Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

SNIPER GUNS

Long-Range Rifles

Rifles for reaching out.

image

There are so many guns on the market that fit this category that it would be impossible to cover them all in a single book, let alone suggest what to buy. I will, however, tell you about some that I have and what I like or don’t like about them. That may help you when it’s time to buy your own rifles. I will also make some suggestions on ways you can procure a long-range rifle or two without breaking the bank.

I will point out that these are not guns you should just buy and stick in a closet while you wait for the world as we know it to end. First off, long-range shooting is a skill that takes a while to learn and can erode rather quickly. The time to find out you suck at long-range shooting is not when your life is on the line. You need to build your skills and then keep practicing to stay sharp.

That’s not a punishment.

Shooting is fun, long-range shooting in particular. There is something that builds smiles when you can reach out an impossible distance and ring a steel target.

These guns are made to shoot, so shoot them. You may even find yourself entering some of the precision rifle competitions that are popping up all over the country. If nothing else, just spending a Saturday afternoon with your friends busting targets at long range is great therapy for whatever is ailing you. If more people did that it would become a better world and maybe the need for this book would abate.

There is not enough room here to cover all the aspects of long-range shooting. I wish there were, but this book has already doubled in size from the original proposal, and we had to end it someplace. There is a lot of good information out there and some that’s not so good. The best way to learn is to get some professional instruction. If you have the time and resources I highly recommend that you attend a class on long-range shooting.

When it comes to long-range shooting instruction and opportunity, the best place I know is the FTW ranch in Barksdale, Texas. It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the San Antonio airport, but the winding road will take you to a whole new world. As the owner Tim Fallon pointed out, the ranch was the last stronghold of the Comanche and once you see this country you understand why. It is wild country with deep canyons and steep hills. It’s a perfect place to evade the cavalry or to learn about long-range shooting.

The facility has a wide range of targets out to 1,800 yards and even farther. In fact, the world record 3,600-yard (two miles) shot was done at the FTW ranch. The many targets are set in diverse terrain, including at angles up and down and in long, deep canyons where the winds get screwy. The military trains here, partly because of the various target opportunities, but also because the rough and broken terrain simulates the wind conditions found in Afghanistan’s mountains.

FTW Shooting School

1802 Horse Hollow Rd

Barksdale, TX 78828-1134

(830) 234-4366

www.ftwoutfitters.com

The Guns I Know

6.5 Creedmoor

image

Of course, there are a lot of factory-produced guns available and chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor, both in bolt-action precision rifles and AR-L rifles designed for long-range shooting.

At the FTW Ranch shooting school I hit targets out to 1,400 yards with the Ruger Predator FTW rifle. That gun is designed for hunting, but is a great low cost option for a long-range rifle. I have shot with two of them and both are great shooters: very accurate, good triggers, and shot well when hot. This rifle is a good option for this cartridge at an affordable price. It lacks the extras of a tactical rifle like a removable box magazine and oversize bolt handle, but those can be added later.

Recently I decided to have a precision rifle built for long-range competition shooting and to use for defense of my home if it ever comes to that. To be honest, I went back and forth on the cartridge. I already had long-range rifles in .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester and .338 Lapua. I was going to pick the .260 Remington because I have had years of experience with that cartridge as a hunting round and already had all the tools I needed for reloading. I like the idea of the better performance possibilities over the 6.5 Creedmoor, due to the slightly larger case. But it would be an all-handloading situation as currently no major ammo maker offers factory-loaded ammunition with long-range target bullets in the .260 Remington. I can live with that, I have been a hard-core handloader since my grandfather taught me how to make .243 Winchester ammo when I was thirteen years old.

image1

The author shooting his custom-built 6.5 Creedmoor.

Part of the deal was I was going to do a magazine feature on the gun for NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine. When I was discussing the details with the editor, Ed Friedman, he was pretty adamant about picking the 6.5 Creedmoor. The cynic in me thinks it’s because of all the factory ammo available for this cartridge and the fact that all those ammo companies are potential advertisers. But he also pointed out that it’s the hottest cartridge for precision shooting in the country and that the “cool factor” was off the charts. After all, we have to inspire the readers to buy the magazines, so I ordered the rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.

