A STICKY SITUATION
“I’ve been shooting a Remington 7mm Rem. Mag. For the past 15 years. Recently, the bolt has begun to stick tight after about three shots. If I wait a few minutes, the bolt will generally release. This is a mystery to me because I thoroughly clean all my rifles after each use. Do you have any ideas as to what is causing this problem, and any solutions abut how to alleviate it?” – Joe Lopez, via e-mail
It’s a mystery to me too, Joe, but I have some ideas. The most dangerous scenario is that you’re using ammunition loaded too “hot.” A sticky bolt is a classic sign of chamber pressures reaching dangerous levels. If they go too high, something will eventually break. Are you seeing extremely flattened primers or powder leaks around the primer? Backed-out primers? Imprints of the ejector button on the edge of the cartridge head? These are sings of excessive pressure, but often they don’t show before something gives.
My second concern is that you’re clogging your chamber and/or lug recesses with oil, grease or unburned carbon. Could barrel oil be running into the chmaberduring storage and pooling in the lug recesses? Do you clean and dry your chamber after the barrel? Are your handloads contaminated with oil or sizing wax? The only oil/grease on your bolt should be a light smearing on the lug faces where they lock against the receiver recesses. Clean lug recesses with solvent, toothbrushes and steel picks to dislodge any carbon. Brownells sells these. Dry with a dentist’s dam (cylinder of stiff cotton) on the end of a dowel. I check my lug recesses with a bore sight, but a tiny mirror can also work. I’m hoping cleaning solves your problem, but to be safe, have a gunsmith check it out before you do any more shooting. – Ron Spomer.
“When I’ve seen pictures of a shooter sighting-in a firearm from a shooting bench, sometimes the shooter is holding the firearm by the forend, and at other times the shooter is only holding the gun around the stock. Won’t this variation make a big difference where the bullet will hit? Also, does technique differ between sighting-in a deer rifle vs. sighting-in a turkey shotgun?” – Phillip J. Welsh, Frogeye, Alabama
Phillip, there’s no single optimum procedure for holding and shouldering a rifle or shotgun because there are many different types of firearms and personal preferences. What might work for you might not for me. I usually don’t hold the forend of light-kicking firearms when shooting from pedestals, so I use my non-trigger hand to squeeze the sandbag to control elevation. When I shoot hard-kicking firearms, I definitely drip the forend, pulling the gun into firm shoulder contact and holding downward so it doesn’t jump. When shooting prone or from a bench, I use the lower three fingers and thumb on my shooting hand to control the jump. Another factor is the inherent accuracy of the rifle and the shooter’s expectations for accuracy. Technique also has much to do with accuracy. Hold the firearm uniformly from shot to shot; varying your grip can definitely influence where the bullet strikes. Good luck. – Ian McMurchy
“I recently purchased a new savage Model 16, chambered in .300 WSM. What’s the best way to break-in a new rifle to maintain accuracy throughout the life of the firearm? I’ve heard that barrels come ready to hunt directly from the factory; is this true? I’ve also heard a wide range of techniques from various reliable sources, but I know there must be a right way and a wrong way to properly break-in a rifle.” – Larry Hemry, Randolph, KS
Larry, there are those who’ll tell you that, due to advances in machining and metallurgy, modern rifles don’t need to be “broken in.” But the fact remains that custom gun builders routinely break-in even the most expensive, high-quality barrels before turning the gun over to the customer. I too have a model 16 (mine’s chambered in .270 WSM) and broke it in, even though it shot accurately right out of the box. First, don’t lubricate the bolt or action; wear is good in the early going with a firearm. After 150-200 shots you might want to lubricate things lightly just to protect the surfaces. I do “work-in” the barrel, however. This is my typical system: Make two shots through the new bore; clean it thoroughly with a solvent-soaked patch (I like Shooters Choice MC-7 solvent) followed by two dry patches. Shoot two more cartridges and clean it again. Repeat this procedure for about 50 shots. You are basically lapping the bore (wearing off any tooling marks or imperfections in the machining or rifling process) with the bullet. This can be done by hand with a slug and lapping compound, but doing it by shooting gives you experience with the gun. Many custom builders ill repeat the process for 100 shots, but I have never seen an improvement over the performance rendered by the 50-shot process.
After breaking in the barrel, clean it thoroughly. If it’s going into storage, leave a light film of solvent in the bore, but be sure to run a few dry patches through it before shooting again. I also like to shoot two fouling shots out of a clean bore before I go afield or to the range. A clean bore is needed for accuracy, but a completely sanitary bore doesn’t vive the first projectile adequate guidance. – Dave Henderson
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