Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Ohh Christmas Tree, Ohh Gun Themed Christmas Tree

Ohh Christmas Tree, Ohh Gun Themed Christmas Tree

After seeing well a little over a hundred gun locks collected over the years hanging from a shelf in the garage, Mrs Pandemic said “hey I can use those… for a Xmas tree” Perplexed, I asked if she was concerned whether someone would steal our tree. The answer was “no stupid, for tree decorations”, and thus began the quest for the remainder of the year to find firearm themed tree decorations. 

I will note that Mrs Pandemic did a beautiful job on the tree to the point that from a distance it looks like a regular decorated tree. 

Up close, holiday visitors will see about five pounds of black gun locks were hung with care on the silver and black themed tree along with stainless grenade and drink cooler bullets, peace and Christmas ornaments, and chicken wire ribbon. 

A couple of the coolest ornaments were the dozen 300 Win Mag nickel cases I seated black moly silver tip bullets, the Texas shooting star topping the tree which was a modified tree star with cardboard target circles cut out and stick on Birchwood orange targets attached. 

For those with sharp eyes, the apparent PWS Primary Weapons Systems theme may be obvious. The story behind that was purely accidental. During my last AR15 based PWS 9mm Carbine pistol build, a PWS keychain bottle opener was included in the box. 

After struggling to find little gun ornaments that “did not look like plastic garbage”, Mrs Pandemic scoped up the little cast metal bottle openers and asked can if I could get fifty more of these? 

 A call to PWS peaked their interest in what I would be doing with fifty of their bottle openers which lead to a discussion about the tree. This is a time being a writer has a few perks.

PWS not only offered up a volume discount for bottle openers, but threw in a few other overstock keychains from previous years, and also offered me an “overstock” deal on PWS AK74 CBQ brakes which were already on sale from $150, to $70. Ornaments complete.

For those familiar with the PWS CQB brake it is not only the best CQB entry brake on the market, fifteen of them hung via paracord make beautiful bomb-proof tree decorations and can be year around accessories as ornaments during Christmas, conversation pieces on desks, and of course excellent muzzle brakes for your next build. 
At least that was how PWS positioned it to me. 

A few of these may get stolen from the tree post holiday for non-ornament use thanks to some 1/2-28 to M24 and 5/8-24 to M24x1.5 muzzle adapters. Of course I placed two of my favorite PWS AR pistol builds next to the tree. If you need awesome ornaments, I would check out PWS and of course they make some mighty fine firearms as well.

We also found that you can get custom gift wrapping paper with your own image form Zazzle.com. It is not cheap nor fast, but it is premium quality.  They have a great selection of really good gun themed paper already, but we uploaded a few of our own including a PWS pistol and is looked awesome on the paper.

Continuing the theme, Mrs Pandemic found a Howitzer ammo crate which was decorated with led wire lights referencing all the fences we hunter cross during a hunt. Topping the crate are Champion Clays, a deer antler, and hunting themed nutcrackers. 

A glitter deer flanks the other side of the tree. It is great to see non-gun people see the tree and note how beautiful it is and then start to sputter a bit as they realized all that beauty is gun stuff. I did have to stop my wife from slipping her custom grade Benelli 828U under the tree, because we too believe this is a beautiful way to celebrate the holiday.

Merry Christmas everyone, God Bless, and have a wonderful 2018 and 2019!

Monday, December 3, 2018

BMW R80RT Badlands Cafe Racer Project Part 1

BMW R80RT Badlands Cafe Racer Project Part 1

This really is not a rags to racer story, but more of a jem to jewelry story that started over twenty years ago. This represents the Part 1 of the journey as I tear down and morph this BMW R80 into a cafe racer of my dreams.

During the time my wife and I were struggling through undergrad and graduate school, my wife said the only way I would get back into motorcycle riding was with my next wife and so the story went for about two and half decades. 

Mountain bikes and recently ebikes marginally satisfied my desire to get back on a motorcycle all while still remaining faithfully married - a load of fun, but not growling power of motorcycling. Eventually, she suggested restoring cars, but after noting we don’t have a spare three stall garage and my continual stream of whining, wailing, and annoyed her enough she relented to me restoring motorcycles. The caveat was ONLY if I could find my mythical later 80s or early 90s BMW R80.

Why a BMW R80? The BMW R80 (800cc) motorcycles were gentlemanly air cooled horizontally opposed dual cylinder bikes with enough power and torque to keep things very exciting. They were widely know to be just as comfortable puttering around town at 20 mph and 85 mph on highways all with enough stability and weight to feel planted on the open road. I wanted this era BMW Airhead because they are notoriously easy to work on for the garage wrencher, have shown to increase in value, can literally be infinitely rebuilt for 100s of thousands of mile, and deliver a heart throbbing sound of a tractor with two giant cylinders hanging out each side. Notably, pretty much any older BMW updated, restored, or even converted or chopped tend to bring premium values.

