A couple years ago I came across David Tubb's fire lapping product and was skeptical and curious at the same time. According to his website, the Final Finish kit will:
"FinalFinish is an easy, do-it-yourself process that will give the barrel on your firearm a more uniform and polished bore. This will allow you to increase velocity, reduce fouling, make cleaning easier, and, most importantly, the successive application of the five different FinalFinish compounds will improve the quality of the barrel.
FinalFinish is available in 50-bullet kit form or as a box of 20 loaded rounds with FinalFinish bullets specially selected to reproduce 80-percent of the kit results in a convenient, easy to use form. Call to find out which system is best for your needs.
When any barrel is made -- custom or production -- it first has to be drilled. As with any cutting tool, the drill leaves behind its signature: tool marks. Tool marks are blemishes that remain in the metal surface as the result of disruption to the metal. The rifling process then adds more tool marks and imperfections, regardless of the rifling system used (hammer-forged included). These marks normally run in the opposite direction the bullet travels, creating "speed bumps" the bullet must negotiate: a bumpy ride down the barrel which ends in a bumpy flight to the target. Plus, the corrugated and unpolished surface of most barrels creates friction. This friction snags and abrades the bullet jacket, and the rough surface collects firing residue as well as bullet jacket material (fouling).
FinalFinish eradicates most all of these tool marks and leaves a lapped surface in its place.
Since even the most precisely manufactured barrels cannot be made perfect, variations in bore diameter can and do occur. Variations in bore diameters can ultimately mean variations in land (rifling) measurements, and it's the lands that drive the bullet. Bore diameter variations can be significant. FinalFinish greatly improves the uniformity over the full length of the barrel. While it is possible for a skilled gunsmith to hand-lap your factory barrel, it won't be cheap and you must cut and re-crown the muzzle. You can get most of the beneficial effects yourself in one morning at the range using FinalFinish. Using this product on your new rifle will complete the break-in process as well as promote all the accuracy your barrel intrinsically has.
FinalFinish is designed to improve mass-produced factory barrels. It will produce dramatic improvements in these barrels. The improved polish and smoothness will allow you to increase velocity and reduce fouling. This means that more rounds can be fired without accuracy deterioration. (Some of the most impressive results with FinalFinish have come in factory-barreled handguns. Our test firearms showed an average of 60-percent smaller groups! Lead bullet shooters especially will find much easier clean up too.)
FinalFinish is not just for new barrels. As a rifle is fired, the intense heat and pressure created just forward of the chamber eat away at the metal. The number of rounds it takes for this action to affect accuracy varies with the cartridge, but all rifles eventually succumb to throat erosion. The ultimate problem is the roughness and unevenness left behind. A longer throat doesn't have to mean poorer accuracy, but a rough throat most certainly does. FinalFinish can't guarantee miracles, but in almost all cases it will restore a worn barrel's performance by smoothing this eroded area. Barrels also become damaged from cleaning rods, cleaning solvents, and corrosion. FinalFinish will smooth away such surface irregularities."
If David Tubb did not have the reputation he does as an award winning precision shooter, my skepticism would have tipped into full, "This product is [snake oil] (my internal monologue typically says something that could offend certain readers)" The primary source of my skepticism comes from my doubt that fire lapping could ever obtain the same effect as old fashioned hand lapping and the process in which Tikka barrels are manufactured (for more on this, read my upcoming article: The Pursuit of Accuracy) leaves little to no tooling marks. Tikka barrels are not tooled in the traditional sense which lends to their inherent out of box accuracy.
After reading the reviews available for this product on various forums, and the overwhelming positive feedback, I decided to give it a try.
My .223 and .270 WSM are amazingly accurate with hand-loads and have been my test mules for several products. They represent two extremes of recoil and overbore. My .223 Varmint has almost 2,000 rounds down the tube and my .270 WSM has close to 1,000. Almost all of the rounds fired have been documented for accuracy and consistency over a chronograph in my shooter's log.
By using these rifles with a proven track record and plenty of recorded data, I felt any positive or negative effects would be instantly noticeable.
The kits came quickly from Tubb's and were well packaged in Plano organizers with clear and concise directions. I loaded the rounds up and used it as a good excuse for Greg and I to spend a day at the range.
The process was simple: Shoot 10 rounds of each grade of bullet, clean thoroughly, shoot the next 10, and so on and so forth until you've fired all the rounds.
Like many others' experience, as we progressed through the process, the guns became much easier to clean.
After almost 3 hours, we had both guns completed. We took a break to let the barrels cool off before testing any accuracy improvements.
I brought along an accuracy load with 140 grain Bergers for my .270 and 80 grain Bergers for my .223. Both loads consistently shoot .25 or better.
With my chronograph set up, I began to test my .270 WSM for any improvements. I shot 5 - 5 shot groups. Instantly I noticed my rounds were leaving the barrel 50 fps faster than my recorded average and my average ES decreased from 12 to 5. However, I could not get a group under .75 moa to save my life. After 75 rounds through a high recoiling rifle, I decided to pack it up and come back fresh to get a true test of accuracy.
Once I was back at my reloading bench, I decided to measure the distance to the lands on each gun to see if that had changed. Sure enough, both guns saw an increase in the distance to the lands. My .223 increased 32 thousandths which was minor compared to the TENTH OF AN INCH
my .270 showed. The increase in jump in my .270 is so dramatic, I am unsure if I will have enough bullet in the neck to hold concentricity when loaded 20 thousandths off the lands (that gun's sweet spot).
Further testing is required to determine if this product is worth the erosion. To David Tubb's defense, his instructions state that I would need to reestablish my loads once the fire lapping process was complete.
Is the barrel easier to clean? Absolutely
Does the gun shoot faster and more consistently? From a velocity and ES standpoint: Yes
Is the gun more accurate? Further testing is needed. My thought is the loads I brought to the range were jumping too far to the lands for meaningful accuracy.
My next step to load new rounds based on the new distance to the lands and hope for at least the same accuracy I had prior to using the kit.
Without knowing whether or not the accuracy increased, I cannot determine whether I can recommend this product or not. If accuracy increases and you do not mind increasing or COAL, then this could be a winner. If all I did was increase my COAL and made it easier to clean, then I think new barrels are in my near future.