Affordable Precision Shooting: Component Shopping and Build Process

With this installment, I am going to cover the various components of the rifle build and explain why I chose each one. If you missed the introduction to this series and want to catch up, you can find that here. Additionally, I will provide you with a several options for certain pieces to provide you the ability to save a few dollars, or to splurge a little in important areas if you desire. The budget cap for this build was $2500. I will be honest – I did exceed my budget. This was due to my splurging on one specific item and taking advantage of a terrific deal on another.

Let’s start with the heart of the platform, the rifle itself. I chose the .308 caliber for a number of reasons, but primarily two specific ones. The first is the availability of the rifles and the ammunition. Second, is the sheer volume of data out there on the .308 round (this data will play a critical role later on in the series). The particular rifle I chose is the Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD model. This rifle features a 20” heavy barrel with a threaded muzzle, a 1 in 10” rate of twist that helps to increase the stability of the bullet in flight, and it comes mated to a Hogue over molded stock. This rifle typically retails between $750-$800 depending on where you can locate one. However, with some searching and some patience, you could most likely find one on the used market in excellent condition for much less than a new one. This is the route I took. I purchased a lightly used one for $600. During my initial search for the rifle, I saw many others available similarly priced so they are availability if you don’t mind buying used.

The next component on the list, and a major upgrade to the platform, is the rifle chassis. This is also the first component in which you can splurge or save yourself a lot of cash by making personal choices. Do you need to purchase a chassis for the rifle? Not necessarily, but by doing so you’ll add stability to rifle platform, which in turn translates into better accuracy at extended ranges. That being said, if you’re really crunching the dollars, opt to skip this upgrade and learn to shoot with the existing stock. Then, when your skills exceed your rifle’s capability, spend the money for an upgraded chassis. Or, spend the money in a different area of the build like the optic.

McRees Precision Tactical Rifle StockI chose to ditch the factory stock and purchase a McRees Precision Tactical Rifle Stock, specifically the folding version in the raw finish. The standard folding stock retails at $450. However, I happened to be purchasing mine around the holidays so I was able to catch it on sale for $360. McRees periodically runs sales so if you have patience and aren’t trying to meet a specific build deadline, waiting for a bit can maybe save some money. I initially went with the folding AR compatible option with the M-LEV, which added $87 to the cost of my purchase. The M-LEV option is a bubble level that is attached at the rear of the stock just forward of the hinge that helps the shooter better control weapon cant during firing. I chose this option because my original intent was to just put an AR buffer tube and collapsible stock on the chassis as a cost saving measure. Both of these items could have been purchased for around a total of $60. As I continued in my search for the right stock, I began to reflect back on my struggles with my grandfather’s hunting rifle and I decided to purchase the McRees Precision Folding Rear Assembly (their folding stock), because I had difficulty getting proper sight alignment and cheek weld with a non-adjustable stock. Purchasing this upgrade added $274 to the total bill. I consider this one of my splurge items because it is not something I really needed, but merely wanted, both out of ease of use and overall finished look of the rifle. The grand total for the chassis portion, including shipping, cost $751.

The next item on the list was the optic. There are so many choice options in this area that you could spend days researching and only just scratch the surface. This is also an area where you can choose a less expensive option to save money on the build. There are decent optics on the second-hand market in the $500 – $600 range and will work fine until your skills exceed the capabilities of your equipment.

NightForce Optics NXSHowever, for me this was another area where I did not want to compromise. Initially, I planned on going with the recommendation of a few friends and purchase a Vortex Optics Viper PST 6-24 X 50mm FFP scope with a MOA Reticle, which centerlines the “do not compromise and do not break the bank” price point. However, I was fortunate to receive an offer I could not refuse, so I splurged and picked up a used NightForce Optics NXS 5.5 – 22 X 50mm MOA illuminated optic with the ZeroStop feature. While it has a second focal plane reticle, that is ok as I plan to shoot at full power anyway (more discussion on this topic in a later article). The deal included a set of Weaver Tactical rings, which allowed me to save about $90. I chose to spend the extra money and get this particular optic so I would not have to upgrade later (basically spending money twice). The NightForce optic and rings were $1500, but I feel that it was money well spent as this optic will last a long time.

