Wylde Bighorn Arms TL-3
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 23/01/2018
It’s a while since I reviewed a full custom rifle and after a lot of marketing blurb, it’s nice to get hold of some ‘honest kit’. Manufacturers often specialise in one specific component, be it a barrel or stock, yet when one company says they do it all ‘in-house’, that’s rarely true, sub-assemblies and process like injection mouldings and trigger parts are made all over. So, for a custom ‘smith to select what he believes are the finest, individually honestly named components to build a rifle from, and assembles for it, I can appreciate the clarity of thought. Never ignore the fact that all the best components don’t always gel together into a homogenous machine, though yet here we see how a ‘rifle smith’s rifle’ is put together and what they look for.
The Bighorn TL3 action is the foundation for this rifle and it’s a fully customisable component made in Bennet, Nebraska. Its available in left or right handed, 223, 308 or Magnum boltface configurations, with left or right port ejection and a plethora of finishes and bolt knob styles. Its designed to be magazine fed and again can be specified to operate with centre feed AICS or AW twin column magazines and to cap it all, features a removable bolt head on the long or short action bolt, to suit your case length. It’s a controlled feed bolt for extremely smooth feeding and combines the best of both worlds that only a truly custom, precision machined component can deliver, without intermittent misfeeds caused by the inherently weaker tolerances from high volume production.
The bolt release catch is to the left rear of the action, underneath the top-mounted 0, 20 or 30 MOA Picatinny rail. The recoil lug is integral to the machined cylindrical action’s face, which although sharing the basic Remington 700 footprint, is a true cylinder without the unequal radii to the front and rear ‘bridges’ on the action that resurrect themselves from the bygone eras of Mauser and require different front and rear mounts on the Rem 700 descendants.
This specific rifle has a Sassen barrel fitted in a ‘Light Varmint’ contour, finished at 20-inches with an integral side ported brake fitted. I wouldn’t personally want a Brake on a 223 because of the disruptive noise and find the virtually zero recoil slightly unnerving, but each to their own. It is a custom and up to this point would have made a delightful foxing rifle, but a fitted moderator is no problem. The 8-inch twist rate allows stability of handloaded bullets up to 75/77gr on the 223 Wylde chambering (no actual link with Dave Wylde, the owner of Valkyrie). It is only what I would term a semiwildcat in terms of being a standard chamber shape, but with specific alterations to the leade and throating dimensions to make it safely compatible with 5.56 NATO surplus ammo, as well as 223, and the longer throat that is likely needed on the physically longer bulleted handloads in the higher weight ranges for target shooting. I personally own a 223 Wylde, built by Valkyrie some years ago and love the chambering for its modesty and capability with the heavies, but no real compromise for the light 55s and even 40s that mine still shoots sub half-inch at 100-yards.
Ten-round ‘Accurate Mags’ are perfect for the long C.O.L. rounds and give straight feed from the polymer centre feed lips up the ramp into the chamber. Single rounds can be loaded with no issues from the controlled feed as well, just drop them onto the follower and close the bolt. On that note, the spirally fluted shaft of this satin finished stainless steel action is extremely slick and offers fingertip light pressures for both opening and closing of the bolt handle, here a ‘Helical Diamond’ spec. I’d personally prefer something a bit smoother, allowing the bolt handle to spin smoothly in my grip on a fast fire rifle but each to their own; five options are available here alone. You can have the DLC ‘Diamond like Carbon’, black finish throughout but subtle black elements here on the satin finish model contrast nicely for a subtle look. The left side of the action carries Bighorn’s logo and location with the expected cleanliness of machined finishes, which are equally wellpresented on the bolt shroud with centre firing pin indicator.