That was the best move I have made in years. While there is nothing wrong with the .260 Remington and I am sure I would have been very happy, the 6.5 Creedmoor is one hell of a cartridge.

This is a great cartridge choice if for no other reason that there are a bunch of factory ammo options available for long-range shooting. While I love to reload, I don’t always have the time I need to do that. It’s great to have the option of using factory ammo from companies like Hornady and Nosler. What I discovered is that even with factory loads this is the most accurate rifle I have ever owned.

I should explain that while factory ammo is very good today, it’s still mass produced to fit in any rifle chambered for that cartridge. Handloads can be custom tailored and tuned to the specific rifle. Typically, when doing that, the ammo will be more accurate than factory ammo from that rifle. This rifle is new to me and with the deadline for this book hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles I have not had time yet to develop any handloads. Doing that is very high on my “to-do” list starting the day I ship this manuscript. It’s likely that handloads will shoot the best in this rifle. But the bar is set very high and it’s going to be very hard to improve on the outstanding accuracy of the factory ammo.

image

Targets shot with the 6.8 Creedmoor custom rifle.

The accuracy in this rifle is off the charts. I have shot 200-yard groups that are ¼ MOA. Even at 500 yards it’s holding half MOA.

My rifle uses an Accuracy International Chassis for its foundation. It has a Bartlein Barrel fitted into a Stryker Ridge action from Brownells. The trigger is a XTSP. Dave Tooley of Gastonia, North Carolina, built it, and he did one hell of a job with this rifle. I mounted a Leupold V6 4–24X52 scope with a TMOA reticle in Leupold rings.

The very first time I shot it at the range for record I was using the NRA Publication’s protocol of five, five-shot groups at 100 yards. By the end of the day I believed that it might well be the most accurate rifle I have ever owned. Now, after multiple range sessions shooting as far as 500 yards, I am sure. Many guns can shoot a good group now and then, but to maintain it for five, five-shot groups is tough. Yet, this gun performed incredibly. In fact, the more I shoot it the better it is getting. No doubt as it breaks in and everything settles, the accuracy will only improve. I may repeat the formal test after a few hundred more shots to see if there is any change.

Here are the results of that first session at the range for an average of five, five-shot groups. These are just as I shot them; there was no cherry picking or tossing out groups I didn’t like.

Hornady 140-grain A-Max 0.56-inch. Best group: 0.4-inch.

Hornady 129-grain A-Max 0.61-inch. Best group: 0.4-inch.

Nosler 140-grain HPBT 0.64-inch. Best group: 0.35-inch.

That was with a brand-new rifle that was not even broken in yet. I am sure that a lot of the larger groups are my fault and are due to my inability to shoot better. Shooting groups is an art. At the risk of bragging, I am pretty good at it because I have had years and years of practice testing rifles for magazine articles. But when the groups are this small, things like your heartbeat start to have a larger influence on the result. At some point even the best shooters will reach the point of their limitations. We are not shooting from a machine rest and the shooter still must aim and fire the rifle. It’s all but impossible to do that with the same precision of a machine rest. When I know I am doing it all right and I break the shots correctly, they snuggle into one ragged hole. If you wobble enough to open a group two-tenths of an inch it doesn’t matter much with a normal rifle. But when your gun is shooting this well, a tenth of an inch has the potential to open the groups by 50 percent or more! This is truly amazing accuracy.

This rifle is well suited for a prepper wanting the best of the best for long-range defense. It’s also a great way to go for a serious long-range shooter who wants to get into competition, or just wow his buddies on the weekend. It’s not an inexpensive rifle, but the performance is at the highest level possible.

I cannot say enough good about this gun, so if you want one of your own, contact Dave Tooley at tooleyrifles@carolina.rr.com.

