2018 BigJimFish Review blog Grayboe, MPA, Kelbly, Sightron, Athlon.

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
557
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Columbus, OH
#1
What this thread is:

I figured that it was about time to change the name of this thread since it has really become something of a blog chronicling the reviews I am doing this summer. This is not something I have done in the past but, now that I have started it, I think that it has value as a way to keep me on schedule, keep the companies involved updated, and provide a place for you readers to discuss and comment on things. I'll update the thread from time to time with what is going on a well as eventually link to the completed reviews. You guys can comment, question, or sound off as you like.


Sub $1k long range optics reviews:

I should also start with how the reviews happening this year got started. Although I did not go to Shot Show this year I still get all the press releases and such sent my way. This year I noticed both a lot of sub $1,000 ffp mil/mil scopes released and a price drop that put one that was previously well above that point below it. This all made me very interested in just what sort of scope you could now get at for this cost. $1,000 is a lot of money in most folks budgets but has not been a lot for a full featured precision rifle scope in the past. There have certainly been quality optics below that cost there just has not been much with the features necessary for the sort of long range shooting done on the PRS. I was curious if it could be done. I put some feelers out and Sightron as well as the guys from Athlon were interested. I also had the new Nikon Black on my list as well as something from Optisan and Hawke. I will put this stuff together at the end of the year but optics companies are (or ought to be) famously slow getting all their ducks lined up and so these reviews sort of got jumped in line when Grayboe called me up and asked me to write a review of their, at that time not yet released, Ridgeback stock.


Grayboe stock and the rifles that sprouted from it:

The Grayboe project was of interest to me for a variety of reasons. I had heard good things about the Grayboe project and was aware of it's lineage from Ryan McMillan. I have been in touch off and on for a number of years with McMillan and have a lot of respect for both the people and the product. They have always been very knowledgeable and helpful and have further shown a propensity for involvement in what you might call the experimental edge of competitive shooting sports. Grayboe is not part of the McMillan company but the lineage was admittedly a big part of why it interested me because cultures are memes that travel with people and cultures are what produces results. The stock also seemed like it might be an opportunity to step out from just dealing with optics to other aspects of shooting. I did not suspect it at the time but the Grayboe project proved to have other things attached to it. I had the option of putting my .308 5R in the stock for the review but thought that if I was going to go to all the work of bedding something in it for the review it might be a good opportunity to do that Kelbly custom rifle review I have been wanting to do for 8 years. I called them up and they were interested. I also called up Mesa Precision Arms, the company who was supplying the DBM bottom metal that Grayboe was using in order to get some bottom metal. They agreed to send me some bottom metal and also suggested a rife review of a lightweight rifle aimed at the hunting market called the Crux that they were doing with their soon to be released Titanium action. I looked them up they seemed to know what they are doing so I agreed. So one stock review had now grown into a stock and two rifles.


What reviewing a custom rifle really means:

Reviews of custom rifles are not like any other kinds of reviews though because what you are actually reviewing is not a single product but really an assemblage of products put together by the smith and then tested with a whole other assemblage of products. Triggers, stocks, barrels, ammunition, etc. are generally not made by the same company as the rifle. That is a lot of stuff and still leaves out the testing equipment. In choosing these components I seek to pick stuff that works well together, makes a rational and cohesive build, and is familiar to the smiths involved so that it is representative of what they are best at building. This is important, because there is not real way to separate one element for the system from the others in a way that isolates variables. It also means that there is exponentially more coordination necessary between all the parties involved.


Speaking of builds here are the build sheets:

Kelbly Rifle:
Caliber: .223 Rem
Action: Kelbly Atlas Tactical
Barrel: Krieger 1/7 twist 20" Sendero profile threaded 5/8x24 and capped
Stock: Grayboe Ridgeback bedded by me
Trigger: Prototype Bix'N Andy TacSport Pro (goes down to 4oz)
Bottom metal: Mesa Precision Arms DBM

Ammunition:
Lapua GB544 69gr Scenar L
Desert Tech Precision Varmint 55gr Hdy V-max
2x Copper creek load development pack stage 1 77gr Berger OTM


