This post describes the process of pillar bedding a Remington Model 700 rifle in .30-06, and presents shooting results that demonstrate accuracy improvement.
Spring brings many uplifting sights, like this old apple tree near ATOTT Headquarters. Every year it puts on a show like this and I never tire of it. I enjoy being reminded that rebirth is a part of nature’s process.
The single most effective thing you can do to improve your rifle’s performance is to improve the bedding of the action. A good action fit means metal and wood join together to provide a solid platform for bullet launching. A good craftsman can insure a very close wood to metal fit by working with tools made for the job. A duffer needs to use chemicals. That would be me, the chemicals being epoxy bedding gel, which hardens to provide the close stock-metal fit after it conforms to the action bottom.
I have bedded about a dozen rifles with epoxy material and in so doing have encountered most of the difficulties and how to avoid or overcome them. I have started mainly with common, vintage rifles, with something less than fine workmanship, but in good condition. In nearly every case the bedding process resulted in accuracy improvement. Rifles made throughout the 20th century have very good accuracy potential and it can be developed by a craftsman of average ability, if there is a strong desire to see successive shots go in holes close together. Don’t bother if your main interest is hunting big game. Your time will be better spent developing a good handload and finding better ways to find that game.
The rifle that most recently tweaked my bedding addiction was a Remington Model 700 BDL, the .30-06 that I described in a post about a year ago. The Remington Model 700: Not Really a Custom Rifle | A Tale of Two Thirties . As purchased, the rifle shot just fine, about 1.6 minute-of-angle with factory ammo. I knew some work would make it better and that became my quest. I decided for pillar bedding. In addition to the close fit of epoxy plastic to metal, pillar bedding provides for extremely solid action support by using metal tubes for the action screws. The additional improvement of pillars over just epoxy is hard to determine, but accuracy freaks want it. That means I want it.
What Is Needed
I chose the screw adjustable pillars made for Remington bolt actions and sold by Brownell’s. The picture shows a set of these fixin’s and you can see the screw adjustment allows the length to be perfect to support the round action bottom when the action screws
draw the bottom metal tight. The longer unit is for the rear screw and the shorter one for the front screw. These are a bit pricey, but if I were to use the cheaper, plain tubes, they would need to be cut to fit, and that is more difficult.
The pillars must be fit before the main epoxy job is done. I make sure that the action rests levelly with contact mainly at the tang and behind the recoil lug. I may need to scrape a little wood to get this. Then, I use a 7/16-inch Forstner bit with a pilot (also sold by Brownell’s and shown in the first pic) for drilling the holes and this job is done in a drill press. The next picture shows the stock with the holes drilled.
Now I adjust the pillars to fit so that the concave upper part is even with the wood where it meets the action and the bottom part is flush with the bottom of the bottom metal inlet. I epoxy the threads and adjust the pillar before the epoxy sets. Then I push it out of its hole and let the epoxy set. Next, I epoxy the pillars in their holes in the wood at the correct level. The concave pillar tops must fit the action perfectly. The next picture shows a bottom view of pillars bonded in place.
The last preparatory chapter is to rasp out forend wood to float the barrel when the action is supported by the pillars. Then I remove about a 1/16-in depth of wood around the pillars and I Dremel a couple of shallow grooves in the surface. This gives better thickness and adhesion to the epoxy coating.
I use Brownell’s Acra Glas Gel for the epoxy job. There are some artisanal concoctions which the elite workers (pros) may tell you they love, but Acra Glas has always worked fine for me. Keep calm. It takes the epoxy a long time to set up after mixing the two components. Follow the excellent instructions and make sure you use plenty of release agent with all openings in the metal that may fill with goo plugged with modeling clay.
The next picture shows the front end of my finished job. The epoxy support in front of the recoil lug is a bit longer than some would use. The fit of the recoil lug in its slot is very snug because I did not tape the sides and back of the lug before bonding. I hate taping so I am living with it this way.
How Does It Shoot ??
For accuracy work I mounted a Weaver Classic V-Series 4-16X variable scope. At about 17 ounces it is not the lightest strong variable, but that makes no difference for my bench rest purposes. In fact, anything that lowers the punch of the .30-06 during bench shooting is fine with me. The V-Series has been in the Weaver line for a long time and the optics are
still made in Japan. The optics and the turret and parallax adjustments are very good. Weaver has done a good job of maintaining the quality of its optical products and you may occasionally find the model you want on sale at the major distributors. That was the case with my 4-16X which was discounted about $100 below its usual street price. You can pay a lot more for not much more image quality.
Two trips to the range were used to check the results of the bedding process. I followed my usual practice of firing groups at 50 yards using a solid bench rest. Best results were obtained with handloads that used Winchester 760 spherical powder to push 168-grain target bullets at about 2600 fps. W760 has always worked great for me in the .30-06. As have the two match bullets, the Sierra 168 grain Match King HPBT and the Nosler 168 grain Match bullet known as the J4, also a hollow-point boat tail.
The best results are shown in the two group pictures. The smallest group, obtained with the Nosler bullet, measured 0.23 in. or, 0.46 Minutes of Angle. The mean value of the six groups was 0.35 in. and that is an average of 0.70 MOA. Could I say that pillar bedding turned my Remington into a ¾ minute rifle? I would like to say it. The collection of groups fired with the pillar-bedded 700 also showed great size consistency and little tendency toward flyers. This is a desirable result regardless of actual group size.
Not every one of my bedding projects has made me want to run home and ice down the champagne. But then, not every one has started with a Remington 700 in practically new condition. I can understand that many readers might not want to mess with a fine rifle – there is always some danger of bad things happening. But consider this: There are beaucoup Remington 700s on the used rifle racks and you can often find attractive prices. I would rather go this route than buy one of the new plastic stock economy models (nothing wrong with them) because after bedding I am like to have an accurate rifle with good metal and good wood.
My work is never done. Yes, I know the 700 BDL is a hunting rifle and no one is going to hunt with match bullets. But they have demonstrated the potential so now I could check out, say, some 165- and 180-grain soft points. Probably some time this summer.