404J rifles custom build or secondary market?

Sid Post

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I have been shopping the common places for a 404 Jeffery bolt action rifle but, they seem rather rare for whatever reason or are super expensive. Sure, I'd love a Heym Express but, at that price, I'm either not hunting with it ($ all gone) or I'm getting another double rifle!

On the cheaper end of my options, I'm not wanting a 'gun plumber special' but, getting above what the former CZ USA custom shop rifle costs is a bit more than I would like to commit. With gently used Winchester Model 70's in 375/416/458 Magnum I'm beginning to wonder about using one of those for a custom rebarrel option.

I live in East Texas, USA so, imports from Europe or Africa are not going to be realistic if there are some used options in a foreign land. What sort of build cost would I be looking at with a good donor rifle for a 404J? I'm assuming something in a 458 Win Mag would be a good place to start with feed rails, recoil lugs and stocks, and similar 'basics'. Using a standard common rifle as a starting point should make any stock upgrades, sights, etc. cheaper and easier to find.

Then we get to who and where to look for a gunsmith. American Hunting Rifles would be a good option but, those seem to run $5~$6K and generally use a CZ Safari Magnum rifle as the base to work from so in addition to cost may be problematic considering COVID and factory availability of donor components. A donor Winchester Model 70 is ~$1k which seems to be cheaper and easier to find than a basic non-German stocked CZ 550 option.

So coming full circle, how do I get a 404J bolt action rifle in a relatively modern representation of a Winchester Model 70 pattern rifle? What should I expect it to cost and who are the better gunsmiths to do the work? Finally, what have I overlooked in a gently used option in something like a Mauser 98 style rifle that isn't a super expensive custom?

Thanks!
Sid
 

Aaron.F

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You must be reading my mind, as I am wondering the same thing, but I was looking at starting with a donor rifle in 375 H&H. I am ultimately looking at either a 404 or 416 something.
 

arizonajake

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Your best bets are as follows:

a) Purchase any used Controlled Round Feed Winchester M-70 chambered for a magnum action, then buy a .375 H & H length magazine follower from Midwest Gun Works or Brownells.
Then Purchase a barrel of your preferred contour. There are many gunsmiths who will do the following:
* Open the bolt face to accommodate the Jeff's larger diameter and modify the feed rails ensure feeding. (PacNor barrel co. Is currently doing this for me, on a Remington 1917 action).
* Shorten or replace the ejector tab, unless the rifle is originally chambered in a .375 H & H length case.
* Install sights, barrel band sling swivels, etc.
You can keep and make any minor modifications to the original stock, or make a custom one.

b) Purchase a Remington or Eddystone 1917 Enfield used rifle or action and do the same as above, except for the ejector tab work. You will more than likely want a replacement stock and you might also want to replace the factory trigger with a Timney. The Enfield action will hold at least 4 rounds in the magazine, while you may be limited to no more than 2 with the Winchester. It may hold 3, but I do not know.

c) Do the same with a Mauser 98 action. Please note that the 1917 Enfield action will easily fit .404 rounds, while the Mauser may require additional work. Also the 197 action is much stronger and a little heavier, which helps to somewhat reduce recoil.

I am sure many m ore members will provide many more useful information and suggestions.
 

Gringocazador

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Sid,

I split time between League City and my place in East Texas, Rayburn Country.

Years back I built a 404 Jeffery. If you use a Win 70, will need to start with an Ultra Mag in my opinon. the Jeffery round is larger than the 458 win mags and others.

I found a 300 Ultra Mag at a decent price and thats what I started with. Bottom metal is expensive, so is custom stock work. I am a Hobbiest Stock Maker, although a serious one so building a pattern and haveing a stock turned for me to inlet was not that big a deal, lot of work but not that big a deal.

I have a model 70 pattern that I did for Sunnyhill Bottom metal which Mike Kokolas now retired helped me with the patter. My guess you will have to use Blackburn bottom metal, doubt you can get Sunnyhill anymore.

I would try to find a CZ 550 in 404, I recall they made a few. Even if you have to pay more than market price you will come out much better than trying to build one. I have two 550 CZ's, one in 416 Rigby and one in 375 H&H.