A broadcast went out across a three state area to every dealer, bike collector, and friend of a friend I could dig up a number for - “please mister… could you spare a BMW R80?” In a part of the country which only recently got its first BMW and Ducati dealerships in the last decade, finding a thirty plus year old BMW was not expected to be easy. Nearly a year went by and then I got a call from the used powersports dealer just a few miles from my house. “We have a 1983 BMW R80RT, but the owner will only leave it here for six hours and… it is also in your price range.” The R80RT was the “luxury Race and Touring model” with all the bells and whistles, race and touring fairing, loads of storage, factory steering damper, and even had a clock.

Two hours later I was the proud owner of not “just a 1983 BMW R80RT”, but a third owner, full maintenance history, already had the top end work done, carbs rebuilt, purrs like a kitten, oil tight, and you can put 100 miles on this on the way back from your motorcycle driving test no problem 1983 BMW R80RT. The previous owner talked to me for over a hour about all the maintenance schedules he followed in such passionate detail that a German engineer would get teary-eyed. The $1900 flew out of my pocket - it was a steal about $3000 under book value, but the owner just wanted the bike to go to a good home.

The goal though was not to restore a BMW R80RT to its former glossy red Race Touring glory, but instead to create one of those super custom, clean and tidy Cafe Racer BMW R80s you see in European Pinterest posts. Obviously, starting with a perfectly functioning R80 put me way ahead on the project and delivered loads of fun before the build even started.

The overall strategy for converting any groovy older bike to a sleek badass cafe racer is to strip off the bodywork, remove all the unneeded parts, swap out old giant subframe for a short cafe racer subframe and seat, add on clip-ons, billet rearset, update the electrics, and finish it all off with some pretty high-tier billet goodies. Add in inspection of all the seals, a new set of tires, swap out all the fluids and filters, some fresh powder-coat and paint, and some shock upgrades. It sounds like a lot of updates and upgrades that can add up to $3000 easily when you also add in some well needed electrical upgrades. Stock BMW’s are increasing in value and custom BMW’s are selling for $9K+. Well maintained BMW Airheads can deliver well beyond 300K miles to owner so the investment is smarter than dumping that money in many other brands and a valid reason BMW R-series bikes are coveted and usually pricey.

As with any used bike, regardless of condition, the first thing to be done was replacing filters and all fluids. In this case everything looked great, but the filters and fluids were swapped anyway. The nearly bald circa 1990s tires were swapped to go anywhere knobby Continental TKC 80s. I love the look and also love the concept that the TKC 80 tire has no limits and still handles great on the road. The tire has proven itself globally as a all terrain on and off road tire even at 80+ MPH highway speeds and was perfect for my Major Pandemic Badlands Cafe Racer concept.

Initial issues were really around understanding the R-series BMW itself and its idiosyncrasies including how all the crush washers seal and the capacities. For example I was attempting to chase down leaks at my shifter input and the rear hub which was covered in oil after replacing my rear tire and rear transmission, shaft and hub fluids. The culprit was a barely out of balance rear TKC 80 tire which at around 60 MPH would vibrate just enough to shake oil out of the hub’s vent hole and vibrate oil out of the shifter input seal. With the wheel balanced the problem resolved itself even after topping off the oil levels. Another leak was resolved with understanding the right torque to keep the seals intact and leak-free. The $40 Clymer Manual was expensive, but the most important tool you can purchase when working on any bike. For the most part, these older carbureted bikes are both simple and frustrating at times with most issues caused by either rushing or overthinking the issue.

My style of building guns has been to have all the parts and then start the build. I absolutely loathe having to do partial upgrades one little bit at a time, tearing things down again and again. Some folks love this, but that level of patience escapes me. My preference with any build has always has been to prevent tearing everything down multiple times - usually this prevents a lot of damage and replacement along the way of finishes and fasteners.

If you have a new current bike, it is easy to just say you want to upgrade the muffler, or swap out some lighting. On an old bike one part swap typically has a cascading impact to many other components. Electronics upgrades are a good example of this. Old bikes tend to drain batteries much quicker than newer LED lite bikes thanks to the old high current incandescent lights and thirty year old electronics, but adding LED lights usually means adding extra resisters or even requiring an entire electrical upgrade. While doing that same exercise stripping down a fairing equipped 1983 BMW R80RT, requires all the blinkers to have additional LED conversion blinker resistors, all new new signals with mounts, and potentially all new wiring.

As builder, if you are going this care then a complete Motogadget m-unit electrical system upgrade is smart to improve reliability & looks while increasing features to a very modern level in the process, but requires a full rewire of the bike.

