Best Build Ever

Sean Utley Bolt Guns Leave a Comment

As objective firearms reviewers, we’re urged to refrain from definitive statements such as never, best, or only. Why? Well, you’ll eventually change your mind or a savvy reader (read troll) will call you out on it when they or someone they know has an experience that is not identical to yours, given the same product. Well, we are blatantly breaking this industry rule. After completing this rifle build, there is no reason not to!

Before anything, I’m a true gun enthusiast to the depth of my soul, just like many of you. As gun enthusiasts, we are always searching for and waiting for the coolest thing ever. The only problem is that when it arrives, it’s usually short-lived or missed completely because, well— we’re looking for the coolest thing ever.  It is a vicious cycle and one that is difficult to break.

Thankfully, my gun interests continue to evolve. At one time, I was only interested in pistols. After my first carbine class, pistols were relegated to a tool that was only necessary if my rifle was down or unavailable. Training with the AR15 became my sole purpose for shooting—until I took my first hit from the long-range needle. That was it. A junkie was born.

At 740 yards, I watched a 190 gr. .30 caliber projectile connect solidly with steel. I saw the trace. What? You can see bullets in flight? Apparently, you can. That experience set into motion, a unquenchable thirst for knowledge about all things precision.

Remember The Alamo

A few months ago, Curtis Custom and Alamo Precision Rifles released the Axiom receiver. BrassTacs was handed the first sample for review. Even though it wasn’t connected to a completed rifle, it was still amazing in its inception; 60-degree throw, Defiance Manufacturing like tolerances, roller bearing cocking piece, and under $1000. Too good to be true, right? Well sort of. Because today Alamo Precision Rifles raised the price of the Axiom to $1095.00. In my opinion, that may still be too low.

An action of such as this deserves only the best components for its completion. Not only that, the craftsmanship needed to be of exceptionally high standards as well. Because of this, I turned to Saltzman Gun Works. In full disclosure, Saltzman Gun Works has been my gunsmith for over 10 years. They’ve fixed more of my screw ups than my wife has. I’ve never had one of their complete custom rifles, mainly because I didn’t think I could afford it and in some way thought myself undeserving as if I wasn’t a good enough shooter for one of their builds. If you want to flash and flare, you can look elsewhere, but if you want real smithing and machining to exacting standards, then these guys are for you. Their list of clienteles stretches from champion F-class shooters to Elite LE and military units. I’ll leave it at that.

The SGW R2 chassis is solid and folds making it conducive for travel and rapid deployment.

Not only did Saltzman Gun Works build the gun but they also designed the chassis system in which the action rests. The SGW R2 chassis represents an evolution in the precision rifle chassis. Only the SGW R2 chassis features a built-in recoil reduction system. The butt of the patent-pending chassis allows 1.5 inches of travel and can be adjusted for stiffness. And while it might not be best utilized to its full capabilities in a 6.5 Creedmoor, it still works. And it’s nothing short of amazing in a build chambered for something larger like the 300 WM.

No other chassis offers a recoil reduction like the SGW R2. It’s performance is outstanding in heavier hitting rifles. The technology behind it removes intimidation and pain from large caliber rifles.

The chassis was developed by Randy Saltzman, a now-retired LE sniper with a long history of precision rifle competition. Saltzman grew up behind a rifle, developing amazing skills over the years which eventually lead to sniper instruction. Years of shooting and teaching exposed the challenges that arise from shooting heavy recoiling guns for extended periods of time. Recognizing this, Saltzman set out to address these issues.

While the recoil reduction properties of the R2 chassis are the heart of it, ergonomics and comfort are equally abundant. Construction is from 6061 aluminum and when shouldered it feels amazingly solid and makes entire rifle feel like one precision unit. It side folds for portability as well and is adjustable for cheek weld height and length of pull.  The buttstock is flat on the bottom with a hand hook and accepts a Picatinny section for placement of a monopod if you so desire.

You can change the forend from carbon fiber to a more traditional flat-bottomed handguard that does not encompass the barrel. The CF forend features M-LOK attachment configuration and has a point for night vision device attachment. It also accepts AI and the more cost-conscious Magpul magazines.

The ABC’s of Accuracy

Every component in this company must be top tier and the barrel is no exception. American Barrel Company is one of the best barrel makers that you’ve likely never heard of. ABC makes barrels for the most discerning shooters; benchrest enthusiasts. Before meeting the owner of ABC, benchrest shooting was literally just a term to me. I had no idea what it entailed. Frankly, it just sounded detailed and boring. After a tour of the shop, they put me on a benchrest gun where I got a short but effective education on real accuracy. Trial by fire, if you will.

ABC barrels are found affixed to some of the worlds best shooters rifles.

