Rifle  #301:  Can it be done vs. should it be done.

Who doesn't like a good ole fashion challenge?  A chance to test one's skills, see what kind of stuff one's really made of.  Recently, our friend Ivan, of Kitbadger.com, spent a few days in the shop to film the story of Rifle #301, the epitome of that good ole fashion challenge.  In the end we had a unique rifle with which his sons could grow up, composed of parts customized and assembled to meet our exact standards.  We also had just a little, nagging feeling that the challenge might not be something to take on again in the near future.

The easy part.

Ivan had a vision to build a light weight, light recoiling rifle with which his sons could build on their rifleman's education and hunt.  The vision was solid, and the components were unique.  Unique components always get our attention.  (We hope to see this rifle again in about a year, in dire need of a new barrel, and that will be an easy one.)  Ivan had good reasons to build this rifle as a .243 Winchester instead of one of the newer, recently popular, similar cartridges such as the 6mm Creedmoor.  Our job is to build what the customer wants, so the last thing we wanted to do was try to talk him into something different.  Ivan wanted to use the .243 Winchester chamber because its factory ammo is almost everywhere (even in times of ammo shortages).  The .243 Winchester, while often overlooked in today's market, is a capable hunting cartridge with minimal recoil and is still an interesting option for a long range precision rifle when loaded with capable bullets. 

My first centerfire rifle was a .243, so Ivan's request made me smile a bit.  Emotional decisions on custom rifles are as important as the materials they are carved out of.  At the end, if we aren't smiling, we are doing something wrong.


The challenge.

The story of Rifle #301 delivers an important message.  The build plan is integral to the successful completion of a cost-effective, custom-built rifle.  Starting with compatible parts lowers assembly time and thus labor costs.  While not our concern on Rifle #301, the project highlights that lack of foresight in the design phase can lead to excessive time spent in other steps of the build process.  Typically, after fitting and chambering the barrel, a chassis rifle is ready to assemble.  We spent nearly a day of design time before bringing the chassis top rail to the CNC milling machine, time spent that would not make sense in most cases.  Though customization at that level is possible, the final product is the same as if we had started with more compatible parts, but with the disadvantage of many extra hours to get there.  As your rifle-builder, our job is to help you develop a plan that maximizes the efficiency of the build.  We can help you select rifle components that are designed to go together from the beginning, delivering a killer rifle on time and on budget.

Video and Photo Credits.

©2020 Ivan Loomis, Kitbadger.com

Thanks, Ivan, for the challenge and for making a video that so clearly begs the question, if something can be done, should it be done? 

The new dovetail plates for Q-Sert.

We are glad to now offer the dovetail plates for the Q-Sert geometry on the SideChick chassis and TheFix rifles from Q.

Showing the single result

Devil is in the (more) details.

Rifle #301 started like most others, as a conversation with Ivan where we defined the project.  Ivan listed the components he had to work with, with the heart of the rifle being the Gunwerks GLR action and a Q Side Chick chassis.  I was familiar enough with these components to know that they were not going to bolt together.  While the Gunwerks receiver has a Remington 700 footprint, the top geometry is quite different.  The Side Chick includes a top rail that connects the forend tube with the receiver and acts as the scope base.  I had planned to let Ivan see the error here and finish the rifle without this top rail.  In my mind, we could use the scope base included with the Gunwerks action.  After getting hands on the Side Chick, it was obvious that this top rail was an integral part of the design and it served as a structural connection to support the forend tube.  If we were to use the rifle for anything besides something to look at, this top rail would have to be modified to fit the Gunwerks action.

Ivan had a connection with the designers at Q and after a phone call, we had a solid model of the top rail in my inbox.  With this file I could set up the part in the software I use for CAD and CAM, Fusion360.  Ivan came up with a novel approach to solve the issue of needing new screw holes where Q hollowed out the rail to save a fraction of an ounce.  The idea was to cut pockets in the top of the rail and then use additional insert pieces that would act as a washer to transfer the force from the screws to the scope base.  It was a solid idea that just required implementation.  After a late night design session, we had the top rail modified in the model and new insert pieces designed.  After setting up the milling machine, the inserts were made.  After cutting the pockets in the top of the rail and testing fit with the new inserts, the rail was flipped over to do the 3D profile milling to match the receivers rear ring.  Luckily, we nailed it on the first try aside from one small design mistake of not creating screw clearance holes where I had some index holes to transfer geometry from one piece to the next.  That was an easy enough fix after the discovery, and we mocked up the top rail on the Gunwerks receiver.  Last hurdle complete and off to the the finish line! 

Finally, a rifle.  This one is #301.

#301  .243 Winchester

Receiver:  Gunwerks GLR
Chassis:  Q Side Chick
Barrel:  Criterion, 6mm, 1:8, #4, finished at 17"
Trigger:  CMC
Brake/Suppressor Mount:  Q Cherrybomb
Since there is bonding in shared suffering, we'd love to hear from you about a time you learned a lesson the hard way.  Feel free to share in the comments below.  And happy shooting.

©2020, Sawtooth Rifles LLC.  All rights reserved.
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