Image: Joe Grine Accuracy International has been in business since 1978. In that short time AI’s precision rifles have established an impeccable pedigree amongst operators, wanna-be’s and precision shooters. Their L115A3 in .338 Lapua enabled the longest recorded sniper kill in history. Call Of Duty geeks will instantly recognize their Arctic Warfare rifle. Building on and extending their rep: Accuracy International’s AX-308. It’s one of the most recent evolutions of the AI design, firing the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge with a precision and consistency that would be boring if it weren’t so amazing . . .

Anticipation 

Accuracy International doesn’t hand them out their rifles to every blogger and aspiring YouTube superstar who asks for one. The AX-308 has a street price of $6k to $8k depending on options (twice the value of my car). Customers can (and do) wait months for delivery even after they’ve handed over their credit card number. Farago and I corresponded with AI for nearly two years before getting this test rifle; it was worth every minute. Especially as a trip to the Rockcastle Shooting Center was part of the courtship dance.

We finally proved our worth, however, and the AX-308 had its chance to do the same.

The Rifle

Image courtesy Accuracy International North America. Pardon the dots.

The AX-308 is a bolt-action precision rifle (as you may have guessed) with a 10-round detachable box magazine. The bolt has three lugs and a short 60-degree throw; a three-position safety allows the bolt to be opened with the safety engaged. Our test gun has an 20″ barrel (longer barrel lengths are available) and a suppressor-ready muzzle brake.

But wait, you might be thinking, don’t you need a longer barrel for accuracy? Um, no. A longer barrel will add velocity (which does make range estimation and holdover less crucial at long range). But heavy, stable barrels of moderate length are among the most accurate of any rifle barrels.

The AX-308’s heavy-profile barrel provides extreme dimensional and thermal stability. It never got more than warm to the touch, even after shooting several three-shot groups in a few minutes. It would be hard to burn yourself anyway, since it’s almost completely enclosed by a free-floating ventilated barrel shroud with a full-length scope/accessory rail. The rail on our test rifle is angled 20 MOA on top, to allow extreme-range shooting without bottoming out the adjustment range of your scope. AI also offers flat and 30 MOA rails.

Stock/Chassis

Unlike AI’s Remington 700-ready AICS chassis system, the AX-308’s receiver is permanently bonded to the aluminum stock chassis for absolute rigidity.

Despite the short barrel length (ideal for suppressors, BTW) the AX-308 is still a really big rifle. It barely fit in my crowded upstairs gun safe even before I mounted a gargantuan Bushnell 4.5-30×50 XRS on top. The AX-308 measures 42″ long overall with the included stock spacers. It packs down to a slightly more compact 33″ with the stock folded.

Image: Chris Dumm

The stock folder seems to be machined from two solid lumps of aluminum alloy. I used to think that my Bulgarian AK side-folder had a sturdy machined folding block, but it looks like an injection-molded toy compared to the AX-308. Not to belabor the point, but the stock folding mechanism is stronger than the door hinge of a midsized car. I can’t imagine any mishap that could damage it without completely destroying the stock, or the whole rifle for that matter.

Image: Chris DummShooters can adjust the length of pull by adding or removing spacers. The drop at heel is also adjustable.

High-powered rifle scopes have very small exit pupils at extreme magnification. The AX-308’s adjustable cheekpiece lets you set the comb height for a perfect cheek-weld to put your eye in the center of the lightbox instantly, every time. The cheekpiece is locked in place by these two large thumb-screws, so you don’t need any tools to adjust it in the field. They don’t work loose by themselves, but your shooting buddies will move it all over the place while you’re not looking.

A rear monopod is available as a factory option. Joe Grine always uses them on his precision rifles. He wondered why a rifle of this price wouldn’t come with one as standard equipment. I have one on my precision rifle, but I’ve never considered it critical for accuracy with my shooting technique. Anything that keeps the AX-308 from being any heavier is in my opinion a good thing, and the ‘missing’ monopod didn’t cause either of us any accuracy problems. As you’ll see soon enough.

