Range Review: Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS

Guns built from the ground up, with all their features tailored to work in harmony — leaving little or nothing to chance — are an entirely different breed. Done right they allow shooters to consistently connect at long distance in the type of conditions preferred by Sasquatch. The Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS is one of them.

Range Review: Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS

While shooting, the rifle preferred Hornady’s 129-grain InterLock load although, were it not for an errant shot, Remington’s 140-grain Core-Lokt would have come very close to tying the 0.38-inch group average. (Photo: Guy Sagi)

The term “precision” is overused in firearms, and today’s definition is fuzzier than the decades-old dust bunny under grandma’s bed. The label is now routinely applied to rifles capable of MOA accuracy in controlled conditions, using a handload or at low tide in a Ransom Rest. If guns had feelings, there’s no doubt a select few burdened with the modern “precision” label would be insulted.

There is no denying that it’s beneficial when a known platform receives incremental improvement such as a strategic change in the barrel, bedding or trigger to shrink groups. Those trusted-and-reliable designs are already proven performers in the hands of hunters and added accuracy is always a bonus. 

Guns built from the ground up, however, with all their features tailored to work in harmony — leaving little or nothing to chance — are an entirely different breed. Done right they allow shooters to consistently connect at long distance in the type of conditions preferred by sasquatch. The Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS is one of them.

Beginning With the Barrel

The official founding of E.R. Shaw Custom Barrels took place in the 1950s near Bridgeville, Pa., when the company’s namesake assumed ownership of a company that had been in the barrel-making business since 1915. Firearm manufacturers were already familiar with the original firm’s trusted line, but Shaw’s dedication to quality and innovation grew the business. A variety of patents were issued along the way and today the firm continues manufacturing OEM versions for major gun makers — a long list that  includes the Department of Defense.

For the average consumer, though, the legend was built in the custom side of the business, where hunters and competitors were eager to shrink groups with one of his finely crafted spouts. The company’s never outgrown its roots — a rarity today. It remains one of the few family-owned and -operated businesses in the industry. Work’s still performed at the original shop, although the volume of orders requires some of the production to spill into two other facilities.

Quality has never wavered, and today E.R. Shaw barrels are considered some of — if not the — best available. Performance first is a genetic calling, although there’s no compromise in cosmetics and finish. In fact, E.R. Shaw was the first to introduce spiral fluting to barrels. 

Does the added surface area fluting creates aid cooling? Will shaving that weight negatively impact accuracy potential when compared to a smooth barrel profile? We’ll let the accuracy results of the Mk X CS answer those questions.

Complete Rifles

E.R. Shaw offered its custom Mark VII bolt-action rifle in 2007. It was available with blueprinted Savage actions — another company that does some amazing alchemy — with a host of aftermarket stock options and more than 100 different chamberings.

It was an immediate success. The approach was simple: Enlist the best ingredients the industry had to offer, tune when necessary, assemble to the customer’s specifications, make sure it’s a shooter and deliver at a reasonable price point.

Hours weren’t required to order, either, an approach that continues to this day. Simply visit the company’s website, select chambering, barrel profile, length, rifling twist rate, color, stock in some cases and more online. No more sticker shock when ordering or upon receipt of the firearm, either. The price for the custom gun is provided, and any increases due to upgrades are accurately reflected.

Barrel

The sample Mk X CS’s barrel is 24 inches long and features the company’s 3.5 heavy varmint contour. It’s constructed from 416R stainless steel with a subtle Cerakote finish that blends with the woodland camo pattern; it is button rifled 1:8 inches, right handed, 6 grooves. 

Overall length of the spout increases by two inches with the company’s Ti brake. Its more than a name, too, because it’s actually constructed from titanium. Barrel threading is 5/8-24, allowing the use of other devices if desired. As shipped, this brake performed extremely well. The four small vents topside did a great job of minimizing muzzle rise but, interestingly, didn’t seem to stir the dust (and concussion, if you will) at the shooter’s position like many other models do. That makes things a lot more civilized from the prone position. Side ports do most of the work, but there’s something unusual in this brake’s tune. 

