Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Upgrading the Ruger RPR Precision Rifle - Proof Research Paper City Timney Trigger

Upgrading the Ruger RPR Precision Rifle - Proof Research Paper City Timney Trigger

As we all know the Ruger Precision Rifle has become famous already for supreme accuracy right out of the box. It is a gun I have personally said requires nothing to go compete other than a great optic and bipod. Once we all find an incredible shooting platform like we have in the Savage, Remington, and now Ruger rifles we cannot help but start to tinker.

The handguard swapping is in theory easy and so is swapping the barrel, but there are some gotchas. All or at least most AR15 handguards will fit, but maybe not very well or they may look a little crappy due to the extra barrel nut offset. The barrel needs some finesse as well.

One of the advantages of the Ruger RPR is that the action is designed around an “easy” user changeable barrel system featuring a screw in barrel and headspace tensioning nut. Savage commercialized this in its actions and now Ruger has a somewhat similar version. 

The concept is simple, thread the barrel into the action until the bolt can close easily on a Gunsmithing Chamber “Go Gauge” and then tighten down the headspace locking nut. A check with a “No Go” gauge is done to assure the bolt cannot close and in theory the headspace is set, correct and locked in. Well that is theory with the Ruger anyway that barrel swaps are that simple… they are not if you do not have the right tools.

Other upgrades are the trigger and handguard. Swapping to a Timney or other aftermarket match grade trigger is super fast assuming you follow the Ruger trigger replacement video. The Samson handguard is technically an AR15 handguard, but there are some nuances to consider before you go all nuts making assumptions that “any AR15 handguard” will fit. Here is my story on what I went through to upgrade my Ruger Precision Rifle originally chambered in .308.

Timney was very nice to send me a trigger as a test upgrade which spiraled into “if I am going to do that then I should also do a barrel swap”. I have been interested in the 6.5mm Creedmore cartridge for some time and was intrigued that it used the same bolt face as the .308 which meant rebarreling a rifle could be technically easy. The reduced recoil benefits of the 6.5 Creedmore round were the most appealing. The 6.5 Creedmore feels infinitely more comfortable to shoot. We all know the ballistics and reach are better than the .308 while still delivering all the punch. I was extremely reluctant to start inventorying and reloading yet another caliber, however I am extremely pleased with the decision.

Some discussion with Proof Research on their heavily raved barrels led me to ordering a Ruger Precision pre-fit  24” 6.5 Creedmoor barrel. Premium match barrels are not cheap with many priced over $1000. The Proof Research has two versions of Ruger Precision Rifle pre-fit barrels - all stainless $485 and the carbon fiber barrels at $940. Essentially theses are the same precision match barrels, but the carbon fiber barrels have been machined down in key areas and then composite carbon fiber fills those voided areas. Despite what many believe, carbon fiber offers huge advantages over other materials beyond just a “cool look”.

The Proof Research carbon fiber barrel is a lighter, stiffer, more accurate barrel that runs cooler with longer service life all while increasing accuracy. Heat does a lot of bad stuff to a barrel. It increases wear, adds a heat distortion variable which makes shots wander after a string of shots, and even can add a heat mirage in front of optics. Aluminum conducts/absorbs heat about 100x better than steel, but carbon fiber dissipates heat at least twice as fast as aluminum (used widely on heat sinks) which means it gets the heat away from the barrel better than aluminum and far better than an all steel barrel. As we noted before a cooler barrel is better when it comes to accuracy and longevity of a barrel.

I believe in the science of what carbon and graphite can offer in barrel technology, I have a number of carbon based barrels ranging from Ruger 10/22 .22LR, AR15, and of course this build. The science works and all these barrels are among my most accurate rifles.

Proof Research barrels are pristinely made with machining, crowns, and stunning quality in every aspect. Getting this gorgeous barrel onto the Ruger was another adventure altogether.

Stripping off the RPR lower was quick as was the Sampson handguard, the standard AR15 barrel nut holding the handguard on did require a little a little muscle, and the headspace nut lock was removed with just a hex wrench, but then the theory of an easy upgrade went out the window.

The next immovable object was the headspace nut which only needs to turn about an 1/8th of a turn, but apparently Ruger has hired Thor and then equipped him with a four foot barrel nut wrench to secure these.  After some reading of many similar upgrade issues, I took the advice and ordered a $40 Brownells barrel vise jaw set and a specifically a $80 Magpul AR15 barrel nut armorer wrench. Without this combo plus a heavily secured table vise, I dare say you will never get the headspace nut to move without significant damage to the barrel, receiver, and/or yourself.

Although the headspace nut is technically AR15 toothed, the RPR barrel is also just wide enough than most AR15 wrenches will not fit around the barrel. So the wide mouthed design of the Magpul AR15 armorer's wrench is required. The Magpul wrench design also has a design which really locks onto the teeth and does not slip off “as much” as other armorer wrench designs.

I placed some sandpaper inside the Brownells barrel vise jaws, rough side out, slide in the barrel, and locked it down in the vise. I literally hung, all 240-lbs of me, off that wrench and the nut did not budge… that is until heated the receiver a little with the torch and I started whacking the end of the wrench with a 3-lb hand sledge. About six good hard whacks later and the nut gave way and the barrel unscrewed from the action effortlessly. If I had the right tools initially, it would have been a thirty minute upgrade. Reverse the process, thread in the proof barrel, headspace the barrel with the Go Gauge, tighten the headspace nut, recheck with all the Go and No-Go Gauges and reassemble.

