Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ultimatum Black Hole XLR Timney Ultimate Precision Rifle Build

Ultimatum Black Hole XLR Timney Ultimate Precision Rifle Build

This incredible daydream worthy precision rifle build, in theory, should not have been very challenging. After all, it was more or less a custom Remington 700 style receiver but with all custom components. 

The U300 billet ordnance steel action from Ultimatum was paired with a full custom 6.5 CM Black Hole Weaponry Barrel, Timney Tactical Trigger, XLR Carbon Chassis, YHM Ti Phantom suppressor, and a top-tier Bushnell optic. In my previous Rem 700 based builds, all that is required for installation was to properly headspace the barrel, tighten the barrel lock nut, and maybe let out the chassis is one minor area.  Tweaks are always expected on custom build, but this build went very ugly fast. Luckily it turned around and everyone learned a lot in a painful lesson that netted something cool at the project’s end.

As a writer and editor, as would be expected sometimes we are presented with products which are not quite refined, however I experienced significant challenges with Ultimatum beyond the normal expectation. I am going to share the experience of what may be my most expensive, feature-loaded, and most accurate bolt action precision rifle build I own. This is not to rant about the biggest pain in the ass build I have ever...EVER completed, but because I want you to understand that something really special can be created from a boatload of problems. This was a tale of a writer discovering issues hopefully staving off a huge customer service problem waiting to happen for a new manufacturer. The problem was the early V1 & V2 Ultimatum Actions verged on incompatible with typical barrels and stocks and they provided me with the wrong barrel specs. As you can imagine things spiraled down quickly.

The Remington 700 and Savage bolt actions look simple, but they have been designed to allow a lot of tolerance slop to assure assembly in a production environment. The extremely high precision bolt action receivers such as Stiller, Defiance, Big Horn, and others are deceivingly complex with a multitude of dimensional requirements which are difficult to create. These high tolerance receivers strike the balance of super high tolerance while still delivering parts compatibility though relationships with stock manufacturers and well published barrel specifications. In most cases these premium tier receivers allow barrels to be easily installed and swapped and re-headspaced without a gunsmith. For this build it seemed nothing was remotely compatible and the result was that nearly every major part had to be hand fitted. Some of the points that Ultimatum has struggled with are the same areas the other competing companies were challenged with in their early production cycle and most of those pain stem from parts interoperability and publicizing dimensional/fitment specs on their V1 and V2 U300 actions.

This is a stunning build to handle and shoot, but about half way through this build, it would have just been sold as parts if I had not already made editorial commitments to get this done. Black Hole Weaponry stepped in to provide a level of service which was simply exemplary.

The positive outcomes of this project was that Black Hole now has specs for a number of new ready to install Remington and Savage action barrel offerings and Ultimatum proactively pulled an entire model offering from their inventory to completely re-tool for a new late 2017 version #3 model based on all the significant problems I and others had with the receiver.

Hopefully my pain and agony just saved numerous Ultimatum precision receiver buyers from some infuriating vulgarity spewing weeks attempting to put together this precision rifle build. I would have hated to see Ultimatum really tick off everyone before they even get started as a company. Their new U300 Gen 2.1/V3 receiver promises to work out many of these noted issues.

As noted by Ultimatum, the Gen 2.1/V3 changes will be:
1. The mag port will accept the heavier lipped magpul magazines, and properly seat others.
4. The Gen 2. rear tang was reshaped and the Gen2.1 was yet again re-shaped to provide a strong but aesthetically pleasing all around fit.
5. The mounting screw locations has been toleranced against Remington specs so they will align to Remington chassis bolt patterns.
6. The actions will be ready for a 20-tpi savage pre-fit style barrels
7. Proactive work with chassis manufactures to assure they have an inlet specifically for the Ultimatum Gen 2.1 action.
8. Published specs for the receiver and barrel installation and other inlet points.

