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Frequently Asked Questions

829 Brown School Rd. | Evansville, WI 53536 | Phone: 608-882-1229


Why should I buy a custom rifle rather than a factory rifle, when a factory rifle is much less expensive? (Back to top...)

First of all, if you’re shopping based on price, then you should go with the factory rifle. I fully understand that custom rifles are not for everyone, and I don’t have, or want, a sales pitch to explain why you “need” one. My clients are not motivated by need, and they’re definitely not looking to be sold. Just the opposite, they know what they want and they’re looking to buy. They expect a quality experience, not just a quick sale. They appreciate attention to detail and craftsmanship, and are mainly interested in value. My clients like the concept of a rifle built specifically for them, with their input, to their specs---a one of a kind. Bottom line, I don’t need a sales pitch because my rifles, like most other luxury items, sell themselves.

What are the advantages and benefits of a custom rifle over a factory rifle? (Back to top...)

To me, the greatest advantage/benefit of a custom rifle is the confidence it instills in the user. Confidence in your rifle is a powerful thing. Whether it’s in a combat zone, hunting, at the range, or at home, when you know your rifle is going to perform every time you squeeze the trigger, that’s priceless. The other advantages are the obvious ones. The client can design their rifle for a very specific purpose or use. It can be built for a dream hunt, for a certain terrain, requiring a special camouflage or finish. They can build it to fit their physique. It can be lighter or heavier, with a shorter or longer length of pull, carbine barrel for easier handling. It can be chambered in their favorite caliber for a certain prey animal, possibly to combat recoil, or because factory rifles don’t offer it. The accessories that are important to the client can be added. They may require good iron sights for close-up work on dangerous game, they may want a certain scope mount for long range shooting, they might want a muzzle-brake for maximum recoil reduction. It could be the esthetics and finish. They want a unique stock paint job, they want all the steel to match perfectly, they don’t like the shiny factory bluing, and on and on and on….The benefits of a custom rifle are many, here are but a few. They’re incredibly accurate, their finish is as tough as nails, their stocks are nearly indestructible, their fit and balance are beautiful, their actions operate flawlessly, their triggers are always crisp, their bedding is an exact fit, their crowns are always perfect, they look damn good, and they love to be used.

Why are your rifles so expensive? (Back to top...)

Same reasons a Ferrari is expensive----and Ferrari doesn’t offer anywhere near the customization I do. In all seriousness, the answer is time, and to a lesser extent, materials. These rifles take an incredible amount of time to plan and build. How many products these days are truly built one at a time by a single craftsman? Can you think of anything? Nothing comes to my mind immediately. My rifles are one of those rare products. From start to finish, I’ll spend anywhere from 60-120 shop hours per rifle. That’s a lot of time, and it’s all very tedious time, but I believe the end product is worth it.

Do you do general gunsmithing? (Back to top...)

Yes (See Custom Gunsmithing Section)

Do I need to supply and send you an action/receiver for my rifle?
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No, you do not. However, if possible, I strongly recommend it. The reason being, if you can supply me with your own acceptable action (or rifle with an acceptable action) as the basis for your custom rifle, I can ship your Soltis Rifle directly to you upon completion. On the flipside, if I supply the action, then we’re required to go through the FFL sales process. This means I’ll have to ship your finished rifle to an FFL holder in your area instead of directly to you. This is fine, it just requires more work and inconvenience for both of us. Not to mention, most FFL holders will charge you a fee to receive your rifle and do the corresponding paperwork/ background check. Lastly, I’m always more comfortable sending one of my rifles directly to its proud new owner, rather than some FFL holder I’ve never met.

If I have a Remington 700 rifle, Winchester Mod 70 (Pre-64 Controlled Round Feed) rifle or a Howa 1500/Weatherby Vanguard rifle, can I use that barreled action/receiver as the basis for my custom rifle?
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Yes, by all means. However, it depends on its condition and whether or not it will work (size/bolt face) for your desired rifle/caliber. We can discuss in more detail during the ordering process.

