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Hardly a week goes by when I am not asked the question "what is a good beginner rifle". This question arises over and over. The answers given usually only lead to more questions.

This will be the first installment of the Budget Precision Rifle Build. We will be starting with a factory fresh Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD. The first steps will be installing and zeroing the optic. We will then progress through getting the most out of the factory platform. Once we have documented the accuracy the basic rifle is capable of, we will begin upgrading components until the system has reached its accuracy limit.

The goal of the series will be to demonstrate to the new precision shooter a point he can start at and a path he can follow to hone the rifles accuracy as his capabilities grow.

Where to start?

There are many rifles on the market today that will fill the need of a beginners platform. Our intent was to choose one that will allow for almost unlimited improvement. I also wanted to choose a system that I was intimately familiar with. When building any rifle system for competition or real world use you have to emphasize its strengths and reinforce its weakness. After looking at offerings by Savage, FN USA, Winchester and others I settled on the Remington 700 for the first series.

The Remington 700 has been with us for a very long time. It has been the selected platform for Marine Corps, Navy and Army Snipers in one form or another since Vietnam. It has served hunters and outdoorsman for longer than that. While it is not without its drawbacks, it is a very well rounded platform. The Model 700 is generally accurate out of the box and has limitless potential for modification. Almost every variety of stock, trigger and scope mounting options can be sourced to truly customize the rifle to the shooter and the purpose. You can go from relatively cheap to insanely expensive with a couple clicks on the internet. Moreover the Remington 700 is a rifle that is familiar to any shooting school in the country. Experienced Armorers and Gunsmiths are readily available just about anywhere you go.


When selecting a Model 700 for the build we looked at three main factors. First was the caliber. The Model 700 is offered in a staggering selection of calibers. Since the purpose of the "Budget Precision" build is tactical competition we need a caliber that is capable of "banging steel" to 1000 yards and excellent precision at 100 yards. While the .223 Remington is a great caliber for close and intermediate precision, it falls short at greater ranges.

There are some excellent long range calibers out there. Some favorites are the 6.5-7mm barrel burners. They are flat shooting and cheat the wind. There are only a couple problems with them. It is hard to find a factory rifle with the correct chamber and the right twist for the heavy long range bullets. It is also hard to learn on a rifle that may only get a couple thousand rounds before it needs a new barrel.

Our caliber choice for the "Budget Precision" build is the .308 Winchester. It is also known in military circles as the 7.62NATO or 7.62x51mm. This cartridge has been around for a long time. It was introduced by Winchester in 1952 and adopted by NATO two years later. It is most notably the cartridge the M14 was built around and has been used in High Power competition for quite some time. It is an inherently accurate caliber. Every ammunition manufacturer I am aware of loads some variation of a "match" .308 product. Federal, Hornady, Black Hills and Corbon all have match ammunition that is capable of extreme accuracy in the proper rifle. You can walk into almost any gunshop in the country and find match ammunition on the shelves. When the new shooter finally makes the leap to reloading the .308 Winchester has piles of reloading data ready to go. It is fairly easy to workup a load that will be accurate and long on barrel life.


Once we narrowed to down to platform and cartridge, the choices got a little easier. Our goal was to start with a rifle on the low end of Remington's offerings. This would allow for a low entry cost and room to modify the rifle to the shooter. Very frequently a shooter will purchase a rifle and then quickly replace the stock for one that fits them better. A large percentage of a factory rifle's cost is in the stock. When looking at the bottom of the line Remington 700 SPS-V and comparing it to Remington's Premier Police rifle, the 700P, the only substantial difference is the stock. The SPS-V comes with an injection molded plastic canoe paddle. The 700P comes with a fiberglass and aluminum H&S Precision stock. If the shooter knows they will be replacing the stock, then it is only prudent to save some cash and get the lower end rifle.

Our choices came down to the 700 SPS-Varmint, 700 SPS-Tactical and 700 SPS-Tactical AAC-SD. Each of them offered their own advantages over the others. The SPS-Varmint comes equipped with a 26" 1:12 twist barrel. This means that the bullet will make one complete revolution for each twelve inches of barrel length. The 1:12 twist barrel is ideally suited to the 168gr Sierra and other similar match bullets. It will shoot heavier bullets as well, but you start to get to the edge of the rifles intended performance envelope. The SPS-Tactical comes with a 20" barrel and a 1:12 twist. The shorter barrel sacrifices a little velocity but allows for easier handling and a smaller package to store and transport.

The SPS-Tactical AAC-SD is equipped with a 20", 1:10 twist barrel. This is a first for Remington in the Varmint Contour barrels (as opposed to the lighter hunting weight). The 1:10 twist is theoretically better suited to 175gr and heavier bullets. The 175gr Sierra Match King is a favorite for long range shooters. The shorter barrel makes it portable while still having enough length to propel factory ammunition to 1000 yards with reasonable velocity remaining. The SPS-Tactical AAC-SD also comes from the factory with a threaded muzzle. This allows for the attachment of a number of devices including brakes, flash hiders and sound suppressors.