Mesa Precision Arms Rifle:
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Action: MPA Titanium
Barrel: Proof 24" carbon wrapped. Proof Sendero contour (not the same, much thicker) threaded 5/8x24 and capped
Stock: McMillan Adj. Game Warden Carbon Edge Woodland Carbon Ambush
Trigger: Trigger Tech
Bottom metal: Mesa Precision Arms DBM

Ammuntion:
Lapua (their 6.5CM if it is far enough in development at that time)
Desert Tech DTM-65CM -140GR Premium match
2x Copper creek load development pack stage 1 140gr Hornady ELD-M



Original first blog post:

Today I got one of the new Grayboe Ridgeback stocks in for a review this year and I figured that I would share a few picks, dimensions, and generally what I plan to do. I'll even try to be brief though it may just kill me to do so.

Grayboe is, as most probably know, the company started by Ryan McMillan, son of McMillan CEO Kelly. The idea was to make a stock that did not require the 8 skilled man hours of labor of a hand lay up fiberglass composite stock method that McMillan stocks use but still use epoxy and fiberglass (rather than injection molded plastic) as the materials. The Grayboe company shared the McMillan location for a while and there was some confusion about it being a part of McMillan. Ryan and Kelly really have only themselves to blame for this as they did a lot of interviews about it together and blurred the lines a good bit in the beginning. I expect it is a tricky thing to both try to get a little piece of the name recognition of the established industry leader who you worked for many years and also differentiate yourself as an entirely independent entity. Anyhow, Grayboe now has it's own facility though I do not think that the confusion has been totally abated or maybe ever will be. Grayboe is not part of McMillan. That probably didn't help but I tried.

Grayboe is a little sparse on the tech specs on the site so I will drop some measurements I did here and many more with he real review (which will be a shiny front page thing).

Some tech specs I measured:

Weight: 58.3oz (3.64lbs) This is basically exactly what a McMillan A5 adjustable fiberglass stock averages

recoil lug slot thickness: .3565"

recoil lug slot depth: .5455"

recoil lug slot width: 1.34"

barrel channel width at stock front end: 1.034"

Width of forend: 2.524"

Inlet: M5, Grayboe sells a Mesa Precision arms one but you can use any. DBM is not included with stock.

It has a bubble level in the stock

LOP (with included parts and stock rem trigger): 12.5" - 13.885" with 5x .277" spacers for adjustment

I have not totally decided all of what I am going to do with the review but I do know a few things. I am going to either use my Remington 5R barreled action or drop a new custom build I have been kicking around doing in it. I will start out just using the stock inletted as is but I may eventually bed it. Both of these options seem quite popular with users as Grayboe stocks are low enough in cost to appeal as a drop in option but also look to be high enough quality to warrant the full bedding treatment. Grayboe molds Aluminum pillars into the stock so these things are pretty darn easy to bed. I am told that these stocks are very easy to cut and machine so I will certainly test that at least with a detachable molded palm rest and perhaps with bedding as well. We will see where it goes. for now I can tell you that the unique cheek piece design is totally solid (it actually looks like they added a guide rod over early prototypes) and that it comes with a nicer than expected recoil pad.

Anyhow, I wanted to get a little info out there before I wrote up the whole review since I expect that will be a good while in the making.

Here are the pics:

Unboxing
2018 2 23 unboxing 1080.jpg


What's included
2018 2 23 overview 1080.jpg


Action inletting overview
2018 2 23 action section 1080.jpg


Action inletting detail
2018 2 23 inlet and level detail 1080.jpg


Cheek piece detail
2018 2 23 cheek detail one 1080.jpg


There are aluminum pillars molded in.
2018 2 23 pillar maybe 1080.jpg
 
Last edited:

spife7980

Full Member
Feb 10, 2017
2,958
222
63
TX
#2
Now that adjustable cheek piece is interesting to me, easy to make and keep costs down but looks like it should be adequately solid. Interesting.
 
Feb 14, 2017
64
1
8
Utah
#3
Thanks for the review and I’m looking forward to see what you do with it. I’ve been considering one of these for my next build and very thankful for you detailed review.
 
Sep 17, 2013
177
3
18
#5
Looks great!

