07 Aug Rifle Upgrades Both Cool AND Functional
When it comes to rifle upgrades, cool and functional aren’t always mutually exclusive… but they CAN be. We’re here to tackle the subject with a few insights and recommendations.
How to Increase the Capability of a Stock Rifle
One of the biggest questions many shooters ask is how to increase the functional ability of their rifle. With the multitude of rifle add-ons and upgrades available on the market, which pieces will actually increase the accuracy and capability of the rifle and (for that range ego) look cool. Now, I’m not just talking about the scope and rings, but the actual rifle itself. Upgrades aren’t necessarily needed to shoot your rifle- no matter what, get out, shoot, have fun and don’t let your rifle become a “safe sitter.”
The base is one of the most important items that allows the rifle to perform. When I say “base”, I’m referring to the stock of the rifle your action is mounted on. Manufactures produce rifles at alarming rates and due to the cost of materials, stocks are one place your rifle may be lacking in quality. Of course, this also depends on the grade of the rifle. Take Remington’s line for example: there are multiple rifle grades as well as the stocks they come with. This variation is also apparent in other lines like Ruger- the action and stock of a Ruger No 1 is exquisite compared to the Ruger American- and it’s definitely something you’ll pay for. So what can we do to upgrade our rifle to a better base? First option is selecting a stock or chassis based on what your ultimate desire is for the rifle. In the end, it’s your choice and as stated by many a shooter, it boils down to what’s more comfortable for you.
High end stocks are manufactured out of Fiberglass, Kevlar and even Carbon Fiber. Many manufactures out there offer a wide range of replacement stocks made to replace one that has been broken or allow you to upgrade to a higher quality without breaking the bank. When choosing stocks, we believe Manners, McMillan and J Allen top the list in quality.
While choosing, remember the strength of the stock and the attachment of the action are paramount. Some of these stocks will come with pillars made of pre-embedded aluminum that provide proper spacing between the bottom metal and action. While this is one quality to look for in a stock, you may also want to look into rifle bedding. “Rifle bedding is a process of providing a rigid and consistent foundation for a rifle’s operational components, by creating a stable and close-fitting bearing surface between the gun’s functional parts (i.e. the receiver housing the barreled action) and its support part (i.e. the stock) that do not deform with pressure or shift under the shear stress of the recoil from firing.” Without bedding, the basic operation of shooting a rifle will wear the mounting points and the action will become less stable over time. Bedding should be accomplished by a qualified gunsmith who has the tools, equipment and knowledge.
Typically manufactured out of aluminum, chassis provide a rigid and stable platform as well as quick bolt up to the action you currently own. Unlike traditional stocks, chassis do not need bedding so mating the action to the chassis is a breeze. Chassis also provide a platform for easily mounting additional upgrades, adjustable buttstocks, grips and also come prepared to accept magazines. These individual upgrades increase the shooters ability to fit to the chassis as well as give additional comfort. Chassis like Masterpiece Arms, Accuracy International, KRG (to name a few) are the epitome of the cool look.
Another upgrade sure to improve your rifle capability is replacing the factory trigger. Manufactures have attempted in recent years to include adjustable triggers on the rifles they offer but let’s face facts; these triggers are still factory and do not have the feel and operation you will find in a high-end unit.
In short, quality, innovation and design characteristics will change the way you shoot. If your current trigger has a hard pull, excessive trigger creep (how far the trigger travels before the break), overtravel or it came with the pesky blade safety, then upgrading is key to increasing the firing process of the rifle.
A couple things to think about when it comes to the trigger style:
- Single Stage : No travel. Break cleanly at a consistent weight
- Two-Stage: Require an extra pull to facilitate firing. When releasing without firing, the trigger returns to the initial point or the beginning of the two-stage pull.
- Curved or Straight: The choice between curved and straight is available by some manufactures and comes down to preference… but a choice that could be the difference between 1st and last place.
Timney, Huber Concepts, Jewell and Trigger Tech competition quality triggers. Each manufacture has different capabilities they have developed into their options. Features like adjustability in the amount of weight the trigger pulls at, to a new design from Huber Concepts which uses a patented anti-friction ball design. Options abound and could be overwhelming but you will find tons of online information used by the pros in Precision Rifle Shooting. Or feel free to call your favorite gun store (like Anarchy Outdoors) and talk with them.
