more info on your reloading techniques for this rifle. Specifically, what dies do you use? How do you resize your cases? (i.e. just neck, bump shoulder + neck etc and if so what bushing/tension? I am currently reloading mine with norma xc brass, H4350 powder (38.6 gr), fedral 210 primers, berger 105 hybrid bullets seated 0.005″ from lands. Groups are decent but looking for more. I have been fully resizing using forester competition die set…. Thanks for your time and all you do!!!

  20. Just one quick question from a “regular guy.”
    How do you afford this?

    • Ha! Good question. Hard work and savings.

      • Hey, Cal. It’s been about a year since the build was finished. How many rounds do you have on this barrel and what does barrel life look like? I either need to pick up some more 6 Creed brass and a new barrel or I could make a switch. I’m only getting about 1,200 rounds on current barrels, so I’m interested to see what you are getting on the 6XC.

        Thanks!

      • Great question, Josh. I have 1800 rounds on the barrel, and I plan to run it this weekend at a match (probably push it over 2,000 rounds total there) and maybe one more little get together with some guys at the range this month. I already have it scheduled to be rebarreled in October. I have a good friend that shot a 6XC in PRS competitons this year, and his opened up at 1800 rounds. I am still firing groups in the 1’s and 2’s at 1800 rounds (by that, I mean my 3-shot group size at 100 yards averages 0.1 to 0.29 MOA). I fired the smallest group I’d ever shot with this rifle about a month ago, at 0.11 MOA. Honestly, I think that’s about as good as I can hold. The rifle might be able to shoot better than that!

        While my groups are still tight, my velocity has started to trail off. I’m not one of those guys who contains to add a couple kernels to keep it at that same velocity. At some point, you can get into dangerous pressure issues by doing that. I’m still using the same powder charge weight I started with. At first that got me 3010 fps, and I’m now at 2950 fps with the identical load. That’s why some guys change barrels, not because groups open up. For me, that isn’t a huge deal … although I’m not ecstatic about it.

        I think the difference between the barrel life I’m seeing and what my friend saw has to do with how much you let the barrel cool between strings. If you keep the barrel hot for prolonged periods of time, you can severely limit the life of the barrel. I do heat up the barrel, but I usually don’t fire 50 rounds in a row without pausing somewhere in there to let it cool back down. I might actually pause several times in a string that long. Here is a good article I’ve found on that topic.

        I also use the Tubb Throat Maintenance Kit on all my barrels, and that could attribute to the extended barrel life. The idea makes sense to me, so I use it. I haven’t ever done a side-by-side test to see if it really helps.

        I am definitely going back with a 6XC when I rebarrel. I think that is the strongest vote of confidence I could give it. I am building a 6.5 Creedmoor right now, and the biggest draw to that is the factory match ammo. I just want to shoot more and load less. But the 6XC will likely remain my competition rifle, and the 6.5 Creedmoor may become my practice rifle. Who knows … I might use them both in both areas. I feel like the ballistics and reduced recoil of the 6XC does give you a slight advantage, and the barrel life is acceptable for me. I essentially want a barrel that will last at least a year, and this one made it … so it was the right balance for me. Hope this helps!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  21. Thanks, Cal. I too just had a 6.5 CM barrel chambered for my AT for the sole reason of being able to shoot factory. 1800 rounds is more than satisfactory. The .243 shooters around here are changing barrels at 1,300. I was hoping for 1,800 out of the 6 Creed, but have not been able to get that. I’m going to look hard at the 6XC.

    Thanks again. Your website is a real gem.

    -J

    • That’s probably the right track, Josh. I’m building a 6.5 CM right now for the same reason. I hope to get it in within a couple weeks, and I’ll do a post on it after I’ve used it for a while. It’s built on an AI chassis as well. I own a McMillan and Manners, so I thought I’d try the other big name in the stock world. We’ll see.

      Thanks for the kind words about the website. Glad you’ve found some helpful stuff on here!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  22. Hi,
    I prepare a custom like this.
    But I question about the weight of the carbon stock. Isn’t it a problem with an heavy barrel for the practical match ? A lot weight is on the front of the rifle.

