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Lightweight Rifle Project (Part 10 of 10)

The Moment of Truth: Part 10 of 10
(Check out Part 9)

by Keith Wood

The rifle is built, the money is spent and the scope is mounted: It’s time to know whether this thing shoots.

I ordered 100 rounds of Lapua brass and a variety of component bullets from Sinclair International and assembled a few handloads. After breaking in the barrel per Krieger’s instructions, I shot several groups for accuracy.

This rifle was fun to shoot—partially due to the stock design; recoil was light despite the rifle’s low mass. The most promising sign on the range was this rifle’s consistency, even using a variety of bullet weights and powders, nearly every round hit a consistent point of aim.

The Test: Here are the raw accuracy results (3-shot groups at 100 yards):

Berger 140gr. VLD Match handload (Varget) 0.36”

Nosler Custom Ammo 125gr. Partition 0.45”

Hornady 129gr. SST handload (IMR 4350) 0.48”

Nosler 130gr. Accubond handload (H 4831) 0.55”

Berger 104gr. VLD Match handload (H 4831) 0.82”

Barnes 130gr. TSX handload (RL 19) 1.06”

I had some doubts, but we reached our accuracy goals. The above results are not “developed” loads—I literally loaded some rounds out of the book and headed to the range. I have little doubt that with some tweaking, this rifle will do even better. For those of you who don’t trust 3-shot groups, after every cleaning I fired a “fouler” into the same target: 7 cold barrel shots went into a 0.55” group at 100 yards!

The Conclusion: Though lightweight rifles can be unforgiving (benchrest guns are heavy for a reason), they don’t have to be inaccurate. With excellent components and precision construction, it is clearly possible to build an ultralight rifle that is capable of accuracy far beyond the needs of any typical hunting scenario. We blew our budget, but we built a great rifle and we busted some myths: Light rifles can be accurate, as can pencil-thin barrels. Our weight goal could have been met with a shorter barrel, but I feel that 22" was a good compromise length for the .260 Remington cartridge. At the end of the day, a tenth of an ounce is a joke.        

This rifle (strapped to its new companion, the Kifaru Late Season) has a date with a mountain. We'll let you know how it does afield. 
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5 Responses to Lightweight Rifle Project (Part 10 of 10)

KW wrote:
November 29, 2011

Alaska66- Thanks for the kind words & comments. I've been carrying the rifle afield for a few weeks now and am really falling in love with it. As for the aluminum shroud, it came from Kampfeld Custom. I have not weighed it idependently so I can't tell you exactly what it weighs.

Alaska66 wrote:
November 18, 2011

Almost forgot, on my builds I went with a turned down factory bolt shroud. I thought of going with an aluminum shroud but just didn't like the looks of the ones I'd found. The aluminum shroud on this rifle looks very nice, from what I can see it looks to be a hex shape like a Nesika Bay action. I am just wondering where you purchased it and how much it weighs ? Thanks

Alaska66 wrote:
November 18, 2011

Very nice rifle, it should serve you well. You will wonder why you carried all the extra weight for so long and wish that you had done this sooner. I did a similar build on a pair of rifles about two years ago and couldn't be happier with them. I started with a pair of Gander Mountain "Guide Special" rifles which start out at 5# 10 oz. These rifles shot amazingly well so I left the factory barrels and action alone and just worked on losing weight. Because of this I only spent about $1,100. on each rifle. I bought Leupold 3-9x33 Compact scopes used on ebay for less than $200. ea. (the compact scopes weigh the same as the ultralights but have friction rather than click turrets). I had much of the same work done by Karl at Kampfeld Custom and had additional work done by a friend that has his own machine shop. You can still make your weight goal. There are a few areas you overlooked for weight savings...the trigger guard can be skeletonized (this does not make it any more dangerous, the small slots in the face of the trigger guard do not expose the trigger to twigs, etc. nearly as much as the large openings on the sides), the magazine box can also be replaced with an aluminum box and then skeletonized, the Talley mounts can be skeletonized, the bolt knob can have the buldges milled off and the circular area milled out, and there is still metal than can be safely removed from the receiver. For even more weight savings the barrel can be turned down a little in the chamber area or even turned down more and wrapped with carbon fiber, the stock can be modified or you could go with another stock with a "power grip" forend. For some excellent ideas on how to truly save a lot of weight check out "Extreme Rifle Works" or the Kifaru "Rambling Rifle". Some of these rifles weigh as little as 4-4.5#. The nice thing about builds like these is they can be done in stages so nearly anyone can afford it. Again, nice rifle, I wish you many happy memories with it.

KW wrote:
October 18, 2011

Agree 100[%]. We talk a lot about 'groups' but consistent point of impact is where it's at in the real world.

Steve wrote:
October 17, 2011

Since this rifle is intended for hunting and the firt shot is the one that usually counts, the .55" "cold shot" group is the most impressive of the results (especially since it was comprised of multiple loads.) I think any law enforcement or military sniper team would be very comfortable with rifles that shoot that well cold. Heavy barrels probably retain more multi-shot accuracy as heat builds, but barrel heat should never be an issue while hunting.