Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bolt Action and Precision Rifles Continued

For reasons not yet to be disclosed I have been thinking about bolt action and precision rifles. Sort of want to continue our recent discussion on bolt action rifles.

Inescapable Facts:
-The gun you want to carry all day long in the field is not the one you want to use when you need to make multiple rapid accurate shots at distance. A light rifle with a relatively thin barrel is great for 2 shots at an animal, and can even be quite accurate but is not capable of keeping any rate of fire without the barrel getting hot and accuracy going to hell. On the other hand a heavy bull barreled rifle with a huge scope and a massive free floating bedded stock is perfect for shooting but sucks to carry. Splitting the middle can be the best of both worlds or the worst of them.

     Food for thought here. Can your goals all realistically be met with one bolt action rifle? Do you need two of them? Maybe a semi auto that is reliable but not quite precision accurate,
 like a PTR-91 or a nice light to haul around hunting rifle and then a 
big heavy accurate lead slinger?

- Weight, accuracy (particularly sustained accuracy; far more important in a tactical scenario than a hunting one) and price are sort of like that old saying about fast cheap and easy. You really get to pick two.

-While some companies (Burris and the lower end Leupolds come to mind) bend the cost curve a bit good glass costs money.

Semi automatic rifles in a precision context.

Chris made an interesting point about an intentionally set up AR but I think it is an awfully carefully worded one and still has the issue of penetration. It is true newer 75+ grain like the 77 grain Sierra Match King Remington Premier have far better terminal ballistics than M193 or M855. However it is still true that at the 5.56 cartridge can reach out accurately a good bit further than it can hit with authority, paper and people are not the same things.

As of recent years the military and tactical precision communities have been shifting rapidly to semi automatic .308 caliber rifles. We could debate whether this is strictly (I know it is at least partially) out of needs identified in Iraq and Afghanistan or that folks have started making semi automatic rifles accurate enough to really do the job. The second theory is hurt considerably by the M14 having that level of accuracy for some time.

Anyway I would contend that high quality semi automatic rifles, the most common being in the AR-10 SASS/ M110/ SR-25 and M14/M1A varieties are capable of every bit of accuracy as bolt action rifles. So let's talk pluses and minuses.

Positives of semi automatic precision rifles
-Rate of fire. Duh.

-Capacity and reload time. Typically twenty rounds in a detachable box mag vs 5 in a fixed mag for a bolt gun. Simple mag change vs shoving rounds into a blind mag.

-Defensive capability. When carrying bolt guns military snipers would also carry a standard type rifle such as a CAR-15 or M4 for their personal defense, cuz a bolt action sniper rifle sucks in a 50 meter run and gun scenario. With an M1A or an AR-10 they could just carry one rifle.

Negatives of semi automatic precision rifles
-Cost. To get an AR-10 that will equal or beat the 1MOA or less accuracy of an out of the box $500 Savage or Remington you would probably need to drop 2 grand. An M1A would cost even more. I wish you could get that level of accuracy out of a PTR-91, or even a CEMTE or FrankenFAL, but that is just not the real world.

[We could debate the necessary accuracy and if it was dropped to 2 MOA that might open up more AR-10's but as a general guideline the semi affordable AR-10's just do not seem to work all that well. No such thing as a free lunch there.

There may be some exceptions here but to say I am confident a DPMS, Bushmaster, etc AR-10 is A) reliable enough to be a fighting weapon and B) accurate enough for precision applications would be a lie. In fact I think the exact opposite of both of those statements. If your gun is the exception then I am happy for you. I do hope as the market develops and standardization along the M110 pattern shows dividends that we will start to see better and more affordable AR-10's.]

-Weight. Robust semi auto rifles such as AR-10's or M1A's are just heavy.

-Reliability. The need for accuracy in a precision rifle means we are dealing with good guns but there are simply a lot more things to go wrong in one of these than a plain old bolt gun.

Personally for me cost is the biggest single factor working against a semi automatic precision rifle. I can get a good bolt gun for $500-600 while a Bravo Company, LaRue, Colt, etc AR-10 is going to cost around 2k.

So that is what was kicking around my head today. Thoughts?


Meister said...

