Shaw Custom Rifles
by Gary Zinn
Shaw Mk. VII Gen II rifle.
Illustration courtesy of
Shaw Custom Rifles.
Shaw Barrels (www.shawcustombarrels.com) has been making barrels for production and custom rifle makers for over a century. The Bridgeville, PA firm has, in more recent times, developed a system whereby individual customers can order complete semi-custom rifles via the internet. They call this venture Shaw Custom Rifles (formerly Shaw Precision Guns). The concept is that one can get a rifle built to individual specifications (to an extent) at a price well below that of a true custom rifle.
I became aware of the Shaw rifle building enterprise about five years ago, when I ran across their website while researching where one could buy a rifle chambered for the .338-06 cartridge. I mentioned that Shaw would build their Mk. VII rifle in .338-06 (and many other calibers) in the article
Compared: .338 Winchester Magnum, .338-06 A-Square and .338 Ruger Compact Magnum. https://www.chuckhawks.com/compared_338mag_338-06_338rcm.html This led
G & S Online Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks to later have Shaw build him a rifle chambered in .338 Federal. (See Shaw Precision Guns Mk-VII .338 Federal Rifle https://www.chuckhawks.com/subscribers/product_review_page/shaw_Mk-VII_338.html for a complete description and evaluation of that rifle.)
Recently, I did some research on the 6mm Creedmoor cartridge. I found that very few production sporter rifles are being chambered in this fledgling round, so I checked out the Shaw rifles website to see if they had the 6mm Creedmoor on their build list. They do, but I also discovered that Shaw has refined and expanded their rifle building business since I first mentioned them and Chuck ordered his special rifle from them. These changes were what led me to write this update article.
The original Shaw rifle was a bolt action repeater called the Mk. VII, the only Shaw rifle model five years ago. Shaw has made some subtle tweaks to the original Mk. VII design, and calls the result the Mk. VII Gen II. They have added a single-shot submodel to the Mk. VII line, and an upgraded bolt action repeater called the Mk. X. They have also gotten into the AR market, with both AR-10 and AR-15 type rifles. I will focus this article mostly on the Mk. VII Gen II rifle, since it it the flagship of the line, and likely is ordered in greater quantities than any other model.
The Mk. VII Gen II
The Shaw Mk. VII Gen II (I will drop the Gen II part hereafter) is, fundamentally, a no-nonsense working gun design. Here is a summary of its features.
For instance, suppose one wishes to recreate a classic deer hunting rifle chambered in .257 Roberts caliber. One can spec and order this rifle in fifteen minutes on the internet, say with polished chrome moly barrel and receiver, and walnut stock, for a build price of $970.
Want a virtually indestructible, compact big bore thumper rifle, for protection while fishing or hiking in grizzly bear country? No problem; Shaw can build such a gun for you, in .450 Marlin caliber, for instance. A .450 with matte stainless steel hardware, laminated stock, 18” heavy barrel, and Warne scope bases prices out at $1075. Add a low magnification compact scope and the package should be adequate for any testy situation, including a zombie apocalypse.
Notice the two build prices I just mentioned. I think these are quite reasonable for what one gets. These are not truly custom rifles, of course, as the buyer cannot specify a different receiver, a fancy stock with embellished details, etc. However, a bespoke rifle that has every exact feature one desires would be several times more expensive than the examples I just gave. A Shaw rifle, which I consider to be semi-custom, is much more financially accessible, not to mention practical, for most shooters and hunters than a true custom rifle would be.
Build your own online in four easy steps
“Building” a rifle on the Shaw website is ridiculously easy. One need do nothing more than click a mouse until it comes time to actually place an order. Here are the steps in the process of building a Mk. VII rifle.
Select barrel specifications: caliber and twist rate, length, steel and finish (chrome moly or stainless steel, polished or matte), contour (sporter or varmint), fluting (helical, straight, or none)
In addition to the price of the rifle, there is a $45 shipping charge to send it to the FFL you designate. Your FFL may charge a service fee for taking delivery and running your firearm purchase background check.
A Shaw Mk. VII 6mm Creedmoor
Since a more than casual interest in a 6mm Creedmoor rifle led me to rediscover the Shaw Custom Rifles website, I used it to build a rifle. Here it is, with the cost of each component.
Polished chrome moly barrel, 23” with 1:8 rifling twist, sporter contour, no fluting ($260)
Other Shaw rifle models
Here is a brief overview of the other rifle models currently offered by Shaw.
The Mk. X is an enhanced version of the Mk. VII rifle. It features a proprietary receiver design that Shaw claims incorporates “the best features from Ruger, Winchester, Sako, and Savage.” Scope bases are machined into the receiver, and there is a detachable box magazine. Stock options include Grade 5 walnut, or nutmeg or pepper laminate. Over 80 calibers are available, with prices starting at $1400. The Mk. X can be built online.
The Mk.VII TS is a single-shot target/tactical rifle, featuring a #5 heavy barrel and Choate tactical stock. The TS is available with a right-handed, stainless receiver only. There are over 80 caliber options. Call Shaw Custom Rifles to discuss build options, pricing, and ordering.
The ERS-10 is an AR-10 type rifle, available in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor calibers, with 20” to 24” barrels. Features include a telescoping stock and free-floating aluminum T-Slot handguard. Call Shaw Custom Rifles to discuss build options, pricing, and ordering.
The ERS-15 is an AR-15 type build, in 5.56 NATO, .223 Wylde, or .300 Blackout chambering. There is a wide choice of 16” and 18” M4 or H-Bar barrels, plus 20” bull barrels. Magpul telescoping stocks and either Magpul MOE or T-Mod hand guards complete the build. The ERS-15 can be built online. Prices start at about $800.
Shaw must know how to make good rifle barrels, else they would not have stayed in business for over a century. Their reputation for barrel making surely gave them credibility when they brought out the first generation Mk. VII rifle, and they have evolved from there to the Mk. VII Gen II, Mk. X, and Mk. VII TS. I am not quite sure why they ventured into the incredibly crowded AR rifle market; time will tell how that works out for them.
To me, a subtle value of the Mk. VII repeater, in particular, is the extensive list of cartridges in which Shaw stands ready to build it. Among these is a double handful of excellent cartridges that undeservedly (given their performance) lack popularity, to the point where very few, if any, production rifles are chambered for them. Without elaboration (this is neither the time nor place), my list of these includes the .220 Swift, 6mm Remington, .257 Roberts, 6.5mm-06, 6.5mm-284 Norma, 7x57mm Mauser, .300 Savage, .338 Federal, .338-06, 9.3x62mm Mauser, and .450 Marlin. The fact that Shaw will cheerfully build high quality yet affordable rifles in these calibers has to be heartening to anyone who sees merit in any of them.
This is weird, but production rifle makers have pretty much abandoned the .35 caliber slot, including the .35 Remington, .358 Winchester, .35 Whelen, .350 Remington Magnum, and .358 Norma Magnum. New production rifles in any of these calibers are hard to find, but Shaw has all of them on its Mk. VII rifle build list.
Many of the big name bolt action rifle makers have introduced “budget” models, with dumbed down designs and corners cut in materials, workmanship, finish, and overall product quality. Meanwhile, their better models are often priced at $1000 or more, with details and extras that are chosen by the manufacturer, not the buyer. (Some manufacturers offer custom shop rifles, but these quickly get quite expensive.) Further, production rifle makers typically concentrate on the most popular calibers, often to the total exclusion of less fashionable cartridges. Though I understand the business reasons for these practices, I do not like them. Shaw Custom Rifles marches to a different drumbeat, and I like their tune.
Copyright 2019 by Gary Zinn and Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.