Weight

The AX-308 is a little easier to stow with the stock folded, but it doesn’t make it any lighter. Loaded and scoped, it tips the scales at about 15 pounds. You won’t want to carry it without a sling, however, and you won’t want to shoot it without a bipod. You can (just barely) aim and fire it offhand, but the nicest thing I can say about that experience is that you won’t have to worry about recoil. It kicks like a .223, or maybe less. By the time you add the mandatory sling and bipod, the rig weighs at least 17 pounds. It makes my fluted bull-barrel Remington 700 PSS feel like a pencil-barreled Mountain Rifle.

Image: Chris Dumm

It’s such a beast that I had to try the ridiculous and shoot it offhand. All that weight makes it extremely steady for offhand shooting, but you’d better use your very best shooting stance with your support elbow planted firmly on your hip. I’m not a particularly skilled offhand marksman, but I rang the 6″ gong at will at 100 yards.

Trigger

Image: Chris Dumm

Accuracy International has been getting triggers ‘just right’ for a long time, and the AX-308 does not disappoint. See those little hex screws on the trigger? One of them lets you move the trigger forward and backward to adjust the length of pull, and the other adjusts the pull weight. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? This one broke perfectly cleanly at 3.5 pounds and fit my hand like a glove when it arrived, so I didn’t fiddle with it.

Magazine

Image: Chris DummAccuracy International’s detachable rifle magazines are widely considered among the best in the industry. There’s a reason that other custom stock and rifle manufacturers often design their platforms to use AI magazines: they just plain work. The AX-308’s magazine is made from steel with a polymer follower, is absolutely reliable and holds ten rounds. It’s very easy to load (even while the magazine is in the rifle), and allows single-loading into the chamber when the magazine is empty.

Optics

A rifle like this can’t live up to its potential unless it wears a top-quality scope with special features for extreme-range shooting. A 3-9x40mm scope with a duplex reticule doesn’t cut it on a rifle like this, even if it’s a top-end hunting scope from an excellent manufacturer.

Anybody who can afford an AX-308 can probably afford a worthy optic to put on it, so I’ll spare you a long discussion of magnification, tube diameter, exit pupil, field of view, eye relief, reticules and parallax.

This is a huge rifle that can hit things really far away, so get a high-magnification scope with at least a 30mm main tube and at least a 50mm objective. A range-estimating reticule in the first focal plane is really useful for a precision rifle, but tactical turrets and side-adjustable focus and parallax are ‘must-have’ features.

Image: Chris Dumm

Bushnell kindly loaned us a scope that meets all of these requirements and more: the 4.5-30x50mm XRS Elite Tactical. It’s built on the same huge 34mm main tube of their HDMR series, but ups the magnification ante to an eye-popping 30x. The big main tube gives it 50 MOA of adjustment range.

Rather than turn this lengthy rifle review into a gun guy’s equivalent of War And Peace, we’ll review the Bushnell XRS on its own. If you’re wondering how many stars it will get, I’ll spoil the suspense right now (*****) but check back in for the details.

Ammo

Image: Chris Dumm

Unfortunately for cheap bastards like me, steel-cased Russian .308 is not the ammo of choice for an Accuracy International AX-308. A top-shelf rifle deserves top-shelf ammo, and Black Hills Ammunition spotted us a generous supply of 7.62×51 match for this test.

Black Hills has built their reputation on obsessive quality control, and no gun could perform like the AX-308 performs without extremely consistent ammunition. The very tightest, luckiest handloads I’ve ever assembled (from my own once-fired brass) don’t even approach the consistency and accuracy of factory Black Hills Match.

Reliability

Image: Joe Grine

As one might expect from a rifle with AI’s reputation and price, the AX-308 functioned with perfect reliability in every regard throughout our testing: loading, feeding, firing and extraction. Every function occurs easily, smoothly and quietly. The magazine is easy to load, and it rocks into place with no beginner’s ‘Kalashnikov fumble.’ The bolt turns as though it were coated in Teflon, and empty cases are gently flicked a few feet to the right.

I carelessly managed to induce a feeding jam when I repeatedly (ugh) tried to close the bolt on Joe Grine’s polymer chamber flag. I’m pretty sure any gun will jam if you try to cycle it with a plastic rod sticking down into the chamber. My bad.

