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Pre-Fit Barrels - Everything Your Gunsmith Wishes You Knew

Pre-Fit Barrels: Everything Your Gunsmith Wishes You Knew

I’ve been publishing a series of articles called What The Pros Use that shares data about the rifles and gear the top 200 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) are using to compete and hit long-range targets. I’ve done this for several years, all the way back to the 2012 PRS season! I’ve seen some interesting trends over that time, and one of the recent ones is the growing popularity of pre-fit barrels, even among these top riflemen.

Many of my readers likely aren’t familiar with pre-fit barrels or what the craze is all about, so I wanted to lay a little groundwork that I could reference back to over the next few articles about actions, barrels, and gunsmiths that those top shooters are choosing. In those upcoming articles, I will share even more details about how many of those top marksmen are running pre-fits for different actions and exactly what brand pre-fit barrel – but for now, let me try to explain what pre-fits are and why you should care.

Note: I did get 3 of the most respected precision rifle gunsmiths in the country to proofread this article to ensure it was accurate. Any time I’m writing on a very technical topic, I try to find experts in that field to double-check my work so I don’t spread bad information. There is already too much of that on the internet! 😉

What is a Pre-Fit Barrel?

Pre-fit barrels are chambered barrels you can buy off the shelf and simply screw onto your rifle. Various forms of pre-fit barrels have been around for decades, but we’ve recently seen growing popularity even among the top-ranked precision rifle shooters.

“Advancements in CNC machining have provided rifle manufacturers with the ability to hold consistently tight tolerances on the bolt and receiver components, allowing barrel manufacturers to produce ‘pre-fit’ barrels that headspace with each and every action that leaves the assembly line.” (Source: Vortakt Barrel Works)

Pre-fit barrels are often chambered in large bulks with standardized options, which can really help a gunsmith with throughput and efficiency compared to custom chambering a specific barrel to a specific action. That typically results in time and cost savings for the gunsmith, which is why pre-fit barrels are typically a little lower priced. That part seems like a win-win for gunsmiths and for shooters.

There are several types of pre-fit barrels, and they won’t necessarily work on every action. Honestly, this whole topic can get pretty technical and confusing, and I couldn’t find many places that helped people understand the nuances – so I spent a few days writing this article! 😉

Are Pre-Fit Barrels as Accurate as One That Was Custom Chambered for Your Action?

I know many people are wondering if pre-fit barrels are as accurate as a barrel that was custom-chambered for your specific action. That is a hot topic, with plenty of strong opinions on both sides. While I don’t have any empirical research I can share to answer that, I do think I have some data that provides some insight into that question.

Here is a look at how many of the 200 top-ranked Precision Rifle Series shooters are running pre-fit barrels compared to a barrel that was custom-chambered for their specific action:

Pre-Fit Barrels For Precision Rifle

35% of the top-ranked shooters are using a pre-fit barrel, and 65% said their barrel was custom-chambered for their specific action. There were 3 guys who placed in the top 10 in the overall PRS season rankings who said they were running a pre-fit on their competition rifle: Austin Orgain, Austin Buschman, and Kyle Mccormack. Those 3 guys represent 3 PRS Championships and a World Championship, so they aren’t just top shooters – they are the best of the best. And those guys are choosing to run pre-fit barrels! I don’t personally know all of the top shooters, but I do know those 3 guys and can say they are extremely competitive. They want to win more than most people can understand. Don’t get me wrong, they are very nice guys who help other shooters – but if they thought a pre-fit barrel was hurting their precision one bit, they absolutely wouldn’t be running them.

So, it is clear that pre-fit barrels are accurate enough to win matches in the PRS. In a recent interview, I asked Austin Orgain, “What kind of precision are you looking to get out of a rifle before you have the confidence to take it to a match?” He said, “At least 0.5 MOA at 900 yards. If I’m checking it on a really windy day, I mostly just look at the waterline and mostly ignore left-to-right dispersion. I don’t want anything that has more than 2-3 inches of vertical at 900 yards.“ 3 inches at 900 yards equates to 0.32 MOA. I also asked Austin Buschman what kind of groups his competition rifle shot, and he said his average 5-shot group was probably around 0.1 mils, which is 0.34 MOA. While their answers were different, it’s funny they were both around 0.32-0.34 MOA. Now, are pre-fit barrels accurate enough to win a Benchrest match? Many might argue no, but that’s not my area of expertise, so I’ll stay out of that argument!

