To follow the entire series on my custom rifle build, click here.  (The most recent will at the top of the page.)

Surgeon Short Tactical Action (591)

After talking to Robert Gradous, I need to make a decision between a Surgeon Short Tactical Action (591/R) and a Big Horn Arms Short Tactical Action.  I have read a lot about both, and no doubt, either could make me happy.  Mr. Gradous said he had used both in his rifle builds, and felt both were good, but he thought the Surgeon was a more solid component with better repeatibility.  The price difference between the two is over $200.00, but if I choose the cheaper one (Big Horn Arms) and end up wishing I had the other, it won’t really be less expensive.  It is difficult to find good factual data on the Big Horn Arms action, because they are a newer company, and therefore, there are less people using them and providing feedback (compared to the extremely popular Surgeon).

How do you compare actions?  Some attributes that vary among actions are (among others):

  • weight
  • 60 degree vs 90 degree bolt throw (Both the actions discussed here have 90 degree bolt throws.)
  • Type of extractor used (both have Remington)
  • Is the picatinny rail integrated or separate?

The Surgeon 591/R action comes with an integrated 20 MOA 1913 picatinny rail that runs the full length of the action.  Both actions will work in conjunction with any stocks made for the Remington 700 short action with little to no modification as well as triggers and feeding systems.

Big Horn Arms Short Tactical Action

The Big Horn Arms (BHA) Action is compatible with Surgeon bottom medal and AI Magazines feed extremely well.  Due to some design modifications, the BHA action supports heavy barrels very well (this last point is less important to me because I am trying to balance weight and accuracy, and will NOT be getting a very heavy barrel.) The BHA bolt has a floating head, so the lugs are always squarely in contact with the receiver and not affected by the alignment of the bolt body in the receiver.  The BHA also claims better barrel alignment to the action.

The BHA also touts the following features:

  • Weighs 31 ounces
  • Extra heavy rear tang eliminates rear tang flex.
  • Positive bolt stop that does not contact bolt lugs.
  • Due to a closed top, making the action more stiff, it has an ejection port that does not allow for top loading and it must be fed from a detachable magazine.
  • Lightened firing pins to quicken lock time.

The Surgeon 591/R features:

  • Uses a Remington extractor
  • Weighs 34.6oz
  • Bolt: One piece, Fluted, Two lug and threaded handle
As I read forums for reviews on both actions, I do find more people who say Surgeon is the way to go, but again – there are just so many more of them out there.  I started looking for something that was going to be the “thing” to tip the scales.  I dug around on Surgeon’s website, and… They support the military LOUD and PROUD over there, I definatly love that!  I started really digging on Big Horn Arms website for more info, they are from Colorado – just like me! (Because I am in the military, I am still a Colorado resident though I live in California.)  I wondered where they were in Colorado, so I “Googled” for info on their location.  What?  Are you kidding me?  Their shop is about 10 miles from my mom’s house outside Denver!!!  Is THAT the sign I was looking for?  Maybe it is.  I might go see my family in the next month or so – I wonder if AJ and Mark at Big Horn Arms would mind if I visited and talked to them and actually touched their actions?  I am really leaning in that direction.  I just can’t get it out of my head that Robert Gradous prefers Surgeon, even though he’s built rifles with both.
This is a tough decision.  I would appreciate any thoughts ya’ll have!
Either way, these actions are going to be FAR more accurate than I will ever be able to shoot, so maybe I should flip a coin!



6 Replies to “Surgeon Tactical Action vs. Big Horn Arms Tactical Action”

  1. A couple of oversights: The BHA action does not have a Remington extractor. It uses a sliding plate design that is probably more rugged, and it has a separate bolt head, a feature that is generally credited a giving better locking lug contact, and which allows switching bolt face sizes.

    1. Boyd, Thank you for adding that! Since I have written this article, I have learned a lot more (and am still learning more daily…) I did decide to go with the Big Horn Arms action, and I have it in my possession. I just worked out the details with the gunsmith today, and I will be taking him all the parts this month so he can begin his work.

      Do you have a BHA action? Would love to hear more –

      Thank you for visiting my site!


  2. The old is out and the new is here. Featured above was the original action, since then we have had the TL and TL2 . AJ Goddard teamed up with the guys at ZAI in late 2014 and in 2016 we launched the TL3 and its a whole different animal. Please take the time to check it out.

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