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Rifle accurizing service

14 Apr 2012
@ 11:02 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Hi Guys, just a heads up that I am going to have to put the price of our accurizing service up to reflect labor content more accurately. I thought I would put this in the forums so that you could have your say.

Over the last couple of years, the quality of factory rifles has gone down considerably. To this end, it is taking me much longer to accurize factory rifles. A good example would be a recent Sako A7. The rifle was shooting over 6" at 100 yards when it arrived. It took quite a bit of work to get it down to .5" at 100 yards. It is now a very reliable sub MOA shooter and will shoot under .5MOA- but it involved a great deal of labor and I must admit, a degree of stress.

Labor content has been averaging 35 hours per rifle. Occasionally, I can zip one through in 30 hours, but it is more than likely that the job will go on for 40 hours. I have now set the package price to $600 for an accurizing job. Cost of bedding consumables is usually around $50. So 35 hours labor divided by $550 comes out at $15.70 per hour, still a lot cheaper than a typical tradesman in NZ at the current rate of $60 per hour. But its enough to put food on the table for us while trying to keep the price of the service to half that of the cost of the rifle.

Now for the caveat, there is still the possibility that a rifle won't shoot after all of that work. This will be because of a flaw in the bore such as poor tolerances or malformed lands or temper of the steel. In rare cases, the temper of the action can be at fault too. The trouble is, after a week of accurizing (problem rifles will take a full 40 hours), there is still a chance that the rifle won't shoot. It is rare, I can often get away with such practices as fire lapping to improve tolerances etc but it does happen very occasionally.

What I need clients to understand, is that I can't work on a rifle for a week, then not charge the client if the rifle is not accurate. I could consider a discount, but the fact is, I still have to pay weekly bills just like the rest of you, I have to put food on the table, its as simple as that. So if a discount is offered, it will likely be marginal- feel free to have your say about this please.

When a rifle turns out to be a complete dud after accurizing, the client has to choose between selling the rifle off cheap, to be used as a donor or re-building from scratch. If rebuilding, the action is blue printed and checked for tolerances (the bolt sleeved if need be to take up slop) and then a custom barrel is fitted. Cost is the same as a typical custom build with supplied donor action, usually averaging $1600-$1800 depending on specs. Sometimes the client will opt for a very cheap re-build but the problem with the cheaper re-builds is that clients tend to have an idea of sub .5 MOA groups in their mind and end up disappointed if the rifle groups .75 MOA. I usually do give a discount if we have to go through a full rebuild on a rifle that I have already attempted to accurize but again, it comes down to what I can actually sacrifice.

For those on a limited budget, there is always the option of using a DIY bedding kit themselves. And in truth, the trickling sales of the kits helps soften the blow of a low hourly rate on the rifles. I am also hoping that over time, our many readers will be kind enough to donate in turn for the knowledge base. At the moment, the donations are few, limited to a handful of kind souls.

One last thing I don't really want to talk about but I suppose it has to be mentioned, is that there are other shop operators offering accurizing services at a cheaper rate than myself. The ugly side of it is, that I am having to rework those rifles steadily throughout the year. With a dog doo accurizing job, the group tests are usually done before the barrel is run in. Experienced shooters will attest that with a new bore, you'll get what I call fluke groups. But within two shooting and cleaning sessions performed by the client, this one time sweet spot is gone. The clients end up frustrated, they lose confidence, they try this that and the other and it really is a horrible situation. Even with a run in bore, fluke groups occur and operators who lack empathy towards clients use such groups to get the jobs out the door.

You would be forgiven for thinking that re-working these rifles gives me great confidence in my skills and abilities. It doesn't. By the time the rifles arrive, the clients have already spent a great deal of money, they are upset, they have usually been spoken to curtly and they are now confronted with the issue of having to start all over again with my services. I take this very seriously and I try to cushion the blow however I can. Re-working these rifles is not a nice affair. So if I can offer any advice, it is that you should be looking for an operator who is willing to put in a good deal of labor content because thats where its at. The same applies to international readers because quick buck accurizing jobs are now a worldwide problem.

OK, your thoughts.