All three of our options come from Remington with injection molded, plastic stocks. The SPS-Varmint comes with a standard black or green plastic version. The SPS-Tactical and AAC-SD come with a Hogue Overmolded stock with aluminum bedding pillars. Most shooters will replace these stocks as soon as funds allow, so they were not really a factor in the deciding process.

The Winner.

When the pros and cons were added up the Remington SPS-Tactical AAC-SD came out as our winner. The 20" barrel is totally sufficient for 1000 yard tactical competition. The shorter barrel means less weight and an easier time maneuvering through obstacles. The 1:10 twist should let us accurately shoot 175gr bullets and experiment with some heavier, sleeker bullets in the future. The threaded muzzle will allow us to later attach a brake or sound suppressor without the added expense of a gunsmith's time. The cost is negligible when compared to the other options.

The Testing.

One of the goals of the build series is to document the accuracy improvements of any changes. This should give the reader a better idea of if the increase will be worth the expense. Some changes will be ergonomic and won't have a great deal of impact on accuracy, but will increase the bond between shooter and rifle. It's much easier to shoot a rifle accurately when you are comfortable on it.

For now, the goal is to fire four to five, five shot groups at 100 yards after each change. This is a great enough distance to show meaningful change, but close enough to prevent wind from muddying the results.

The Process.

Along the way we are going to try to concentrate on the project as a total package. We want to explain why we do some of the things we do and how to do them. Hopefully you enjoy and benefit from the process.

We will post each new stage below with a link to the full article of review for that addition. We will also have accompanying videos for some of the stages.

The Budget.

The budget for the first setup is going to be one thousand dollars. That is a bit tight, but doable. Once we have gotten a rifle that is accurate and can be taken to the matches, we will toss the budget out and start replacing parts one at a time. I hope to keep a running tally of all the costs associated with the rifle.

Item Cost
Rifle $600.00
Weaver Scope Base $29.95
TPS Rings $67.99
Bushnell Scope $249.99
Total @ Part 3 $947.93
Bell & Carlson M40 Stock $220.00
Running Total $1167.93
Part 1

Picatinny Scope Base Installation

Once you have selected the rifle, we need a way to mount an optic to it. The most common method for tactical shooters is to install an inclined Picatinny rail scope base. The Picatinny scope base allows for mounting a wide variety of heavy duty rings. The mounting system also allow for them to be removed and replaced with repeatability.

Picatinny rail bases can also be had with angle built in. The most common is a 20 MOA forward angle. This will allow you to zero your rifle scope in a way that results in twenty more minutes of elevation travel. This is very important for a long range rifle. Not only can it allow scopes with limited travel the ability to dial the dope needed for 1000 yard shooting, but it can also increase the windage travel available. Assuming the scope has more than 40 minutes of total travel a 20 MOA base should offer no problems when zeroing at 100 yards.
Part 2

TPS Ring Installation

Rings serve a very important role. They hold your sighting system in relation to the bore of the rifle. If this is not perfectly consistent, then you will never realize the accuracy the rifle is capable of.

Rings do not need to be expensive to work correctly. They do need to be high quality and then need to be installed correctly. Even the highest quality rings can slip if they are not correctly installed.


Part 3

Scope Zero

Once you have your scope installed, it is time to take it to the range and set the crosshairs to coincide with the impact of the bullet. This is called "zeroing" the scope. In this segment we take you through a very simple method of getting on target using the least number of rounds.

Accuracy Testing

Once we have the scope dialed in, it is natural to want to know what kind of accuracy the rifle is capable of. We shoot the AAC-SD off the bipod and bench and let you know what to expect.

Part 3.5

Scope Selection

In this segment we are going to back up and cover scope selection. We have gotten numerous questions about rifle scopes. Everyone seems to root for their favorite. There are many good choices available, but we want to guide you toward some features that will enhance your skill development and ease your introduction to precision rifles.

Part 4

Rifle Stock Upgrade

We have been continually asked to point out the weaknesses of the Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD. The main weakness we have found is the flexible Hogue Stock.

Rifle stocks have one purpose. It is to connect the shooter to the rifle. The stock must do this in an absolute repeatable way in order to support the accuracy the system is capable.

In this installment we will show and excellent budget stock option and how simple the replacement can be.

Part 5

Magazine System Installation

Once we have the rest of the system dialed in, a magazine system is the next step to a competition ready rifle. A removable magazine allows us to stay competitive in stages where more than 4-5 rounds are needed. The AICS based systems allow us to load the rifle with up to ten rounds and change magazines much faster than it would take to re-charge the internal magazine box.

For our project Surgeon Rifles has sent us one of their excellent magazine systems. The Surgeon system protects and stabilizes the magazine with "ears" that protrude from the bottom of the rifle. The magazine release also allows you to disengage the magazine with your trigger finger.

Thanks to Black Hills Ammunition for supplying us with some of their 175gr Match ammunition. Without match grade ammunition our improvements would go unnoticed. If you need match grade ammunition, please give Black Hills a try.

Copyright © 2011 8541 Tactical

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