If I had asked the top shooters 10 years ago, virtually none were running pre-fits! It will be interesting to see where this trend goes in the future. I would be surprised if it didn’t continue to grow.

I’ll provide further breakdowns of this data in terms of how many shooters are running pre-fit barrels for different actions, barrel manufacturers, and which gunsmith chambered it in subsequent posts. I simply wanted to point out that even these top-ranked shooters who are absolutely obsessive about precision are getting in on it.

The Crazy Advancements Over The Past 10 Years

Back when the PRS started around 2012, the proven path to a world-class precision rifle was to true a factory Remington 700 action. Often, you’d buy a used Remington 700 factory rifle from a gun store or pawn shop as “a donor rifle.” Then, throw away the stock and barrel and mail the action off to a gunsmith who would “blueprint” or “accurize” it. That meant they’d try to make that Rem 700 action as square and true as possible and often might upgrade the extractor, reduce the size of the firing pinhole, or do other operations to try to improve reliability or precision. Then they’d chamber a custom barrel specifically for that individual action, bed a Manners or McMillan stock specifically for that individual action, and after what always seemed like a minimum of 6 months or longer, the shooter would finally get the finished rifle. When you burned out the barrel, you’d mail the action back to the gunsmith and wait another few months for your action with a new barrel on it.

Trued Blueprint Accurized Remington 700 Bolt Action Rem 700

That may sound like back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but there were still top 100 PRS shooters using a trued Rem 700 action just 8 years ago (see the data)! In fact, just 10 years ago, 10% of the top 50 shooters in the PRS were using a trued Rem 700 action (see the data)!

I know! It’s wild to think about! But that clearly shows how far we’ve come over the past 10 years in terms of high-quality gear. That is why this is the most exciting time in history to be into precision rifle shooting! This sport has literally advanced more in the past 10 years than the previous 50!

It’s All About Headspace

So why did gunsmiths custom chamber barrels for specific actions for so long, and how did we get to pre-fit barrels? A big part comes down to “headspace.” Forster is an industry expert in that area, and the excerpt below is from some of their material that explains what headspace is for any modern rifle cartridge design:

Rifle Headspace - Resizing Case Headspace Chamber Headspace

Every time we fire a rifle, there is an explosion with 50,000+ psi of pressure just inches from our face. We rarely think about that, but several critical things ensure it is safe. One of the important aspects is headspace. In a bolt-action rifle, if there is not enough headspace, the bolt simply won’t close. But, if the chamber headspace is too long, that is a potentially dangerous condition that you wouldn’t necessarily notice. Ask me how I know! 😉

It is critical for safety that the headspace length of a chamber falls within an explicit range that is defined by SAAMI for every standard cartridge. Here is an example of those SAAMI specs for a 6.5 Creedmoor:

Here is the problem: Chamber headspace is not just determined by the chambered barrel or the action alone but a combination of the two. Remember, headspace is basically the distance from the bolt face to the place that stops the case from moving forward down the barrel. It’s like the action manufacturer is responsible for the left side of the tape measure, and the gunsmith chambering the barrel is responsible for the right side of the tape measure. If bolt face A was slightly deeper than bolt face B, then even in the same receiver with the exact same barrel, the headspace would be different. And it’s not just the bolt face; there are a few parts in an action that can play into headspace, and any variance or error can have a stacking effect.

Modern Custom Bolt Action with Barrel Showing Headspace

That is why, for the longest time, gunsmiths chambered each custom barrel for a specific action. They couldn’t count on an action manufacturer holding their side of the tape measure consistently over thousands of actions. So they’d want the action in hand before they chambered a barrel so they could carefully measure a specific action and chamber a barrel to match.