Replies

14 Apr 2012
@ 02:15 pm (GMT)

Helmut Pleiter

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Hi Nathan, I've been visiting your site on a regular basis. Learnt lots and enjoy it immensely - thank you very much. Up until now I haven't felt like I had anything worthwhile to contribute, so I have been part of the (no doubt large) quiet majority.
Reading your thoughts on the cost of the accurising service, I feel compelled to put in my 2 cents worth:
You have obviously put in an awful lot of time and effort to get to the level of expertise and skill this site so clearly demonstrates. Therefore I would suggest that you resist the urge to sell yourself short! If someone can turn an inaccurate dog of a rifle into a usable tool that shoots 0.5 MOA, then that is great in itself. Doing it for $15.70/hour is a true bargain if ever there was one!
Now, I'm not made of money (like a lot of your clients, I would assume) and enjoy a discount as much as any man. But why should you have to discount your work to make up for other people's stuff ups. If you make a mistake, by all means give your client a discount/refund. If however the manufacturer turns out a product that is not fit for purpose and even you can't fix it, then somebody else needs to absorb the cost. It most definitely should not be you! And those clients that expect you to do such a thing are not worth having anyway.
Enough said,
Helmut
14 Apr 2012
@ 02:43 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Heck, thanks Helmut, that was extremely kind of you to say.
14 Apr 2012
@ 04:23 pm (GMT)

Richard Butler

Re: Rifle accurizing service
You forgot to mention the counselling fees after being driven barking mad by rifles that won't shoot. Nice to know others are as bad as mine, I think.
14 Apr 2012
@ 06:10 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Hi Richard, how the heck are you. Yes, your 7mm rem Mag was a mission, it tested the both of us. Supposedly accurized but shot 3" at 100 yards when it arrived. It took me over 40 hours to get it shooting but it was worth it in the end, a genuine sub .5MOA shooter.

Yes, since yours there have been many more like it from every brand. I have continued to refine my fire lapping methods (design and application) since working on your rifle.

Richards rifle, the day it all finally came together (bring back memories Richard?)...

15 Apr 2012
@ 07:54 am (GMT)

Richard Butler

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Yes it does. There is a lot of satisfaction in having a very accurate, reliable rifle. Confidence improves and so does shooting.
Ok, idle thoughts. A Foster tuned rifle should put the value of the rifle up, not down but it would have to be denoted as such. Action or barrel engraved?You already photograph everything so supplying evidence of accuracy is no big deal but if you are supplying a package, presentation of documentation counts when the rifle is on sold.
I guess what I am trying to say is financial success will come from brand Foster or TBR and maximizing the sale of the knowledge gained from the donkey work you have done. I cannot find your information on the terminal ballistics of projectiles anywhere else. It must be worth money. Anything you make from accurizing is survival money.
I am probably telling you what you already know but it is easy to get bogged down in the details of work. I would suggest you should not underestimate your brand credibility.

I seem to be good at finding rifles with bores like a goat track. When I find another I will give you a call.
15 Apr 2012
@ 09:03 am (GMT)

Stephen Lindsay

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Nathan, you sell yourself way too short. With your knowledge and skills, you should not be content simply "putting food on the table." I recognize that often one makes financial sacrifices to live certain places or to do things one loves, and perhaps there is not an adequate local market for your services at a higer price, but you should be getting a higher rate of return for your work. Perhaps with fewer jobs, but with a higher fee per job, you would be allowed more time to continue developing this Web site and to monetize it further.

Those of you reading these articles and posts and gaining from them should be helping to support Nathan, too. Where else can you get such information for free? Why should Nathan be expected to enlighten us they way he does for free? He shouldn't. Even though he does not charge to use this site, he does accept donations. Each of use should consider what this information is worth to us and compensate Nathan accordingly.

Consider what you would be willing to pay for a book that contained the information you use most on this site and make a conrtibution accordingly. Or what would you be willing to pay on a monthly basis for a subscription to the site? Most sites of this type do charge a subscription if they are not crammed full of obnoxious advertisements. Think about it and make a small monthly donation as a voluntary subsciption price. I know that I for one would be devastated to not get my daily fix reading at this site. What is that worth to us?

I know that it pains Nathan a great deal to raise his fees and to ask for donations. He loves what he does and he loves to help people, and he would do it until he simply could not afford to any longer. Instead, he deserves our support for the value we receive from his work.

S. Lindsay
15 Apr 2012
@ 10:09 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Thanks Richard, thanks Stephen, that has given me a lot to think about.

A letter punch would be a good idea for identifying my jobs.

