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· The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
39,118 Posts
Chuck, free-floating barrels is a complex subject and I doubt that you will ever find 100% consensus on the issue of accuracy.

In my mind, free-floating barrels is much more useful to maintain a consistent point of impact over the years and seasons. So all my hunting rifles get this treatment. Some became more accurate, some became slightly less, the diffeerence was always well worth the rifle holding a consistent zero. Of course I'm more of a hunter than a target shooter so keep that perspective in mind when you read my thoughts.

You'll find nearly every bench rest competitor using rifles with free-floated barrels. However, they do a lot of work to tune their loads to the particular barrel. Also, bench rest guns by and large have custom, very heavy, solid actions which are designed to support the entire weight of the barrel. And they're almost always using synthetic stocks. Plus, they go through barrels pretty quickly, if it doesn't shoot it gets pulled and something else gets put on the gun. A good bench rest gun may have dozens or more barrels fitted to it over the course of the shooter's career. So it's probably an apples-to-oranges comparison with your older wood-stocked .22.

A good example of the opposite of a bench rest gun is something like the common Ruger 10/22. You have almost all the weight in the barrel, and the action is thin aluminum (and the stock is wood and the triggers are not too good, LOL). I ended bedding the barrel with neutral pressure and floating the action. There is not a whole lot else you can do in this case. It shoots alright and if I can find a better combination, I'll post the results.

With .22s, you have to consider that often you have a fairly heavy barrel around a small hole, as compared to say a .30 cal. rifle. So, barrel vibrations are probably not going to be as significant as a typical sporter.

Anyway, bottom line, if I had a nice old target gun like that, I wouldn't mess with the bedding. My 10/22, no problem, there's plenty more of them around if I screw it up.
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