A Beginner’s Guide to Scope Mounting

By Mark V. Lonsdale

It’s a source of constant amazement to see how many people turn up at the range with no clue how to zero their scopes or, quite often, they are incorrectly mounted to begin with. More than once I have seen scopes mount 90 degrees counter-clockwise, placing the elevation turret on the left side, and the windage is at 12 o’clock, where the elevation should be. Then there are those that turn up at the range with a new scope but neglected to bring the correct tools to mount it.

So here is a few tips for beginners.

  1. If you have never mounted a scope, ask a knowledgeable friend for help, or have the local gun shop do it.
  2. Purchase scopes of known good quality that have a good warranty program. Some companies offer a lifetime warranty on defects but obviously not abuse. You drop it on the concrete, that’s on you.
  3. Invest in good quality rings of the correct size and height – 1”, 30mm, 34mm, 35mm; low, medium, high, extra-high. The goal is to have the scope as low as possible without touching the barrel.
  4. Invest in a good base rail that is matched to your action/receiver. I have a preference for Badger Ordnance 20 MOA rails but there are several quality manufacturers.
  5. Make sure you have the correct tools, wrenches, Allens, or Torx for your rail and rings. Often times the smaller Allens or T15 Torx will come with the scope, but it’s also recommended to invest in a torque wrench. The manual for the scope or installation instructions that come with the rings and rails will give you the correct in-lbs torque values.

Currently, there is no shortage of gadgets out there to aid in mounting and squaring a scope, but I’m old school and have found that the human eye is a pretty accurate alignment tool.

Step 1 – Make sure you have all the right gear and tools

Step 2 – Check and double check that the rifle is unloaded. Remove the bolt. More than one individual has had a negligent discharge in the house prior to cleaning or working on a firearm.

Step 3 – Set the rifle in a secure cradle on the work bench to mount the rail. Set the rail in place to ensure the bottom contours of the rail match the contour of the top of the action. A Remington 700, for example, is rounder in the front and flatter in the rear. Snug the mounting screws down (4) and then insert the bolt to make sure the screws are not so long that they protrude down into the action and interfere with the bolt cycling. If everything is good, then take the screws out, add a small dab of blue Loctite (not red) and then torque the screws to factory specifications (15 in-lbs for Badger with a T15 Torx wrench)

NF Lima51

Rings mounted on the Badger rail so that they don’t conflict with the power adjustment ring on this NF 7-35×56 F1 ATACR

Step 4 – Set the rings on rail as far apart as the rail will allow to begin with. Tighten the cross-bolts finger tight and then remove the top half-shells from the rings. At this point I set the scope in the lower ring-halves to see if it looks approximately right for eye relief and that the scope rings are not conflicting with the elevation/windage turrets, a battery receptacle for an illuminated reticle, or the power adjustment ring. At this point, loosen and move the ring halves to best accommodate the scope but still as far apart as practicable. Then get behind the rifle to check that the eye relief (3”-4” approx.) is correct. This can vary depending on the model of scope.

20170930_142607_resized

NF 7-35×56 ATACR scope correctly mounted with the rings spaced as wide as practicable and correct eye-relief confirmed. I routinely do initial zeroing from the bench, but I set eye-relief for prone shooting since most competition F-TR and ELR shooting is from the prone position. 

Step 5 – Once you have the scope in the right position, add the top cap halves of the scope rings. Add the four screws on each cap ring but keep them loose at this point. Now rotate the scope so that the elevation turret is vertical and windage horizontal. Some shooters use a small float-bubble level on the rail and top turret to ensure they are both horizontal, but I have found that just eye-balling it I can get it right. As I said, the eye is a very accurate tool, especially for carpenters and engineers who can eye-ball even the slightest deviation in horizontal or vertical plains.

Step 6 – Tighten the cap screws just enough to hold the scope from moving or rotating. Then get back behind the rifle to see if the rifle is still vertical in the cradle and if the scope looks to be square on top of the rifle. I am looking at the top of the elevation turret and the side of the windage turret to see if they are horizontal and vertical respectively. I will then get my shoulder into the stock and look through the scope (at the lowest power) to see if the reticle appears to be vertical. It also helps to have a vertical line on the wall to look at, but you can also use a door post provided you have put a level on it and know it is truly vertical.

Step 7 – If everything looks good I will incrementally snug up on the ring half screws and the ring to rail cross-bolts. The goal is to allowing everything to find its natural lay on the scope and in the rail. This is done in increments until I have everything snug. Then torque the cross-bolts to the required 65 in-lbs and the ring screws to 15-18 in-lbs for Badger steel or alloy rings.

