The Sabbatical Rifle

So Cam asks me, “do you think the readers will be interested in my rifle project?”.  I was at the other end of the Internet, so he couldn’t see my blank stare.  “Of course”, I said.  “If not just to fill up a gap, I know you have a strong following from fellow gun nutters”.   So here we are.  – Pete


While I take a break from the blog I wanted to do something creative…and destructive.

I’ve always wanted a rifle custom built to my specifications. This is my sabbatical project.

So far I have been researching and I have been visiting people talking long range shooting. It is all part of the research and now I’ve now done all of the research I thought I would share with you the thought processes.

The brief:

A long range rifle capable of killing a deer at more than 1000yds but under a mile. It must be a left hand bolt, use a detachable box magazine (AICS design) and have a carbon fibre wrapped barrel and a carbon fibre stock. Lightness and power are the key drivers.

I currently use a .308 Tikka T3 Lite as my main hunting rifle. I have taken Red deer and Sika at 600yds, but I really don’t want to push it much farther. The energy in the bullet past there makes kill shots marginal if slightly off. With wind and range variables it really isn’t suitable.

I also use a .22-250 for goats, and I rarely use it at more than 500yds. Only if it is dead still wind and the goat is in a prime position will I take the shot.

The caliber/ammunition selection

The first consideration therefore must be the caliber and the round. It has to be capable in ballistics as well as residual energy at up to a mile of killing. Anything less than .30 calibre wouldn’t cut it. So I only looked at rounds at 30 calibre and above.

I started looking at 300 WSM (Winchester Short Magnum). This is a .30 calibre round designed with magnum power but in a short action. I decided I’d prefer a long action so that I could extend the seating of the round, that meant there was no real benefit to using the 300 WSM round. I cast around looking at everything from 300 Winchester Magnum up to .338 Lapua Magnum. I have a friend who has the .338 Lapua Magnum and it is a big heavy rifle but more than capable of achieving the aims.

I quickly discounted .338 Lapua Magnum because only one company really makes left-hand bolt actions in .338 Lapua Magnum and that is Savage…it wouldn’t be a custom rifle if I used a Savage base rifle.

While researching I noticed that that SOCOM had selected 300 Norma Magnum for its new sniper rifle. I hadn’t read much about this round and once I started researching along with my armourer advisor we decided that this was the round upon which to build the rifle. It meets all the requirements, .30 calibre bullets, long range energy retention, flat ballistic trajectory, readily available brass and a wide variety of projectiles.


You can see from the photo that the 300 Norma Magnum is slightly shorter than the belted 300 Winchester Magnum, but the case is a whole lot fatter…and only slightly shorter than the mighty .338 Lapua Magnum.

The bolt action selection

Once I had selected the round that I was going to use it I then had to choose a donor rifle or select an action suitable for the pressures and goals I am trying to achieve with this build.

It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t buy a Tikka left-hand action as my donor rifle because they simply do not make left-hand bolt actions that will take the bolt face dimensions of the 300 Norma Magnum. This is where it becomes highly technical. For example a .308 Winchester has a bolt face dimension of .470 inches. This is the same for .22-250 Remington,, .243 Win, 260 Rem, and 7mm-08 Rem.

I couldn’t use a Remington donor rifle with a bolt face dimension of .540 inches which is the diameter of the 7mm RUM, 300 RUM, 338 RUM and other cases along these lines.

The 300 Norma Magnum uses the same bolt face dimensions as the .338 Lapua which is .585 inches. This is because they essentially have the same parent case the .416 Rigby designed in 1911.


That meant I had to look at custom actions. I looked at Defiance, and Stiller and a number of other Remington clone actions. I even looked at buying a Remington action. There is a catch though. An Action is actually a firearm. The receiver carries the serial number and therefore is a firearm. This means you need an import permit and a licence fee to import, plus all the unnecessary hassles of importing a firearm, albeit in this case just the action.


Once you start looking at custom actions you start cringing at the price points in US dollars, plus the taxes and import fees. I needed another solution. I started researching long range accurate actions and very quickly discovered that right here in NZ we have our very own custom action company, that is world renowned amongst long range shooter in F Class competitions for their accuracy and their dependability.

That company is Barnard Precision. Fortunately they are based in Auckland so I went for a site visit. I found a bunch of blokes who are absolute perfectionists and as it turns out make whatever you want. They did have a bolt for me, but there was a slight problem…it didn’t have any bottom metal to support a detachable box magazine (DBM). Ideally this should support AICS magazines. They do have an excellent stock designed for them that has built in bottom metal, but it didn’t really suit my application and design. The footprint of the action isn’t the same as a Remington action footprint so making up bottom metal would have been problematic. Just another little challenge.


Fortunately they had a design in the process of prototyping, that sits between their PLM action and the SM action. The new action will have the same footprint as a Remington long action and the capability of accepting .585 inches. Plus it solves the bottom metal issue because I can buy custom bottom metal that accepts AICS magazines off the shelf.

indexThe added benefit is I get to support Kiwi gun makers and the world’s best in building actions.


It will take a few weeks to make the action…and when that is done I will provide photos.

The bonus of Barnard actions is the Barnard trigger system that comes with them. They are simply the best triggers in the world.


So we now have an action sorted, a round sorted. Time to select stocks, barrels and scopes.

I will make that a post for next week as this is already too long. Sorry it is overly technical but this is the beauty of shooting sports…there are so many technical variables that come together to make accurate rifles.

Following that will be a post putting all the parts together and then load development.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.