What is a “Precision Rifle”?

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

Going back a few decades, we seldom heard the term “precision rifle.” We had hunting rifles (not very accurate), varmint rifles (more accurate), target rifles (more accurate), and benchrest rifles (most accurate). But even the terms accurate and precision are not interchangeable.

Precision is the ability of the rifle and ammo to shoot very small groups (sub 0.5 MOA), while accuracy is the ability of the shooter to get that group into the center of the target. An accurate hunting rifle may be one that can hit a deer from zero to 300 yards, but that could be a rifle capable of only 2-3 MOA accuracy (6″-9″ at 300 yards). Accurate enough for hunting but not for competition.

Grouping not everything

Precision doesn’t help if the shooter can’t get on target


This rifle was zeroed to hit the center, but with a change in reloading powder the 0.6″ 5-shot group moved 1.5″ right and high. Definitely an example of precision but in need of re-zeroing

The common components of a precision rifle are a sturdy, reliable action; a match-grade barrel; a well fitted stable stock; a clean, light trigger; precision scope mounts and rings, and a quality, high magnification scope. The final component is match-grade ammunition.

The reason for a high magnification scope is to be able to establish a clear and precise aiming point. Using the target above as an example – the cross-hair reticle of a 10X scope completely covers the white 10 and X rings. Whereas, with a 25X scope, the shooter can quarter the X ring or place the aiming dot exactly on the X ring. This makes a big difference at 100 yards, 1,000 yards, and for ELR shooting.

20200213_Acc Lab

ELR .338 Lapua Magnum built on a Stiller’s TAC338 action, Bartlein barrel, bedded into a McMillan A5 stocked , with a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm MOAR scope.


6.5 Creedmoor PRS rifle built on an Atlas action with a Bartlein barrel in a McMillan A6 stock. Scope is the Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x. PRS shooting can require engaging 18″x24″ IPSC steel targets out passed 1,200 yards. That equates to less than 1.5 x 2.0 MOA

20190722_XiT Panda

.308 Win F-TR rifle for 600 and 1,000-yard competitions. Kelbly’s Panda action, heavy match-grade barrel, McMillan XiT stock, with Leupold Mark 4 fixed-power 24X scope.


Tactical .300 Win Mag built on a blueprinted Rem 700 action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel, McMillan A6 stock, Badger M5 bottom metal, and Leupold Mark 8 scope 

Note that each of the rifles above was built for a specific purpose, but all are equally accurate precision rifles. They all shoot sub 0.5 MOA with the right ammunition and in the hands of a competent shooter.



About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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