Getting a 404 to feed is key, I had Dennis Olson do my feeding and it feed slick as snot. The rifle never did do much for me, I did not like the Bastone Walnut I used and could have been the forend slimmer. I sold it years ago but if I had it to do all over I would not have sold.

Building rifles is good fun. Harder to find parts to build with now days but doable.

Again, I'd find a CZ and would not try to use a Std Mauser. That just my two cents.
 

Sid Post

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You must be reading my mind, as I am wondering the same thing, but I was looking at starting with a donor rifle in 375 H&H. I am ultimately looking at either a 404 or 416 something.
For myself, the sharpness of recoil with a lightweight rifle or those with high velocities is a real detriment to enjoying shooting in general. That along with the larger frontal area of the 404J are attractive to me.

If recoil is too much to regularly practice with, I won't have the proficiency I need to be effective on the hunt and might as well trade my rifle for a Digital camera.
 

Shootist43

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Sid, use the Search feature on this same topic. There are a couple of Gunsmiths that others have used to do this exact conversion. Mine was converted by The Real Gunsmith - Randy's Custom Rifles there is another I believe his name is Dennis Olsen located in Plains MT. Talk to one or both and follow your heart.
 

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Angelo_orygun

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Sid,

I was in the same boat as you recently. I was going to go down the build a 404 route, even purchased a Pre-64 375 action and was about to send that off for a barrel.

I started to do the math and realized that I would be money ahead by purchasing a complete rifle.

I purchased an AHR DGR that an older gentleman had commissioned 10 years ago and never shot. “It’s too nice to hunt with.”

I figure I’m at least $3k ahead of where my build was going to end up at (integral barrel and nice walnut stock)

Something to think about....
 

RStien321

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I’m currently building one right now. This is the path I went down.

Donor Winchester Model 70 .300 Ultra Mag:
I found a “Black Shadow” version. Picked it up for $600. The black shadow version is listed as a push feed, BUT the Ultra Mag is the CRF version.

Bottom Metal:
I purchased a Super Grade single piece bottom metal - ran about $150

Stock:
CDNN has the Winchester 70 Safari stock available. $200

So all in, I’m at $950 for my “donor rifle.”

I’m expecting another $1,500 to glass and pillar bed the stock, true the action, purchase the barrel, rust blue the barreled action, and have it ready to rock.
 

expresshunt

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Lol, we all have different tastes.. CZ or custom..?? Ten years ago I found a excellent second hand CZ 404 Jeffery whilst at SCI Reno and sent it over here to Australia. But 3 things I didnt like, it had a bit heavier than normal CZ contour barrel, it had a rough yucky blasted finish (that held sweat after normal oiling, and needed a soppy oily rag to sponge it into the holes and eliminate the salt stuff.. every day... (mentioned this to a freind yesterday in NT and he said his Rem pump 3006 is the same and a pain in the ..... tropics), silly... and it had a heavy recoil reducer, glued into the stock. This rifle was now almost 10 1/2lb bare before the scope, and much too heavy for my liking. Also it had a feed hickup on #2 round. With 3 problems to fix, I just sold it on.
I prefer a 404 to be just under 9lb and then have a scope. I love the 404 as it will kick much less than a 416 Rigby if loaded the same velocity, for example 2340fps (I dont load hot) not needed. That 416 Rigby extra case capacity then needs extra powder, generating recoil. I love both rounds on game, but the 404 is nicer to shoot. The 416 Rem Mag in a Winchester solves all problems, ticks all the boxes in a good hunter/ph carry weight. Load that at its preferred 2300fps and all will die just as quick.

IMG_8640s.jpg

Pic - I have this Pre64 coming from USA soon.
I deliberatley had this 404 Jeffery made very light, as I'm aging and it will wear a scope, so loaded weight will hopefully be around 9 1/2lb. A client had one here in 2019 and I loved it, I said please sort me one 98% the same and he did... fantastic. Plain jane working rifle, and we found a very nice blank. I hope it feeds the Woodleigh Hydros, as these bullets have awesome performance and penetration.
Note - I prefer my rifles on the bit lighter weigh side, because I carry them for months on end. JMO.
 

