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Thread: Best actions and barrel-nut systems for changing your barrel without a gunsmith

  1. #1
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    Best actions and barrel-nut systems for changing your barrel without a gunsmith

    Researching options for upgrading my long-range rifle, and it brought up this question, which has likely crossed the mind of anybody who has ever had to deal with rebarreling a bolt action. Why does this even matter? Mainly due to the time, expense, and hassle of having to give your rifle to a gunsmith for rebarreling. It would be awesome to be able to quickly change out your own barrel, with no impact on safety, reliability, or accuracy. If you scan threads on the Hide and other places and shop around a bit, you realize that the old school approach of getting an R700 pattern rifle and then being permanently dependent on a smith for rebarrels, is quickly fading. There are lots of new options to change out your own barrel.

    Options
    In no particular order, and no attempt to be complete, just some I'm aware of:

    * Savage: their well known barrel nut system and floating bolt head has always made home barrel-switching easy. Not a huge fan of Savage actions, but their design is definitely interesting and now there are imitators.
    * Bighorn TL3: this is an interesting hybrid action that is R700 footprint, but pulls design ideas from many great actions out there. Including that it allows you to use Savage prefit barrels and their small shank barrel nut system. Bighorn also, due to their floating bolt head idea (another Savage innovation), enables you to do something really cool: you can buy multiple bolt heads and barrels for the same action, for example a 6.5 CM setup, and a .223 trainer setup, and switch between them in minutes. I'm looking at a Bighorn now. Similarly, the Curtis actions are supposed to make barrel switches easy.
    * Ruger (RPR, American). Also uses a type of barrel nut that borrows from the Savage idea, and there's a growing market for prefit RPR barrels.
    * Action-specific prefit barrels. Seeing more of this for the most popular action types. Example: A lot of companies now make pre-shouldered, prefit barrels (in some case, no barrel nut required, others do) for the Tikka T3 and other actions. Criterion, Bugholes, Patriot Valley Arms, Proof Research, many others.
    * Barrel-nut systems that can be added to existing rifle actions. There's quite a few of these now:
    * Patriot Valley Arms. Their barrel nut system can be used on Tikka T3's, Remingtons, Savages, ARC, Curtis, and Bighorn actions to name a few.
    * The 'Remage' barrel system. Lets you setup an R700 with a barrel nut like Savage, so you can swap out barrels on your own.
    * The Barloc system. Designed by American Rifle Company, lets you add a device to a variety of actions so that you can swap barrels using only a hex wrench and headspace gauge. However, this one has reportedly had some recent issues with POI shifts for some users.
    * The West Texas Ordnance Switchlug system. This one is available for a lot of custom actions, and factory R700 and T3/T3x. Sounds awesome on paper, the device enables you to switch barrels using only an inch-pound torque wrench.
    * And probably many others I haven't heard of.....

    So.....
    * Does the idea of being able to switch barrels quickly have any appeal? I think for match shooters especially, and people who go through a lot of barrels or who want to run different calibers on one rifle, this is the way to go. On the other hand, if you get one rifle say .308 with long barrel life and don't shoot a ton, this is probably a non-issue.
    * Does anybody have experience with any of these options I'm interested in: the Bighorn TL3 action and its approach to running multiple calibers in one rifle; Patriot Valley Arms; and the West Texas Ordnance Switchlug system.
    * What are the drawbacks of this approach? One known example: potential POI shifts. As noted, the Barloc system has had a few users report that. And obviously, potential safety issues if the barrel tolerances are off or you don't get it torqued down and headspaced correctly, for the systems that require headspacing.
    Last edited by maximus83; 07-03-19 at 12:52. Reason: update comment about barrel nuts

  2. #2
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    The best?

    Accuracy International AX or AXMC actions.

    /thread

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coal Dragger View Post
    The best?

    Accuracy International AX or AXMC actions.

    /thread
    Good point, they have one of the best, long-term proven barrel switch setups. For me, an AI is not in the running so am looking primarily at what's compatible with R700 clone/customs, or factory actions like R700, Tikka, others.

