Ihave been active in benchrest competition since 1982, shooting primarily in the Mid-Continent and Gulf Coast Regions of the NBRSA. I did the stock work on my precision rifles from the very beginning. Starting with bedding the stocks using the glue-in method in the early years, I moved on to pillar bedding my personal benchrest rifles in 1985 and shoot both styles of rifle construction, today. I have found that a quality pillar bedded rifle is as accurate as a glue-in while still offering the convenience of being able to remove the action easily. Either method has it advantages, however, and I am at ease using either method of construction.
In 1987, I obtained a Jet 13×36 belt drive engine lathe that was capable of doing benchrest quality work. Since then, I have also been doing all of the barrel work on my rifles. Over the years, the lathe has been improved and modified by replacing the spindle bearings with higher quality Temkin bearings and adding a DC variable speed motor. The DC variable speed motor was replaced in 2003 with a Hitachi VFD and Baldor 2 HP inverter motor. The VFD allows full torque at slow rpms that the DC motor and controller would not allow. The lathe is now capable of turning 60 RPM on up by the twist of the VFD controller knob without having to be in back gear to turn slow rpms. This has improved the threading and operating qualities of the lathe tremendously. I also added a DTM BXA tool post to it soon after I purchased the lathe.
In my barrel work, I work to a maximum tolerance of 0.0002″ in setting up the barrel for chambering, threading and crowning. Everything is checked and rechecked with a Swiss Interapid 0.0001″ test indicator with interchangeable points from 3/4″ to 2 1/2″ long. In setting up the barrel for chambering, the appropriate point is selected to be able to dial in the run-out to 0.0002″ at the finished throat of the cartridge. With the longer points, it has to read even closer.
In the summer of 1997, I built a new 30×50 shop building with the purpose of expanding my rifle building capabilities. It has worked out very well and is an excellent facility for building top quality rifles, as well as building a few knives as time permits.
In 2001, I added a Leblond Regal 15×54 lathe that I’m presently using for action truing and anything that is a little larger than what the Jet will handle. Its a very smooth running lathe even to the point of being able to place a tenth test indicator point on a fresh cut receiver face under power without the indicator even wiggling. I’ve added an Aloris BXA tool post to it and can use the same tool post holders on either the Jet or Leblond lathes.
At the end of 2004, I replaced the Jet lathe with a Kent TRL1340V toolroom lathe. Using variable frequency drive on the Jet spoiled me and I opted for the frequency drive version model when I bought the new Kent lathe. So, far I like it very well and am sure that it will be a big help with continuing high quality work.
The benchrest rifles that I build are capable of sub 1/4 moa. The heavier caliber hunting rifles will usually shoot 3/4 moa or less. While there is no difference in the methods that I use to build either rifle, there is a difference in the accuracy potential of various cartridges. Let’s face it. A 6 PPC is easily more accurate than a 7 STW.