Action BluePrinting: It's Crap and Here's Why!

Kai Sandoval

This So a topic I've come across and researched is the subject of action blueprinting, or "truing". The basis consists of squaring up all critical surfaces to be within .001" (One Thousandth of an inch) of absolute perfect perpendicularity/surface mating. We're talking the front receiver face, barrel shoulder/nut, threads, bolt lugs, etc.

I've read and heard numerous testimonies claiming the significant accuracy improvement after having a full truing job performed. It is important to note, however, that the accounts given by anyone with reputable standing are only coming from folks regularly shooting over 1000 yards in competitions. To date, I have been unable to identify documentation clearly listing before & after data of the accuracy/precision results of a blueprinting job on a factory rifle.

Now I'm not saying the shooters or gunsmiths making these claims are full of it. On the contrary, I'm sure many of these folks are well known and respected in the field of firearms. However, when inquiring as to why there isn't empirical data to support these claims, I keep getting the same answer: that those folks engaging in the execution and use of blueprinted actions "are too busy to sit down and record all the numbers". Personally, I count that as a BS excuse, but that's just me.

What I am saying is that for the average shooter (and by that I mean folks who are self-funded and typically working under 1000 yards), blueprinting an action is a total waste.

Before I get the usual tidal wave of opposing emails and "go f@$k yourself" comments, let me say I'm making these views from an engineering background and education - researching and crunching numbers is my thing, and I'm damned good at it. I've also been shooting LRP and done everything from weapons design to builds, hand loading ammo, customization, etc., for the last 12 years. If you can support an opposing stance with recorded data, by all means, share the info and cite your sources. In the meantime, here is what I've determined:

1- Factory rifles from reputable manufacturers are produced under arguably strict tolerances. Yes, that also means there is a hair's breadth of cushion on those component measurements, but those pluses/minuses barely correlate to any grave inaccuracies, if at all. Sure there's an occasional rifle produced first thing Monday morning or last before closing on a Friday that turns out to be a lemon, but the typical buyer can expect and receive a very accurate rifle right out of the box for the most part. Manufacturers who have been around for more than four decades (Remington, Savage, Winchester, etc) have been able to preserve and build their reputation based on producing quality weapons. They wouldn't have lasted otherwise, pure and simple.

2- On average, blueprinting only improves accuracy 0.35 MOA, according to range reports (not empirically documented). Now if you're regularly shooting 1000 yards+, sure that extra 4 inches of accuracy at 1200 yards will make a difference on your competition numbers, but for us everyday guys without sponsors or thousands of dollars to burn on a single rifle system, and regularly shooting under 1000 yards, 0.35 MOA at even 700 yards only moves Point of Impact over less than 2 inches. No you probably won't hit dead center, but that's still plenty good to drop a speed goat or ring a 8" gong.

3- Custom tailoring your ammo makes a greater difference than custom truing your action. If you're obsessed with accuracy & precision but haven't looked into customizing your ammo loads for your rifle, I've got some bad news Jack: You're setting yourself up for failure in a vicious circle. Now it's true that some factory rifles can shoot sub MOA or better with factory ammo. I've seen, read, and heard about it several times. But from firsthand experience, tailoring ammo for a specific rifle is the surest way to get the greatest improvement on the target board. Kind of like killing a 12 pack of bud light every other day and wondering why you have a beer gut: crap in, crap out. Give me the best hand built rifle on earth, everything to within 0.001" of perfection and then feed it with some Aguila factory ammo: I promise you, my unmodified factory rifle with tailored loads will put that precision built rifle to shame any day of the week. Instead of spending $500 on blueprinting, invest that same money into a decent handloading setup and components and start customizing your loads. Everybody likes a perfectly grilled ribeye steak over a McDonald's cheese burger, a rifle is no different.

