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Custom Rifle Action

Custom Rifle Action – What The Pros Use

I recently surveyed the top ranked shooters in both the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and the National Rifle League (NRL) to learn what gear they’re running in long range rifle matches. (Learn about the PRS & NRL.) This group of over 150 competitors represent the best precision rifle shooters in the country. This post will focus on what they chose for the foundation of their rifles: the action. (View other What The Pros Use articles)

Most Popular Rifle Action

The action is the heart of the rifle. In the precision rifle game, you’ll shoot out barrels and replace them over time, and it’s likely that over a few years you might upgrade scopes, triggers, or even try a new stock or chassis … but the action is what transcends time. Those other parts are peripheral or an accessory attached to the action, which is why it’s also commonly referred to as the receiver and why it’s the “controlled part” of the firearm (i.e. the one with the serial number that has to be transferred through someone with a Federal Firearms License). If you want to replace an action on a rifle, you might be better off selling the whole gun and starting again from scratch. Ask me how I know! 😉 In a few years, the action might be the only thing you still have, so invest in a good one!

On to the data! It seems with actions we continue the theme of major shifts in what brands of equipment these guys were using. Last time I did this survey, the results were very different (see 2016 results), with Defiance on top followed by Surgeon. But at the time of that last survey, the Impact Precision action still wasn’t widely available to the general public (i.e. they were still ramping up production, so wait times were very long at the time). Fast forward to today, and Impact Precision is now the most popular precision rifle action, with 27% of these top shooters choosing to build their rifle around one.

Best Rifle Action

The various colors on the chart represent the league and rank of the shooters. For example, black indicates shooters who finished in the top 10 in the PRS, dark blue is those who finished 11-25 in the PRS, and the lighter the blue, the further out they finished in PRS overall standings. The green colors represents the top shooters in the NRL, where the darkest green is the top 10, medium green is 11-25, and light green are 26th to 50th. The legend on the chart itemizes the league and ranks each color represents, but basically the darker the color, the higher up the shooters placed.

Impact Precision had the most shooters represented at 27% overall. If you just look at the top 10 in the PRS, 50% of them were running an Impact Precision 737R short action receiver! This action currently is priced at $1390. I’ll go into a little more detail on the Impact action a little later in this post.

Impact Precision 737R Action

Defiance Machine also had a ton of shooters represented, at 21%. Defiance is the only company to be one of the top 2 actions since the inception of the PRS in 2012. They’ve had a long-standing respect within the precision rifle community, and while the popularity of some actions have ebbed and flowed, many of these top shooters stand by Defiance – and for good reason! The Defiance Deviant Elite (pictured below) is priced at $1350. I’ll dive into a lot more detail on Defiance actions later in this post.

Defiance Deviant Elite Action

There was a host of other great actions represented, besides Impact and Defiance, although those two alone represented almost 50% of all these shooters! That doesn’t necessarily mean they are “the best” – but it does mean many of the best shooters in the country believe in them.

Bighorn actions have made this list for several years, and have grown in popularity among this crowd over the past couple years. Most of these actions are based on a Remington 700 design, but some the unique features of the Big Horn action are a floating and interchangeable bolt head, along with a Savage small shank barrel thread (so you’re able to use one of the pre-chambered Savage style barrels with a barrel nut, which can be almost half the cost of having a gunsmith chamber a custom barrel). It also has controlled round feed and a mechanical ejector, which some shooters prefer and believe are more robust than push feed and plunger-style ejector like a standard Remington 700 action. Bighorn offers more options than most manufacturers, including allowing you to choose right/left hand bolt, which side the ejection port is on, several bolt knob options, a few mag cuts including one that allows you to use double-stack AW magazines (i.e. more compact 10 round mag), three tang thicknesses, and finished in stainless or with DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating. It features a pinned rail (i.e. not integral), which are offered in 0, 20, or 30 MOA, so that you can adapt it to get the most out of your scope’s elevation adjustment for your application. While the price may change based on the options you choose, these actions currently run around $1250.

