barrel nut installation - featured

Barrel Nut Installation Process

In Blog by Rich13 Comments

We’ve talked a bunch about barrel nut installation setups on AccuracyTech in the past. Specifically Rem/Age style barrel installations where a Savage style nut is used to install a barrel onto a Remington Action. Barrel Nut Installations are becoming more and more popular. Now you see high end, custom actions, like the Bighorn TL3 and Mausingfield being threaded for Savage style threads. This enables the user to install a barrel of their choice. The owner can set the headspace with gauges and lock everything down with the barrel nut. All of this can be done without having to ship the action off or pay the $700-$850 that a rebarrel typically costs.

Barrel Nut Installation

I broke it down in the opening. It’s essentially screwing the barrel into the action until the headspace is correct and using the nut to lock everything in place. When I went to install my new Criterion barrel pre-fit barrel on my new Bighorn action I took photos of the process. This way I can give the readers a visual guide and explanation of the steps involved. It is very simple with the right tools. It takes around 10-15 minutes for a barrel nut installation. You can swap calibers the same way. For example, I could remove my 6×47 Lapua barrel and install a 308 Winchester barrel. Since the bolt heads on the Bighorn TL3 are swappable, I can even go to a 223 Remington for practice. That’s been the plan all along!

Barrel Nut Installation Preparation

The first step in the barrel nut installation is inspecting your barrel. Give it a good look and make sure everything looks right before you spend the time installing it. Check the crown and muzzle threads for any damage or problems. Have a look at the chamber end too. Everything should be polished and shiny. If you see signs of rust or scratches there’s an issue. It should be free of tool marks in the chamber and on the crown area. A wonky crown can cause accuracy issues so make sure that looks good.

barrel nut installation - crown

The crown on the Criterion prefit barrel looks great, a mirror finish. The muzzle threads done at Mile High Shooting are also top notch!

barrel nut installation - anti seize

Give the chamber end a good look too!

The goopy looking stuff on the threads by the chamber is anti-seize compound. You can find it in any auto parts store worth a damn. It helps keep things from rusting and galling inside the receiver after you put everything together. The last thing you need is to try and remove a barrel that’s shot out only to find that it’s basically cold welded itself in place. I try to put a healthy dose of it on there and smear it around the threads with a gloved finger. The barrel nut will help spread it around as it’s installed.

barrel nut installation - nut

You can see after threading the nut on it’s helped even out the anti-seize compound

Barrel Nut Installation Assembly

Next up we’re going to start putting things together! I typically start by threading the barrel into the receiver until it bottoms out. Then I’ll unscrew it a couple turns and get to work with the headspace gauges. Once you get the barrel into the receiver it should be a snug fit. If there’s excessive wobble you may have an issue with the threads in the receiver or on the barrel. Properly cut threads should interface pretty tightly.

barrel nut installation - excess

Excess compound showing up as the barrel nut is snugged up against the receiver, just wipe it off

Once you’ve got the barrel on there and you’re in the ballpark it’s time for the headspace gauges. Headspace is something to be careful with. Excessive headspace allows for room between the shoulder and chamber wall, or between the case head and bolt. You don’t want extra space in either spot. Too little headspace will prevent the bolt from closing or could result in an excessively tight case after firing. You typically see two types of headspace gauges. A GO Gauge and a No GO Gauge. The bolt should close normally with a GO gauge in the chamber. If the bolt closes on a No GO gauge you have too much headspace.

Barrel Nut Headspace

I start with the GO Gauge. Place that in the chamber or work it under the extractor of the bolt and gently close the bolt. Then with the barrel nut loose, thread the barrel into the receiver until you feel it make contact with the GO Gauge. Hand tighten the barrel nut to keep things in place. Don’t bring any wrenches into play yet. We’ll get to that once we have everything set where we want it. Open and close the bolt on the gauge. It should work without being overly tight or difficult. It should feel just like chambering a regular loaded round.

barrel nut installation - go gauge

There’s the GO Gauge with the green paint held by the controlled round feed system of the bolt

Now that we know the bolt closes on the GO Gauge. It’s time to check it with the No GO Gauge. This gauge has a red stripe of paint on it. Remember that. Red means STOP. If the bolt closes on the No GO Gauge you have excessive headspace. You need to thread the barrel in a touch farther with the GO Gauge in place. Then try it again with the No GO Gauge. You should get what you see in the next photo. The bolt should stop before it cams over and locks in place. The bolt should NOT close properly on a No GO Gauge!

barrel nut installation - no go gauge

The No GO Gauge is in the chamber and the bolt handle will not close and cam over properly, that’s good!