However, advancements in manufacturing and CNC machining have provided action manufacturers with the ability to consistently hold tight tolerances on the bolt and receiver components and the overall assembled action. The total variation in the assembled parts is smaller than the range of safe headspace lengths, meaning gunsmiths and barrel manufacturers can produce ‘pre-fit’ barrels based on the manufacturer’s published specs. Those pre-fit barrels should headspace appropriately on any and every action of that same model that the manufacturer produces.

What’s the Difference Between a “Shouldered Pre-Fit” and a “Barrel Nut Pre-Fit”?

There are several slightly different variations of pre-fits, but they primarily fall into two categories. Many are familiar with “Barrel Nut Pre-Fit,” but now there is an additional category of “Shouldered Pre-Fit” barrels.

Pre-Fit Barrels Shouldered vs Barrel Nut

Barrel Nut Pre-Fit Barrels

Savage first made pre-fit barrels popular in 1958 with a design that is easily identified by the barrel nut directly next to the action. Some refer to these as variable shoulder pre-fit barrels, and others might say these shouldn’t be called a “pre-fit.” Like most things around shooting, there is no shortage of strong opinions!

Installation of barrel nuts requires more effort/skill. Variable shoulder prefits require proper headspacing gauges, as well as a qualified gunsmith to install them correctly. Improper installation can cause harm to the shooter, others around, the firearm itself, and surrounding objects.” (Source: Preferred Barrel Blanks, Pre-Fit Gun Barrel FAQ)

Rifle Headspace Gauges, Go Gauge, No Go Gauge

Barrel Nut Pre-Fit barrels allow the installer to customize the headspace to be appropriate based on the action on which it’s being installed. They are explicitly setting the headspace, which is why installing this type of pre-fit should be done by a qualified gunsmith. They will need two headspace gauges specifically made for the cartridge the barrel is chambered for to make sure they get it right. One is called a “GO” gauge, and the other is a “NO GO” gauge. If the headspace is correct, you can put the “GO” gauge in the chamber, and you should be able to close the bolt on it – but the bolt should NOT close with the “NO GO” gauge in the chamber. Pacific Tool & Gauge (PTG) and Forster are popular choices for go/no-go headspace gauges, and they cost around $30-50 each.

You can apply this Savage barrel nut idea to a Remington 700 action or other Rem 700-based actions, and most people refer to that combo as a “Remage” rifle. It doesn’t have to be a high-end custom action to make a barrel nut pre-fit work. The benefit of the barrel nut approach is you can still use a pre-fit barrel but use the nut to customize it to headspace properly on your action – even if the action isn’t identical to the next one that came off the production line. There are a few downsides to barrel nut pre-fits, including there are several options and each requires proprietary tools/parts.

Shouldered Pre-Fit Barrels

These pre-fit barrels look and function identical to the barrels that are custom-chambered by a gunsmith for your specific action. There is no barrel nut – simply screw them on until they stop.

“Shouldered pre-fit barrels are designed to be threaded directly into the receiver against a machined face or recoil lug. The shoulder, breech face, and chamber of the pre-fit barrel are all machined to a specific depth to facilitate consistent headspacing. Not all manufacturers can accomplish this, as the stacking of tolerances requires certain features to be held to +/- 0.0005 in. Assuming the action manufacturer can set their receiver’s tenon length and bolt dimensions to a consistent standard, these barrels can be screwed directly into the receiver without any finish chambering operations. One of the benefits of a shouldered pre-fit design is that the shank diameter can be sized to match the outside diameter of the receiver. Barrel nut pre-fit barrels are typically limited to an outside diameter that matches the outside thread diameter. The removal of an additional threaded component reduces the number of variables at play when accurizing a rifle, also serving to improve rigidity. The increased wall thickness around the chamber not only adds strength in a critical location but helps reduce temperature gain during extended courses of fire.” (Source: Vortakt Barrel Works)

Shouldered pre-fit barrels are only available on high-end actions. Factory or budget actions simply can’t meet the tight tolerances necessary to guarantee that a chambered barrel would headspace correctly for any action they ever made.