Bighorn TL3 Action

Curtis Customs actions are a relatively new name, but are already represented in significant numbers. They are also based on a Remington 700 footprint, but feature a 3 lug design which means they have a shorter 60° bolt throw (instead of the traditional 90° you turn a bolt on most Rem 700 actions). Their flagship tactical action, the VECTOR, accepts true, double-stack AW magazines (i.e. more compact 10 round mag), and has a quick-change barrel feature (notice the screw above the recoil lug?). The VECTOR action is fully DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coated. Here is what I noticed Defiance says about DLC coating on their FAQ page: “Although it’s the most expensive coating, we feel it is the hardest, slickest, most durable option. This is the premium treatment for our actions, and we can provide it for an added cost.” Curtis Customs completely DLC coats the VECTOR, which just shows their no-cutting-corners, the-best-at-every-turn approach to building actions. The VECTOR is currently priced at $1400, and their Axiom action is priced around $1100.

Curtis Customs Action

Those top 4 actions represented 67% of what these shooters were running. The other companies who had several shooters represented among this group of precision riflemen included Lone Peak Arms, Accuracy International, GAP’s Tempest action, Kelbly’s, American Rifle Company, and Surgeon. Each of those are extremely capable actions, and have their own unique and compelling features. There have never been more talented people competing in this space than now, and it’s resulting in a lot of innovation. While going into detail on all of these actions is beyond the scope of this post, I’d encourage you to check them all out if you’re on the market for a custom action for your next precision rifle build.

I did notice a slight variation in action popularity by league. The graph below shows the same data sliced a bit differently. Instead of the total number of shooters, it charts the total percentage of shooters and shows different bars for each league.

Best Precision Rifle Action

I’m not sure what to make of this, other than regional variation. You can see Impact Precision was more popular in the PRS, but Defiance was more popular in the NRL – although both were clearly very popular in both leagues. Lone Peak Arms was almost twice as popular in the NRL, which could perhaps be because people closely related to that Utah-based company compete in more NRL matches than PRS. I have a feeling that none of these differences between the leagues are “statistically significant,” (i.e. we probably shouldn’t draw conclusions from it) but it was just interesting to see it broken down this way. Ultimately, these actions are all very capable of long-range precision, and are a massive step up from the old factory Remington 700!

Because Impact Precision and Defiance Machine made up almost 50% of the shooters, I wanted to share more about those companies and a few unique aspects about their products that may have played into why so many of these pros chose to build their rifle around one of these actions:

Impact Precision Action

Wade StutevilleThe Impact Precision 737R is a short-action receiver designed by Wade Stuteville and Tate Streater who are both accomplished shooters in the PRS world. Wade was the overall PRS Champion in 2012, and has been a perennial top 100 shooter year after year. Tate Streater has won several national-level matches like the Steel Safari 3 years in a row (2016-2018), the 2015 Sniper’s Hide Cup, and the 2014 Heat Stroke. Wade and Tate became friends shooting rifle matches together, and both know first-hand what it takes to compete at the highest level of the precision rifle game.

But the real power comes when you combine their first-hand, pro-level shooting experience with their unique professional background. You see Wade was a founding partner, designer, and later the General Manager at Surgeon Rifles for a few years before it was moved to Arizona. Surgeon was machining a ton of the premiere actions at the time, and building hundreds of really high-end, custom rifles too. Wade is now the owner and rifle builder at Stuteville Precision, and one of the most respected gunsmiths in the country for precision rifles, with big-name customers like Accuracy International trusting Wade to chamber some of their barrels. Tate and Robin at Tape-Matics Impact PrecisionAs it turns out Tate and his father-in-law, Robin Smith, run a company named Tape-Matics, which is a modern machining facility that makes parts with extremely tight tolerances for the aerospace industry, the Department of Defense, the oil and gas industry, and others, and has been doing it since 1979! In fact, Tape-Matics is AS-9100C compliant, which is a standard for quality management in the aerospace industry that basically takes ISO 9001 standards and puts them on steroids to satisfy strict quality requirements from NASA, the Department of Defense, and the FAA!

Wade, Tate, and Robin partnered to form Impact Precision Shooting. Two of them with experience actually winning precision rifle competitions, one with a ton of real-world experience building and troubleshooting high-end actions and custom rifles, and two with extensive expertise in machining extremely precise parts – what a powerful partnership! When you understand the guys behind the product, it shouldn’t be surprising that those three were able to design and produce an action that is already a huge success!

