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Self Assembly vs Smith

Win223

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Taking the dive into the custom side, starting to get parts together. I'm getting a TL3 from another SH member, and watching for a 6.5 CM prefit barrel to pop up in the PX. A Bravo and a trigger and I should be in decent shape.

My question is, is there a compelling reason to send it all to a smith to put together, or is it pretty much llug and play? Seems like a lot of guys are moving components around all the time themselves, but I also see where some are buying assembled rifles direct from a smith that seem to just be assembled parts. Is this just a divide between tinkerer's and non-tinkerers, or am I overlooking something thinking I can put one together from parts as a first build?
 

Brisket

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Taking parts to a smith to have them assembled gives you a qualified opinion if anything goes wrong. The smith should be able to get everything fixed either before or after you first shoot the rifle. So you've got a little cushion on receiving defective parts.

For the +90% of builds with components that screw together correctly, as long as you're happy with how it shoots, why pay a smith?
 

OREGUN

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You can absolutely put it together yourself. What you lose is the ability to spec every detail (chamber specs, throat length, etc), the extra set of eyes/professional knowledge for troubleshooting if you run into irregularities, and maybe some precision fitting type stuff. But, as far as threading on a shouldered prefit, attaching a trigger, bolting the action into the chassis and mounting the accessories, this ain’t rocket science. Have the tools, watch the youtoobs, know when to get help...and do it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, having a rifle made by a master is really something amazing and having a great smith who you can work with to get the best fit for exactly what you want is also a really special thing.
 

Codiekfx400

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If you do it yourself you will need a barrel vise and a action wrench at the very least. A go gauge and a torque wrench isn’t a bad idea either.
 
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Win223

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Yeah, I had come to the conclusion that it was something that I might as well take a stab at to start off. Since its all just a bunch of component parts, if I'm not getting the performance I think I should, it can always go to a Smith after the fact for troubleshooting and fine tuning. Thanks for the the input.
 

EastCOYotes

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I’ve heard of some horror stories, but the DIY method has been solid for me. I built on a Bighorn action with a barrel nut CarbonSix Carbon fiber barrel and my gun feeds nicely and shoots .25-.33 MOA.

I did have to get a custom cocking piece from Bighorn to eliminate cock on close that I was having with my triggertech trigger. It doesn’t shoot any different before vs after it was just an operational thing for me.
 
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Win223

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OK, good to know on the trigger, I'll keep an eye out for that. Was it a pretty easy swap out for the new cocking piece?
 

EastCOYotes

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OK, good to know on the trigger, I'll keep an eye out for that. Was it a pretty easy swap out for the new cocking piece?

I have a TT diamond in mine. Pretty easy swap since the bighorn bolt is easily disassembled. I can’t recall exactly but I think I paid $30 or so from Bighorn for the different cocking piece.

Since their firing pin protrudes out of the back of the bolt you can measure the amount of of cock on close if you have calipers and they’ll send you a new cocking piece to adjust properly to your trigger.

Picture for reference
 

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Junco Grande

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Definitely something you can do for yourself. With enough time investing in knowledge here and youtoob as a backstop, it's not even challenge. Plus the satisfaction is worth it.
 

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    Besides possible trigger issues it’s easy to put together a nice rifle yourself.
    I think trigger issues are thankfully not common.
     

    Army First

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    The Smith should know more than me, I can't deny that.

    But damn it I enjoy the build
     

    b2lee

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    I think the most compelling reason at the moment to do it yourself is....you don't have to wait on a smith with a crazy backlog. You aren't put on a waiting list that is months and months long. I get my smith to spin me up a new custom barrel...chambered to my specs....but the rest is metallic Legos. From complete disassembly to everything snapped back together and torqued to the proper specs....for me is about 10 minutes.
     

    Dthomas3523

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    For every person who “it snapped together perfectly” there’s another with feeding issues or other such stuff.

    There’s posts here and other places daily about feeding issues and such. And I can’t remember the last time it was someone who didn’t put the rifle together on their own.

    Nothing wrong with it. Just realize there *may* be more work than just screwing it all together.
     

    Delicatessen

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    If you are at all mechanically inclined and enjoy the work I would say do it yourself. Just don’t try to the super light self adjustable triggers as that may lead to issues. Also make sure you have the appropriate tools to do it and don’t just make do (torque wrench/bits, barrel vise etc). If you run into issues you can take it to your smith but if you have decent tools and basic knowledge it’s not too difficult.
     

    ThePretzel

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    I've done the work myself for all of the rifles I've put together, just because realistically the work involved is not that difficult.

    Torque the barrel on with some anti-seize compound, insert the trigger and trigger pins, then place it in a quality stock/chassis and torque down the action screws. Thread on the muzzle brake and use either peel or crush washers to make sure it lines up straight when tightened down.