Accuracy: 100 Yards

When you spend $6k and wait six months for a 15-pound rifle, you expect it to be capable of assassinating sitting horseflies at 100 yards. When your $6k, 15-pound rifle is an AX-308, you can do just that.

Image: Chris DummThis was my first three-shot group once I got the scope on paper: 0.5″ at 100 yards. Out of the box with factory ammo, 1/2 MOA is more than accurate enough for any military or police application. I own a few rifles that occasionally show me some 1/2 MOA love, but the AX-308 was just getting started.

Image: Chris DummThis awesome target shows four consecutive 3-shot groups, fired at 100 yards. The groups range in size (center-to-center) from 0.2″ to 0.5″ and only one of them isn’t a cloverleaf. Black Hills provided us with a bounty of match 168-grain and 175-grain 7.62×51 ammunition, and the AX-308 loved them both: average group size was just under 0.5 MOA for both loads. We got some truly tiny groups with the 168s and none with the 175s, but that was mostly because we had a lot more 168s to test with.

Accuracy: 300 Yards

One-hundred-yard accuracy testing may be the industry standard but a true precision rifle needs a more exacting test. Joe and I hit the 300-yard range for more rigorous testing of the AX-308’s capabilities (and our own). Longer distances demand much more from a marksman and his rifle; a minor flaw in equipment or technique can blow your group size or even throw you off the paper.

The Black Hills website says their 168-grain 7.62 clocks in at 2650 fps. When we chrono’d it for ourselves, it gave us 2670. I plugged those numbers into the Nosler ballistics app on my smartphone, and it told me that with a 100-yard zero this bullet will drop about 14 inches at 300 yards, or 1.3 mils.

I wasted a few ranging shots because of ‘operator headspacing error’ (confusing MOA for mils, and turning the scope turret the wrong way) but I dialed the scope back to my 100-yard zero and aimed for the head.

Image: Chris Dumm

Lo and behold, my aimed headshot hit just right of torso center-mass, just like the ballistics table predicted. Even though I couldn’t spot my own hits at that range, I’d turned in a fairly respectable 1.8″ group (sorry for the typo on the target; I was excited.) This works out to just more than 0.6 MOA. My group size didn’t bother me, but hitting 14″ low wasn’t going to cut it, and I wondered if I’d pulled the last shot.

I was already shooting about one inch (.3 mils) high at 100 yards, so I dialed in 1.0 mils of elevation on the Bushnell XRS 4.5-30×50, calmed my heartbeat, and popped off three rounds at the new zero. Joe’s gi-normous Leica spotting scope showed us one jagged hole, but we both thought I’d yanked the last shot off to the right like before. The anticipation was killing me, so I drove downrange to the target pit and pulled the target myself for a closer look:

IMG_2207

I hadn’t pulled the last shot. I’d printed a one-hole cloverleaf with factory ammo at 300 yards, on my first range day with a new rifle and a scope I’d mounted myself. As carefully as I can measure it with calipers, the longest distance from the center of one bullet hole to the next is 0.30″, or exactly the diameter of the bullets themselves. This turned out to be the best group of the day, but only by a little bit.

Image: Chris Dumm

My miraculous one-holer was the only 300-yard cloverleaf of the day, but Joe turned in  groups like this (1.0″ or less) all afternoon.

Image: Joe Grine

This was Joe’s best 300-yard group. He thinks he could have done better with a rear monopod, and I think he could. Many of his groups looked like this: two bullets through the same hole with one flier. His ‘fliers’ from the AX-308 still hit within 1/2 MOA, so he didn’t get too depressed about them.

The very worst group of the entire day was my handiwork: a vertically-strung 2.9″ at 300 yards. The next-worst group was my first group of 1.8 inches, and everything averaged just over an inch. Even including my 2.9 inch mulligan, the AX-308 averaged 1.53″ at 300 yards. Just over 1/2 MOA. If you exclude both the mulligan and the miraculous one-holer, the group size average is still 1.53″, or 1/2 MOA.

I don’t know what Foghorn would make of those statistics, but to me it suggests that the rifle, scope and ammo are all extremely consistent because even the outliers (the best and worst groups) are still right on the curve.

