I’m sure this will ruffle a lot of feathers, but here goes: Just about any rifle – and even some scoped handguns – can be used as “sniper guns”.
I spend far too much time in my local gun shop, checking out what is new and exciting, and what is used and priced right. Many times, when they are busy, I’ll step behind the counter to lend a hand with gun customers. And, I’ve heard this asked many, many times “do you have any sniper rifles?” and when that question is asked of me, I’ll point to all the long guns on the racks. This confuses people, until I explain what constitutes a so-called “sniper rifle” or “counter-sniper rifle.”
Not all sniping is done at 1,000-yards, some is done as close as 100-yards, and even the lowly .22 LR rifle, can accomplish the task of being a sniper rifle, with just a 4X scope on it – think about it. With very little training, you can sure make a head-shot on a human-sized target at 100-yards with this set-up. Is this an ideal sniper rifle? Surely not! However, it can get the job done. Any high-powered rifle, that is commonly used in deer hunting, can work as a sniper rifle – just takes some training and the use of the right ammo and you can become a sniper. Sniping is done from behind concealment (and hopefully cover, as well). Once in place, you set-up your sniper’s hide and very patiently wait for your target. Most sniping takes place at well under 500-yards. That’s easily accomplished with a high-powered rifle, with a decent scope that is properly on it. You don’t need a $2,500 scope to accomplish this task. A good 3-9×40 scope priced under a hundred bucks can suffice.
Of course, well-trained military snipers have been known to take out a target as far away as a mile, but those are not the usual distances. Rather, they are the extreme. And more often than not, shots at those distances – usually require more than one shot. In a survival situation, we have to look at a lot of different things, before we pull the trigger on someone, who is on our property – maybe they are just lost, and pose no real threat to us. If you drop them at several hundred yards away, you may face murder charges at some point, when law and order are restored – assuming it ever gets restored. On the other hand, a shot or two in the vicinity of someone on your property will more than likely send them running away. Let’s hope so – I don’t know anyone who wants to take another person’s life for no good reason.
So, back to what constitutes a sniper or counter-sniper rifle. It can be any long gun, that is capable of placing the shots where you want them to be. I’ve owned more than a few bolt-action hunting rifles, in various calibers, that could keep my three round groups right at an inch at 100 yards. Some gave me groups a little bigger, and some groups ever smaller – but not by much. A lot has to do with the ammunition, and all guns have their druthers – some shoot great with green/yellow box hunting ammo, and some don’t. It all about taking the time to do some quite deliberate tests. When you find a variety of ammo that shoots consistently in your bolt-action hunting rifle, then stock-up on it.
Ruger’s Bolt Action Rifles
Ruger has been producing some outstanding bolt-action hunting rifles for as long as I can remember – and I’m old, real old – so I can remember a long time back. My first Ruger was their Model 77 in .300 Win Mag, and it was a “shooter” no doubt about it – and to this day, I can’t remember if I sold or traded it for something else. More than likely, it was sold, when we needed some fast cash, after being newly married. Still, to this day, Ruger is no slouch when it comes to accurate hunting rifles. However, we’re not talking about “hunting rifles” per se in this article. Instead, we are talking about the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) – and they come in several popular calibers. I elected to have Ruger send me their RPR in .308 Winchester – and its not only a popular hunting round, but also the most popular military sniper round, as well.
JWR Adds: The Ruber RPR is also offered in the very popular 6.5 Creedmoor chambering, which was just recently the topic of a feature article in SurvivalBlog.
There’s a lot to like about the RPR, and there is about a page and a half of specs on this, but I’ll only cover \a few key specs. You can read it all on the Ruger web site. First of all, this is a bolt-action rifle that is is not designed to be a hunting rifle. But it can sure work as one, even though it is about 10 pounds unloaded without a scope – it could be carried afield for hunting. However, this rifle was designed mainly for high-powered rifle competition shooting, plain and simple. Once again, with that said, it can easily double as an outstanding sniper or counter-sniper rifle, in all respects. We have a gun that holds 10 rounds in the removable magazine. That’s a lot of firepower available if you’re sniping or counter-sniping. Barrel length is only 20-inches, but you don’t need any longer barrel than that. There is also a muzzle brake supplied, on the factory threaded barrel.
Folding, Adjustable Stock
One of the main attractions on the RPR is the folding stock, that is also adjustable for length of pull and comb height. The set-up looks more than a little different than your typical bolt-action hunting rifle, that’s for sure. Overall length of the gun is 39.25-inches to 42.75-inches – depending on where the adjustable stock is adjusted at. Length of pull is 12-inches to 15.50-inches – again, depending on how and where you have the stock adjusted – so this rifle will fit just about anyone. Folded length is 31.60-inches and it is easy to fold the stock closed.