There is no one gun to rule them all. Just like carry pistols, the easy to carry generally suck to shoot. In my efforts to find the perfect trade off, there are systems out there but like you said, the price of admission is steep. When the REPR from LWRCI first came out, their big selling point was to sell them as a system with a 20" and 14.5 or 16" upper. It allows for less bulk than 2 rifles, but can function as both a distance and carbine configuration. You'd be 7-8 grand in with optics.

Another draw back is attempting to swap uppers under duress. Bad JuJu!

The supposedly new appearance of shorter barreled precision rifles has stirred the pot a bit, but they still don't give the results of a true M40-esque system. After having a chat with a rep from Silencer Co, he pointed me into the pandora's box of carbon fiber wrapped barrles that are truly bridging the gap for a precision system that it light enough to field with a carbine as backup.

Once again, we come back to price. Cutting edge products don't come cheap.

For price/accuracy index purposes, if you want the best bang for the buck in the 308 AR market, the ruger is king.

Another new fad seems to be the mirco red dots being mounted 45 degrees off the magnified optic. I've used it and it works, but it's a stopgap measure at best. The main optic interferes with target acquisition.

Take it or leave it, that's how I see it.

Theother Ryan said...

Meister, That is a lot to digest. That being said it does touch on a couple things I have thought about recently.

First I simply fail to get the "two upper's one lower" thing. The expensive parts are the upper and the optic. For example I built an AR not too long ago. I have somewhere over $1,600 (upper, bolt, optic, light, rail) in the upper and MAYBE $300 in the lower.

As a stop gap measure to shoot that new upper this week while you waited for lower parts, etc I get it. However as a long term decision I fail to see it making any sense, especially for a preparedness standpoint. It would be like having two trucks but only one set of rims and tires, for a (relatively) nominal difference you lost a ton of capability. NOW if we could swap barrels that might be a different discussion.

I am underwhelmed with the 45 degree red dot thing. It seems like a simultaneously a solution in search of a problem and a 3 gun gamism. I can do CQB sufficiently fast with an ACOG or my 1-4x MTAC.

James Clark said...

Have you ever shot a PTR-91? I thought it would be excellent till I got one. The magazines don't slide in like an AR. You have to kinda rock and push all at the same time. The sights are atrocious compared to an AR's iron sights. It is too bright on top of the rear sight at the 100 meter point. I kept having to turn it to the 200m setting. 200 meters is where the rear sight goes from a V into a peep type sight. I suppose with training it could be overcome. I have been using the AR platform for 23 years so I am pretty ingrained on that sight picture. I have to suggest AR10 or M1a platform for a semi auto rifle in .308. As a side note my buddy has a converted Saiga in .308 that is pretty good. We regularly hit coffee cups at 300 meters. Iwish you good luck in choosing the right platform.

P.P.S I bought my mom and my wife the S&W Shield and they love them. Never had a problem with either one. Now I want one too.

Pineslayer said...

I had to go back and read the original post again to stay in perspective. Bolt action is the best, generally, for long range accuracy, and comes in cheaper. When you start talking about modern day fighting applications, the line gets blurred.

A good 22 rifle is hard to beat when you think WCS long term. Shot placement. Short term I want an expensive big semi. I have a 700 in 30.06 and it is a heavy hitter with a great old scope. Light and kicks like Chuck Liddell. I wish it came with a 20 rd.

I'm no help.

Aesop said...


You can either take the weight penalty and tote a Rem700 with the heavy bbl., or you can bite the cost weinie and get a NM M-1A.

Which, by no strange set of coincidences, is exactly what the Marines and the Army did, respectively, way back when.

Supposedly OOW's semi-auto M240s have fairly robust accuracy firing from a closed bolt, IIRC, but I don't have the spare $10K or so to buy one and compare it with the other two.

The potential of 100 rds. and up, once again, brings the cost and weight penalties one would expect, but having 100 rounds at the ready would seem to solve any short-term accuracy problems. And punch your man card and provide a crazy-mad upper-body workout at the same time.

Anonymous said...

A .308 semi-auto on the cheap pretty much means a Saiga or VEPR and their compromises. Not likely a tack-driver. Combined with a bolt gun (Savage Hog Hunter, etc.) you can get both for well less than an accurate AR-based .308.

Anonymous said...


