Recently I took one of our project rifles up to Dolphin gun company for a new barrel. We detailed the rebarrelling in the last Presicion rifle build article. I was lucky enough to watch Mik, part owner and head gunsmith, working on the rifle. His knowledge and experience in both shooting sports and engineering impressed me so much that I thought Dolphin Gun required an article of their own..
Mik paying close attention at the lathe.
If you shoot F class rifle in Europe then you have probably heard of Dolphin Gun. Their rifles have racked up an impressive shelf of trophies as have the owners Mik Maksimovic and Peter Hobson. Both gentlemen have been very successful in national and international level F class competition. I was able to meet and chat with Mik and he was kind enough to give us a guided tour of the huge premises. Mik explained that he had worked as an engineer for many years after leaving the military. Upon taking retirement he began to work on rifles and Dolphin Gun evolved from there. Dolphin have carved a niche in the F class scene especially. Their purpose built F open and F/TR rifles have dominated the sport in Europe and have continued to evolve and improve.
Dolphin Gun stocks ready to go..
After a long journey up from the south of England to Lincolnshire and a strong cup of coffee we were given a guided tour of Dolphins extraordinary premises. The customer facing area is predominantly the Emporium which acts as a display and sales area. There are multiple rifles available off the shelf and ready to go and a huge variety of parts and kit. The variety of actions alone was jaw dropping.
Mik offers actions from several companies.
Customers can take a close look at the parts before specifying a custom build which I think is a really good idea as opposed to simply clicking boxes on an internet form (the usual rifle build process these days). I asked Mik about some of the items he manufactures himself and he showed us the rifle stocks which Dolphin have become so well known for. The stocks look to be fantastic quality and this has been backed up with trophies from multiple top level events. Mik also produces bipods, rests, muzzle brakes and a variety of small accessories all designed to make the shooters life a little more efficient.
Just a few of the parts manufactured at Dolphin Gun Company.
The Emporium stocks products from other companies as well including scopes, stocks, triggers and more besides.. Basically if you like accurate long range shooting you need to pay a visit..
The huge bead blasting machine..
We walked out of the Emporium and out past the bead blasting machines which we witnessed in action on the new .260 Trueflite barrel. 10 minutes after going in the Stainless Steel barrel came out with a lovely muted effect which looked superb. We then passed the wood shop which is used for work on wooden stocks for customers builds. Dolphin have several specialised employees who would normally be busy in these areas. At the rear of the Woodshop is a huge stack of Berger bullets. Mik is one of Bergers biggest distributors in the UK, no problem with availability of stock here!!
Stepping through the woodshop took us to Miks main workspace. On the left are a vast array of different barrels arranged by calibre. There are very few gunsmiths in the UK that have these stock levels on the shelf. I know from experience that most of the time the stock advertised is normally sat in a different country or being “inspected by customs” somewhere. Because of their attention to stock levels Mik can turn out custom guns in weeks rather than months.
Dolphins extensive barrel selection from a number of companies including Trueflite which we opted for here at GnZ.
The main workshop houses Miks main lathe and more tooling that I have ever seen before. Dolphin cut no corners when it comes to using the right tool for the job. I witnessed this first hand watching Mik as he chambered the new barrel and explained the importance of different stages and tools required.
Moving on from the main workshop we then moved through a couple of larger areas which housed a variety of CNC machines, paint stations, industrial ovens and assorted metal items in various stages of completion.
Inside on of the CNC machines.
An unfinished stock in raw form.
Parts ready for painting and then drying in the industrial oven at the rear.
Not all of the metal bits are rifle related. Mik explained that his business partner rebuilds Land Rovers to a very high spec (emergency services and military as well as private).
The other half of the business at Dolphins premises – enhancing Land Rovers.
Finally we moved on to Miks personal reloading room complete with a short tunnel for test firing. His reloading room was about as well stocked as a gunshop and he showed us some of his more unusual items.