Accuracy: 600 yards

We tried to take the AX-308 to our longest-range shooting quarry, nearly two hours’ drive away, but we were blocked by a 12-foot high snowbank. To really stretch the AX-308’s legs we had to wait for Tuesday afternoon, the only day of the week when Joe’s club opens their 600-yard range.

It would have been simple to look up the ballistic table for 168-grain .308 boattails at 2670 fps, but we didn’t and we wasted much of our precious range time getting on paper.

Once we were dialed in, we averaged 3″-4″ groups at 600 yards with the Black Hills 168-grain pills. 600 yards is just over a third of a mile. At that range a given rifle’s point of impact is affected by wind, humidity, temperature, air pressure, and even the brightness of the sunlight and the heat absorption of the surfaces between the rifle and the target. All sorts of things can start to go crazy at 600 yards.

Despite all this, the AX-308 delivered its payloads within a target circle of 0.5 to 0.66 MOA, almost the same degree of angular precision (0.5 MOA) that it delivered at 100 and 300 yards.

This rifle is so accurate and consistent that I believe it could regularly hit a human-sized target at a range of one mile if the shooter were blessed with exceptionally still air. Real-world conditions would make this a very, very rare feat, since even the longest and pointiest 7.62mm bullets go subsonic (and start to wobble) long before they reach the mile marker at 1760 yards.

Summary

Right out of the box, the AX-308 has the ruggedness, reliability and mind-boggling accuracy to do anything that its 7.62x51mm cartridge is capable of doing. The AX-308 and its larger sibling AX-338 are in service with elite units all over the world. A Navy SEAL shooting buddy announced that this was the most accurate rifle he’s ever touched, bar none. Roger that.

This kind of Tier One quality doesn’t come cheap. Even if an Accuracy International rifle is out of your price range (as it certainly is mine) you should put it on your lifetime bucket list. Spending a few hours shooting one at long range is like driving a Ferrari, only safer. It really is that good. In fact, it’s better.

Ratings (Out Of Five Stars)

Accuracy * * * * *
You will never fire a more accurate and consistent rifle in your entire life.

Reliability * * * * *
Over 300 rounds without a hitch.

Ergonomics * * * * *
Incredibly comfortable (except when you’re carrying it or shooting offhand) and fully adjustable in every way you can think of.

Aesthetics: who cares?
I think it looks like an Imperial Stormtrooper E-11 sniper rifle. That may or may not be cool to you, but looks are completely irrelevant to a rifle this accurate and reliable.

Customize This: who cares?
It’s got everything you need except an incredible scope, a sling and a bipod.

Overall Rating: * * * * *

46 Responses to Gun Review: Accuracy International AX-308

  1. I hope those Tacticle Turrets have lock rings otherwise,,,
    Also just how comfortable are the ergos for a LH Shooter?

  2. I’m still not 100% clear on what makes this rifle twice as good as a customized Remington 700… Given the lead time, I would think you can get a comparable gun faster and for less money simply by pimping the hell out of a top shelf bolt gun.

      • Oh I can see the argument about a middle of the road bolt gun. But for 3k you can get yourself a truly tricked out 700 that will perform just as well in the hands of 99.99% of shooters. That leaves you with 3k to drop some epic glass on your new toy and still come out ahead.

      • That’s not how it works. Getting a rifle that is 90% of the performance probably costs 10% as much, but it’s that last 10% of performance that makes up 90% of the cost of a rifle that nice.

    • The AW series rifles won’t AD on you like the Remingtons have a history of doing. I love my AW/AWP/AWSM/AW50 and can’t wait to get one of these. They make truly rugged, reliable, accurate rifles that will really show you how bad you are – you can’t blame the rifle!

      • I have seen Savage 10s and tweaked Rem 700s shoot just as well. I also have two that will. Your comment about AD’s on the 700 is revealing, and NOT in a postive way. The article talks about velocity and accuracy in a short (20 inch) tube. The comment about shorter being more stable (accurate) is correct. Regarding velocity: We have tested and there are a number of studies on .308 rifles shooting MATCH ammo that concur. The velocity loss with .308 match ammo is either very small or non existent all the way down to the 20 inch mark. Shorter, and you do start to lose.

