Bedding a rifle can drastically improve the performance. To explain what bedding is, think of a straw being suspended between a salt and pepper shaker (it’s almost dinner time…). Imagine trying to guide a toothpick through that straw, it will want to bind because the straw is sagging in the center. Rifle actions have the same problem, when the amount of contact between the stock and the action is small, the torque applied to the action bolts will twist, bend or misshape the action causing accuracy problems and tightness of the bolt. What you want is a bed that the straw can sit in between the salt and pepper shaker that ensure the straw rests in a relaxed state.
There is a solution to this! Fortunately, it is not a hard task to bed a rifle action to the stock (create a perfectly matched contour of your action in your stock). There are LOTS of ways to bed an action to a stock, but I found that the way I do it results in a perfect stress-free bed every time. I have seen others that use surgical tubing, rubber bands, clamps and even the action screws and bottom metal to tighten the action down to the stock. All of these methods can (and usually will) induce stress into the setup just as the salt and pepper shaker would the straw. We are aiming for a 100% relaxed action when it is torqued into the stock.
Prep work is 99% of any gunsmithing job. The mill will do almost all of the milling work and the lathe will do almost all of the turning work… assuming the operator takes the time to set up the work correctly. First, I thoroughly clean the action with acetone to remove any oil, grease or debris. Once the action is perfectly clean I hit it with a coat of Kiwi Neutral Shoe Polish (cheap clear shoe polish). I apply it with a soft toothbrush over the entire action and the back of the recoil lug, let it dry and buff it with a cotton cloth. I usually put two coats of wax on the action this way. I tape off the front and sides of the recoil lug (to provide a small “gap” between the lug and bedding compound, we don’t want it so tight we can’t get the lug in and out of the stock. I have found that one layer of blue painters tape is sufficient for me and provides a nice clean fit.
Next, I lightly sand the existing pads and / or pillars to provide a rough surface for the compound to adhere to.
Next, bedding compound is applied to both the stock and the back side of the recoil lug (we want to make sure we have plenty so we don’t get any voids). As time goes on you get better at judging the correct amount of putty to apply. I am using Devcon Steel Putty.
I turned the hangers screwed into the bolt holes on the lathe from 5″ hardware store bolts. I cut off the existing 1/4-20 threads and re-threaded 1/4-28.
Next, the action is carefully lowered into the stock. NOTE: It is best to leave it alone at this point. Once the action settles in, resist the urge to take it out or wiggle it around. The putty will flow over time and make a perfect thin layer without any extra help. At this point you can wipe any excess off carefully with q-tips. You can clean any putty off the action with q-tips dipped in WD40 or acetone (do not get any down in the stock though!).
I left this overnight and popped it apart the next morning. A few taps from a small hammer on the 1/4-28 hanger bolts and it popped right apart.
After popping it apart and checking to make sure everything is how you like it, you can carefully trim the top with an exacto knife (trim small strips at a time like you are sharpening a pencil with a knife). Set the barreled action back in the stock and let it sit at least 24 hours to finish curing before machining.
Once it has finished curing, level the stock in both X and Y in the mill.
I mill out any excess compound to keep the bedding job looking professional and clean.
After cleanup in the mill, I reassemble the trigger in the action, bolt the action to the stock and mount and boresight the scope.
Here is a closeup at the completed bedding job, as seen from the outside.