A "Custom" Rifle on a Budget
Accuracy. What an incredible way to give yourself a true advantage.
Go to your club and get a bunch of guys together - and put a target out there at 250 meters. Break out the deer rifles and see who can shoot a decent group, even off of the bench, at this distance. I think you will be shocked at how few can do it.
So - with that in mind, I recently set out to try to develop a semi-custom rifle that I could afford and that would shoot - repeatedly - at MOA.
I started with a platform that I love - the Savage 10 with the Accutrigger.
Use any brand you like - this is not about name dropping. Almost all rifles, if you do your part, will shoot VERY well. The key is doing YOUR part.
At any rate, I started with a 10FP in .308... I chose this rifle because it is heavy and because, in this caliber, recoil is not bad. I dislike recoil and I think it leads to a LOT of accuracy problems.
Look at the macho guys with the 7 Mag's and the 300 WinMag's and see how they (generally) fare in the above mentioned shooting contest. These are great caliber rifles and very deadly in the hands of a "shooter" - but I have seen a lot of hunters who had these because of the caliber name and not because of the proven performance. A .243 in the hands of a good hunter is far more deadly than a 300 WinMag in the hands of someone who flinches.
The Accutrigger revolutionized factory triggers and now a lot of rifle manufacturers offer very good triggers. The Savage trigger is a true 3 lb trigger that breaks like a little tiny glass rod. A fine piece of engineering.
I purchased a Boyd's laminated thumbhole stock (no relation, unfortunately)... and it is a thing of beauty. I chose the thumbhole version because this design also helps to defray felt recoil but transmitting quite a bit of it into your thumb and palm. It makes a difference, for sure.
I cleaned the stock real well and then (after reading extensively) glass bedded the action into the stock. I will leave this process for another post but it is not nearly as hard or as complicated as you might think. This was my first glass bedding ever and I must say, it came out very well... both pieces fit very well and "snap" together like pieces of a puzzle. Using the correct torque values, I put the action screws in.
I added a Sims pad to the rear of the stock to further help reduce the felt recoil.
Using Leupold mounts and 30 mm rings, I then mounted the scope. In this case, I added a premium scope - the Meopta 3-12x56. While not cheap, these scopes are a joy to behold... again, this is not about names, you can use the glass and mounts of your preference. The rings are aligned and lapped and it is all put together, again, using the correct torque values.
I lean toward good glass - scopes and binoculars - in my opinion, buy once and cry once.
Then, it is off to the range for some fun!
The rifle is broken in following the manufacturers specifications and then I am down to searching for the round this rifle likes. This is incredibly crucial. I do not reload, so I am left with factory ammo.
I tried numerous loads - and eventually settled on the Federal Premiums Ballistic Silvertips in 168 grain. These gave the most consistent groups out of all the ones I tried.
I wanted to shoot the 150 grains but I just could not find the exact one this rifle liked. Let the rifle tell you which one to use...
Now - I use ONLY this cartridge. This is important... once I settled on this one... that is it... it is all I use.
I zeroed it initially at 3" high at 100 meters. I shot several boxes more of this ammo through the rifle, just having fun and making sure everything was tight and in good order.
I then moved the target out to 250 meters and got started shooting... after some final adjustments, I have the round impacting now at roughly .75" high at 250 meters. I am about 2.50" high at 100 meters.
My 100 meter groups run right at 1", some down to about .625.
At 250 meters, my groups are roughly 2.5 to 3" or so.
This is off the bench and the shooter is generally considered to be an average to poor shot. I suffer from flinching, thus the desire for less recoil.
A few days are better and some are worse, but the rifle is clearly capable of repeatable MOA accuracy.
With this combination, I am very confident (if I do my part) that a point blank shot or one out to 300 meters will be within a 4" circle and will result in an immediate kill.
I have taken several deer with this rifle, the longest shot at 227 meters (which is also my personal longest shot) and it was a DRT shot (dead right there).
Now, to the money... I am into this rig for about $1800 - but... remember, you can do it a LOT cheaper... the 10FOP is not a low cost rifle... and the glass was expensive also.
The key is set it up correctly and then practice with the round you are going to hunt with, at a variety of distance settings.
I know may hunters who sight in at 100 yards... and then state that they are "good to go" out to 300+ yards, based on the ammo data provided by the manufacturer. Remember that different rifle and different loads behave VERY MUCH DIFFERENTLY when you stretch them out.
I believe in theory, particularly when it is based on fact, but I am a "show me" kind of guy. I want to see where the bullet impacts the paper at varying ranges and I want to see it at distances that I will take an ethical and humane shot from... that simple.
I think if you try this, your confidence level will soar.