The Impact Precision 737R action is machined with such strict tolerances that one action is virtually identical to another, which means you’re able to buy off-the-shelf, chambered barrels that can be user installed. No more sending your favorite match rifle off to be rebarreled! Because the individual parts and overall assembly are held to such exact dimensions, you can even order bolts with different bolt faces along with a chambered and pre-fit barrel in a different cartridge. For example, your match rifle might be a 6mm Creedmoor, but just swap the bolt and barrel and in less than 20 minutes it’s now a 223 trainer rifle or a 300 WSM hunting rifle. No joke! And you can order those bolts and barrels straight off their website, and they can ship direct to you – no need for a gunsmith or FFL. Want to convert to a 6mm Dasher? Just order the chambered barrel off their website and you can install it next week! You just need a simple barrel vise and action wrench. You can have multiple barrels in different calibers, but only need one action, stock, trigger, and scope instead of buying everything multiple times.

Note: The pre-chambered barrels for an Impact Action are different from pre-chambered barrels for Ruger Precision Rifles, Savage, or “Rem-age” setups. Those barrels have no shoulder to headspace from, but instead require a lock nut and a qualified individual with headspace gauges to carefully set headspace. In contrast, barrels for Impact actions headspace off the shoulder of the barrel, just like a custom barrel would if you sent your action off to a gunsmith. No need for a lock nut or to carefully adjust headspace – just screw it on and go.

While the Impact Precision action is held to exact tolerances, it was specifically designed with clearances that allow it to run in the toughest field conditions. Many of us have likely been to a rifle match where we saw someone’s action get dirty, and blowing dust and grit eventually caused it to completely lock up. That can ruin a good day of shooting! Wade and Tate know how important it is for an action to be able to continue to run, so they very carefully chose the geometry, dimensions, clearances, features, and coatings. Fluting on the top and sides of the bolt body carry dirt away while a smooth bottom portion ensures smooth cycling. The black carbon nitride finish also improves operation by increasing surface hardness and lubricity.

I’ve personally ran this action in sandy West Texas for over a year, where the wind and dust are ALWAYS blowing! This environment can bring Benchrest actions to a grinding halt, but Impact Actions never fail to perform and run slick. In fact, I’ve never felt a bolt run as smoothly as an Impact Precision action. I’ve also been at major rifle competitions and noticed shooters checking out a rifle built on an Impact Action on a prize table, and every single one of them grins when then run the bolt. I really do mean every single one of them, and many turn to their buddy and say something like “You’ve got to feel this” – because it is ridiculously smooth. It’s the result of a great design, extremely precise manufacturing, advanced coatings, and tight quality control – in other words, a lot of work!

Impact Precision Action

The Impact Precision 737R features an integral recoil lug and integral 20 MOA picatinny rail. Here is what Wade and Tate say about those features: “Don’t settle for pinned rails or recoil lugs. Our receiver body is a made out of one single piece of material, ensuring the most rigid end product with no chance of warping or your rail coming lose when you need it most.” The Impact action also features a trigger hanger, which makes it easier and quicker to replace a trigger out in the field – something that can be handy for a competition shooter. Of course the Impact Precision action is based on a Rem 700 footprint, which means it’s compatible with most stocks/chassis and aftermarket triggers. They recently announced they’re now accepting pre-orders for left-hand versions of this popular action.

Here is a quick video from Impact Precision where Tate shares more about the Impact Precision action, and you can see them putting them together:

Defiance Action

Defiance Machine was founded by Glen Harrison, and they’ve been designing Benchrest-quality bolt actions since 1992. They’ve been one of the top actions among these elite shooters since the beginning of the PRS, and for good reason. Their machining practices and end products are truly world-class. Glen uses accuracy-enhancing design features he learned while competing in Benchrest and building Benchrest rifles, in all the Defiance actions. They make almost every part in their facility, which allows them to tightly control quality to ensure components fit properly and you get the best accuracy possible from the action.

Defiance Action Advanced EDM Machine TechnologyOne year I had a conversation with Glen Harrison at SHOT Show, and I was blown away as he told me about their machining process. They use advanced EDM technology and manufacturing processes that border on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to achieve ridiculous tolerances. Every Defiance action starts as pre-hardened steel and then shape them by precisely shaving off tiny amounts of material. It is so little that the actions never have to be heat-treated again, which is not the norm even among custom actions. Glen explained that the heat-treat process can induce slight changes to the steel, which means you’re compromising some of those tight tolerances CNC machines are capable of. Defiance strategically mitigates that issue by using a much finer milling process and avoiding the heat-treat process all together once they’ve made the first cut on the action, even though this means it takes them longer to produce a single action.