Stephen, regarding advertising for the site, I find the typical google ads obnoxious too. It may however come to a point where, if the readers are not willing to donate, I may have to look at advertising again. Not very fair on you considering your willingness to donate.

There are two main forms of advertising, google's horrible adverts which look like spam. Every time a reader clicks on an advert (usually by accident), we get a few cents. The second form is affiliate marketing which we have talked about in the past. Brownells have a program at the moment that I could use, 5% commission on sales.

We currently have about 70,000 readers, picking up about 17,000 new readers per month. Over the last month, we have had 5 donations.

Maybe I am naive but I don't believe that readers don't want to donate, we generally have a crowd of very good folk here. I wonder more, if readers are worried about making internet transactions, security etc. Some hunters dislike paypal due to California gun law restrictions. Also I wonder if some folk think "I can only donate $2 but it seems like an insult (which it isn't) so I think I'll just keep quiet"- if that makes any sense. It was just something that came up once, a reader was embarrassed as he could not afford to donate what he perceived he should be donating.

Yes, you are right Stephen, lowering the incoming jobs is the only way I will have time to upload more cartridge texts and articles to the knowledge base.

Anyway, thanks to you both for your kind comments and support, all food for thought.
15 Apr 2012
@ 02:22 pm (GMT)

faulkner

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Nathan.

Well, being on the other side of the planet it's not really possible to have you accurize a rifle, but the time and information you have spent on emails has been priceless. The 300 win mag build cost me a fortune (unfortunately not made of money) but I am positive that the outcome would not have been as satisfactory if you had not been there to coach! I have wasted a lot of time and money on rifles over the years but I have being lucky too; Hazel's 300wsm point in case, but I take your word at full value regarding their present quality.

The idea that Richard mentioned is fantastic, if I was having a rifle worked on by you I would have no reservation about the barrel/action being engraved with your mark and sin#.

And my last comment is directed at your readers, DONATE! Nathan is a great guy with a great family and they have all sacrificed something for the information and services provided! Thanks Foster family.

Aj.



15 Apr 2012
@ 04:58 pm (GMT)

Richard Butler

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Ok, one more shot for the day. Your donation system will not do what you want. You require a regular income. Donations are irregular and viewers will not know how to value the information gained nor how often to donate. So just an idea to chew at. All queries channeled through the forums( maybe a private forum?). Subscription at a nominal amount for the forums, maybe $10-$20 per year. Enough free viewable information to sell the sites value. You can offer whatever private discounts you want but they are the exception.
Sam Morgan did not charge for Trademe services for some time, too scared that all the customers would go away. At some stage he had to offer his investors a return and so introduced a fee. Demand did not even flicker.
You offer a worldwide service, membership does not need to be expensive, numbers need to be high, then learn to speed type! The fundamental problem is that you have no idea how to value what you provide, you do not want to rip people off and you appear to want to help ordinary hunters rather than be exclusive. At some point you must charge.
15 Apr 2012
@ 10:27 pm (GMT)

Lee Minhinnick

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Many people know service when getting it and don't mind paying for it. In New Zealand we are very poor payers of good service in any retail or trade that I've dealt with in my life time. I will go back to a place that is honest and offers real value for money. Nathan has offered a service and keeps doing so at his own expense. As a man who loves to help people Nathan has and will alway do, Its hard to offer any business advice that has any real use. Only that good service comes at a price. That price includes all the TAXS we all pay and then some. All small family businesses go through there hard times and fail to last longer than a few years. Im not one to know what business is all about but what you are offering Nathan is something worth paying for!!!. Price has to set at what has a profit in it not just breaking even. My opinion is wanting to see you grow to a level that you are happy with.
16 Apr 2012
@ 09:59 am (GMT)

Dan Keene

Re: Rifle accurizing service
I could not agree more with all that has been said guys.
Nathan please sign me up for an annual subscription to TBR.
I will set up a direct debit as soon as you set a price.
Just do it!
Please.
16 Apr 2012
@ 07:36 pm (GMT)

Danny Strong

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Nathan,
Just some random thoughts.

1. Most people have one question they want answers to. They are uneducated about teh stuff you have on your site and little capcity to foresee more visits. Hence, one visit per time.
2. Most people aren't going to donate or subscribe for one visit not knowing if they'll need to come again.
3. Most sites have advertising and people are used to it. In this case you can choose who you want to advertise. Maybe some of those sites are usefull.