Ruger Precision Rifle

I had a chance to shoot a prototype of this rifle last spring and was very impressed. I just received my sample, too late to shoot it for this book, but I have little doubt that based on the performance level we are seeing from Ruger rifles in the past few years it will be a great shooter. This is a ground-breaking rifle as is a chassis-based precision rifle that will be available street price for about a grand. That’s a game changer. Mine, of course, is in 6.5 Creedmoor.

image

Shooting a prototype of the Ruger Precision Rifle before it was announced. This was at the FTW Ranch and shooting school in Texas.

.308 Winchester

image

This is by far the most popular of the short-action cartridges in precision rifles. If a rifle maker is offering a tactical rifle, odds are it’s available in .308 Winchester. The AR-L class of semiauto rifles uses this cartridge, and there are some outstandingly accurate rifles. I have a DPMS LR308 with a heavy 24-inch barrel that’s extremely accurate. I also have a JP Enterprises JP LRP-07H Long Range Precision Hunting rifle that is an outstanding shooter. The DPMS GII Hunter in .308 is a tack driver and the DMPS GII Recon is hot on its heels, averaging sub MOA. I can go on, but what’s the point? If you get a good AR-L rifle in .308 Winchester from a name-brand maker and it has a good barrel, it will probably be a sub MOA shooter. The heavy, long barrels will extract the most velocity and be best for long-range work, but the carbines can also serve as defensive carry guns, so they are more versatile.

In fact, this style of rifle makes a lot of sense for a “carry” carbine while you are around your home or compound. They work well for combat at medium-to-close range, but can also reach out with some authority for long-range work. If trouble shows up you will likely be fighting with the gun you have, not the gun you wish you had, so a multi-tasking AR-L makes sense.

As I said, what you give up with the shorter barrel is velocity. The 168-grain Federal target load produces 2,630 ft/s from my 24-inch barrel DPMS, while the 18-inch barrel on a DPMS carbine has a MV of 2,488 ft/s with the same load. However, if you are shooting at 300 yards or less it’s not enough to matter.

When it comes to bolt-action precision rifles in .308 Winchester they are as common as teenage girls with iPhones in their hands. You can go the best-of-the-best route and order a JP Enterprises MR-10 bolt-action chassis-style rifle with a guarantee of ½-MOA accuracy. This rifle is less expensive than a full-blown custom gun, but will shoot right there with any of them. J. P. is a serious long-range competition shooter and he knows how to build a rifle that works. Or, for less money, you can pick one of the production guns from brand-name companies like Remington, Ruger, or Savage. It all comes down to budget.

In a nutshell, the guns are defined as heavy barrel with a removable box magazine and with a large bolt handle. Other features may include things like an adjustable stock or tactical rails mounted here and there to hang bling on the gun.

A longer barrel is a good choice if you are going to use it in a fixed position to defend your property. If you set up on sandbags or a tripod and plan to stay dug in there, a bigger gun makes sense. The extra velocity is always a bonus and the weight of the longer barrel helps to dampen recoil, which helps get back on target for the next shot.

There are a couple of common approaches to the precision rifles in .308 Winchester. The longer barrel to extract more velocity from the cartridge is one. The other is a rifle with a short, usually 20-inch, barrel that is designed for sniper work in urban settings. The planned shots are no more than 200 yards as a rule and are usually much closer. The short barrel makes it easier to use the gun inside a building or to maneuver in a vehicle. If you are on the move, this is a good option.

image

Savage Model 10 FCP-SR. This rifle has a 20-inch barrel and is useful for defense at moderate range.

One that I have been using lately is the Savage Model 10 FCP-SR. This gun is sold as a “law enforcement” rifle, but it’s a great choice for defending your property when the shots are 500 yards or less. One huge advantage of this is the price. The gun sells for about half of what a high-quality AR-L sniper gun will run. Like most of the new Savage guns this one has the AccuTrigger and is very accurate. The barrel is threaded for a brake, flash hider, or a suppressor. I have mine fitted with a Weaver Tactical 1–7X24 scope with Dual-Focal Plane, illuminated, mil-dot reticle. The ten-round double-stack hybrid magazine is a mix of polymer and metal.

image1

Savage Model 10 FCP-SR.

With a few extra magazines, this is a good rifle for defense of your property at a very reasonable price.