Just one question: what is the shortest LOP achievable with just the pad, no spacers?

Thanks
-Brian
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
557
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36
Columbus, OH
#7
Now that adjustable cheek piece is interesting to me, easy to make and keep costs down but looks like it should be adequately solid. Interesting.
Yes, when I first saw pictures of the prototype your thoughts were very similar to mine. The prototype version actually didn't have the metal guide rod and so was entirely dependent on the friciton generated by the thumb screw to keep it secure as the channel is not a tight enough fit to offer total restriction on the range of motion of the cheek piece. I expect there was some small degree of rotation possible in this design as the friciton would not have been enough to keep the piece from being able to rotate one way or the other to the extent the channel allowed. With the guide rod that has been added the design locks down with no movement at all. The design indeed looks very inexpensive to manufacture and is quite solid. Really, that is the idea behind the Grayboe stock in general.

Looks great!

Just one question: what is the shortest LOP achievable with just the pad, no spacers?

Thanks
-Brian
The shortest LOP with the included recoil pad and a common curved (as apposed to fancy adjustable shoe) trigger is 12.5". Included are 5 spacers of .277" thickness (presumably you could use more) so you can get to 13.885" using the included parts. I'll add this data to the specs in the first post as well.
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
557
6
18
36
Columbus, OH
#8
The Mesa Precision Arms bottom metal arrived yesterday so I figured I would update my progress on that review as well as the others that have sprouted from it.

First off, here are some pics of the MPA bottom metal sitting in the Grayboe Ridgeback. The fit is excellent.

2018 4 5 bottom metal bottom.jpg
2018 4 5 bottom metal side.jpg

I should next update on how and what is going to be tested since a lot has happened. What was once a single stock review has become a stock and two rifle reviews. I'll lay out to you all the components involved since custom rifles are a Lego-esque undertaking.

The first rifle review will be a build in the Grayboe as I hopped. It will be a Kelbly Atlas Tactical action with a Krieger barrel installed by the Kelbly guys. The caliber will be .223 Rem and it will also feature a not yet released model Bix n Andy trigger. I will be testing this both unbedded and with an end user (me) bedding job. I am still lining up all the ammo for the review but Lapua, Prime, and Copper Creek will be included with the possibility of Desert Tech and Hornady as well. I have a Sightron SIII scope in for review later this year that I will also use in a Bobro mount.

The second rifle review will be a 6.5CM ultralight hunting rig built by Mesa Precision arms. This will be based on their Crux line and include their new Titanium action, their bottom metal, a Proof carbon wrapped barrel, a McMillan Edge carbon stock, and Trigger Tech trigger. I will also use the Sightron SIII on this with the Bobro mount. Prime and Copper Creek ammo will also be represented along with the Lapua (if they have their 6.5CM loaded ammo ready by that time) and possibly Desert Tech and Hornady.
 
Likes: manki77

Xander3Zero

Sergeant of the Hide
Aug 10, 2017
321
64
28
Rhode Island
#10
Sounds like you will have some fun new rifles to play with for sure!

I am running the MPA bottom metal as well, and also find the fit and finish to be excellent. It started in a Grayboe Renegade, and now it sits in my McM A5, fitting both very nicely with no gaps.
 
Feb 18, 2012
77
13
8
Sparta, Tennessee
#11
I’ve got a Grayboe Renegade with mpa bottom metal and it serves me just fine. Fit and finish excellent and the barreled action that sits in it shoot great. I’ve been considering trying out a ridgeback. Look forward to seeing how the full review goes.
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
557
6
18
36
Columbus, OH
#13
Looks pretty good so far. Are you going to paint the stock?
I'm not sure. I picked the FDE simply because I prefer lighter colors as they don't get so hot they burn you in the sun. I really haven't decided if I want to do some sponge paint cammo on it it later, to just leave it tan, or do something else. I'll see how it all looks with the action bedded in it and then decide.

Sounds like you will have some fun new rifles to play with for sure!
Right on. I think it is going to be a fun summer.
 

