Well, here it is…the Bighorn Arms TL3 action! As some of you know I’m making a concerted effort to fulfill a multiphasic plan designed to elevate my game at matches this year and moving forward. The Bighorn Arms TL3 is one part of that multi-phase approach. Some other parts of that plan have included a lot of practice and a lot of dry fire. Another phase of the plan was getting away from separate rifles for practice and matches. The idea here is I’d like to do the majority of my practice, both dry and live fire, with my match gun. Unfortunately, that hasn’t really been possible when shooting a high performance caliber like 6×47 Lapua. That’s where the Bighorn Arms TL3 comes into play!
Bighorn Arms TL3 Plan
The plan I laid out had a couple goals. I want to build up a rifle that allows me to compete and practice on the same rifle. There was also a desire for easy caliber changes since I don’t want to burn through my 6×47 barrels with live fire practice. The plan evolved to the idea of using 223 Remington as a practice caliber. The 223 Remington gets north of 5,000 rounds of usable barrel life. It also has a smaller case and uses less powder. Thirdly, it is a caliber that can easily be set up for mass reloading cycles on a progressive press. So I needed an action that allowed for swaps between these calibers…enter the Bighorn Arms TL3 action!
In addition to caliber swaps there were other desirable features offered with the Bighorn Arms TL3. For starters, the consistency of their actions is fabled in the precision rifle world. I’ve talked to guys who have cut barrels and timed up brakes on one Bighorn action that could be pulled off and installed on another action just as easily. The brake timed up and the chamber would headspace on the bolt properly. All this despite the barrel being cut on a different action. That’s how consistent the guys at Zermatt Arms Inc. / Bighorn Arms produce these actions.
Bighorn Arms TL3 Features
The guys at Bighorn Arms are not slouching. In addition to tight tolerances, a side bolt release, one piece bolt, integrated recoil lug, they packed a few extras into the Bighorn Arms TL3 action. One such feature is their floating bolt head design. This allows the case to self center in the chamber. It also makes caliber swaps among different case heads possible. You can purchase bolt heads for the standard 308 bolt face, 223 bolt face, and Magnum bolt faces. They’re all easily swapped in a few seconds without any tools!
They also cut the receiver threads on the Bighorn Arms TL3 to the Savage Small Shank specification. This allows users to order and install barrels themselves with the proper tools and headspace gauges. There is a large selection of Savage prefit barrels out there. I highly recommend those offered by Criterion Barrels Inc.! By using these barrels it works in the same way as a Rem/Age setup but with a wider barrel selection and the ability to go between 223/308/Magnum cartridge families.
More Bighorn Arms TL3 Goodness
American Rifle Company produces another high end action, the Mausingfield. It has a reputation for excellent machining quality and a superb set of features. Chief among them are a mechanical ejector and controlled round feeding of ammunition. Guess what else you see on the Bighorn Arms TL3? You guessed it, there is a mechanical ejector on the Bighorn Arms TL3 instead of the traditional plunger and spring. With a plunger ejector it continually exerts pressure on the base of the case. As you open the bolt and the ejection port stops supporting the case it’s forced out of the action. You have no control over how this works, or evolves as the spring wears.
With the mechanical ejection system of the Bighorn Arms TL3 you can grip it and rip it to send cases flying. You can also just ease the bolt back and drop the case out of the action on the ground next to the rifle. Should it ever break it’s a simple allen screw to remove the old one and install a new one, which is pretty slick! Controlled round feeding actually captures the case head and holds it against the bolt face as you work the action. Most actions like Remington, Defiance, Surgeon, etc. all use a push feed mechanism. Controlled round feed is said to be more reliable because rounds aren’t able to dive high or low of the chamber. This prevents feeding issues.
The Bighorn Arms TL3 has different rail cants offered, 0/20/30 MOA. Four bolts hold the rails in place. The rails are also pinned. This prevents the bolts from bearing the brunt of recoil alone. The recoil lug is part of the action and as such requires no timing or additional tools during a barrel swap or caliber change. There is a side bolt release with a redesigned bolt stop. Many actions have a bolt stop where the pin bears the brunt of the force as the bolt comes back under pressure as the action is cycled. Eventually, those pins can fail after enough abuse. The Bighorn Arms TL3 bolt stop has an oval shaped pin hole and has been engineered to transfer that pressure to the body of the action and away from the pin.
The action is cut for Accuracy International AW magazines. The AW mags are desirable in competitive circles. They are just as reliable as the popular AICS magazines. AW magazines work with a double stack of rifle rounds. This makes the mag length shorter which can be advantageous on rooftops and other props where space is tight. It also allows you to top the mag off from the top without removing it. You can drop a round into the ejection port and push it down into the magazine, however, there’s some debate as to whether this type of mag feeds reliably. If it feeds well from a 90 degree, two lug, action like the Bighorn Arms TL3 is the subject of some discussion. I’ll be testing it out to see!
A full review will be coming in the future. This is a primer with some initial impressions, however, I can tell you the machining quality of the action is beautiful. It is obvious just holding this action that a lot of time and engineering went into it’s design. I’m looking forward to getting a couple barrels for it and a stock. At that point it will take over as my match gun and at home between matches I’ll run the 223 Remington barrel for practice. This will allow me to get more mileage out of my 6x47L match barrels. Loading rounds on a progressive press will save time and components and I’m very eager to set this all up. This stuff isn’t cheap, though. So I’ll have to fatten up the piggy bank first! Questions? Drop them in the comments below!