A "Custom" Rifle on a Budget

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Accuracy. What an incredible way to give yourself a true advantage.

Go to your club and get a bunch of guys together - and put a target out there at 250 meters. Break out the deer rifles and see who can shoot a decent group, even off of the bench, at this distance. I think you will be shocked at how few can do it.

So - with that in mind, I recently set out to try to develop a semi-custom rifle that I could afford and that would shoot - repeatedly - at MOA.

I started with a platform that I love - the Savage 10 with the Accutrigger.

Use any brand you like - this is not about name dropping. Almost all rifles, if you do your part, will shoot VERY well. The key is doing YOUR part.

At any rate, I started with a 10FP in .308... I chose this rifle because it is heavy and because, in this caliber, recoil is not bad. I dislike recoil and I think it leads to a LOT of accuracy problems.

Look at the macho guys with the 7 Mag's and the 300 WinMag's and see how they (generally) fare in the above mentioned shooting contest. These are great caliber rifles and very deadly in the hands of a "shooter" - but I have seen a lot of hunters who had these because of the caliber name and not because of the proven performance. A .243 in the hands of a good hunter is far more deadly than a 300 WinMag in the hands of someone who flinches.

The Accutrigger revolutionized factory triggers and now a lot of rifle manufacturers offer very good triggers. The Savage trigger is a true 3 lb trigger that breaks like a little tiny glass rod. A fine piece of engineering.

I purchased a Boyd's laminated thumbhole stock (no relation, unfortunately)... and it is a thing of beauty. I chose the thumbhole version because this design also helps to defray felt recoil but transmitting quite a bit of it into your thumb and palm. It makes a difference, for sure.

I cleaned the stock real well and then (after reading extensively) glass bedded the action into the stock. I will leave this process for another post but it is not nearly as hard or as complicated as you might think. This was my first glass bedding ever and I must say, it came out very well... both pieces fit very well and "snap" together like pieces of a puzzle. Using the correct torque values, I put the action screws in.

I added a Sims pad to the rear of the stock to further help reduce the felt recoil.

Using Leupold mounts and 30 mm rings, I then mounted the scope. In this case, I added a premium scope - the Meopta 3-12x56. While not cheap, these scopes are a joy to behold... again, this is not about names, you can use the glass and mounts of your preference. The rings are aligned and lapped and it is all put together, again, using the correct torque values.  

I lean toward good glass - scopes and binoculars - in my opinion, buy once and cry once.

Then, it is off to the range for some fun!

The rifle is broken in following the manufacturers specifications and then I am down to searching for the round this rifle likes. This is incredibly crucial. I do not reload, so I am left with factory ammo.

I tried numerous loads - and eventually settled on the Federal Premiums Ballistic Silvertips in 168 grain. These gave the most consistent groups out of all the ones I tried.

I wanted to shoot the 150 grains but I just could not find the exact one this rifle liked. Let the rifle tell you which one to use...

Now - I use ONLY this cartridge. This is important... once I settled on this one... that is it... it is all I use.

I zeroed it initially at 3" high at 100 meters. I shot several boxes more of this ammo through the rifle, just having fun and making sure everything was tight and in good order.

I then moved the target out to 250 meters and got started shooting... after some final adjustments, I have the round impacting now at roughly .75" high at 250 meters. I am about 2.50" high at 100 meters.

My 100 meter groups run right at 1", some down to about .625.

At 250 meters, my groups are roughly 2.5 to 3" or so.

This is off the bench and the shooter is generally considered to be an average to poor shot. I suffer from flinching, thus the desire for less recoil.

A few days are better and some are worse, but the rifle is clearly capable of repeatable MOA accuracy.

With this combination, I am very confident (if I do my part) that a point blank shot or one out to 300 meters will be within a 4" circle and will result in an immediate kill.

I have taken several deer with this rifle, the longest shot at 227 meters (which is also my personal longest shot) and it was a DRT shot (dead right there).

Now, to the money... I am into this rig for about $1800 - but... remember, you can do it a LOT cheaper... the 10FOP is not a low cost rifle... and the glass was expensive also.

The key is set it up correctly and then practice with the round you are going to hunt with, at a variety of distance settings.

I know may hunters who sight in at 100 yards... and then state that they are "good to go" out to 300+ yards, based on the ammo data provided by the manufacturer. Remember that different rifle and different loads behave VERY MUCH DIFFERENTLY when you stretch them out. 

I believe in theory, particularly when it is based on fact, but I am a "show me" kind of guy. I want to see where the bullet impacts the paper at varying ranges and I want to see it at distances that I will take an ethical and humane shot from... that simple.

I think if you try this, your confidence level will soar.



hunter25's picture

That's a great looking rifle

That's a great looking rifle and a well written article. I ahve done all of the above and more other than the bedding work and I think that will have to be my next move to learn. I have improved my shooting considerably with the changes I have made to my rifle. The trigger was the best upgrade for me and a composite stock similar to the laminated one you are using. I plan to purchase one of those soon for another rifle so was happy to see your use of it. The thumbhole stocks are very comfortable for me and plan to use them more often.

I have always been afraid of the bedding job but I think it's time to learn.

groovy mike's picture


Accurizing is a good thing!

