Archive for Building a Custom Rifle Series

Meeting My Gunsmith: Alan Brown from A.J. Brown Arms Co.

.300 Win Mag Built by A.J. Brown Arms Co.

.300 Win Mag Built by A.J. Brown Arms Co.

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

We drove away from the Southern tip of Indiana, straight into the heart of God’s Country.  My rifle mentor, $$$, and I traveled over the rivers and through the woods, my rifle parts in tow. Since the day I decided a custom rifle would be the answer, I have been waiting to personally deliver my parts to the Gunsmith.  This was not just any Gunsmith. I was delivering my parts to Alan Brown of A.J. Brown Arms Co.  Alan is a well-known smith with a stellar reputation.  He recently retired from a very long and successful career supporting the Navy and Marine Corps at NSWC Crane where he worked in the Weapons Prototype Shop. Alan has had a hand in the Mk12, Mk13, Mk18, SPRV, and Mk262, to name a few. Chances are if you’ve ever handled a precision rifle from NSWC Crane, Mr. Brown has had his hands on it at one time or another.  We found the address, after only driving past it once, (a new record) turned around and pulled into the drive of his home.

If you’ve never had the chance to visit, or drive through, some of the small towns in Indiana (or some of the other mid-western states) you’re missing out.  These are places where everyone still waves at you when you’re driving by, refers to you as “honey or sugar”, and if you stop and get a bite at a local diner they will ask you if you need directions when they don’t immediately recognize you.  Some of the nicest people on the planet will be found in these rural towns.  We guessed his shop is there on his land, as there was an out building next to his house, we don’t actually know as we didn’t tour it  — but maybe next time, if we are lucky!

I will admit I was just a bit nervous, as this was my very first personal experience with the gunsmith I was hoping would build my first custom rifle.  I felt something, quite rare in my day-to-day grind – nervous but excited!  I knew I was unprepared to answer some of the technical questions a man of his experience would see as common knowledge.  The good news was, I had a friend to lean on, and hopefully he would be able to cover my gaps in knowledge.  We rang the door bell, Mr. Brown invited us in and we sat there in his living room, the three of us chit chatting.  After about two minutes I realized there was no need to be nervous and I was positive I made the right choice asking him to build my rifle. When the time was right, we got around to talking about the build for my rifle.

One of the first things Alan said about it was, “Why a 6XC?” I reminded him that I really don’t know anything, (mainly as a disclaimer for anything silly I was bound to say) and then I began explaining.  I let him know that I wanted a 6mm, and he said he agreed with the 6mm decision 100%.  I also talked to him a little about the distance I would be shooting at and my goals for the rifle and myself.  I let him know that $$$ and his brother compete in tactical long range competitions and I have set a goal to join them.   Alan is truly a very nice and kind person, and as we talked, I really warmed up to him and hung on every word.  He said that he really liked a 6BR, especially at less than 800 yards.  I had researched 6BRs, so we talked about that a bit.  He did say that 6BR is not a tactical round.  He did understand my reasons for choosing the XC and he mentioned his concerns were with some of the characteristics of the first lots of cases, he then went into details that honestly, were a bit over my head.   He was extremely complementary about David Tubb and his marksmanship though!

We talked about some of the other pieces of my build, I told him that I brought a Big Horn Arms short action, and that I had considered a Surgeon but ended up with the BHA.  He said he was glad I had chosen BHA- he agreed with that decision.  I let him know that I brought Krieger #8 match contour barrel, he looked at it and we decided on a 28″ finished length. I told Alan that I had read that I could get up to 3,000 rounds through a barrel using a 6XC, and he agreed that was possible – especially if I was not too hard on the barrel. (Meaning, if I would shoot 5-10 rounds and let it cool between.)  He said that when people put round after round through their barrels without giving them a chance to cool down, barrel life is reduced.  Alan has certain barrels he prefers.  Remember, he has built and tested hundreds and hundreds of rifles, and had experience with high numbers of various components of these rifles.  Because of some of his experiences, he has a preference for Shilen match select and Douglas barrels.  Still, he also said that he chooses his barrels based on the caliber of the rifle he is building and that the Mike Rock 5r .30cal barrel is one of the best out there (mental note).  He said that he has found that some manufacturers are better at certain calibers than others.

