Just returned from Shot Show for a whirlwind tour. Offgrid asked me to look at some new rifle actions for him, so I managed to do that, and also see a couple others.
Here are the actions I handled, all short actions;
Curtis Custom Vector
Kelblys Atlas Tactical
Seekins Precision Havac
Some of these actions are new for 2018, some have been seen previous to Shot Show.
Because of the frenzy at the show, I had very limited time to play with the actions except I was lucky to time my arrival at the Bighorn booth to not only play with the new Origin model, but also talk with both AJ and Aaron. Also keep in mind that some actions were without triggers, some with, and some mounted in stocks. Obviously I was not able to compare them side by side.
My unbiased review...
For the money, the Bighorn is the clear winner, at an introductory price of $750 ($825 after February 1st) there would be no reason to buy a Remington action for a custom build if you're trying to save your pennies. If you did use a Remington, you are either very stupid, or cannot afford the extra couple hundred, and have nothing done to the Remington action other than spin another barrel on it. In a nutshell, It's a TL3 without the integral recoil lug, a Chromoly action that is Nitrated, bolt appears to be the same with a nice NP3 coating making it a glass smooth Action. Bonus, Savage threads and available locking ring allows you to purchase pre-fit barrels and bypass the Gunsmith route. Delivery is expected August 2018.
Bat Tactical, it was also an ultra smooth action, very tight tolerances, I think the distributor said it was 1-1/2 thousands between bolt and action. Both the bolt and action were Nitrated. I asked about dust and dirt clogging it up and he said he had no issues and didn't clean it once during the Allegheny Sniper Challenge, but do they have the dirt and dust that we experience here in the Rockies and Desert Southwest?
ARC - honestly I did not like it. The bolt had a rattle trap fit in the action. They said it was made that way to prevent binding. I cycled the action several times putting pressure on the bolt down, up, and sideways. It did not bind on me, but it wasn't smooth either. Bolt and action was Nitrated on this one. There was a large hole in the left side of the action exposing the mechanical ejector, and I could just imagine dust and dirt infiltrating into it and causing problems. Last thing, I like teardrop shaped bolt knobs, like the PT&G Tactical, or those offered by Bighorn or Defiance, so the ARC bolt knob stands out as a big negative for me, but that's just a personal preference.
Kelbly's Atlas Tactical, it was Ok, nothing stood out as bad, just not as smooth as the Bighorn or Defiance. Both bolt and action were Nitrated.
Seekins Havac, kind of neat. It was a six (3 lugs in two row) lug system, 60-deg bolt lift. Looking at it reminded me of the GA Precision Tempest action, with the same breach ring configuration. I recall it was a little smoother than the Tempest action I once owned, and the machine work finishing was done a little better than the rough edges that the Tempest had. I don't recall if this action is available separately from a complete rifle build or not? Price of the complete rifle builds using this action are a very good value ~ $1500-1600 range?
Curtis Custom Vector. It's a new 3-lug 60-deg bolt action that appears to show promise. It has a set-screw on the tenon that allows for quick change barrels. There are some top level shooters who just dropped their sponsorship with Surgeon Rifles to use this new action. It was fairly smooth, and the bolt throw was not as clunky as other 3-lug systems I've handled before. The bolt shroud has an easy off feature that allows easy cleaning of your firing pin and spring. I did not spend very much time with it to give any further details.
Defiance Machine. It's the action I use for most of my custom rifle builds. They are very smooth in their stainless uncoated bolt configuration. I have my actions Cerikoted, and the bolts Parkerized to hold lubricants. The new model they introduced at Shot Show had a longer tenon forward of the integral recoil lug, but I failed to look at or note other new features as I was talking and joking with my friends who were working the Defiance booth. Here's a link with some detailed pictures: https://www.coreshooting.com/p...ariant=6006473785376
Note, during the NRL Championship Match in Las Vegas, one of my fellow squad mates who was from Mesa Precision in Grand Junction Colorado was running their new action, and from what I recall having a two lug 74-deg bolt throw? I had a chance to play with it a little. John from Mesa Precision said they are still working on refining the timing of the bolt, so more to follow on that action. I think it will be competitively priced?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Alpine,
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.
Thanks for the reviews Alpine. I've had my eye on the new Defiance Deviant Elite. It has a coned bolt nose, controlled round feed and a mechanical ejector. They have also redesigned the firing pin mechanism. At the same price as the Deviant I can see one of these in my future.
Thanks for the reviews alpine. That Bighorn looks like a great deal.
Not so good conditions but got out and fire formed some 6BRA today. shot the same Berger 90bt/8208 XBR load I shoot in my 10 twist 6BR to see how it'd do. It shoots similar in both so that was easy and can have fun forming.
Picked this old girl up from Mr. offgrid. I set back one of his dasher barrels and ran my BRA reamer in it. Looks like it'll work!
I've got a lot more forming to do but will work up a BRA load soon to get that figured out with 105 hybrids. Then I'll chamber a new blank and keep this as a forming barrel.
Not bad for a through together load and a tired barrel! Tod's 6BRA is shooting very well with 31/4895/Hybrids/2960/27".