The Long View

image1

Nathan Towsley shooting the “homemade” .308 Precision Rifle.

My long-barrel .308 Winchester precision rifle is one I made myself. My “safe place” is my shop. I love the concrete under my feet as I mess around with guns, and my shop is where I go to unwind and get away from the world. One of my do-it-yourself projects a few years ago was to build a long-range rifle.

If you like DIY projects, here is one that will result in a very nice long-range rifle and you can build it with hand tools. While I have lathes and a milling machine, I wanted a project that anybody can do without those expensive machines.

I used a Remington action and fitted it with a 1:10 twist rate 26-inch Shilen barrel in the heavy Remington “Varmint” contour. It comes with all the lathe work done, which means it’s already threaded and chambered. The chamber is left about .010-inch “short” so you can fit the barrel to the action and then use a chambering reamer by hand to carefully finish to exactly the headspacing you want.

The stock is an H. S. Precision Series 2000 tactical stock with an adjustable cheekpiece. The stock is also adjustable for length of pull. It’s fitted with H. S. Precision Detachable Magazine bottom metal. This comes with a four-round magazine and I added a couple of additional ten-round magazines.

image

Nicknamed the “Snake” because of the coating on the barrel, the author built this .308 Winchester rifle.

The action comes with a bolt that would have worked fine, but I wanted stronger extraction, so I ordered a spiral-fluted bolt from Pacific Tool and Gauge with an M16-type extractor and the oversize tactical bolt knob.

For a metal finish, I coated the barrel and action with DuraCoat spray-on finish, doing a “snakeskin” pattern on the barrel. I installed a Timney 1.5-pound pull trigger and a Swarovski Z6 5–30X50P scope, using Brownells Tactical Rings.

At the 100-yard range I fired the first five-shot group and was pleasantly surprised to see the holes were all touching. Rather than a fluke, this proved to be common for this rifle. Like all rifles it has its ammo preferences, but I didn’t try any ammo that it hated. With Black Hills 175-grain Match and Federal 168-grain Match, it shoots sub MOA. With handloads it will approach ½-MOA on average with five-shot, 100-yard groups.

Every time I shoot this gun and look at the snug little groups on the target I think, “I made this,” and I smile.

.300 Winchester Magnum

The main reason I am getting into do-it-yourself options is that I found it to be a good way to get into a long-range rifle without spending a ton of money.

Once again, there are a lot of great rifles on the market chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum. I can’t begin to list them all and don’t want to; this is not a gun catalog, it’s a book about guns. For the most part, I am writing here about guns that I have used and know, not trying to make a 120,000-word list of guns.

For just Remington alone, I see six guns listed as “tactical” in the Model 700 line up. In .300 Winchester they range from the synthetic stock Model 700 XCR Tactical Long Range to the Tactical Chassis model. That’s only one gunmaker! Now consider the number of gun makers out there, including the custom market. See what I mean? Lots of .300 Winchester tactical rifles to choose from and most of them are pretty damn good.

The Nesika Tactical Rifle

image1

The Nesika Tactical Rifle in .300 Winchester with Schmidt & Bender 5-25X tactical scope. An accurate rifle is only part of the key to long-range precision shooting; you also need high-quality optics.

One .300 Winchester in my vault that I can recommend is the Nesika Tactical Rifle. The Remington Outdoor Group owns Nesika, a company long famous for their actions.

I first tried this gun at a Remington Gun Writers’ Seminar. To be honest, it’s tough to tell much about any gun at these events. There are dozens of writers all shooting at the same targets. Half of them feel compelled to mess with the scope adjustments on the gun and the other half see it as their mission in life to wear the gun out with Remington’s ammo. It isn’t long before guns are hot and dirty and the targets are poked full of holes. Where they are hitting is often anybody’s guess.

When you try to do anything serious with the gun there will be a line of guys with annoyed looks waiting their turn. So I did what I always do with a rifle that has some potential; I asked them to send one for me to play with at my range, where I am King and nobody messes with me. (Except maybe the Queen.)