We spent time talking about my McMillan stock, Alan had no problems with this choice.  While we were talking, he took my action and Surgeon bottom metal and fit them together within the stock, just to make sure that everything would integrate as planned.  There was just a moment that it seemed we were going to have a problem, but Alan worked at it a bit longer and found that I had ordered the correct bottom metal and these parts would work fine.

At one point $$$ and Alan were conspiring against me!  $$$ said he planned on shooting out a barrel before I retired from the military, before I even got the chance to shoot my own rifle.

“My stock is too short for you!” I replied quickly.

“We can just add some spacers in the butt pad for you and it will fit you just fine.” Alan said as he took $$$’s side.  Seriously guys?  Ha ha!

There was some paperwork for me to fill out covering all the details we had just discussed to get the build on contract, and this might be when some of the most interesting discussion occurred.  This discussion was between $$$ and Alan.  Have you ever been in a grocery store line, and you hear someone speaking another language, and every now and then you hear a word you recognize?  Well, that is almost how I felt listening to their discussion.  I might be exaggerating – but not by much.  They talked about various bullets, calibers, AR-15s, .223 loads, Accuracy Internationals, BC’s, and tangent and secant ogive bullet designs like most of us discuss the weather.  $$$ pretty much immerses himself in gun information, always trying to learn something new.  He viewed this visit as an opportunity to learn — I know he enjoyed the visit with Alan just as much as I did.

Not only did we deliver my rifle parts, but the great discussion alone was more than worth the drive and the time – I could have listened all afternoon!  Alan welcomed us back if we were in the area, which I would love.  I said good-bye to my rifle parts – until the end of the year, we thanked Alan for his time and headed back home.  My mind was spinning on the drive home with so many ideas running through my head.  I think somewhere in that discussion I had said something about the “next rifle I build.”

My recipe for a long range tactical 6mm rifle (6XC)

To follow the entire series on my custom rifle build, click here. (The most recent will at the top of the page.)
Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 8.09.49 AMSometimes there is nothing else, but a custom rifle, to satisfy your need to reach out and touch a metal plate at 1,000+ yards. This is the recipe I have put together from research, talking to friends who have their own custom builds, my rifle mentor ($$$), and experts in the firearms industry. Decisions and choices have to be made for every part, and there are pros and cons for each decision. The point is, this is YOUR rifle, (well, this one is MINE) and you should make the decisions that YOU understand will fit you and YOUR requirements.

1. Decide which action you will use. This is a Big Horn Arms short tactical action. I considered Surgeon and Big Horn Arms Actions.

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2. Choose a barrel contour, manufacturer, and other details, such as twist ratio, will you flute, what is your desired finished length? When I met with Alan Brown, he did tell me that he chooses barrel manufacturers based on the caliber required for the build. If I had talked to him before I made my barrel choice, I may have made another choice. I did choose a Krieger #8 Standard Target Barrel with a 1:7.5 twist. It will have a 28″ finished length. I did opt for fluting, partly to reduce a little weight.

3. Choosing a stock is one of the best reasons to have a custom rifle. As a lady, I have a shorter Length of Pull (LOP), and after shooting other rifles, decided I wanted one that really fit my frame. It does not stop with the LOP, you can choose where you want the flush cups, the colors, the type and location of the rails, truly – every detail is painstakingly covered during the order process. I decided upon a McMillan stock. This stock is a beauty, it is solid. I chose the colors of resin that was swirled for the look that is as unique as a fingerprint.

4. I considered three different triggers very seriously. At the beginning, I was set on a Jewel Trigger, I had used it on my friend Bill’s custom rifle, and I LOVE a Jewel! It is just so crisp and clean. After I had more experience and tried other two stage triggers on Accuracy Internationals, I decided there were serious benefits to a two stage trigger. I have seen Jewel’s (set very light) fire ahead of the intended shot, especially when a person who is used to using a two stage trigger is now using a Jewel. So, for me there is a slight safety issue. For holding a shot, if you get yourself ready to pull the trigger and then have to move your finger on to the Jewel trigger, you may change your position slightly, and this will cost time or possibly accuracy. For a two stage trigger I considered a CJ Xtreme, until I talked to Robert Gradous, and he recommended a Huber Trigger. After talking to John Huber, I was convinced that he had a design that compensated for many human errors related to how the hand moves and how that changes the forces moving against the rifle. I had to have it – I chose a Huber Trigger.