I like the Ruger Marksmanship Adjustable trigger, with a pull rating of 2.25-lbs to 5-pounds – my sample came from the factory right at 3.25-lbs and I didn’t see any need to adjust it any lighter, or heavier – the pull weight was just perfect for my use. You can read the balance of the specs on the Ruger web site, however, needless to say, the rifle offers a lot of goodies for what it is.
My Range Tests
Of course, no matter how a rifle is made, if it won’t shoot accurately, it is of no use to the man or woman behind the trigger. The nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition have kept me in ammo for my articles for more than 27 years – even during several ammo droughts, they still managed to get ammo into my hands for articles. I don’t do much reloading these days, because I simply don’t have the time. However, I formerly reloaded for .308 Winchest, .30-06, and .300 Win Mag, and I managed to come up with some good recipes for these calibers over the years. I love the Black Hills .300 Win Mag load, and I managed to duplicate their accuracy, but I just couldn’t exceed it – no matter how hard I tried, and the same goes for the .308 Winchester caliber – I could match Black Hills in the accuracy department, but never beat them. I’ve found that with their match loads, Black Hills produces some of the most consistently accurate ammo in the world.
I borrowed a hi-end scope to mount on the Ruger Precision Rifle, because I wanted to squeeze all the accuracy out of this gun as I possibly could. It was a Leupold Gold Ring variable power scope–considered a benchnmark for quality, to American shooters. Targets were set-up at 100 yards, and I did a lot of walking back and forth to check my targets – no spotting scope. I also had one volunteer shooter with me, and we shot over a period of three days, and put more than 150 rounds down range. While this may not sound like a lot, it really is, when you are demanding all the accuracy you can get out of yourself and a rifle. From Black Hills, I had their .308 Winchester 168-gr Match Hollow Point load, and their 175 grain Match Hollow point. From their Black Hills Gold (hunting ammo) I had their 18-gr Barnes TSX, 168-gr Sierra TMK and their 175 grain Sierra TMK loads. So this was a good assortment for running through this Ruger.
All shooting was done over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the bed of my covered pick-up – not an ideal set-up, but I didn’t want to chance my windshield getting broken from the muzzle blast. Still, the set-up was fairly good – although I really needed a bipod on the RPR and I needed to go prone, to get the very best accuracy out of this rifle. But that just is not gonna happen, in my old age. It took me some time to get the adjustable stock set just the way I wanted it – this is a new type of stock to me, and it took some time to get it adjusted perfectly – I’d fire several shots, and check where the rounds were going, and make adjustments, and shoot again. My volunteer shooter was not allowed to make any adjustments after I got the stock and scope adjusted for my shooting position.
Recoil wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be, but then again, the gun was over 11 pounds — loaded and with a scope on it. Still, when you are demanding your best efforts on each and every shot, it takes a toll on you, so that is one reason the shooting was conducted over the course of several days. I wanted to make sure I was giving it my best effort.
The Black Hills Gold – their hunting ammo, gave me groups slightly below one inch, if I did my part, and that’s mighty fine for a “hunting” load. I’ve had many bolt-action hunting rifles that wouldn’t give me that kind of accuracy. There wasn’t much difference between the three hunting rounds when it came to accuracy. However, the Black Hills match grade .308 Win ammo – that’s another story. The Ruger preferred the 168-gr Match Hollow Point load over the 175-gr Match Hollow Point load – not by much, but it was enough to make a “difference” in the small groups.
The 168-gr Match Hollow Point load was giving me 3-shot groups close to 3/4-inches – and I had to check several times, to make sure all three rounds were hitting the target – they were “that” close – often just one ragged hole. The 175 grain Match Hollow Point load was hot on the heels of the lighter bullet, and gave me groups just above ¾ of an inch – consistently. I could live with either round, for doing some log range hunting or counter-sniping. After a lot of shooting, I could probably produce groups as small as the 168-gr load, with the slightly heavier load – in all honesty, I think in the end, you could really call it a “tie” between the rounds. I will admit, I can’t shoot that well – all the time. It is just not in me, these days. However, I was giving this Ruger and the Black Hills Ammo, my absolute best efforts on each outing. I did have some groups well over an inch – but that was me – pulling a shot – not the gun, and certainly not the ammo.
I believe the Ruger Precision Rifle is capable of even better accuracy than I achieved. Even though I did my best, I have to remember that my trigger finger is all deformed, and doesn’t have much feeling in it — both due to osteoarthritis. But I still did very well, all things considered.
The good news is that the Ruger Precision Rifle only retails for $1,500. And if you ask me, you are getting a lot of “sniper rifle” for that kind of money. Just be sure to test different ammo varieties, to see what gives you the best accuracy, and I know you’ll find a load that your Ruger will like. And, if all you do is want to punch paper at the range, then go for it – you won’t be disappointed with this Ruger. It is a shooter!