It doesn’t take that much to turn a worn out rifle into a real shooter.
There is no shortage of pre-owned but serviceable bolt-action rifles for sale at modest prices. Whether unwanted hand-me-downs, relics of bygone days, platforms that are “past their prime” or simply single-season splurges, used rifles—deemed to be in safe, firing condition by a gunsmith—can be easily upgraded and customized to enhance their downrange potential and aesthetics. Such improvements needn’t break the bank, nor require the services of a veteran gunsmith, either, and the resulting firearm will not only be purpose-built for a specific task, it will also reflect the owner’s personality.
In the subsequent pages you’ll see a sampling of products used to breathe new life into a neglected, bead-blasted, bare-bones $200 Remington Model 700 ADL. Know upfront that, like automobiles, rifle customization can run the gamut with regard to cost. Likewise, seldom will costs incurred during customization be recouped in a resale, so it is prudent to focus only on improvements that, in the end, serve a purpose; it’s difficult to justify many high-end aftermarket add-ons. None of the items used for this project exceeded $300, and most were significantly less. Each was selected for its utility and value.
Although not a novice, I’m not a full-fledged gunsmith, either. My experience level enabled me to approach the project with an eye toward the beginner, and the results can be easily replicated provided the manufacturer’s directions are followed. In total, the build, which occurred in phases during a multiple-week period, took about four hours of labor to complete. Most of that time was spent in preparation. As for cost, sans the rings, bases, optic, bipod and sling, and excluding the original rifle cost, customization was about $650.
That can seem expensive when compared to the prices of numerous high-quality low-cost rifles available new from manufacturers such as Sturm, Ruger & Co., Remington Arms, Savage Arms, Stevens, Marlin Firearms and O.F. Mossberg & Sons. But for a “custom” rifle outfitted with premium components, it can also legitimately be considered a bargain.
In addition to an authentic appearance, the Model 700 that emerged proved capable of delivering respectable accuracy; the same could not be said before the build, at which time 2-inch-plus group averages at 100 yards were commonplace. It’s likely that, given some attention, you too can create an original piece that will excel on the range and in the field.
Nikon Prostaff Riflescope
Nikon’s economical Prostaff riflescopes are possibly the best example of items selected because of their combination of utility and value. Despite constant re-zeroing when swapping between rifles, heavy recoil (from .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. to .375 H&H Mag. and .416 Rem. Mag.) and frequent air travel, I’ve yet to have a Prostaff fail, so it made sense that I’d select one for this project. Nitrogen-purged, O-ring-sealed one-piece main tubes ensure that Prostaff scopes are waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. Additionally, the scopes have fully multi-coated lenses, Zero-Reset turrets with clicks valued a 1/4 m.o.a., 3.7 inches of eye relief, and 50- or 100-yard parallax settings. Offered in a range of magnification settings and objective lens sizes, I opted for a 4-12X 40 mm version with the standard Nikoplex reticle. Weight and length were 15.7 ounces and 14.1 inches, respectively. As to price, I found my scope in Cabela’s Bargain Cave for $160, with the company’s regular price being $209. Expect the manufacturer’s set retail price to be slightly more.
A smooth, consistent and, preferably, user-adjustable trigger is essential to extracting maximum performance from a rifle. Best described as “horrendous,” the factory trigger’s replacement was mandatory, not optional, so I chose one from Timney Triggers. Manufactured in the company’s Phoenix, Ariz., facility, the triggers are hand-assembled from heat-treated components and said to have 0.0005-inch tolerances. The Model 700 version comes with an “improved” safety that blocks the trigger, not the sear, when engaged. Adjustable from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 4 pounds, I found the trigger’s crisp, repeatable factory-set pull of 3 pounds to be ideal. Installation took less than five minutes. In addition to the Remington Model 700, the company offers replacement triggers for other manufacturers and models, too. Price: $135.