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

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. Should I free float it?  Should I glass bed it?

Thanks for the tips walking us through the process.  The end result is your own custom design and that is worth being proud of!

great thread

Jim, nice project.  I don't have any pics but I did something very similar.  I'd been thinking the same way about a light mountain rifle and just had it completed a month or so ago.  I wanted it at no more than 6 - 1/4#, short barrel, and that would shoot a 100 gr bullet 3100-3200 fps.  I had a small light scope in mind to bring the whole thing in under 7# on the shoulder.

I started with a Marlin XS7 short action.  It uses the same barrel nut design as the Savage, same threads, etc.  I had a .25 cal Douglas XXX barrel fitted, chambered to 250 Savage AI, and cut to 21".  The whole action and barrel were then finished in a black matted.  I used the stock double pillar bedded stock and stock accu-like trigger.

All done now and it is a sweet rifle.  A bit of a sleeper since you have to look pretty close to see that it isn't just a stock marlin.  It's shooting 87 gr Hornady's 1/2 moa or better.   I'm still looking for the sweet spot on the 100 gr Barnes TTSX's I want to shoot as the go-to round.

I traded another long action XL7 for the barrel, so I have less than $600 in the rifle itself.  I'm sighting in with a Nikon 6.5x20 for the load development and long range stuff.  I have a Redfield 2x7 that I mount to hunt with it.

It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive if you don't need to brag about how much you spent on your rifle.

CVC's picture

Jim, good tips, but you

Jim, good tips, but you really are not bedding the rifle's action.  The bedding is really along the length of the barrel, not the action itself.  For an accurate rifle it is important to make sure the action is nice and secure.

Here is a video on bedding a bolt action rifle from Midway USA.  They have a good selection of how to do it tips.


jim boyd's picture


Aaah, good morning,dearest CVC,

While I rarely help anyone display a lack of knowledge, in this case - I will oblige you, at least if you are going to stand on your comments.

First of all, you state succinctly that I have not bedded the rifle action - but I provided no photos or clear description of how it was done - I just state that the action was bedded after considerable research.

I would immediately question how (other than simply to be disagreeable) you might reach that conclusion?

I will assure you, Sir, that the action is cleary bedded in this rifle, starting with the rear of the action, moving forward to a well bedded recoil lug and ending up with a good bedding where the barrel retaining nut is.

This IS the commonly accepted manner of bedding a rifle action and is fairly well described in the excellent video link you have so graciously provided.

Next you state, with clarity, that the "bedding is really along the length of the barrel and not the action itself".

Again, I would question if you REALLY want to stand on that statement?

In the video link you have provided, the instructor clearly states a "free floated barrel".

The barrel in my rifle is very clearly free floated, from the final forward most bedding at the barrel nut out to the end oif the stock - under the barrel.

You then state "for an accurate rifle, it is important to make sure the action is nice and secure"...I would now question if you are implying that the action should be bedded or just tightened securely in the stock?

I agree completely that Midway offers excellent videos but I am now left to wonder if you really watched and absorbed the one you referenced?

Before I "help" you any further with your knowledge display on these matters, I will watch for your reply as it relates to your desire to either stand on or clarify your previous remarks...

Perhaps, in your desire to continue to accumulate points, you got up very early this morning and had not quite cleared all of the vestiges of sleep from your mind when your comments were made.

Best regards,


CVC's picture

jim it is probably good to

jim it is probably good to keep in mind that posting is an inexact means of communication  it lacks the immediate interaction of in person verbal communication  perhpas i should have stated did you just bed the action area of the stock or did you actually bed the action? i prefaced my comments by complimenting your tip so i would think that it might have tipped you off to the tone and intent of my post  

you seem to be offended that i questioned you  it was meant to be more of a question as opposed to a challenge  

pictures of what you did would have been nice and would have answered my questions before i even asked them  

i am a bit surprised that you reacted the way you did  no need to suggest that i am lacking in knowledge  

perhaps you resent me questioning you about the tip or perhaps this is a holdover from your tip on reticles where i did challenge your statement  

personally if i put a tip out there i have problem with a question or challenge  

feel free to queston mine  i even wrote a tip for you (and others)  you will recognize it when you see it and i hope you enjoy it but feel free to comment on it honestly you wont hurt my feelings and if i cant defend what i state i will man up and admit i was wrong

in this case i agree my post wasnt well stated and should have been framed differently

so did you bed the action or did you bed the stock including the action area of the stock?

happy thanksgiving

ManOfTheFall's picture

Great tips. I don't think I

Great tips. I don't think I will ever try that but if I do I will know where to look to. That sure is one mighty fine looking rifle you have there.

hawkeye270's picture

Great story of a successful

Great story of a successful rifle project. That is a great looking rifle and it shoots well too. Hard to beat that.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Great tip!  I have akways

Great tip!  I have akways wanted to build my own rifle, but am afraid of the cost.  Know maybe I will look into it more as I would love to build one for my son so when he is old enough the gun will be there for him!

Critter done's picture

Great Tip

Very Interesting,will have to try it out.

gatorfan's picture

Thank you!

Interesting and informative tip, thank you!  I'm going to have to borrow the "buy once, cry once" line.