6BRA= 6BR Ackley Improved.
I’m going to start with varget since I have around 40lbs of it and no 4895. One customer settled on a 31.6 varget load at 2955. He’s at the same velocity in his dasher at 32.3. I’ll work up to it and see what I get.
A little about the BRA. As offgrid said it’s the 6BR ackley improved. Keeps the neck shoulder junction as the 6br and blows out a dasher shoulder. Formed rounds are around .080 shorter than a dasher and you retain the longer 6br neck. It gains enough capacity to get to the dasher node with theoretically less powder. In theory this should gain a little barrel life. I removed .080 from the base of a Forster dasher die and will use that for sizing.
The BRA is chambered .002-.004 short of a 6br go gauge. This allows a slight crush fit on new brass at the neck shoulder junction and makes forming easy since you don’t have to jam or create a false shoulder. As a whole it should be easier to make good BRA brass vs the dasher. I’m going to try it out for a while and see what I think of it. It’s hard to find the negatives at this point. It sure does shoot well forming.
How hard is it to mount a savage pre-fit barrel? Any reason why that Origin action wouldn't work with an AICS?
Tl2/TL3 dropped into my AICS chassis w/o modifications. See no I reason the Origin would't work.
With the right tools, wrench, go gauge... Very easy to install a pre-fit.
Well I'm on the preorder list, suppose I should research triggers.
Has anyone here spent time with a Vortex Razor HD? It looks like a feature packed scope for the price.
Quick question for the group. I put a new barrel on my 243Win, planning to shoot 105gr bullets. After putting a box each of Hornady's AMAX and Berger's VLDs and Hybrids. The Berger bullets are definitely the winners, but I'm not sure which to chose. I've gotten to what I believe are good loads in each, picking charge weight and jump distance with each. I've now shot 4 5 shot groupings with the same load of the Hybrids, and 5 5 shot groups with the VLDs, at 200 yds (can't shoot any farther at this time). Average is 1.437" with a 0.457 SD for the Hybrids, and 1.534" with a 0.216 SD for the VLDs. I'm now out of bullets and need to decide which to use going forward.
I did not take out any "flyers" from these groups, though I have a couple of groups much smaller when I cull out shot, but wanted representative groups with my current skills.
Which would you choose to go forward with, especially knowing that 243Win has a deserved reputation for chewing up barrels and I'll be chasing the lands on this barrel. Thanks for the advice and use of your experience!
Shot several thousand Berger 105 Hybrids in a few different calibers. My experience is the Hybrids are much more forgiving with seating depth then the VLD's. With the aggressive throat gobbling of the 243, suggest the Hybrids. Shooting at 200yds, doubt you'll see much difference between jumping a Hybrid .00-.050.... Depending on your freebore, possibility you'll run out of neck for the VLD sweet spot. That happen to me on a 6.5x47 before the Berger 140 Hybrids were available. 130 VLD's jammed .010-.015 shot very well, chased the lands until only about .120 of the bearing surface was in the neck, switched to the longer 140 VLD's until the barrel died.
Recently had jelrod1 chamber two more Dasher barrels, a Kreiger and HawkHill. Have him engrave the barrel with Roman numerals, keep track of things. Dasher X!
I've now had 3 HawkHills, 4 Kreigers, 3 Bartliens barrels chambered in the Dasher, all .237 bore. While all of them shoot very well, it's interesting the HawkHill barrels are the hummers of the bunch. Also interesting the HawkHills shoot the same load (+/- .1 grain, +/- 10fps) extremely well. The other barrels loads/velocities much wider variance.
Thanks Offgrid, I ordered 500 Hybrids from PVI, unfortunately, looks like they're on backorder everywhere I looked.
Plug for a local dealer, good guys to deal with.
First day out of the office in a few weeks and the wind....blows. As in relentless 20+ mph, with gusts that must have been around 30 mph. I realized fairly early that this was going to be a fence-mending and yucca-chopping day. Bummer, because I wanted to try out the new barrel in one AR-15, and the new buffer spring in another.
After a couple hours of work, things changed....
Fortunately, the winds didn't push the fire our way, and the local fire departments worked quickly. But the fire still consumed 300+ acres, a handful of homes, and a handful of barns. Red flag warning days suck.
Recently at a friends ranch, LR steel playground, to test the load for one of my recently chambered Dashers. Same process of testing I always do. A round or two on a piece of steel to get my wind call close enough, then 5rds on a paper. Not chasing the wind, same wind hold for the 5 shots, looking at vertical only. Gusty wind L-R 5-12mph. Kreiger barrel shooting very well!
From the shooting position I shot the test there's steel to 850yds. Two buddies I was with were shooting a 7saum and 300wm. Our dope tracked perfectly to 850yds. 90 degrees to our right, target at 1650yds. Wind now at our backs, ramping down the valley floor, increasing up the ridge... I didn't shoot at the target. Their dope was off by .3-.4 mils, impacting high. What the heck? No doubt the wind was pushing their bullets up. After adjusting elevation, they still had a tough time with elevation, gusty wind. It's good to have the experience to understand what's happening, recognize that same situation again, adjust... Still it's a guess at best. That pesky wind!