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5. This is Surgeon Bottom Medal, it integrates with the BHA Action and will allow use of Accuracy International magazines.

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These are the ingredients I have chosen, and I have handed them over to one of the best Gunsmiths in the industry, hands down. Alan Brown at AJ Brown Arms Co. will do his magic and will build me not only a tool that will get the job done every time, but a rifle that will be my pride and joy for a lifetime. It’s going to have to “bake” for several months – but it will be well worth the wait.

A Tale of Two Fine Gunsmiths

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 7.45.49 AMTo follow the entire series on my custom rifle build, click here.  (The most recent will at the top of the page.)

If you have been following my custom 6XC rifle progress, you will recall that I had been lucky enough to talk to a highly respected gunsmith, Robert Gradous, several times and learned so much from the time I spent talking with him. The last time I talked to him he was as kind as ever, and in-fact is the person who brought Huber triggers to my attention. I did end up purchasing a Huber trigger based on his recommendation, after some research and after talking to John Huber about the engineering design of his trigger. Because I had talked to Mr. Gradous so many times, I was generally planning on having him build my rifle. He has a week long class where you build your own rifle, under his instruction. That class very appealing to me and who knows, maybe someday I will get to do something like that. Robert did tell me there would be a long delay, and he told me that he had a friend, Dana English, who he recommended if he could not fit me in his schedule. Also, I believe he said Dana English is more experienced in 6XC rifles. I considered this, but Dana’s shop is in Florida, and I cannot see myself delivering my parts to Florida. (Yes, I could have shipped the parts, but since I am really trying to learn from this process and really want to meet and talk to the fine gunsmiths, I did not want to ship my parts.)

When I first began researching gunsmiths, there were only two people I wanted to build my rifle, Robert Gradous or Alan Brown from AJ Brown Arms Co. Why did I call Robert first? Simply because I had written his number down before Alan’s. You can read the story of the first conversation I had with Mr. Gradous here. Like every true firearms expert I have met, Robert was so kind and generous with his time that he won me over and I didn’t immediately call Alan.

Perhaps Robert would have fit my rifle in at some point, but if I was going to change my mind and go with a different gunsmith – then it had to be for a darn good reason. As I mentioned, one of my requirements (besides reputation and expertise) was to meet the gunsmith I was trusting with my new 6mm baby. I decided the best option was to go back to my initial short list of choices and give Alan Brown a call. There are so many pros to Alan that I truly should have called him first. If I had listed the pros and cons between my initial two desired gunsmiths, I WOULD have called Alan first.

As many of you who read this blog know, I spend a lot of my time in Indiana. AJ Brown Arms is located in Indiana, just about 45 minutes from Crane. I have a few friends who work at Crane, so I always have someone to visit there. My rifle mentor, $$$, also lives in Indiana and would be able to assist me if a part had to be delivered etc. Alan had a full and successful career working at the Small Arms Division at Crane, developing rifles required for military requirements. Basically he was directly supporting the Navy and Marines, delivering critical precision firepower. As a Navy girl, how could I not love this? He spent over 25 years building precision rifles for the military and now has continued his work as a retirement career. The best part is, I could visit Alan to deliver my parts and to discuss my build in person. Yes – after I thought about it, I decided I really needed to ask Alan Brown to build my rifle, officially.

About a month ago, I called Mr. Brown and asked him if he could fit my rifle into his schedule. Again, he was just as nice as he could be, and said it would not be a problem if I wanted to bring my parts to him. He said we’d discuss the specifics when we met. At that time I knew I was going to go to Indiana in a few weeks, I was only waiting on the trigger.  I knew I had a plan!

I do have a great story to tell you. I actually met Mr. Alan Brown this week and the visit was fantastic. But, I think I am going to save that tale for another day…

My new McMillan A3 Stock has arrived!

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

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McMillan A3 Stock with adjustable cheek piece

Back in July I told you about the details of the A3 McMillan Stock I was ordering.  It arrived at the end of December, so it took about 5.5 months from the date of order to arriving at my door. There has been so much going on in the world of 2nd Amendment politics that I have been remiss in talking about good ole gun stuff.  I have to catch you up to where I am on my rifle build!  (I have had the stock for more than a month!) The only piece to the finish my rifle puzzle is the Huber trigger I ordered a couple weeks ago. I plan on taking all my parts to the gunsmith in a couple weeks, but I will talk about some of that in another post. Today I want to give you a “tour” of my beautiful rifle stock!

