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David Rooney's Tactical Rifle Delivers.

Dave Anderson

Custom rifles come in many forms, with one of the most intriguing being the super-accurate tactical rifle. The rifle featured here is a .308 Win from a company called, appropriately, Tactical Rifles. The man behind the name is a perfectionist named David Rooney.

The modern tactical rifle for police and military duty is a very special rifle indeed. Certainly it is accurate (that is basic) but beyond that it must be absolutely reliable, consistent, easy to shoot well, durable and dependable. Certainly it deserves care in handling — it is, after all, a precision instrument — but it should be tough enough to stand up to the heavy use it may be subject to, despite the best care.

The pattern for such rifles has become fairly well established. A solid, dependable action known for accuracy, a heavy matchgrade barrel, quality trigger, synthetic stock, a high-quality scope attached with a strong mounting system and of course good ammunition. Use quality components properly assembled and you'll have a shooter.

There's the real issue: "properly assembled." Easy to say, not easy to do. The same principles apply as in building any custom gun, such as the classic 1911 autopistol. I own a bunch of 1911s, several from some of the very best pistolsmiths, and I've tested a lot more.

People always want to know who makes the best frames, best barrels, best sights. Don't get me wrong, components matter. But the key question, I found, is: who did the work? Give the exact same components to different pistolsmiths and sometimes the results are OK if you're not too fussy. Other times you'll get a pistol accurate, reliable, durable, well fitted and attractive, a pistol you can take pride in and depend on.

And once in a while you'll get a pistol so dang close to perfect it is nothing short of amazing. My best 1911 is one built by Richard Heinie. It doesn't look all that different from other full-size 1911s. Look closely, shoot it, and you'll find out

The Rooney rifle is built on a Remington 700 with heavy match barrel (this one by Krieger), bedded in a McMillan stock. Scope is Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20XLR/T.

Remington M1a Rifle Match With Scope

The Rooney rifle is built on a Remington 700 with heavy match barrel (this one by Krieger), bedded in a McMillan stock. Scope is Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20XLR/T.

Match Shooting Rifle Scope
Shooting a really accurate rifle/scope/ ammunition combo is enjoyable and also a bit intimidating. If you miss, it wasn't due to the equipment.

something interesting. The pistol is flawless. I don't believe a better 1911 has ever been made.

OK, hold on, we're supposed to be talking about a rifle. My point is this: extraordinary guns are built by extraordinary people. I've known Richard Heinie for many years, consider him a good friend, and have come to appreciate the qualities behind his extraordinary work. I've met and talked with David Rooney, exchanged phone calls and e-mails, and see those same qualities. I'm sure they've never met but if they did they would understand one another instantly.

What qualities? Nothing mysterious, really. The same qualities always drive top achievers in any field: talent, intelligence, a strong work ethic, uncompromising standards, earned self respect, a drive to excel, maybe a touch of pride, an obsession to accept only their best effort.

In discussing this rifle I'll be talking about components, and certainly they do matter. Just understand the components and even the techniques used are only parts of the puzzle. What matters more is the maker. I'll be quoting David Rooney extensively to give you the idea.

The rifle is built on the Remington 700 action. These excellent actions have been the basis for many ultra-accurate rifles, including many winners in benchrest competition. The first step is to true and square the action, to the highest possible degree of precision. Rooney says, "We do true the receiver ... we are not looking for high volume production methods ... we focus on custom precision and do it with tried and tested methods from the old school craftsmen we respect so much."

There aren't any real secrets to truing an action, other than the "secret" of taking great pains. Rooney says, "The gunsmithing wheel is definitely round and we don't want to reinvent it, rather take tactical precision to a new level and perfect the handbuilt methods that have been in existence for decades."

Once it was thought the barrel was the single key to accuracy, and while it is important it is really just one link in the chain. Rooney says, "Although the barrel is important it is not as

Dave got several 5-shot groups in this range at 500+ yards, about 3". Note dispersion is mostly horizontal (above) due to wind drift, vertical dispersion is not much over an inch.

critical as the gunsmithing . you can have a good shooting rifle with a mediocre barrel put together by a professional." Likewise, poor workmanship can result in mediocre accuracy even with the best barrel.

Rooney uses barrels from several highly regarded makers. "Walther make excellent barrels. Broughton are good. Hart makes a good product, so does Krieger. [The barrel] is cryogenically treated, hand lapped and single point cut rifled.

The contour is No. 7 Shilen."

"We like the 1:10" twist despite 1:12" being the norm [for the .308 Win], as we believe it affords greater stability at the edge of the .308's ballistic capacities . as the bullet slows to the speed of sound the 1:10" twist offers better stability." Barrel length on this rifle is 20". Rooney has found police departments often want even shorter barrels, 16" and 18". They find short barrels handier, with velocities adequate for their needs.

The recoil lug of the 700 action is a steel plate sandwiched between the barrel and receiver. This is another area where precision is key. Rooney says, "Factory recoil lugs are carefully stored in the dumpster behind our shop. It's all about alignment and the precision ground lug is the only way to go. Receiver and barrel alignment depend on the lug so corners can't be cut in this area."

How the chamber is cut is one of the critical differences between an accurate rifle and a super-accurate rifle. "A factory sloppy chamber might work with garbage ball ammunition from an obscure corner of the globe but will never give the accuracy potential even the factory barrel is capable of."

Why is this so critical? "Misalignment of the bolt face and lugs is exacerbated by the generous proportions of the factory chamber. The case physically rocks away from the centerline of the bore at the moment of firing . the case mouth exerts lateral influence and yaws the bullet as it engages the rifling. You introduce wobble into the bullet flight before it even exits the muzzle!"

Rooney goes on, "our chambers are zero headspaced M852

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