70 MOA elevation
Mil Dot, Tactical Milling
harmonics. Pillar bedding is essential for stocks made of natural materials (i.e. wood), not necessary for synthetic materials like fiberglass."
"Undo the action screws, flip the rifle upside down and shake the living crap out of it with that beautiful $1,000 optic facing towards the floor. Not only will it not fall . it won't even move." Yes, I did try it (over a carpeted floor from no great height — just in case!) and as Rooney said, there was no movement.
The scope base is a mil-std 1913 Picatinny rail, attached to the receiver with four 6-48 screws. "We aren't huge believers in 8-40 screws. If there is sufficient recoil to shear four 6-48 base screws you're shooting something larger than the human body can tolerate! Damage to 6-48 screws is caused by amateur gun tinkerers overtightening them and stripping the threads." For police use, a standard rail is used, while for long-range shooters a base with 20 minutes of elevation is an option.
"Mil-spec scope rings from Nightforce or Leupold are excellent. The optics are the most vulnerable piece of the precision puzzle. Holding them in place isn't rocket science, although the super expensive ring manufacturers would have you believe otherwise!"
The rifle came with two detachable box magazines, one 5-shot mag, the other holding 10 cartridges. Magazines hold cartridges in two staggered rows, tapering to a single straight-line feed. With the honed bolt, long bolt handle, and straight-line feeding, cycling the action is an absolute joy. The floorplate assembly seems overbuilt if anything, made of high-grade alloy and half again thicker than the original.
For those who wear belt and suspenders (defined as routinely carrying a defensive pistol, back-up pistol, second back-up, two flashlights and two folding knives) Tactical Rifles can also supply the floorplate assembly in steel.
A high performance rifle needs a high performance scope. The test rifle wore a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x50 LR/T M1 scope with 30mm main tube, side focusing knob and turrets for elevation and windage adjustment. It proved to be an excellent scope in every respect with a clear, sharp field of view, and accurate and repeatable adjustments. The Mark 4 series are intended for police and military duty and are built bull-tough.
The reticle is a recent design which Leupold calls the Tactical Milling Reticle, or TMR, a variation of the mil-dot system. I found it more versatile and easier to use. For one thing, the hash marks don't block the target view as mil-dots occasionally do. The system can be used for both ranging and aiming, providing alternate aiming points.
I won't go into detail on all the TMR features (the instruction manual runs to 21 pages) except to say I consider it an excellent reticle for its purpose. For the highest degree of precision I prefer to use the turrets to dial in elevation and windage. But for placing an accurate shot quickly, alternate aiming points is the way to go.
Naturally I used match ammunition. I had on hand Match .308 loads from Black Hills Ammunition (168 grain) and Federal Gold Match (175 grain). Both brands proved superbly accurate. Both companies load the fabulous Sierra MatchKing bullet in 168 and 175 grain. At 600 yards, the longest range I have readily available, both weights work fine.
Jeff Hoffman, co-owner of Black Hills Ammunition and a fine long-range marksman, says both weights are fine to around 800 yards. Beyond 800 yards he prefers the 175-grain bullet as it retains velocity better. Incidentally Hoffman is a fan of moly-coated bullets and uses nothing else in his personal long-range rifles. However David Rooney emphatically told me "no moly through my barrel!" and of course I respected his instructions. Just a note, I've never seen a barrel which cleaned as quickly and easily as this one. Shoot it enough and it would pay for itself with cleaning patches saved.
The 20" barrel didn't lose much velocity from factory ratings (rated in 24" barrels), maybe due to the hand-lapped bore and minimum dimension chamber. The 168-grain loads, rated at 2,650 fps, chronographed at 2,580 fps 10' from the muzzle. The 175-grain loads, rated at 2,600 fps, turned up 2,585 fps, actually a
bit faster than the 168s.
The quality of this match ammunition is nothing short of amazing. The Black Hills Match ammunition's extreme spread was 28 fps. The Federal Gold's extreme spread was 27 fps. A handloader achieving such consistency for 10-shot strings would be mighty happy indeed. No wonder these match loads shoot so well.
I fired a few 5-shot groups at 100 yards to get the scope zeroed and got some neat-looking 1-hole groups. A 100 yards with this outfit is a bit like running a Formula One race car at 60 mph. Long range enthusiasts generally feel long range doesn't even start until 500 yards, so that is where I set a target stand (actually it lasered at 518 yards).
I really wanted to get a 5-shot group under 1" at that distance. I'm afraid I wasn't good enough to achieve it. Three-inch groups came fairly readily as long as the wind stayed down, a few under 2". A couple groups in a fairly light crosswind had only about an inch vertical spread but were strung out horizontally. Reading the wind is really tough. Our range is in a valley with the bullet traveling over hills and crossing ravines, so air currents, even when winds are low, swirl in unpredictable patterns. (Sure, blame the wind.)
At 585 yards there's what appears to be an old oxygen welding tank buried in the ground. It presents a target about 2' high and maybe 8" wide. It's been hit a lot over the years so it doesn't show up very well.
I dialed in the elevation but not windage. Because of the shifting and unpredictable air currents I decided to use the hash marks on the horizontal crosswire.
Actually this isn't a very tough target, on the one occasion the air was virtually still I was hitting it every shot. It's fun especially if someone not too familiar with long-range shooting is on the range. With the target hard to see with the naked eye, the shot looks more impressive than it really is. After the shot there is more than adequate time to work the super-smooth bolt and reload before the clang of the hit comes floating back. Any kind of crosswind makes it a challenge, and good practice in reading wind.
My wife Simone was with me at the range, helping with photos. After watching me shoot a bit she commented it looked like fun. Now Simone is a pretty good shot, not fast, but she doesn't flinch either. She has shot big game and has her own rifle, but probably doesn't shoot more than a couple of times a year.
Well, she sat down at the benchrest with the Tactical Rifle and hit the target — at 585 yards — three times in four shots. And the one miss just barely missed. "Wow," I said, "this rifle makes anyone look good."
She replied frostily, "And just what is that supposed to mean?" I still haven't figured out a good answer.
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