Another upgrade that can lead to better accuracy is changing out your barrel (if the ultimate goal is to be cool, this is one place to do it). Over time, erosion from constant loading, firing and wear can cause the accuracy to drop significantly. Of course, not everyone will shoot 2000 rounds in a year but barrel wear is something that can happen to anyone. Other leading factors of barrel wear are muzzle damage and or barrel getting bent. Whatever has happened, upgrading to a high-quality barrel can change the very fiber of the rifle you’re using. Barrel selection is not easy and there are numerous factors you will need to decide on before making your purchase.
Barrels are made from stainless steel, steel wrapped with carbon fiber, steel that has been chemically blued, and even titanium sleeves or nickel-based alloys. These choices are the bases of strength, stiffness and weight. Choosing the barrel that fits your style of shooting will be based on these factors, hunters want lighter weight while precision shooter want heavier.
Rifling, lands and groves that are manufactured to stabilize the bullet by imparting a gyroscopic twist to it while traveling through the barrel. Do the number of groves really have an effect on bullet drag? Many experts have weighed in on this topic and their conclusion is no. Now there is a type of rifling called 5R available for your decision. Basically, it is an improvement over the conventional rifling by changing the number of groves, the alignment and the profile of the lands. Conventional lands and groves are even numbers and are directly across from each other. 5R reduces the number to 5 groves and changes the alignment inside the barrel. What is the difference, 5R reduces bullet deformation as it travels through the bore, improving accuracy.
Barrel Twist, is the rate of spin in the rifle barrel. Looking at a barrel, you will find a marking similar to 1:8, this means that the projectile will make one full revolution in 8 inches of the barrel. This by far the most important factor when choosing a barrel. Depending on what your rifles primary use will be and the desired projectile you will be shooting will determine what twist you should get. Remember, the slower the twist rate of your rifle can affect the stability of heavier projectiles, faster twist rates could sacrifice accuracy.
When choosing your twist rate, take time to research what your ultimate goal is with the rifle, talk to the manufacture and find out what they have built the barrel to shoot the best. This will save you time in the future.
Last but not least: “Barrel taper and weight”. As with a few other features it’s easy to ask, “Does this really matter?” You better believe it does. Barrels are available in a wide range of contours or tapers, this is the shape of the barrel from the action to the muzzle and are number from 1 to 6. Most over the counter rifles are supplied with a #1 contour or sporter, the lightest of the barrels. Then you have #’s 2 and 3 which are figured for magnum rounds, #4 is considered the varmint which is a bull barrel with some taper and then #’s 5 and 6 are Bull or heavy barrels. I have even seen a barrel that could be considered a #7 but that is a story for a different day. Does having a heavier barrel make a difference? This is both personnel preference and depends on what you are using the rifle for. I and many others believe heavier barrels do provide better accuracy, ease of movement and swing into a shot and do not shift P.O.I. (point of accuracy) when they heat up.
One last item– the quintessential of cool– that will increase the capability of a rifle is the muzzle. Adding a muzzle brake to your rifle can be one of the best choices that can actually improve the way you shoot your gun. Granted, there are a lot of naysayers that will come out and say what they want to say about how wrong I am (and that’s fine) but remember this is your rifle and if you want one get one, I’d recommend it. Muzzle brakes are designed to reduce how much recoil is felt when firing your rifle and is done by directing the gas traveling behind the projectile outward or to the side rather than forward as it would a conventional rifle muzzle.
Muzzle brakes if designed correctly, can reduce recoil by 50% or greater. This allows the shooter faster recovery and time to get back on target when it counts. In addition a muzzle is essential in saving your shoulder in the long run when shooting those big magnum calibers.
As for selection, this is where research comes into play. Due to the amount of muzzle brakes on the market, it’s difficult to wade through the decision process and find the best fit your application. We’d recommend starting with Area 419 and Patriot Valley Arms (to name a few).
In all, upgrading your rifle with gear that’s functional outweighs cool- but no matter your angle, we’re here to help every step of the way.