Can I supply other components/parts (barrel, stock, scope mounts, trigger, etc) for my rifle, in addition to the action/receiver?
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Will you use other barrels, besides Krieger, Shilen, Rock Creek (Mike Rock)?
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Yes, I will use other quality barrels upon request.

Do you build rifles on other bolt actions (Ruger, Browning, etc)?
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No, currently I’m only building on the Rem. Mod 700, Win. Mod 70 (Pre-64 type Controlled Round Feed), and the Howa 1500 (or Weatherby Vanguard).

If I want to do some of the rifle building myself, will you just do a portion?
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Yes (See Custom Gunsmithing Section)

What are my choices for calibers?
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Basically any caliber you desire, as long as I can get a reamer and some factory ammunition. At this time, I don’t do wildcat cartridges, sorry.

Do you sub-contract out any part of your rifles?
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Yes, the engraving (Soltis Rifles, Model, Caliber) is done by Wisconsin Engraving. I don’t have the proper equipment and Wisconsin Engraving does beautiful work. Everything else is done by me personally.

Can I get other engraving put on my rifle?
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No and Yes. No, I won’t do any engraving other than the Soltis Rifles, model, and caliber. However, yes, after I hand the rifle over to you, you can do whatever you like with it.

Can I make changes to my rifle after I’ve ordered it?
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If it’s a very simple change and I can accommodate, yes. However, one small change can quickly snowball and actually result in numerous changes, which can change the rifle completely. Like other rifle enthusiasts, I’m continually reading and looking at new products, thinking of new ideas, and always trying to improve on what I’ve done. My advice, once you’ve ordered your rifle and we’ve agreed on the blueprint---stick with it, and ignore the latest and greatest fads until your rifle is done!


Do you have accuracy requirements or an accuracy guarantee?
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Yes and No. Yes, I have my own personal requirements. No, I don’t have a formal guarantee. My word and reputation is my guarantee, and my own requirements for accuracy must be met before I hand the rifle over. However, those requirements vary from rifle to rifle. If I build you a varmint gun on a Rem 700 with all the bells and whistles---my personal requirement is going to be very high, half inch groups or better, focusing more on better. If you want a .458 Lott “guide” rifle with iron sights only, I’m not sure what would be acceptable. Typically, ½” inch groups or better with your average calibers, premium factory ammunition, and a decent scope is the norm with my Signature Rifles. Starter Customs typically don’t fare quite that well, one inch or better is the norm, but many do shoot half inch groups. However, just because I can shoot these size groups, doesn’t mean everyone can. It depends on your skill level, your range, your bench, your rest, your eyesight, the wind, reticle style, whether or not you clean your rifle, and on and on---groups are a relative thing and can’t be guaranteed.

Why are custom rifle builders always so concerned with shot “ groups” and their size?
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The size of the groups a rifle will shoot is really how I, as the builder, grade myself on the job I’ve done. In other words, tight and consistent groups are the direct result of a skilled and precise rifle builder, who did everything right throughout the building process. My method is fairly simple to determine this, and each riflesmith is going to have his own procedure and testing parameters. I typically zero in and shoot from a 100yd bench. Normally, I’ll shoot in four-round increments per type of ammo (a fowler and then 3-shot groups). I generally test a variety of ammo (4 or 5 different kinds appropriate to what the owner will be shooting), and enough rounds to average the groups, while simultaneously testing other aspects of the rifle. I then measure from the center of each hole to the other two, and thus determine the group size. If all the centers are within, say a ½” of each other, I’ve shot a ½” group or basically a ½ MOA (Minute of Angle). This group size is excellent, but the ultimate goal is to have all the rounds touching or go into the same hole, every time. Unfortunately, not every rifle is a one-holer, but that’s the mark I’m always striving for. Lastly, at the range, I do more than shoot for groups. I’m doing what’s called a barrel break-in throughout, I’m checking the spent cases, the primer, feeding, extraction, the safety, loading, the scope, etc.

