Rifle action bedding
This custom Mauser is solidly bedded under the action and the initial millimetres of the barrel but the barrel channel has been opened up to allow the rest of the barrel to float

Rifle bedding: to float or not to float?

Q: I would appreciate your opinion about free-floating or bedding a rifle barrel to the forend tip.

Most gun writers seem to favour bedding the action and first 38mm of the barrel in epoxy and leaving the rest free-floating. Some of the older writers recommend fully bedding the barrel, while others say the barrel should receive some upward pressure just behind the forend tip.

They don’t all agree on the subject. Can you tell me which method you consider best?

– Noel Maxwell

A: There is no absolute answer to your question, since there are factors which exert an influence for any given rifle.

In my experience, a rifle will hold its zero and give more consistent accuracy if it is free-floated. All my guns are free-floated.

Most synthetic stocked rifles shoot best with the barrel floated, but there are exceptions. If the barrel is very slender or has some internal stress problems, some support and/or upward pressure may be needed to improve its accuracy.

If the rifle has a wood stock, I start with a pressure pad just behind the forend tip. If it strings its shots, or misbehaves in some other way, it gets free-floated.

I once owned a Mauser with Sako barrel and walnut thumbhole stock. It wouldn’t group and drove me to distraction. We just couldn’t get it to group until we fully bedded the action and barrel in Acraglass, after which it became a tack-holer.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.