Your analysis of the bolt v. gas gun is in line with my thinking and well written.

In the bad old days we used to carry M4s and strap a bolt gun to our rucks for infil.

It sucked.

When gas guns came available we threw down our bolt guns and did not look back.

But that was Uncle Sam paying for it. I don't have that kind of money to spend.

My solution was the Rem 700 SS Milspec 5R for precision. It allows me to have an affordable version of the M24 (I actually prefer it to the M24,and I've used that gun lots.)

As I'm not really anticipating the need for a do-it-all CQB/run-n-gun/precision rifle, even in SHTF, my solution works for me. I can maintain my precision skills at a reasonable cost and have a precision capability for Mad Max scenarios.

Harry Flashman said...

I agree that there's no one gun that does it all. That's part of the reason I have many different weapons.

and also, I am weapons greedy.

Anonymous said...

The M-14 is a pretty good battle rifle but sucks as a precision rifle. There are several reasons why the AR-platform kicked the M-14/M1A out of high power rifle competition, and here are two of them. By the time you have to rebarrel the AR-10/15, you'll have had to rebuild the M-14 two or three times. There's more parts moving around that will get out of whack and bedding that will shoot loose. That's just on the rifle range. In field conditions, those issues accellerate. Now I'm not saying you can't build the M-14-type into a marvelously precise rifle. You can. The M-21 was a good rifle back-in-the-day. But you just can't keep them at that level of precision very long.

I'm having a little problem with the concept of banging away at long range, though. Seems to me, that's not justifiable in normal circumstances, and would generally be unadvisable in grid down circumstances. Unwanted attention drawn to oneself and all that. For the most part.


AM said...

It is possible to get a bolt action rifle with sporter weight barrel to not open up groups when the barrel gets hot from repeated shots.

You have to start with a barrel that has the inner bore concentric to the outer diameter of the barrel along its entire length.

Then you have to cut the chamber, threads, and barrel shoulder true on a lathe.

Then you have to true the action shoulder, and ensure there is no slop in the action threads to barrel threads.

If you do that, when the barrel heats up it won't be torqued off to one side and open up groups because of an unequal mating surface between receiver and barrel. Many "cheap" press fitted barrels like the Rem 770 and 710 won't have the group opening problem because the action to barrel interface is mechanically equal because of the press fit.

Now that the steel has been addressed, the next thing to do is free float the barrel, so that harmonics are repeatable as the steel expands due to heat.

For what it is worth, this is how a Palma or top end F Class rifle is built, and while slow fire won't heat up the barrel the way a "mag dump" will, this is how to mitigate heat.

riverrider said...

my question is why? and another, do you already possess the skill to get the job done at great distance? just asking, i have no idea of your level of skill. personally i don't, and therefor it would be a pipe dream for me to want anything that will shoot better,further than my scoped fal. i believe that a shtf scenario will eventually clear up and there would be repercussions to sniping people at great range. nuremburg ring a bell?

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what you consider 'PRECISION ACCURATE'. If its head shots (6" diameter) at 500 yards, it may doable, but GOOD optics, GOOD ammunition (probably handloaded) and practice does sound very possible with the M1 / M1A platform.

The Garand takes down pretty handily by the way, and can be kitted up INTO your rucksack. But optics on top would probably get dinged up.

Gold Ring said...

Check out the R-25 series from Remington. It is an MOA gun in 308, with Larue mount and Leupold VX-2 all in for about $1600. It is a LR308 at its core but the barrel is manufactured by Remington. Remember that Remington manufactured SR-25 barrels originally. As built unloaded it is 10.7 lbs. Easy rapid fire hits out to 500 yards and can hit man size (13X24) steel out to 1000 w 168g SMK. It has proven to be exceptionally reliable even when I shoot cheap steel case 308 (which is underpowered). I've used this rifle as a precision shooter and hog hunter out to 400 yards with 165g SGK. You'll get a sneer from the REPR and SCAR 17S guys at the range but it can shoot with them round for round. BTW, I also own a Rem 700 20" bull barrel 5R rifling in a B&C Medalist bedded stock with a Mark 4. Well over $2000 all in and the 700 is easily sub MOA w 168g SMK but is heavier than the R-25 at well over 11 lbs. Also owned a Savage 10P 20" bull barrel with 5R rifling and this gun was MOA completely stock with zero modifications. $500 bucks and it is just as accurate as the 700. Never should have sold it. I am always toying with picking up a 10 series hog hunter to have around to replace it. FWIW, none of the above are my go to weapons. AR-15 with an Aimpoint at just over 7 lbs would be my first choice in almost all circumstances in a survival situation. Mobility rules and weight is pain.

barebones said...

