Hey everyone, it’s the bearded Batavi again. Today I’m bringing you guys a bit of information that has the potential for saving you a few days of aggravation if you’re looking at changing some parts on your Ruger Precision Rifle. Specifically I’m going to talk about swapping Ruger Precision Rifle Barrel. If I’d known then what I know now I would have saved myself about two days of annoyance, and at least one busted knuckle. Once again this is a case of “See that man over there? Be nothing like him!”
The Tedious Background
Those of you that follow what we post on Facebook will have seen a post about a week ago saying that my long awaited barrel from Criterion had arrived. I actually had reason to call Josh over at Criterion earlier that day, and since I had him on the phone I asked if he had any idea when my barrel was due to ship out. Turns out that it had actually shipped on the previous Friday. I was stoked to probably see my barrel showing up in the next few days, but instead less than 20 minutes later my doorbell was ringing and it was in my hands. There have been very few occasions in my life that have made me as excited as I was at that moment.
Removing The Ruger Precision Rifle Barrel
There are a few tools you’re going to need on hand. I HIGHLY advise anyone who reads this and wants to follow me in this whole process listen to me regarding these tools. I truly can’t stress this enough. If you don’t listen to me, you are potentially setting yourself up for a ton of aggravation. Remember how I said “See that man over there? Be nothing like him!”? So here’s the list of what you will need.
- Set of SAE Standard Allen wrenches – link
- AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench – link
- A big beefy pipe about 4 feet long that will fit over your wrench
- A big beefy vice that’s properly attached to a sturdy bench
- Brownell’s AR-15/M16 Barrel Vice Jaws – Link
- Headspace gauges for the caliber of your choice
- Anti-seize lubricant – Link
Some of you are no doubt wondering why I’m including everything that I did, realize there are reasons for each and every one. And the particular versions or styles of tools that I’m including are important too.
So now let’s talk about how to disassemble your rifle. You will need to remove your lower assembly, and your handguard. For those of you who do not know how to do this, here are two videos which do a great job tearing everything down. Remember, you just need to remove your lower and handguard. You don’t need to remove the trigger or anything else.
Alright now that you have that done we can get rolling. After you have the handguard and the lower removed from the rifle, you need to remove the barrel nut retainer. I can hear you now saying “Oh well that was all nice and easy Don. Why did you make such a big deal over this?” This is the point where if you don’t listen to me this can potentially turn into the project from hell.
The Best Laid Plans – Swapping Ruger Precision Rifle Barrel
The next step is to remove the barrel nut using your AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench, because you need to reuse this nut. The natural reaction here is to put your action in the vice and start cranking on the nut. If you do this you will end up with nothing but frustration and nothing to show for it. There reason why I linked the particular wrench I did is simple. Here’s the wrench that I had. The problem I faced with this wrench was that the opening in the wrench was not big enough to fit around the barrel. My buddy, who works for a local manufacturer of some note, was helping me out with this project. As was his dog. He didn’t have another wrench with a wider opening we could have tried, and because we thought it was a standard opening on my wrench we thought we might have actually needed an AR-10 wrench. We also tried a few other ways of getting the barrel nut to move. We torched the action twice actually, and used penetrating lubricants, and tried a big set of channel locks he had. This thing would not budge. So we lost one day completely on having the wrong tool for the job.
The second day my friend brought home an AR-10 wrench from work. I brought beer, which actually turned out to be more useful. See the barrel nut is actually a standard AR-15 size. The problem was with my wrench not having a wide enough opening to get around the barrel. We actually broke out his bench grinder, and made the opening on my wrench larger. I sent Rich a picture of us modifying the wrench captioned “You know a project is going well when you’ve broken out the bench grinder to modify your tools.” With our modification done we then tried the wrench on the nut again. Once again it wasn’t going to give up, so we decided to have another beer and think about this. We spent more time faffing about trying to make what we had work, and all I really managed to do was tear open one knuckle. We did some digging on the internet and came up with some very interesting things that don’t seem to be all that well known about removing the barrel. Apparently the barrel nut is the absolute worst part of this whole project, that it only requires 1/8 of a turn to come loose, and that you’re actually best off putting the whole thing in a barrel vice.
At this point in time my buddy’s lovely, and understanding, wife was on her way home and it was time to get dinner going. Over more beer and dinner we talked about what the best move was from here, and a bunch of other things. Originally I’d wanted to do this swap myself if I could, instead after dinner I talked to my boss and made arrangements to get it done one way or another on Thursday. The simple lesson here is get the wrench I linked and don’t be like me. Once again Robert Burns comes immediately to mind, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.
So Put It In A Barrel Vice
This is one of the potential key things that people aren’t talking about when they say they swapped the barrel on their Ruger Precision Rifle. Putting it in a barrel vice will give you a much easier time applying torque to the nut. Well we put my barrel in the barrel vice, and broke out the right wrench for the job. If everything was right in the world then this would be it, but sadly it isn’t. The fact is the barrel nut on the Ruger Precision Rifle is an absolute bitch to get off. They haven’t used any thread locker on it that I saw either. Regardless after I tried just using the barrel vice and proper wrench, I was still where I had started. So we broke out Mother.
Mother is nothing more than a source of torque. Specifically it’s a 4 foot section of pipe that we use as a breaker bar extension to our tools when we need much more torque. It garnered the nickname Mother after the tendency of being very angry at what you need the additional torque for, and the tendency of someone using it to say “Mother …..” and having whatever you needed to use it on finally break loose. You generally don’t finish that two word sentence or if you do it’s usually punctuated by some loud noises. Even with Mother on the wrench the barrel nut still tried to fight. Mother always wins. This is perhaps an opportune moment to mention that it’s one week to Mother’s Day, by the way.
Now That The Nut Is Off
Okay so now we are REALLY cooking. The barrel nut is off and everything is going to be smooth from here on out. Seriously. If you’re listening to me and my story, you’ve just passed the worst of it. Remove the receiver from the old barrel, and then remove the barrel nut from the old barrel. Set your old barrel aside, and put the new barrel in your vice. Apply some of the anti-seize lubricant to the new barrel. You don’t need to slop it on, you need just enough to prevent galling. Thread on the barrel nut and then begin to thread the action onto the barrel. At this point in time you need to break out your headspace gauge and use them to ensure your headspace is correct. This being somewhat similar to a how a Savage action headspaces, you can actually do this with only a go-gauge. However I advocate that you follow the traditional method of headspacing your rifle.
With your rifle properly headspaced you lock it down with the barrel nut. Once that’s complete then lock it down with the barrel nut retainer. Reattach the lower and handguard. Be aware however that your barrel nut retainer may have shifted posistion along with your barrel nut, and this could have implications for whatever handguard you are using. At this point in time you should be done and your barrel should be changed out. Remember, don’t be like me. Use the right tools and this will be less than an hour.
The Axe of My Father
At this point I’m going to wax a bit philosophical and I’m going to take a step back from the rifle and everything I’ve done to it since I got it. There’s a story of a man speaking to another man regarding his family’s axe.
This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family?
This is a variation of the Theseus’ Paradox recorded by Plutarch in the late first century, but also discussed by Heraclitus and Plato before Plutarch’s writings. I’ve changed out the handguard, the stock, and now the barrel. I asked myself if this was still the very same rifle that I began with many months ago? While I haven’t replaced every single part of the rifle I’ve found that I’m asking if this is the same rifle after all I’ve done with it. So what do you, the readers, think? Is this still the same rifle after everything I’ve done to it?