Precision Rifles to Stock for Long-Distance Sales

What should you stock for long-range shooters? We asked the experts.

Precision Rifles to Stock for Long-Distance Sales

There’s no shortage of “expert” advice on ideal gear for long-distance shooting. Listen to the wrong armchair quarterback, though, and you could wind up with expensive inventory languishing for months — or longer. Steep investments growing stale on the shelves are not healthy for any bottom line.

Precision is popular and the enthusiasm grows by the day, though. Nearly every firearm academy is hosting classes or seminars and the list of sessions expands each year. Figuring out what really works can be a real challenge.

Tactical Retailer reached out to three of the industry’s foremost experts to get the real answers. Each are instructors with impeccable qualifications and teach at some of the best academies today. You can take what they say to the bank.


Biggest Question?

Steve Aryan, director of training for Outdoor Solutions — and author of the company’s curriculum — said retailers and customers should start by answering one question. “The first thing you should consider is what is the rifle going to be used for?” he said. “Shooting long range is very vague. Long range may be 500 yards to some, 1,000 to others and 2,000 to the next shooter.”

Your location plays a role here — it might not be a sound business decision to stock a lot of pricey precision rifles if the nearest 1,000-yard firing line is a two-day drive away. A couple in inventory, perhaps, but an offer to order something with all the features they need goes a long way.

Walt Wilkinson, Gunsite Academy rangemaster, agreed. “The term ‘long-range rifle’ is an old one and not very accurate — no pun intended,” he said. “Unlike golf clubs or tennis rackets, there are so many aspects of the long-range rifle sports now that you can’t use that term with shooters who know what’s going on. You have to be area-specific when you speak about a rifle’s use and capabilities.”

A customer may want that precision rifle to pull double duty, too, something to weigh if business is particularly brisk the week before opening day. “Will it be used for hunting or just punching paper?” Aryan asked. “That will tell you if sling mounts, weight or barrel length are important.”



The trio’s opinions differed when it came to the best precision cartridge/chambering for recreational shooters.

“After spending my operational career mainly using the .308 caliber or 7.62 x 54 mm, I wish that I had had more exposure to the 6.5 Creedmoor, because it is quite an impressive round and has got a great flat-shooting ballistic table compared to the .308,” William “Bart” Bartholomew, senior instructor and founder of Bergara Academy, said. “If I were to recommend a particular caliber to a shooter who is either looking to use for hunting or long-range shooting, I would definitely recommend the 6.5 Creedmoor.”

“The .308 is great because of the availability of ammo and outstanding barrel life. If you want to get into shooting long range, then reading the wind will be the challenge you always will face,” according to Aryan.

“I would have to say 6.5 mm Creedmoor,” Wilkinson said. He shoots long-distance competitions regularly and lists .308 Win. as his training caliber, but is often behind a 6mm Creedmoor, .300 Norma Mag. or .338 Norma Mag.


Stock or Chassis?

“I know a lot of people today are shooting chassis-type stocks in PRS-type shooting, and they have a purpose; however, I am old school and still like a full-standard synthetic stock that has the proper features,” Bartholomew said.

Wilkinson disagrees. “The ’80s are a thing of the past,” he said. “An un-adjustable fixed stock is next to useless. Many older shooters have huge position problems because they learned to shoot on a rifle that was too long for them — length of pull — because all companies make the stocks too long. Being able to adjust everything makes the rifle fit... Every shooter is a different height, arm length, neck length, jaw structure. The more comfortable you are behind the gun means that you will be more consistent in your position, follow-through and recoil management. That leads to accuracy.”

Aryan split the difference in opinion. “A well-made stock such as Manners, KMW, McMillan or AG Composites will leave little to be desired. However, a good chassis provides modularity, rigidity and accuracy with little to be done to it.”

In .308 Win., Wilkinson prefers a 24-inch barrel. Bartholomew said, “I personally like my barrel length to be a least 24 inches in length if not 26 and in a heavy-type configuration.”

