'Evolution' of a Cheap Rifle: or 'Improving' a Howa Varmint

Sometime in late 2013, I got a cheap second hand Howa 223rem Varmint. Now, the gun shot ok but as I am a tinkerer and Tasmanian gun laws allow us to do our own work on firearms so long as we aren’t altering the category of them, I decided to do a bit of “fixing it up”.

Firstly, I figured it needed bedding and the nasty, flexy plastic stock needed stabilising or "stiffening: so that’s what I did. I searched online and found Nathan Foster’s bedding instructional videos and his bedding kit at ballisticstudies.com/ . Nathan’s instructions are comprehensive so I suggest you check them out before attempting a bedding job yourself. Here are some pics of the steps I took to bed the Howa for the first time (and subsequent times: I have now bedded it 3 times for various reasons and I will likely bed it again soon, as I am getting a new stock!):

The inside of a Howa Hogue stock as bought… geez my hand made work bench looks spiffy new there!

Here I’m “keying” the stock so that my epoxy can make a mechanical bond to the rather greasy nylon or what ever cheap plastic Hogue use for their stocks…

All the highlighted bits are indication where to plug up the stock with plastecein. You also want to tidy everything up with acetone before you go pouring epoxy anywhere.


The next few are showing how I plug and tape everything I don’t want epoxy on…you also want to liberally apply release agent so that your metal work doesn’t get suck in…

The tape on the side rails provides relief so that the rifle doesn’t bind in the bedding and recoils and returns to battery well. The tape around the pilot bolts centres them in the king screw holes, again ensuring that your bedding is not fouling and providing room for recoil and return to battery…

The piece of tape at the rear of the action again makes a bit of relief so the action can smoothly recoil in the stock.

@1Fatman, I’d happily recommend the ‘MatchGrade’ bedding compound as I have used it a couple of times and it is a good product but last time I bedded a rifle I ordered ‘Devcon Plastic Steel’ and it also works well and I still have enough to do a number of other rifles.
The carbon ribbon I used to lay up in the fore-end channel to provide a bit of extra stiffness.

Finished bedding. A bit rough but pretty good for my first real bedding job (I had played around with my old 22lr a few times but not with proper gear, just builder’s bog). The highlighted bits show where you need to relieve the bedding by removing any hard and sharp edges. Again, this is a recoil and battery issue…



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Good job. How long did it take you and how did you find the bedding compound to work with?
I have been thinking about doing it to my 6.5x55 but have just been busy with everything else.

You really need to allow a good part of a day to do it properly. I’ll add more after lunch… feeding my face right now! :pie::pie::pie:

So I might document my next bedding job in detail but the next thing I wanted to do to the Howa was to balance it out a bit. A barrel heavy rifle is actually pretty good for a steady aim but the Howa Varmint are just too front heavy, as you will see in the pics below (well, heavy full stop, which my next trick didn’t alleviate at all! LOL).

I had some left over roof flashing lead, so I made a good a nice roll out of it and stuffed it in the hollow butt-stock of the Hogue. Made for one heavy pig of a gun but balanced very nicely with ever such a front heavy bias and as I never really carried the gun far, the extra weight didn’t hurt too much.

This is how the Howa Varmint rifles balance, sans scope and recoil pad… (shit I’ve stacked on some weight in the last 5 years!)

Making my lead jelly roll…

My little lead jelly roll all beaten into shape…

As you can see, it balanced out quite nicely.

Next thing I wanted to do was get my comb height set so my head dropped directly behind the scope with out any screwing about for the shot, so I made up a bit of a farm yard solution.

Hope you’re all enjoying the journey of my long suffering Howa.
To be continued…

@Gwion, did you do anything else to
smooth the bedding out as in filling in the little hollows etc?
I would also guess that you could “sand” it to give an even glasser finish.

I remember being that size once… :joy::joy::joy::innocent::sob::sob::sob:

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You really don’t want to play with the bedding at all, other than relieving any edges that might cause the action to bind or catch. All of the work is in the prep. Those air bubbles will make no difference to functionality because you have created a smooth bedding plane of the action to recoil and return to battery.

The bubbles and such were due to inexperience with processes. On subsequent jobs i have illiminated these issues to a greater extent by vibrating the epoxy pot prior to pouring it and also vibrating the whole rifle during initial cure. This causes the air pockets to work their way out while the epoxy is still fluid.

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Thinking of buying the exact same rifle…does it shoot 40gn bullets well?

Mine was a bit long in the throat to seat 40gn bullets for the results I like. That barrel is now on a zastava left hand mini action and has been rechamberd with a shorter leed. I gave the stock to a dude on another forum (swapped it for an unbedded stock, then ended up giving that stock to some other guy from some other forum :laughing::face_with_monocle:)… the action was fitted with a heavy arsed 7mm barrel with the bolt face turned out to take 308 case head and it shoots like stink. :laughing::laughing::laughing::wink::+1:

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