20 MOA EGW Heavy Duty Scope MountThe rail I purchased for this build is the 20 MOA EGW Heavy Duty Scope Mount from Brownells. The cost shipped was $75. I chose this particular rail because I did not see the necessity of extra money for a NightForce or Seekins Precision rail (runs in the $100-$115 range) as this build has already breached the original $2500 budget.

Specwar556_Brake_1024x1024The muzzle brake I chose was the Specwar Trifecta Muzzle Brake from Silencerco. I chose this model for several reasons. SilencerCo is a trusted company who builds products that just plain work. Additionally, the profile of the brake fit well with the barrel and the price point was right, $94 shipped. I also like the fact that if I later decide to purchase a suppressor for this platform, all I have to do is purchase a SilencerCo model that fits this brake.

harris bipodSome miscellaneous but important items I picked up for the rifle are a quality bipod, a bolt lift, and ten-round magazines. Up front, I went with a Harris S-BR Bipod with the 6 to 9 inch adjustments. I chose the smooth legs option as the incremental adjustments are more easily managed and the bipod legs can be locked in place at any desired length versus specific intervals on the notched version. I chose Harris because they are well-built and cost-effective for a stable support system. The particular one I went with cost $112 shipped from Midway USA.

The bolt lift I chose was the Bolt Lift SV from Kinetic Research Group. I went with the SV model over the regular model, simply due to its smaller size, which allows me to get a more positive purchase on the bolt handle when operating the action. This particular version cost me $35 shipped direct from KRG. The magazines I purchased came from Modular Driven Technologies as they offer a polymer ten round magazine in .308 caliber that cost about half the price of a standard steel magazine. This allowed me to purchase two and be able to spend more time shooting and less time reloading the magazines. The great thing is that they also fit most standard rifle chassis systems. The two ten round magazines cost me $87 shipped.

affordable precision rifleAll of these components were shipped directly to Carey Lewis at HI Caliber Manufacturing for him to work his magic on the build and paint process. The finished product he turned out was beyond my expectations! Carey’s artistic abilities and attention to even the finest of details is top-notch and should you choose to send some work his way, you will not be disappointed. The grand total spent on this project so far is $3554, exceeding a good bit over my initial budget of $2500. However, if I had not elected to upgrade the stock and take advantage of the deal on this optic, I would be right at the budget set for this project. Using the options in the two areas listed above would certainly keep the project under budget and still provide you with a very capable rifle.

Stay tuned as I am headed off to the range to begin working on the content for the next article. I will be sharing my experiences with the first fire of the rifle, the zeroing process, and my selection of ammunition. I will cover the various types of ammunition such as bullet weight, match grade vs. standard, and why I choose to reload my own rather than buy off the shelf. Later this year, I will also be attending an entry level class for precision marksmanship and will be sharing that experience as well. I hope you will check back as I pass my learned skills and knowledge to you.




AUTHOR

Jason Horn

Finally settling in Florida, Jason has spent much of his life crisscrossing the United States. Growing up in a military family and being a 10-year United States Air Force veteran himself, he has been afforded unique opportunities with which to learn to function outdoors. As a youngster he was active in the Boy Scouts where he was tested on many of the skills he puts to use in his hobbies today. Although his time in the service did not allow for him to partake in his outdoor hobbies as much as he would have liked, his current path in life has granted more outdoor freedoms. He enjoys mountain biking, road cycling, camping, hunting, fishing, or blasting through the Florida swamps on an airboat. When not on one of the local trails or roads of Central Florida he can often be found on his local gun range honing those marksmanship skills or at the reloading bench loading his next round of ammo!

All stories by: Jason Horn

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