Receiver

Shaw’s Mk X bolt action is a proven performer, and with a pair of rails machined into the receiver, optic mounting is solid, fast and effortless. For nearly 70 years the company’s specialized in manufacturing precision gear and it understands a riflescope needs to be anchored solidly to enjoy the decades of experience poured into that barrel. The fixed ejector ensures years of trouble-free operation. 

The safety is tang mounted and the bolt is nearly identical to those found in Savage rifles (the handle differs slightly). Headspacing is adjusted/checked at the factory, and the gun is tested before it ships. New owners will find one of the casings from the range session in the box. 

The gun ships with a 5-round Accuracy International-style magazine, although higher-capacity aftermarket options are available. The mag-release is ambidextrous and easily activated by using the trigger finger to push the bar forward of the trigger guard. 

The installed Savage AccuTrigger is nothing short of spectacular. It’s not a stock version, though. E.R. Shaw’s team has triple polished the engagement surfaces and the difference is palpable. There is no creep, gritty feel or overtravel; it’s crisp and the kind of unit every shooter will appreciate. There’s plenty of room in the trigger guard for gloved operation.

Using a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, average let-off weight on the unit was 2.63 pounds — after a lengthy range session and before cleanup. Standard deviation for the 11-pull assessment was a staggeringly low 0.21 pound. More than 3 pounds of pressure was never required to release the firing pin and the value never entered the 1-pound range.

Chassis and Stock

The rifle features MDT’s all-aluminum LSS-XL Gen 2 chassis, which keeps the barrel free-floated while minimizing receiver contact to maximize accuracy and repeatability. It accepts modern sporting rifle stocks, pistol grips and other accessories.

The forend is five-sided and features generous sections for attaching M-LOK-anchored gear. Barricade grooves in front of the magazine well provide a solid purchase against trees or slippery field-expedient rests. They also work nicely for those who like to index their support hand in the position. 

A single, traditional sling swivel stud is up front. The MDT pistol grip on the test rifle is hand filling and supple enough to make delivering shots a pleasure. The stock also features thumb rests above the trigger guard and the Woodland Cerakote finish looks great across the entire chassis. 

Magpul’s PRS Gen 3 Precision Adjustable Stock is on the sample rifle, too. Its tool-less adjustment for cheekpiece height and length of pull make it ideal for virtually every shooter and magnified optic. 

Altering its setup takes a conscious effort to rotate the aluminum detent knobs, and the palpable clicks during the operation make it obvious that unintentional change is virtually impossible. The stock also has a QD hole for anchoring/removing a sling, M-LOK slots underneath and a non-sticky, yet soft recoil pad.

The entire setup, without optic, tips the scales at 11 pounds. The weight isn’t of concern for predator hunters working from a blind or stand, but something to consider if your hunting season includes long hikes.  

At the Range

To evaluate the Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS, I mounted a Vortex Viper 6-24x50 mm scope that was finished to precisely match the gun. Shaw doesn’t sell the optics or arrange for gear to receive a matching pattern. It does, however, have a working relationship in which it provides a convenient tag to new owners with all the information to get the job done right at Pittsburgh Cerakote — the same company that handled this optic.

Shooting was done at 100 yards from the prone position with a sandbag rest. There were no failures to feed or malfunctions. 

This rifle is a lot more accurate than my skills are polished. I’m good with a rifle, but delivering five, three-shot groups at 100 yards gives the Mk X CS plenty of opportunity to point out shortcomings. 

The numbers explain. Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor Whitetail load with 129-grain InterLock bullets averaged 0.38 inches. Insane performance for a new gun.

American Gunner, also from Hornady (140-grain BTHP bullets), was the worst, at a whopping 0.53 inch. Runner-up Remington was the last load I shot. Its 140-grain Core-Lokt load averaged 0.40 inch. That figure includes a 0.91-inch group that artificially inflated things after a single shot that I knew was bad the moment I touched the trigger. Throw that three-shot string out of the calculations and the load is squeaky close to a tie for first. 

There’s no doubt the Shaw Custom Barrels Mk X CS fits the traditional definition of precision and, unlike antiques under grandma’s bed, it won’t be collecting dust. It’ll get regular workouts because it makes connecting at distance fun and has more than the required accuracy to drop game humanely and with authority. Add the practice-enticing minimal recoil, and it won’t be long until even unpolished shooters — like me — start to shine at the firing line and in the field.

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