    • Great question. Some of the gunsmiths I talked to about this project thought the same thing, so it was a point of concern. By the carbon fiber stock isn’t as light as what you are probably thinking. The adjustable cheek, steel hinge (for folding), and adjustable length-of-pull hardware adds enough weight that it is still very balanced. It is still a very heavy rifle overall (around 16 pounds with optics). I still love it!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  23. Hey Cal,

    I haven’t read all comment (so I might miss something), but I was wondering one thing. All calibers listed here are great and very capable calibers. I don’t enter into the 6mm vs. 6.5mm debate. However, I’d love to know your reasons to go with 6XC instead of 6mm Creedmoor (or 6×47 Lapua)?

    • Great question, Phil. I’ll start by saying there is no right or wrong here. But to me, when you’re talking about precision rifles, most of these cartridges will shoot. The rifles themselves are very accurate, so the differentiators here is often times the quality of the ammo. I feel like good brass is the foundation to a consistent load. I weight-sort my brass, I trim the length of my brass, I trim the necks of my brass, I uniform the primer pockets, etc. It’s a lot of work (and some may be completely unnecessary). The problem is there can still be variation in the walls of the cases and other areas that I can’t uniform, and those things can theoretically cause variation in chamber pressure and therefore muzzle velocity and POI. The best way to mitigate that stuff could be to just start with really high quality brass, which will be more consistent before any of those operations and sorting. All that to say, I think getting as high of quality of brass as you can is really important. I personally believe Lapua and Norma make the best brass, at least based on the stuff I’ve handled. So I strongly prefer those brands of brass over any others. Yes, they’re more expensive … but your paying for the tighter quality control and more precise machinery at the factory. Aren’t those things you WANT to pay for?!

      So for me, a big part of this came down to brass selection. On the 6XC you can get Norma brass, on the 6mm Creedmoor you can only get Hornady brass … and it can even be hard to find at times. I don’t think the Hornady brass is as consistent as the Norma. The 6mm Creedmoor can have a little more velocity, but I was trying to target 3000 fps, and the 6XC can easily provide that within safe pressures. The extra 50-100 fps just doesn’t matter as much as what some people think. If you want to see how that affects hit probability, you can check out this post I wrote: How much does muzzle velocity matter?

      The neck of the 6XC is also a little longer, which can help get with concentricity and uniform neck tension. I’ve noticed most cartridges designed over the last 20 years have a 0.3” neck. That seems to be what modern case designers are targets, and that is what the 6XC offers. The 6.5 Creedmoor is 0.285” … so it isn’t a ton of difference. The cartridges are really similar, so all of this is really grasping at straws and could be making tiny differences bigger than they really are.

      And finally, another big factor is the dies. David Tubb offers some custom dies for the 6XC that are amazing. I typically use Redding Competition dies for all my handloads, so I’m used to good dies. But those Tubb dies are completely ideal. I won’t go into all the details, but I couldn’t have more confidence in the ammo I’m able to produce with those dies.

      I’m super OCD, and could go on with a few other nit-picky things … but those are the big ones. Like I said, the cartridges are really similar and neither would be the wrong choice. It seems like the 6mm Creedmoor is falling in more favor with the PRS community recently, but that doesn’t mean the 6XC isn’t still a great choice. I love it, and I’m about to rebarrel this rifle … and I’m going back with a 6XC. So that is my vote of confidence. But the 6mm Creedmoor is a great cartridge as well. I’m sure a good shooter could do really well with either of them … and they have!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  24. Hey Cal does Manners make a hinge that will fold towards the bolt? This does sound like an issue whenbyou toss the rifle on your back. Also wouldn’t the hinge stick out and interfere with your shooting hand? From the pictures the hinge looks like it sticks out some. Just curious thanks

    • Jake, I’m with you. Unfortunately, they don’t. I do like the idea of one side of the rifle being completely flat. Folding opposite the bolt you have one side with the butt of the rifle and the other side with the bolt knob. It’s less than ideal. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of stocks that fold bolt-side. The PSR contract a few years ago required the rifles to fold bolt-side … so there were several that came on the market at that point. They all have skeletonized butt’s, because they essentially need to “capture” the bolt knob when folded (i.e. the bolt knob has to recess into them. It also limits what knobs you can run. I’m a fan of a big knarled knob, but that might not work in those folding designs. So there are pros and cons. Personally I think I’d still prefer one to fold bolt-side. It’s just a harder design, so there aren’t a lot out there.

      Thanks,
      Cal