By Greg Rodriguez
Most rifle hunters fall into one of two camps. Members of the “inch-and-a-half at 100 yards” camp believe any rifle that will place three shots within that size group is plenty accurate for hunting. They are probably right, but I, like many rifle fanatics, fall into Col. Townsend Whelen’s “Only accurate rifles are interesting” camp.
Of course, not all rifles are accurate. I sell more guns than I care to admit each year because they don’t meet my demanding accuracy standards. But sometimes, a rifle comes along that is so pretty, I fall in love with it without firing a shot.
Such was the case with a little Remington 700 Classic in .308 that I reviewed last year. Its clean lines and pretty wood caught my eye as soon as I opened the box. The stock fit well and handled like a dream. I was so taken by the gun that, rather than selling it after the initial disappointing range session, I dedicated myself to finding a way to make it shoot well enough that it wouldn’t spend its life collecting dust in the back of my safe.
Although bad barrels and defective scopes can lead to poor accuracy, I was sure neither of those issues was the case with this rifle. I was fairly certain that a proper bedding job would make it a shooter.
As I usually do when I start a new gun project, I opened the Brownells catalog and looked through the selection of bedding compounds and kits. Brownells is the world’s largest supplier of gunsmithing products and firearms accessories. A quick phone call to Brownells answered my questions and got some Acraglas bedding compound headed my way.
Left: Drilling out the stock for the pillars. Right: Taping off the stock keeps excess bedding from sticking to the wood. Note the bedding protruding from the stock. This will be trimmed later.
My friend Matt Bettersworth of Hill Country Rifles in New Braunfels, Texas, provided the use of a shop and tools for long enough for me to stumble my way through the bedding process. So, with my rifle and a big box from Brownells in hand, I pointed my truck toward New Braunfels in the hopes of turning the .308 into a tack driver.
Upon arriving at the shop, I dove right into the project. Under the watchful eye of gunsmith Hector Herrera, I removed enough stock material from the inletted areas to make room for the bedding compound. Next, I attached two aluminum pillars to the barreled action with some oversized action screws from Brownells.
It is crucial that the screws are centered in the pillars and that a liberal coating of release agent is applied to the inside of the pillars. Do not get release agent on the outside of the pillars, as you want them to remain firmly embedded in the stock once the bedding compound dries.
Left: The stock with Brownells Acra-glass bedding compound partially applied. Right: The finished product.
With the pillars installed, I taped off the barrel channel just ahead of the recoil lug so the bedding compound would not stick. Then I taped off the outside of the stock, filled the trigger slot and pin holes with clay, and sprayed the barreled action with a release agent. The clay and release agent keep the bedding from sticking to the action, and the tape keeps the stock clean. This is important, as dry bedding compound is a pain to remove.
Next, I mixed the bedding compound and applied it generously to the inside of the stock, from the tang to just forward of the recoil lug. It’s important to apply enough bedding compound so it fills every nook and cranny. The excess will ooze out once you push the barreled action back into the stock, but don’t worry about making a mess - that’s why you taped off the stock.
Once I applied enough bedding compound, I firmly pushed the barreled action back into the stock, then taped it down to keep pressure on it. After letting the bedding compound cure until it was a bit tacky (about 2 hours), I trimmed the excess bedding compound. With the cleanup done, I left the bedding to cure for 24 hours.
The next day, I removed the action from the stock. This is when you find out whether or not you applied enough release agent. If you did, the action should come out without too much difficulty. If you didn’t, well, you’d better find a crowbar.
With the barreled action out of the stock, I removed the tape, filed away the excess bedding compound and trimmed the pillars. Thanks to Hector, I didn’t make too big a mess, so it didn’t take long. However, I did have to work over a few spots to get the action back in. Once the stock was clean, the action fit perfectly. It didn’t drop in, but I didn’t have to force it, either; the fit was just about perfect.
Before bedding the rifle, I fired five disappointing three-shot groups with four different loads and saved the targets. With the project complete, I was anxious to see if it made a difference, so I headed back to the range with those same four boxes of ammunition to see if my hard work and dirty fingernails were worth it.
Because the Federal 165-grain Fusion load shot so well the first time, I started with it. The first group measured just .42 inches. The average of five groups was right at a half-inch. While none of the other loads performed as well, two of them showed a 30 percent accuracy improvement. The fourth load, Hornady’s 165-grain BTSP, showed an increase in group size, but the difference was slight, only 1/10 inch. Nevertheless, that Hornady load and several others that had averaged over 2 inches now shot under an inch-and-a-half. Best of all, with the 165-grain Fusion load, the rifle is now the tack driver I hoped it would be when I started the project.
Considering the results, bedding the rifle was well worth the effort. There was very little expense involved, and not counting the 24-hour curing time, the whole process only took about three hours. If you have a rifle that doesn’t live up to your accuracy standards, try bedding it. If a “C” shop student like me can do it, I’m sure you can, too.
Reprinted from the July 2006 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine