Riflemen are a detail-oriented group of folks. Part of the reason for that is because when it comes to putting rounds downrange accurately, little things count bigtime. One of those little things is called barrel harmonics. This is particularly important when it comes to bolt-action rifles that you desire to be long-range capable. It is for this reason that free-floated barrels are key to increased accuracy. Here’s why…
Think of your rifle’s barrel like a tuning fork. Each time that a bullet is fired, it causes the barrel to hum at a particular vibrational frequency. These vibrations come through the barrel from the rifle chamber and the bullet, as the bullet travels down the barrel on its way out. The bullet and that vibration meet the muzzle of your rifle barrel at the same time. A free-floated barrel, meaning a barrel that is not touching anything else on the gun, will vibrate at the same frequency every single shot. Given that accuracy is about consistency, the free-floated barrel is a huge deal when it comes to hitting your mark every time.
Some hunting rifle companies will free-float everything up to the last 2-inches of the rifle’s forearm tip. This space is commonly referred to as a “pressure point.” This is definitely suitable for accuracy when it comes to an average hunting rifle, meaning a gun that you do not intend to shoot beyond 200 yards at a target that is about the size of a 10-inch paper plate. But it is not suitable for what is considered long-range accuracy.
To find out if the rifle you own has a legitimately free-floated barrel, take three, one-dollar bills and stack them together. Then run them up between the barrel and the forend of you rifle. Go all the way up to the chamber. If there is not enough space for the bills to get all the way to the chamber, your rifle isn’t free-floated. Aside from taking your rifle to a gunsmith and/or purchasing a new stock, you can try opening a channel between your barrel and foreend by using sandpaper. You could also bed the action and the chamber area forward of the recoil lug. There are many kits you can purchase with instructions on how to pull it off. You can also take it to a trained professional if you are not mechanically inclined.