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The full length view of my A3 Stock

I chose to have a custom blend of colored resin so the stock would be 100% mine. The exact mixture for this stock was: 40% Woodland Beige, 40% Turquoise, and 20% Black. I had heard that no matter how you imagine your colors blending, they would probably look nothing like they did in your imagination. I had narrowed my choices down to four combinations and had the readers of this blog assist me in choosing. “We” chose option D. I did envision a different “mixture”, but I love the looks of this stock so much, I now cannot imagine it any other way!

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Photo A shows the area for bedding the Surgeon Bottom medal, and Photo B shows the custom bedding for my Big Horn Arms Short Action

I did choose a Big Horn Custom Short Action for this rifle build and Surgeon Bottom Medal to finish off the heart of the rifle.  You can see where the Bottom Medal will be seated in photo A and where the BHA action will be bedded in photo B.

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Embedded Anschutz Rail

 Along the forearm of the rifle, an Anschutz Rail has been embedded to allow for mounting a bi-pod.

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Custom fit for a #8 Standard target Krieger Barrel

Above you will see my machined in aluminum pillars and the cradle for the barrel customized for a #8 Krieger Standard target Contour.

Flush Cup for sling attachment

Flush Cup for sling attachment

I had flush cups added my McMillan stock so that I could attach a sling if desired.

My custom rifle has been an extremely educational undertaking, and researching all the attributes to order this stock was a big part of that education. One of the main reasons I wanted a custom rifle is to have a rifle that fit me perfectly. My favorite colors are swirled for a look that is all mine, the LOP fits my arm like Cinderella’s glass slipper, and every other detail was well thought out. I am going to be the operator of this rifle, and this stock is the key component to ensuring it is all MINE!

Do you need to keep your rifle safe from Sharks? Try a Pelican Long Rifle Case

The most surprising gift I received for Christmas this year was my Pelican Rifle Carrying Case. It was the Black Model 1750, with foam inserts. I am in the middle of a 6XC custom rifle build, and that rifle is going to be my pride and joy! The way I see it, it is a lot of work doing the research for the parts, and finding the perfect gunsmith who understands what a woman needs in a long-range rifle. Not to mention—accuracy costs money! I am going to need a case worthy of carrying that rifle, and the dear friend who gave it to me, as a gift, fully understood that I needed a treasure box. A rugged, sleek, portable carrying case for my dream rifle—this Pelican long case meets my needs perfectly.

I wrote a review for this tough but beautiful rifle case on  Check out my review and the reviews from the rest of the team here: Pelican Rifle Long Case Review (Model 1750).

Toward the end of that article, you will find out that the Pelican Corporation is only scared of three things, and one of them is Sharks.  If you want to know what could cause more damage than a shark?  Then Click here.

The final piece of the puzzle: a Huber Trigger

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 6.31.24 AMTo follow the entire series on my custom rifle build, click here.  (The most recent will at the top of the page.)

For those of you who have been following my “Building a Custom Rifle Series”, I finally ordered the final piece.  Yesterday I called Robert Gradous, the gunsmith who has been kindly advising me during this rifle build.  I still needed a trigger. I was down to two options, a Jewel trigger (which I have used many times, and love the crispness) or a CJ Xtreme, a highly regarded two stage trigger with  several adjustments that allow you to fit the trigger to the user perfectly.  I had decided with my goal of eventually competing in long range tactical competitions that I needed a two stage trigger.  I came to this conclusion after talking to my trusted mentor (we’ll call my mentor $$$), and reading Sniper’s Hide day after day. (I had my own reasons for thinking I needed a two stage, but today I found out why I REALLY need a two stage.)  So, I called Robert Gradous to get his thoughts on the matter. He generally agreed that a two stage trigger would be right for me, but then he took a left turn in Albuquerque. He said, “How about a Huber trigger?”  He talked to me about them for a minute and suggested I do some research, he thought they might be more expensive, but said it would be worth it.  I thanked Robert for his time (he is such a truly nice person!)