    If you notice some feeding problems you can either use an adjustable magazine catch or you can tweak the feed lips on your magazines. Mag sitting too high? Drop it down with the adjustable catch or bend the feed lips in slightly. Mag sitting too low? Raise it up with the adjustable catch or bend the feed lips out slightly. You can also add shims or file down the lip on the magazine itself where the catch holds it, but I prefer to stick with an adjustable catch or the feed lip adjustments since they're much easier and quicker.

    As far as torque values go it's generally recommended to do about 100 ft-lbs for the barrel itself and about 65 in-lbs for the action screws. That said, I've also attached barrels using a rubber pot holder and just cranking it as tight as I could by hand without any issues over 1,000+ rounds and I know plenty of others who have done the same, so barrel torque is more of a recommendation than a hard requirement. Your headspace will be 1-2 thousandths shorter if you torque it down compared to hand-tight, but so long as you pass the go/no-go gauge tests that's a non-issue. Action screw torque is more of a concrete recommendation, just because you want to be consistent - different action screw torque values have been shown to affect groupings in the past particularly with rimfire rifles. You should have an in-lb torque wrench or set of torque limiters already anyways to properly tighten down scope rings and the like.

    That said, putting it together yourself means you're accepting the risk that you'll have to fiddle with magazines or magazine catches to get proper feeding. You also have to be able to trust yourself to do it correctly. If avoiding fiddling entirely is a benefit to you, or if you would second guess the rifle because it wasn't put together by a professional, then you're better off just having a gunsmith do it. If you don't mind the fiddling, or even possibly enjoy it, and you trust yourself because you can verify it was done correctly - then it's perfectly fine and even a good idea to do it yourself.
     

    Northernjets

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    For every person who “it snapped together perfectly” there’s another with feeding issues or other such stuff.

    There’s posts here and other places daily about feeding issues and such. And I can’t remember the last time it was someone who didn’t put the rifle together on their own.

    Nothing wrong with it. Just realize there *may* be more work than just screwing it all together.

    Same reason automotive shops are still a thing despite all the online resources. Not everyone can (or should) work on something that could be a potential ticking time bomb. Like I told a friend of mine who was having issues: custom rifles come with custom problems, especially when deviating from common builds. Not everything is going to be plug and play, and knowing a competent (emphasis on competent) smith is a good thing to have around.

    Having said that, with some mechanical competency, it isn't rocket science slapping a prefit barrel on an action, checking headspace and dropping it into a chassis with minor fitting. Trigger timing is something I've yet to do, but I stuck with a popular brand that others have used before on their actions, so haven't had issues with my rifles yet.
     

    Win223

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    Thanks for all the input. I think I’ll give it a go to start, i always enjoy figuring out how to put things together and get them working properly. And if I come up against something I can’t figure out, off to the smith with it, won’t really have lost anything.

    I’m in the early stages right now anyways, waiting on a Tl3 action I just purchased, and still need to chase down a barrel and and stock/chassis. So it could be a while. Maybe I’ll have come to my senses by then.
     

    jmw

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    Get yourself a Mpa magazine lip bender if you have feeding issues. I think problems with feeding are the most common problem you might encounter
     

    Hobo Hilton

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    You will never learn anything, mechanically, by having the work done by someone else. Guns, trucks, lawnmowers, leaking faucets are all an opportunity to learn something that could be needed in the future when there won't be an option to take it to someone else to fix. Basic mechanical principals carry over from one mechanical device to another. JMHO

    Hobo
     

    NFAJohn

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    I did it, worked well, won’t be going back anytime soon. Have helped a few buddies assemble them since and all have been hammers.
     
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    Hunt

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    Nothing more frustrating than paying a big name 'smith for a complete build and having it shoot worse than a factory setup. Been there, had to send back 3x and still not worthy of the work performed. I'll take my chances with prefits and bolt-ons.
     
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    Slowshot18

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    Pre-fits, bighorn actions, and triggertechs go together like peas and carrots. Get ahold of a barrel vice, a bighorn action wrench, a torque wrench, watch some youtube videos on barrel swaps, slap that thing together. I would also check it with some go/no go gauges just to be safe. I had a local gunshop that did it for $5.00.
    My build:
    Bighorn Origin
    Trigger Tech Special
    20" 6.5 creedmoor Proof carbon pre-fit for TL3
    HLR recoil lug
    KRG Bravo

    My gun is a 1/2 MOA gun all day long. @NFAJohn did a sweet build too and his gun shoots better than mine.

    If you can change a tire and batteries on a car, you can figure this shit out. Honestly, mounting a scope and making it perfectly level is more of a pain in the ass then swapping a barrel out.
    There is a time and a place for a Gunsmith. As previously stated with custom chambers, barrels, lengths, etc. etc. etc. you get what you pay for. But if you're not wanting a special chamber cut, then why would you not slap the shit together yourself?