Barrel Nut Installation Lock-Down

Now it’s time to lock it all in place. Follow your manufacturers specs and recommendations here. Take all the gauges out of the chamber. The gauges are made from a denser steel than the barrel. If you leave a gauge in the barrel you can tighten things down and potentially mar your chamber with the gauge when you add a big wrench to the mix. Things move when you put all this together, trust me. Take the gauges out. Put the torque wrench on the nut or the action wrench and torque it to specification. My Bighorn action calls for 40-80 Ft-Lbs for the nut. I set the torque wrench to 50 Ft-Lbs and torqued it down.

barrel nut installation - action wrench

Bighorn rear entry action wrench, I put my torque wrench on this bad boy and locked everything in at 50 Ft-Lbs

Wrapping Up

Double check everything. Once the action and nut are torqued, check it all. Drop the Go Gauge in and make sure the bolt opens and closes freely. Then drop the No GO Gauge in and make sure the bolt still continues to fail to cam over and lock closed. If something moved you may have to loosen things up again and reset it. After you do this a few times you will have little trouble getting it right the first time. Until you’ve done it a few times make sure you double check everything. Better to get it wrong on the bench and redo it than have a problem with live ammo at the range!

Owner and Proprietor of AccuracyTech, LLC. Rich is a Firearms Enthusiast, Precision Rifle Competitor, and Writer. He is committed to bringing readers quality reviews and articles related to the Precision Shooting Sports. If you have any questions for him, please use the contact form on the site.


  1. Thanks for explaining this in a simple way, I like that the bolt gun manufacturers are starting to do this more. One of the reasons I shied away from a bolt gun was having to pay for a barrel replacement… I shoot a lot…. Nice to know it’s now no harder than my AR’s.

    1. Author

      Maybe just a smidge more to do than an AR but at least you can avoid shipping and down time this way!

  2. Thanks for the article. I have Savage Model 12 LRP .260 Rem and recently I did all of this because I shot the original barrel out.

    Everything when as planned and everything seems to be just fine except the gun will not shoot…I mean 1 moa at best. Previously enjoyed 1/3 MOA consistently.

    Sooooo…I realize this likely begs more questions for you and you know nothing about me or my skills but…

    If you had to guess is this just a bum barrel or is there something in this process that would cause an otherwise accurate rifle to go to pot?

    Thanks, Doug

    1. Author

      You mean you replaced the barrel?

      How many rounds through the barrel that won’t shoot? How long since you cleaned it?

      1. Hi Rich and yes I replaced original factory barrel with a new factory barrel and I guess the new barrel has less than 100 rounds through it and I have cleaned it after every firing session.

        I really appreciate you answering my question. Thanks, D

  3. I just got my barreled action from Patriot with the shouldered rock creek barrel installed, I am thinking now that he has the measurements I will just order them fro him. I want to make sure the TL 3 extractor ejector holds up better than my prior savages. Thanks fr the good articles.

  4. You write about Field Gauges by PTG. And maybe guess why people do not use them or talk about them. Trust me, I change my barrel a lot for matches and classes (demonstrating). Using the Fiald guage has brought me a better understaing of my own chamber headspace and neck bumping, etc. Trust me. It’s actually the most precise out of the 3 that PTC makes.

  5. How did you secure the barrel/action when torquing it down? I’d like a build with a proof research barrel, and ultimatum precision action, but I don’t think I’ll be able to use a barrel vice with the carbon fiber. Any suggestions?

  6. Hey rich, looking to do a build with the tl3 in an envy chassis and was wondering what mags fed the best in your setup. Thanks!

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