The Timney trigger upgrade was an easy two minute ordeal assuming you release the trigger tension and lift the trigger locking block as shown in the Ruger Precision Rifle Trigger Replacement video. I would say the RPR factory trigger is very good, but the Timney is phenomenal and well worth the upgrade.

Swapping to a different “AR15 Compatible” handguard can be problematic on the RPR. Because the AR15 barrel nut only can snuggle up to within about ¼” of the receiver, most handguards will leave and ugly gap between the handguard and the RPR receiver. The Samson very unique handguard design slides back and forth on their barrel nut collars all the way against the receiver. I personally love Sampson handguards but wanted something different for this build.

I discovered that Paper City Firearms has a spectacular looking MLOK handguard which is specifically designed for the Ruger RPR - meaning is mounts up perfectly to the RPR receiver without any ugly gap and provides a seamless look. 

The Paper City Firearms handguard is an amazing high quality 3D machined handguard which offers a slim profile and MLOK compatibility paired with a extremely comfortable finger groove design. Paper City has also added an extended picatinny rail at the receiver and also another picatinny section at the and of the handguard - all nice touches.

Catalyst Arms just introduced a rather awesome little upgrade to the RPR. The Catalyst Arms billet aluminum RPR Magazine Release Extension is available in multiple colors bolts right up into the factory slot on the Ruger magazine release via on machine screw. There is no need to disassembly and this part could literally be considered a field upgrade. I was just about ready to start disassembly when I realized that this simple little $30 Mag Extension only requires one hex wrench and about one minute upgrade time. Cool little add on that delivers a more positive and faster mag release.

The beautifully clear Nikon Monarch 7 4-16 is held by a stunning set of Seekins Precision scope rings. These are no ordinary rings - every component is critical on a precision rifle and these rings deliver precision. The Seekins ring set is made from 7075-T6 aluminum, are matched serialized sets, with a center recoil lug machined in place, and top and grade 8 T25 torx screws. If you want a repeatable high precision return-to-zero set of rings these premium $130 Seekins rings will deliver strength and precision in abundance.

The 6.5 Creedmor does not have the recoil of the .308, but in order to take every bit of recoil out of the round, a Primary Weapons Systems PWS PRC brake was used. This is not a quiet break, but it feels like it reduces recoil by at least 50% of the already lighter recoiling 6.5 CM round.

Despite all the little issues and challenges, this is still a far easier process of rebarreling than on a Remington 700, since you do not need to worry about potentially turning the barrel on a lathe, cutting the chamber or any other Remington 700  blueprinting machinist based requirements. With $100 worth of specific tools, a shop vise, hammer, GO/No-Go Gauges, Dremel, and potentially a torch, the entire process is actually pretty easy and quick. Most importantly, you can do the upgrade and back and forth caliber swaps all at home without sending your rifle someplace else. Assuming the new Proof Research barrel does not lock up the headspace nut like the factory Ruger did, this could be a pretty fast barrel swap rifle. The Ruger is a very accurate factory gun, but it can be far better with just two upgrades.

The Timney trigger delivers a trigger feel significantly better than the factory Ruger - with a better trigger alone you will get better groups. I have tested the factory barreled Ruger RPR chambered in .308, .243, 6.5CM, and even the new .223/5.56 model. All are capable of ½-inch 100-yard groups with top end match grade ammo and finely tuned reloads. The Proof Research 6.5 CM barrel and Timney trigger upgrade cut those groups roughly in half with much more consistency in delivering tight groups even though many strings of quick fired shots. Our best groups were easily into the 100-yard ¼-inch range, but our testers felt that those best of day groups could easily become standard group averages with well tuned hand loads.

Surprisingly the upgraded Paper City Firearms did provide much improved handling of the RPR all while adding MLOK compatibility and accessory mounting to the handguard in the process. Look for more Paper City Firearms articles to follow because they also offer all this handguard greatness in AR15 formats as well. The Catalyst Arms mag extension is highly recommended for any RPR owner for only a $30 upgrade.

The science and barrel technology is really what you are paying for with Proof Research barrels. Yes there are some great barrels out there, but without the technology and science of getting the heat away from the barrel, these competing barrels are all fighting the same heat problems. The Proof Research barrels change the game. Honestly this upgrade is so good, I want to buy another Ruger Precision Rifle and rebarrel it with a .308 Proof Research barrel.

Worth the upgrade? As an owner of an FN SPR A3G, a $3500 factory rifle certified and guaranteed to shoot at least ½” 100 yards groups or better, I can say that a $2800 upgraded Ruger is a hell-of-a deal. For the shooter than wants the absolutely best, this is a hard bargain to pass up. A $1500 rifle with $1300 in upgrades that shoots like a $3500+ custom rifle seems like a great deal to me.


Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Paper City Firearms - https://www.papercityfirearms.com
Catalyst Arms  - https://www.catalystarms.com
Primary Weapons Systems - https://primaryweapons.com
Seekins Precision - http://www.seekinsprecision.com
Nikon Sport Optics - http://www.nikonsportoptics.com

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