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June 23, 2006

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The Most Important Part of a Rifle

I got a question the other day from a shooter who wants to build his own rifle on a Turkish Mauser action and a barrel made by one of our major gun producers. He was interested in the best way to bed the barrel, and asked if the various methods really made that much difference.

You bet they do, said I, but let’s back up a minute. Since you’re going to all that trouble, why not start with a good barrel instead of one that will probably shoot OK, and might shoot badly? The barrel is 90 percent of the equation. If you have a good one there’s not much you can do to make a rifle shoot poorly. If you don’t have a good one there’s nothing you can do to make it shoot well.

A little while back I was talking with Chad Dixon, the gunsmith who builds Scimitar tactical rifles for Dakota Arms. Scimitars have to shoot 5 consecutive 10-shot groups that measure 1/2-inch or less before they leave the shop, so you could assume that Chad knows something about accuracy, and he said the following:

“If someone wanted me to build him an accurate rifle, I would ask how much he had to spend, and then put 80 percent of that into the barrel. The rest I could improvise one way or another. Spend your money on the barrel.”


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Building a rifle is a labor of love, especially if you do most the work yourself. I found I learned an incredible amount of rifle knowledge upon building, or at least acquired some dangerous opinions.

Screwing the barrel in CORRECTLY and headspacing is an easy gunsmith’s job. Getting the barrel is the trick. I went with a Shaw barrel since I would have had to wait 14-months, or more, for other custom barrels. I still don’t know if “cut” rifling is better than “button”, or if a hammer-forged barrel is best.

I found 90% of the action’s metal work had to do with polishing, honing, and truing. After I did this for a bunch of hours for two-months on a brand new, Pre-WWII BRNO Mauser…and I wasn’t perfect…..I know why a custom rifle is so pricy. This area is where you see and feel the difference between a commercial and custom rifle product.

Have some fun, and good luck!


JC Blauvelt

Mr. Dixon is a wise man. He know were the heart of a rifle lies.

Greg Russell

Without a doubt, the barrel is critical in the making of a good to great rifle, but that wasn`t really the question, was it?

Clearly, to state The Most Important Part of a Rifle, it HAS to be the man with the stock to his shoulder.



I know this is a little off the current topic, but I was wondering if you could give me your personal opinion on the Browning A-Bolt. I'm kinda young and have a rather narrow range of experience with different rifle models. In the discussions I've read (especially the original Gun Nut Survey) the A-Bolt doesn't seem to get much attention. I deer hunt with a Micro A-Bolt Hunter and in my experience with the gun it has seemed to shoot well and functions smoothly. I was just wondering if you could give me an idea of how it stacks up against other bolt-actions like the M700, M70, MkII, etc. Thanks!

Mike Diehl

I was looking at a Rem 700 BDL used in a local gunstore. Immaculate in every way -- BUT --it had fine pitting and fine *rust* (light but any rust is too much rust) on the crown. Gun shop wouldn't let me try it out on the range, had not done their own test to see if it was sound, and has no return or conditional sale agreement policy.

Needless to say that was a Red Flag Do Not Purchase message to me. Too bad, I liked that gun store too. They've lost tons of my respect.


Is there really a MOST important part of the rifle? A good barrel is only part of the equation, it seems to me. You could have the best barrel money can buy, but if you have a creepy trigger that pulls at about 12 lbs., or a poorly fitted stock, you won't hit much. And, like Greg Russell said above, the guy pulling the trigger has a lot to do with accuracy. Just my .02.

craig curtis

thats right kj but youve got to read between the lines here . the barrel is the foundation of accuracy without that, all those hours loading your favorite bullets will be for naught!by the way you better have that trigger replaced .

B. Jarrard

Hello Dave.

Thanks for your reply to my email question. I'm the guy who wrote you the email in the first place about the rifle I'm building. I had thought about responding back to your email, but decided against it figuring you’re probably a very busy man with other new emails to answer and deadlines to meet, but since you've listed it here in the blog… why not.

The actual reason I ended up going with the Rem .30-06 barrel was mainly based on two things.

#1- As this is my first rifle, I am being helped along by a very competent gunsmith friend who has used these Rem barrels is the past and has got great accuracy out of them. This rifle will be (primarily) for deer hunting in the Pacific Northwest where there usually is not much chance of a long shot on game. As such Tac-Driver accuracy is not a must with this rifle. However, having said that it is worth noting that my tutor in this endeavor has made many rifles in the past off these old Turk actions using Rem barrels and has had great success. He has the strong feeling that once the rifle is completed, if you can’t make Mickey Mouse ears on paper, you need to start over. Quite frankly I’ll be happy so long as I can get 3 shots in 1”. If he can deliver Sub MOA accuracy, then all the better J.

#2- Probably the biggest reason I choose this barrel though, was the price. Even with my friends assurances I had originally thought about going with a more expensive barrel like you suggested. But when this one came up on Ebay for $20, how could I resist? The barrel scoped clean and even the finish is in great condition. I figure if I have to re-barrel it later, then I can, but if it shoots good for $20, I got a GREAT deal!

With all that being said, this has definitely been a great experience, and I’ve learned more than I even thought possible. While this is my first custom rifle, it won’t be my last!

Once everything is completed and the first shots are fired I’ll send you a picture of the target. Hopefully you’ll see a picture of Mickey.


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