This rifle has a Nesika Stainless, Tactical Action Receiver made from 15–5 stainless steel with a one-piece bolt made of 4340 CM Steel. The action is fitted with a one-piece, stainless 1913 Rail with 15 MOA Taper. What that means is there is fifteen minutes of angle of elevation already built into the scope mount. This allows the shooter to reach out farther with any given scope.

The gun is fitted with a Douglas Air-Gauged stainless steel 26-inch barrel in what they call “Tactical Contour.” It’s fitted with an AAC Blackout Muzzle brake/Suppressor Adapter. The gun has a Timney trigger, which surprisingly is the three-pound version. I am sure the corporate lawyers nixed the 1.5-pound version. The gun uses a five-round removable box magazine.

The stock is their tactical design. It’s a composite stock with aluminum bedding block. It has spacers for adjustable length of pull and an adjustable cheekpiece.

They “guarantee” MOA accuracy at 100 yards, which seems a bit foolish to me. This is a high-dollar, high-end rifle that had better be able to shoot a lot better than that if they want serious people to buy it. I am sure that they are a bit wary of an accuracy guarantee and they padded their hand a bit here. This is an excellent long-range rifle in a very versatile cartridge. Any serious prepper trying to defend a fixed position would do well to check it out.

My Personal Solution

There is another path to a “Poor Man’s Sniper Rifle.”

The topic of survival guns for preppers is pretty wide ranging. If you buy all the guns you need it’s a huge investment. You need a battle rifle and a primary carry pistol at minimum, then maybe a backup pistol, a shotgun and maybe a .22 LR. Now I am telling you that you need a sniper rifle?

image

Remington Model 700 Sendero converted for long-range tactical use.

That’s just for one person and it does not include any overlap or spares. If you are a family of preppers these needs are multiplied by each member. Plus, you need ammo for all of them. It’s daunting, I know. For most of us it’s very expensive and is probably putting a strain on a family budget that’s already taxed to its limits. If you are prepping you are also buying food, tools, seeds and all the other things necessary to survive. Most of us are struggling just to pay the bills these days and it means sacrificing something else to buy more guns.

Normally it could take years to build up all the guns you need, but the way the world is going we don’t have years. You need to get at least the basic guns sooner rather than later, as it’s highly possible that they will not be available later. Or if they are, the price will be so high that it won’t matter. Look at what happened to AR rifles a few years ago when panic buying dried up the market. Prices skyrocketed. That was just a reaction to the government’s attempt at more gun control. Just imagine what will happen if they do ban guns or if we have a major event. It’s likely you will not be able to buy a gun at any price. The trouble is, we can’t predict what will happen or when; we can just prepare for it.

I understand that you need to take a pragmatic approach and sometimes we need to cut corners, set priorities and figure out another way.

Here is one way to go.

Prepping is about ingenuity. It would be great to buy every gun suggested in this book, but who can afford that? If you can, you can hire private security or better yet buy a remote island, staff it with workers and ride out the end of the world as we know it. For the rest of us, we need to improvise. If you have a good shooting rifle, why not tweak it a little bit to make it viable for defensive long-range use?

image

The M70 Laredo.

For two of my .300 Winchester long-range rifles, I took a different approach. I dusted off a couple of old guns I had in my collection that were designed for long-range hunting. You can take this approach with any cartridge, not just a .300 Winchester. It just happened that I had these guns hanging around and not seeing much use. If you don’t have the option of already owning an appropriate rifle, there are a lot of guns on the used gun market that will cost a lot less than a full-blown long-range rifle.

A lot of hunters bought heavy barrel rifles when long-range hunting became popular, only to discover that they are a bit heavy for lugging around the woods. They soon traded them for something easier to carry. But it doesn’t need to be a heavyweight; even a “standard” weight barrel will work if it’s a good shooter. If you prowl the gun shops, particularly before Christmas when people are strapped for money, you can often find some bargains on used rifles. In my part of the world, New England, the magnums go cheap because hunters are not interested. Put a Remington pump action .30–06 on the used gun rack and stand back so you won’t get trampled. But stick a heavy barrel .300 Winchester up there and watch it gather dust. Gun shop owners lose money if inventory is not turned over, so if you are patient you can sometimes find a bargain donor gun for a project.