Aryan’s take is slightly different. “People tend to think shorter barrels are less accurate,” he said. “That is not necessarily the case. Without going into all the details on powder burn rates and barrel lengths, I will say that a short-barreled gun can produce the same accuracy as a long one. Maybe not with the same ammo, or the same load. The difference is muzzle velocity. When I say short-barreled, I am talking the difference of a 12.5-inch barrel versus a 24-inch.”


Optic Mounts

The key to consistently connecting at distance, according to the experts, isn’t always the most expensive part. “When you put together a ‘system,’ that system’s worth is the sum of its parts. For instance, you buy a $2,000 optic and get your mount from a 7-11,” Wilkinson warned. “Always put your money in your glass and support — rings, or better yet, mount — system. After that, an electronic level.”

“There are lots of good ones out there,” Aryan said when asked about mounts. “Nightforce, Badger, American Rifle Company, Larue, ADM, Zeiss, Seekins and Sphur are a few that come to mind.”

Bartholomew didn’t name brands, but noted, “When it comes to scope rings, I personally like all steel rings vs. aluminum. I know weight is an issue, but they are much stronger than the aluminum; however, that is just my preference.”

Things do rattle loose, though, and Aryan carries a field-expedient solution. “I recommend an inch-pound torque wrench set,” he added. “Fix It Sticks makes a great compact one, and Wheeler has one as well. When you get a new rifle, make sure that the base has been torqued properly, and I use red Loctite on the base, blue on my rings. Most of the factory bases I have seen on new rifles are not torqued or Loctited down and come loose during classes.”


When it comes to selecting an optic, Aryan also recommended models that track true, with external turrets that return to zero with a zero stop. First-focal-plane versions reduce mathematical gymnastics, and the reticle should have windage marks. “The glass has to be good,” he said, “not just 12-o’clock-noon clear, but compare them at dusk and dawn. That’s when good glass earns its keep.”

“My current favorite is Zeiss with its insane good glass and 40 mils of adjustment,” Wilkinson said. “Right below that is Nightforce ATACR.”

Bartholomew apologetically admitted, “If I were to pick one manufacturer who has a good quality product as well as warranty service, it would have to be TRACT optics. I hope I am not going to offend some other manufactures of quality optics, but I also look at cost and durability as well.”


Other Gear?

From shooting bags to mats, apps, bipods and other items, there’s no shortage of accessories to help shooters dial into that bull’s-eye — and stay there, even when the wind picks up. The experts didn’t quite agree on which ones were most important, but their picks were interesting.

“This is an easy one, a quality spotting scope system,” Wilkinson said. “You can have a $10K rifle and it means nothing if you can’t read the wind. You learn how to read the wind with a spotting scope. A quality spotting scope system is made up of a spotting scope of suitable power for the distances you will be shooting, it has a reticle in the same units of measure — mils or MOA — as your riflescope, a good tripod and an adjustable head.”

“Invest in your own skills,” Aryan advised. “Be better with less. There are some good tools out there to help, though. The rear bags we use are extremely lightweight. I use several different sizes, and they are great for range and for hunting. Companies like WieBad orSandSockGear make some.”

Bartholomew said, “As far as valuable upgrades to your rifle, I would recommend that they purchase a good quality bipod that is durable as well as adjustable to different types of terrain. Again, please keep in mind that you get what you pay for, and it’s not uncommon to spend $250 to $300 on a good bipod. My recommendation would be something in the Atlas line.”

A Kestrel to dope the wind at the firing line was highly recommended, as were ballistics apps from Hornady, Strelock, Ballistics ARC, Applied Ballistics and Field Firing Solutions. The new BDX scope, app and rangefinder system from SIG Sauer combines the tasks for a shooter, performs the calculations and even adjusts the reticle.

And a comment from Aryan is a great reminder for customers before they head to the range with that new rig. “Each type of ammo can have a different point of impact,” he said. “So, a 140-grain BTHP from Hornady may not, and probably will not, have the same point of impact as the 140-grain from Federal. When you find one that shoots good, buy as much of it as you can afford to get or will need for a while. Look for a lot number printed on the box or on the inside flap. That will let you know that all of that was made at the same time and should have the same results.” It’s yet another one of those things that builds repeatability and, ultimately, precision at distance. 


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