This video helps you visualize the difference between various types of pre-fit barrels:

Shouldered Pre-Fit Barrels are a safer way for the end-user to install or replace their own barrel because they are much simpler to install and don’t require much specialized knowledge or skill. You can swap a barrel in under 15 minutes! You still need a few tools to do that: barrel vise, action wrench, and torque wrench. You may still want to double-check the finished work with GO and NO-GO gauges to be on the safe side.

Tools To Install Pre-Fit Barrel on Rifle

If you are thinking about investing in the tools to get a barrel on/off a rifle, I’ve owned a few barrel vises and action wrenches over the years, and I can wholeheartedly recommend those tools from Short Action Customs (SAC). SAC’s modular barrel vise and modular action wrench are great tools! SAC is a world-class gunsmith that designed these tools to use in their shop but is offering them to others, too. While you don’t need fancy or expensive tools to do it, the SAC tools are so well thought out, very modular, quick, easy, and can take hard use. But, for years, I used the more budget-friendly $70 Viper Barrel Vise (I didn’t love it, but it worked), a $70 Surgeon Action Wrench, and a ½” drive torque wrench that I think came from AutoZone. I usually torque my barrels to around 90 foot pounds, so your torque wrench needs to be rated at least up to that. (Just so you know, I don’t take anything for free from manufacturers and pay out-of-pocket for all those tools, so you guys can trust my recommendations.)

Barrel Nut Pre-Fits have been around for more than 65 years, and Accuracy International has been offering shouldered pre-fit barrels for their complete rifle builds for 42 years! I was thinking AI was the first to do this, so I reached out to Scott Seigmund, VP of Accuracy International of North America, and here is what he shared:

“AI has done interchangeable barrels since the beginning of the company. Interestingly, a brand new barrel for an AT-X will fit correctly on an L-96 [made in 1982] and vice versa, so this spans a period of 42 years. We have never referred to our barrels as pre-fits, that being a term that has entered the vernacular with more recent 700 pattern actions that hold good enough tolerances to allow finished barrels to be installed without having the action in hand for adjusting and checking headspace. On the barrel side you need machines that can hold very demanding tolerances and a system for monitoring tool wear. We thread and chamber barrels on CNC slant bed lathes and we can hold headspace on large runs of barrels to +/- .0002 inches.” – Scott Seigmund, VP of Accuracy International North America

Impact Precision Action

The primary catalyst for the recent explosion of pre-fits within the precision rifle community seems to have been the release of Impact Precision’s 737R action around 2015. The owners of Impact Precision Shooting had an early commitment to hold very tight tolerances on their individual components and the fully assembled action so that gunsmiths could chamber pre-fit barrels for Impact actions. It started with Stuteville Precision offering shouldered pre-fit barrels for Impact actions, but after just a couple of years, you started seeing several companies offering shouldered pre-fit barrels for Impact Precision actions.

Since then, several other action manufacturers have adopted that same strategy and commitment to tight tolerances, which has resulted in countless options for shouldered pre-fit barrels that you can buy off-the-shelf, ready-to-ship, and install yourself just a few days later on your custom bolt action rifle. Isn’t it crazy how far we’ve come in just a few years?!

The Other Perspective from Gunsmiths

I feel like I’ve laid out the case for pre-fit barrels and how they work, but I’m always trying to present a balanced and objective view. I’ve talked to some of the most popular gunsmiths used by the top PRS shooters on this topic. Many of them are strong believers that pre-fit barrels are the path forward. In fact, one of them said they were surprised that the majority of the top shooters weren’t using pre-fit barrels by this point. However, there are other gunsmiths and shooters who still believe that sending in an action to have a barrel custom-chambered for it is the best way. One of the gunsmiths who holds that view is Mark Gordon of Short Action Customs (SAC).