Will you work up a hand load for my particular rifle?
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No, not at this time, sorry. I use premium factory ammunition when testing my rifles and do a basic “factory” load development. In other words, depending on the rifle and its intended purpose, I’ll shoot a variety of the appropriate ammo (typically four or five different loads) and determine what your rifle likes and then include that information upon delivery. For the Starter Customs, if the client prefers, I’ll shoot one type of premium ammo in order to save on costs. After I hand the rifle over to the new owner, you’re free to hand load or experiment with as many factory loads as you like.


What’s the difference between chrome-moly steel and stainless steel?(Back to top...)

In general, not much, except stainless steel is rust “resistant” and chrome-moly isn’t. The big difference is the finishing. Stainless steel doesn’t require any rust proofing (Parkerizing or painting), and can be left as is (but I do not recommend this on certain rifles). Chrome-moly needs to be finished or “coated” in order to make it rust proof, usually it’s Parkerized and then left as is or immediately painted after Parkerizing. Also, it is common to have both types of steel on the same rifle (sometimes you’ll have no choice), and still finish everything to match and look good.

What type of steel finishes do you do?
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I do Parkerizing (chemical coating process, natural grey) and painting (any color). Also, if you like stainless steel, that’s fine, I can polish and blast with glass beads for a nice matte finish (again, I’m not a big fan of stainless steel left as is, it’s resistant to rust, but not enough for me). Stainless can also be blasted with course aluminum oxide and painted. The only paint I use is DuraCoat, it’s permanent, rust proof, and finishes very nice. Often, I mix these various finishes on a rifle for the desired look. I’ll try to accommodate whatever look you’re going for within reason. Also, on most of my rifles, I require two levels of rust protection on the steel (redundancy). If it’s chrome-moly, it gets parkerized and then painted. If it’s stainless steel, it gets blasted and then painted. There are some exceptions to this, usually with stainless steel, or on the Starter Customs that are only Parkerized to save on paint costs. However, there aren’t many exceptions, and none with “working” rifles that are going to extreme environments to see extended field use. I put my name on these rifles, I won’t tolerate any rust accompanying it.


If I’m planning on having a scope mounted to my rifle, do I need to provide it?(Back to top...)

Yes!!!! Most rifles I build have scopes. In order to make sure the scope is appropriate for the rifle, is in good working order, and holds a zero when tested at the range---I need the scope! Also, if you want your mounts (rings/bases) to be the right size/height, properly installed, and finished to match the rest of your rifle---I need the scope! Lastly, if you want your scope mounted correctly to optimize accuracy---I need the scope! In other words, I’ll need your scope ASAP!

What kind of scope should I choose? Can you recommend a certain brand? (Back to top...)

Yes. I’ll go through all your options, discuss advantages and disadvantages, and make all my recommendations as we talk during the ordering process. Keep in mind, these are very accurate rifles that require quality scopes in order to consistently perform and maximize their potential. In other words, the rifle is only as good as the sighting system utilized.

Do I need iron sights (open sights) on my rifle, as well as a scope? (Back to top...)

That’s completely up to you. It really depends on the rifle style and its intended purpose. Typically, for serious, “working” rifles that will see a lot of hunting, especially in far away places, back-up iron sites are a necessity. For example, if you’re going deep into Alaska or Canada, on a dream hunt, and something goes terribly wrong with your scope, those iron sights could save the day. Also, with dangerous game rifles, backup irons or irons by themselves are fairly standard. A lot of my rifle building, as you’ll see throughout the website, is based on redundancy and “over” building. A scope is good, but a scope plus iron sights is even better. (Note. I don’t put iron sights on Starter Customs)

Why do you use Talley Scope Mounts/Rings/Bases and do you use other types and brands? (Back to top...)

First, I use Talley mounts almost exclusively because they’re high quality and they work. They’re machined precisely, they’re finished properly, and they’re rock solid. That’s what I’m looking for and my clients expect. The Talley products are usually more expensive than your average mounts, but well worth it in the long run. For the more inexpensive Starter Custom Rifles, occasionally I will go with the Talley aluminum one-piece mounts--they are very competitively priced. Lastly, I will use tactical mounts (rings/bases/rails) for certain rifles, usually Leupold Mark IV products, but there are other good ones out there. We can discuss scope mounting options in more depth during the ordering process.