Ultimatum delivers on the features and machining quality that precision shooters have been begging for complete with a beefier action, thicker integrated recoil lug, 20-MOA rail, integrated sunshade hook, Tri-lug bolt, and many other little tweaks all in a premium R700 style receiver priced almost $1000 less than comparable models. That is a sizable savings, but there were also some big mis-steps in their first receiver releases.

First I must note that Ultimatum was extremely responsive through this entire process.  That noted, the answers I received back on my Gen 1 receiver were either mostly incomplete or in one case catastrophically wrong. Though they were super responsive, Ultimatum did not publish receiver specs, barrel specs, installation expectations, and “known issues” of their Gen 1 and Gen 2 models as they were reported by customers. They also did not note spec chances between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 models. A support blog would have gone a long way to remedy problems before they occurred. If there are known issues, especially at this level of product, the expectation was that this potentially critical information would have been provided in a more active manner. This entire build and article would have gone wildly different had I just had the ability to download specs and understand up-front the chassis/stock fitment requirements.

The President of Ultimatum has personally noted that the void of information will be remedied going forward with the release of the new fall 2017 model - I do hope this happens becuase the receiver is excellent quality. Custom builders can be a forgiving bunch if they know what they are getting into first hand. At one point after noting issues I was having, the company actually pointed me to another writer's article who had documented all the same issues, but infuriatingly this was not provided beforehand. I noted that it is not the responsibility of another editor to become your technical support and specification writer.

After receiving the initial Gen1 receiver, about a month later I received a replacement bolt group assembly which reduced cocking tension and then also a separate new tighter tolerance version trigger hanger though no information was included as to why I received these items. Ultimatum was and is trying, but they are also learning painfully along the way.

In the case of this build, everything really spiraled downhill quick when Ultimatum provided the wrong barrel specs which led to ordering an incorrectly spec’ed barrel. This caused a rather ugly set of catastrophic events to the barrel which “Lord thank you”... Black Hole Weaponry stepped in and fixed the giant mess I created while attempting to install an incorrectly spec’ed barrel into the receiver.

Typically a custom precision rifle receiver follows a barrel and thread pattern of a Remington 700, or a Savage, or a Remage pattern barrel spec with Remington 700 threads and breech face and a Savage style barrel nut. This Gen1 U300 receiver required a more unusual Rem700 longer barrel threading, a Savage style barrel nut and also a Savage breech face, but those were not the specs I was given.

Despite meticulous cleaning and applied anti-sieze there was also an unseen tolerance stacking problem which in literally an eighth of a turn seized the threads. Both threads technically matched up, but the breech face specs were wrong as were the length of threading on the barrel. Let’s just say the barrel seized into the receiver and I trashed the first inch of the barrel threads and bleed everywhere getting the barrel off. BHW stepped in, washed off the blood, recut and extended all the threads to the un-typically tightly toleranced threading of the receiver, recut and corrected the breach to the correct profile which effectively shortened the barrel to a 17.5-inch barrel instead of the original 18.5-inch length.  Black Hole returned to me via a very quick turnaround of a re-tooled, mounted, headspaced, and installed barrel into the Ultimatum action. I felt like an incompetent idiot during this stage of the build, but it is good to have friends to bail you out. Ultimatum noted that they are moving to an all Savage thread, breech face and barrel nut format receiver so this should not be an issue going forward.

The next challenge was fitting the receiver to the chassis. Ultimatum sells the chassis noting right on the front page and the receiver page that it is a Remington 700 footprint, but that is totally inaccurate. The more accurate statement is that it is “sort of a R700 footprint”. There was no stock in the world which would readily accept the oversized beefy footprint of the Ultimatum U300 action. Neither the front or rear receiver bolts are spec’ed to R700 spacing (or any stock supporting R700), and the size and profile of the rear tang and front oversized recoil lug are too large as well for any chassis - for the record, I tried six different top tier precision rifle chassis. So now I was forced to start milling away on a $1200 XLR Carbon Stock.