Mark Gordon - Short Action Customs

Mark said they still recommend that they have all actions at the time of barreling for several reasons, but here are the biggest ones: 1) There is no guarantee that your action is ‘standard’ and a prefit will work, so having the action saves all parties the potential ‘run around’ if it isn’t. 2) While we have the actions, we also do a full breakdown, cleaning, and inspection of the action. We’ve found several issues like galled lugs or threads that they repaired, weak firing pin springs that needed to be replaced, timing issues related to triggers, etc. SAC believes if they have your action in hand, the customer gains the benefit of them identifying and addressing any issues that might prevent them from getting the most out of their new barrel. Mark said occasionally a customer would send a rifle in to rebarrel, thinking the barrel is shot out, but we find out that there are other issues that a rebarrel would not fix.

Mark finished by saying, “Yes, I would love to get in the pre-fit business. It would be easy and great to just chamber barrels and put them on the website on our terms, but I feel like ultimately it is not a great fit for our business model.” So every gunsmith might have a little differing opinion on this, but at least now you’re more informed to make your own decision on if pre-fits are right for you.

Coming Up!

If you enjoyed this content, there is more to come! In the very next article, I’ll share more specifics about Impact Precision and some other action brands that offer shouldered pre-fit barrels in an upcoming article on what actions the top 200 shooters in the PRS are using. Over the next few months, I’ll share additional context for what gunsmiths and manufacturers these guys are getting their pre-fit barrels and custom-chambered barrels from. So stay tuned!

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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. PRS has done more to hurt accuracy standards for rifles than any other organization. PRS is all about speed and “minute of plate”. There are no additional points for group size or ultimate precision as with F-Class or Benchrest.

    Because of PRS, we’ve seen the rise of prefit barrels that aren’t crowned, bolt lugs not lapped, chassis that aren’t bedded, etc, etc because a 1/2-3/4 MOA gun with hand loaded 6mm benchrest cartridges are “good enough”.

    I’m a gunsmith myself (https://www.shootpws.com) and I shoot PRS, so I’m aware of these issues. I don’t offer prefit barrels because that’s simply not the best or most accurate way to fit a barrel. It also puts the burden on the customer to correct an issue if something doesn’t fit correctly. I measure and actually blueprint every single action that I use in a custom build as part of my data package on a rifle. Even good custom actions that have “fixed headspace” can vary a few thousandths.

    Gunsmiths are also to blame for prefits. Customers are tired of dealing with grumpy old guys that take too long to do quality work or get treated like a bother rather than a customer.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jason. Being a both gunsmith and a PRS shooter definitely gives you a unique perspective. It sounds like you agree with Mark Gordon from Short Action Customs. I tried to explain his perspective and mention that not all gunsmiths agree that pre-fit barrels are the way to go. Mark is one of the smartest and most detailed guys I’ve ever met, and he runs a great business. That is absolutely a valid perspective and go-to-market strategy for a business. But, it also doesn’t mean other gunsmiths are wrong if they don’t do it that way. This is a heated topic, but there aren’t sides that are “right” and “wrong.”

      Your comments on gunsmiths being to blame are very interesting. I hadn’t thought of it exactly in those terms, but I definitely agree with you! The days of me being willing to wait months for a gunsmith are over. That never was a good experience, but customers just had to put up with it for the longest time. And it did always seem like we were a burden on the gunsmith or wasting their time.

      I’d say your comments on “minute of plate” are true about the PRS, but I don’t know about guys being happy with 1/2-3/4 MOA guns. That’s just not true for the guys at the top. I referenced 3 of the top 10 PRS shooters are using pre-fits, and I had recently interviewed 2 of those guys: Austin Orgain and Austin Buschman. I specifically asked them, “What kind of precision are you looking to get out of a rifle before you have the confidence to take it to a match?” Here are their responses:

      • Austin Orgain: “At least 0.5 MOA at 900 yards. If I’m checking it on a really windy day, I mostly just look at the waterline and mostly ignore left-to-right dispersion. I don’t want anything that has more than 2-3 inches of vertical at 900 yards.“ (3 inches at 900 yards is 0.32 MOA.)
      • Austin Buschman: “I very rarely shoot five-shot groups and measure them. It’s hard to say what an average is because about the only time I go measure one is if I think it was an exceptional group and I want to take a picture of it. I would guess my average is very close to 0.1 mils.” (That is 0.34 MOA or 0.36″ at 100 yards)

      I’m positive neither of those guys would be competing with a “1/2-3/4 MOA gun” like you said. There probably are amateur PRS shooters who might be happy with that, but I sure wouldn’t be and I know the other pro shooters wouldn’t be either.