The Defiance Deviant line of actions is their flagship product and what most tactical shooters run, and it is likely the model most (if not all) of these top shooters were using. There are several options within that line of actions:

Defiance Deviant Action Review

The Defiance Deviant Elite was released within the past couple years, and is perfect for a competition rifle. It may look like a standard Remington 700 clone, but it features a lot of cool enhancements:

  • 0.850” additional barrel threads and bedding surface forward of recoil lug, which also extends the scope rail further forward
  • Coned nose, control round feed with sliding plate extractor, so the bolt captures the round as it strips it from the magazine instead of a round simply being pushed lose and into the chamber
  • Mechanical, Winchester M70 style blade ejector
  • Improved firing pin design minimizes vibration and reduces bolt lift
  • Still maintains the Remington 700 short action footprint

Defiance offers more customization options than any other action manufacturer, so their customers can choose the exact options that fits their individual needs. Defiance doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” product. They make each action individually to the customer’s specs. For example, many actions with integral rails are only offered with 20 MOA of cant/incline, but with Defiance you can choose 0, 10, 20, or 30 MOA! They’re able to pull off custom options because of their proprietary manufacturing software, which allows them to machine custom products efficiently in a production facility. That means you’ll never need to wait an extra two months because you ordered a left-handed action. They have 20+ options, but here are a few I was able to itemize for the Defiance Deviant line of actions, although some options may not be available on all models or may add cost:

  • Options for Integral Rail: 5 variations to pick from for striking the right balance between weight and rigidity, from an Ultralight at 26 ounces to the beefy, no-compromises Elite at 37 ounces
  • Options for Rear Tang: Standard or Heavy
  • Options for Cant/Incline Built Into Integral Rail: 0, 10, 20, or 30 MOA
  • Options for Action Length: Short, Medium, XM, and Long to accommodate most popular factory chamberings and extended length handloads
  • Options for Magazine Cut: Single shot, AICS magazines (i.e. double stack, single feed), AW magazines (i.e. true double stack)
  • Options for Bolt Face: ALL standard and wildcat cartridges
  • Options for Bolt Nose: Cone, Flat, Recessed, Control Round Feed, or Control Round Feed with Plate Extractor
  • Options for Bolt Fluting: None, Shallow, Standard, Deep, Extra Deep, or Diamond
  • Options for Bolt Shroud: 3 position safety, Faceted, Remington Style
  • Options for Bolt Handle Angle: Defiance Handle or Modified Handle
  • Options for Bolt Handle Knob: Ball, Teardrop, Tactical, Long Tactical, or Extra-Long Tactical
  • Options for Finish: Bare Polished Stainless or DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon)
  • Available in right or left handed configurations

What?! That’s a lot of options! Defiance offers a fully customizable custom action! It’s a custom, custom action! If you aren’t familiar with all those options or terms, don’t be overwhelmed. Here are photos of several options to quickly see the differences, but the Defiance customer service pros can talk you through all this to make sure you get the perfect setup for your application. You don’t have to be an action expert – they will provide you with one when you call. This is just a significant way Defiance is able to differentiate themselves in the market.

Defiance is different from some other action manufacturers in another way: You can buy actions directly from them that are branded “Defiance,” and they also make a ton of OEM actions that are stamped with another company’s logo. For example, the GAP Templar V2 action is made by Defiance. GA Precision says that clearly on their website, but not all companies are that transparent with their customers. In fact, a few might say in their marketing material that everything is made in-house, but in reality their action is an OEM product from Defiance Machine. Defiance makes the action to that other company’s specs, and then simply stamps that company’s logo on the action instead of their own. While this is obvious to veteran shooters, here are a few examples to show the new guys what I’m talking about. You can see these are very similar actions, just with different branding.