About a 75' drop to the valley floor from the shooting position, target about 50' above the shooting position.
.2 MOA at 500 yards? That barrel is already toast. A regular tomato stake I say. Forget those Kreigers and get some high-quality pot metal barrels from ebay. Well, at least while I'm competing against you. However, when we're paired up in team matches, I suppose that Krieger will do.
The land on which I practice slopes downhill, with a drop of 8-12 feet for every hundred yards. Most of my shooting positions and targets are within a drainage that slopes gently on both sides for 300-500 yards to a 15 foot tall erosion mitigation dam. The distance to the dam depends upon shooting position. Down range from the dam, there are 20-40 foot tall natural rolling berms to the left of this drainage, but relatively flat terrain to the right. Targets placed 100-200 yards past the dam don't seem to have usual wind issues, but targets placed 300-400 yards past the dam are much more challenging.
For the farthest targets, I believe stronger winds from my left have a down-draft effect once they roll off the 20-40 foot natural berms. I often see shots impact lower than expected in such conditions. Stronger winds from my right just seem to blow straight across the terrain, neither increasing nor decreasing POI.
This fall and winter I tried some new shooting and target positions -- parallel to the primary positions but essentially 200-300 yards to the left. These new positions are on more gentle terrain, with no berms on either side of the bullet's flight path. I've shot only .223 rounds so far here, but I'm seeing noticeably less variation in vertical, regardless of whether the wind is from my left or right.
I have a 22lr shooting position that is 200 yards to the dam, and let's say the direction is to my 12 o'clock. Holding vertical at a 200 yard target at the dam can be challenging -- shots can go unexpectedly high or low by 3-4" if the wind is gusting. In the rare occasions that I have no wind, I hold vertical on this target quite well. At my 12:30 I place a target at 170 yards, just forward of the right edge of the dam. For whatever reason, my best verticals on 22lr ammo occur on this target. Wind just doesn't seem to affect its vertical.
At my 1:30 o'clock there's a 150 yard target, on the top of a gentle knob, however the bullet flight crosses a shallow gulley that runs right-to-left. Here I get some oddball high and low shots on occasion, which I attribute to wind effects in the gulley.
My most challenging 22lr target is at my 11:00 o'clock. It's located beyond the left edge of the dam, right next to the start of the 20-40 foot tall berms that affect my center-fire targets at distances of 700-900 yards. When the wind is gusting and switching, keeping 22lr impacts on this 12" vertical target is a real challenge -- I can be all over the plate, even with my best match ammo.
Wind....blows... and terrain makes it even more interesting.
I finally put some rounds down the new 16" barrel. The Wilson original was a 16" fluted 1/9 twist. This one is 16" unfluted 1/8 twist. The unfluted barrel weighs 5 ounces more -- so far I'm OK with the weight penalty. I seriously considered putting a 16" Krieger on this upper, but already the Wilson barrel on hand.
Winds were nasty, as they've been for the last month. Based on both Kestrel and drift ballistics, I was shooting in 16-22 mph from my 2-3 o'clock. Winds gusted higher a few times, but I didn't break shots when I heard it picking up.
I shot 50 rounds before calling it quits. The barrel is mostly broken in -- no copper fouling on wet patches, carbon fouling is way down, and muzzle velocity seems to be slowly rising (based on POI). The wind made zeroing the scope interesting. Good groups at even 100 yards were a challenge, due to lots of horizontal stringing. Vertical dispersion was encouraging -- 3/8", 1/2", and 3/4" on the groups I shot at 100 yards.
I could pick my POI on a 10" round steel at 250 yards. I never hit a 12" round at 300 yards -- miss right, then left, then left, then right.... A 12" diamond plate on a ridge at 310 yards went OK, as did a 12" diamond at 360 yards. Holding 7-8 MOA of wind at such close distances is odd.
I think I'm going to like this barrel.
Yesterday was another windy day, better for ranch duties than being behind a rifle. Winds were 12-20 from my 3-4 o'clock while shooting. I called it quits when gusts increased to 25 mph. While pulling targets the gusts were up to 30 mph.
Still, I was able to confirm that the 16" AR is properly zeroed at 100 yards. In spite of the wind I ended up with good groups at 100 yards -- 9/16" for Black Hills 50 grain Vmax, 15/16" for Hornady 55 Zmax, 13/16" for Federal GMM 77. Evaluating POI at distance was a challenge, as I couldn't keep impacts on targets. FGMM 77 was the exception on only one target -- 5" of vertical at 530 yards.
I also compared my Thunderbeast can to my Surefire SOCOM RC on the 308 bolt action. The TBAC is noticeable quieter, with a slightly softer recoil impulse. It appears the SOCOM has a POI 1 or 2 clicks up and right of the TBAC. I need lower winds to confirm, however.
This summer I plan to introduce my brother-in-law to precision rifle competition, at a match in northern Colorado. He will use my 308 with the SOCOM can, while I will use my 6.5 with the TBAC can. This will be fun.
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