To further clean up looks, most builders opt for a tiny Antigravity lithium battery pack. These tiny battery replacements are about 1/10th the weight of OEM batteries and less than ¼ the size all while being easy to tuck out of sight. Upgrading to lithium batteries also has a cascading requirement to upgrade the rectifier so the new Lithium battery does not get overcharged. These old bikes are money pits, so be prepared.

Revzilla was a heck of a resource for my safety gear which included a Speed and Strength Hi-Viz versions of the Power and the Glory armored mesh gloves and Midnight express Jacket with included CE armor. Frankly the quality on the Speed and Strength products was great for the money and I also added one of their helmets which I added tasteful accents of reflective tape for even more visibility. Having ridden back in my youth and a whole crap load of street riding on bikes that if drivers cannot see you, they will hit you. As bicycle rider I generally am wearing a safety orange shirt which I can tell you has saved my butt too many times to count. The hi-viz jacket and gloves you can see me from over a mile away which is exactly what I wanted.

To keep the distracted driven thing to a minimum and also provide for music and the ability to communicate with other riders I choose to add a Sena SMH-10 Bluetooth Headset. For just over $150 it is an excellent add on which I think adds a margin of safety from a communication perspective.

SEAT - After a month of agonizing over a myriad of upgrades, styles, and looks, the start of any cafe project is getting the seat and rear subframe right. This typically involved shorting the long seat subframe while delivering a retro look. A lot of builders break out the angle grinder and a welder to take an almost three foot stock subframe down to around 18-inches. The usual process after the chop and weld is then to top with a cafe racer seat and rear cowl. That simple process takes lot of experience to get right. With that noted, Pinterest delivered loads more bad frame chop jobs than good ones. Several used bikes I looked at were destructively butchered.

The safer...and easier route is to go with one of the many bolt on replacement subframes and yes, there are a dozen various aftermarket BMW R-series cafe racer subframes on the market. There are also a variety of cafe subframes for other non BMW vintage brands such as Yamaha and Honda. Unbolt the factory subframe and bolt on the new aftermarket cafe racer subframe and matching seat kit and the rear end is done in about the same time as replacing a slip on muffler. This sounds like it takes out some of the fun, but the reality is for around $500 the bolt up subframe/seat solution delivers an easy professional option that is done in about twenty minutes.

I decided on a Vonzeti cafe racer T92 subframe, T67 seat, and seat base to deliver the cafe racer look. Vonzeti products are very highly regarded, all handmade with options for various seat fabrics, cowl colors, and are also available in completely custom subframe designs. I choose the T92 subframe and T67 seat but upgraded to a synthetic microsuede with a custom square sewn seat pattern.  Vonzeti also sells a matching flat metal seat base which allows an otherwise rounded hollow seat cowl house ugly electronics out of eyesight under the seat. Vonzeti is based in England and will ship anywhere to most countries around the world. About two months after ordering, I had my custom made order in hand and it is gorgeous.

ELECTRONICS - Everything on this 35-year old bike worked, but beyond a replacement regulator, the electrics were all original stock and delivering heavy battery drain. The older the electrics are, typically the less efficient and reliable they become. The headlight and signals were really quite dim compared to modern lights and from a safety perspective were due for an upgrade. Though a relatively new battery was installed just a few years ago, about once a month the battery required a boost on a battery charger/minder. Many old R80 owners know the stock alternator is not super high output and unless longer rides are the norm, this kickstarter-less R80 will end up with a dead battery - so I ordered an Antigravity Micro-Start XP-1 to tuck into a pocket for a little insurance.

The OEM set of two horns sounded pitiful since one horn was nearly dead it made the sound of a loud dying cow. Kind of a Beep-ooooohhhhhh sound. I also noticed that every time I used the horn that the next ride my battery would be dead. I replaced the dual horn set up with a insanely loud Denali Soundbomb Mini Horn and OMG are these loud.

With the new breed of aftermarket electronics available for the vintage builder, it is hard not to consider a top-to-bottom electronics and a wiring upgrade to improve reliability and drop the current load off the battery. The $310 Motogadget M-Unit and $380 M-Unit Blue are the most well regarded vintage cycle digital electronics upgrades on the market. These premium tier German electronics are about half the size of a deck of cards, include modern digital self-resetting breakers for all of your electronics which eliminates often problematic fuse boxes - and can be completely programmed with a variety of features including special flasher modes, fault programing, built in alarm, loads of automated safety features, configurable outputs, and even a smartphone keyless start on the m-Unit Blue model. 
The Motogadget m-Units are actually cheap considering all the deliver including the most reliable vintage bike possible. Motogadget also has a full line of premium quality custom level mirrors, high output LED signals, tachometers and speedometers all of which I included in this build.  If you do go this route, I highly recommend buying the Motogadget wiring kit as well as it is a spectacular time saver and not a bad deal for all that color coded wiring.