Custom

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I have had two built, one on an M70 RUM action and the second on an M70 in 375. The first was built by a local gunsmith and then had LeRoy Barry work it over along with a custom stock. Dennis Olsen built the second, also with a custom stock that he carved. Both are beautiful and function perfectly. I will say that RUM actions are getting hard to find but Dennis Olsen can make it work on a 375 action. I will also say it will be far less expensive to buy a custom rifle second hand. The caveat is, especially with a 404, make sure it feeds before you drop the cash. Lots of examples out there that won't.
 

Custom

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Sid, just reread your post. On a budget your best choice may be to buy an M70 Safari Express in 375 and send it to Dennis Olsen. He can rebarrel it in the existing stock, use most of the other hardware and make it work. My guess is you could be into that for less than $3,000, depending on what you pay for the base rifle.
 

Custom

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True dat, Toby, but it lacks the "panache" of the 404 :cool:. Of course, what that is worth, if anything, is up to the buyer.
 

RichieG

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I bought a CZ 550 Safari Classic 2 in 404J, supposedly part of a limited edition of 50, for much more than I hoped, but it seems the calibre is in short supply, and in SA hard to get a local build as the licence admin can be significant for the gunsmith. Took a view and bought it! Good luck what a great calibre.

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Gringocazador

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Or you could just buy a Winchester 70 Safari Express in 416 Rem Mag and go hunting. Same ballistics and much cheaper to feed.
I started to say the same thing but didnt want to be a party pooper. 416 Rem is hard to beat easy to buy and or build.

I'd probably build a 416 Rem before I would build another 404 which I did at one time. But I have a 416 Rigby, two 375 H&H plus a 376 Steyr. Along with a 9.3x62 in the works.

But I do have a new Pac Nor Barrel lay on my bench, never fireded thats chambered in 416 Rem and threaded for large ring Mauser I need to do something with one of these days just for grins.

I got way to much gun stuff.
 

375 Ruger Fan

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From time to time, do a search on GB for "RUM" and see what rifles come up. There is currently a Montana Rifle 300 RUM listed, but it's stainless and synthehic stock.


In early 2018, I found a Win Mod 70 Super Grade in 300 RUM and hit the "Buy Now" button for a little over $1k. Sent the gun to Dennis Olson in Montana and waited 8 months for Krieger to deliver a 404 Jeff barrel.

 

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Sid Post

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Sid, just reread your post. On a budget your best choice may be to buy an M70 Safari Express in 375 and send it to Dennis Olsen. He can rebarrel it in the existing stock, use most of the other hardware and make it work. My guess is you could be into that for less than $3,000, depending on what you pay for the base rifle.
That's what I was thinking. ~$3K for a Winchester Model 70 404J with a reasonable amount of gunsmithing.

The CZ Custom shop would be in that general price range but, I think it might be a bit heavy and clunky though the custom shop rifles are nicer than the normal production models I'm familiar with.
 

Sid Post

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Or you could just buy a Winchester 70 Safari Express in 416 Rem Mag and go hunting. Same ballistics and much cheaper to feed.
If I was looking for cheap and ready to hunt, a factory Winchester Model 70 at ~$1K in any of the 3 main calibers would be an easy pick.

The 404J has some allure and performance the Win Mags lack IMHO. With the cost of a hunt, $1/round versus $12~$20/round like it is to feed my doubles really isn't a factor in the grand scheme of things. My 470NE double would put a real hurt on after the 404J is out of gas too. However, some days a 'softer' bolt action would be nice.

I do have a 358 Norma Mag coming so, I'm thinking a 404J would slot nicely between it and a big boomer like my 470NE, though a 416 Rigby or 470 Capstick might be alternatives to consider. However, the various Remington, Winchester, and Weatherby mid and large bores don't really call to me even though they are fine alternatives.

As I look to favorite rounds without any hunting scenario in the mix, I seem to be drawn to the European options with a Heym 6.5 Swede bot action, a Winchester 7 Mauser FeatherWeight, and an old 9.3x62 that weighs what a good DGR rifle should for days when my shoulder hurts and I just feel the need inhale some gun smoke and watch things like 2-liter bottles and gallon milk jugs of water explode!
 

Gringocazador

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If a guys is going to the trouble of building a 404 Jeffery, I think it needs to be a 4 down/drop box magazine. If not you blow a little bit of 404 cool, buts that’s just my take.
 

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