    • i just got my .308 AI AW with a few tweaks of my own on it,topped off with thirdeye 1 piece mount & nightforce nxs 12 – 42 x 56 & i have shot no other like this,ok i had to wait 7 mnths for it & drop nearly 6k into the pot for it but you cant take it with you & its a beast to shoot,so accurate its boring lol

    • He got the AR-50 and a bunch of .50 BMG ammo a few years ago. I got the AX-308 and a weekend at Rockcastle with the AX-338, and all the ammo I could shoot through both of them. No losers in this contest.

    • What makes you think he’s done with it? From the sound of it, he’s at the range now, whispering “my precioussss”.

      That’s what I’d be doing, anyway.

    • “It’s the pleats. They emphasize the crotchal region. I’m actually going to take them back to the pants store…don’t act like you’re not impressed!”

      -Ron Joseph Aaron Burgundy

  3. I think that the 7.62 NATO round, as effective as it is (I love it in my M1A) isn’t a paragon of accuracy. So that’s some really good shootin’, pardner.

    • Sierra 175 gr HPBT, 43.5 gr Varget, seated .030″ off the rifling, no crimp, can be a paragon of accuracy out to 600. 😉

      • Agree Don. Model 12 Savage, 26 inch heavy fluted, 43.9 gr Varget, 274o MV, .020 off the lands, fire-formed neck sized Lapua…5 shots – 1.5 inch at 200 so far. Going out to 300 next week. Got about $1700 in it w/Leupold 6-18 tactical on top. Fun!

    • The .308 can be made very, very accurate. Quarter MOA is entirely possible with this round, with obsessive case prep and bullet/powder/primer choice.

  4. Amazing rifle!

    Oh and bravo for getting a Star Wars reference in there somehow! Made for a good laugh.

  5. Thanks TTAG…that was some seriously satisfying and much needed Gun Porn!

    Hope it was as good for you as it was for me 🙂

  6. “See those little hex screws on the trigger? One of them lets you move the trigger forward and backward to adjust the length of pull, and the other adjusts the pull weight. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? ”

    My IZH-46M match air pistol has the same feature.

      • No, he’s right. Read again, sniper rifle.

        The basic blaster rifle was the one based off sterling. (To see the supposed sniper or I thought was supposed to be a heavy blaster, look for the huge rifle one of the storms have in first star wars while looking for the droids.)

        • The first star wars used mg42 and lewis mg’s along with sterling smg’s and I believe they had some fal’s also. And of course the gun that Han used to sucker punch Guido was a dolled up broomhandle Mauser.

        • As Star Wars was filmed in England the Sterling SMG base for the blaster makes sense

  7. Leghorn should remind us all why 7+ round groups are best for consistent accuracy testing.

    3 rnd groups aren’t statistically significant

  8. Good ammo too! I like Black hills, they put out factory loads that are better than most. That’s very important. Feed the rifle bad ammo or a bullet it doesn’t like and the numbers won’t look so good. When I weighed 100 of the 165 SST’s, I run through the Savage I mentioned above, they were within 1 grain of each other. They were more consistent than any other .308 bullets I’ve tried, bar none and they’ve got an excellent BC so they should be able to reach out a long way.

  9. You can have very, very nice triggers on rifles all day long.

    All you have to do is quit looking for the cheapest possible rifle. Anschuetz has been putting better triggers than that on their rifles for a long, long time. All you have to do is spend money to get those triggers.

    The pity of modern rifles is that American gun buyers have been con’ed for too long that a single stage trigger is “the way to go.” Once you’ve used a competently designed two-stage trigger, you won’t go back.

  10. A $6000 .308 bolt gun that looks like a plumbers nightmare. PT Barnum was right. Look it up. I have a $500 Remy 700 Dick’s special that I just bought and printed a clover leaf group like that with the same BH ammo. Best group I ever shot at 100 yds and I have $5500 left over. Sweet!

