Introduction to Rifle Actions
The three actions I like using the most are the Winchester Model 70, Weatherby Vanguard, also known as Howa 1500, and the ubiquitous Remington 700. This post will attempt to show the strength and weaknesses each action has.
Photo below: Top to Bottom, Vanguard, Remington, and Winchester
Remington 700 short action below: note its round bottom, no integral recoil lug
The most common action used today is probably the Remington 700. I just built a Remington 700 in .308 for a customer in Yakima, that is shooting ½ inch groups at 300 yards, that is under ¼ MOA! So accuracy is not a problem with the Remington, however, the purpose of this post is to provide insight into the action.
The Remington 700 is a round action, when using a Remington action you must use a stock that is pillar bedded or has an aluminum-bedding block. The reason you must use a stock with the aluminum is to make up for some weaknesses in the action. As the bullet travels down the barrel it spins, which puts torsional stress on the action, that stress affects accuracy. Imagine trying to stop a round shaft from spinning, it would slip and continue spinning in your hands. In order to get the most accuracy out of a Remington it is best to use a stock that is pillar bedded or has the bedding block, and glass bed the action for the best fit to the stock. The Remington has a washer style recoil lug. This does make an extra procedure when building a rifle because the recoil lug must be surface ground to ensure it is parallel. It also can add confusion because there are many after market recoil lugs. The factory lug is fine to use as long as it has been ground parallel. One last feature that the Remington lacks is the ability to remove the firing pin without tools. In order to remove the firing pin you must use a tool.
Remington 700 bolt assembled below:
Remington 700 bolt disassembled with firing pin removal tool:
Win Mod 70 below: thick integral recoil lug, flat receiver base.
The “Rifleman’s Rifle” the Winchester model 70 has an integral recoil lug and a flat base receiver. Due to the flat base the Model 70 is a very stiff action, because of the stiff action it is not necessary to use a stock with an aluminum-bedding block, which can save the shooter a little money. One down side to the Model 70 is the receivers are very hard and must be turned in a lathe to blueprint. Because they are so hard, it also takes longer to blueprint a Model 70.
The Model 70 is designed to remove the firing pin with no tools.
Weatherby Vanguard aka. Howa 1500:
The Vanguard also has an integral recoil lug and a flat base, which makes for a stiff action. One advantage they have over a Model 70 is although hard, the Vanguard is easier to machine, allow for quicker blueprinting procedures and easier on cutting tools.
Another advantage to the Vanguard is the M-16 style extractor:
The Vanguard bolt can also be disassemble with out tools:
There is no right or wrong action. Ask 10 rifle makers and you will get 10 different answers. The purpose of this post was to make people aware that there are subtle differences in each action. When thinking about buying a rifle, there are more things to consider than just the initial cost. Most gun reviews focus on how shiny the bluing is, or what kind of checkering the stock has, none of these affect the overall accuracy of the weapon. With a good barrel, proper stock, and a competent rifle builder using any of the above-mentioned actions are capable of extreme accuracy. I don’t have a preference, I have rifles built on all three actions. I’m thinking about building a rifle using a Surgeon action, but that is for another post!