Never mind the post! Read the comments; they're worse!! Armchair crap!

The key to effective shooting is: a good eye, a steady hand, and hours of practice.

A good eye is dependent on genetics and a good PRACTICAL scope. I use a dual reticle Shepherd for the simple reason that, were I to discombobulate the accuracy through carelessness, I could reset it without a collection of alignment tools.

I suggest weight lifting directed toward the upper body and arms to make your 7-8 lb rifle feel like 7-8 oz.

Reload and blow of at least a couple hundred rounds a week on each gun.....well, one gun a week.

Until the situation becomes dire, my favorites are: a 1911, a Mossberg 12ga pump, and a short barreled AR-15 with a Trijicon reflex. If the SHTF, I'll ditch it all for a 20" AR-15 with a Shepherd, and much ammo.

Have a really swell day!

Theother Ryan said...

James, I have not. A semi auto .308 is pretty far down the list for me. Something I MIGHT be looking at towards the end of NEXT year.

A shield is a lot higher on the list. I'd be surprised if the year ends without one in my collection. Thanks for the update.

Pineslayer, I like .22's for shooting small animals. Also I'd wager if a true accounting were done .22lr has killed more deer than any other caliber. People not so much.

Aesop, Valid point on the two rifles. I cannot speak to a semi auto M240. However I can for the real deal M240 which is fabulously accurate aided in part by the excellent 6X ELCAN scope. Those things are tack drivers though area fire weapons are a bit different than a true single shot. I can do some really awesome things with an M240 and have rarely used them, an experienced Gunner or Weapons Squad Leader can easily reach out to 800m (tracer burn out) with one.

9:32, No interest in either of those.

@12:02, That seems like a very nice rifle. Your thinking largely mirrors my own. I'd LOVE a nice AR-10 but it would be hard to justify the cost. Not that I won't try to get one some day but it is quite low on the list due to being cost prohiibitive.

Harry, You do have a very enviable collection.

H, The price for a basic M1A is looney tunes. I wanted one for years but first it was pegged above my budget then by the time I could scrape up the cash the price for what you got was just at a silly horrible value ratio.

JWR figured it out recently. For the price of an MiA you could get a PTR-91, a Savage 10, a scope for the savage, a bunch of mags and spare parts for the PTR and some ammo.

AM, I suppose it comes back to the weight, accuracy and cost saying. One could choose weight and accuracy if their budged can largely disregard cost. Also if they NEED that ability. Most hunting and 'precision' application are over in 2-3 rounds.

RR, Again we would have to define precision. I have been sorely lacking anything capable of this as my only semi viable rifle was an AR with a 1-4x scope and a 14.5in barrel. Great at 300m but iffy at 4. A really good shot would likely push that out 100m or so.

There is always the 'good enough and already on inventory' factor to consider. If I had a scoped FAL that could hold say 3 MOA to 600m (2MOA to there is my 'precision' goal) it would be hard to justify the hassle for the difference between shoot them in the body and shoot them slightly towards the center of the body.

@5:56, Go back and read the previous post. My arbitrary 'precision rifle' goal is a rather modest 2 MOA out to 600m.

Can't really scope a Garand and they take those en bloc clips. Also that 60-70 year old steel ain't getting any younger. Had one and while it was a thing of beauty it got sold off.

Barebones, I have gotten back to lifting recently in a big way. Shattering near term PR's and pushing hard at some lifetime ones. That being said weight math still matters.

I have heard of those scopes (good things) but never seen or shot from one.

barebones said...

This not an article about MOA, Burris vs. Leupold, or Yuppie price tags on toys that provide no tactical advantage. It's not about sniping. It's about maximizing your chances of killing another person before they kill you! It's about selecting basic tools to make one adept at successfully committing homicide in a, usually, spontaneous encounter!

