To follow the entire series on my custom rifle build, click here. (The most recent will at the top of the page.)
Yesterday morning, I called Robert Gradous, a very well known and respected gunsmith. He is known for building tactical and hunting rifles and comes highly recommended in many circles as one of the best. I have done a great deal of research and was to a point where I needed some expert advice to make any further decisions. As dialed his business number, and as I heard his phone begin to ring I felt nervous. Who am I to think I am going to call such an expert and hold a conversation about rifles. After all, he is a master in his craft, and I am practically a complete novice.
“Hello?” He said. So, I replied, “Hello, my name is “Lil Chantilly” (names changed to protect the innocent.) Suddenly, he was a little grumpy, and asked the purpose of my call (he thought I was a telemarketer because he had been getting too many sales calls before mine.) I was thinking, this is going to be harder than I thought. I replied, a little quieter than I planned, “I want to talk to you about building a rifle.” Suddenly, his voice lightened and warmed and he quickly apologized for being rough at the beginning of the call. From that point on we had a fantastic conversation – all about my new custom rifle. At one point during the very beginning of the conversation, he even said, “Well, I’m not an expert, but…” This made me smile, he was very humble and he put me at ease.
I let him know that I want to build a rifle suited for me, one that I am going to practice high powered tactical shooting out to at least 1200 yards. Also, I would like to use it for competition in tactical matches, eventually.
He asked me a few more questions about the components I would choose:
- What action am I going to use? My answer: Surgeon or Big Horn Arms tactical short action. Mr. Gradous said he had built rifles with both kinds of actions, and thought either would be fine. He preferred the Surgeon Actions, he thought it was more solid, had better repeatability, etc. UPDATE: See the article I wrote comparing the two actions here.
- What type of stock? My Answer: McMillian. We discussed the A5 and A3. I let him know that I had used a rifle with an A5 stock in the past, but after some research thought that the A3 might be better. He said he had an A5 available and offered to weigh it for me so we could base part of the discussion on weight.
- Did I want the ammo to feed from a 10 round magazine? My answer: Yes 5 or 10 rounds. This was important if I want the rifle to feed from a magazine rather than become a single feed – so we could talk about bottom metal.
- What size bullet and type of cartridge? My answer: I let him know I had narrowed it down to a 6mm (243 or 6XC) or 6.5mm (260). This was one of the best parts of the conversation. He made me giggle – and I decided I really liked him. He started talking about how some men building rifles get a little too much testosterone, and think they need .338s, when out to 1200 yards a 6mm will be just as accurate. He gave me his opinion on the cartridges I mentioned. He said the 243 accuracy would drop off around 900-1200 rounds. He said the 6XC would possibly be good up to 3000 rounds, but I should definitely use the 6mm 115 DTEC bullet and seat it just above the powder. He said a 6XC will be accurate to 1/2 MOA every single time.
- He finally got to a question I had no idea about, he asked what barrel contour was I looking at? My answer: I have no idea – I seriously did not know. He gave me more homework: To research a Remington Sendero contour. I found a chart that compares various contours. I linked it here. I also need to research “Marksmanship Training Unit (MTU) Contour”, although in the reading I have done since the conversation yesterday, there is a lot of talk about MTU contoured rifles being impractical due to weight.
- What type of bipod? My answer: I had not settled on one yet. Some options are Atlas and Harris. He did ask me if I had seen a “Henry Rempel” ski-bipod, and I had not. So, he gave me homework to do – research this option. I have discovered this bipod is popular for F-Class competitions. He said it is the closest thing to bench rest stability in a prone position. He said it will raise the barrel 3″-12″ off the ground, and you can also cant the barrel and lock the bipod in place. This is definitely one heck of a bipod!
- Did I plan on using an adjustable cheek piece? My answer: yes. “Ok” he said, “This is where a lot of weight comes from .”
I have never built a rifle for a girl, so this will be a first.