Perhaps one of the most often encountered issues with hunting rifles that sport wooden parts is that the material becomes warped over time due to adverse weather conditions. These setbacks can be rectified through proper maintenance and weapon modification. Over time, the level of humidity in the air makes the wooden parts a rifle expand. As the humidity level decreases, the wooden parts ‘shrink’ back down again. These changes may not be noticeable in plain sight, but they do affect your firearm. It’s important to know when your rifle suffers from contact between the stock and the barrel since this affects your aim while firing downrange. However, you can easily test an older firearm for this issue. To fix the issue, we will use a technique called free floating. We’ve taken a few pointers from Larry Potterfield of Midway USA to put together this easy to follow how to guide showing you how to free float a rifle barrel. Read on to find out more about the free float barrel technique.
Step 1: Testing. In order to check for contact, simply try the ‘Dollar Bill Test’. To do this, slide a one dollar bill between the wood and the metal barrel. If it slides in and out easily, the wood hasn’t significantly expanded due to humidity. If the sliding motion isn’t very easy (or can’t slide between the two at all), then you should proceed with the following steps.
Step 2: Take your rifle apart. Remove the barrel from the rifle. You are now looking at the wooden stock. Check out the groove of the barrel channel. That’s where the two main parts of the rifle make contact and throw off your aim. With the aid of a few simple tools, we will fix this.
Step 3: Apply masking tape. Tape the top rails of your stock with masking tape. Our goal here is to avoid scratching the sides of the barrel channel later on when you’re using the barrel bedding tool. You’ll be using this barrel bedding tool to scrape out any excess wood. So, one faulty move might cause you to scratch the stock. That is something you want to avoid at all costs.
You can buy affordable and effective masking tape here:
Step 4: Identifying the high spots on the barrel channel. To easily spot the elevations on the barrel channel, you must apply black inletting to the bottom of the barrel. Once you remove the barrel, the points of contact will become apparent. You can either purchase the Miles Gilbert Inletting Black substance online or use Permatex Ultra Black instead.
Step 5: Barrel bedding. For this step, you will use a special barrel bedding tool. It specially designed shape will help you scrape out all of the excess wood. There are several options available for sale online:
Step 6: Applying finish. For the final touch, you should apply stock finish to the wood. Applying finish is important since unfinished wood will become warped due to excess humidity all over again without it.
Step 7: Final verification. Repeat the Dollar Bill test to see if the barrel and stock still make contact. If the issue is really severe, you may need to perform this free float technique to your rifle barrel once more.
For the purposes of floating the barrel, it doesn’t really matter if your weapon has a custom rifle barrel or the stock manufacturer’s part. The same basic principle applies to all rifles with wooden parts. Contact should never occur between your barrel and the stock when you go out hunting.