The tunnel used for test firing.
He had a auto powder dispenser set up inside a large glass box which looked to be a cross between steampunk and modern technology. I learned that it was called the Prometheus and is the penultimate auto dispenser. All the intricate workings were visible and it looked quite marvelous.
The Prometheus auto dispenser.
On a shelf sat several miniature machine guns which encouraged much oohing and aahing from myself and Sam my travel companion and fellow shooter.
After all that it was time to get another coffee on the go and put a few questions to Mik which we thought might interest the readers.
Please tell us how you got into shooting sports and what you have achieved.
I have been shooting competitively since 1977, first at School, then in the Army where I did my apprenticeship
I have shot F Class since 1999, and actually came 6th in the first ever F Class world Championships in Canada 2002
I have competed for GB since then in every major and Minor Match including being a member of the World winning 2009 GB F class team. Competitive shooting has taken me all over the world and I have had a Ball doing it!!
I did Shoot Target Rifle, with some success for 15 years prior to that and shot some tactical rifle matches, pre CSR with some success.
I have the long range Bug and love nothing better than shooting as far as is possible, regularly having fun at 1200 yds at Bisley
What are your favorite/preferred calibres?
My 3 favoiurite Calibres are 308 win, 7-270 WSM and 300 WSM, they just do everything that I need and very, very accurately. I have owned and shot everything from a .20 cal to .50 Cal rifles
What advice do you have for shooters who are new to long range or F class shooting regards rifle selection?
new competiive shooters should stay away from a cheap second hand rifle, they are kidding themselves that this is the way to go. Our entry level FTR rifle is under £2500 and was used this year to win Th GB F Class league. In fact second place was taken by one, as was the FCWC in 2009 and second place 2013! By the time you have fitted a barrel, trigger etc on a second hand rifle you are not far from buying a new one at the spec you want…
For those who wish to accurize a rifle they already own what would you suggest?
Regarding Accuracy, many basic and cheap actions can be used to make an accurate rifle. The better upgrade option is haveing a Match grade Cut rifle barrel fitted by a competent gunsmith. Barrels are not all the same and you get what you pay for..
Mik fitting the GnZ Precision Rifle barrel.
Are there any future innovations that you can forsee will change the competitive playing field?
Future Innovations?? things change on a regular basis, depends what someone uses to win a major match with 🙂
Bullet designs are changing every week and new products are becoming available. Its very hard to keep up with it, but we try…
There is always a lot of debate regarding cleaning rifles and specifically how often it should be done. What are your thoughts on this?
I clean my rifle every time it is shot or every day in a weekend or weeklong match. This prolongs barrel life and ensures extreme accuracy.
A dirty barrel will not perform as well, there is a difference to a fouled barrel and a DIRTY ONE!!
Cleaning is a vital component in accuracy.
Which cleaning products do you recommend?
I personally use Wipeout products for day to day cleaning as I can leave things in a secure area to soak overnite, this save me time and gets the barrel clean with minimum effort. There are very few bad cleaning products on the market and people will find what suits them and the way they clean.
What will we see from Dolphin Gun in 2016?
Dolphin has both a new Open and FTR stock, both greatly improved designs coming out for 2016, we also have a new folding tactical stock in design, all UK made on our own machines
And finally tell us what you most enjoy about Dolphin Gun Company and shooting in general.
I enjoy the company, the challenge the rewarding shoots and most of all the interesting and diverse people ther are in this sport..
I was left highly impressed by both Miks solid work ethos and the quality and progressive attitude of Dolphin Gun as a company. Although it works out as a 10 hour round trip for me I will make it again next time I need some gunsmithing or a new custom rifle. I would rather make an effort on one day to get the job done properly than have an inconsistent rifle causing days of problems. It was very refreshing to meet such a down to Earth gunsmith who loves his work and seriously knows his subject matter. I cannot recommend highly enough.
Dolphin Gun Company – www.dolphinguncompany.co.uk