Long range tactical shooting is huge now, both in competition and for serious tactical applications. Its also a lot of fun. There is something compelling about placing a bullet on a target so far away you cant even see it with the naked eye. A target so far off that you are sure you missed long before the clang of a hit reaches your ears.
I recently had a purpose specific rifle built in 6.5 Creedmoor just for that use. It is without a doubt the most accurate rifle I have ever owned and I am just beginning to open the doors to its potential. While its still new, using factory loads I have multiple 100 yard 5-shot groups that are 0.25 to 0.3 MOA. Three shot groups are often one slightly ragged hole. I have shot both 100 and 200 yard groups that are as small as 0.2 MOA. The one time I have managed to use it at any distance for the record I shot a 5-shot group that measured 2.8-inches, at 500 yards. Thats 0.56 MOA. I shot another five shot group at 300 yards that measured 1.2 inches. That is 0.4 MOA. Those are the best, but the averages of multiple groups are nearly as good. At 300 my average for three five shot groups that day was 1.5 inches or 0.5 MOA. At 500 yards its 3.0 inches which is 0.6 MOA.
Dave Tooley at Tooley Custom Rifles built the gun. Dave has a reputation as one of, if not the single best, precision rifle gunsmiths around. He certainly has impressed me with this rifle.
The foundation is an Accuracy International AXAICS Chassis. This chassis has a folding rear butt stock so that the gun can be shortened to carry or to remove the bolt without lowering the adjustable cheek piece. This chassis can be tuned to a perfect fit to any shooter. The stock is adjustable for length of pull and the butt pad can be raised, lowered or canted. There is a removable pad to support the rear of the gun. The pistol grip uses a removable backstrap so that you can fine tune your grip and the distance to the trigger.
The chassis comes with locations for sling attachments, both quick-detach or loop. There are rails on several locations on the forend, including one on the bottom with a sling swivel to attach a bipod. The AI Chassis can be ordered with an integrated rail type base for mounting optics. The chassis uses the AI detachable magazines that have become a standard in the industry.
The action is a Defiance Stryker Ridge, which is sold exclusively by Brownells. This action is a Remington 700 clone with improvements including a one piece bolt with an M-16 style extractor. Its a good choice for any rifle build.
The barrel, which is the key to any precision rifle, is a Bartlein. If you dont have a good barrel, the rest is moot. No gun will ever shoot well without a good barrel. Their single point rifling machines are so accurate, they can hold tolerance on the twist rate to one ten-thousandths of an inch.
They use single point, cut rifling because it is an extremely stress free way to rifle a barrel as well as to hold extremely tight tolerances. A rifle for long range precision shooting must maintain its accuracy even with the barrel smoking hot. There is no time to wait for it to cool in a match or a tactical situation. The reason the point of impact shifts as a rifle heats up is because the barrel is stressed. As the metal heats it moves and shifts due to the stress and tries to revert back to its former shape. There are a few methods to stress-relieve a barrel during manufacture, but the best approach is not to introduce the stress to start with.
(As an aside, I just spent a frustrating morning shooting a different rifle that has stress issues. As soon as it got hot, the point of impact would shift and it continued to shift in a classic example of vertical stringing. It was frustrating as hell.)
Bartlein laps their barrels before and after they rifle them. That insures precision and a very smooth surface. I didnt do a break in process, I just shot the rifle. The first session was probably fifty rounds or a bit more. When I cleaned the rifle there was almost no copper fouling. From a brand new barrel! They always have some rough edges to start, but not this barrel. Even after another 100+ rounds in a long shooting session it cleaned up with just a few patches. This is indicative of a very well made barrel.
Dave also fitted an XTSP Super Single trigger. This trigger breaks clean and crisp at 1-pound 10.6 ounces precisely and exactly, every time. It never varies an ounce, which may be the first time I have ever seen that in measuring hundreds if not thousands of trigger pulls.
If you are going to do precise long range shooting you need good glass. I topped the gun with Leupolds 34 mm, V-6 4-24X52 scope with the T-MOA reticle in Leupold mounts. This scope is brilliantly clear. Of course, there is a side focus to adjust parallax, which is critical for long range precision. I know it bucks the traditional thinking, but I prefer a 2nd focal plane MOA reticle. I know and understand MOA best so its intuitive for me and the 2nd focal plane reticle keeps the aiming point small enough for precision work at long range. I range with a laser and almost always shoot at long range on full magnification, so it works.
I also prefer the hold over style of shooting rather than dial up, at least most of the time. Dial up has its place, but for the majority of my long range shooting I find hold over faster, much less complicated and far less prone to problems and mistakes.
I can hold over with this rifle and cartridge to 800 yards with my current 200 yard zero. If I make changes to the zero I can use the scope and the hold over method to 1,000 yards. This cartridge is capable of hitting targets further than that, and I have shot the 6.5 Creedmoor out to 1,400 yards. For those ultra long shots, I can just add dial up as needed.
So far I am just shooting factory ammo. The gun really likes both Hornady and Nosler ammo. Ill be working with handloads to try and tweak a bit more accuracy out of the gun after hunting season is over. I have several hundred cases ready to load as well as bullets from Hornady, Barnes, Sierra and Berger.
The trouble with living in the Northeast is that its hard to find open space to stretch out. The only place around me where I can see 1,000 yards is on the interstate highway. Apparently they frown on shooting there; who knew?
My shooting range is limited to 500 yards, which is why thats all the data I have so far. I have plans to bring this rifle to the Sig Sauer Academys 1,000 yard range and do some shooting with my friend Scott Ballard who is an instructor there. I also am planning on competing in some Long Range Precision matches this coming year.
Ill keep you posted as this rifle project progresses. Meanwhile if you are interested in a gun of your own, here is all the contact info.
Tooley Custom Rifles
3317 Candlewick Way
Gastonia, NC 28056
Accuracy International of North America, Inc
3410 Shannon Park Drive Suite 100
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
W208N16939 N. Center Street
Jackson, Wisconsin 53037
200 South Front Street
Montezuma, Iowa 50171
Technical Support: 800-741-0015
X-Treme Shooting Products
P.O. Box 829
Milford, OH 45150
Leupold and Stevens
14400 NW Greenbrier Parkway
Beaverton, OR 97006-5759
Hornady Manufacturing Company
3625 West Old Potash Hwy
Grand Island, NE 68803
107 SW Columbia St
Bend, Oregon, USA 97702