Have a usually lucky day!

Theother Ryan said...

Barebones, Not sure where to go with that man.

Pineslayer said...

Riverrider, I hear you on all points. Long distance assassinations are total WCS scenarios.

To comment on AR, M16, M4 platforms, I got pretty good with fixed sights out to 400. It is a good tool. Hard to beat when you consider all factors, weight, capacity, durability, availability. But one in 308 makes we giddy.

AM said...

@ Ryan, I like to sum it up as...

A. Consistent Accuracy
B. Lightweight
C. Cheap

Choose any two.

riverrider said...

pineslayer, "308 leaves me giddy". roger that. i tried a fal, fal para. too heavy for patrol, para saved length but still heavy and lost accuracy. so i just got a vz58. there's just something about the thump of 308. i miss the m60 mg....

riverrider said...

yeah, i know the vz isn't 308, but it isn't 5.56 either :)

Chris said...

Assuming the context of irregular/civilian operations against roving motorcycle gangs, with a 2-4 man friendly element, I see a few COAs for how to handle this.


PROS: Probably cheapest. Multiple caliber options including 308, 30-06 (civilian legal AP ammo readily available), or magnums like 338.
CONS: Raises questions about rate of fire, especially in a small element.
- Scout Rifle concept may help with ROF issues using mags
- Proficiency and carriage of sidearm
- Use of cache near desired employment location and low-profile to and from cache site, or use in a fixed location such as a presited OP

As others have described, this is the M4+Bolt Gun as anon suggested. Any PDW would do -- SBRs, SBSs, AR pistols, M4geries or lightweight shotguns might be particularly useful.
PROS: Optimal tools available. Fairly low cost with basic bolt gun and basic shot gun or entry level AR. Can split up the long guns to equip a second person, or cache the bolt gun near the ORP.
CONS: Weight & bulk. Need to have the right tool at hand (bolt or PDW) for the situation.

PROS: Maximum versatility.
CONS: Cost and compromises... as discussed.

I personally like an SPR or DMR clone in the AR-15 using MK262 5.56. It has commonality with my other fighting rifles with regard to mags, manual of arms, and ammo (although I don't feed the M4geries MK262...). My battle buddy will also have an AR-15.

If I envisioned something specifically requiring a larger caliber then I suppose a 30-06 w/ AP or a 308 bolt gun could come off the shelf (METT-TC, right?) and I would go with gameplan 1 or 2 above. I don't see the need for the cost and bulk of a 308 bolt gun, though.

Theother Ryan said...

Chris, I agree for a DMR the AR platform in the form of an M16A4 with a good optic and match grade ammo makes a lot of sense.

Have not studied the new 18" SPR/ Recce concept too much.

Whether either of these can be used as a 'precision rifle' depends on exactly what that is defined as.

If the missions concept of use was within the capabilities of a DMR AR I would be quite comfortable carrying one. If I needed a heavier caliber it would be MTTTC whether I was comfortable with just a bolt gun or wanted to pack an AR also. If a semi auto .308 was available I could use just that.

Anonymous said...

I love my Ruger Scout Rifle. It seems you mention it on a forum and get slammed, but I dont understand people's hesitation with it. I have been running it with iron sites and it is inside 100 yards it is more accurate than my AR and nearly as fast to place aimed shots on target. The only trepidation I have is if you were surprised by multiple targets inside of 25 yards.

riverrider said...

snipers run in teams, one sniper, one i call "slack man" watching his six or more accurately his 2 thru 10. got a slack man? if so the question of bolt gun only is done. if no slack man, well, they tell me you're dead. idk, but two beats one unless you're chuck norris :)

Theother Ryan said...

I had a discussion with a guy about this yesterday. We both really wanted to like (and own) the Ruger GSR but there where two major issues.

First and foremost the price for what you are actually getting is a terrible value. It's a pretty standard Ruger bolt action rifle with ghost ring sites at almost a grand.

At that price point you can seriously look at some really nice rifles like higher end Remington 700's with nice heavy barrels, the CZ Varmiter, etc.

2) Proprietary magazines. If it took FAL, G3 or even M1A mags at least you could get rugged, widely available mags at an affordable price and/ or have comparability with a semi auto rifle.