ABC barrels are button barrels that are hand lapped. ABC focuses intently on concentricity and produces some of the straightest barrels that your money can buy. ABC is a small company so available twist rates aren’t as abundant as with some other barrel makers, but popular twist rates are available and the twists are chosen based on endless experience shooting different projectiles and placing them one on top of the other, on top of the other.

 A variety of different fluting is available at an additional charge should you have specific fluting requirements

Remember this name: American Barrel Company. Easily one of the best barrels your money can buy. Bore concentricity is king

We decided on a 22-inch barrel because we planned on keeping it suppressed all the time and wanted to try to keep the length under control. The barrel is an M24 profile because it’s intended to stay on the ground and not be carried any further than from a vehicle to a shooting mat and back. The rate of twist is 1:8. It’s stout and has a beautiful spiral flute.





Rifle Accouterments

When you’re going all out on a build you gotta go all out on the optic and the B.E.A.S.T. from Nightforce is all out. 25x magnification and a Horus H59 is a must.

This is a go-big or go home type of project so in that vein a Nightforce BEAST with Horus H-59 reticle was our optics choice. The BEAST is big and heavy and contributes 3 pounds to the 18 plus pounds of this rifle. But it’s also crisp and clear glass and guarantees we’ll always have enough scope for whatever the task may be. I’ve never doubted nor questioned Nightforce scopes, they’ve never failed to perform as they should.

Timney triggers have always had a great feel but on this gun, the 2 lb-511 felt heavy while shooting. The trigger was maxed out in safe adjustments, next time we will order a 1.5 lb setting from the factory

The bang switch is a Timney 511 set at 2 pounds which is as low as we could safely set it. I wish it could go a little lighter only because at 2 pounds it feels like it requires a mountain of force. Maybe an upgrade to a Calvin Elite will alleviate some of this. But that’s all for the future that you will be sure to enjoy once we pull the trigger…see what we did there?!

Dead Air Armament is providing the hush with a Sandman Ti. It’s direct thread attachment style, and good looks are perfect for this build. The performance with any of Dead Air’s suppressors has never been an issue so there is no reason to believe this one will be any different.

The BrassTacs

This wasn’t a full test of the SGW 6.5 Creedmoor. A full test would include velocities and multiple test groups across a variety of ammunition. In my haste and excitement over this rifle, I instead went out with just a few rounds on the barrel and proceeded to shoot 5-shot groups with several different types of ammunition. My gut was telling me that the American Barrel Co. barrel, was going to wield solid accuracy that wasn’t limited to one or two brands/weights. I was right. That means if you choose to stay with factory offerings you can likely find a good performer across different price points. If you want to train with a less expensive load so that you can save your high dollar match ammo for other things, it’s possible with this barrel.

Across 8 different brands and weights of factory ammunition, the SGW rifle averaged .565 inches from 100 yards. I left out several brands and weights, mainly because I didn’t have them on hand. Either way, this was an impressive feat for the gun. I’ve seen many rifles that only like one or two brands and weights. This one allows the shooter to have options.



Group (inches)
Hornady 147 gr. ELD Match .318” * 4 rounds into .105”
Federal Premium GMM Berger 130 gr .578”
Hornady 140 gr ELD Match .512
Hornady American Gunner 140 gr BTHP .555
Winchester 140 gr. BTHP Match .607
Prime Ammunition 130 gr .412
Federal Premium Big Game 120 gr. .779 *4 rounds into .420”
Nosler Ballistic Tip 140 gr. .612

Nosler’s 140 gr. Custom Competition was also tested but for some reason, the primers were so hard that we couldn’t get them to consistently ignite even with multiple strikes on the same primer.

The accuracy table can’t tell you how smooth the Axiom action is. In fact, it’s hard to put into words. I heard a friend describe it this way. “Have you ever left a stick of butter out on your kitchen counter when it’s like 75 degrees in your house? It’s butter-smooth like that”. I must agree with him. The Axiom is amazing and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If it came in a left-handed version, the Axiom might be the only action I’d ever use—no joke. And that’s my gripe with it. To keep such an incredible action from any shooter is a travesty.

The Saltzman Gun Works chassis is as impressive as the action, and I don’t think the build would be quite as incredible without it. It makes it a solid platform that gives the shooter confidence. And in the larger calibers, felt recoil concerns are all be completely eliminated.

We’ll have the SGW/AB Co, gun for a while and will test it further, but there is no doubt that it’s a performer. This is just the type of rifle that everyone should want—one that is far more capable than the operator and one that will allow you to grow with it over time. This is a rifle that you can own for the rest of your life and just re-barrel as needed. Its broad-range accuracy means you can buy from the shelf or hand load for the most precise applications.


This may indeed be the finest bolt action rifle I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting up to this point!

About This Author

Sean Utley

Sean has been in the firearms industry media since 2008 and pulls from a long, firearms-focused history which includes suppressors and other NFA weapons. Now a self-proclaimed long range geek, he continues to expand explore other facets of this enormous firearms industry.

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