Torque Wrenches2

The top torque wrench has the T15 Torx bit for rail screws and cap screws. The T-handle torque wrench is preset to 65 in-lbs for the cross-bolts

Note: If you are using the Nightforce XTRM Ultralite rings CNC machined from 7075-T6 aluminum and titanium crossbolts and jaws, then the crossbolt recommendation is 68 in-lbs., and cap screws 25 in-lbs. For Mark 4 bases, Leupold recommends 22 in-lbs for 6-48 screws and 28 in-lbs for 8-40 screws; and 65 in-lbs for the crossbolts.

AT THE RANGE

You are now ready to head to the range. Starting with a target at 25 or 50 yards, and after setting up on the bench, take a look through the scope and see if everything looks good. One aid that is useful is a vertical line on the target that has been plumbed or leveled to ensure that it is perfectly vertical. This gives you a reference line to compare the vertical line of the reticle.

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The black vertical line down the left side of the target is plumbed vertical as a reference for the reticle

If all looks good, proceed with bore-sighting and then zeroing the scope. More on that in another article. But one step that I have added recently is the use Dead Level tool. This is made by Badger Ordnance and works as an engineered level test bench.

Badger-Dead-Level

Badger Ordnance Dead Level prior to mounting the NF 5-25×56 ATACR. Note the float bubble in the upper left corner of the Dead Level

The way this works is you take the scope off the rifle and attach it to the rail on the Dead Level. Then level the Dead Level to the bench through the use of the float bubble and two adjustment screws that also function as legs. Next, line the scope up with the target that has the plumbed vertical line and see how close the reticle squares to the line. It should be perfectly parallel and, from personal experience, it is a good confirmation that the scope is correctly mounted.

20170819_081034_resized

Looking through the scope, on the Dead Level, at the plumbed vertical black line in the middle of this target

Since you know that the Dead Level is level, and you know that the vertical line on the target is perfectly vertical, then it is just a matter of ensuring the scope is perfectly vertical. If there is any error, loosen the cap screws, rotate the scope and then retighten the cap screws. If everything looks good, torque the cap screws.

The final step is to remount the scope on the rifle, tighten and torque the cross-bolts, and proceed with zeroing the scope.

Final zero with the NF 5-25×56 (left) and the NF 7-35×56 (right)

Lastly, mounting the scope on the work bench takes about 30-40 minutes; and then final adjustments and testing at the range takes about an hour. The important thing is to not rush the process, take your time, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and don’t over torque or strip and screws.

NF 7-35x56 Lima51

Nightforce 7-35×56 ATACR mounted, zeroed and ready to go to work. 

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Anatomy of an Extreme Long Range Rifle

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Ten-time National Champion and Team USA World championship shooter, Paul Phillips, also with Team AB, was kind enough to share the specs on his King of 2 Miles (Ko2M) rifle. This rifle is a veritable beast of an ELR rifle, at a fighting weight of 46 pounds, and the product of a true team effort.

Paul Phillips 375 LM BigMacStock

Paul Phillips with his .375 Lethal Magnum with a 38″ Bartlein barrel. Paul was running this Big mac stock while he was waiting for his McMillan ELR Beast (see pics below)

The rifle is a .375 Lethal Magnum built by 2016 Ko2M champion Mitchell Fitzpatrick of Lethal Precision Arms. The rifle was built on a BAT 50 action with a Bix n’ Andy trigger, a 38” Bartlein 1:7.5” twist barrel, bedded by Alex Sitman into a McMillan ELR Beast stock provided by Kelly McMillan. Mounted on a 75 MOA rail, the scope is a Nightforce Optics 7-35×56 ATACR which provided sufficient vertical adjustment to reach out to 2 miles. Shooting was done from the prone position off a Phoenix Precision F-TR bi-pod

Paul P

Paul shooting in the 2017 Ko2M with his .375 Lethal Mag in the McMillan ELR Beast stock and topped with the Nightforce 7-35×56 ATACR 

The Cutting Edge Lazer Max 400 grain .375 projectiles were loaded into Bertram brass, formed by Lethal Precision, with Paul doing all the load development himself. Ballistic support was provided by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics and Team AB equipped with Kestrel Elite wind and weather meters with the Applied Ballistics analytics software. The team also had the new Garmin Foretrex 701 GPS and the Sig Kilo 2400 rangefinders, both with AB analytics

For more information on all the members of Team AB and the 2017 Ko2M, check out the latest October issue of RECOIL magazine.