The extent of the milling required was not prefaced by Ultimatum at any point until I noted what I had to do for fitment… then they offered up another editor’s article. The front lug and rear tang areas of the stock received extensive milling and the receiver bolt holes had to both be elongated on the stock for the receiver to mount up. Everything did mount up well after these modifications, but this level of modification is the last thing you want to do to a stunning $1200 XLR Carbon chassis.  In order to fit the receiver into the Carbon chassis, the sunshade hook on the U300 top rail also had to be milled off.

Ultimatum has noted that the bolt spacing was off and will correct that on the next model release. They have also contacted several stock/chassis manufacturers including XLR to assure they will offer factory inlets specifically for the new Ultimatum receiver profiles. I have recommended to Ultimatum that they offer a separate model option which would provide a drop-in fit replacement into any existing R700 spec chassis such as Big Horn offers, however this concept was not on the drawing board at this point.

Another issue which was noted was magazine fitment. This is a typical tweak on custom precision rifle builds. The Ultimatum action sits in the chassis lower which means that not all AICS format magazines will not seat fully without modification to the magazine catch. I did have to trim a bit from the top of the magazine catch on the XLR chassis allow engagement of the various AICS magazines on hand.

After several fit inducing moments, days, and weeks, the build was together and it looked and performed gloriously. The XLR chassis cradling the beautifully made Ultimatum action and BHW hex fluted barrel is an amazing which shoots as good as it looks. The Bushnell Elite optic mounted up perfectly without incident to provide a crystal clear mil-dot First Focal Plane view at the target. The Timney Tactical Remington 700 4-ounce trigger is insanely light which allows all the accuracy from the BHW barrel to connect with precision. This is a ¼” 100-yard accurate gun and with handloads it may be even better.

After a lot of input from many competitive shooters who recommended and were running a 18” barrel for suppressed, I elected for a shorter barrel with the express intent to run suppressed. This delivers a mangable 26-ish-inch barrel with the suppressor attached to the 17.5-inch barrel. With a longer standard 20 or 22-inch barrel and a suppressor the gun would feel like a two man crew served gun. Currently with a QD YHM mount and Titanium Phantom .30 suppressor, it delivers a realistic usable length and the QD suppressor can be removed and the XLR chassis stock folded for a very compact transportable package.

Black Hole Weaponry - The BHW barrel is stunning and they are one of the most consistent (and underrated) barrel manufacturers I have worked with over the years. I have .223 AR15s with BHW barrels which will easily deliver ½ MOA groups all the way to 300 yards. They are very accurate. In this case, the rigid bolt action receiver allows the 6.5 CM to continually hammer very tightly clustered bugholes downrange. The hex fluting drops about 20% of the weight of a bull barrel allegedly without loosing any accuracy all while looking jaw dropping. Of course they have one of the best customer services departments I have experienced yet.

XLR Industries - XLR makes one of the most comfortable chassis on the market to shoot behind. There are a lot of really great chassis, however they are delivering the Ducati level of design sexiness to the sniper chassis. The XLR Carbon is a skeletonized based chassis with carbon fiber handguard to dissipate the heat from high rate shooting during precision rifle matches. There is nothing that comes close to the look of this chassis for precision rifles. I do just wish I had not had to mill out custom modifications to this chassis which means it will never see use on any other builds.

Timney - The Timney 4-ounce flat Tactical trigger is fully adjustable for fore and aft, trigger position, trigger cant, and omits the safety which can on occasion flub a shot. The 4-ounce trigger is amazing for the precision shooter, however it would not be a trigger weight I would recommend for a field gun. For most other builds, I would definitely add a trigger, however this trigger is specifically designed for the type of shooting this rifle configuration is set up for which means there will never be a round left in the chamber unless a shot is immediately pending.

Bushnell Elite - Over the years Bushnell has continued to deliver a broad range of optics from affordable to a level which competes with the high dollar German optics. This Elite series represent the best that Bushnell offers with hand assembled optics, premium tier optics coating and quality control, and an optic clarity which makes you feel like you have super human vision. The Bushnell Elite line is extremely well regarded in precision competition shooting events and each year it appears Bushnell is continuing to step up the quality.