I used two rifles to do two different levels of modification for long-range work. For the most part, the guns were designed for long-range shooting anyway, so it was just a matter of a little fine-tuning.

The first one is a Winchester Laredo rifle with the BOSS system that lets you tune the harmonics of the barrel for the best accuracy. Winchester introduced this rifle back in 1997 when long-range hunting was getting a lot of coverage in the magazines. It just didn’t sell well enough to continue manufacture and it was only made a few years before they discontinued it in 1999. Mine has been gathering dust for a long time and it was ready for some action.

I installed a 1.5-pound Timney trigger. I put a rail scope mount on top and mounted a Leupold VX6 4–24 scope. That’s it, done.

It’s not a full-blown tactical rifle, but it is capable of ¾-MOA accuracy with factory ammo. The gun sits well on sand bags or a bipod and it can reach out to long-range targets just as well as any other rifle.

I may add a tactical bolt handle and a removable box magazine someday, but probably not. With a high-end tactical scope and a better trigger I took a dust collector and made it a viable long-range gun. I am happy with that result.

I also had a Remington Sendero in .300 Winchester that got a bit more advanced tweaking. This is pretty much Remington’s competition for the Laredo as a long-range hunting rifle. It’s the heavy barrel “varmint” gun that Remington made for years for shooting prairie dogs, but with a grown-up cartridge. Rather than let it keep gathering dust in my gun vault, I decided to “trick” it out for long-range shooting. Of course, I wrote an article about that project. Here is the condensed version.

Long-Range Rifle Makeover

Each generation likes to think they discovered everything great, but it’s simply not always so. Sometimes those things have been around a while. For example, the son of one of my wife’s co-workers came home all excited from a high school dance several years ago.

“Dad,” he said breathlessly, “you gotta hear this new song they have been playing! It’s called Stairway to Heaven and it is so awesome!”

It’s the same with long-range rifle shooting. It’s been around a long time. It just changes faces to match the times and every generation starts to think they invented it.

image

This modified Remington Model 700 Sendero works well for long-range tactical use.

My personal hard-start introduction came fifteen years ago when long-range deer hunting was all the rage. Soon enough, every rifle company had a gun designed to reach out and smack something. For the most part, they were line extensions of their heavy-barrel varmint rifles chambered for powerful “big game” cartridges. It seems the Texas theme was hot and Winchester called theirs the Laredo, while Remington’s was the “Sendero.” Being a true gun nut, I wound up with one of each, but they don’t see a lot of use these days. Newer guns came along and those “long-range” hunting rifles have been gathering dust in my vault for years.

What I needed now was a long-range “tactical” target rifle for a lot of reasons, one being “just because.” The trouble is, as with most households the Obama economy has left Camp Towsley a bit short on discretionary funds dedicated for new rifle acquisitions.

image1

A modified Remington Model 700 Sendero. The .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge is one of the best choices for tactical long-range use.

So I dug out the Sendero, blew off the dust, and started playing with it on some long-range targets. As always, it shot well but it just wasn’t “tactical” enough for today’s shooting world. So, in discovering something great all by myself, I thought, “Why not turn this unused hunting rifle into a long-range ‘tactical’ shooting machine?”

Here’s how it all went down.

First I removed the stock, bolt, scope, and mount from the rifle, stripping the rifle naked and ready for a makeover.

While Remington is capable of making some very good triggers, this rifle did not have one of them. I know the Remington trigger inside and out and have tuned dozens, perhaps hundreds of them; but I could not make this one behave. So the first step was to replace the factory trigger with a Timney trigger that is preset at the factory with a 1.5-pound pull weight. A pull weight, by the way, that is unattainable safely with a Remington trigger. If you want a light trigger pull, you must replace the trigger.

image

I replaced the rifle’s stock with the Knoxx Axiom Ultra-Light Rifle Stock from BLACKHAWK! This unique stock has a spring-loaded recoil-compensation system to take the sting out of the .300 Win Mag. The stock is a fiberglass-reinforced injection molded polymer design with aluminum pillar bedding. The adjustable buttstock has length-of-pull options from 11.25-inches to 15.25-inches, a feature that alone makes this stock a great choice. The barrel is completely free-floated so the stock fits all barrel diameters with zero barrel channel fitting work needed. This means you can install it on that slim-barrel hunting rifle you have hanging around as well as on heavy-barreled guns like mine.