Team AB ko2m1710

Team AB at the 2017 Ko2M. Paul 2nd from left standing. Derek Rodgers kneeling (L) with his winning .375 CheyTac with a Barnard action, 36″ barrel, and McMillan ELR Beast stock.

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Beginner’s Guide to Extreme Long Range Shooting (ELR) – Part 1

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Making the decision to enter the world of Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting could be an expensive exercise, especially if you actually expect to make consistent hits out beyond 2,000 yards. So let’s begin by defining ELR.

In the world of competition shooting, mid-range runs from 300 yards to 600 yards, thus 600 yard F-TR matches are considered mid-range matches. Long range shooting is the events at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards including long range high-powered rifle shooting (with a sling), Palma competition, and long range any rifle any sight. Then, in the early 1990s, we saw the advent of F-Class shooting named after Canadian George “Farky” Farquharson.

F-Class, with heavier scoped rifles and tripods, and F-TR, utilizing target rifles in .223 Rem. or .308 Win. with bi-pods, suddenly made 600 and 1,000 yard shooting very accessible to keen hunters and serious recreational shooters. No more heavy shooting jackets, iron sights, or awkward sling positions. It was all about comfort, scopes and bi-pods.

So if long range is 1,000 yards then ELR is anything beyond that or out passed 1,500 yards. Keep in mind that 1 mile is 1,760 yards and snipers are making hits at greater than one mile in Afghanistan utilizing their .338 Lapua Magnums and McMillan Tac 50s. In the recreational world, 2 miles, 3,520 yards, is the current crowning achievement with the King of 2 Miles match run in Raton, NM, in June/July time-frame each year.

Derek Paul

Derek’s rifle is .375 CheyTac built on a Barnard action, Bartlein barrel, and McMillan Beast stock, topped with a Nightforce 7-35×56 ATACR

So when the decision is made, then the journey begins from 1,000 yards (easy), to 2,000 yards (not so easy) to 3,500 yards (very tricky) – and be assured, your .308 Win or 6.5 Creedmoor is not the right tool for the job. You need a bullet that will carry energy out passed 2,000 yards and that has the ability to buck the wind. This requires adequate weight and velocity plus a high BC. For example, a 175 grain SMK .308 Win. has a BC of .505 while a Cutting Edge 400 grain Lazer MAX .375 has a BC of .930, and the .375 has the demonstrated ability to make hits at 3,000+ yards (in the right hands). Obviously reading wind is critical in all long range shooting but some bullet designs, such as VLDs, have a fraction of the wind deflection of their conventional counterparts. More on that in Part 2.

If your goal is to go only to 1,500 or 2,000 yards then a 300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua Mag may do the job. But for extreme long range, the calibers that rule are the .375 CheyTac, .375 Lethal Mag, .408 CheyTac, .416 Barrett, and of course, the .50 BMG (plus assorted improved wild cats).

416 375 CT

The long range line up. For this project I am building a .375 CheyTac since that is the caliber that won the Ko2M in 2017. Once a shooter steps up to .416 Barrett, which has a modified 50 cal case, then it requires a much bigger action and heavier rifle.

Now all this comes at a price. Before making the decision to build a $5,000 – $6,000 rifle, and then top it with a $3,000 – $4,000 scope, ask yourself if you are willing to spend $6.00-$8.00 every time you pull the trigger. A box of 20 factory .375 CheyTac costs $140, and even reloading, the projectiles can be $1.50 to $2.50 a piece and the brass even more.

So before breaking the bank, or your marriage, run the numbers and see what you can afford. Be assured that you can still share the thrill of long range shooting with a good .300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, or 6.5 Creedmoor, and for significantly less than feeding a .375, .416, or big 50.

Well, I ran the numbers and did my research, so now the journey begins. As of this writing ammunition components began arriving, Peterson Cartridge Co. brass in .375 CheyTac, along with Cutting Edge projectiles in the same caliber. The Whidden reloading dies and bushing will be in the mail tomorrow and I already have the press.

CE352 PetersonBrass

Cutting Edge MTAC projectiles and Peterson brass in .375 CheyTac

I have a Stiller TAC 408 action on order, the 30″ 1:8 barrel is on order through Hill Country Rifles of Texas, and a McMillan A5 Super Magnum stock is in the works. Since many of these items have long lead times, you do not want to wait until you have one component to order the others. I am currently looking at high MOA rails since a standard 20 MOA rail used for 1,000 yard shooting is not going to get me out to 3,500 yards. Depending on the amount of vertical adjustment in the scope, a 50 to 100 MOA rail is needed.