For my build, I used the Motogadget m-Unit Blue, bar end LED signals, bar end mirrors, rubber grips, and a retro vintage style Motorscope Speedster speedometer to greatly clean up the electrics, reduced the overall power consumption, and delivered a super clean customer look. The bar and LED signals are particularly trick in that they are directionally designed to optimize super bright light output to everyone except the rider. The rider just sees a subdued flash.  Revival Cycles super bright $15 LED Supernova Turn Signal & Brake Lights rear brake and indicators we used at the rear. Paired with the Motogadget m-Unit these tiny ¾-inch combo LED indicators deliver brake, fade-in/fade-out, flash emergency braking, left and right signals all in a tiny super clean design that is annoyingly bright and sure to get and keep drivers attention - a super custom but huge safety upgrade.

The stock 7-inch BMW headlight is a huge but was built with 30+ year old technology and needed an LED upgrade. The ugly headlight bucket is attached via an even uglier mount hidden under the fairing. I removed the OEM headlight mount and used EMGO fork mounted aluminum headlight bucket mounts and swapped out the stock headlight and bucket with a HogWorkz 7” LEO Halomaker and new Bikemaster headlight bucket. This added a bit of modern look to this otherwise classic themed build and drops the overall current draw by about 40%.

The Midwest is either blisteringly hot or cold much of the rideable season so I did add Symtec Heat Demon Heated Grips. Sure the goal is to reduce current draw, but these on low setting are not a huge draw on the electrical system and are typically only used on longer rides when the charging system is humming along anyway. Probably the best money spent on this entire build.

The Motogadget Motoscope Tiny Speedometer packs an accurate digitally controlled and calibrated stepper motor speedo, integrated warning, turn and signal lights all in a tiny 2-inch wide speedo. Again the Motogadet Multi-Conductor Cable is recommended for simplified hookup. One missing component was a tachometer which was fulfilled with a Motogadget Motoscope Mini which was tucked under the handlebar controls. At only 2.32" L x 0.85" W x 0.51" H, the Motoscope Mini can disappear on the big all while offering full digital speedo, tach, clock, trip & total odometer, trip timing, and rev limit warning. I do tend to wind up this R80 into the lively redline and needed insight into where I am precisely in my rev range.

All those gauges into
one little 2-inch gauge
in Oshmo billet beauty Clamp
FOOT CONTROLS & BILLET - Oshmo is an outstanding beautiful custom builder of BMW related accessories for the vintage builder. Several of the very cool accessories are BMW R-series specific top clamp with integrated Motogadget Motoscope Speedster speedometer and the rear foot controls used to slide foot placement back about six inches. For Beemer bike guys, Oshmo’s billet bits are not just me-too mass produced imports, they are amazing premier quality CNC machined parts made here in the US. I opted for the mirror polished top triple clamp which increases fork stiffness and collapses all the speedo and warning lights into a super clean single piece of billet. Even when new the factory steering damper does little other than to help the bike track with crosswinds, so I locked it in high position and removed the adjustment knob to clean up the overall look of the top clamp. Later, a modern steering damper may be added to the chassis.

The Oshmo rear sets are a true work of art with curves that minimic the curves of the BMW and come complete with billet polished shifter input and connecting linkage. There are a variety of imported BMW R-series rear sets, but these are simply stunning.

To get the lowered look of a cafe racer without wrist breaking discomfort, I chose high-rise Tarozzi clip ons for “the look” while preserving the comfort of a low-rise straight handlebar. The Tarozzi multi-mount setup delivers class leading mounting flexibility with complete adjustability. The mounts were machine polished to match the Oshmo billet top triple clamp.

Racing style Monza gas caps have been a fixture of cafe racer builds mainly due to their long history as the style of gas caps used in aircraft and then racing. The style dates back the 1930s and is neither light nor the worlds best gas cap, but it is crazy cool looking and prevents a lot of refueling scratching to expensive paint jobs. The OEM BMW cap is also notoriously failure prone often locking itself in place. Having had a few issues already with my cap, a replacement was due.  There are the many BMW compatible versions, some cheap and some solid billet. This version is the $180 later version which installed historically backwards, just to be a smart ass. Triumph recently introduced a faux Monza cap on a new bike installed backward allegedly to improve safety in accidents and Monza induced scrotum ripping (Google it). The direction of the Monza cap is a conversation piece.

ENGINE, BRAKES & EXHAUST - The engine was in great shape with the exception of a tune up, but I upgraded to re-pop vintage peanut style valve covers from Bob’s BMW which I machine mirror polished along with new exhaust nuts. The factory exhaust was wrapped with black titanium 2-inch wrap, secured with stainless wrap ties, and tipped with chrome Dime City Cycles Norton Commando 19.5-inch exhaust. The $160 peashooter style muffler set is inexpensive, but deliver the delightful grumble from the BMW that we love paired with great looks.

