@ 05:26 pm (GMT)
Nathan FosterHi Kyle, since the earthquakes hit Japan in 2011, Howa barrel quality has dropped to an all time low. The bores are full of machine marks, pits and burrs on both stainless and blued model rifles. It is a very sad situation. There is a possibility that your rifle will never shoot straight, its as simple as that.
Ok, so lets do a damage control check. You have stabilized and bedded the cheap Hogue stock. When you do your barrel climb check, make sure you drop the floor plate and mag spring otherwise the mag spring will push the barreled action out to that 1mm you quoted. If you chave done the check properly and the barrel still tries to climb out of the stock during your check, it means that the action or stock was stressed (bent) during bedding. The only remedy is a rebed.
The barrel is a tough one. If its still fouling at a fairly high rate, it will need lapping. You can use my barrel break in article for this. You may have to consider fire lapping to knock the machine marks down. But here is the kicker, on a poor quality bore, there is a risk that by the time you have partially smoothed out the machine marks, the bore tolerances will be loose. So you have to play this by ear. Lap the bore, test it, monitor fouling. If you get to a point where fouling is low and accuracy is still poor, then you may have to consider rebarreling. Sometimes you simply can't stop a bad barrel fouling.
As for optics, ironically I have banned both Nikko Storling and Zeiss from being used during tutorial long range hunts. The cheap scopes fall apart while Zeiss scopes often give my clients cut eyebrows (in magnum chamberings) due to poor eye relief. I think its a piss take to charge people several thousand dollars for a punch in the eye. I wouldn't give a damn if there were 100,000 positive reviews placed in front of me. The cm calibration on the Zeiss scopes are also a right pain to work with when making drop charts. My service, my call. I've drawn my line and thats all there is to it.
Your scope will work well on your .308, I just want to make sure that you don't run into the extremes game where you go from a budget rifle that gives you problems to the opposite mind set and end up with the emperors new clothes.
If you have a very thin barrel, cutting a thread on the muzzle is not the best idea, nor is trapping heat in the thin barrel via the use of an over barrel suppressor. I am seeing cooked bores on a week to week basis now, too much trapped heat, continued shooting, bores expanding, bore then swelling from successive shots, then cooling and once cooled, are over sized. If you want to kill a light weight barrel, put a suppressor on it and fire 12 shots in 9 minutes. Off it comes, into the steel scrap bin it goes, another one bites the dust on my work bench.
The Highland ammo will sometimes produce excellent accuracy, other times accuracy is poor. As always, it depends on the bore, not the ammo. You will probably need to try a few brands of ammunition to get the full picture. This is the usual process for testing. That said, I have seen enough faulty Howa barrels this year to be able to say with confidence that ammunition is just one variable and that the bore needs to be addressed first.
As you can see, you have a few factors at play. The bore and the bedding need attention first. Work through these issues slowly and patiently. You have a good rifle action which at the end of the day, is all that matters. The action is the heart of your platform, barrels come and go, stocks come and go.