What’s the deal with 6-48 and 8-40 screws regarding scope mounts?
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Most actions/receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts with size 6-48 screws. However, as mentioned throughout this website, I believe in “over” building. Thus, I’ll re-drill and tap those 6-48 holes to the larger 8-40 holes. This allows the scope mounts to be anchored with bigger, beefier screws, and thus a little more securely. More steel equals more strength.


What style of stock should I go with?
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I’ll go through all your options, discuss the technical details, advantages and disadvantages, and make all my recommendations during the ordering process. However, I would start by getting on the McMillan website and reading through all their products and options.

Will you use other fiberglass stocks besides McMillan? (Back to top...)

Yes, as long as they're equal in quality.

What kind of paint do you use on your stocks and what patterns do you offer?(Back to top...)

If you can dream it up and I think it’s possible, we’ll do it. A good place to start is the DuraCoat website (Lauerweaponry.com). I use DuraCoat paint on my stocks, it’s nearly indestructible and I like working with it. You can choose from any of their colors and camouflage patterns, add or subtract from them, do spatter-type color on color, come up with your own pattern, send me a pattern you like that I can duplicate, it’s all up to you. Also, keep in mind, I always texture the stock surface, it’s never baby-butt smooth upon completion. The reason being, these are “working” fiberglass stocks, not Claro Walnut, they do have flaws and imperfections from the factory. I make them look awesome, but I don’t do the shiny, glittery, paint jobs and fancy air brushing you see on some of those competition rifles. My rifles are built for utility and serious field use, not to win beauty contests.

Do you do wood stocks? (Back to top...)

No, not at this time, sorry.

Can I go with a completely finished and painted, drop-in stock from McMillan to save money?
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No, I only get inletted stocks from McMillan, no swivel studs, no recoil pads, and no paint. McMillan stocks are excellent, but to meet my standards, all of the stock work, accessories, and paint jobs have to be done by me.

What are my choices for recoil pads?
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I use Packmayer Decelerator Pads almost exclusively. I like the basketweave and standard styles, one inch pads, black or brown.

What kind of swivel studs do you use? (Back to top...)

I use standard Uncle Mike’s swivel studs for all Starter Custom Rifles, as well as for some tri-lugged Signature Customs (usually varmint/tactical rifles with bipods). For the Signature Custom rifles with just two lugs, I typically require the fancier inletted swivel studs.


What does a muzzle-brake do and do I need one on my rifle?
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Muzzle-brakes, sometimes called muzzle-stabilizers, are devices to lessen the felt recoil or “kick” of a rifle. They’re usually no more complicated than a tube of steel with numerous holes in it, screwed onto the muzzle of the rifle. They come in all varieties and have different levels of effectiveness, and they do work. Basically, what they do is trap or “brake” some of those hot gases following the bullet out the muzzle and re-direct them, so all that energy isn’t directed straight back against your shoulder, but dispersed in multiple directions. Different brakes have different numbers and patterns of holes, pointed in different directions, all of which determine the effectiveness and noise-level of the individual brake. Muzzle-brakes do have their uses and I put them on a good portion of my rifles. The downside to brakes are the extra noise and concussion they can create for the shooter and those around him or her. If you have ever stood next to someone shooting a big magnum with an aggressive muzzle-brake, trust me, it’ll wake you up and can make your head hurt. Depending on what you want, we can talk further about brakes during the ordering process and whether or not it would be a good choice for your envisioned rifle.

What’s the point of bolt jewelling? (Back to top...)

It looks good with certain rifles, nice contrast, especially with all or nearly all black rifles. I jewel with a very tight, over-lapping pattern, it’s tedious, but that factory jewelling doesn’t cut it for me. Jewelling is basically swirling or “scratching” on the steel with a little wire brush and some compound. Those scratches create a place for the oil to accumulate, making a sort of a rust-resistant surface.

