Barrelmaker E.R. Shaw recently branched out with a semi-custom rifle called the Mark-VII. You can have it just about any way your heart desires and at a very reasonable price.
Pick chrome-moly or stainless steel, one of the three stock styles (laminated, walnut or synthetic), right- or left-hand action, plus more barrel lengths, twists and calibers than you can shake a stick at—from the .17s through the .458 Lott. Every option available on a right-hand version is also available for southpaws.
Several years ago, Shaw invested a boatload of money and retooled its facility outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with state-of-the-art CAD and CNC machines. Now the firm turns out barrels that will hold their own with just about any on the market.
We recently received a new Mark-VII in 6.5-284 Norma chambering for testing. Overall fit and finish was very good, and with its stainless steel action and barrel, helical fluting and laminated stock, it’s a real looker. While the 6.5mm bore has never been popular on this side of the pond, in function there is beauty, not to mention a rather good selection of factory ammo for the now-standardized 6.5-284 Norma.
The Mark-VII is based on an action built to Shaw’s specifications by Savage and given some proprietary tweaks by Shaw to further enhance accuracy. The familiar Savage barrel nut has been eliminated on the Mark-VII so that the barrel can be screwed directly into the receiver, with a hefty recoil lug sandwiched in between.
The action retains the Savage AccuTrigger, but has the older-style bolt release. This release requires the user to pull the trigger and depress the cocking indicator at the right rear of the action simultaneously to remove or insert the bolt.
The tang safety has three positions. All the way forward is Fire, while the middle notch allows the shooter to open or close the bolt with the safety on. The rearmost detent locks both the trigger and the bolt. The Mark-VII has a fixed magazine in a blind mortise in the stock that is easy to fill and feeds flawlessly.
The 26-inch stainless steel barrel measures .670 inch at the muzzle, sports a recessed target crown and is button-rifled with a 1:9 twist to better handle the pencil-size 6.5mm bullets that wring the most out of this caliber.
Eight distinctive helical barrel flutes start about 5½ inches ahead of the receiver. The dark finish in the flutes that makes them so distinctive is actually a special paint that is hand-applied. It’s a nice touch.
The laminated stock is from Boyds and is available in nutmeg (brown) and pepper (gray). Synthetic and walnut stocks are also available. A laminated stock is heavier than pure wood, but it’s extremely stout and very rigid, important considerations for consistent bedding and top accuracy. The stock is not checkered and has a slick, semi-gloss finish that accents the alternating colored layers of wood. A recoil pad and QD sling swivels come installed.
For testing, we mounted a 30mm Sightron SIII 8-32×56 target scope with a ⅛-minute dot in Leupold mounts. With ¼-minute click adjustments and a side-focus adjustment for parallax correction, the Sightron was a perfect choice to enhance the long-range potential of the rifle. Most shooting was done with the scope set at 20X.
I fired five loads from Black Hills Ammunition, Norma and Nosler. Groups with all loads averaged well under an inch, and most were about half that. Velocities were right at—or slightly above—those listed by their manufacturers, thanks in part, no doubt, to the 26-inch barrel.
For long-range target work, the Black Hills Gold load with Sierra’s 142-grain MatchKing at 2,905 fps deserves serious consideration. Groups averaged .47 inch. At 3,181 fps, Nosler’s 120-grain Ballistic Tip was the fastest load tested, averaging .59 inch. Nosler’s 125-grain Partition ammo clocked 3,105 fps and is apparently loaded right to the max, as extraction was a bit tough on some rounds. The Norma load with the 140-grain Partition registered 2,988 fps. Both Partitions averaged well under an inch.
All in all, it is difficult to find a more easily attainable or affordable way to put together a custom rifle. The Shaw Mark-VII is a heck of a value.