Although I liked my Remington 700 VTR in .223, I also love the AR. It just feels right, in any position, standing, sitting, or prone. Maybe it’s the pistol grip, or the length of pull, or something else, but it just fits and is very comfortable to shoot. Of course, the wide range of accessories, and the detachable magazine is nice too. But, thanks to the direct impingement gas system, I’ve had FTF issues on my AR, and hate the extra cleaning it requires. My bolt guns require less maintenance, and I never have to worry about cycling failures. So, to get the best of both worlds, I tried looking for ways to make my R700 take on similar ergonomics as the AR, which is apparently not an uncommon wish. The MAK Tube Gun Kit and AICS stock can improve the ergonomics and add a detachable magazine, but I was turned off by the cost (an AICS stock costs $700+ used, magazines costs like $70 each).
After much deliberation, I decided to take an AR and make it a bolt gun, instead of trying to make a bolt gun be more like an AR. Since it would still be built on the AR platform, I can use the same lower I use on my Service Rifle (basically an A2). I can also use the same cleaning tools, magazines, and use a wide range of AR accessories and parts, which is something I wouldn’t get with an AR-esque Remington 700.
Although there are gunsmiths who can build such a rifle, I decided to build it myself. The key component was an upper receiver and bolt carrier group from Fulton Armory which has been modified to accept a charging handle on the right side (the bolt carrier is drilled and tapped, and the ejection port extended). I thought about trying to get a barrel without a gas port, but this turned out to be kind of complicated (since it’d be custom order). Instead, I bought a 26″ Krieger AR-15 Varmatch barrel, with a 1:7.75 twist. They had these in stock, so it showed up at my apartment in about 2 weeks. To block the gas port, I simply installed the gas block off-centered (then later rotated it upside down because I was getting stung by gas and ejecta which managed to leak through the gas block and out the rear-facing hole where the gas tube would normally be).
Anyway, here are some pictures of the build, the final product and some targets. Probably not the best groups you’ve seen, but that’s probably my fault, not the rifle’s :-) Since the rifle is basically a free floated barrel attached to an upper, without even a gas tube to create interference, I’m pretty sure it’d be much more accurate in more able hands.
Update (2/3/09): Couple of additions that I forgot in the original post… The straight pull action works great in some respects, and not so well in others. In theory, it works great. You pull that handle, let go and let the buffer spring do the work; it’s very fast and easy to operate without breaking position. However, the handle that Fulton Armory ships is too small, and doesn’t give you enough leverage to extract sticky shells. I went to the hardware store and bought a 2″ long 1/4″ diameter fine threaded bolt instead, which works a lot better. The other issue is that, since the upper doesn’t have a shell deflector, your hand acts as a shell deflector. When you yank that handle and the shell comes flying out, there’s a good chance it’ll nick your knuckle on the way out. Fingerless gloves might help, but I might see if I could attach a shell deflector that won’t get in the way.