I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a junkie when it comes to firearms. A year ago, I owned exactly zero guns. Today, I own six pistols and two revolvers. Technically, I still own three additional pistols, but those are up for sale at Gunbroker, so I won’t count them for now. Yes, I know it’s a sickness, but I also seem to have developed a fondness for rifles. I have a couple historical rifles (a Mosin Nagant and a Garand), a Winchester Lever Action in .357, and a couple of ARs. My newest project, however, is the one I’m currently most excited about – piecing together a precision rifle . . .
Now, if I had any really rich relatives, I’d probably own a sweet Blazer rifles or, in keeping with my namesake, a Barrett. Unfortunately, the madness has to stop somewhere, so my precision rifle had to be done on the cheap. Well sort of. Rather than blowing a wad of cash all at one time, I decided to see what I could do assembling a rifle from various parts, spending a little bit here, and a bit more there.
I decided to try and build something around the 300 Winchester Magnum cartridge. I initially chose the 300 WinMag for a very simple reason: it’s the cartridge around which the U.S. Army is building their XM2010 weapon system. While I don’t know very much about precisions ballistics, I figured the Army does and what’s good for them is probably a good place to start.
I considered the .338 Lapua, but at nearly $4 a bullet (unless you reload, which I don’t at present), it gets a bit costly to shoot a lot. I also considered the .50 BMG, but I was, well, shot down by the same concerns around bullet cost. Besides, most of the ranges around me ban .50 cal rifles.
As I’ve learned more since getting into this project, the 300 WinMag isn’t prohibitively expensive. It also has a very flat trajectory, meaning that I don’t have to do serious compensation for bullet drop until I start getting a good ways away from my target.
After looking around and considering a number of systems, I decided to base my rifle on the Remington 700 platform. While there are cheaper options, the U.S. Army also uses the 700 action. If it’s good enough for government work, it’s good enough for me. So I got the project started by picking up a used Remington 700 SPS – no frills, just your basic rifle – for $500.
Of course, I wasn’t used to shooting powerful rifles and it had been a while since I’d last fired a 12 gauge. So I was rather unpleasantly surprised by the Remington 700’s kick. You do get used to it, but dump 20-30 rounds down range in a single session and you walk away with a sore shoulder.
At the end of last year, I decided to give myself a little Christmas present and replaced the stock with one made by Accuracy International. AI makes some serious sniper rifles with equally serious prices, but for just $800 you can purchase their AICS “chassis system” stock upgrade for the 700.
The stock couldn’t be easier to install. Simply remove two screws from the bottom of the rifle, pull the old stock off and drop the action and barrel into the AICS. The stock’s designed to self-bed, so none of that work is necessary. Additionally, it’s designed to permit a floating barrel, so you get that advantage over the stock Remington design as well.
Doing this sort of conversion really changes the “mission profile” of this rifle. Equipped with the basic Remington stock, the 700 is very much a multipurpose rifle. You can always attach a bipod for some precision shooting, but it’s also relatively easy to sling one over your shoulder if hunting is your thing. The AICS stock, though, adds length and 5.75 pounds. That’s really not something you’ll want to lug over hill and dale chasing Bambi.
But the extra weight and grip positioning, along with a more substantial recoil pad, make for much lower felt recoil. Now, the only place that hurts after dumping three dozen rounds down range is the wallet. A $1,300 rifle can hardly be considered cheap, but it’s still half the price of many of equivalent alternatives and it has elevated my humble Remington 700 SPS into something else entirely in both the performance and appearance departments.
To economize a little, I’ve chosen a Simmons Whitetail Classic Rifle Scope with a 6.5 – 20x zoom that I picked up for less than $110 in one of Midway USA’s sales. Normally, this scope sells for about $250, still a relative bargain compared to some of the bigger names. I also added an Atlas Accuracy International Spigot and AAIS Bottom Rail, both from B&T Industries. What this does is to make use of the quick release bipod mount on the bottom of the AICS stock. The bottom rail is attached to the spigot and it enables the use of any bipod with a Picatinny mount. I’m using a cheap bipod right now, but will invest in a better one down the road.
I’ve started working with this rifle at my local range and hope to be able to get it to shoot very accurately out to 300 yards (the limit at my main range). Then I plan to take a class at the Sig Sauer Academy that will let me get out to 1,000 yards. A barrel replacement may be in the cards at that point, but we’ll see what the stock Remington can do first. I suspect that it will be a while before my marksmanship skills exceed the capabilities of this rifle as it currently stands.