Defiance Deviant

At the risk of coming off as a Defiance fan-boy, I have to share one final way that impressed me about Defiance Machine: The Defiance Guarantee. In a world of limited liability, and everyone trying to maximize their own profits, I have immense respect for a company that takes this bold of a stance to put customer satisfaction as the highest priority. Here is what Defiance says: “If you don’t like it, we’ll change it, swap it, or refund your money. We want all of our customers to be 100% satisfied with the quality of our product. We’ll even pay the return shipping. Guaranteed.” Wow! You have to really believe in your product to put something like that in print! When is the last time you saw a company do that?!

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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. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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  1. Cal, this is an idea for another “What the Pros Use” topic. Sorry to post it like this, but I didn’t know how else to reach you.

    Please ask all these top shooters what ear pro they are using. Good ear pro can be expensive. I think a lot of us wouldn’t mind spending the $500-$1000 to get the right top notch low profile or inside the ear protection, but for us mere mortals, we don’t want to spend that much and get stuck with something that we don’t like, especially because it might be harder than other items to re-sell and get some of our money back out of it.

    Thanks for all your work on this blog. I was really blown away by all the details in your recent twin 6mm PRS rifles article.

    • You and I must think a lot alike, Dean. I think that was the first thing on my list to consider asking next year. I can tell you it’s a mixed bag, so it’d be a good question to ask. There are a lot of guys running over-ear muffs like the VERY popular amplified Howard Leights, and there are guys running high-end, amplified in-ear protection, and there are a few just using generic foam plugs. And of course you always have the guys running a suppressor crying if not everyone in their squad also has a suppressor, because I guess they were hoping to not wear any ear pro. 😉

      I know this isn’t exactly what you’re asking, but I did a bunch of research last year and invested in a pair of the high-end, amplified in-ear protection. I actually wear them hunting if I’m using a rifle with a muzzle brake, so I wanted something really comfortable. I went with the ESP Stealth, and I love those things. There have been multiple times that I’ll be driving home from the range, and I’ll realize I still have them in. That’s how comfortable they are. I wore them pretty much all day for 7 days in a row when hunting in Africa last year, and they didn’t make my ears sore at all. They were very ideal. I had to go to the audiologist to get molds made, but then ESP custom made the ear pro to fit my ears … so they fit like a glove. They use hearing aid batteries, so they’ll last a few weeks from when you put them in, but you’ll have to replace them after a few weeks (regardless of how much they’ve been used). So that’s a downside, but the batteries are cheap and I just always keep several pairs of batteries in the tiny little case I carry them in.

      The ESP custom, in-ear plugs are what a lot of competitive shotgun shooters use. I also noticed it was what the Applied Ballistics shooting team was using when I shot with them a few months ago. They are very expensive though. Their base model starts at $900, but the ESP Stealth that I run and that the guy said a lot of competitive shooters run are $2,100. If you shoot a lot, especially with a muzzle brake, I’d consider it an investment in your hearing.

      I have seen several other in-ear products come on the market, so there might be other options out there that are higher value at this point. I’d guess that if they aren’t custom molded to your ear they wouldn’t be as comfortable, or they wouldn’t offer as tight of seal and therefore might not protect as much either. I bet with how many new products are coming on the market, it would be interesting to see what all these guys are running … so if I do this again next year, that’ll be a question I ask.

      Hope this helps,

  2. Man i love your write ups. I look forward every time you put out a new one!

  3. My Ruger does pretty damned good at 1200 yds.

  4. Hi Cal.
    I wonder if any competitors use rifles like the Barrett MRAD or the current Remington Defense precision rifle and if so why.

    I realize these and several other rifles like them are configured specifically to meet US military solicitation standards for quick change barrels, bolt heads and magazines to accommodate various military sniper cartridges and that is not a need for PRS competitors. I also understand they must have extra long actions to accommodate the .338 LM cartridge and that that in itself may be a detriment.

    • I bet there are some shooters at competitions using them. I know I’ve competed against a guy a couple years ago who was active military and was using his Remington Defense XM2010 in the match. You don’t see a lot of them, though. Desert Tech offers a similar setup with quick change barrels, bolts, and magazines (fitting up to 338 Lapua also) and you do see some of those. In fact, one of the top 25 guys in the NRL was using a Desert Tech rifle.

