Hill Country Rifles

Custom-built guns are the pinnacle of the gunsmithing art. Here’s how the gunsmiths at Hill Country Rifles make them.

by Robert Kolesar

It doesn’t get much better in the shooting world than a custom gun. Owning a hand-built rifle, shotgun or handgun is Nirvana to the hardcore gun-lover. While most of us can’t afford a new (or used) Bentley, a custom rifle or pistol is achievable, if you iireally want one. I guess it all depends on your priorities.

Of course, a lot depends on the gun you want. An English stalking rifle hand-made by John Rigby in London is probably out of the question ($15,000 on up). And it’s not really appropriate for the kind of shooting most Americans do. Building something stateside that the major US manufacturers don’t offer is something else, though. A purpose-driven rifle or pistol that’s tailored to your specifications by a custom shop is common today. Serious riflemen using custom-barreled actions set in fiberglass stocks are the new norm in the hunting world. So is a pistol hand-built for competition like PPC or Precision Pistol (bullseye). If you compete, you’ll be using a hand-built gun if you’re serious about winning.

Some of the best custom guns I’ve seen and used come out of a shop in New Braunfels, Texas. Hill Country Rifles (HCR, HillCountryRifles.com, 830/609-3139) is unique in the custom rifle world – they actually shoot the customer’s rifle before it’s shipped. If it doesn’t meet their accuracy standards it doesn’t get out the door. Most places guarantee an accurate rifle and will stand behind their product, but Hill Country shoots the completed rifle with premium factory ammo before sending it out. That’s the critical difference. HCR spends in excess of $60,000 yearly for premium factory ammunition for use in testing. Every rifle built or accurized must meet their 1/2” three-shot standard after completion. An on-site 100-yard underground range is busy testing finished rifles daily.

Read more in the April 2022 issue.

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