Precision shooting has been around longer than many realize. The American Civil War was one of the first conflicts to see long range rifles implemented in number. The results spoke for themselves.
At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Confederate sharpshooters had Union troops seeking cover as they tried to set up artillery. Nearby, Major-General John Sedwick balked at their apparent cowardice, remarking that the rebs couldn’t hit an elephant at that range.
Mere moments later, a bullet found its mark under his left eye, killing him instantly.
Since those early beginnings, precision rifles have proved their worth time and again. But we’ve come a long way since there were only a handful of long range weapons on the market.
Shopping for one in 2020, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice. Here are our tips on what to look for in your rifle, and our top picks of the year.
What to Look for in Long Range Rifles
There are a few factors to consider in picking out your new rifle. The first is the purpose of the rifle, as this will determine the qualities that you want out of it.
A rifle for dedicated target shooting, for example, will tend to be much heavier than any other. The extra weight increases the rifle’s rigidity and precision. And since you’ll only ever use it from a stationary position, the weight isn’t an issue.
For a hunting rifle, weight is very much a consideration. When you have a long hike to get to your hunting spot, shaving off ounces becomes a necessity. Some of the compromises you’ll have to make will make these rifles less precise, but it’s well worth it to make it to your destination.
And while most beginners will be happy with a ready-made, off-the-shelf rifle, sooner or later you’ll want to do some custom-tailoring. Things like adding a bipod are a given if the rifle didn’t already come with one. But tweaks like adding muzzle brakes or a new trigger assembly will be easier for some rifles than others due to the availability of parts.
With those considerations given, we’ve assembled a cross-section of rifles that should please everyone.
1. Remington Model 700
We wanted to start with an oldie-but-a-goody. A longtime favorite of hunters and target shooters, the Model 700 has also found a home among police and military forces around the world.
There are millions of clones and variants of the Model 700 out there, but the best bang for your buck is the SPS Tactical AAC-SD. Its stock is reinforced, allowing for the increased rigidity needed to keep the barrel free-floating, helping to increase precision. And there are countless after-market modifications that you can make.
2. Bergara B14 HMR
The appeal of this Spanish beauty is all there in the name. A “hunting and match rifle” (HMR), it’s half-way between a lightweight hunting rifle and a rigid match rifle.
So if you want something that is equally at home on the range as it is on the hunting trail, this is the rifle for you.
Though looking a fair bit like a traditional hunting rifle, the buttstock is still adjustable. And an internal aluminum skeleton helps reinforce the rifle while keeping the overall weight down.
3. Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Target Rifle
The heaviest option on this list, the Ruger Hawkeye is meant for serious long range shooting.
Weighing in at a beefy 11 pounds, it can get cumbersome to lug around. But that extra weight brings with it an increase in precision that you don’t want to overlook.
It was designed to shoot the rigorous .300 Win Mag cartridge, but it also comes available in the more common 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .204 Ruger, and .308 Win. You can get one fresh out of the box and immediately hit targets at 1,000 yards with no difficulty.
4. Tikka T3x Tac A1 Rifle
We mentioned before that many, if not most long range rifles are colones of the Model 700. Well, here’s a rifle for those of you who want something a little more unique.
This Finnish rifle is a genuine original, with Tikka designing the action first and then building a rifle to fit around it. This is also why it doesn’t accept the standard AICS magazines most rifles use. Instead, you’ll be needing Tikka’s own proprietary magazines.
But it’s worth it due to the rifle’s extremely tight groupings and smooth, quick-cycling bolt.
5. Ruger Precision Rifle
The Ruger Precision Rifle is hands-down one of the best buys on the market.
This bolt-action comes chambered in all of the most popular long range cartridges. And while it’s extremely modular and can be customized into any number of personalized variations, the default package is extremely solid.
It boasts a threaded, cold hammer-forged, chrome-moly steel barrel. By default, it comes with an easily customizable 2.25lb-5lb Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger. And it comes standard with an RPR Hybrid muzzle brake.
The basic rifle comes with a fully adjustable skeletonized buttstock, but you can easily swap that out for an AR-style shoulder stock if that’s more to your preference. The sheer number of after-market parts available makes this an extremely versatile rifle that will serve you well for years to come. And at a starting price of $1,300, it’s unlikely to break the bank, either.
With So Many Rifles on the Market, Thinning the Herd Can Be Difficult
In the early days of sharpshooting, you would be lucky to find two or maybe three good long range rifles in your whole lifetime. Now we have the opposite problem.
Every year brings a wave of new rifles, it’s hard to find the time to try them all.
That’s why it’s important, especially for beginners, to go into the selection process already having some idea of what they’re looking for. You’ll be less likely to get distracted by all the new bells and whistles they’re always coming out with and walk away with something that will suit you. Especially since you can usually add a lot of those shiny odds and ends later.
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