Enough for Part 1. Do your homework, crunch the numbers, and stay tuned for future articles on this project as the rifle and loads come together.

NOT THE END – JUST THE BEGINNING

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F-TR Competition Rifle Build

By Mark V. Lonsdale

This project began with a little research into what the top F-TR shooters were using, and who better to ask than Derek Rodgers, current World Champion and US Team member, and Kelly McMillan, owner of McMillan Fiberglass Stocks and US Team sponsor/supporter.

Kelly Derek

     Kelly McMillan and Derek Rodgers with F-TR rifle complete with McMillan XiT stock

For an action. the options were Kelbly’s F-class Panda action, Borden or Barnard. Since I was very impressed with the Atlas Tactical action that Ian and Ryan Kelbly had barreled for one of my sniper rifles, I went with their Panda action. For a barrel, the options were Krieger or Bartlein Heavy Palma profile loaded into a McMillan XiT stock. Since the planned load will include Berger 200 grain Hybrids or 200.20X, the twist would be 1:10″

Berger 200.20X

Since I was already building a new sniper rifle on a Bartlein barrel, I decided to go with a Krieger Heavy Palma 1:10 on this project. Fortunately there was one on Krieger’s Direct webpage that was available for immediate purchase so I had them ship it directly to Kelbly’s Inc in Ohio.

Kelbly Panda Bolt

Barreled action built on a Kelbly’s F-Class Panda action with integral 20 MOA Rail

Kelbly Panda Bolt-Face

Closeup of the Panda bolt face 

Kelbly’s was able to chamber the barrel and barrel the action in less than four weeks, so now it is off to McMillan Fiberglass Stocks for a little XiT magic. This will include a custom molded color scheme, a 3-way adjustable butt-plate, adjustable cheek rest, inletting, aluminum pillar bedding, and an Anschutz fore-end rail to accommodate a Phoenix Precision FTR bi-pod.

FTR-XiT

McMillan Fiberglass Stocks’ XiT competition stock purpose built for F-TR and used by members of the gold medal winning US Team and World Champions

Xit-with-Phoenix (1)

 

                           US Team Rifle built on a Panda action and McMillan XiT stock                                         topped with Nightforce optics

As of this writing, the barreled action is in Arizona having the stock fitted,  so will follow up with a blog when the completed rifle comes back and I begin load development and range testing. Stay tuned to Tactical Rifle Shooters on this blog or facebook for updates.

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Kestrel Elite 5700 ABS

Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU Training Director

It is not too difficult to build a rifle that will shoot sub-MOA at long range (1000 yards). It is even not that difficult to dope the temperature, altitude and humidity, but the wind is another story. In the absence of range flags on a known distance range, eyeballing the wind is an art in itself. A gusting wind can move a projectile three feet off target which equates to a total miss.

So back in the 1990s, when I was active in long range sniper training and doing research for a the book ALPINE OPERATIONS, I broke down and bought a Kestrel 2000. At the time, I found this to be a very useful device, so carried it with me for the next 20 years.

Doing high altitude cold weather research for Alpine Operations 1998

With time technology advances, so after using the Kestrel 2000 for two decades, I am now putting the Kestrel Elite 5700 through its paces. Where the 2000 provides temp and wind, the 5700 is a veritable weather station. More importantly, you can program in all of your rifles and loads to generate firing solutions through the Applied Ballistics software. And trust me, it is easy; the inputs are quite intuitive. Then you can link it to your cell phone or iPad through Bluetooth and have an enlarge screen to work off. Will post a more complete review in the next few weeks.

                                  Kestrel Elite AB 5700, the older Kestrel 2000, and the                                   Bluetooth link to smart phones or iPads.  

Look for a full review in the near future

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Building a Project FTR/Sniper Rifle

It is always interesting to begin a new project rifle – to try and turn goals and vision into a tack driving lead-slinger. But it requires some thought and planning since mistakes can be costly. So, the first question you should ask yourself is, “What will the rifle be used for?” The second question is, “What are your expectations for accuracy?” – and finally, “What is my budget?”

With this project, I am looking to build a 1,000 yard rifle for F-Class Tactical Rifle (FTR) competition, but with the option of also using it for precision rifle shooting (PRS) and sniper training. The latter requirements necessitate that it be a repeater, so not built on a single-shot action such as Kelbly’s F-Class Panda with integral 20 MOA rail.