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    This discussion gets more detailed over at Snipershide. I have settled on the Bighorn TL3 or Origin actions, summarized above, as the best all-around solution. The WTO Switchlug system looks interesting, I talked to Clayton the owner of WTO, it's a really well designed system and can actually be used together with the Bighorn action. In the end, you can swap out barrels like an AI, using only an inch-pound torque wrench. If there's a catch, it's that you have to have a gunsmith or WTO slightly modify your action to add the WTO, then in the future, all barrels fitted to it you have to give the dimensions to whoever is chambering the barrel blank so they can spin it up for you. But if you change barrels a lot or want to shoot multi-caliber out of the same rig, an interesting solution.

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    I think Savage overall from what I know the benchrest shooters use around here.

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    From some of the recent discussion on Sniper's Hide, sounds like the issue with the ARC Barlocs came down to barrels on the shouldered versions having dimension issues resulting in the the clamp not being able to properly take up the slack.

    I have a barrel nut version and have had no issues with it. While I don't intend to swap barrels around left and right with it, being able to mail order a barrel straight to my door and toss it in without needing an action wrench is nice. I can realistically re-barrel my rifle anywhere with just the contents of my mini field toolkit, as long as I bring a gauge with me.

    You can throw shouldered barrels on several different types of the new Savage-threaded custom 700 pattern actions without having to send the action off, but you still need a vise and an action wrench for that.

  7. #7
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    Re-Barreling with barrel nut is much easier than I expected. I replaced the shot out barrel on my Sako TRG with a barrel and nut from KRG. Setting the headspace with then go/no gauge was no trouble.

    I wouldn’t want to change all the time between calibers but it sure does beat having to rely on a gunsmith for a barrel change.




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  8. #8
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    My thoughts on the whole "switch barrel" thing. I initially purchased a Badger Ordinance M2013 action as they all headspace identically and at the time was one of the few actions available, other than AI, with that capability. I envisioned having wrench flats machined into the tube to facilitate a barrel changes on the range with an action wrench and a wrench in the barrel.

    Fast forward 5 years and I just use a barrel vice and action wrench to spin on a new tube, switching calibers and barrels constantly isn't realistic. Being able to get a new barrel from essentially any smith who can read a drawing is a plus. Also I've scored a cheap take off barrel that still had lots of life in it and just been able to screw it on and go shoot.

    There are quite a few actions out there now that headspace identically from receiver to receiver, and have a standard R700 footprint to boot. Giving you more stock/chassis options.

    Unless you have a specific need that has you swapping barrels on the range, I'd just get one of those actions, such as the tl3, invest in a decent action wrench/barrel vice, and enjoy the ability to get a new barrel sent your way without deadlining your rifle at the smith for months at a time.

    If you need to switch tubes out constantly with minimal tools, get an AI.

    Sent from my SM-G950U1 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by pyrotechnic; 08-20-19 at 20:47.

  9. #9
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    I decided on a TL3 and have been extremely pleased with the choice. The only small negative was the bolt feel on the TL3 took a little getting used to, but I've learned to love it.

    At this point I'm up to 4 barrels and have just over 4k rounds on the action. The barrels are chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, 6mm Dasher, and 223 Ackley. Two are shouldered pre-fits (one from WTO, the other PVA), and two are Savage threaded Shilens with the barrel nuts glued on. I use a Ross Vise, torque wrench, etc. to swap barrels. I've have found zero shift between barrel changes to be repeatable.

    These days I mostly shoot the 223 barrel and the Dasher. The optic stays zeroed for the Dasher. When using the 223 I dial in the zero offset, lock the turrets, and hold over with the reticle. There are times when I'll set the rifle up with one barrel and leave it that way for a while, others when I may switch barrels at the range in the middle of a shooting session. Changing the barrel and bolt head takes less than 5 min.

    My shooting partner does something similar with a Curtis action (and cuts his own barrels so has no need to order pre-fits online). He uses flats cut into the barrel towards the muzzle, and a crows foot + torque wrench. It's more convenient than the Ross Vise, but dependent on having flats for the crows foot.

    There's some great information about running a switch barrel this way over on SnipersHide. I was inspired to build mine by reading Rubenski's thread covering his switch barrel TL3.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tx_Aggie View Post
    I was inspired to build mine by reading Rubenski's thread covering his switch barrel TL3.
    That's great--I had read that very thread earlier. I decided to go the route of the WTO switchlug on a Tikka action.

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