Ultimatum - Would I buy another Ultimatum Action? If the 2.1 model releasing fall of 2017 addresses the updates as Ultimatum president noted below, I would certainly buy another one in a heartbeat for a switch barrel setup if the receivers featured a prefit Savage style barrel and breech action without the tolerance stacking barrel fitment problems. Even if I did have to modify a chassis/stock, the U300 are very well made actions. They have recognized the problems and are addressing them which is the responsible thing to do.  Would I buy another of these Gen 1 Models? No way - in this case I think this model was released too early before a lot of in-house testing could have worked out the problems. Contrary to what occurred in this build, Ultimatum makes a gorgeous precision rifle action and did stand behind their product. They have also committed to correcting the problems I and others commented on.

Really, I am a very accommodating guy, however when you start to cost me double money out of my pocket to support an editorial review, I become a little more… and more blunt. I cannot thank Black Hole Weaponry enough for saving this build, the detail and precision of their barrels and after sale repair turned this build from a nightmare into a blessing. This was far from my first custom bolt action. Hopefully I will be reviewing the new 2017 V3 U300 Ultimatum action very soon which I am confident will be quite a different and much happier article.

Ultimatum U300 Gen 1 Action - $1000
Black Hole Weaponry - Custom 6.5 CM, Hex Fluted, stainless hand tuned match barrel - $900
XLR Industries - Carbon Chassis - $1200
Timney Triggers - Tactical 4-ounce R700 Match Trigger (no-safety) $250
Bushnell Elite -


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Black Hole Weaponry -

DR Guns AR15 Receiver Set Review

DR Guns AR15 Receiver Set Review

Earlier this year, Dave Rybacki the owner of DR Guns connected with me at the annual SHOT Show around what they were doing from a production and OEM perspective on their AR15 billet upper and lower receivers. At that time Dave Rybacki has just formed his company into DR Guns and was just getting his new facility up and running.  He had sample of the receivers as well as some new Glock 9mm AR15 receiver prototypes which frankly overshadowed the extremely well made AR15 receivers.

A few months passed and DR Guns reached out to ask if I would be willing to work up a few builds featuring some of their then early pre-release/pre-production handguards and an upper and lower receiver to get some feedback on aftermarket parts compatibility with a note that these would have a few blemishes. What I received was a stunning set of receivers and handguard which were hardly shop worn and exhibited some nice refinements from the prototypes I had seen at the show earlier in the year. The pre-release/pre-production lower receiver did have a few minor machine swirls which DR Guns noted, beyond these noted blemishes the detail and finish was perfect.

What is shocking is that DR Guns is selling these upper and lower receiver sets for $229 standard billet - $349 3D milled billet which is an exceptional deal. The standard billet model is designed to match the lines of a standard forged upper receiver where the 3D model features a heavier hex profile lower which matches the profile of DR Guns hex profile upper. The 3D upper is compatible with forged uppers, but the lines will just not match up as well unless a matched billet 3D upper is used. This featured set was the 3D sets model delivering more rounded edges due to the increased 3D milling process.  These low prices are close to the price of quality forged receiver sets, but with all the typical enhancements you would see on billet sets.


For this build I used a tried and true match grade 16-inch Black Hole Weaponry Hex Fluted Bull barrel with threaded muzzle. I am a huge fan of BHW barrels and their exceptional accuracy and consider them one of the best deals for barrels. I have yet to have a BHW barrel deliver anything but sub-MOA accuracy across both AR15 and bolt action formats. This particular .223 Wylde match chambered barrel was a Hex fluted Black cerakoted and then hand patina-ed. As expected this Black Hole barrel did deliver ½-MOA or better accuracy depending on the match grade ammo and my abilities on that particular day.

To swap the gas pressure between suppressed and unsuppressed, I opted for a Bootleg Adjustable Bolt Carrier Group. This BCG provides three settings of tuning which is directly accessible via the ejection port door. To further tune the gas pressure I opted for a Superlative Arms adjustable gas block. Having two adjustable gas blocks is probably overkill, but this provides some finer tuning to get the gas pressure just low enough for reliable function on the “normal” setting of the Bootleg BCG. In reality I was only needed about two - three clicks on the adjustable gas block to bring the gun perfectly into tune.  The muzzle was tipped with a YHM QD brake for the YHM Ti Phantom suppressor.