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 5.29.00 PMI looked at the Huber Concepts website and called $$$.  He said had heard of these triggers before, and the website had a lot of technical data about why this could be the best trigger for my rifle. $$$ had a few questions and called Huber Concepts to ask some questions, he ended up talking to John Huber himself.  After $$$ was satisfied this trigger would work for me, he gave me the go ahead to do my own research and make my own decision.  I also called and talked to John Huber.  John reminded me, once again, why I love the gun community – I have yet to talk to a person who wasn’t just as kind, friendly, and excited as I am about the technology in the firearms industry.  John said before he sells anyone one of his triggers that he wants to make sure they understand why they are remarkable, and what they are actually doing as they pull through two stages of the trigger.

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Click to see larger version on Huber Concepts Website

John let me know that the patents were just approved for this Remington 700 tactical trigger, he said there are less than 1,000 of them out there on rifles now.  While he was designing the trigger for the Remington 700, he listened to what his customers were saying regarding the performance, safety, and feel of his triggers and used that feedback to design this trigger.  He says his patented Anti-friction Ball Design will provide a shooter with even better feel and performance than they expect!

John calls his triggers “Staged Break” triggers and says they should not be directly compared with traditional one or two stage triggers.  He says his triggers are more tactile, not just mechanical and that subjective perceptions and learned behaviors will present themselves as inconsistent form. 

He told me that before he sells a trigger to someone, he really wants them to understand what is different about his trigger, and to make sure his new customer understands shot management and how that works with the Huber trigger. He went on to talk to me about the timing involved in a single pull of the trigger, and how that will affect the resultant path of the bullet and the accuracy to the target.  The action of firing a rifle with accuracy requires the shooter to apply pressure to the trigger over time and distance without influencing the alignment of the sight picture on target at the moment of break.  He said our hand functions as a unit and may not be equal in dexterity or coordination left to right.   When we pull a single stage trigger, our hand will equal all forces acting and adjust the grip to finger pressure as opposing forces.  What I believe he is saying is that, involuntarily we change our grip at same moment of break, due to the grip : finger-pressure ratio, and this will throw the shot off target. He says when we are pulling a single stage trigger, going from zero pressure to 1lb. of pressure (or more) will result in lost time and distance, which will result in a shot “Late on Target.” He said shooters anticipate the “break,” and this anticipation is not based in timing and only a guess at millisecond increments and thousandth’s of an inch.

The way the Huber trigger’s “Staged Break” design corrects these innate deficiencies is that it preloads the break grip, prior to the break, as well as closing the detectable presentation to the break in both time and distance.  John has designed the trigger so that the weights for each stage are at a 30%-50% ratio.  If the first stage is slack, it will not sufficiently pre-load the break grip.  John has set up the triggers for a 2lb total weight, if the first stage is set at 0.5lb, then the break weight will be 1.5lb.  If the first stage is set at 1lb, the break weight will be 1lb.  If you had the trigger set at 1lb and 1lb, this means that for the first stage, you would start at 0lbs and transition to 1lb through the first stage, so that to pass the “break” you would have to start at the already existing 1lb and transition to 2lbs total to fire the shot.

I did not ask John one question I wish I had asked, if you remove your finger from the trigger when you are past the 1st stage, at the wall, does the trigger reset?  I did not easily find the answer for this question on his website, but I did search, and on Sniper’s Hide, someone said it does not reset.  They said if the first stage was 1lb, when you remove your finger, it will only take approximately 0.5lbs to get to the wall the next time until you push through the break and fire a round.  Only then will the trigger completely reset.  John is busy at the SHOT show this week, so I’ll call him next week and ask him some more questions, including this one.  

John says when shot management is based in time; using his trigger will keep attention on target and will minimize ergonomic and other involuntary motions at the moment of the shot.  

Every so often I had a long pause during our conversation, and I finally told John, “I am sorry – I have to take notes so I can remember everything you are saying!”  He chuckled a little, and let me know that it was all on his website too, and that he sends A LOT of information with the trigger itself.  He told me he would send the performance data for my trigger when my trigger was shipped. 

My overall impression of John Huber and Huber Concepts is that this is pure expertise and technical knowledge in the form of a trigger.  He is a professional, and absolutley cares about what he is doing.  He wants to make sure that I (as the operator of my rifle) know exactly what I can expect from my trigger.  He understands the innate human characteristics that introduce error, and he has done his best to compensate for them.