      I also wouldn’t be happy with a barrel that wasn’t crowned. I’ve used several pre-fits (and have also used tons of custom-chambered barrels that were made for my specific actions), and I’ve never seen one that wasn’t crowned. There might be crappy gunsmiths out there that don’t crown their pre-fits, but it has nothing to do with it being a pre-fit. They probably don’t crown any of their barrels, or they’re just a lazy person in general. There are crappy, lazy people in every profession that you should avoid – including gunsmiths. It has nothing to do with pre-fits. Like all barrels, you should buy them from a reputable gunsmith that has a reputation for being able to turn out world-class precision rifle barrels.

      Thanks for comments!

      • Cal,

        Thank you for the reply. I consider your blog one of the best data-driven and unbiased sources for information on the web.

        I don’t make that statement casually.

        My opinion comes from having really good teachers (Mark Gordon and I had the same teacher) and experience working behind other well-known companies. My first customer came to me because he had sent a full set of parts to a well-known gunsmith for a build waited 2 years, and finally just asked for his parts back. I was a customer before I started my own business, so I understand how a lot of folks get treated if they’re not a top well-known shooter.

        I’ve had prefit barrels in the shop with out-of-round chambers and chatter and I’ve seen the barrels that were not crowned by really well known companies.

        Prefit barrels are not “right” or “wrong” and I didn’t make that statement in my comment. Lots of folks, including top shooters, are happy with them. However, they exist because of economy for the shooter in time and expense (in some cases) and the same for gunsmiths who predominantly make these on CNC lathes in batches and can ship from stock. They do not exist because it’s the most accurate way to fit a barrel. If you interviewed the top F-Class and/or benchrest shooters, I think you’ll find different results.

        For my competition shooters, we usually do several barrels at one time, so they have the convenience of swapping out barrels as needed. I also blueprint each action by serial number so that I can offer a prefit for that receiver once it’s been in the shop and measured.

        Again, the common misconceptions about prefits, chassis, and some gunsmithing practices have originated from PRS, not from the disciplines where score is based on precision.

  2. Tikkas not really a high end actions have also specs allowing pre-fit

    • Thanks for adding that, Gwen. I know lots of guys love the Tikka and think it’s one of the best budget platforms to build a rifle on.


      • While tikka is mass produced action it , its designed and made well ,many custom actions are not quite there .

        Particularly when you look for an action with good ignition, feed and ejection, Tikka leaves many custom actions behind.I have rarely if ever seen a Tikka project that turns into a can of worms when user ends up chasing one problem after another, that can not be said for many custom actions.

        Main thing that is holding Tikka back a bit is the much smaller aftermarket trigger and chassis availability.

      • Thanks for the insight, Mr. T. Now that you say it, I can’t remember anyone I’ve ever talked to that was disappointed with a rifle that was built around a Tikka. Very interesting.

        I do agree that the aftermarket trigger and stock/chassis availability aren’t as good as what you’ll find with those based on a Remington 700 footprint – unfortunately! If only we’d have standardized around the Tikka footprint and not the Rem 700. At this point, it’s pretty hard to leave the world of the Rem 700 clones not because it’s a inherently better design … but because of all of the third party products that have popped up around it, like triggers and chassis/stocks. There are just a ton of companies investing in that space, and it seems to grow every day.

        But all that doesn’t take anything away from the Tikka. Just makes it harder for it to gain traction, despite the great design.


      • I own 10x Tikka in various caliber, few of them are stock anymore.

        Trigger wise the factory one with a single spring change is very descent. Then for completion a Bix’n Andy is all you need.

