|Warne USL retracted|
|Warne USL retracted|
If a shooter was to ask me what caliber he should choose to start learning the art of long-range precision marksmanship I would tell him without a reasonable doubt a 308. There are many reasons I would select that caliber. The first would be that the Match grade 308 is an inherently accurate round out to 1000 yards which can be purchased off the shelf at a relatively low-cost. The second reason is the 308 in my opinion is the best round for learning the effects of weather and how they affect the projectile in flight. This is also known as “external ballistics”. There is no cheating with the 308. The shooter must know all of the environmental conditions and be able to correctly judge range to target, wind direction and speed to be effective. This caliber is the perfect learning tool. The third reason is the 308 has relatively minor recoil. This is important because if a shooter is getting beat up behind the rifle he is less likely to concentrate on the correct fundamentals of placing a well-aimed shot and more likely to buck, flinch or jerk knowing he is about to feel some pain.
Remember it’s not how sexy or expensive the sniper rifle is. The important thing is the marksman and what he can do with the rifle. I always have to laugh when I am competing against another shooter who’s wielding some high dollar big bore rifle that costs him $2.50 every time he pulls the trigger. Then there’s me with my little old 308 ringing the same steel he is and spending half the money. Now I’m not saying there aren’t advantages to shooting a custom rifle launching 220 grain pills down range. What I am saying is that a sniper rifle is just a tool and the product it produces is only as good as the craftsman that uses it. The most important aspect to precision marksmanship is learning the art. After the fundamentals are mastered the shooter can make small gains by upgrading his equipment. The investment that will always yield the most returns for a shooter is learning the proper fundamentals of marksmanship. In a nutshell that means your money is better spent on training and ammo first before all the bling of a sexy sniper rifle.
The first rifle I will introduce is what I like to call a budget rifle. It isn’t the sexiest rifle in the world but it is still very capable of delivering precision rifle fire. It is also an affordable investment in comparison to some of the other rifles and equipment that I will talk about in part 2 and 3 of this article.
If a shooter has a limited budget and is looking to break into the game I would recommend a Remington 700 SPS Varmint. This rifle sells retail for $700.00. If you put forth the effort and do some digging you can find these rifles being sold used for as little as $450.00. Most of them are in like new condition and some are even outfitted with a decent optic. I recommend the Remington 700 SPS for a number of reasons. First out of the box the SPS Varmint is very accurate without any modifications. It’s outfitted with a decent stock and a heavy barrel. This rifle is capable of shooting sub “MOA” groups with factory match ammo right off the store-room shelf. The next reason is the Remington 700 action is a strong and reliable action. It is also very easy to true and modify. I don’t know of a custom rifle builder that does not work on Remington 700 actions. This is important because down the road if a shooter wants to start upgrading his rifle with custom parts like a new match grade barrel, stock, trigger etc… the parts are readily available and there are loads of gunsmiths that will be happy to do the work. Now there are rifles and actions on the market that some custom rifle builders will refuse to work on. The Remington 700 is typically not one of them. It is a solid investment that will grow with the shooter as he grows. The shooter can then tweak the rifle to his liking as he becomes more proficient and learns what he wants in a precision sniper rifle.
The next item that needs to be addresses is optics or “glass”. The optic on a precision sniper rifle is every bit as important as the rifle itself. There is nothing that disappoints me more than a shooter who drops big money on a rifle and then attaches a low quality pellet rifle scope to it. The bottom line is Glass is worth its weight in gold. You have to be able to see what you are shooting at to hit it. When you are looking at engaging targets at distances a half a mile or more, poor glass is not going to cut it. You will have a hard time identifying targets if your glass is of poor quality. Furthermore the adjustments that you dial on your scope with your turrets have to be precise. A poorly made scope will eventually not track true when you are dialing your turrets up and down and back and forth time and time again. If the internal parts of the optic are made of substandard parts they will wear out fast and fail. When you add recoil into the mix the problems get even bigger. There are enough variables that precision shooters have to take into consideration when engaging targets. An optic that doesn’t perform correctly should not be one of them.