I cannot wait to get my trigger!  You will hear about it when it arrives!

My McMillan Tactical A3 Stock Shipped!

A3 McMillan Tactical Stock

A3 McMillan Tactical Stock

After a long day at work, I checked my e-mail in my car before I started driving home and found two emails declaring the same GREAT news:

My McMillan Stock has finally shipped!!!  Both McMillan and UPS sent me notes declaring the joyous news.

It should arrive in less than a week. I ordered this stock back in July (if my memory is correct). It is a completely custom stock.  You can read more about all the details of my order here. I was able to have it customized specifically for my action, barrel, and bottom metal. I also have a custom length of pull and an adjustable cheek piece, along with many other little details chosen by me for me. I am anxious to see the color. I had to choose three colors that they swirl together in a colored resin that creates an extremely rugged finish, perhaps one of the most rugged finishes available.  See more about the color design information here. In case I never said on this blog, I did choose option “D” from this this link (click here).  Many of you voiced your opinion on the Heels and Handguns Facebook page and by commenting here on the blog, so you had a hand in choosing my stock.  I will get picture up to show you what WE designed as soon as I can.  I cannot wait to see it!

Now my only hope is that the UPS driver is “Racing the Truck” to get the stock delivered quickly!

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

My Big Horn Arms Action


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

My Big Horn Arms Tactical action arrived awhile back. I ordered it from Trigger Time Gun Club in Longmont, CO. They had great customer service. I had talked to AJ at Big Horn Arms, and he let me know Trigger Time had one on the shelf. (This fact ensured I had almost no delay for this part of my build.)

When I hold this action and run the bolt – it is solid. Clearly a fine piece of workmanship.

As for the rest of my rifle…. Still waiting on parts. I have talked to Kay at McMillian, she says it will be another four weeks until my stock is complete. My Kreiger barrel is not due to ship until December. I haven’t even ordered my bottom medal or trigger yet, I guess I will do that in the next couple weeks. (I understand there is no delay on those items.)

My new worry is that I plan on using 115 DTEC bullets in my 6XC round and apparently, 115 DTECs are out of stock everywhere. Once all my parts are in, I plan on taking them to Robert Gradous personally so I can meet him. If I have time – and depending on his schedule, I may even take his rifle building class. Anyway, I will not need the 115s anytime soon – but I am going to start buying them when I find them.


Wax On, Wax Off — My Karate Kid Moment

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

I cannot believe some of the conversations I have had with some of the most respected men in the world of tactical rifles in the last few days.  I was telling $$$, my rifle mentor, about one of them today and I realized that this had been his master plan all along.  I had a “Karate Kid” moment.  You know, when you realized everything you have done, all the hard work you have put in a particular direction that was complicated, or someone else could have done for you brought you to a moment where you see the “why” of the work and where you are headed.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a novice in the world of tactical shooting – and no matter what I am about to say, that definitely will be true for a long time to come.  But, there is no way even six months ago that I could have had the conversations I am capable of having now.  The knowledge I have gained has opened a whole new world to me and I am starving to learn more!

Every time I ask $$$ what I should do about my action, barrel, stock, etc. he tells me something like, “Well, if it were me, I would call McMillan.” “If it were me, I would call your gunsmith [Robert Gradous].” “If it were me, I would call AJ at Big Horn Arms.” I think you get the picture. The thing is, I do not want to sound like a silly girl to these experts, so before I would call them, I would read and read and read and try to figure out what they might say, or what all the options were, so I would be able to ask intelligent questions. I am sure they could all see right through my lack of knowledge – but everyone I spoke to was amazingly nice, and helpful in a way I do not see in other industries that often.

I ended up talking to AJ Goddard from Big Horn Arms at length last evening. I did decide to get a Big Horn Action, and he was helping me get the right info that McMillan needed for my stock. The conversation ended up drifting to a random tactical rifle discussion where I explained to him what my plans were for my rifle, the overall details of my custom rifle build, even the pros and cons of Accuracy International production rifles vs custom rifles, etc. What a super nice guy!

