Building a Magazine-Fed Sniper Rifle

A magazine-fed bolt-action sniper rifle.

Checking zero after installing the Surgeon magazine well. The addition functioned perfectly, picking up fresh rounds and throwing empties. The magazines also dropped freely and were easily replaced.

A removable magazine on a sniper rifle provides one more level of versatility in the field. Magazine-fed rifles allow for faster reloads and for the quick selection of different rounds as the mission dictates. These are good options to have and you are starting to see them appear on rifles like the Ruger Scout and McMillan’s Tac 30, which is supplied with a five-round box.  All the semi-auto sniper systems carry a removable box.

So, what if, after weighing all the pros and cons, you decide you need a magazine-fed sniper rifle, but already have a Remington 700 BDL? And further, there is no money in the budget for a new rifle and all the brownie points with the sheriff or the chief have been used up. You can build your own, or show this article to a competent gunsmith and have him do it.
It starts by opening the Brownell’s catalog.  Brownell’s carries a variety of systems to change a BDL over to a magazine-fed gun. I like the unit made by Surgeon Rifles.  It is a well-made lower end that replaces the bottom trigger guard and floorplate of the BDL to accept a magazine of either five- or 10 rounds.  This particular unit accepts magazines made by Accuracy International and I found these to be well-made, of high quality with a composite follower in a steel body.

The magazine release is on the front of the trigger guard and is accessible from the right or left side.  Although I prefer steel bottom end metal on a professional rifle the aluminum trigger guard and frame of the Surgeon product is thick and robust.  It is finished in flat black.

Magazine-fed sniper rifle components.

The old BDL door (top) the new well and the five- and 10-round magazines.

Before you start, realize that the stock needs some modification to accept the system. Be sure this is what you want because once you start cutting, you can’t go back.  But one bonus is that you also get a set of aluminum pillars to pillar bed the action if you need to.

Here’s how I did it. After making the rifle safe I took the action out of the stock and removed the factory floorplate. I secured the stock in a vise on the bench with the bottom up so I could take the Surgeon trigger guard and center it over the existing hole to mark out the material that needed to be removed.  It looked like I would need to take off around .100 or so off each side and front and back.  The curved areas needed to be enlarged, the front and rear tang notch would need to be widened and the front would need to be lengthened quite a bit.

I dropped the screws into the trigger guard so they could line up with the holes through the stock.  The kit comes with a set of pillars if you are putting it into a wooden stock and want to pillar bed it first or on the off chance the holes don’t line up in the stock you are using they can be drilled out and centered with the pillars glued in.  The stock that I was going to modify was an HS Precision which has an aluminum block molded into the composite and machined to fit the barreled action.  As it turned out the holes lined up when I was finished milling out the magazine well and I didn’t need the pillars.

I marked the stock on the bottom so I put it in the vise with the bottom up and was planning on milling it out by hand.  The cut must go all the way through the stock to the area under the channel where the round part of the action rests.  This will take an end mill at least 1 ½ inches long and a 2-inch cutting surface is better.  I cut mine on one side and then flipped the stock over in the vise and cut the other side because the longest mill I had was just 1 inch.  It worked, but I would recommend getting the longer mill and doing it in one cut.  The mill diameter I used was .5 inch and it made the round sections fit perfectly to the part.

I removed small amounts of material at a time and check the part regularly.  This will bring the hole size up slowly for a precise fit.  Should you get a little wild and make a gap between the metal and the stock it is easily filled in with some Acra Glas from Brownells.  The stock is composite and after the crack is filled and the paint is touched up there will be nothing to notice.  Keep diligent and go slow and the cut will come out perfect.

The fitted magazine well.

The fitted magazine well.

Once the cut is complete and the part fits snugly,  put the action back in the stock and put in the action bolts.  If you deepened the tang slots to flush up the trigger guard to the bottom of the stock the screws may be a tad long and interfere with the action of the bolt.  They will need to be shortened up either with a saw, a grinder, or both.  A dab of cold blue on the end of the screws will keep them protected from corrosion.

Put the action and stock together and check the workings of the bolt.  Make sure it picks up a fresh round from the magazine and throws out the empties.  Also make sure the magazines fit freely into the well and that they drop out easily with gravity when you hit the release.  The only thing left to do is take it to the range and check the zero.

Adding a detachable magazine system to the bolt gun can be a great way to increase firepower or provide the versatility of changing rounds to meet the needs of the mission. All it takes is a little skill in the shop, or gunsmith you trust and you can upgrade your rifle without breaking the budget.


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