      I’m probably with you on your assumption that the need for multiple military cartridges is not much value for PRS competitors. The long bolt stroke doesn’t seem like a huge inconvenience, but it’s not ideal. I bet the Remington Defense PSR Rifle is just because it is crazy expensive. I personally got to use one of those for a few months, and wrote a review about it … and I loved that thing. But at $21,000 there aren’t many of us that can afford it, so it will be rare to ever see someone walking around with one. … but I did love that thing! Wow, what a great rifle setup. Wish I still had it! It does make me feel good to know some of the snipers serving our country have such a capable setup in the Remington PSR. It’s truly world-class, even compared to these really high-end civilian rifles.


  5. I am an engineer myself and hope to get into this sport one day. I like your articles more than anyone else’s! Please keep up the great work Cal!

    • That’s awesome, Brandon! Glad you like my style of writing. It seems like I attract readers who are like me!

      I’ll warn you, this game is a bit addicting for an engineer. The elegant and illusive mix of both science and art is challenging and there is always more to explore and learn. Frankly, I’ve never experienced anything like it! I’m hooked! 😉 You should jump in!


      • Cal is right Brandon, in that, this is addictive. I can personally attest to that fact after over 20 years shooting competitively myself. I can also tell you that engineers are somewhat like lawyers…no offense…lol….in that, you can put 100 of them in a room and give them a problem to solve, and there will be 100 “different” solutions given. All good and viable solutions too,… you just can’t get them all to agree on anything…..and that is what makes the PRS great. All the different solutions to the same problem, and the way the competitors go about solving it….or as my Grandmother use to say, “That’s why they make different colors of paint. No two people are alike.”…Well done article Cal !!!

      • Thanks, Rick. Well said.

  6. Strechin out with my Remington 700 LR, 300 RUM , 200gr ELD Reloads … 😎

  7. I was surprised not to see a Pierce Eng in that list. Mark

    • That’s interesting, now that you mention it. Well, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good one. I know some world-class shooters who think a lot of Pierce Engineering … they just aren’t in this circle of shooting. I’ve seen a lot about their titanium action, but a few sharp engineers I’ve talked to don’t think titanium is a great material to build an action out of. Honestly, I can’t speak to that (not a ME), but maybe someone else could enlighten us in the comments. I can remember parts of those conversations, but if I tried to repeat it I’ll probably mess it up and don’t want to be a source of bad info! I know titanium is lighter weight, so on a hunting rig that might be more valuable than on these kinds of rifles. Most of these shooters prefer a rifle that weighs 18-20 lbs fully loaded, so rifle build decisions are often very different than hunting. I’m not trying to pigeon-hold Pierce Engineering actions as just for hunting rifles, but just trying to think through why they aren’t more popular among this group.

      Anyway, interesting point, Mark. Honestly, there are likely several high-quality actions like the Pierce Engineering action that aren’t on this list, but are just as capable as some of these. I kind of think of it this way: Just because something is on here doesn’t mean it’s the best, but just that the best shooters are running it (which is still significant). If something is on here, you can probably count on it being capable of top-level precision. If something is NOT on here, it doesn’t mean it isn’t capable … you just need to sort that out for yourself. I’d say proceed with caution until you’re convinced in the product. But once you commit, don’t let what these guys are doing steal the joy of using what you’ve got. Ultimately if you forced the top 25 shooters to trade actions, I’d bet they’d still finish in the top 25. The gear must be capable, but the shooter is the most important part.


      • The Michigan F class team is using them. But they are the only ones. Thank you for your time

        Mark D Spencer
        Spencer Tool and Grind llc

      • Yep, those are the shooters I was actually thinking about. Some outstanding marksmen and very knowledgeable guys in that group. They don’t make dumb equipment choices, so there must be something to it!

      • I am not a metallurgy expert either but can share what I have learned as a firearms manufacturer. We looked into using Titanium as well. Turns out, my experts I paid to look at it, tell me that is doesn’t respond to heat treating very well (in their words, it would do one way one time, and another way the next time, under the exact same conditions and temperatures) ….and has galling issues when contacting any other type metal, and sometimes when contacting other Titanium surfaces, depending on the load….read, friction, heat, pressure, etc. etc. Light weight and strength is good, but the detractors are worse. Maybe in a bolt action it wouldn’t be a problem, but I was looking at building newly designed gas guns with rotating type bolts when I was studying it’s use.

      • Interesting, Rick. I appreciate you chiming in and sharing your experience.


  8. How about scope ring height. What the pros use ? Will the height of the rings enhance or lower, barrel or suppressor, heat mirage ? Will the scope ring height effect elevation adjustments ?