The front brake rotors are still in good condition, but brake pads were upgraded to EBC High Performance Brake pads for the duel disks and the rear drum. This upgrade delivered a sizeable increase in stopping power with just a brake pad swap.  Apex cycle Shop makes a billet aluminum brake reservoir cover that updated the look of the integrated factory hand controls just a bit. The reality of the dual front disk and rear drum is that the rear does very little unless you are literally standing on the rear brake pedal. The rear brake is better with new drum shoes, but I wanted a lot better brake bit up front than what a dual piston caliber can offer. Currently I am working to retrofit a set of used R1100RT Brembo four piston calipers to further increase braking performance and will post how that works out.

SUSPENSION UPGRADES - The thirty-five year old front suspension was in delightfully great condition thanks to the previous owner’s meticulous maintenance, but I really wanted a vintage look bike with modern suspension. The seals were good, the shocks were smooth, and there were no leaks. The easy route was just a simple shock fluid swap which was done shortly after purchase, but if a builder wants a more modern and advanced race suspension feel, aftermarket suspension upgrades are available.

It used to be that you were stuck with whatever front fork setup the bike came with but now, we have other options to upgrade the existing valving to modern compression and damping levels. My plan is to use RaceTech Gold Valves which are one company that offers a stock suspension Gold Valve upgrade insert which adds adjustable compression and dampening to a stock BMW R80 front shocks. The RaceTech upgrade delivers nearly the same performance as a new advanced fork. Instead of a $3000 Suzuki GSXR front shock swap, as is often done, a builder can drop about $700 for a complete front fork upgrade with RaceTech including upgraded progressive springs, seals, valving, refinishing and anodizing the fork stanchions - in essence a new fork set. As the build progresses, the fork will go to Racetech.

At the rear, the process is more of an easy shock swap to an upgrade to a current suspension.  I am still deciding between the $500 YSS and $800 Ohlins rear shocks which deliver tunable preload adjustment. The Ohlins are kind of winning in my mind. With the RachTech and Ohlins suspension setup this has delivered a giant jump in both ride quality and cornering confidence for other builders.

PAINT & FINISHING TOUCHES - The next steps after all the components were fitted and needed mounting tabs were added, removing any extra OEM factory tabs were ground off to clean up the frame, the frame will get powder coated. Yes, it is a pain in the butt to strip the frame and replace all the bearings, reassemble and re-wire but there is nothing else that transforms a bike like a strip and powder coat. In the case of this old BMW’s which has a few areas which have been brush painted over the years, powder coat will be a substantial upgrade to the finish.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action - Redemption

Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action - Redemption

About a year ago Ultimatum asked me to beta test their original Ultimatum Precision action and I had a boatload of problems. For the precision shooter, a stock Remington 700 action with a custom barrel is not enough to deliver the accuracy they need. Usually competitive shooters who use Remington 700 receivers have the perfectly decent attached barrel pulled off (for a charge), and then have milling done to true/square the action typically referred to as blueprinting the action (for a charge). At that point they have invested $300-$700 in a Remington 700 action plus another $350 worth of gunsmithing and that now $1000+ rig does not include any bolt, scope rail, or recoil lug upgrades - they still do not have a competition receiver that has all the extra features of high-tier custom receivers.

For the precision shooting crowd they often turn to custom billet Remington 700 format “style” receivers from Defiance, Stiller, Big Horn, or in this case Ultimatum. These high tier custom receivers usually offer a giant jump in overall stiffness and accuracy, have been engineered to be perfectly straight and true, are manufactured to very high precision tolerances, and usually offer included upgrades such as thicker recoil lugs, short throw bolts, recoil-proof scope bases, three-lug bolts, Savage pre-fit style barrel threads, improved dual ejectors, and simplified bolt disassembly that does not require a vise and special tools. 

In short they are well worth the extra money and easier to home gunsmith but they are not cheap with retail prices ranging from $1000-$2000 depending on options. Ultimatum’s first attempt at a competitive precision receiver in late 2016 was a valiant attempt, however there were certainly some areas for improvement that we have seen in this new Deadline action.

The initial build with the first production units from Ultimatum netted my single most unpleasant and problem riddled build ever. To date it is the only gun build which I wanted to throw through a wall and smash in the street due to the wrong published barrel specs, inability to be fit to an aftermarket stock, and the requirement of basically hand fitting every single aspect of the gun from front to back. It was not pleasant, but Black Hole Weaponry came to the rescue and cut down, rethreaded, custom fit and installed the original custom BHW barrel they had made for the build. 

