So . . . . you want a more accurate rifle barrel.

Rem 700 with a Kreiger barrel
A new barrel can improve accuracy, but there are important considerations before opening your wallet.

      If you're finally ready to get a more accurate barrel for your rifle, this article can help you save money and get much better results.   Your single most important decision is to find the "best" skilled machinist for this particular project.   I strongly recommend choosing a gunsmith with an excellent reputation for chambering barrels on benchrest rifles.   You want to be sure he does this for a living.   With very few exceptions, you can forget about finding some local gunsmith that chambers a barrel once in a while.

      Few shooters want to replace a rifle barrel and wind up with the same level of accuracy, especially when they can build a great shooting rifle for the same price.   It's important to know the limitations of your production rifle.   Magazine length handloads will rarely allow the bullet to be seated long enough to come anywhere near the rifling; and for safety reasons, they also have excessive neck clearance.   Seating bullets out to the rifling will always increase chamber pressure.   It also limits your maximum velocity.   However, it almost always improves accuracy.

      The next decision is to accurately define the caliber (and the purpose) of your rifle.   Don't expect the accuracy of a hunting cartridge to compare favorably to a benchrest cartridge.   On the other hand, you can't expect any benchrest cartridge to perform like a magnum caliber hunting round.   Some cartridges look similar, but each one is specifically designed to have some advantage over the others.   There are always trade-offs and limitations to consider when selecting the best caliber for your needs.

Sinclair Neck Turning Tool
A variable speed drill motor makes power case neck turning into an easier operation.

      The next decision is . . . . do you want to neck turn your cases?   For non-benchrest rifles, the accuracy benefit from neck turning is almost unmeasurable, and turning case necks is not for everybody.   Most shooters agree that it's not practical for hunting or tactical rifles.   You can build a half MOA hunting or tactical rifle that doesn't require turning your case necks, and that will reduce the time you spend handloading.   If your rifle uses a magazine, you might not like the idea of having thin case necks.

      The difference in cost between an ordinary barrel and a great barrel is usually less than $150.   However, the labor to install one properly is usually well over $300.   That's why I don't risk settling for a cheap rifle barrel.   This is a list of top quality, barrel manufacturers.   It is by no means a complete listing, but all of these companies consistently make outstanding barrels.
 
  • Krieger
  • Shilin
  • Hart
  • Lilja
  • Bartlein
  • Brux
  • Pac-Nor
  • Douglas
 
      How tight should your chamber be?   Keep in mind that most rifle cases have a slightly tapered body.   You want to be sure your cases will headspace on the shoulder and not on the body against the chamber wall.   There's no reason for a chamber to have a tight fitting body diameter.   It's just the neck diameter that improves accuracy by being tight.   You need to decide if you want to neck turn your cases - or not.   You also need to know that the neck thickness of factory cases will usually vary by a few thousandths.   This is very important when deciding the neck diameter you want for your new chamber.   Select the best quality brass available, and measure the diameter of a loaded round across the neck.   You should be able to take one of your fired cases and push a bullet back in place with your fingers.   That bullet should not be able to fall into the case.   If your bullet falls inside, you might have a good shooter (anything is possible); but I wouldn't bet on it.   Be sure to always pay close attention to the neck diameter of your handloads with any rifle that has a tight chamber.

      Competitive benchrest rifles require the most attention to detail when handloading.   If your goal is absolute maximum accuracy where all groups will be carefully measured in thousandths of an inch and if you don't mind spending more time reloading, you'll want a custom chamber with a very tight neck diameter.   These super tight necked chambers will never chamber factory ammo.   They require all handloads to be neck turned to the exact size - just to fit in the chamber.   The purpose of this step is to make handloads more uniform and to eliminate ANY extra clearance at the neck.   This reloading technique is familiar to all benchrest shooters, because it increases accuracy.   Failing to make your handloads fit perfectly can be a serious problem; but for the shooters that wish to get the ultimate accuracy, this is the only way to go.

Chamber Reamer From Pacific Tool & Gauge
This reamer has a tighter neck than any factory chamber, and it doesn't require neck turning.

      When ordering the ideal chamber reamer for your needs, you should specify the exact chamber features you want to end up with.   I've found that it's a good idea to send in a sample cartridge (minus the primer and powder) to a reamer manufacturer.   Your sample cartridge needs to include the particular bullet that you intend to use, and it needs to be seated the way your handloads will be.   You also need to specify how much freebore (bullet travel) before entering the rifling.   I prefer to use a piloted reamer that provides near zero freebore, and I always want to be able to use a common FL resizing die.   Keep in mind that this particular reamer isn't likely to be just sitting on the shelf.


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