        Chassis wise, Tikka is usually served second. So the newer chassis are rarely put on the market in Tikka version straight away. So no Matrix pro yet or ACC Elite. But with Matrix, BA comp, ACC, Vision p, etc.. there are ample options for a good build.

        The only I’m really missing is a Foundation for Tikka. Looks like John- Kyle is not interested. I have asked him already 😉. But maybe if other ask him also, he would reconsider it…. Just saying

  3. Prefit and RemAge are more than accurate enough for PRS. But to speak to the accuracy of either take a look at how many bench rest shooters use a prefit or Remage.

    • Great point, Scott. I’m not a Benchrest shooter, but I also didn’t make the distinction in the article. So I went back and changed some of the content to make it clear that I’m referring to PRS match precision, not Benchrest or any other discipline.

      I’ve actually never seen data like my “What The Pros Use” published for any other shooting discipline like Benchrest or F-Class, but would be interested in looking at it. You mentioned I should take a look at how many Benchrest shooters use a prefit or Remage. Can you point me to that data?


      • Cal, talk to Erik Cortina but I don’t think anyone is doing what you are for the BR community. I knew you were referring to PRS style comps and I agree, it’s all good enough for PRS where you’re measuring impacts and not groups. Heck I’ve got a Criterion RemAge on a trued Rem700 that’s awesome. If I ever tried BR it would be a custom from Speedy all the way!!

  4. I just put out a video about rebarreling my 300 PRC that I use for ELR. My smith offered up the opportunity to watch (and video) the entire process. While I was at it, I also got a couple other rifles rebarreled and wanted to get work done on a 308 that had a prefit on it. After witnessing the extra steps my smith went through on my 300, as well as finding some issues with the prefit, I decided to ditch the prefit and get a new barrel done for the 308 as well. Long story short, the rounds I shot during barrel break-in with a low load and random seating depth printed better groups than I got after load development on the prefit.

    Now, I don’t shoot PRS, and I admit I get into OCD realms when it comes to accuracy and my loading process, but the entire process led me to two conclusions:

    – I’m not changing smiths… ever.
    – Not all prefits are created equal, and I’ll take a custom job from my smith over any of them.

    • Thanks for sharing, Darren. Having confidence in your gunsmith and being able to trust their perspective is a great thing.

      And I agree that not all pre-fits are created equal. Just like not all barrels that are custom-chambered for a specific action are equal either. I’ve had pre-fit barrels that grouped tighter than custom-chambered barrels, and vice versa.

      Gunsmithing is one of those professions where the difference between a great one and a mediocre one is vast. I do feel like the internet has helped the bad ones go out of business faster, and the best ones grow faster.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I have a large shank Savage .300wm with a clapped out factory barrel and want to swap the bolt face and go .300norma, which barrel would you guys recommend?

    • Hey, Wayne. I’m not a gunsmith, so I don’t think I should recommend anything. A 300 Norma Mag is a great round, but it typically requires a magnum action. You might be able to rebarrel to a 300 PRC, which gives you similar ballistics to the 300 Norma … but not quite the same. But, it can fit in a standard long action, which I’d bet is what you have. A 300 PRC would basically get you 90% of the way there using the equipment you have. Having said, that … I personally own two 300 Norma Mags, and they are freaking sweet! 😉

      Honestly, what I typically recommend is to reach out to one of the gunsmiths that the top precision rifle shooters trust. I feel like that is a good shortcut to know the gunsmith you are talking to has the ability to turn out a barrel that is capable of world-class performance. I’m not saying if someone isn’t on that list they aren’t a good gunsmith, but if they are a bad gunsmith … they definitely aren’t that list. Here is a link to the last list of gunsmiths I’ve published: https://precisionrifleblog.com/2019/01/28/best-gunsmith/

      I personally have used TS Customs and Short Action Customs for barrel work like you are talking about. I’m sure GA Precision and others on that list are great as well.

      I am going to be publishing more data over the next few weeks on what gunsmiths these guys are choosing today, and which ones they’re buying pre-fits from. I’ll also publish data on what brands of barrels they are running. To be honest, I haven’t even compiled or analyzed that data at this point, but I’d expect it to be published within the next 4-6 weeks. Honestly, I’d say you could call one of those gunsmiths next week and I bet any of them would give you great advice and be able to help you out.


  6. Honestly, CNC chambering should make prefits very competitive, my old gunsmith and firearms developer mentor with about a dozen own action designs, line of triggers and diopters, always called gunsmiths ”gun plumbers” as he said from a machinist point of view gunsmithing is very basic low-level machining operation, for some reason we trust CNC to get stuff for aerospace , lasers or craft implants for medicine, so why should an extremely basic operation like chambering and threading be beyond CNC.

    • That’s a great point! What’s funny to me is that the whole idea of interchangeable parts that don’t have to be custom fit had it’s origins in the firearms industry.

      “Before the 18th century, devices such as guns were made one at a time by gunsmiths in a unique manner. If one single component of a firearm needed a replacement, the entire firearm either had to be sent to an expert gunsmith for custom repairs, or discarded and replaced by another firearm. During the 18th and early-19th centuries, the idea of replacing these methods with a system of interchangeable manufacture gradually developed.” – Wikipedia article on “Interchangeable parts”

      So it’s like we are coming full-circle! Kind of comical, actually.


      • Not yet we still have top barrels made in WW1 era rifling machines if barrel maker was fortunate enough to get hold of one

  7. Hi Cal
    Just got a barrel back from Short Action Customs for a AI-ATX. Was told it was not necessary to send in the action. Not sure what to say about that.

    • Ha! I’m not sure what to say about that either, Jeff. Just reporting what Mark told me directly. Maybe they have a different perspective of AI since they’ve been doing interchangeable barrels so long. I’m not sure.


  8. I disagree about th shouldered barrels not needing guages while nut fitted ones do. I’d never screw a shouldered barrel on without measuring to see if the chamber depth was right. I also disagree that barrels headspaced with nuts need a no go guage too. I’ve installed many many Savage barrels with a go guage and a piece of scotch tape. I like mine with .001″ of headspace and I get exact minimum clearance with them very easily. What’s far more critical is how square the chamber and threads are than whether it is spaced with a shoulder or a nut.

    • Hey, Patrick. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It seems like a lot of people have strong opinions about this topic. Honestly, I’m just presenting what manufacturers are saying about the go/no-go gauges. I can see how a piece of scotch tape on a go gauge could work, but I’m not sure any gauge manufacturer is going to say that is the correct way to do it. If it works for you that is great.

      When I was talking about tools, I did totally say, “You may still want to double-check the finished work with GO and NO-GO gauges to be on the safe side.” I still do that personally, although I’ve yet to find one with a problem.

      I do 100% agree with you that the chamber and threads being square is more critical. And maybe that the chamber is centered with minimal runout. I certainly wasn’t trying to present that headspace is the most important thing. It’s simply the relevant aspect when you’re talking about pre-fit barrels and the flush of new actions “with guaranteed headspace.”


  9. How would you define “barrel extension” barrels like ar15 and ssg3000? Users can also quickly change barrels without go/no go guage. Can this design also be considered pre-fit?

    • Hey, Bryan. That’s a good question. I’m not an expert in AR-15s or the SSG 3000, so I’m probably not the guy to try to define those. Honestly, I wasn’t the one who defined “shouldered pre-fit” and “barrel nut pre-fit.” It just seems like that is what multiple places in the industry have started referring to those as, and that categorization made sense to me.

      Based on what I understand, I’d probably say a pre-fit is any pre-chambered barrel that is finished to meet a certain spec instead of a barrel that was custom-chambered and headspaced for an individual action/specific rifle. So it seems like those might fall into that definition. But, I didn’t run that by any of my gunsmiths or industry experts (unlike the content in the article), so that is just Cal’s opinion and might only be worth what you paid for it! 😉


  10. Hello Cal,
    I just wanted to, thank you, for what you do. You and this site are a very precious resource. I appreciate the time and effort that you must spend to produce the highest quality content to be found on the internet.
    God Bless,