Do I have to go with a more costly aftermarket bottom-metal on my rifle instead of the factory bottom-metal (trigger guard/floor plate assembly/etc)?
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Yes and No. With the Starter Customs, no, the factory Howa aluminum bottom-metal is adequate and will be used to save on costs. With the Signature Customs, Rem.700 and Win.70, yes, I use aftermarket bottom-metals almost exclusively and never use the factory bottom-metals. The reason being, the aftermarket bottom-metals are typically beefier in their construction, more reliable in design, and usually higher quality overall. Also, they’re normally made of steel instead of aluminum, they’re always one-piece, and as a general rule, they’re more esthetically pleasing. Lastly, the bottom metal is a very important part of the rifle, if it fails to latch or function properly, it can render the rifle more or less useless.

What are those recoil reducers?
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Recoil reducers or “mercury” recoil reducers are typically small tubes filled with mercury or some other heavy material. Basically, I drill a hole in the stock before I put the recoil pad on, and epoxy in one of these recoil reducers. The reducer is filled with a heavy material that kind of “swishes” from one side to the other as the rifle recoils. The goal is to slow down or “soften” the jolt. In addition, most of the reducers weigh a half pound or so, which translates into more rifle weight, naturally reducing felt recoil. They do help, not nearly as much as muzzle-brakes, but if you’re recoil sensitive or want to add weight to a varmint or tactical rifle, they’re a good option.


What’s the difference between a free-floated barrel and a fully bedded barrel? (Back to top...)

The difference is very simple. A free-floated barrel does not physically touch any part of the stock, so it “floats” freely. This floating typically begins just in front of the action/receiver, at the start of the barrel contour, and goes forward to the muzzle. The goal, in theory, is to have the barrel “whip” and vibrate without interference identically shot after shot. This, in theory, aids in accuracy because we want these barrel harmonics to be unobstructed and the same each time. The downside to free-floating is you have a space or “gap” between your barrel and stock. This isn’t a big deal if you use your rifle once in a while in moderate environments. However, if your rifle is going to see some serious weather for extended periods, that “gap” is vulnerable to rain, snow, wind, dirt, foliage, etc. In this case, you’re probably better off with a fully bedded barrel. Fully bedded just means the stock is basically a one-to-one fit with the entire barrel, complete contact with no gap. Theoretically, this doesn’t let the barrel vibrate naturally and consistently and thus hurts accuracy. Now, for the sake of argument, I’ve also heard some builders say, dampening these vibrations is good for accuracy. I’ve built equally accurate rifles using both methods, so to me, it’s more about the type of rifle, it’s mission, and intended environment. I would say about 80% of the rifles I build are free-floated and perfectly happy.

How do I know what barrel I need, what length, contour, and twist? (Back to top...)

I’ll go through all your options, discuss the technical details, advantages and disadvantages, and make all my recommendations during the ordering process.

What is blueprinting? (Back to top...)

Blueprinting is the foundation of any accurate rifle. Without getting too technical, I take a factory action/bolt and re-cut or “true” all the surfaces that run perpendicular to the bore line (I also re-cut/true the receiver threads). The goal is to make sure these surfaces, which are usually a little bit off and sometimes a lot, are as true (perfectly 90 degrees or perpendicular to the bore) as humanly possible. If done correctly, along with the barrel and its machined surfaces, everything should line up perfectly straight, resulting in a consistently accurate barreled action. However, keep in mind, this is only the first step to an accurate rifle. More information on blueprinting is in the building process.

What is bolt sleeving? (Back to top...)

Bolt sleeving is part of the accurizing process. Again, without getting too technical, the bolt bore raceway (the hole down the middle of the receiver where the bolt rests) is a certain diameter. This diameter is obviously slightly bigger than the bolt’s diameter, so the bolt can move freely, slide through, and turn. However, accurizing is mostly about tightening tolerances, so I want to tighten that tolerance between the bolt and receiver so the bolt won’t cant or “tip” when the trigger is pulled. In other words, we want it to remain as straight and rigid as possible, shot after shot, the same each time. The sleeves themselves are explained further in the building process. (Note. Starter Customs and Dangerous Game Rifles are not sleeved)

What is accurizing? (Back to top...)