The stock actually took a lot of work to fit to this gun, which was a surprise. While I was at it I decided to fit Accuracy International bottom metal to this stock so that I could use their outstanding removable box magazines. That too turned out to be one heck of a project, but I got it done and it was worth the effort.

I mounted the Weaver Precision Tactical Bipod using the Weaver Swivel Stud Picatinny Rail Adaptor, which clamps on the existing swivel stud and allows mounting the bipod.

I replaced the standard bolt handle with an oversize “tactical” knob. That required some lathe work and a jig from Pacific Tool and Gauge Company. Once it was set up in the jig, I turned the old bolt handle down until it was the correct size and then threaded it so I could screw on the new, oversize bolt handle. No lathe? No problem. There are replacement handles that you can do with hand tools. Brownells has an assortment to pick from.

I installed a Weaver Tactical Multi-Slot Picatinny scope mount base designed for the Remington 700. It features a recoil lug that mates to the action at the front of the ejection port to help keep the recoil forces off the mounting screws. With the heavy weight of tactical scopes and rings this is a good feature. It also mounts the scope a bit lower than some other rails I have tried.

I have had a bunch of scopes on it over the years, as this gun is so accurate I often use it to test new tactical scopes when writing about them. I started with a Nikon and right now it wears a Weaver Tactical.

My first day at the range it was spitting snow and very cold. The wind was gusting just a little and with a deadline looming I was more interested in getting finished than in the process. This all usually adds up to a bad day of gun testing, but with tactical ammo from Federal, Cor-Bon, and Black Hills, my three shot groups were running on average just under one MOA. With the factory ammo it liked best, they were ½- to ¾- MOA. Since then I have made head shots on USPSA-style targets at 1,000 yards with this rifle. I have shot sub MOA groups at that distance as well. It’s a goofy looking thing, but when it shoots this well, who cares?

image

The author and Scott Ballard, an instructor at the Sig Sauer Academy. This is a five-shot group that the author shot at 1,000 yards with a tricked-out Remington 700 Sendero in .300 Winchester Magnum.

If you have a rifle sitting around collecting dust, or can find a used gun at a bargain price, this is a great way to get into a long-range gun without spending the kids’ college funds. Just find one that’s chambered in a cartridge suitable for tactical long-range use, which is pretty much any bottleneck centerfire, and it’s a candidate for a makeover. For a lot less than the cost of a complete, new “tactical” sniper rifle you can get into this “long-range tactical” shooting thing and put a neglected rifle back in service. Then you can excitedly tell all your friends about the great new shooting sport you just discovered.

.338 Lapua

image

This Accuracy International .338 Lapua will really shoot.

Several years ago I tested seven different .338 Lapua rifles extensively at the range and most of them failed to impress me with their accuracy.

Except two.

One was an Accuracy International AX, a version of the gun used to set the record for the longest sniper shot ever. It’s a fantastic gun and in my next life I hope I’ll pick a better paying profession so I can buy one. While it’s worth every penny, with a base price in the neighborhood of the cost of a good used car, it’s out of my league. But it is to this day the most accurate .338 Lapua I have tested. For the record, the list of .338 Lapua rifles I’ve tested is well into double digits now.

image1

Savage 110 BA in .338 Lapua. This gun is fitted with a Zeiss 6-24X56 scope with a Rapid-Z reticle. A rifle this accurate deserves the best optics.

The other gun—the one that was and is in a very close second place for accuracy, almost, but not quite matching the high-dollar AI rifle—is a Savage 110BA, which sells for about 1/3 of the price. The 100-yard groups were outstanding and at long range it just gets better. I shot a five-shot group at 1,000 yards that measured 5.9 inches. I had the first three shots in two inches. The average for multiple five-shot groups at 1,000 yards was 6.45 inches. That is nearly ½-MOA at 1,000 yards!

image1

Shooting the Savage 110 BA .338 Lapua at 1,000 yards.