This is an Aussie's view. NZ might have been populated by the Scottish, but you know how cheap the Aussies are.
17 Apr 2012
@ 08:03 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
All very good points to consider thanks. I greatly appreciate this input, thanks guys.
17 Apr 2012
@ 09:46 pm (GMT)

Matt Reid

Re: Rifle accurizing service
A few of my own thoughts...

Firstly, you are offering an accurizing service, website, email support, guided tutorial hunts, seminars and more! It is a crazy amount of work for one man, and it is unfortunate that you feel put in a position where you have to justify putting up prices simply to make ends meet. The challenge obviously lies in converting work into dollars.

In my own experience, website 'attendance' is sporadic. I simply thrashed the 'Marlin Owners' forum for about 6 months while working on a project Marlin 336. But now, moving onto a new project, I find myself here and over at LRH. In honesty, if any of these sites had requested subscription fees for access to information I would have looked elsewhere. I think maybe (Dan - no offence), people with a relationship to you, are more than happy to invest, but these people don't reflect the average internet surfer looking for info.

I am reminded of a guy I did a trade with who had setup an anti-spam email service and was charging clients only $1 a month. He had however accumulated 20,000 clients. That's $20k (gross) a month for (by all accounts) doing very little. Is there are way you can get lots of people contributing a little?

It seems to me, that your experience and skills are what are most valuable. These are what need to be marketed. In reality, 'most' people are never going to pay you what you are worth doing the donkey work of accurising rifles. I am in no way diminishing your service, it is obviously worth every cent (and more by the sounds).

I think you are on the right track offering this up for discussion. Maybe people could offer some of their skills in exchange for some of yours?
18 Apr 2012
@ 05:06 pm (GMT)

Matt Reid

Re: Rifle accurizing service
I was also thinking, what about a line of custom firearms? You may have thrown the idea around before but it seems to make a bit of sense.

As i see it currently:

- Factory firearm quality is erractic, accuracy can be poor out of the box with remedial work required.
- More firearm owners are coming to expect increased accuracy and developing an interest in long range shooting/hunting.
- Any shooting system is only as good as it's weakest part, e.g. shooters can spend big money on a firearm and yet be let down by a budget scope.
- Custom firearms are available, but they can be crazily expensive and still leave a lot of decision making about components.

Now picture this...

I flick through the latest Reloaders catalogue and see a 'Foster Custom/Foster Precision/TBR?' 300 Win Mag for sale. ($?)

What I get:

The platform: Rem 700 action, Trueflite barrel, B and C stock, Sightron scope, action bedded (matchgrade), e.tc. A package designed and put together by Nathan.

Branding: The barrel/action stamp (whatever it may be) carries with it all your experience, skills and support. This is also valuable advertising.

Accuracy: A 0.5 moa guarantee wouldn't be impossible when you control all the variables.

Support: With a custom setup designed by yourself I imagine an ideal load and appropriate drop charts could be supplied with the firearm. Custom turrets?

Economy: While the initial outlay for some may be hefty, it would likely reflect a potential long term saving. I get an out of the box shooter. No load development, no accurising, no mucking around. All built and designed right here in NZ by a local. I can simply start shooting.

What you get:

Control: As you have said, you can never actually guarantee a clients firearm will ever shoot well regardless of the hours spent on it.

Your systems and processes could all be streamlined when you are working with the same (and reliable) components.

Advertising!: Someone using a 'Foster Precision' 300 and nailing targets at 1k out of the box is going to get a lot of people talking. The failing quality issues with factory firearms has opened up this market in my opinion. More chatter, more people through the website, more dollars (in theory).


I appreciate you are already putting together custom firearms for clients but why not jump the gun, design what you see as an ideal combo, brand it, and get them out there? Even if it was just one or two to get started and test the market, even only in say .308 and 300 for example?

Just a bit of a ramble, but was a few ideas running around my head that I felt to share.

M




18 Apr 2012
@ 07:23 pm (GMT)

deerndingo

Re: Rifle accurizing service
I think the custom rifle idea is good, but needs to be for the US market too. Make by order only. Don't carry stock. Make it something different and go for the 7mm Practical.
19 Apr 2012
@ 08:31 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Hi Guys, at the moment, exporting rifles is a bit difficult for me but this may change in the future. As True-Flite solidify channels through barrel exports, this/they will be able to provide options for me. It is great to have this company to work with.

