Successfully Launching a build with a Gunsmith

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  • Successfully Launching a build with a Gunsmith

    So, you've finally decided you want to build a rifle? You've drifted off to sleep thinking about it, you've researched it all over the place, now you just need someone to build it.

    Irrespective of what you are going to use as the base, you need to communicate clearly with a gunsmith about how they can turn your $$ into the rifle that you want.

    1) Find a gunsmith who does the kind to work you are after. There is no point asking a renowned target rifle builder to rebarrel your lever action pigging rifle. Some will accept the work, and do it well, others won't as it is not in their core skill set. My preferred gunsmith will only work on bolt actions - he has enough people wanting him to work on them he can afford to turn down the levers, pumps and break actions. Don't even bother asking him to work on a Martini!

    2) Ask them what their build list timeframe is. Gunsmiths are not common in Australia, good ones even less so. Having a waiting list is not necessarily a sign of a good gunsmith, it can also indicate utter disorganisation. As a repeat customer you may find that you can exert a little influence on where you job sits in the job queue, particularly if the gunsmith knows you have more work coming there way AND you are an easy customer to do work for (organised, focussed and pay promptly).

    3) Broadly describe the job to them and ask what they think. And then listen to them. You might think a short barrelled 300 Win Mag is the perfect tactical match rifle, but a good gunsmith will drag you back to what you want to achieve and then provide you with advice on how to get there. Most any gunsmith handles more rifles in a month than most of us will own in our lifetimes. All of them are regular shooters - use that experience to your benefit.

    4) Ask them what they will need from you. Some gunsmiths will order all the parts for you, some prefer that you order the parts for delivery to them. Either way works, just make sure you agree that is the way to go AND ensure they know what is coming AND they inspect it upon arrival. No point finding out that the 1:8 twist barrel you ordered was actually a 1:10 twist when delivered, particularly if you find out when you can't get those VLD bullets to stabilise.

    5) Document your desired build. Stipulate these things and unless there is a good reason they cannot be done, insist upon them...
    • Barrel length - including the length of the barrel tenon
    • Barrel profile, twist rate and rifling type - even a specific brand if you are that certain
    • Chamber - including neck size and throat length (what bullet will it be throated for and what is the OAL - better still supply a dummy cartridge!)
    • Type of crowning job - target, hunting, recessed, etc.
    • Barrel finish - blasted, beaded, sanded, polished, blued, natural, Cerakoted (exact colour), stamped calibre marking - or engraved?
    • Do you want the action squared? Just the face? Bolt lugs lapped or squared (there is a difference)? Bolt body tightened in action? Action thread re-cut?
    • Bolt - open the boltface/close the boltface - bushed firing pin - ultralight firing pin - conversion to a M16/Sako extractor - bolt knob, which one and how long a bolt handle?
    • Does the stock need to be inlet differently for the thicker barrel/thicker recoil lug - do you want them to bed it, or will you do it yourself?
    • Trigger - work it, leaving, replace it
    • Sighting system - anything particular you want - ghost ring/scope rail/ ramped front sight. Be specific, include part numbers or pictures
    • Stockwork - what kind of a finish do you want on the stock - oil/paint/varnish/cerakote?

    6) Pass the build document to the gunsmith and ask them for an indicative price AND an agreed delivery date. A good gunsmith will be able to give you these at the very least. A great gunsmith will be able to quote you an exact number and delivery day (with an agreed variance for unforseen issues).

    7) Document any variances that you agree to along the way and ensure that you both have a copy. A simple email back and forth is enough.

    When you go and pickup the rifle have a good solid look at it. Check out the work, cycle a dummy cartridge and make sure it works the way you agreed. If it doesn't, talk with the gunsmith about that problem. Importantly, ensure that the gunsmith has done the paperwork correctly with the state firearms office to ensure that any changes are known to the Police.

  • #2
    Thanks mate. Really handy advice.


    • Guest's Avatar
      6602steven commented
      Editing a comment
      Great post mate, this advice goes not just for full custom builds but also repairs, rebarreled or stock mods.

      Of course a lot of gunsmiths will ask you most of these things, when I had a rifle rebarreled the smith offered advice on barrel length and twist, but only after asking what bullets I planned in using and for what kind of shooting

      And remember their service extends to after sale too.


  • #3
    Great advice will be great a great insite for the future when the budget permits


    • primer
      primer commented
      Editing a comment
      very good advise

  • #4
    Great topic. I'll be saving this for future use
    .177 Chinese Air Rifle, Marlin XT22, Savage Mk2
    Howa Varmint (223 1:9) (223 1:12) (308 1:10), Howa Sporter (308 1:10), 1912 BSA SMLE (303), Winchester 370 12 Ga

    22lr Mk2 Ruger 22/45, 22lr Mk3 Ruger 22/45 Lite
    9mm STI Spartan, 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P, 357 Magnum Ruger Security six


    • moofy07
      moofy07 commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by Carmsbody" post=157432
      Great topic. I'll be saving this for future use
      Me 2.