Proof Research’s versatile new switch-barrel rifle is a lethal combination of adaptability and accuracy.
How Proof Research’s Switch tops other switch-barrel rifles:
- Switches between cartridges with different case rim sizes.
- Floating bolt head removable without tools.
- Locking lugs make full contact when bolt is closed.
- Barrels simply thread on.
- Carbon-fiber stock.
- Carbon-fiber wrapped barrel.
- Weighs just over 7 pounds.
Rifles that can be taken apart or adapted to fire cartridges of a different caliber have always mesmerized shooters. They bring with them a level of versatility that is unmatched: You can have a big game rifle and a varmint rifle … that’s the same rifle. A switch-barrel rifle sort of makes the idea of a both-ways cartridge — a cartridge suitable for large and small game — obsolete. For many, a switch-barrel rifle pegs the cool meter. I’ve messed with a few over the years, but none better than Proof Research’s aptly named “Switch.”
The Switch is built around a unique bolt-action manufactured by Big Horn Arms. This action is what’s known as a controlled-round, push-feed, action. It has an extractor that’s mounted perpendicular to the bolt body: As the cartridge is pushed from the magazine, it’s captured by the extractor and controlled all the way to the chamber. However, unlike a true control-round feed action, with the Switch’s action, you have the option of dropping a cartridge into the ejection port and closing the bolt.
The action also has a fixed ejector. This means that ejection force and distance will be directly proportional to the effort used when pulling the bolt to the rear. On the left side of the action is the bolt release/stop. And, while small in nature, I experienced no issues with failure and I worked the bolt with substantial force most every time I cycled it.
But the neatest feature of the Switch’s action is the end user’s ability to field-strip the bolt to change-out the bolt head by hand, using no special tools. This floating bolt head — as some will call it — is part of the Switch’s distinctiveness. Lot’s of switch-barrel rifles allow you to change barrels and go between cartridges with the same cartridge case rim size. With the Switch, you can change the bolt head permitting you to swap between, for example, a .223 Remington with a 0.378 case rim and a .308 Winchester with a 0.473 case rim. Bolt adaptation takes all of about a minute.
This floating bolt head also permits both of the locking lugs to make full contact when the bolt is closed. This is similar to the bolt system Savage has used for years, and it has a positive influence on accuracy. It’s also an integral mechanical feature in the switch barrel capabilities of this rifle. Once bolt adaptation is complete — if required by the new cartridge — a barrel switch is all that remains before you’re shooting a different cartridge.
Engineering, Not Magic
The barrel switch system is nothing all that magical: You simply thread one barrel off and another on. What’s different is the way it’s done and how it looks when the switch has been completed. When the barrel is threaded to the action, it’s held in place by a locking nut, again very similar to those used by Savage. This nut is grooved to accept a wrench that’s supplied with the rifle. Lots of folks think this locking lug is ugly, but Proof engineered a cartridge identification sleeve that hides it. Another cool feature of this sleeve is that it’s engraved for the cartridge the barrel is chambered for.
All of this wondrous metal engineering is perfectly fitted to a proprietary carbon-fiber stock. It’s a stock that’s been very well configured to offer a good balance of performance when being used either from the bench or in the field. The stock’s high comb allows for a large objective scope to be mounted without sacrificing a good check weld, and a cut-out in the nose of the comb allows for bolt removal.
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Combine all these features with a detachable AICS center-feed magazine, soft butt-pad, dual front sling swivels, a near vertical and swelled grip — along with a variety of color options — and you have one of the few rifles that can be easily configured by the end user, to perform just as well during a long-range shooting match as it will on a sheep hunt. You’d probably expect a rifle like this to be heavy, but that’s not the case. With its standard carbon-fiber-wrapped 24-inch barrel, the rifle — with an empty magazine — weighs only 7 pounds, 2 ounces.
Barrel On, Barrel Off
You’re probably wondering what the barrel switch procedure involves, how it’s done and how proper headspace is maintained. Though the process is a bit involved, in actuality it’s very simple.
- First — and obviously with the rifle unloaded — secure it in a vice, by the barrel, with soft jaw protection. Then, remove the stock, remove the bolt and remove the barreled action from the vice. The rifle comes with an action wrench that might be better called a vice rack. Slide the barreled action on to the action wrench/vice rack and unscrew the cartridge identification ring.
- The rifle also comes with a wrench to fit the slots in the barrel nut, which is hidden under the caliber identification ring. Loosen the barrel nut with that wrench and a ¾-inch ratchet. Then, you can unscrew the barrel. You’ll now want to apply some gun grease to the threads on the new barrel, and install the barrel — by hand — about halfway into the action. The next step is to remove the barreled action from the vice rack and install the bolt.
- Now we get to the critical part, where we set the headspace. Insert the GO gauge behind the extractor on the bolt, and close the bolt. Hand-tighten the barrel until light resistance is felt, and then snug the barrel nut up, hand-tight. Install the action back on to the vice rack, and using the barrel nut wrench, tighten the barrel nut to 70 foot-pounds. You can now install the new cartridge identification ring and remove the action from the vice.
- You’re almost done, but you need to verify the correct headspace. You do this by inserting the NO-GO gauge behind the extractor on the bolt, and by verifying that the bolt will not close. With this complete, install the stock, and torque the front and rear action screws to 65 inch-pounds.
All together this only takes about 5 minutes to complete. The only non-usual tool required is a torque wrench, but I’ll admit, I only used the bicep-torque wrench and the rifle shot, as you can see, exceptionally well.
Adaptability With Accuracy
The two barrels provided by Proof were a .308 Winchester and 6mm Creedmoor barrel. I tested three loads in both barrels, firing five, five-shot groups, at 100 yards, from a sandbag rest, with each.
The average for all 30 groups was a pretty amazing 1.00-inch. But here’s what’s even more amazing: The first group with each load was fired slow and methodical like. The remaining four groups were fired in a hurry — five shots in less than 60-seconds, and all four groups within 10 minutes. Groups might have opened slightly due to the fast shooting, but no stringing or substantial group expansion was seen. Try that with just about any other rifle on the planet and see what kind of results you get.
To say I’m impressed with the Proof Research Switch would be an understatement. It’s an exceptional rifle, even if you don’t consider its switch-barrel versatility. Base rifles with either a stainless-steel or carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel are offered in .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor and 7mm-08 Remington. A fully adjustable TriggerTech trigger, 20 MOA Picatinny rail and threaded muzzle are standard, as is the ½-MOA guarantee.
If you are rifle-poor like me, a multi-caliber rifle, capable of filling about any need you might have does not make a lot of sense. After all, that’s what I/you have all those other rifles for. However, there’s always the option of selling those other rifles and simplifying life. Like you’ve probably heard, beware the man with one rifle. Trust me, there is some truth to that.
For those looking for a first rifle or maybe a first serious rifle, the Proof Switch might be the best option on the planet. It’s innovative, accurate, light, versatile and about the coolest thing I’ve seen since an acquaintance of mine tried to build a blackpowder rocket to launch his GoPro camera into the atmosphere. Unlike the Proof Switch, that was a monumental failure; considering the damages done, he blew up enough money to have paid for a Switch, and maybe an extra barrel or two.
Manufacturer: Proof Research ProofResearch.com
Chambering/s: .22-250 Remington, .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, .308 Winchester (tested), 6mm Creedmoor (tested), 6.5mm Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Remington
Length: 44 inches
Weight: 7.2 pounds
Barrel: Stainless-steel or carbon-fiber-wrapped stainless-steel
Capacity: AICS pattern magazine compatibility
Accessories: Threaded muzzle
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