That original build has been an amazing shooting and stunning looking precision 6.5 Creedmoor rifle ever since. I provided the feedback to Ultimatum and they noted they would work out all the issues and get back to me with a new updated action mid-2018. The result is the new $1498 (CAN) Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action available in both short and long actions which resolves about every issue I experienced with the old design - in short, “Redemption”.

The barrel threads on the Ultimatum Deadline action are no longer some goofy-ass long threaded hybrid Remington Savage barrel thread, but now just a standard 1-1/16″ x 20 thread designed to accept any Savage pre-fit small shank barrels. Technically Ultimatum made this change in the later batches of the original design, however not in the initial release I was testing. The beauty of the Savage style barrel and barrel nut design is that it completely eliminates the dreaded chamber reaming process for barrel fitting and headspacing and allows for DIY barrel swaps. As long as the barrel is small shank Savage pre-fit compatible it can get swapped any time the heart desires. In short if you can install an AR15 barrel you can install a Savage pre-fit style barrel. A highly summarized install process is to screw in the barrel until stopped by the go-gauge, tighten up barrel nut and verify the headspace to assure the bolt fails to close with the no-go headspace gauge. The great thing is that the process is repeatable with the same accuracy from swap to swap assuming owners headspace the same way each time.

Another issue solved by the Deadline action was to loosen up the tolerances a little to get the barrel threading into a useable spec that does not require a gunsmith. Even after we figured out the wrong threading problem on the old V1 version, the specs were still too tight on the receiver threads and it required a lot of barrel thread tuning with an adjustable threading die to get the barrel to fit due to the super tight thread tolerances on the receiver. On this new Deadline action version, both barrels from Northland Shooter Supply threaded up perfectly with just copper anti-seize without any issues or need for gunsmith tuning; just as it should be for the DIY barrel swapper.

The Savage Prefit style barrel threading allows the home DIY builder to buy whatever barrel they want and install it at home. All owners need for an easy switch barrel set up is the receiver barrel tightening tool and barrel nut wrench from Ultimatum, a set of headspace gauges; I use the $80 three piece set of Forster Go, No-Go and Field chamber gauges from Fulton Armory.

A huge advantage to the Ultimatum is just the extended barrel nut which prevents removing the scope just to swap barrels. Otherwise the barrel nut is too short and requires complete scope rail removal just to tighten the barrel. The long extended fully Savage 1-1/16″ x 20 barrel thread compatible Ultimatum Barrel nut really is a must for anyone with an extended rail receiver setup. Ultimatum offers a Extended Nut and Wrench combo.

Other options on the new Ultimatum Deadline action include right and left hand models as well as single or multi-shot receivers. The huge list of features on the new Deadline action meets expectations for a premium tier precision rifle receiver and adds a lot of features that are quite innovative.

Sturdy Rear Tang - A sturdy rear tang ensures that the action is seated properly in the chassis/stock and that the action remains as stiff and true as possible. This helps to maintain accuracy. The bottom profile of the Deadline receiver was also reshaped to more of a standard Remington 700 profile receiver which means there will be a lack of cursing as you attempt to mount it into most aftermarket precision rifle stocks. Some stocks may still need a little tweaking, but nothing like the oddball receiver footprint of the old design. 
Old Action Left, New Deadline on
Right with Rem 700 profile tang

Is is not as fat, but still thicker in the right places for improved rigidity while still offering chassis fitment compatibility. The old version’s tang and recoil lug was just a tad too thick and required a lot of stock modification. Though I did not measure the differences between the old and new version oversized barrel lug, the new version did not seem to have the compatibility issues with the chassis I had on hand like the previous version. The Tang is clearly smaller with more footprint similarity to factory actions which was a great move.

20 MOA Aluminium Picatinny Rail - Deigned to handle the heaviest optics on the market, the rail features 6x #8-40 mounting screws and recoil-proofing with 2 dowel pins. If you are a picky precision shooter, you may want to increase or decrease rail rise. Many premium receivers include integral rails, but the Ultimatum Deadline retains the recoil-proof benefits while still being able to choose different rail cants. Of note the top rail is proprietary. The ridiculously priced $298 CAN 4340 steel 20 MOA version upgrade is available and eventually a 30 MOA version as well. I would hope the price of rails comes down a bit in price because I could buy a complete Remington non-Barreled action for that. Thankfully, even the immortals in the group who shoot with the gods would be hard pressed to justify upgrading the very robust included 20 MOA aluminum rail.

Minimal Ejection Port - The action uses a minimally sized ejection port in order to maximize the strength and stiffness. I did not have any issues with ejection thanks to the very powerful dual ejectors on the bolt.