I’ve been using one of my sniper rifles for FTR matches up until now, but the 22″ barrel and Harris bi-pod put me at some disadvantage alongside the 18-pound custom FTR rifles with 32″ heavy barrels and more stable FTR bi-pods.

Derek Rodgers Rifle

Dedicated FTR rifle build on a single shot action with McMillan XiT stock

As with all my rifles, my expectations for accuracy is 0.5 MOA, but with Berger 185 Juggernauts and Berger 200 grain Hybrids. After talking with National FTR champion and US Team member, Derek Rodgers, the decision was to go with a Bartlein Heavy Palma 1:10 .308 blank that would be cut to 30 inches. Fortunately I found a dealer who had one on the shelf, eliminating a long waiting period for the barrel.

Berger 200.20X

Bartlein barrel blank and Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical Action with pinned 20 MOA rail

After researching high-end tactical actions, and talking to Ryan at Kelbly’s Inc, I went with their Atlas Tactical action, complete with pinned 20 MOA rail and recoil lug. Kelbly’s were also able to fit the barrel to their action within 60 days, which is good considering other gunsmiths had a 5-6 month backlog.

When this comes back from Kelbly’s later this month, the barreled action, along with the Badger Ordnance M5 BDM bottom metal, will go to Kelly McMillan at McMillan Fiberglass Stocks in Phoenix, AZ, for an A5 adjustable stock. While the McMillan XiT stock would have been the hot setup for FTR shooting, it did not provide the options needed for PRS and sniper training, but the XiT will be the stock on my next build.

McMillan Paint-Finish-GAP-Transition

McMillan A5 adjustable stock with GAP transition paint job 

Along with a Jewell HVR trigger, a good scope, and a Phoenix Precision FTR bi-pod, this rig should provide me with a very accurate, very stable, long range rifle.  The goal is to see just how competitive this type of Sniper/FTR rig will be at the local, state and national level before stepping up to a custom built dedicated FTR rifle. But with the time it takes for all the barrel and action work and stock fit-up, I will probably start that project rifle as soon as this one begins pushing Juggernauts down range.

Kelly Derek

Kelly McMillan and Derek Rodgers with the McMillan XiT stock

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Badger Ordnance Bottom Metal

For hunting and many forms of rifle competition, the integral magazine system is adequate. Very rarely does the competent hunter require more than two or three rounds to ensure the kill, and in many bolt action rifle competitions rounds are loaded singly. However, military snipers and precision rifle shooters (PRS) require more rounds and easier reloading.

Here at STTU we have been using Badger Detachable Magazine (BDM) systems for over 20 years. In that time they have proven to be well made, easy to fit and, most importantly, rugged and reliable.

Badger-Ordnance Enhanced

Badger Ordnance BDM M5 Enhanced PRS Triggerguard

The flagship Badger system is the M5 BDM, which is the same system used by the USMC and made from aircraft grade aluminum, with a Mil Spec anodized hard coating. The standard magazine is the AI style metal 5-rounder. The release is a vertical tab directly behind the magazine.

The M5 Enhanced PRS Triggerguard has a barricade block on the front of the magazine well and the magazine release is contours to the triggerguard.  Both come with mounting bolts and machined bedding pillars.

Lima-51 Leupold Mark 8 Badger

STTU Tac Ops Lima 51 with Badger M5 Enhanced Triggerguard in a McMillan M40A3 stock and topped with a Leupold Mark 8 scope and mounts

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Long Range Shooting on a Budget

Reading the various facebook pages related to precision rifle shooting or long range shooting, one of the most common questions is, “How can I get into long range shooting on a budget?” This is closely followed by, “What’s a good cheap scope” and, “What’s a good cheap rifle?” We won’t even get into calibers in this article, except to say that there are at least three calibers with affordable factory match ammo.

First off, precision long range shooting  and “cheap” do not go well together. Saying you want a 1,000 yard scope for $200-$300 is not realistic when the mounts alone could cost that. That said, cheap and affordable are two different animals. A new shooter can get into long range shooting with an affordable rig, but the trick is to know where to spend your money. Hint – the big investment will probably be the glass.

There are several consumer grade rifle companies that have developed models for the long range precision market with rifles in the $500-$1,200 range. Check out Remington, Ruger, Tikka, Howa, and Savage, but be sure you are looking at their precision models, not their lightweight hunting models. Then be prepared to spend at least $250-$300 on sturdy bases and rings, such as Badger Ordnance; at least a $100 for a Harris bi-pod (more for an Atlas), and $800+ for the scope.