5RWill

Optics Fiend
Oct 15, 2009
3,871
243
63
27
Mississippi
#14
Tag looking forward to your results Jim. Mainly curious to see how it shoots just dropping the barreled action on the inlet and running with it. I always entertained the idea that bedding was a necessity with a traditional fiberglass stock. Though it seems that's becoming increasingly false.
 

JKFlyfish

New Hide Member
Apr 7, 2018
30
13
8
Georgia
#15
I am thinking hard about buying the Ridgeback or Renegade with a McMillan style saddle cheek piece. I am looking forward to seeing how the Ridgeback shoots for you. Thanks for posting.
 

Mcswan47

New Hide Member
Apr 13, 2018
2
0
1
#16
Today I got one of the new Grayboe Ridgeback stocks in for a review this year and I figured that I would share a few picks, dimensions, and generally what I plan to do. I'll even try to be brief though it may just kill me to do so.

Grayboe is, as most probably know, the company started by Ryan McMillan, son of McMillan CEO Kelly. The idea was to make a stock that did not require the 8 skilled man hours of labor of a hand lay up fiberglass composite stock method that McMillan stocks use but still use epoxy and fiberglass (rather than injection molded plastic) as the materials. The Grayboe company shared the McMillan location for a while and there was some confusion about it being a part of McMillan. Ryan and Kelly really have only themselves to blame for this as they did a lot of interviews about it together and blurred the lines a good bit in the beginning. I expect it is a tricky thing to both try to get a little piece of the name recognition of the established industry leader who you worked for many years and also differentiate yourself as an entirely independent entity. Anyhow, Grayboe now has it's own facility though I do not think that the confusion has been totally abated or maybe ever will be. Grayboe is not part of McMillan. That probably didn't help but I tried.

Grayboe is a little sparse on the tech specs on the site so I will drop some measurements I did here and many more with he real review (which will be a shiny front page thing).

Some tech specs I measured:

Weight: 58.3oz (3.64lbs) This is basically exactly what a McMillan A5 adjustable fiberglass stock averages

recoil lug slot thickness: .3565"

recoil lug slot depth: .5455"

recoil lug slot width: 1.34"

barrel channel width at stock front end: 1.034"

Inlet: M5, Grayboe sells a Mesa Precision arms one but you can use any. DBM is not included with stock.

It has a bubble level in the stock

LOP (with included parts and stock rem trigger): 12.5" - 13.885" with 5x .277" spacers for adjustment

I have not totally decided all of what I am going to do with the review but I do know a few things. I am going to either use my Remington 5R barreled action or drop a new custom build I have been kicking around doing in it. I will start out just using the stock inletted as is but I may eventually bed it. Both of these options seem quite popular with users as Grayboe stocks are low enough in cost to appeal as a drop in option but also look to be high enough quality to warrant the full bedding treatment. Grayboe molds Aluminum pillars into the stock so these things are pretty darn easy to bed. I am told that these stocks are very easy to cut and machine so I will certainly test that at least with a detachable molded palm rest and perhaps with bedding as well. We will see where it goes. for now I can tell you that the unique cheek piece design is totally solid (it actually looks like they added a guide rod over early prototypes) and that it comes with a nicer than expected recoil pad.

Anyhow, I wanted to get a little info out there before I wrote up the whole review since I expect that will be a good while in the making.

Here are the pics:
I
Unboxing
View attachment 6877331


What's included
View attachment 6877333
I have a ridgeback on order. What is the width of goren

Action inletting overview
View attachment 6877334


Action inletting detail
View attachment 6877337


Cheek piece detail
View attachment 6877338


There are aluminum pillars molded in.
View attachment 6877339
 

Mcswan47

New Hide Member
Apr 13, 2018
2
0
1
#17
I have a ridgeback on order. Grayboe vague on specs. What is the width of forend please. I’m an Aussie. Stocks have been exported to Australia by grayboe so hope my order arrives soon. F class shooter in 6.5 creedmoor
 
Jul 24, 2011
557
6
18
36
Columbus, OH
#20
Update on the reviews :

The Kelbly rifle was finished today and I will pick that up tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'll shoot it or not tomorrow in the 40 degree whether. I probably will because, you know, shiny. The ammo is mostly here.

copper creek unboxing 600.jpg

Here is the Copper Creek ammo. I thought it might be interesting to have them send me 2x of their load development kit instead of just ammo all loaded to the same spec. So what I have here is 10 rounds each of 5 different powder charges. The bullet is a 77gr Berger.

lapua unboxing 600.jpg

Here is the Lapua ammo very nicely packed. This is their GB544 ammo and is loaded with their own 69gr Scenar L bullet.