Removable Floating 3 Lug Bolt Head - The floating bolt head design ensures that the bolt face is always perfectly aligned with the axis of the barrel, further helping accuracy. The bolt head is also removable and replaceable without tools meaning that caliber changes are made easy and quick - no Remington bolt disassembly vice tool needed. I would highly recommend investing in both bolt faces should you want to expand to other barrel calibers later on. The bolt comes standard with a dual ejector system which launches round authoritatively about four feet away.

4340 Steel Construction with Liquid Hard Nitride Coating - 4340 HTSR steel is used for the action housing. 4240 HSTR is a heat treated and stress relieved very tough high tensile steel. The hard nitride improves wear, corrosion and chemical resistance. Surface hardness is also improved with the hard nitride finish.

Gas Blocking Shroud with Anti-rotational Lock System - The shroud to action housing fitment acts as a "wall", restricting any residual blow-back gases. The notch at the top of the bolt shroud locks rotational forces during cocking, minimizing friction to allow a lighter bolt lift. Early on Ultimatum did a lot of work to assure safety with the bolt while drastically lightening its initial bolt lift effort. The V1 bolt lift was a beast, the later bolt versions were great and the Deadline carries though that work with even more refinement. A lot of R&D went into just the bolt and throw.

Integral Recoil Lug - The recoil lug is machined into the action to maximize strength and to provide additional thread interface to the barrel. It is 5/16" thick. On a factory Remington 700 action the recoil lug is held in place with the barrel threading tension. Most pro precision shooters note factory recoil lugs as a big point of potential weakness for accuracy degradation. Most premium tier receiver manufacturers now offer one piece integrated lugs to deliver more rigidity and Ultimatum included that design aspect in this design.

AICS and AW magazine compatible - Thank God. The feed port on the new Deadline action was specifically designed to accept AICS and AW style magazines now… before it was not, so I am super excited about this feature. As with any custom precision rifle build, you will likely still need to either modify the magazine latch length on the chassis or the magazine catch to assure proper magazine fitment. Expect that modification any time you add bottom metal or use aftermarket chassis for any receiver manufacturer unless you just get lucky.

Remington 700 Trigger Interface - With a Remington 700 trigger interface, many trigger options are available. Early on I received a series of replacement trigger hangers from Ultimatum on the old V1 as they constantly tweaked the design. The trigger hanger on this new Deadline action was spot on and had no fitment issues with snugly mounting the awesome 2lb Timney flat trigger bow match trigger I used on this build.

60 Degree Bolt Throw - With a 3 lug design, the bolt throw can be kept to 60 degrees, ensuring quick operation.

Battery Safety - The firing pin can only protrude the bolt face if the lugs are locked and in battery. This safety mechanism ensures that if the bolt head is not properly installed, the rifle does not fire.

For this build I wanted to give the new action a lot of testing in a realistic situation of a switch barrel rig. The idea of a switch barrel rig is being able to swap barrels and calibers easily leveraging a single investment in a high quality receiver, trigger, optic and stock to shoot multiple calibers with just a barrel swap. The job of a premium receiver is to make that barrel and caliber swap as simple and consistent as possible.

In the case of this Ultimatum based rig, I ordered both .223 and .308 bolt faces which can easily be swapped without tools or a bolt vice. 

With this flexibility, the Ultimatum Deadline setup can support pretty much any short action compatible caliber including .223 bolt face calibers like 17 Remington, 204 Ruger, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, 6x45, 6 & 6.5mm TCU, 20 Tactical, 20 Practical and .308 bolt face calibers like 225 Winchester, 22/250 Remington, 6mm Norma BR, 243 Winchester, 250 Savage, 260 Remington, 6.5/284 Norma, 7/08 Remington, 284 Winchester, 300 Savage, 308 Winchester, 338 Federal, 35 Remington, 358 Winchester, 6 & 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Lapua, 6XC… just to name a few.

In this case I choose two popular calibers that showcased the precision of this type of rig without resorting to the always super accurate Creedmore or TCU chamberings. Most people expect Creedmore and TCU rounds to deliver very consistent sub-1-inch range, but most people are very impressed to see those reliable tiny little groups from .223 and .308 rounds. The great thing about a switch barrel rig is that an owner can just keep adding barrels and length for the calibers they want. Likely I will add both .308 and 6.5 Creedmore with nice long barrels as well.

To further challenge this rig from an accuracy perspective, I choose very short 17-inch custom barrel lengths. The long range precision guys usually opt for 20+ inch barrels to deliver tiny little groups and higher velocity, however my intent was use with a suppressor and adding another 9-inches on top of a 21-inch barrel makes for a gigantic gun. A multitude of precision shooters recommended a 16 or 17-inch barrel for suppressor use and long 20+ inch barrels without suppressors. With a switch barrel rig I can have it all.

