Gun Review: McMillan Tactical Hunter

A lot of hunting in the United States happens within 100 yards of the shooter, especially where I come from. Tree stands and scent masking potions are more important than an accurate rifle; a Mosin Nagant is good enough to take the shot in these situations. For large swaths of the country—where cover is scarce and targets are many hundreds of yards away—accuracy and energy are key to taking down that game. Those longer ranges are where the traditional choices for a hunting rifle start to fail . . .

Sure the Mossberg 100 ATR or Ruger American Rifle are dead cheap, But when you start reaching out past that 250 towards the 500-yard mark, every little imperfection in the gun starts to come into play. Truth be told, the more affordable guns just can’t stand up to the big boys. I’m not saying they CAN’T make the shot. Just that I’ve never been able to get them to do it with enough reliability to trust the gun to make a humane kill. For something like that, you need to step up your game.

Enter the McMillan Tactical Hunter, McMillan’s holy grail for the hunting world. McMillan is known throughout the firearms industry as being the watchword for accuracy and precision, right up there with Swarovski and Accuracy International. Their stocks are get the attention but their rifles have proven themselves to be among the best in the world. Their TAC-50 is designated as the Mk. 15 for the U.S. Navy SEALs. ‘Nuff said?

McMillan has been producing hunting rifles for years in the traditional style with a traditional stock configuration. McMillan wasn’t happy — they wanted to do it better. Drawing on years of tactical rifle manufacturing expertise, McMillan wanted to make a long gun combining the best aspects of the modern military rifles with the traditions of the American hunting rifle.

Big Mac’s produced a hunting rifle that’s a good pound lighter than their standard hunting gun.  Trust me: when you’re hauling a rifle around, every last pound counts. They shed mass by scraping weight off every single part they could think of. The Tactical Hunter’s bolt and barrel are fluted (to save weight AND for better barrel harmonics). The stock is a composite. Even the bolt handle has been drilled out to save weight.

McMillan fashioned the Tactical Hunter’s stock from a composite material instead of grippy rubber. They textured it to be grippy enough to hold onto when wet yet not so aggressive as to tear up your hands. It’s a fine line to walk, and while Ruger’s American Rifle and Mossberg’s MMR Tactical are on either side of that line, McMillan has navigated it with ease.

Even more important, the Tactical Hunter’s handguard palm swell is perfectly proportioned for an offhand shot. For my hands anyway. The controls work with seemingly infinite precision. The rifle’s bolt opens as easily as the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. The Tactical Hunter’s simple thumb safety is the right answer. And the trigger . . . oh dear God, that trigger . . .

I’ve always been a big fan of the two-stage triggers, but I take what I can get. This trigger has ZERO creep, no stacking, none of the attributes of a standard AR-15 trigger. The break is glass smooth, and overtravel is virtually nonexistent. Not to go all RSA on you, but the McMillan Hunter Tactical is to triggers what Candice Swanepole is to lingerie.

On the downside (yes, there is a downside), the McMillan Tactical Hunter testing and evaluation rifle chambered four rounds. Do the math: big rounds, weight-saving stock. A simple fix (at least potentially): a detachable magazine to replace the internal mag. Either that or . . . shoot four rounds.

The “standard” rifle stock profile places the shooter’s eye level with the barrel. The config lines-up your eyes for iron sights. McMillan tactical rifles have adjustable cheek pieces so shooters can get the right eye relief every time regardless of the optic (or lack thereof) on top. That’s critical for precision shots. You’d expect a McMillan gun designed to be used with a scope to have a stock designed for a scope, too. You’d be wrong.

What I wanted to be a solid cheek weld became a jowl weld. Given the Tactical Hunter’s rather lofty price point and siblings, I reckon the gunmaker should include an adjustable cheek piece on their deer slayer. But that’s me . . .

Other things on my wish list? A threaded barrel would be nice. Yeah, I might be silencer crazy, but if someone has $5k+ to drop on a rifle (not to mention $2 a round for the good-stuff ammo) lots of these buyers will also have enough money for a can. For those who live or shoot in places where they hate freedom, a threaded barrel could enable a muzzle brake. Not that it really needs it, though.

This McMillan Tactical Hunter was chambered in 300 Win Mag. While the recoil’s nowhere near the gentle shove of the 5.56 NATO round, the Hunter Tactical kicked more lightly than the Ruger American Rifle in .30-06 Springfield. A muzzle brake could help control the remaining recoil and push this gun even further. And that’s really all that matters: how well the gun shoots. The answer is, “like a dream.”

The range I was at required new shooters to pass a small test before they were allowed free reign on the long range targets. The test was simple: three rounds in a row on each set of steel targets — 250, 500, 750 and 1,000. I had never tried before because I didn’t have a gun I trusted to reach out and touch those targets, but with the McMillan it became almost boring.

250? Piece of cake. At 500, it took one shot to walk me onto the gong and then three more rounds to move on. For 750 it only took 3 rounds to realize my gun was tilted and then 3 more to clear that phase. And finally, after five rounds hitting too low, I rang the gong at 1,000 yards. Then I did it again. And again. And again. Until I was out of ammunition and the barrel was steaming hot.

It was the first time I had rung the 1,000 yard gong since the Armalite AR-50 left my collection, and I had dearly missed the ability to fire a round, follow through, and muscle the scope back on target in time to see the round hit. There’s something extremely satisfying about hitting a target almost a mile away, and doing it repeatedly was an absolute joy.

McMillan designed the Tactical Hunter to incorporate the best features of the modern “tactical” precision rifle with the traditions and needs of the modern hunter. Is this a rifle I’d use for hunting out past the 500 yard mark? Hell yes, and I’d be confident in making humane kills even to 750. I’d rather have their TAC-308 with me, but who’s complaining?

McMillan Tactical Hunter

Caliber: 300 Win Mag (also in .243, 7mm Mag and 308)
Barrel: Match grade stainless steel, #5 taper, fluted Target crown, 22-24 inches
Weight: 7 lbs.
Operation: Bolt action
Finish: Receiver matte black finish with NP3 bolt and black textured stock
Capacity: 4-5 rounds
MSRP: $5,187

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Accuracy: * * * * *
I was getting 1/2 MoA groups all day long, and the ability to ring the 1,000 yard gong validates that observation.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
Light, easy to maneuver and easy to hold onto. Like it was built for me.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
I’m dropping a star off here because of the cheek piece. Yes, I am that annoyed.

Reliability: * * * * *
There aren’t many things to go wrong with a bolt action.

Customize This: * * *
There are bipods, but that’s about it. Then again, this rifle is pretty darn good as it stands.

Overall: * * * *
There really is no such thing as the perfect hunting rifle. Yet. This one comes near-as-damn close to being perfect for medium to long range hunting, but the minor issues conspire to drop that final star off the end of the line. For over $5k I was expecting just a little…more.