When I hung up the phone I could not believe I had sat on my back patio as the sun set in California, just casually chatting about the world of tactical rifles with someone like AJ. When I told $$$ about this conversation, he told me, “I could have ordered all your parts for you, but you would not have learned everything you have and you would not appreciate everything that goes into this.” It had been his master plan all along.

I might have to start calling him Mr. Miagi! (As long as he does not call me Daniel-Son.)

Ordering my McMillan Stock

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

I thought I was almost ready to order my stock, I have many of the details settled, and had the McMillan order form 95% filled out in front of me. I was not sure about the custom lug and I was not sure about the shank length information needed, so I called my best friend and rifle mentor to ask some questions. Regarding the custom lug he said I should just call Big Horn Arms and ask them for some details. I did call Big Horn Arms and I talked to AJ Goddard (he was very nice). I let him know I was about to order my stock, and planned on using a Big Horn Arms short tactical action, and wanted to know if I needed any additional info about a custom lug, etc. AJ let me know that McMillan has one of his actions there at their factory and that they would know what to do. That made perfect sense, so I thanked him for his time and called McMillan.

I ended up talking to a nice lady named Kay, and we walked though the ordering process together. I had all the answers to the questions she was asking until we came to the barrel information. I let her know I was going to use a #8 Kreiger Standard Target barrel contour. This is where the question came up about “shank length”. I had the Kreiger Barrel website open in front of me and I was on the page with all the barrel measurements.  I tried to tell her what I thought the answer was (2.75′), but she didn’t think that was correct, so we went through the rest of the order form and I told her I’d call her back about the Shank Length questions.  I realized later, what I was telling her was the unfinished shank length, or the cylinder length.

I figured out my actual Length of Pull (LOP).  A standard LOP is 13.5″, but I figured out that mine is 12.75″.  I will discuss how to find your personal LOP in a different article.  So, I did request the stock be modified to compensate for the shorter LOP.  I did choose my stock color, it is “Option D” as discussed in my previous article.  I chose 40% Woodland Beige, 40% Turquoise, and 20% Black.  Kay and I discussed if these colors would work, specifically, if the woodland beige was light enough to provide a contrasting color.  She said it was, and thought the colors would be fine.

Some of the other decisions I made and confirmed during this order, I am going to go with a Jewell Trigger, I am getting a rail on the fore-end to mount my bi-bod (which will give me the option to use several brands of bi-pods).  I initially told Kay I wanted an Anschultz Rail, but I think I am going to switch that to a Freeland brand rail, after talking to another expert in the field (Dayne, a friend of Don, my rifle mentor).  I also had flush cups inserted into the side of the stock for the sling as well.

The reason I ended up talking to Dayne was regarding the Shank Length question.  He has a plethora of McMillan stocks, and is the type of guy that would call McMillan and know exactly what he wanted, and would be able to explain to Kay what he wanted.  Because I am still learning, (no matter how much I have already learned) I did not know exactly what the “shank” was and so I could not answer Kay’s question.  I called Dayne and he explained to me what I needed to know.  He said what McMillan needed was the “finished shank length”, so could properly inlet the stock for my barrel.  I had already read on the internet and figured out what the shank portion of the barrel was, but Dayne explained that the gunsmith would have to thread the breech end of my barrel for it to be inserted into the action, and the portion of the shank left would be my “finished shank length.”

McMillan will need to account for the remaining  shank and subsequent taper of the barrel so the stock and barrel will look like they are a perfect match.  Dayne and Don both say in order to know what my actual shank length is, I will need to call the gunsmith, as he will take a lot of things into account, like how my 6XC cartridge will feed from the AI magazine, if I am using 115 DTEC bullets, how long the throat should be, etc.  So, I am going to have to call Robert Gradous on Monday again to see what he recommends for this measurement.

Kay, at McMillan, let me know that I would receive a confirmation e-mail in about two weeks, and made it sound like I could make any changes to my order until about that time.  If anyone ever wonders why custom stocks are so expensive, there is a lot of thought that goes into them.  I am understanding more and more everyday.  On McMillan’s website it states that it could be 3-4 months of wait time before I receive my stock.  So, in the mean time I am going to keep researching and get the other parts on order one by one.  I’ll let you know how all that is going!

As usual, I would love to hear about your experiences, including questions and comments.  I think this article made it pretty clear, I still have A LOT to learn!

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