In theory anyway I have crippled the potential accuracy with “imprecise old-school standard calibers” and with short barrel on an otherwise stunning rig equipped with a Bushnell Elite Tactical 6-24 Riflescope, KRG Whiskey 3 billet chassis, Timney flat bladed 2-lb match trigger, YHM Phantom QD muzzle brake, YHM Titanium Phantom Suppressor, and of course the Ultimatum Deadline action. The Criterion and Shilen barrels from Northland Shooter Supply though would deliver the best the .223 and .308 chamberings could offer.

Criterion and Shilen are both very well regarded barrel manufacturers in the precision shooter circuit but they primarily only wholesale. Both companies utilize Northland Shooter Supply for customer sales which I will admit was super easy to deal with and had plenty of knowledge about both barrel manufacturers. Northland suggested I try one of each barrel and from my perspective these two companies are very tightly matched in quality, precision and accuracy. At my level of shooting it would be a tough argument to pick one over the other. Both offer stainless barrels with extended barrel life, both appear to have the same level of finish quality, both offer match grade hand lapped barrels with 11-degree target crowns or recessed hunting crowns, and both are nearly identically priced. Flip a coin and you can't go wrong either way. I did order Northland’s barrel nuts, however as noted install would have required scope base removal to use them. I will ask Northland is they can offer extended barrel nuts for Savage barrels since it seems everyone now have extended rails on their actions.

My 17-inch barrels were chambered in .308 1:10 twist and .223 Wylde 1:8. Northland Shooter Supply offers both tapered and contoured barrels for Shilen and Criterion however I choose simple but heavy full bull barrel profiles. My hope was for a .223 Wylde barrel which shot 40gr Hornady V-Max rounds equally as well as heavier 70+ grain bullets. I am happy to report that the .223 Wylde Criterion barrel have delivered 100-yard .279-inch groups with Hornady 40-gr V-Max and .306-inch groups with 73-gr Hornady ELD match rounds. There have been more than a few groups even smaller than that which were blown by a bit too much excitement. At a recent prairie dog shoot a friend borrowed the rifle and easily handled a multitude of critters with ranges extending out to just over 400-yards on a fairly windy day.

The .308 barrel I am still testing through various ammo and reloads, however I have been pleasantly surprised with .25-inch sized (and smaller) groups with 168gr Federal Gold Medal Sierra Match King ammo. This build will easily keep up with my FN SPR A3G with the same ammo and it does it with a 17-inch barrel vs 24-inch barrel on the FN - for reference the FN SPR A3G guarantees .25-inch groups or better at 100-yards.

From my perspective, Ultimatum has achieved Redemption. They have covered off on all the design elements and customer service points the initial customers provided and they have one heck of an action for just under $1500 - CAN. They have also thought through a lot of pain points that I have not seen addressed in the market such as the extended barrel nut to prevent removing the scope rail for every barrel swap.

Timney, Bushnell, KRG, and YHM delivered all outstanding products which made this rig perform amazing, but the Northland Shooter Supply really help to showcase what a switch barrel rig like this can deliver. Swap out to a longer barrel in a cheater calibers like Creedmore or TCU chambering and all those already amazing group sizes noted are likely to jump in half. In fact many of Northland’s customers have references noting single hole groups with 6.5 Creedmore and other benchrest rounds. If you want a precision barrel, I cannot recommend Northland Shooter Supply enough.

Top tier precision billet receivers like this Deadline action are not just cool looking, they actually are good investments if you are serious about accuracy. If you want to get into precision shooting, a Remington 700 SPS Tactical is a tough setup to beat for the price and can still be enjoyed with all the chassis, trigger and optic upgrades, but stop there because all those parts can move to an action like the Deadline. The jumping off point is when the next upgrade involves gunsmithing of the factory Remington 700 action. That step is just not worth the effort or money, omits the features of high tier receivers for about the same price, offers little savings compared to other options in the market… and from a resale perspective, it will just be another Remington 700 receiver with dubious gunsmithing work. A $1400 receiver may seem expensive initially, but once the lack of gunsmithing both initially and ongoing and the added features, the customized factory Remington receiver is not the deal it initially is perceived as.

Savage barrel prefit receivers add in the value of carrying over the investment in the chassis, optic, trigger, and the receiver itself with just the barrel swap. Once you get the hang of swapping barrels, the process only requires about fifteen minutes including torquing back down the scope and chassis to spec and setting the scope zero of the next caliber. Of note, as long as I am consistent with my scope and chassis torque setting and track my rezero settings for each caliber, there has been no issues with returning to perfect zero between barrel swaps. My recommendation is to make the jump to a high end billet receiver such as this Ultimatum Deadline action, choose a high quality barrel, and invest once in great components that can support you regardless of calibers you might want.


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