The first shot I ever fired from a rifle while filming television was a misfire. (This was back before the days of MeatEater, so you won’t see the incident on any upcoming episodes.) I’m reluctant to mention the manufacturer of that rifle, since I was never able to completely rule out the possibility of faulty ammunition. Regardless, I can tell you that it was a highly disconcerting occurrence. I’d hiked for two days looking for a buck, and then at the moment of truth the pull of the trigger yielded nothing but a click.

The only person that this bothered as much as it bothered me was David Amick, the owner of Carolina Custom Rifles. I didn’t even know David at the time, but the incident haunted him. It gnawed at him so bad, in fact, that he went through the hassle of finding my contact information in order to get in touch with me. We then had an hours long conversation in which Amick explained what, exactly, a custom rifle is.

A good way to understand it is like this: imagine that you’ve gone to your local bike shop to buy a basic mid-range bicycle. After riding the bike, though, you get to thinking that the seat isn’t very comfortable. So you go online and find a bike seat that is compatible with your existing bike but of much higher quality than the one that came with it. You install that new seat, and it’s so comfortable that you get to wondering what sorts of high-quality rims might be on the market. After some research, you end up buying some new rims that put your old rims to shame. They’re lighter and stronger and ride better.  Maybe these new rims cost as much as you spent on the entire bike in the first place, but you appreciate quality and precision and you’re glad you spent the money. Soon, you’ve bought high quality tires, chain rings, brakes, a chain, a stem, and everything else. Eventually all that’s left of the original bike is the frame. One day that cracks and you replace it with a quality component. At that point, you have a completely custom bike that you’ve built with the best parts that money can buy.

Many guys will build custom rifles in the same way as this hypothetical bike, by replacing part after part. I have a number of friends who’ve done such a thing by starting out with a Remington model 700 rifle. First they replace the stock with a premium part, then the barrel, then the trigger, etc. It’s an economical way to do things, in that it spreads out the cost over time. But it’s also slow, requires a lot of visits to the gunsmith, and might seem a little impractical to a guy who wants to start shooting a great rifle today instead of next year.

For that guy, it’s best to talk with a custom rifle maker who can assemble your parts and fit them to exacting standards according to your tastes and preferences. That’s what Carolina Custom Rifles ended up doing for me. First we agreed on a caliber, 7mm Remington Magnum. Then we began selecting parts from Amick’s suppliers, according to my needs as a backcountry big game hunter: a helical fluted barrel by Hart Rifle Barrels; an aluminum bedded stock by HS Precision; scope bases and rings by Talley; a Timney trigger; an action by Stiller Precision Firearms.

From there, CCR assembled and fitted all of these parts together in their shop. In the end, they built a rifle with much tighter specifications than anything that would ever come out of a box. Finished with a Teflon coating, it is virtually impervious to rust – even around saltwater. And the action is slicker than snot on a doorknob, as my old man used to say. And it’s gorgeous. And it just feels right. And they built it with a 100% unconditional guarantee. Along with the rifle, Amick worked up a customized load for my rifle. In the end I had a rifle capable of shooting 100-yard groups no bigger than your thumbprint. At 300 yards, I can shoot all my bullets through the palm of your hand. In fact, my rifle’s accuracy far exceeds my own abilities as a shooter. It’s better than I am. If you want to see more about these rifles, visit the Carolina Custom Rifle website at They are great guys who make great stuff. They’ll take care of you. I recommend their rifles without hesitation.   –Steven Rinella