Now there are serviceable scopes in the $600 range, but will they have the reliability to return to zero? Keep in mind that a significant part of long range shooting is dialing in ranges from 100 to over 1,000 yards in various atmospheric variables, plus dialing in cross wind. As you dial up and down, you have to be confident that the positive clicks will bring you back to zero.

So the general recommendation is, if you have $400 to spend, save until you have $600. If you have $600, save until you have $800 or $1,000. If you can afford $1,500 to $2,000 you will probably not be unhappy with a higher end Leupold, Night Force, Vortex, or Schmidt Bender. But whatever you can afford, do some online research and attend some matches to educate yourself on the limitations of the various models. Again, make sure you understand the difference between the less expensive hunting scopes and the more expensive precision shooting scopes.

Now, if you selected a .308 Win or .223 Rem., there is no shortage of affordable match grade ammunition that will get you into your first matches – PRS or mid-range F-TR. If you go with the 6.5 Creedmoor, you can also get affordable factory match ammo, but you will not be eligible for F-TR or PRS Tactical division. You will be in Open with the big boys, or you could shoot PRS Bolt Gun Production if your whole rig is under $4,000.

Featured Image -- 41

Tactical Rifle Shooters current project rifle – a stock Rem 700 in a McMillan A3-5 stock

The above rifle is a project that I am working on that began with a new factory Remington 700 SPS in .308 Winchester. New, out of the box at $650 this rifle would not consistently shoot sub-MOA, less than 1 inch at 100 yards. This is the first hurdle in evaluating a rifle.

700 SPS 308

Stock Remington 700 SPS with plastic molded stock

The problem with accuracy was the cheap plastic stock which would be okay for hunting but not for precision rifle shooting. The action was not bedded and the barrel not floated.

So I sent it off to McMillan Fiberglass Stocks for a new McMillan A3-5 Adjustable stock. Immediately after getting the rifle back, groups shrank to consistent sub-MOA with factory Federal Gold Medal Match 168 grain SMK ammo. There had been no change to the action, barrel or trigger. All were stone stock Remington factory. So just installing a more ridged stock, bedded and floated, instantly cut the group size in half with factory ammo. This rifle would not be considered suitable for entry level PRS competitions or F-Class F-TR, and since it is .308 Win, it can be used in the Tactical categories.

Groups after upgrading to the McMillan A3-5 stock

Caveat Emptor – Now be warned, when you start down the road that leads to improved long range accuracy, it can become addictive.  Once you see and handle the $2,500 rifles with the $2,500 optics, you will be hooked. Then there are the thousands of dollars you will spend on ammo and the hundreds of hours  reloading. Plus all your vacation time will go to traveling to training, seminars and competitions. I shoot about 3,000 rounds a year of precision rifle ammo, a similar amount for my gas guns, and another 5,000 for handgun training. So be warned!

Next article we will look at affordable scopes

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Designated Defensive Marksman – DDM

Designated Defensive Marksman (DDM) is a term that came out of security contractor operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the prerequisite for DDMs was 3-4 years of sniper training and experience (military or law enforcement), it would not have been appropriate to refer to them as snipers. Where a sniper has an offensive capability, a DDM’s mission is purely defensive in nature.

SpotScopeLeupold

Observation and Reporting are critical tasks for a DDM

The military has also made use of Designated Marksmen when the deep thinkers in the Pentagon realized that there was a role for marksmen in each platoon and company, and there were insufficient numbers of trained snipers to go around. They also came to realize that, with the nature of open warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, infantry units needed a longer range capability. Where the iron sighted M16s and M4s could be considered 300-400 yard rifles, the scoped M14s and SR25 .308s could reach out to 600-800 yards.

From a training perspective, where it takes a couple of months to train a military sniper, a military command could identify qualified individuals who possessed above average shooting skills and provide them with a couple of weeks of advanced training. They were then equipped with a variety of designated marksmen rifles (DMR) ranging from rejuvenated M14/M1As to SR25 (.308 Win) AR10 platforms.

mark_14_enhanced_battle_rifle

Enhanced M14 Designated Marksman Rifle 

The security contractors working in the sand box also saw a need for a longer range, harder hitting capability. DDMs are often deployed onto the roofs of key locations, embassies, contractor housing, and in overwatch covering checkpoints and entries to key installations

UK Overwatch

British Snipers in an Overwatch Position 

Seals Maritime

Civilian contractor DDMs are also being deployed on vessels traveling through pirate infested waters off East Africa and Somalia 

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