A custom rifle is like a custom jacket: if it is well-conceived and well-assembled, then it will fit you better than anything you could ever just pull off of the rack.
For many, cradling a custom rifle is the dream. After all, what could be better than finally getting to shoulder a rifle that was lovingly built to your specs and your specs alone?
However, if you want a custom rifle that will actually perform like a custom rifle, then just assembling a few random pieces won’t cut it. This is a precision machine that you’re talking about building, and the first step before you can build your own custom rifle is figuring out what type of rifle you need to build.
Determining the Purpose of the Rifle
The first step in designing anything is determining what purpose it needs to serve. You wouldn’t build a Formula 1 car to go off-roading, for instance.
Rifles are no exception. There is no such thing as a magical, one-size-fits-all rifle that performs competitively at 1,000 yards, is suitable for hunting, has low recoil, long barrel life, and is light enough to be practical. There are many rifles that can meet most of those requirements adequately, but not that can excel in more than one or two areas simultaneously.
So we need to designate a function to know what design aspects to prioritize. And as far as options go, we’re almost spoiled for choice.
There is a substantial variety of actions, calibers, barrel lengths, and other variables to consider when building your rifle, each of which has its own set of pros and cons which can make the end product more or less suited to a certain role.
For our purposes, let’s say that we’re building a custom bolt action rifle with marksmanship in mind. While hunting rifles are perhaps more useful, there are already plenty of factory-made rifles on the market that are more than adequate for hunting.
And as popular as the AR platform is for building custom rifles, it allows for almost too many choices for our purposes. Let’s keep it simple for now.
With that in mind, let’s start building our rifle by getting acquainted with the different components we’ll have to choose.
Understanding the Components of a Rifle
The bolt action design has withstood the test of time thanks to its simple, robust and reliable design.
First conceived in 1841, bolt action guns would become the rifle of choice before the end of the century. And it’s not hard to see why it became hugely popular.
It’s action operated about five times faster than older muzzle-loading rifles, was easier to use in most situations than contemporary lever-action guns, and the action was simpler than and easier to manufacture and maintain than many of the designs that ostensibly replaced it.
And though militaries have largely retired them in favor of modern select-fire rifles, bolt action rifles still find use as sniper platforms because of their potential for superior accuracy, reliability, lesser weight, and the ability to control loading over the faster rate of fire that alternatives allow.
They’re popular civilian rifles for many of the same reasons. And the simplicity of their design means that even novices can make quick studies.
In designing our marksman rifle, we have eight aspects to consider:
- The Reciever
The receiver, also sometimes referred to as the action, is the foundation of your rifle. As such, it is the most important choice that you will make.
For bolt action rifles, most of the high-end receivers that you will have to choose from are some variation of the Remington 700. As the most popular, there is the greatest variety of compatible parts available for it, so choosing a 700 variant will give you a lot of latitudes moving forward.
There are other choices available of course, more than we have time to discuss here. So if there was an area that demanded independent research, it would be here.
- The Cartridge
When I say cartridge, I mean your rifle’s caliber, the type of ammunition that it will fire. Though not technically a component of the rifle, it bears considering here. Not only will it affect the barrel you choose, but the receiver as well.
Now for our purposes, this should be fairly straightforward. This particular design isn’t intended for hunting bear or elk, so we don’t need an especially overpowered round. But we also want to ensure that the round is powerful enough to maximize our effective range.
One of the most common rounds for marksman weapons is the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO. Originally designed for hunting, it has found use in many weapons build off of the Remington 700 receiver. Which, if that was the style that you went with, means that it will be easy to find a receiver that can handle this round.
- The Barrel
Next up is fitting the receiver with a barrel. There are many dedicated barrel manufacturers out there, but you should take care to choose a reputable manufacturer like Faxon Barrels.
Naturally, you’ll select a barrel that matches your cartridge, but beyond that you plenty more choices that you can make. Barrels come in a variety of weights for instance, which will affect your stock’s longevity. They also come in a variety of lengths and rifling types, which can affect things like rate-of-twist and effective range.
Despite there being a lot of research into the matter, everyone seems to have their own opinions on what the ideal specs should look like. Rather than take a side, the best advice I can give is to do your own research, and if possible, try out a few different rifles at the range that closely match the specs that you’re looking at.
- The Riflestock
Stock selection can get tricky. Your two main choices are between a traditional stock and a more modern chassis.
For my money, I prefer the traditional option for the way it feels and handles in my hands. However, many others prefer a chassis design because of the increased versatility that they allow for.
There is also the material to consider. Synthetic stocks are the norm these days. They’re lighter than wood, can be made at least as strong with modern materials, and can be coated in a variety of finishes.
Again, this is an area where you’re spoiled for choice. If in doubt, a good gunsmith can give you their own opinions on what stock will serve you best.
- The Trigger
The trigger options available to you will be determined by the receiver you chose. If you opted for the Remington 700 or an equally common variant, then you’ll have more options than you ever would have thought necessary. If you picked a more exotic receiver, then not so much.
What you want to look for is a simple design that allows you to make quick and easy adjustments. As for brands, popular choices include Jewell, TriggerTech, and Timney. Though many people will swear by one or the other, they’re all reputable brands that will serve you well.
- The Magazine
Like the trigger, your options in terms of magazines will vary depending on your receiver.
For popular platforms, you can take your pick between different capacities and even between internal or detachable options. This is mostly a matter of convenience, but if you have the option to choose a detachable magazine setup, there’s little reason not to. It can save you time over having to fumble around with clips.
- The Trigger Guard
The final piece in your assemblage is the trigger guard.
Your choice here won’t have a great deal of influence on the function of your rifle. Mostly your choices are between different visual aesthetics, ergonomics, and materials. You can shave a tiny bit of weight by using a lightweight aluminum trigger guard, but the amount is so small that I find it more worthwhile to use a heavy-duty steel trigger guard.
- The Finish and Customizations
The last thing to consider is the finish of your rifle. Aside from its aesthetic purposes, a good finish is necessary to prevent corrosion.
This is also the point where you can look at any custom feature that you would like to add. For a marksman rifle, a scope mount is a must. And if you don’t mind the extra weight, you can even add a collapsible bipod.
Build Your Own Custom Rifle to Suit Your Purposes
For many dedicated riflemen, there will come a time when they will find themselves craving a rifle that is distinctly theirs and no one else’s. When you find yourself at that point, you will know that you’re ready to build your own custom rifle.
After all, you know yourself, your abilities and your needs better than anyone else. So who better than you to design your dream rifle? It’s an opportunity to create something exactly the way you want it with no compromises.
And once you actually get a chance to fire it, you’ll wonder how you ever used another rifle.
Of course, you can’t live by your rifle alone. To keep up to date with all the top tech and gadgets, always be sure to stay up-to-date with IGeekPhone.