Not bad, considering that one arrogant gun magazine editor told me I was “slumming” by using that rifle.

For the record, I don’t think there is a better bargain in a precision .338 Lapua rifle and I bought the rifle after finishing the magazine articles.

image

Outstanding accuracy from a Savage 110BA in .338 Lapua.

The rifle is also available in .300 Winchester Magnum and comes in right or left hand.

.50 BMG

I have to confess, I don’t really enjoy shooting a .50 BMG all that much. It’s probably because in a moment of stupidity I took a handloading assignment for that cartridge a few years back. I wound up shooting hundreds of rounds in just a few range sessions. I have always said that once the novelty wears off, this cartridge is kind of a beast. Well, it wore off very quickly with that assignment.

The .50 BMG might be a beast, but for the job at hand, nothing else can compare. There is a huge selection of guns on the market, ranging from uppers you can put on an AR-15 lower to full-blown, high-dollar precision rifles. The only limit is your budget.

image

I did most of that handloading work with a Barrett Model 99. This is a heavy-duty, bullpup-style, single-shot, bolt-action rifle. It is a reasonably priced rifle. With a 32-inch tapered bull barrel the gun weighed twenty-five pounds, and my sample, equipped with a Leupold scope and BORS system, weighed two ounces shy of 30 pounds.

The arrowhead-shaped muzzle brake is clamped on the barrel and is very effective at reducing recoil, but the blast was close to life altering. By most standards the gun was a good shooter and was certainly accurate enough to hit a car engine block at 500 or even 1,000 yards.

Perhaps the most pleasant .50 BMG to shoot is one my friend Lee Houghton built himself, using a machine gun barrel. This beast is nearly as tall as I am and weighs 48 pounds. With the long barrel and a brake Lee designed and made, it puts the blast out away from the shooter. Recoil is very light due to the brake and the weight of the gun. On top of that, it’s a good shooter! But it’s one of a kind.

Accuracy International AX50

Accuracy International AX50 .50 BMG with Schmidt & Bender 5–25X tactical scope. You must be able to see a distant target to hit it, so a good rifle deserves high-quality optics.

I just received an Accuracy International AX50 rifle on loan from EuroOptic for a feature article in NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine. This is a battle-proven gun that may well be the apex of bolt-action, magazine-fed .50 BMG rifles. Its barrel is twenty-seven inches and the rifle weighs 24.6 pounds. If you want the best of the best in a .50 BMG, this is your gun.

image

Accuracy International AX50 .50 BMG with Schmidt & Bender 5-25X tactical scope. You must be able to see a distant target to hit it, so a good rifle deserves high-quality optics.

Their website says, “This Accuracy International 50-caliber is designed for military use as an anti-material weapon system.” That means it’s a good choice for breaking stuff that needs breaking.

The gun has a flat-bottomed steel action that is bolted to a full-length aluminum chassis. The two-stage trigger is the best trigger I have seen on a .50 BMG and it breaks at four pounds, six ounces. However, the first stage is three pounds, three ounces, so the effective trigger pull is only one pound, three ounces. This is a big asset in precision long-range shooting.

The double chamber muzzle brake is both screwed on and tension clamped, which should tell you something about what happens at the end of a .50 BMG barrel. They advertise that it effectively reduces recoil, muzzle flash, and dust eruption (all of which a .50 BMG is very good at generating). The barrel can be changed in less than ten minutes using the barrel change kit, but if you shoot it out, you are a better man than me!

image1

Accuracy International AX50 .50 BMG.

I have not had a lot of time with this gun yet, but so far I am impressed. I believe that there is no better choice than this rifle for defending your property, family, and life from a fixed position, particularly if you expect the need to break things and disable vehicles. It’s not a cheap gun, but it’s probably priced lower than you might expect. EuroOptic sells the Accuracy International 6800B AX50 for $11,082. It’s a serious investment. But if you live in a place where you will need a rifle like this, it’s an investment that may well keep you alive.