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There are various ways to acquire a custom gun, and I seem to have gotten one by default.


The firearm in question is a Savage Model 110 Tactical Rifle in .25/06, of which I have written before. I got it in 1997, and I grew fond of it because it would really shoot. But then it started misfiring, so I replaced the firing-pin spring. Then I found I could no longer tolerate the ugly black plastic stock, so that was replaced with a McMillan HTG camo fiberglass stock. Since we were meddling with the gun anyway, I reflected that the trigger (this was pre- Accu-Trigger) was somewhat less than wonderful, so that went and a Rifle Basix trigger took its place.

This left the barrel, and after 13 years of steady shooting it had no rifling for an inch ahead of the lede, and was alligatored halfway up the bore. So John Blauvelt, my gunsmith, put in a call to McGowen Barrels in Kalispell, MT, for a Savage Pre-Fit. McGowen’s Pre-Fits have all the work done in advance–button rifling, target crowning, hand-lapping, finish, threading, chambering–and all your gunsmith has to do is unscrew the Savage locking collar, remove the old barrel, set the headspacing, and screw the locking collar back on. It’s about 15 minutes’ work, and McGowen can turn out a Pre-Fit very quickly. A chrome-moly Pre-Fit is $260; 416R stainless is $289, and McGowen also makes Pre-Fits for the Remington 700, Marlin XR-7, Ruger 10/22, and various AR-15s.

Despite their very modest price, McGowen barrels are beautifully made. The bores are immaculate from chamber to muzzle. The barrel I got promises to be a world-beater. The second load I tried in it (CCI 250, H4831, Federal brass, 100-grain Swift Sciroccos) averages .408-inch, and the thing isn’t fully broken in yet.