    I was so impressed with my pre-fit DIY build, that I ordered a proof pre-fit in 28 Nosler for my Stiller LA that I will DIY barrel swap in the spring. Either its going to work out, or its not. If not, I'll send the barrel back to proof.
     

    Lazlo

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    I purchased a TL3, Manners, and Proof barrel and had the same dilemma.

    In the end, I sent it to Josh at Altus and he put it all together for a very small fee. After I added up what it would cost for a vise, torque wrench, and action wrench, it just made more sense to send it off. They will also check headspace and function check feeding.

    If I decide on a new barrel, I'll likely buy the gear to change it myself.
     

    Mdfowlman2

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    I recently had this same question, I decided to build it myself. It was quite easy and at no point did I regret building it. I purchased a barrel vise, go/no go gauges, and a action wrench. Take your time and you should be fine
     

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    McMillan

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    You will never learn anything, mechanically, by having the work done by someone else. Guns, trucks, lawnmowers, leaking faucets are all an opportunity to learn something that could be needed in the future when there won't be an option to take it to someone else to fix. Basic mechanical principals carry over from one mechanical device to another. JMHO

    Hobo
    I have plenty of mechanical knowledge. (I'm qualified as a marine engineer and I pretty much do everything my self. House renos. All mechanical things. To the point I have almost never payed labour for anything in my life. Except rifle building. I don't want to spend the money to buy a good enough lathe to do an accurate enough job to keep me happy. I expect better than what I'm going to get out of pre fits and I'm happy to pay for it
     

    Mdfowlman2

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    I have plenty of mechanical knowledge. (I'm qualified as a marine engineer and I pretty much do everything my self. House renos. All mechanical things. To the point I have almost never payed labour for anything in my life. Except rifle building. I don't want to spend the money to buy a good enough lathe to do an accurate enough job to keep me happy. I expect better than what I'm going to get out of pre fits and I'm happy to pay for it
    What’s the difference in a say a patriot valley prefit and having them spin you up with your action In hand?
     

    Mdfowlman2

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    Do you see any bench rest competitions being won with say a patriot valley prefit?
    I also don’t see them shooting any contour you’d find in anything that isn’t completely custom. You also didn’t answer the question. I was asking it because I’m curious, what’s the difference between a prefit and a barrel spun up with action in hand? What’s the difference?
     

    McMillan

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    I also don’t see them shooting any contour you’d find in anything that isn’t completely custom. You also didn’t answer the question. I was asking it because I’m curious, what’s the difference between a prefit and a barrel spun up with action in hand? What’s the difference?
    Many things. For a start my Smith uses my reamer so I can keep using my brass almost endlessly. Pre fits aregenerally made with slightly larger chambers, necks and throats because there are many people around who don't clean there rifles properly and wouldn't know how to prevent a carbon ring. Pre fits are designed with things like this in mind or every second person would be having issues and getting on the hide bad mouthing them and they would go out of business. My chambers get dialed in with a micron dial because it's more accurate. If you are happy with the accuracy from a pre fit go for it. Some people are not
     

    Win223

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    I’m not trying to win a bench rest competition, fortunately, so I can probably get away with slumming it on a prefit. The high demand/low supply for prefits right now suggests that there are quite a few others out there with the same incredibly low standards I have. Smith’s are busy too (cranking out prefits?) so there are plenty who want to go all in too. I probably will do the same at some point.

    But, I’m not sure why I couldn’t send it to a smith after I give it a go assembling it myself, if it’s not performing as I feel it should. Maybe I would have to search high and low, but I bet I could find at least one smith out there that would help someone with an already assembled rifle that needed some tuning.
     
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    Mdfowlman2

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    Many things. For a start my Smith uses my reamer so I can keep using my brass almost endlessly. Pre fits aregenerally made with slightly larger chambers, necks and throats because there are many people around who don't clean there rifles properly and wouldn't know how to prevent a carbon ring. Pre fits are designed with things like this in mind or every second person would be having issues and getting on the hide bad mouthing them and they would go out of business. My chambers get dialed in with a micron dial because it's more accurate. If you are happy with the accuracy from a pre fit go for it. Some people are not
    We aren’t exactly comparing apple to apples. Your speaking to the differences between a prefit barrel and a barrel spun up using your supplied reamer.
     

    Dthomas3523

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    I’m not trying to win a bench rest competition, fortunately, so I can probably get away with slumming it on a prefit. The high demand/low supply for prefits right now suggests that there are quite a few others out there with the same incredibly low standards I have. Smith’s are busy too (cranking out prefits?) so there are plenty who want to go all in too. I probably will do the same at some point.

