This month while working on Project Remage, article soon to come, we had to find a worthy Gunsmith to send our donor action off to for some work. After researching services and doing price comparisons and factoring in lead times we decided to give the folks at Phoenix Custom Rifles a whirl with the modifications we were after. The company is run by a father and son team named Keith and Brad Johns. They were extremely helpful and responsive via email as we were asking questions about the services we were interested in. That’s a big plus, good communication is very helpful.
Quality of Service
In a word, the services these guys provide at Phoenix Custom Rifles are exemplary. We ordered up a series of services for them to perform on our rifle being set up as an accurate competition rifle for Project Remage. The rifle was born into this world as a 16.5″ Remington 700 chambered in 308 Winchester. After load development was completed the accuracy we were after just wasn’t showing up with the rifle in its factory condition. We’ve been planning on a little experiment we’ve dubbed Project Remage for a while and since we had a factory rifle that wasn’t living up to our accuracy needs, we also had a rifle we could devote to the project.
The goal of Project Remage is a highly accurate bolt action rifle with a barrel set up to be swapped and changed out as needed by the user without having to mail the whole rifle off for Gunsmithing work. We had a number of features we wanted to enhance or upgrade on the factory Remington 700 action. We had the guys at Phoenix Custom Rifles install a tactical bolt knob on the factory bolt. We chose their ‘knubby’ knob for a mix of size and performance. We wanted to have the receiver trued up and notched for a self locating pin on a new recoil lug. We also wanted to do away with the standard bottom bolt release and asked them to install a side bolt release.
Here are some pictures of the work the guys at Phoenix Custom Rifles did on the bolt. We also added some video the Phoenix Custom Rifles guys posted to their YouTube channel of the bolt after the new knob was installed. They did an amazing job! The knob itself is beautiful and it is located squarely on the factory bolt handle. They even cerakoted the knob black for us as part of the installation. It looks and feels great and adds that little bit of extra leverage that makes bolt manipulation easier than with the factory handle and knob. Since we are dealing with an increase in leverage, we had them drill, tap, and install a small torx screw to mechanically bind the handle to the bolt body and add a little extra strength beyond the weld.
We also had them do their Phoenix Custom Rifles bolt shroud modification on our bolt. While there isn’t any functional advantage or accuracy enhancement, it does give the shroud a custom look and adds some sex appeal to the rifle. You can see the bolt knob and bolt shroud modifications in our photos and the first YouTube video below.
Action truing is the next service we discussed with them. We wanted to clean up the Remington receiver with all the usual fixings afforded to an action being trued. However, because we plan to use prefit barrels on the action it was important that the thread pitch of the receiver’s action threads remain the same. The guys at Phoenix Custom Rifles said they could do the standard action truing job on our Remington. This includes having the receiver face and lugs single point trued after indicating their lathe off the bolt raceway. The rear, sides, and front of the bolt lugs get single point trued as well. Then the bolt lugs are lapped for proper engagement with the receiver. They said they would clean up the barrel threads but leave the pitch alone to facilitate the use of the prefit barrels. They also cut a perfectly sized and centered notch to allow the self locating pin on the recoil lug we sent along to fit and sit flush with the face of the receiver.
One of the more expensive enhancements we ordered up was the side bolt release. This is more of a convenience modification than anything that enhances accuracy. We aren’t huge fans of the bottom bolt release and the side bolt release installed by Phoenix Custom Rifles looks beautiful. It works flawlessly and like the bolt knob, they cerakoted it as part of the installation. One advantage that is offered by the side bolt release is that of some additional safety. If a shooter should run into an over pressure problem with the rifle that causes the bolt to unlock or break free, the shooter’s face tends to be what stops the bolt’s rearward movement.
This is why there is a bolt stop on bolt action rifles. In addition to keeping the shooter from pulling it right out of the back of the receiver it helps add a layer of safety in an over pressure situation. The side bolt release is thicker and meatier than the standard Remington bolt release thus added some extra brawn and might to that layer of safety. It’s also cool looking and a hell of a lot easier to manipulate than the bottom bolt release inside the trigger well.
The Phoenix Custom Rifles guys get an A+ on turnaround time. We sent them the barreled action and had it back in a tick over three weeks. That’s already pretty fast in comparison to some Gunsmith shops with a backlog measured in months from the workload they have lined up. It’s even more impressive when you take into account that we would have had it back even faster if the handwriting on our contact information had been better. The Phoenix Custom Rifles guys had tried to call us and tell us the work was completed several times but the phone number wasn’t legible enough. That’s definitely on us!
Ease of Process
The process was extremely simple and hassle free. After a few emails back and forth with the guys at Phoenix Custom Rifles with regard to their time to complete the requested work we shipped the rifle to them via UPS. Shortly there after they attempted to contact us and through no fault of theirs that part took longer than it should have. That’s on us, not the guys at Phoenix Custom Rifles. Once contact was re-established we paid for the work over the phone and they shipped the action out the same day. That’s some expedient service! A few days later it was delivered and we got to open it up and revel in the greatness they had created.
Price is a category we review on services based on how they stock up against the competition. This is really the only place we couldn’t rate Phoenix Custom Rifles as anything other than in line with their competitors. That’s not a bad thing. If their prices were lower their backlog would be overly excessive and that would detract from their ability to facilitate an expedient turnaround time. If the prices charged were higher than their competitors they would be losing business to the guys doing the same quality work for less. Price is one of those areas we like to mention but unless a service is priced well above or below what the average for the services there isn’t a whole lot to say. The prices charged for the respective services we had performed were exactly what they should be and any doubts anybody might have about what these guys charge will be mitigated when you see the quality of the work! None of the work they performed seemed like the quality of the craftsmanship didn’t match up with the price of the work.