4-By design, most factory rifles already square quite true right off the line. Let's take an average Savage 10; the barrel is threaded into the receiver and secured via a barrel nut, with a recoil lug between the two. This design in and of itself allows for accuracy. The recoil lug acts as a washer between the barrel nut and the front face of the receiver. This not only allows it to perform its primary function, but also, in a secondary manner, allows for a more equal distribution of pressure along the mating surfaces of the receiver and barrel nut, while also equalizing the surface contact by conforming to each surface more readily, just like a regular washer. This design diminishes the variation of barrel harmonics, improving accuracy. Secondly, the bolt itself "floats", which compensates for any angle variation at the lugs and center axis. Now let's look at the threads, say a barrel and/or receiver have threads that allow for slightly loose mounting and a bit of "wiggle". Essentially this "floats" the barrel a bit. Once the proper torque is applied, that slack is taken up and allows for the contact surfaces to line up quite squarely, significantly reducing variations in harmonics. Now the flip side: say the threads of the barrel and receiver are cut absolutely perfect to each other, and there is zero excess movement within the threads. Apply the proper torque, and once again, variation in barrel harmonics is nearly eliminated, as the exacting of the threading provides the solid mounting base preventing movement, even if not all mating surfaces of the receiver to barrel nut line up to within a thousandth of an inch. Of course, Remington rifles are manufactured with a one piece bolt assembly and a shouldered barrel instead of having floating bolt and barrel nut, which may be why Remingtons are the actions most commonly seen being blueprinted. Coincidence? This can also be corrected with a Remage barrel/nut upgrade.

5-Behind custom ammo, a quality action bedding job is the next ticket to see improved accuracy. Doesn't matter if the action is trued or hot off the assembly line, if it's not solidly seated in the stock, your POI (point of impact) will be all over the place. This entails both pillar and receiver bedding, and there are innumerable articles and videos on the net on how to do this properly for great results. As an additional improvement, on buttressed synthetic stocks with hollow buttstocks, I personally recommend epoxy and carbon fiber rod reinforcing the stock itself, both in the forend and the butt stock. This makes the stock more rigid and will likewise cut down on variation in action movement. The slight additional weight also decreases felt recoil with minimal increase in carrying weight while hunting. All pluses in my book!

6- Truing the firing pin is just stupid. So maybe it doesn't hit perfectly dead center of every axis on the primer. Does it make the gun go bang? Yeah, that's it's only job Delbert. But if you like burning cash, go for it. Or better yet, send those Benjamins my way. Just sayin'.

7- Set up a regular cleaning routine. Spend some coin on quality bore solvents and supplies, clean the rifle thoroughly, and start keeping a log on how your rifle performs from the very first shot after a thorough cleaning through to when velocities and accuracy stabilize, and straight on in to 20 shots after velocities and accuracy start to noticeably go out of consistency again. This will give you an exact summary of what and how much fouling contaminants affect your rifle's performance, and what the "sweet spot" will be round to round. This is presuming you've taken the time to properly break-in your barrel to begin with. If you haven't done that from the get go, well...

9-Stop chasing improvement via components and start chasing your own shooting technique. Are you making sure to apply good trigger squeeze and follow through? Do you have repeatable cheek weld? Are you making sure all bolts and screws are tightened to spec before shooting? How's your breathing technique? 9 times out of 10, the guys trying to buy their way into improved accuracy are those same guys who can't shoot worth a damn anyway due to crap technique. I've even seen guys already in the PRS game with $5000 rifles who could barely hit the ground if they fell on it due to technique that would make my grandmother laugh. If you slap or jerk the trigger, your accuracy will suck. If you can't line up your eye to the scope the same way every time, accuracy will be giving you the bird. Can't time your breathing with your trigger pull? Say hello to your new Indian name: Chief Shooting Bull(sh!t). Do you see the trend here? Add to that, there are several environmental factors you'll never control such as wind speed & direction, temperature, altitude, etc. If you can't factor and compensate for those, good luck Chuck, it won't matter how "accurized" your rifle is. I'm not saying I'm master commander of the accuracy game, but I can ring 8 inch steel at 600 yards any day of the week with decent equipment because I make damned sure my technique is locked down. Instead of putting those hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars into "accurizing" your action, spend half that on quality ammo tailored to your rifle, and range time, monitoring yourself on every shot and learning the wind. Create a mental checklist. Practice makes perfect, after all.

So to sum up, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time and money improving your long range game other than blueprinting. And you'll get greater satisfaction knowing you put in the time and effort to not only improve your weapon yourself, but improve yourself as a shooter overall.

 Besides, having more money to spend on ammo, shooting a solid rifle you already have ready to go is a lot more fun than a safe queen you're too broke to feed.

Tell me I'm wrong, I'll send you pictures from the range.

Keep the faith up and the lead flying!