When pillar bedding gained acceptance, there wasn’t much argument about how to do it right. It seemed almost everyone in the competitive arena used pretty much the same technique. Upon the introduction of precut aluminum pillars, experts began to disagree on what was the proper way to install the pillars. As with standard pillars, the function was the same. That was to insure that the action area of the stock would not compress when tightening down the guard screws. How to best accomplish this became the topic of debate. I won’t suggest that the way we install our pillars is the only right way to do it, though it is our belief that it is the best right way. To be perfectly honest the difference in performance of the different type of techniques used is probably immeasurable. But, we believe that whether or not you can prove your ideas to be the best, it is important to use the technique which you believe produces the best results.
When installing aluminum pillars we measure the depth from the the bottom of the receiver to the bottom of the stock where the pillars are to be installed. We then cut our pillars about .035 shorter than this measurement. We apply the bedding materials to the stock and the receiver to insure uniform non porous surface finish, filling the pillar holes with bedding material. We then place the pillars, with the screws inside of them, in the stock from the bottom of the stock. Holding the barreled action in the vise we bring the stock up to the barreled action and start the screws. We tighten each of the screws a half turn at the time cleaning off the excess material as we go. By placing the pillar in from the bottom, along with the fact that the pillars are shorter than the distance between the bottom of the stock and the action, we create a small space between the top of the pillar and the action. This .035 gap between the pillar and the action is filled with bedding material. By using this technique we have created a completely uniform bedding surface that is 100% consistent.
One of the objectives of glass bedding is to produce a stress free union between the action and the stock. By bedding the entire receiver area (as opposed to the recoil lung and rear tang) we have effectively created the only “perfectly stress free” union possible. By not allowing the aluminum pillar to come in contact with the receiver we have eliminated one possible source for unwanted stress. While some use other techniques, we believe ours to create the perfect relationship between stock and action.
A number of well respected, very successful gunsmiths and gun builders use other techniques than the one described above. As I said they are very successful, the guns they build are very accurate and no one can say that there technique doesn’t work. As I stated we believe; that ours is the best way but realize that having choices is always a good thing, so I’ll describe the other technique most widely used.
Kenny Jarrett of Jarrett Rifles in Jackson South Carolina is one of the most respected gun builder in the south. He specializes in high dollar hunting rifles that perform like benchrest rifles. As a matter of fact he uses “benchrest” techniques for building all his rifles. His pillar bedding differs from ours in that he allows the pillar to come in contact with the receiver. As a matter of fact he counters the top of a 1” diameter aluminum pillar to match the radius of the receiver (that is of course allowing that the receiver is round, he uses almost exclusively Remington 700’s for actions). He had a special tool ground to cut a 1.365 radius so that he could precut his pillars so that they fit a Remington 700. The rest of his technique is very much like ours, but he ends up with this large shiny aluminum piece embedded in the action of the stock. It is very visible when you take the barreled action out of the stock. In the case of ours, we have had customers question whether or not we even put pillars in because with .035 of bedding materials covering the top of the pillar you have to look really close to be able to see it.
There are basically two things we don’t like about this method. As I stated the top of the pillar is contoured to cut a 1.365 radius. Remington receivers are put though a process where they are actually polished by hand. Because each is done independently not all actions are exactly 1.365. They may very as much as .005. I know that doesn’t sound like much, and probably has little to no effect on accuracy, but the purpose of glass bedding is to make a “perfect” union between stock and action. If you were to allow for at least the smallest amount of bedding material to cover the pillar, it would compensate for any irregularities in action diameter and come closer to making that perfect fit.
Secondly, remember what the pillar is designed to accomplish. Its only function is to eliminate any compression of the stock material under the receiver. Why use a 1” pillar when a 3/8” is enough and 1/2” is plenty. In our stocks we prefer not to remove too much of the material from the stock. Remember the front screw is always near the recall lug, in some actions it screws into it, so having as much material in tact is important. Though pillars give the stock compressive strength they don’t offer much in the way of shear strength which is whats needed around the recoil lug.
Lastly, I’m often asked by customers who would like to bed their own stock but lack the confidence to try “pillar” bedding, “do you need pillars?”. Because of the construction techniques and materials we use in making our stocks it is not necessary to use pillars. With the exception of benchrest stocks which are almost always glued in and use a lighter fill in the action area than all other stocks, pillars are unnecessary. Tests have proven that the materials we use to fill the action area of stocks have less that 1% compression at 100lb psi. What the means is that there is no way you are going to be able to torque your guards screws tight enough to compress the material under the action. Why do we put them in every bedding job we do when installing our stocks? Because it’s state of the art. It’s what has become the excepted way to do things. It’s not a fad. It is a valuable technique that is necessary when bedding stocks that use a different method of construction, which almost all other synthetic manufacturers do. It’s just that with ours it is not necessary.