    • Interesting question, Michael. I’m not sure what all of these guys are using, but I’d expect most of them are running as low as they can while still clearing the barrel/chassis. Most are running a scope with a 56mm objective, so that isn’t extra low … but I’d guess low or medium height.

      The scope height above the bore does impact your elevation adjustments. That’s why any advanced ballistic calculator needs you to enter that as an input. I just ran my Ballistics for a scope height set at 1.5” compared to 2.5” and the adjustments were different by 0.1 mils at 200 yards, 0.2 mils by 300 yards, and goes to around 0.3 mils from 500 to 1400 yards and beyond. So it’s an important input if you want your predictive Ballistics to be accurate.

      By the way, my actual height above bore is 2.1”, which is fairly low on the barrel for a 56mm scope. My 300 Norma scope is at 2.5”, which is about as low as I can get on that rifle because it is an AIAX chassis with a barrel guard. I’ve noticed some ballistics apps default to something very low like 1.5”, which would result in the amount of error I was talking about on my Norma. So I’m not using crazy numbers here. That’s why I think it’s important to actually measure the height on your rifle and make sure it’s set correctly on your ballistic profile.

      Hope this helps!


  9. Hi Cal. This a great article and I too love all the data as I too am a technical person. I am just starting to learn about the precision rifle game and wondered if and what factory actions are used. There are so many articles about the replaceable barrel actions, “Remage”, etc. it just seemed like someone would be shooting a factory action. Maybe it’s just not the top shooters as I know that’s the case in competitive sporting clays. My apologies if I missed it in the data as I haven’t had a lot of time to review the article in-depth. Thanks again for all your hard work and effort to collect and produce the article.

    • John, I only have the data on the top shooters. And you’re right. It’s not that guys are using factory actions in matches, just not these top guys who fire 5,000+ rounds a year.

      I’d say the most popular factory actions are probably Remington 700, Tikka and Ruger Precision Rifles. If you were looking for a great budget semi-custom rifle, I’d suggest checking out the John Hancock Rifle from Patriot Valley Arms, which is a huge value for $2k: https://patriotvalleyarms.com/john-hancock-bolt-action-rifle-deposit/

      Hope that helps!

  10. Thanks for the response and suggestion. I will check them out.

  11. Hey Cal this is kind of off topic regarding this article but for a 6xc what freebore length would you recommend? Something that I can mag feed the 115 dtacs or something I can mag feed the 105 hybrids. I’m asking you because I read your article on your custom 6xc rifle you had in the past

    • Anthony, honestly I’m not sure what freebore you’d need. The new DTAC’s weren’t around when I was using the 6XC, but that’s definitely what I’d use in it at this point. That is a high performance bullet and has worked well for me out of the 6mm Creedmoor. I will say that you might not be able to optimize a rifle for both the 115gr DTAC and the 105gr Hybrid, or at least it doesn’t seem that way from my perspective. The DTAC is a much longer bullet, so the length that would be ideal for each of them in terms of jump, case capacity and bullet position in the neck won’t be exactly the same. I know because I tried to do that on my 6mm Creedmoors, and I can’t reach the lands with my DTAC’s. Next time I chamber a barrel I’m just going to optimize them for the DTAC’s and let the rest fall where they may.

      But I’m not a gunsmith, so I’d suggest contacting a reputable gunsmith and asking them. Ultimately I think we fret a little too much about freebore. It’s one of those things I bet most gunsmiths wish we’d just shut up about, even the ones that really know their stuff. At least that is the sense I get from a few good gunsmiths that I have a good enough relationship with that they’ll be completely honest with me. But that is just the opinion of a few guys, so I don’t want to present it as “the facts.” You should double-check me!


  12. I am amazed at how many people pour money into a factory action. Remingtons are the Harley of the gun world Buy one and threw out everything but the bolt and receiver.
    It’s about $140 to true a Rem reciever That is cheap. I guess. Or buy an action that is purpose built. Ready to go. When Kelby’s says it’d 1.115 is there. Rem’s Have to be trued and that is really an unknown. Mark

    • Thanks an interesting view, Mark. I can’t say I agree with your comment about “Remingtons are the Harley of the gun world,” but that doesn’t mean I’m right! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.