The optics I’m going to suggest for our budget rifle are quality optics that will perform and be reasonably affordable for the task at hand. Make no mistake optics are every bit as expensive as a rifle. The optics our military snipers are running on their precision rigs are of the highest quality. These optics are in the price range of $2500.00 or more. With that being said they are built with the best components in the industry. They are extremely rugged and capable of taking a lot of abuse for obvious reasons. These will not be the type of optics I will be suggesting for our budget rifle. I will talk about these optics more in part 2 and 3 of this article.
There are a couple different scope options that I would suggest for our budget rifle. The optic should be at least a 10 power. It should have adjustable turrets for adding elevation and windage adjustments to the rifle. This is important because the precision shooter will need to be able to raise and lower his elevation when engaging targets at different ranges. The shooter will also need to be able to adjust for the different wind conditions he will surely be facing at the time of the shot.
The first optic that fits this bill is the Leupold Mark 4 LR/T 4.5-14X40mm. This optic is durable and has good quality glass for the intended purpose. It is also outfitted with a duplex reticle. This scope can be purchased brand new for around $700.00. I’ve seen these purchased used for as little as $450.00. Once again if you do some digging you can find some reasonable prices on used equipment.
The second optic I would suggest is the Vortex Viper PST 2.5-10x44mm. Vortex Optics is a fairly new company to break onto the scene recently. I’ve had the opportunity to get my hands on this scope and I have to say that for the money this piece of glass is hard to beat. It has good clear glass, exposed turrets that make dialing elevation and wind adjustments very easy. It is also outfitted with an MRAD or MOA reticle which aids in ranging unknown distance targets as well as using the holdover method for engaging targets. The “holdover method” is nothing more than using your reticle to add elevation and windage to the rifle instead of dialing your adjustments with your turrets. It is a more efficient way to engage targets when time is of the essence. I will discuss this topic more in-depth in future articles. This scope is also outfitted with an illuminated reticle for engaging targets in low to no light situations. The bottom line is, for the price this scope is hard to beat. The Vortex Viper retails new for around $700.00 and I’ve seen it as low as $600.00. There are different variants of this scope that are higher powered but they will run you a little more money.
The final two items that will be needed to make your build complete is a scope base and rings. There are a ton of manufactures out there that produce quality rings and bases. When it comes to rings the price ranges vary from $15.00 to $300.00. Rings are important because they are what keep your scope firmly in place without damaging it. You want a set of rings that will keep your optic in its place even if you accidentally drop or bump your rifle. You don’t need a set of rings that will prevent Godzilla from ripping it off your rifle but you need good solid rings. I would recommend a set of GG&G Aluminum Sniper Grade rings for our budget build. They are a decent set of affordable rings retailing for $85.00. If you want to go a little higher end I would look at the Vortex Precision Matched rifle Scope Rings which retail for $114.00. When selecting a base for our rifle I would recommend a 20 MOA base for added elevation. I would look at the Brownells Remington 700 Heavy Duty 20 MOA scope base. It retails for around $50.00. One more option but a little more costly would be the Nightforce Remington 700 scope Base which retails for $114.00.
There are many different options to take a look at when putting together a precision sniper rifle on a budget. All of us have a different ideas of what a budget build is. This is my version and if you play your cards right you could put together a competitive rifle for around $1200.00. Feel free to add your thoughts on the subject.
In many texts around the web, you’ll find one common incorrect explanation of this phenomenon: a simplistic approach derived from the formula used to calculate compensation. You may have read that your shot will land high because, when shooting at an angle, gravity has less effect on the bullet trajectory, since the horizontal distance traveled by the bullet it’s shorter. That’s not exactly the case. The amount of drop due to gravity is not a function of distance, but a function of time of flight, which remains constant because the linear distance to the target is the same. Actually, when shooting at an angle, there is a small change in drop due to gravity, which slows down a climbing bullet and accelerates a descending bullet, but its amount is negligible.
The accurate explanation for why the bullet flies high derives from a perspective fact. To fully comprehend this, you need to understand the difference between bullet drop and bullet path. Bullet drop is the distance from the line of departure to the bullet trajectory at a given distance. Drop is measured vertically (as with a plumb-bob), irrespective of the line of departure angle.