Desert Tech will also be supplying ammo for these reviews. Prime has decided against it and Hornady has proven less than easy to get a hold of. At the very least I will have Lapua, Copper Creek, and Desert Tech though I am still hoping for the Hornady as well.

I also mentioned last time that the Sightron SIII SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH scope arrived for review later this year and would also see some time on these rifles. Here is a nice unboxing pic of that

Sigtron SIII unboxing 1080.jpg
 
Likes: jLorenzo
Jul 24, 2011
557
6
18
36
Columbus, OH
#22
Update 4-19-2018

3 kelblys 1080.jpg
Kelbly Golden Girl rifle, NYX rifle, and the new .223 I am testing.


I mentioned a few days ago that I was picking up the Kelbly .223 for review and planning to shoot it despite less than ideal weather. Well, the weather certainly ended up less than ideal.

2018 4 17 nice day for shooting.jpg
This is what you like to shoot in right?


Sitting there, in 31 degrees, with the snow driving horizontally across my field of fire, I starting thinking that I must be out of my mind. I was also thinking that between the cold, wind, and snow, this could make for some really lousy groups. What the heck though, I had the day off work, a new rifle, a box of ammo, and the benches would even have been covered if the snow would just condescend to descend some. If it all went to hell I could just pack it in early, tour the Kelbly factory, and be home early for dinner. It didn't exactly go to hell though. It actually went much better than I expected and I came away with a few thoughts:

2018 4 17 lapua first groups final.jpg
Not bad groups for a blizzard.

1) 30mph wind is no joke. Whether I tried to pick my timings (the first 3 groups) or move my aim point (the 4th group) the wind still spread everything quite a bit more horizontal than it moved vertical.

2) I wonder how much effect hitting big juicy snowflakes at 2,600fps has on a projectiles trajectory. Does it become a special snowflake itself?

3) This rifle is really going to bug hole. Two of these groups are half an inch in a blizzard, there is .25" vertical spread on most of these groups, and this is the first ammo I have even tried.

4) The first shot is the furthest on 3 of the 4 groups. I wonder if bedding the rifle will bring that in some and how much better weather will help.

5) I have got to get me a magnetospeed chrono like Ian's that I borrowed. It is so damn easy to use and it works in the snow. Mine does not work in the snow. I wish it wasn't so blasted expensive.

6) This Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH scope is working perfect for this. It has a pretty fine reticle even at 24x, the parallax isn't showing any lash, and the optics and tracking seem good so far.

7) This Lapua ammo looks like it is going to agree with this rifle well. I wonder how the velocity numbers will change in better conditions. It noticeably increases on shots where the round has been in the warm barrel longer. I also wonder if the SD on the velocities will tighten up some. 19.7 is not terrible but it is not world beating either.

Ian with CNC machine.jpg
Ian showing off one of the, now many, CNC machines.


After 4 groups I decided that outside of learning to shoot better in a blizzard, I had probably learned what I would from this session. I went in and took a little tour of the changes since the last time I walked around the Kelbly factory 8 years ago. They are probably somewhere around 6 times the production now that they were then. This basically translated into rooms that were once mostly empty being full of new equipment and virtually all the machines replaced with new, very high end, CNC mills, lathes, and a Wire EDM machine. Really, the only part of the factory that looked similar was the composite stock making room. Though, even that has had to expand some especially with the Anschutz precision trainer orders.

What will be next for this rifle is that I am going to grind out the inletting a bit and bed it. I ordered the last of the stuff for that yesterday. Hopefully I will have that done in a few weeks and be ready to shoot it a lot more with all the ammo in good weather. The Desert Tech ammo came in Wednesday so I am ready to rock and roll on that front.

desert tech unboxing 600.jpg
Desert tech ammo unboxing.