    But, I’m not sure why I couldn’t send it to a smith after I give it a go assembling it myself, if it’s not performing as I feel it should. Maybe I would have to search high and low, but I bet I could find at least one smith out there that would help someone with an already assembled rifle that needed some tuning.

    This is why many smith’s charge more when someone brings a rifle in, then they would had you bought parts from them.

    You’ve basically done everything you could not to pay them, then when you can’t do it, you bring it in and still try to get them for as little as possible.

    Also, this is why so many smiths are becoming backed up. Many are going out of business, so the one’s left are booked. The ones not busy are either A: shitty or B: in small areas where not many people know about them yet.

    I’m not purposely busting your balls personally. Just stating what this approach has been doing. Many “smith‘s” now have adapted and just cut pre-fits. Which is fine, but eventually the trade skills won’t be passed along and you will have issues finding a real gunsmith.

    Because of doing things at home, Smith prices will keep going up. They still have to pay bills.
     
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    McMillan

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    We aren’t exactly comparing apple to apples. Your speaking to the differences between a prefit barrel and a barrel spun up using your supplied reamer.
    No we aren't comparing apples to apples. That is my point. I expect more out if my rifles and I'm willing to pay for it. But by the time I don't have to buy new brass the difference in price is a lot closer. Just like many people shooting factory rifles don't see the point in a custom. And people with mid price scopes dint see the point in a high end scope. It's a game of diminishing gains. The gains are smaller and smaller but they are still there.
    Also on this I strongly agree with Dthomas3523. We could all use pre fits and do all the gunsmiths out of business and then wonder why we have nobody to get our match rifles running flawlessly.

    I here it all the time at matches when people start missing, oh my rifle must be Fowled or my barrel must have sped up or my rifles stopped shooting well etc.
    This is why I have rifles built that shoot tiny groups at range and keep my barrel clean that way if things aren't going right in a comp all I have to do is figure out what I am doing wring.
     
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    Win223

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    I guess I’m not really that concerned about saving the money doing it myself. It’s probably a lack of patience, not wanting to wait months and months for something that I can potentially do myself, and might even enjoy a bit. And if they charge me more to work on an already assembled rifle, I don’t see how that hurts them. I bill at an hourly shop rate, tougher projects make me the same amount of money as easy ones because the customer pays me for my time. If they normally markup parts, they lose out on that I guess.

    Can’t say I know anything about the dwindling supply of smiths, I’ll take your word for that. Having the ones that do low quality work drop out of the game doesn’t seem like a loss. I don’t entirely understand how the good ones that are super busy are also in danger of not having enough work so they have to raise prices in order to make a living, but I’ve always been a dim bulb.

    I’m going to go ice my balls now.
     

    The_Count

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    I purchased a barrel for an Impact 737 from a smith.

    Then decided to purchase another barreled action. Their price for the BA was $350 higher than for a barrel and then a pre-fit.

    When I called to ask if it was correct, they said it was. They had no great explanation.

    Of all of the rifles I've assembled I've only had problems with the chambers that were cut. Never had an issue with performance on a properly cut chamber. Wrong throat, Galling from lack of coolant (twice).
     

    ThePretzel

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    Do you see any bench rest competitions being won with say a patriot valley prefit?
    I'll do you better than competitions being won - here are a number of different national records in F-class that have been set with barrel nut pre-fits, not even shouldered pre-fit barrels.


    Please do continue to tell us all how terribly pre-fit barrels perform though, it's entertaining. If the headspace fits, you're not getting anything more out of a "custom job" than you would a pre-fit barrel. The quality of the barrel comes down to the manufacturer who made it and the smith who did the chambering. If your smith does a worse job chambering the same kind of barrel blank as one of the big pre-fit companies, then that barrel will be worse even if it was done custom for you with your own specific reamer.

    You know how else you can keep using the same brass between barrels? Order your barrels from the same supplier each time. They'll be using the same reamer pattern as they did last time, and you know the pre-fits are all cut identical to one another. That's kind of the whole point of them - they're all the same. Once you use brass in one of them they're already perfectly formed to every other pre-fit from the same manufacturer because quality smiths don't run their reamers ragged like Remington does.
     

    Codiekfx400

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    You gotta watch out for those barrel nut guys. They like to turn the barrel out one revolution and call it a Barrel nut improved chamber. LOL
     
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    ThePretzel

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    You gotta watch out for those barrel nut guys. They like to turn the barrel out one revolution and call it a Barrel nut improved chamber. LOL
    I've got a Mausingfield from before ARC standardized the headspace to what it is today. Bought a used PVA Dasher barrel to give it a shot and see if I was lucky, but it turns out my action headspaces about 10 thousandths longer than the new ones. I've got the PVA barrel set aside in my closet marked with tape as a "6mm DasherX" since the shoulder's pushed forwards like that!