Other add ons were KNS JJ Anti-Rotate pins, V7 titanium magazine release and pivot/take-down pin set, ELF button safety selector, and a top and HiperFire ECL match trigger. A Strike Industries bolt release was added to dress up the left side of the receiver a bit further.

A WMD Charging handle, forward assist, Dust Cover, and Mil-Spec buffer tube were used paired with a Oden Works charging latch and Rogers Super Stock. Of note after literally using dozens of adjustable polymer stocks, from my perspective the Rogers Stock is still the best rattle free and tight stock I have used thanks to its simple and easy cam lock system. Mission First Tactical magazines and grip were used to finish up the lower.

DR Guns’ own MLOK 15-inch handguard was used for this build and they did an exceptional job with the design considering this was a first run production prototype. I did find that the barrel nut’s internal dimensions wsa just a tad tight on some barrels, so Dave noted he would update the barrel nut internal dimensions to accommodate any tolerance stacking between barrels and the barrel nut. This is a well made, extremely lightweight and rugged mounted handguard which I feel DR Guns hit it on the head with this simple, light and strong handguard design.

For optics I really wanted to try something different and I used both a ATN HD Night Vision X-Sight 3-14X and one of their new ATN Smart Thor 2-8 Thermal optics. Just two years ago I had tested the previous version of these optics. These new HD versions are literally light years ahead of where the old versions were. The clarity is worlds better, the crispness is greatly improved and the features are much more refined for the shooter wanting a digitally connected optic. What both of these optics deliver is technology far beyond the price range including IOS and Android app support for programing, setup, capture of pictures and video, and live video streaming. I had an opportunity to do an initial coyote hunt with both these optics and I can say they deliver truly amazing capabilities in the field. On this suppressed platform it allowed us to see in the dark and pick out a lot of live critters moving around - though no coyotes that night. Though both the ATN HD Night Vision X-Sight, and ATN Thor-HD384 2-8x deliver night vision capabilities, but the Thor steals the show with the added ability make live game super visible out to 800 yards. Much more on these optics in a future review.

What I really like about the DR Guns receivers are that they are free from a bunch of logos. It seems that the trend is to have your logo plastered in five different areas on a receiver, so it was refreshing to just see the basic ATF labeling requirements. These receivers are a very cleanly and sparsely labeled receiver set which delivers a nice blank canvas for cerakote or other artistic build freedoms.

The DR Guns receivers have all the features you would expect from a billet receiver set. The extra beefy look and build to increase stiffness and strength, a heavily flared magazine receiver well, front magazine well is textured as a grip surface, integrated extended trigger guard, Machined from 7075-T6 Aluminum, Mil-Spec Type III Hard Anodized Finish, and a threaded receiver tension adjustment hole.

Functionally I had no issues with the receiver set at all. The only functional tuning I had was expectedly around tuning the gas pressure to find that perfect compromise of working perfectly both with and without the suppressor attached. Once tuned I was able to transition from unsuppressed to suppressed with perfect gas pressure just with the turn of the gas adjustment detent on the Bootleg BCG to one of the three positions. This setup works extremely well with or without an adjustable gas block.

In a sea of me-too AR15 manufacturers, it is refreshing to see someone come to market with something a bit different while offering an extremely competitively priced alternative for builders. The final result is an beautiful AR15 with a heavily fluted bull barrel that feels like a much lighter standard barreled AR15. DR Guns is delivering really beautiful quality at a price which is low enough it touches into the price range of high quality forged receivers such as Aero Precision and others. I am excited to see the Glock 9mm format AR15s hit the market as well. DR Guns is bringing a lot of innovation to the market in a time where AR15 building and pistol caliber carbines sales are surging.


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Black Hole Weaponry -
Superlative Arms -
Mission First Tactical -