Branded rifles are a good idea. Its something I would have faith in myself, the rifles we have built in the past have shot well until the bores have worn out. But, I also need to make the site pay for itself eventually as others have pointed out. This is something I will work on long term. Along with this, I also need to be mindful of keeping the site info fresh/uploaded. There are many more cartridges to be uploaded to the Knowledge base, lots to look forwards to.

My main concern was how price rises would effect clients so I started this thread to lay my cards on the table. I very much appreciate the feedback given regarding this. However I also appreciate all of the other ideas and input.
11 Jul 2012
@ 09:18 pm (GMT)

jason brown

Re: Rifle accurizing service
hi nathan. as you know im looking forward to this service soon.
i can only agree with what others have said.

only because im un-sure of exactly what you do i have a question about what you have said in your first post. all your work on this site makes me confident in sending you my rifle. i have no douts you know what your doing.
and i hate to question the pro, as im sure there is a logical reason.
but i wonder can you not inspect the bore ect for flaws first, before bedding/trigger work ect.

Now for the caveat, there is still the possibility that a rifle won't shoot after all of that work. This will be because of a flaw in the bore such as poor tolerances or malformed lands or temper of the steel. In rare cases, the temper of the action can be at fault too. The trouble is, after a week of accurizing (problem rifles will take a full 40 hours), there is still a chance that the rifle won't shoot. It is rare, I can often get away with such practices as fire lapping to improve tolerances etc but it does happen very occasionally.

but for whatever the reason you should be getting paid for any work you put in.
and for me personally i see a lot of people/customers that want a service done or whatever, and only look at the price.(any service, not just guns)
therefore dont think of the on going maintanance of a cheap priced job or even worse paying twice to have the job repaired or done properly like what should of been done in the first place.
so for me, quality is number one!
id rather know im paying a bit more, or even the most expensive job in town if quallity is number one.
it takes a while to find someone to do work for me (anything) and id like to keep using that one person its a hassle to change and start over. but quality of workmanship will have me moving on over anything else.
on the other hand i understand that the people doing the service dont have a magic wand, as long as options are given and problems out of the normal are explained i dont have a problem.
so to sum up, charge whatever you like, you too are in bussiness to make money. im sure your work will speak for its self. and if others are like me, paying once is usually cheaper than twice.

(as im planning on sending my rifle to you soon. this wasnt ment to put any pressure on you. just saying it how i see it, in general.)
15 Jul 2012
@ 12:37 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Rifle accurizing service
Hi Jason, I do inspect the bores first.

The trouble is with many factory rifles, the machining marks are now the norm. Guys want to see if I can get the rifles shooting regardless of the machining marks and often the rifles will shoot. But there are times when the marks are just too deep.

The photo below is of a Howa muzzle. Note the rough machine marks. This is typical of the current Howa/Weatherby rifles and also Savage. Some of the Remingtons are looking like this, but not quite as bad. The trouble is, the below rifle shoots a half minute.



In such instances, I warn the client that the bore has machining marks and that there is a great chance that the rifle won't shoot after accurizing. Its then up to the client to make the call.

Sometimes I can fire lap the bore, then do a preliminary test. But without bedding its still hard to say. It takes me several hours to fire lap and pre test. If the rifle was shooting say 3" at 100 yards and then shoots 2". We have to make a call as to whether the rifle will improve further with bedding.

Other times I may get a bore that is smooth and shiny but has a stress problem. This cannot be seen by visual inspection.

A while back, a Sako A7 came to me. It was shooting around 12" at 100 yards. The bore was mint. I bedded it and stiffened the forend and got the rifle down to 3.6" but that was all it would give. It fouled heavily but the bore was smooth and shiny. I then high pressure firelapped it, flattened the primers right out. I did this as a last ditch effort before binning the barrel. This opened up the bore dimensions at the chamber end, the dimensions gradually becoming tighter at the muzzle. The rifle now shoots a half minute with factory loads and very basic hand loads. There is room to get the rifle down to a quarter minute with ease. So you never can tell really. I am considered the big guru for tricks like the above example but its taxing to be sure.

15 Jul 2012
@ 02:04 pm (GMT)

jason brown

Re: Rifle accurizing service
i knew there would be a logical reason/reasons. sounds like you work hard to correct things before scrapping a barrel.

thanks for the detailed explanation.
 

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We are a small, family run business, based out of Taranaki, New Zealand, who specialize in cartridge research and testing, and rifle accurizing.

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