One of the biggest frustrations for competitive shooters or those who enjoy high-volume hunting, like prairie dogs, is knowing that your barrel is going to wear out and you will lose your rifle for months while it is off at the gunsmith’s getting a new barrel installed. The same can be said for anyone wanting to update an old gun with a new barrel or cartridge. Well, those days may be over.
While working on another article I discovered a company that offered pre-fit barrels for my Tikka and a variety of other rifles, not just Savages or Accuracy International rifles. As the name implies Preferred Barrel Blanks (PBB) manufactures barrel blanks for a number of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as well as offering barrels directly to gunsmiths and online customers.
Preferred Barrel Blanks offers pre-fit barrels for 14 different actions with Remington pattern actions being the most popular. Barrels can be ordered made of chrome-moly, stainless steel (ss) or carbon fiber wrapped, and they are top quality. The stainless barrels are made of 416R stainless steel, have a Rockwell hardness of 26-29, and are stress relieved after production.
The pre-fit barrels can be ordered in two different styles, a fixed shoulder or a variable shoulder utilizing a barrel nut. Both styles offer simple installation, so it really comes down to user preference. The number of offerings available is flat-out amazing. They offer barrels for 14 actions, in 19 calibers, and have over 200 different cartridge chamberings. Obviously, they have all the standard offerings you would expect along with a host of wildcat chamberings that continues to grow.
In addition to all the internal offering choices since they are turning barrels from blanks, you can specify the length, contour, fluting, color, barrel wrench flats, muzzle threading as well as twist rate. You don’t have to settle for just a couple of options. Delivery time is 10-14 weeks for a normal order but PBB offers a 3-week expedited service option for those that just can’t wait.
I got a carbon fiber wrapped barrel, chambered in 22 Creedmoor pre-fit for a Tikka T3 action. They offer this caliber with 2 different freebores depending on what weight (length) bullets you plan to shoot. I have several Tikkas so I went ahead and bought a barrel vise and an action wrench so that I would be able to install the barrel myself at home as well as any others that I might purchase in the future.
Even if you don’t want to attempt the install yourself, ordering a pre-fit, pre-chambered barrel would certainly cut down the install time at your local gunsmith. Especially if the gunsmith doesn’t have the chamber reamer and appropriate go/no-go gauges already in stock.
For my other project, I had Preferred do another wildcat chambering and fitting of a Proof barrel I sent them for another Tikka action. This type of request is one of their custom services that can be done on user provided barrels not just their own blanks.
The barrel replacement process is really quite simple with a Preferred pre-fit barrel. Remove the old barrel, screw the new barrel into the receiver, torque to specification, check barrel cartridge head spacing with go/no-go gauges to make sure the chamber is in specification, install barreled action in stock, and go shoot.
PBB machines their fixed shoulder pre-fit barrels to fit an OEM’s action based on known specifications. Even though manufacturers try to hold tight specs when putting out products it is always a best practice to be diligent and use go/no-go gauges to ensure headspace is correct when assembling a barreled action. Preferred has helpful videos on their website that walk through the installation process.
The hardest part about the entire re-barreling process for me was getting the original Tikka barrel out of the action. Obviously based on the volumes I found online about this issue I was not alone. Tikka must torque the barrel in from the factory far above the required torque specs identified for re-assembly.
A barrel vise is required to hold the barrel tight enough to allow torquing the action in place without damaging the barrel. Definitely not an area to just wing it with the bench vise and a crescent wrench. I bought the action wrench that fits precisely in the Tikka action and had a good quality torque wrench to indicate when the action was tight enough.
The barrel shoulder fit up perfectly against the face of the action and the headspace verifications went as expected with no surprises or issues. This is true of the other barrel I had them do as well. I had been a little anxious about doing all this myself, but with the pre-fit barrels, it was much simpler than I had expected.
With the barrel torqued in and the headspace verified it was time to get this new hunting rig to the range. I dropped the lightweight barreled action into an AG Composites carbon fiber stock and mounted an older small Nightforce 2.5-10x scope. The entire package weighed in just under 6 pounds.
Preferred Barrel Blank delivers thousands of barrels a year so they have the process and precision required down to an art form. Only about 25% of those barrels are for their own internal use, so that means a lot of satisfied customers out there.
The fit and finish of both of the barrels I had done is outstanding. More important is the part of the barrel you don’t see until you start shooting, the true value comes to light as the bullets start punching holes in the target.
With the rifle finished I started experimenting with different loads and bullet weights. Shooting off of a couple of bags at 100 yards resulted in several groups around 1 inch in size. All the groups typically had three of five touching or very close together with a couple of slight flyers, so I knew it could do better. As I adjusted the overall length the groups began to tighten up a bit.
I was confident the barrel will shoot great groups with other bullets as well with just a little more break-in and tweaking the loads to find the sweet spot. I found a nice accurate node for the 75-grain bullets as seen above. As a very light rifle, the Tikka tended to float around more than a heavy target gun would but it was an absolute joy to shoot the light recoiling 22 CM.
Running the action on the rifle while engaging a variety of steel the Preferred barrel fed, shot, and ejected every round without an issue. The entire process from ordering the barrel, home installation, and shooting great groups on the range was flawless and couldn’t have gone better.
The folks at Preferred took the time to help walk me through what I needed, as well as the installation process, and the company story. The name of the company is not just words, the folks at Preferred Barrel Blanks really want to be every shooter and gunsmith’s preferred vendor for barrel needs, and based on my experience I believe they deserve it.
With friendly, helpful service; top quality components; precise chambering, machining and fit; outstanding accuracy; competitive prices; and fast delivery times they have you covered. The installation of their pre-fit barrels is very straightforward and requires very little time with the proper tools at hand.
So, for your next barrel replacement, upgrade to an old rifle, or new gun build, don’t hesitate to contact Preferred Barrel Blanks and make them your preferred supplier.
For more information go to Preferred Barrel Blanks.