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Tndeerhunter's picture
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Custom rifle, yes or no?

Have you ever pondered that question, wondering if you'd really enjoy owning and shooting a full custom rifle? Well, I think if you've pondered on it for more than about 5 minutes total, then you absolutely would enjoy owning a finely made custom rifle.

There are lots of levels of "custom" rifles around. Do you simply mean a rifle for which you chose the chambering and then had it custom stocked, blued and tuned? Or does it mean a very ornate rifle adorned with scroll engraving, custom hand checkering and topped with a jillion $$ scope?

Close as I can figure it means both, along with pretty much anything in between. I have finally taken the plunge myself after years of wondering and I am very happy I did. I suppose I should first give a little description of what I was wanting as a "custom" rifle. My custom had to have a nice wood stock and be blued like the rifles of old (color that high polish, not matte blue!)

My rifle needed to be chambered in a somewhat popular cartridge, in the even it was going to be sold at some point. To chamber your custom rifle to a wildcat or very rare chambering may be some's desire (and that's fine!) but not high on my list, knowing that an oddball chambering can make a fine custom piece tough to sell. And after all, someday it may need to be sold.

When my guns are divvied up after i'm gone, some will already have new owners, my kids and grandkids. Others will be sold so no one has the problem of insuring them and keeping more guns around than they actually want. Enough said! My choice is for a somewhat common chambering. There are a couple of action types I would choose from, among them the pre '64 Winchester, Rem 700, early Sako rifles or the venerable Mauser 98.

Knowing what it could cost today for a rather simple rifle wearing NICE walnut and built by a craftsman, I looked constantly at places that listed custom rifles for sale. It worked out well for me as I found a beautiful M98 with custom Douglas barrel, new M70 type safety, Timney trigger and a stock of stunning walnut. I figure I paid well under half of what the build cost had to be. The rifle arrived, appearing unfired and it's also a shooter in it's classic but still fairly common  .257 Roberts chambering. I'm a happy man!

If you think you might, yup, you do!! Good luck and I hope some day you like yours as much as I like mine!! Thumbs up

Pictures will be in the photo section very soon.

Don Fischer's picture
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A custom rifle, you bet. It

A custom rifle, you bet. It would have to be on either a mod 98 or 1903 action preference to the 1903. Use the two stage military but have it cleaned up properly. Add a new safty. Needs a fine walnut stock, after all that is what a stock should be made of. 20 lpi checkering in a Dick Bortmus pattern, wrap around. steel pistol grip cap, steel trap butt plate. Slinder, must be slinder in the forearm and the cheek piece relieved around it. Oil finish. The barrel should probably be an E.R. Shaw but I'd get a Shilen match grade. It would be 22". Polished blue finish but not the super high gloss. My name engraved in the side of the reciever, plain but tasteful. Would have a Leupold one piece base and leupold rings and a 2-7x new Redfield scope. Maybe even put my 2 3/4x Denver Redfield I have on it, hum! Quick detachable sling swivel studs, none of that white spacer garbage. The action needs bedded solid with pillars and the barrel floated full length and oil finished inside. Also finish under the pistol grip cap and under the trap butt plate. The cartridge would be some standard 6.5, perhaps the 6.5x57. 1-9 twist with throat cut for 130 gr bullets. The loading dies would be cut from blanks with the same reamer the chamber was cut with. Add a leather military sling and I think I'd be good to go. Now to just win the lottery!

I would not consider selling a custom I had made and if my son or grandson didn't want it, it would be burried with me.

groovy mike's picture
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Fun stuff

Kudos for you to reaching out to teh used gun market.  There are so many hidden gems there for less than teh retail fo a new factory gun - let alone the retail on having a custom gun made, that it seems silly to me not to shop for new rifles.

For me, restoring an old gun is fun and it results in a fairly custom rifle to start with. What I mean is that if I’m restocking then I get to pick what the new stock will be. The same is true of refinishing. Should I leave the worn metal alone, blue it, or brown it? It is up to me. Rather than build a new rifle or modify one in perfectly working order to something else I find pleasure in bringing an old classic rifle back to life. Sometimes it is a common cartridge chambering but sometimes it is not.

In a case where I end up with a somewhat unusual chambering I get to experience a taste of the exotic while at the same time not spending extra for it. When I bought my combination gun (aka cape gun) that happened for me completely unintentionally. I bought it as a 38-55 and 12 gauge. Two fairly common chamberings. Well the left barrel IS a twelve gauge. It just happens to be a 2 and a half inch chamber instead of the ubiquitous two and three quarter in chamber. That’s not bad – just different. It lets me use the old style all brass shot shells. And they are pretty darned cool. Similarly the right barrel turned out not to be a 38-55 chambering, but .360 nitro express (aka 9.3x57R) which is just a tiny bit smaller in diameter and longer in case than the 38-55. Just different enough to be exotic and historic but close enough to common that I can reform the easy to find 38-55 brass readily into the correct dimensions. So not a bad thing at all but completely different than what I thought I was buying when I walked out of the gun show! It is yet another reminder that you might not get what you are expecting. So use some caution when you attempt to sight in a rifle (or even a shotgun) for the first time!

buffybr's picture
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Custom guns

In my opinion, a custom gun is any gun that the owner has changed or had changed from the standard factory model.  This work can vary from simply changing the recoil pad on a rifle or installing custom grips on a pistol to a full custom gun that has been built from the ground up to your specifications.

I consider most of my guns as tools that I want to shoot and enjoy, so I don't worry about lowering their value as collectibles or resale value if I change something on them.  So I will customize these guns to fit me and to improve their accuracy or performance.

For example, I have 4 shotguns, and I have done something to each one of them to either make them fit me, or to enhance their performance like lengthing their forcing cones and having the barrels ported.  I was an avid Trapshooter for many years to the extent that my ATA classification was AA in 16 yd singles, A in doubles, and 27 yds for handicap.  I was shooting a Browning BT-99 for singles and handicap, and a Trap model Browning Citori for doubles.  On both guns, I installed different recoil pads, installed mercury recoil reducers in both stocks, and added lead weight to both forearms for balance, lengthened the forcing cones, and had all three barrels ported.  I had also cut down the height of the comb on the Citori to match the comb of the BT-99. 

Then I got interested in Skeet.  Our Skeet club invited John Shima, who was one of the top Skeet instructors in the US, to give us a Skeet clinic.  The first thing John did was to check the fit of each of our shotguns to us.  John had a tackle box full of moleskin that he was using to add height to the combs of most of the guy's shotguns.  I had brought my Citori Trap shotgun (with skeet chokes) that I had previously cut down the comb of the stock.  When I was  in line waiting for John to check my gun fit, I commented to a friend that "I hope he dosen't add moleskin to my stock, because I cut it to fit me for Trap."  John heard my comment and smiled at me. 

When John checked the fit of my gun he didn't change anything, and at the end of the clinic, he told me to never sell that gun.  I later used that shotgun to earn NSSA classifications of A or AA in all four skeet guages and skeet doubles and to make the Montana All State Skeet team.

As for rifles, I could never afford a custom built rifle, but I admired many of the features of custom built rifles, so I built my own.

I have built custom stocks for 5 of my hunting rifles.  These rifles either started as a barreled action or a standard factory rifle that I replaced the factory stock with a Fajen or Richards or other semi-finished stock that I finished and checkered myself.  This includes pillar and full glass bedding with full floating barrels, cross bolts, trigger tuning, and for a couple rifles, adding in-stock recoil reducers and barrel brakes.  I am proud of these finished guns, and they are custom fit to me.

Four of my hunting rifles look just like this .300 Weatherby Vanguard that I custom stocked.

groovy mike's picture
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very nice

Seems to me that you have the right attitude and a fine eye for good looking rifles BuffyBR.  Nice springbok hide too

Don Fischer's picture
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Beautiful job on those

Beautiful job on those Vanguard stocks! Who did them?

buffybr's picture
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Custom stocks

Don Fischer wrote:

Beautiful job on those Vanguard stocks! Who did them?

Thanks, those pictures are of the same stock.  I did the stockwork and checkering myself.

Here's a couple more that I have done.  The laminate stock is on a .375 Ultra Mag that I've taken to Africa twice... 

And this Fancy Walnut stock is on a .257 Ackley that I did about 30 years ago.  It's been to the top of many sheep mountains...

Tndeerhunter's picture
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extra special nice!

I can say nothing more than absolutely gorgeous! Simply stunning and thanks for sharing them with us! In love

Don Fischer's picture
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Yourself! WOW! You take on

Yourself! WOW! You take on outside projects to checker?

jim boyd's picture
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Beautiful rifles guys - no

Beautiful rifles guys - no doubt.

Those border on works of art.

Love the laminated wood stock - that is such a neat look.

I am no gunsmith but have some stock replacements and bedding jobs - it is a very rewarding experience to come up with a "sefl customized" job on a rifle... particularly if it shoots straight when you get done.

There is an ongoing series about this very sort of project on BGH right now that I am enjoying.

Nice rifles - guys... keep the photos coming!

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Beautiful!

Buffy - those are exquisite stocks! You checkering work is awesome in my opinion.

The choice of wood and even the designs are really great.

I would be afraid to take them to the top of an anthill, let alone a sheep mountain.

For myself, while I can appreciate a good-looking stock, and nod to the quality of a custom barreled action, etc., but I have never even thought twice about spending the money on one.

I guess it's like the guy who just lives to take an old car and spend hundreds of hours restoring it to mint condition - it never appealed to me (though I sure think they look great). Thumbs up

Thanks for the great pictures of those beautiful rifles - they are inspiring!

 

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