I'd like one but unless my late great uncle in Nigeria's lawyer comes through with that inheritance I'd have a very hard time justifying the purchase.

As to what you said about its capabilities.

If you said 'nearly as fast to place A aimed shot (vs shots) on target' I'd agree. However if you have the same rate of fire with a bolt action rifle as with an AR I would submit you are holding the AR wrong.

Meister said...

From what you've been eluding to as far as your perfect fit, It sounds as though the Ruger 308 AR with the Mtac 1.5-6 might just be the closest thing to what you're looking for.

For sure, I bring home less ammo when I take the semi 308 to the range.

Another thing to consider. Most people shoot precision rifles from a bipod. Reloading a 20-25 round AR mag into a rifle in the prone position is far from fast, but it's much easier than the M1A or PTR rock in system.

I fully Agree with your assessment of the two uppers conundrum, it seems counter intuitive as well as impractical from both a financial and tactical standpoint.

To further muddy the waters, Mossberg has a bolt rifle that accepts AR mags. I find it less than appealing due to caliber. If I'm going to take the time to ship out a precision shot, I'd much rather do so in 6.5-338 caliber. The 223 in it's military form just doesn't have the gusto to penetrate much past 500.

IF you lived closer, I'd drag you and the REPR out to the range to qualify my statements as to the superiority of a semi auto precision rifle. It only takes one go at 20 clays out at 300 yards to make anyone a believer.

The venerable bolt action has a solid place in a shtf situation for homesteading/ meat getting but isn't optimal for putting high rates of accurate fire downrange.

Theother Ryan said...

Meister, I have not taken a deep look at the newish (Ruger, Rem, etc) AR 10's.

The advantage of AR mags vs rock in is worth considering.

I am aware of the Mossberg .223 rifle. Honestly I am entirely ambivalent about it. Within the realistic range of .223/5.56 the difference between a bolt gun and an AR is negligible. My 14.5in AR can likely do most of what that gyn can and a purpose built DMR (20in M16A4 civ legal version) could certainly meet all of that bolt guns capabilities.

Now if they made the same gun in .308 fed by standard (M110/ SR25) AR-10 mags I would own one.

I do agree with you and genuinely think a sufficiently accurate semi auto has a lot of advantages albeit at the expense of cost and weight.

It would be fair to say the budget precision rifle would be a .308 bolt gun, likely a Savage due to value. Also the homesteading deer rifle that seconds as a 'precision rifle' bears consideration. Now like you said if money is less of a concern a semi auto .308 crushes bolt guns in rate of fire.

Chris said...

I fully Agree with your assessment of the two uppers conundrum, it seems counter intuitive as well as impractical from both a financial and tactical standpoint.

The only possible usage I see is if you plan on going with a "two rifles" plan. It is easier to lug a PDW 10.5" upper with a red dot and an 18" upper with a bipod and 3-9x than it is to lug two complete rifles.

Not saying it is a golden gameplan (I'd personally prefer to just have one or the other, or a 16" recce and split the difference) but the bulk of a spare upper is less than that of a second rifle.

To further muddy the waters, Mossberg has a bolt rifle that accepts AR mags. I find it less than appealing due to caliber.

If it had a 1:7 twist (so you could use MK262 and other heavy match rounds) and was priced at around $400 I'd be interested. As it is, I can get an actual AR with an FN barrel from PSA for <$500.

As for the "SPR-clone AR..." I have a chrome lined bbl 18" PSA upper that holds just under 1.25 MOA (slow fire, prone, from bipod, using MK262, 10 shot groups). Out of an 18" bbl the MK262 does around 2750 FPS. MK262 should fragment down to 2200ish FPS, which means that we should get solid frag/tumble out to 300+ yards and holes the correct place out to 600 yards.

The more I shoot the SPR the happier I am with it as a platform that is ideal in the 100-300 yard zone and works well enough at <100 and 300-600.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a bit late for this conversation, just wanted to point out that Mossberg DOES produce the bolt action MVP rifle in .308 now. And it will use Magpul and DPMS style mags! Comes with a 10 round mag, and with the addition of a 4 round DPMS mag I can now legally hunt with it. Just need the time to haul it out to the range to get it setup...

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