Bullet path on the other hand, effectively is where you would see the bullet along its trajectory, through your aligned sights. The distance that we can measure between line of sight and bullet trajectory (so it can be positive or negative), but it’s always measured perpendicular to the line of sight. This difference is the key of the concept, and you can see why analyzing the image below:
As you can see, when you zero for a distance (R) on a level range, you set the line of sight at a certain angle relative to the line of departure (in reality it is generally less than 1°, here it is exaggerated for clarity) to compensate for the bullet drop at that exact distance. In this case, the bullet path at distance R is equal to 0 (zero) because the line of sight intersects the trajectory. In other words, the point of aim corresponds to the point of impact.
When raising the elevation angle by 45° to shoot a target above the firing position, you can see how the angle between line of sight and line of departure remains the same, because of sight regulation. Trajectory also remains the same. What actually changes is bullet drop. Since it is measured vertically, the distance measurement for R falls on the nearest point along the bullet trajectory. That point is the point of the trajectory that you must now aim to be able to hit the target. As you can see, at that specific point, the trajectory is above the line of sight (that is zeroed to a point further along the trajectory) to a degree, which means that when aiming dead center, the shot hits high. Hence, you must adjust your sights to the amount of bullet path to be able to hit the target.
The same concept applies for depressed angles in the same way. There is only a subtle difference in trajectory between uphill and downhill shooting, due to the effect of drag acting respectively downward and upward, causing the bullet to drop more or less quickly. The difference in trajectory is slight—roughly 5in at 1000yds with an elevation or depression angle of 60°.
In the future “how to” section I will show you how to to gauge elevation/depression angle, and how to calculate compensation for it. But in my next article, I’ll focus on the effects of light and mirage, and how they affect point of aim and, consequentially, point of impact.
The fetured image, an example of an elevation angle gauge, is courtesy of shootingUSA.com.
Watch a group of shooters for a time, and you will likely see a range of problems with trigger mechanics. Some shooters “slap” the trigger, with the finger coming off and then slapping into the face of the trigger. Others might squeeze too tightly. In all cases, accuracy suffers–usually because the rifle is being jerked or twisted as the cartridge is going off.
Remember, good trigger discipline, combined with the Ballistic trajectory calculator will keep your shots on target, every time.
Ballistic is the definitive ballistics trajectory calculator, intended for long-range and precision shooters who want a serious–and a seriously accurate–application.
With Ballistic, you’ll be able to make the most accurate calculations for every shot, everywhere, even in areas with no cellular coverage.
For more information, please visit
Photo courtesy of Ballistic
The UTG Recon Flex Bipod mounts to the sides of a rifle forend with the included M-Lok screws. A solid bipod, the Flex is well made and reasonably priced,
Firearms Instructors, and anyone who uses a firearm for recreation or as part of their duties recognize the value of having a stable platform when firing their weapon. As a Firearms Instructor for over 26 years, and a Marksman on my department Critical Response Unit, I find that a stable platform is one of the most important part of the process when I’m preparing to fire. The best platform for a rifle in my opinion is either resting the forend on an immoveable object, or a bipod.
My department recently switched to Daniel Defense rifles, the DDM4V7, for patrol use. Although this review is not about the Daniel Defense rifles, it very well could be as I am extremely impressed with them but that may be for a later date.
My previous patrol rifle for the last several years was equipped with a Grip Pod, which mounted to the bottom M1913 rail. Without adding additional parts, I was not able to utilize the Grip Pod. As my duties as a Police Officer and Marksman sometimes place me in situations where I may need a stable platform for my rifle for extended periods of time, I began looking for something to fill this void.
I then came across the UTG Recon Flex M-Lok bipod by Leapers. When I received the Recon Flex, the first thing I noticed was it appeared to be very lightweight, which was important so as not to unbalance the rifle too much. I didn’t weigh it, but it felt to be about a pound. The description said it was made with aircraft grade aluminum, and was anodized.
It is equipped with large rubber feet, to prevent slippage. Although it is lightweight, it seemed pretty Skookum to me. It came in a very small box, with a small slip of paper for directions. Since I’ve used M-Lok for other applications, I didn’t really even need the directions.
