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 NEW ULTIMATUM DEADLINE ACTION
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.

REDEMPTION FOR THE ULTIMATUM PRECISION DEADLINE ACTION
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.

FINAL THOUGHTS
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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