I’ve been a hunter for about as long as I can remember. I think the first time I went on a deer hunt with my dad I was about six years old. I’ve always owned hunting rifles and I always reloaded ammunition for hunting rifles. But a few years back, precision rifle shooting caught my eye.
I’m not a competitive shooter, this is just a hobby. I started with a rather low-end factory rifle; a Savage 10T (only available from Cabella’s) chambered for .308 Winchester. I had really good luck with it. I probably but about 2000 rounds through it and it shot well. I eventually wanted a little more.
I decided I wanted to build my own rifle. I wanted something along the lines of an F-Class bench rest rifle but wanted to avoid the cost of having one custom made. I did some scrounging and some online research and came up with a pretty good rifle for a very reasonable price.
I built this rifle back in 2017 so the sources and prices are certainly no longer accurate. I’ll throw out the rough prices but be advised that much has changed since then.
The first decision was the caliber. To a significant degree, the cartridge selected determines how the rifle is built. In recent years, for long-range shooting, the 6.5mm cartridges have become quite popular (6.5 Creedmoor for example). I selected a 6.5mm wildcat, the 6.5-06. It’s a .30-06 Springfield necked down to 6.5mm. Cartridge brass is easy to find for .30-06 and the case forming is pretty easy.
The cartridge selected, it was now time to assemble the components to build the rifle. I selected the Remington 700 as the basis for this rifle. The 6.5-06 requires a long action. I bought a complete action online for around $400. It was a stock Remington 700 (included the Remington trigger), long action, left-handed, in stainless steel (yep – I’m left-handed – which has always made buying a rifle a challenge). The action is legally a firearm under federal law, so the action was sent to a local federally licensed dealer for me to pick up.
For the barrel, I selected a Remage barrel by Criterion from Northland Shooters Supply. This is a fully finished barrel, the chamber is complete. “Remage” is a barrel system where the barrel is machined to fit the Remington 700 action but uses a Savage-style barrel nut. You do not need to machine it to fit. The headspace is adjustable with the barrel nut. The barrel was also stainless steel, with a varmint contour. I think the barrel was around $300 without shipping, the barrel nut was another $30 or so. You need some tools to assemble the barrel to the action, a wrench for the barrel nut, some way to hold the barrel (barrel vise), and headspace gauges. I got lucky, a friend of mine had all the necessary tools (the tools are not very expensive if you end up having to buy them).
For the stock and bottom metal, I had a chassis in mind from the start. I got lucky here too. XLR had a discontinued model they were running a special on. Wouldn’t you know, the last ones they had on hand were left-handed. The model is no longer available and so it is irrelevant. The chassis is aluminum, with AI compatible magazine well, and fully adjustable. I think I paid $400 for what would have been a $600 or more chassis (this did not include a magazine). I bought an AI magazine at a local sporting goods house for $45. No bedding is required with a chassis like this, and the barrel is full floating. I added a Harris bipod for around $90.
The trigger (revisited). The stock Remington trigger that came with the action was clearly not going to work. While advertised as adjustable, I wasn’t able to adjust it to my liking. It also had creep which I was not able to adjust out. With the rifle nearly complete, I decided to replace the trigger. The trigger selected was a Timney which I paid about $130 for. Jewel triggers are the best I’ve laid hands on for an application like this, but they are also twice the price of Timney. The Timney may not be quite as crisp as the Jewel but it is easily adjustable and creep-free. I have it set just below 2 lbs and I’m very happy with it. The trigger assembly mounts to the receiver with just two pins – not too difficult. What is difficult is adjusting the bolt release/stop. This will make for a few re-tries and some cuss words emanating from the shop.
With the barrel assembled to the action, trigger installed, and the action bolted into the chassis, the rifle is complete. The last item is the scope. It’s hard to skimp on glass and end up happy at the end of the day. I ended up going with a Vortex Viper HR LR (VHS-4315-LR). This is a 6-24X first focal plane scope with a 50mm objective lens. It has an MOA reticle, and target turrets with a zero stop elevation turret. The elevation turret is ½ minute clicks, the windage turret is ¼ minute clicks. I think this scope now is around $1200 MSRP but I could be wrong.
The 6.5-06 is a wildcat. There is no factory ammo available for it, you have to load your own. I buy .270 or .30-06 brass and simply size it in a full-length 6.5-06 resizing die. I use a three-die Redding set with an S-Type neck bushing die. Once sized, I trim it to length and neck turn it (I have found cartridge concentricity helps with accuracy). Hornady brass is my favorite. I use CCI BR-2 primers, IMR 4350 powder, and Hornady 143 grain ELD-X or ELD-Match bullets. Case life has been very good – in fact after 4 years I’m only on my third batch of 40 cases. I get right around 3000 fps velocity which, with a bullet BC of .646 (G1), the bullet velocity is supersonic well past 1000 yards. The ballistic performance of this cartridge exceeds anything you can do with a .300 Winchester Magnum, except for impact energy.
I love this rifle. It’s heavy (I haven’t weighed it), not something you want to pack around in the woods, it’s built for the bench. The recoil is mild, you can shoot all afternoon and not get beat up. The AI magazine system is smooth and feeds flawlessly. The trigger is creep-free, crisp, and light. And it shoots pretty damn good. I can consistently put 5 rounds into a half-inch at 100 yards (I know that isn’t very impressive by competitive standards but it is for a hobbyist tinkering in his shop), and you can smack a 12” x 12” steel plate at 500 yards with every shot – every shot – it’s actually boring.
A few photos (I apologize in advance for the quality):