The Recon Flex came with all mounting hardware, including an Allen Wrench. Mounting was a snap, and took all of about one minute. If a person has ever mounted anything with M-Lok, they already know how to mount this bipod.
The bipod mounts to both sides of the forend at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. The hardest part of the mounting was determining where exactly I wanted the bipod to rest. I decided to mount it about halfway down the forend to allow it to swing forward and backward.
The Bipod has five pre-cut positive locking positions in a half moon shape, which allows the user to rotate the bipod legs forward and backward for different positions. The legs of the bipod also have five pre-cut notches in the legs for different heights, but the user can also rotate a locking wheel in between the notches to get the perfect height for their rifle. Shortening the legs requires depressing a lever and pushing it back in.
Movement of the legs forward and backward is accomplished by pulling down on a locking ring, and moving the leg to one of the pre-cut locking positions. The legs move independently, and can be rotated 180 degrees forward and backward. The lug mating with the locking positions is pretty beefy, and the locking positions are pretty deep.
There are two sizes for the Recon Flex; 5.7 inch to 8 inch, and 8 inch to 11.8 inch. I chose the shorter bipod, as the barrel for my rifle is 16 inches and I wanted the bipod to rest in the forward position when not in use. I did find that fully extending the bipod with a standard 30 round magazine inserted, the shorter length doesn’t allow the shooter to access elevated targets from a prone position, as the magazine is less than an inch from the ground. I could use a shorter magazine if needed though.
I’ve been using this bipod now for about three months, and shoot several times per month. The bipod has been moved forward and backward countless times, and still looks new. It is still as tight as the day I first mounted it. I’ve also used the left leg as a foregrip with no issues.
Since the legs move independently, you can also adjust them for uneven surfaces, or only deploy one side if terrain or cover restricts the movement.
I did have one issue with the bipod early on though. When first evaluating it, I yanked one of the legs very hard to see how much it could take, and actually pulled it out. I discovered that the legs are held in by a rubber O-ring. I saw the O-ring hit the ground, so it wasn’t lost. Putting it back together was easy, as there is a notch that the O-ring rests in on the extended leg. Once I put it back in the notch, it was pushed back into the housing and seated. Since then I’ve had no issues with it, and I’ve pulled the legs out very hard many times.
All in all, I’m very happy with this bipod, and recommend it for anyone having an M-Lok forend on their rifle and needing a steady platform for shooting.
Reasonably priced, around $55.00 with shipping.
Low profile, rotates out of the way when not needed.
Lightweight, but strong.
One issue with overextending leg.
Not spring loaded, legs have to be extended individually.
by George Kelley
George has been a Police Officer in Southwest Washington State for over 26 years. He served in the United States Marine Corps as a Military Police Officer/K-9 Handler. He’s currently assigned to the Department Critical Response Unit as a Marksman/Observer, Firearms Instructor, Armorer, Field Training Officer, and Motorcycle Officer.
He spends his spare time outdoors, hunting, fishing, and camping with his family.
Photos by author
Former Ranger Sniper Ryan Cleckner reviews proper shooting technique. A stable platform, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control are key fundamentals to shooting properly.
Looking for more long range shooting instruction? Ryan Cleckner’s book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, is the complete beginner’s guide to long range shooting written in simple every-day language so that it’s easy to follow. Included are personal tips and best advice from his years of special operations sniper schooling and experience, and as a sniper instructor. If you are an experienced shooter, this guide will be a resource covering the principles and theory of long range shooting.
Ryan Cleckner served as a sniper team leader with the U.S. Army 1st Ranger Battalion (1/75) on multiple combat deployments. He is the best-selling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook. He writes firearm related articles for major firearm publications and blogs and hosts two gun podcasts.
His other credentials include being a gun lawyer, firearms industry professional, best selling author and a university professor. Rayn has had over twenty FFls and worked with hundreds of others to comply with ATF regulations. He owns and runs a website designed to help people obtain their Federal Firearms Licenses: RocketFFL.com as well as MaydaySafety.com and RyanCleckner.com.
Photo courtesy of YouTube.