On a footprint like this, the world of trigger options is wide open but the ‘Trigger Tech’ unit fitted is a competitive revelation. Its ‘Straight flat lever’ blade with a radius tip suits multi-positional shooting, where the index finger’s location is a little more flexible in the vertical plane, but the release is something quite special. It’s a single stage and ‘crisp is taken for granted, with the release weight easily adjustable from 1.5- to 4lbs in half pound increments that click as you turn the adjuster. For multi-discipline shooters, who need to have their triggers adjusted for differing rules, ‘X’ number of clicks is easy to alter on a day to day basis. A curved blade is also available, and these can also be specified in black or stainless on the 440c Hardened steel internals and PVD coatings for long-lasting surface hardness and wear resistance. Mag release is from a lever to the front of the trigger guard but ambidextrous is also available and the safety catch is a familiar rolling serrated ball to the upper right of the action’s tang, it doesn’t lock the bolt.
The stock is the first visually striking element of most rifles and the Valkyrie does not disappoint in presence from the word go. McMillan’s new XTR unit is a very unusual stock and again, totally down to the customer’s choice, it shows an extreme vertical pistol grip, fully floating platform like forend, which allows either bench resting into a rest bag or pedestal mount. It’s hand-filling for a firm grip in improvised positions, even though it shows no stippling and can have Picatinny rail added for your personal bipod choice like an Atlas, or here, just a regular stud for the Harris I fitted.
It has length of pull adjustment with spacers and was set at 15-inches on test, as Dave had used the rifle himself and is a tall chap. Its usual construction is a twin skin outer structure of gel coat, with moulded in flecks of whatever colouration you desire, multiple fillers and reinforcements throughout the solid internals either dampen noise, fill voids or add stiffness in areas like the slender front and around the action inlet. Needless to say, McMillan are very well qualified to do these things superbly.
It’s no surprise though to see the action fully pillar and Devcon bedded because that is what we know works best, to make the junction between action and its recoil mate perfectly with the stock, and transfer the pulse of energy without relying on the tension of the action screws holding it in place. A glove-like fit is always the best way and there was no surprise to find that with the screws removed, there were no internal stresses applied to the action, making the barrel rise away from the forend. The gun’s metalwork just needed that little wiggle to free it from its vacuumlike fit into the glassy smoothness of the Devcon’s epoxy surface and free from the stock.
This stock looks quite bulky but is surprisingly comfortable from either prone or improvised positions, with a slight rearward weight balance, a recoil pad that remains firmly stuck into your shoulder pocket and fully adjustable cheekpiece for both height and lateral position allowing your cheek to weld down to the stock. It is quite bulky and will need to be shifted laterally for a vertical head position and does ned to be removed to take the bolt out of the action. I tend to wrap a few turns of electrical tape around one of the pillars on a similar stock of my own so a quick twist of the unlocking screw allows removal and it can be easily dropped back into position with no loss of position. Coupled to the minimal recoil, you can watch your bullets strike the paper and on more reactive surfaces, see ‘splash’ that is particularly useful at longer ranges, especially on surfaces like grasses, where it’s tricky to notice.
I fitted the gun with a 3-15x50 Minox ZP scope in Tier-One rings for range and accuracy testing, with no great surprises to find the 77gr Sierra TMK bullets, over Vihtavouri N140 in a Lapua case with CCI BR4 primer were shooting exactly how I wantinto ragged 5-shot holes at 100-yards. I knew testing a gun like this would be somewhat of a formality, as it is perfection of build standards, quality control and a personalised choice made exactly for the individual customer. I cannot offer any critique of any component used regardless of its Origin in Nebraska, Birmingham, Arizona or Yorkshire but it’s very refreshing to offer a fine item for the discerning customer, not just a marketing ploy for the idealist. After all, factory rifles are only the downstream result of innovation shown by innovators!
Although not my idea of a perfect gun, it’s a gun that is faultless and tailored to one man’s idea of ideal. Faults are what stands out on a test gun and this had NONE. Almost ‘boring’ accuracy capability will always see you chasing perfection and leaves no doubt who is at fault… the shooter!