  11. $6000 plus is a lot of money, but will your customized Remington still work after you have travelled to Afghanistan, jumped out of a plane, driven over rocky roads. Hiked 30 miles?
    AI rifles were originally designed to use Military ammo. Not match grade ammo.
    Would love one, but too much money for me, I will stick with my Savage

  12. It’s funny because most of you claim “my 700 is just as accurate”, well I have a custom 700 from a very high quality shop, jewel trigger, Macmillan stock, AI/Badger detachable mag, nightforce 5.5-22×56, etc, etc, etc. And it is extremely accurate, .2 with Fed Gold Medal Match 175grain, in a controlled environment, and better than .5 in an uncontrolled “field” environment. My point is that most “shooters” or so they call themselves can’t actually do that by themselves absent a nice bench, sweet tea, and an umbrella. Not to mention some real yardage between you and the “target”. Real work is not about small group size at some indoor gun range at 100yards, its about dope, milling, ranging, windage, spindrift, baro, angle, altitude, temp, humidity, even Coriolis effect. Not to mention if the target is actually moving, as they often do.
    My point, is that a precision “sniper” rifle is more than the group size at 100yards, like some of those whom are commenting seem to care about. It’s about replicating shots in uncontrolled conditions when the crap is hitting the fan, and having the best tool for the job. My work recently purchased me a DTA 308/338 that “doesn’t shoot as tight a group as my 700” but it still shoots better than .5. Personally, I don’t think that too many “normal” people are going out buying one of these, but as soon as my company budget is known, I’m going to put in for an AX.

  13. Can’t really say a 700 doesn’t hold a candle to it. Yes a standard 700 absolutely. But most sniper rifles are built off the rem. 700 action. Of course any great sniper rifle with a remote 700 based action is custom down to every last part. I’ve been waiting a while to buy my own Ai … I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot one more than a handful of times as a Scout/Sniper in the Marine corps one of the guys in my team bought one… we all coordinated when buying our personal rifles so that no one bought the same so we could have a shootout with all the different weapons systems. My other team mate bought a Sako TRG-42 .338 (which imo is the best sniper rifle for the price (43-4600 bucks w/o scope) can’t beat that which is why later on I got one myself. And lastly I blew a good chunk of my deployment pay and spent my $$$$$ on a Cheytac M200 Intervention .408… I wish we could of had our own magazine to publish our shootout at the range with the SAMR 5.56 M16 platform sniper rifle, M40A3 7.62×51 (our main sniper rifle( A3 and A5) , Barret M82A3 .50 BMG, Sako TRG 42 .338 Lapua Mag. Accuracy international L 115A3 .338 Lapua Mag , Cheytac M200 Intervention .408 , also a Mosin Nagant PU Sniper, Springfield 1903 sniper, and a Russian Dragunov … it was literally the dream team of rifles and one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in my life at the range. Was nothing short of heaven. I’ll always have love for the M40. But if you were ever to play “ask a sniper” the words Ai and Cheytac would be the first words out of our mouths if you were to ask the question what are THE best and/or your dream sniper rifles… 8, 10, 15, 20 grand might sound like alot and even a crazy price for a sniper rifle and that doesn’t even include optics. But when it’s your life on the line. And you’re not looking at it in the sense of just a hobby… put a few rounds down range and the price will start becoming blurry to you unlike your target… but if you’re just shooting for hobby …. Sako TRG 42 .338 all day long with a Nice Leupold or Schmidt & Bender scope w/ mil-dot reticle. If that’s even way too expensive for you. Which 4k for a top notch sniper rifle is a good price … but if that breaks the bank, I suggest anyone getting into distance shooting by themselves a Mosin Nagant with the scope. (Can get one in great condition for 750-11/1200 @ the very high end) 7.62 × 54. Great rifle. I have 25 of em myself from the small carbine with flip up bayonet , the reg long rifle, and the PU Sniper. It’s a greattt rifle and you can get an 880 round ammo box for dirt cheap. Like 275 bucks around for almost 900 rounds. Can’t beat it. It’s the best long distance shooter when it comes down to distance, price of weapon. Cost to shoot it…. I promise you won’t find much if not anything that will be as feasible to shoot that comes in a caliber that high (the reg long rifle without sniper scope you can get as cheap as 150/175-200 bucks. Can’t go wrong. But yea anyone who says ahhh AI ain’t that impressive… uh yea you’ve def never shot one. Ai is gold standard.

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