If you want proper accuracy out of a bolt action rifle, you’re going to have to bed it.
No, not take it to bed (well, we don’t judge) instead, mold a perfectly form fitted negative of the bottom of your rifle’s receiver inside the stock. This enhanced contact point increases rigidity and allows proper torque to be applied to the bolts that hold your receiver in place. A helpful side effect of this procedure is that it also can allow your barrel to be lifted and free-floated from the forearm of the stock.
While bedding is something traditionally done by gunsmiths and rifle specialists, it’s actually a straightforward process that can be done at home, in a garage workshop, or as follows, in a home office. I did this entire project on a table in my home office 4 years ago before having a workshop or even very many tools, and it in total took about 2 days (most of that was waiting for the epoxy to cure.) It isn’t tool or skill intensive, and can be accomplished with some basic tools, some attention to detail, and proper preparation.
One Simple Trick!
So the best place to start with a bedding project is a gun. This project was performed on my Remington 700 in .308.
This particular model is the “AAC-SD” Which signifies that it has a 20″ 1-10 Twist rate barrel and a 5/8-24 threaded muzzle. I went with this rifle because it offered the features I sought in a factory configuration and allowed me to further upgrade as time goes on. The one main issue with it out of the box, however, is the stock. Remington ships this rifle with a Hogue brand overmolded rifle stock, and to be honest, it’s through and through awful.
The great news is that you can purchase a Boyd’s laminate stock inexpensively, and offset the purchase cost by selling the Hogue stock for more than you paid for the Boyd’s. However, we of course aren’t stopping there, we must bed.
Necessary for this project is a playset acquired from the Brownell’s toy company, which include a two-part epoxy bedding compound (Devcon Steel), Aluminum bedding pillars, and some QD Flush Cup sling mounts.
Now, the grand scheme of what’s going to happen, is that we’re going to mask off parts of the receiver and stock, then flood the inlet of the stock with the epoxy, sealing the aluminum pillars into the holes that support the action screws. Let’s see how we get there!
Preparation of the rifle’s barrel and receiver is the first step. The recoil lug, and 2-3 inches of barrel in front of it, are taped up in order to form a dam, stopping the flow of epoxy from moving past the rear part of the recoil lug recess in the stock.
Tape is then wrapped to thickness around two points on the barrel to establish the barrel’s float, and to “level” the receiver in the stock’s inlet. This can take some time, slowly adding and removing wraps of tape to each point.
When the action sits satisfactory, the next step is to start taping up the outside of the stock. This will make cleanup immensely easier once the epoxy has been poured.
An optional step, but something you can do while you’re going through this process anyway, is installing QD Flush Cups into the stock. These cups, or sockets, are sold by a number of retailers, even in bulk packs, and act as the receptacle for push-button Quick Disconnect sling mounts. This is a very handy system if you haven’t used them before, and once you get the mounts installed on more than one or two rifles, the system really proves itself. All thats necessary is a 1/2″ hole to be drilled where you want them to be mounted, to a depth of approximately 1/2″ or less. In the forearm, this was just a straight-through hole that we’ll have to make sure not to push the cup too deep into.
When the epoxy is mixed up, we’ll apply it to the outside of the cups and then place them in these holes, that’s all there is to it!
Last step before going forward is to fill all of the small crevices in the receiver with clay or putty, and to give it a solid, heavy buffing of a release agent. I chose Play-Doh because it is immensely cheap, easy to work with, gluten free, and contracts as it dries (because removing it after this process is a consideration of course!) For the release agent, while there are a number of products on the market, I chose neutral shoe polish. The thickness of the polish allows you to really work it into the metal (and clay) to prevent the bedding compound from sticking to the receiver. This is probably the most important preparation step, because IF YOU SCREW THIS UP, YOU GLUE YOUR RECEIVER TO YOUR STOCK FOREVER.
Don’t worry though, just take your time and get polish everywhere and clay in as many places as you can. If you are unsure about an area, add more polish!
The last part of the receiver’s prep is the Aluminum Pillars. These little tubes will be contact points that the action screws will tighten against, keeping compression pressure off of the stock itself. Because we do not want them stuck to the receiver, we bolt them down after the receiver has had release applied to it. The receiver and action screws have been generously coated with release wax, however, the pillars have not; these will get sealed up permanently in the bedding material.
At this stage it is key to be more than reasonably satisfied with all of the preparation work; once the bedding compound is mixed up, the train has left the station!
The epoxy compound is mixed up in a 2.5:1 ratio of the putty to the hardener. This stuff is pretty thick, just slightly thicker than creamy peanut butter, and is pretty messy to work with. Wearing gloves, clothing you don’t care about, and having drop cloth/paper around your work area is probably a really good idea.
After proper prep work has been done, this part should be relatively easy; work the compound into every nook and cranny into the stock inlet, when that looks like enough, add some more, then drop your action in. The tape wraps on the barrel keep it level (and above center line!) and the pillars should fall into place into the stock, lining everything up.
This goes quickly so unless you have an assistant, it’s hard to grab pictures! This is also a very nerve racking process; because you will have to wait a few hours for the compound to set up before you can see if all your work has paid off or not.
After about 3 hours, the compound has set up enough to start cleaning up the squeeze out. This is where the preparation around the outside of the stock has paid off! Neat whiskey to calm the nerves is entirely optional.
The next morning (approximately 18 hours after pour) we can remove the action from the inlet and see the fruits of our labor. It will start pretty ugly where all the excess and squeeze out and other results of the process make for uneven lines and misshapen holes. These should all be addressed with a rotary tool or hand files and sandpaper. As pictured above the bed is successful with only a few small voids in non essential areas.
The QD Sling cups came out, as well!
The last issue to address is cutting the pillars flush and then taking care of the bottom metal inlet. These pillars come long, and can either be shortened to length before the bedding process on a lathe, or shortened to length after the bedding process, ideally with a mill.
Having neither a lathe or a mill at the time of this project, I chose to address them after the bedding process with a rotary tool. This tool was fitted with a metal cutting end-mill style bit and a router-style base plate, and actually made a very easy job of cutting the pillars flush and cleaning out the inlets around them
Once the majority of the material is removed, some sanding and filing cleans up the cut marks on the metal. The new stock also needs to be just slightly fitted to the bottom metal, which the rotary tool and hand files helped.
The new stock with the pillar bedding is far more rigid of a platform than the flexible rubber coated plastic that came with the rifle! Having never even taken the original stock to the range, I can’t tell you of a direct increase in accuracy between the two stocks, however, this rifle does shoot MOA or better. The capacity to bed a stock shouldn’t be outside the reach of anyone who is willing to learn. Once you figure out how to do something at this level, it can open the door to a host of other projects, and of course it is incredibly rewarding to have a direct hand in your rifle’s accuracy!