Accurizing is basically a set of procedures I perform on every rifle, attempting to maximize its accuracy potential and repeatability. The accuracy comes from doing everything correctly, and the repeatability comes from tight tolerances and the least amount of stress possible on the components. More specifically, I start with quality components and accessories. I blueprint the barreled action, bolt sleeving in some cases, making sure the foundation of the rifle is solid. I then focus on the four “walls” that sit on the foundation. They would be the bedding that the barreled action resides in, the sighting system (scope/mounts/open sights), the trigger, and the barrel crown. Lastly, would be the “roof” that ties everything together, in this case, the proper ammunition. When focused on doing each of these procedures correctly and precisely, and then tying them all together correctly, the end result is a very accurate instrument. You can read and learn more about accurizing on the building process.

What is bedding? (Back to top...)

Bedding is basically the surface the barreled action and bottom metal rest on. In other words, the barreled action and bottom metal fit inside the stock, are bolted together (top and bottom) via the action/receiver screws, and the surfaces they contact or “lie” in, is the bedding. In the case of my rifles, I use an epoxy called Marine-Tex as the bedding material. In very simple terms, I epoxy pillars into the stock that the barreled action and bottom metal rest on, and through which the action screws go. Then I re-inlet or “relieve” the stock (this is where the stress relief comes into play) so the barreled action and bottom metal only touch the pillars. Then I fill the stock with bedding compound (acts as a mold), install the barreled action and bottom metal, let dry and remove. I’ll do this numerous times until the bedding is perfect. Lastly, I’ll shave the pillar surfaces down slightly, so the top and bottom metal no longer touch them, but lie completely in the bed. I’ve now bedded the rifle or “mated” the rifle to the stock, so it’s a perfect fit with little to no stress when bolted together. My goal is to have a one-to-one fit between rifle and stock for as little vibration as possible, with zero stress, and with what little vibration there exists, to be the same each time the rifle is fired. Different builders will use varying bedding methods, compounds, and techniques, including bedding blocks, pressure points and other tricks. My method is probably one of the more tedious, but the end result is worth it to me.

What is the crown? (Back to top...)

The crown is basically the muzzle of the barrel. More specifically, it’s the very end of the bore, the very last part of the barrel/lands/grooves the bullet touches as it exits. The crown needs to be sharp and crisp, with no dings or chips, so the bullet makes equal contact on all sides as it exits---ensuring consistency and maximizing accuracy.

What’s the difference between Push-Feed Actions (Rem. and Howa) and Controlled-Round Feed Actions (Win. and Dakota)? (Back to top...)

In general terms, a push-feed action does not fully control the cartridge as it pushes it into the chamber, where as the controlled-round feed does. More specifically, push-feeds simply strip the cartridge from the magazine follower, via the bottom of the bolt nose, and shove it into the chamber. At the very end of the forward motion, just before the round is fully chambered, it’ll seat within the bolt face, the ejector will be compressed, and the extractor will slip over the rim of the cartridge, finally controlling it. The controlled-feed works a little different, in that as the bolt is pushed forward, the extractor quickly grabs and controls the cartridge. What happens is the bolt rim is open or missing at the bottom portion, and the claw extractor is positioned to immediately accept the cartridge rim, so as soon as that cartridge comes off that magazine follower, its grabbed and controlled by that extractor all the way into the chamber. Personally, I like both types of actions. They both have their slight advantages and disadvantages, along with their different uses and benefits. My only requirement is, with dangerous game rifles or “stopper” rifles, I’ll only use controlled-round feed actions. The reason being, reliability becomes the primary issue when hunting dangerous game---the life you save could be your own. The controlled-round feed has a bigger, beefier extractor for a more positive grip on that cartridge, so as you extract that first round and prepare for your follow up shots, there’s little chance of them getting stuck in the chamber or the extractor slipping off the rim. Not to mention, the cone breech of a Win. 70 action helps and ensures cartridge feeding, and that cartridge being controlled throughout the process doesn’t hurt either.