Upgrading Your Precision Rifle

posted on February 19, 2019

Precision rifle is a fast-growing shooting sport that combines the athleticism of sports like 3-Gun with the calm purposefulness of long-range precision shooting. Bolt-action rifles are the gun to beat in this sport, and it’s tempting to look at the bolt-action hunting rifle in your safe and think it’s ready to go for a precision rifle match. Some hunting rifles are capable of astounding accuracy. For years, hunting rifles were used on the battlefield as precision tools for long-range engagements and they are still very effective tools for taking game at long distances. However, the unique requirements of a precision rifle match mean that you may soon find the limits of your hunting rifle, and be looking to upgrade to meet the needs of shooting precision rifle.

In my case, I had an excellent general-purpose rifle, a left-handed Savage 16 in .308 Win. that is capable of accurate shots out to at least 1000 yards, and update it to shoot precision rifle matches. After selecting the upgrades and changes to make the most of my rifle, I contacted GCP Rifle Company, a premier custom rifle builder, to help me put everything together.

MDT ESS rifle chassis

First, I needed to build a good foundation for my gun, and as I shoot a left-handed action, I chose an ESS chassis from Modular Driven Technologies as the basis for my rifle. Simply put, a chassis is rugged, stable and rigid mounting platform for the barrel, action and other accessories on your gun. While it’s true that hunting rifles have stocks that serve this purpose, a dedicated chassis like the MDT ESS give you options to easily attach bipods and other gear to your gun, and most chassis are easily adjustable to your unique dimensions, allowing you to have a consistent shooting position every time you get behind the trigger.

Improving the trigger on your stock rifles is another way to get it ready to shoot a match. While the Accutrigger in my Savage .308 Win. is a fantastic trigger, one of the best that’s available in a factory rifle, there is still room for improvement. Timney makes an excellent drop-in replacement for Savage rifles. Crisp and precise, with adjustments for trigger weight, creep and overtravel, this trigger can make a great rifle system even better.

Timney drop-in trigger replacement for Savage Arms .308 rifle

Staying on target is an essential part of a precision rifle match. Controlling your rifle under recoil is a big part of that skill, and a muzzle brake or suppressor can help keep your gun stable during recoil.

Adding a muzzle brake takes some of the propellant gasses exiting the barrel after the bullet flies downrange and redirects them to help keep the barrel stable and on-target during recoil. The downside to a muzzle brake is that all those gases are loud, and because they shove the exhaust gases off to left and right, a muzzle brake can increase the perceived noise of your rifle.

Savage Muzzle Brake

A suppressor also uses exhaust gases to control recoil, but because a suppressor (or silencer, as they’re also called) stifles exhaust gases much like a car’s muffler does, they also control the sound your rifle makes. Controlling the noise of your rifle firing helps your concentrate on making the shot, but by briefly redirecting and slowing down the exhaust gases from your shot, a suppressor also helps control recoil, allowing you stay on-target and evaluate the success of your shot. I chose a SIG Sauer SRD762QD suppressor for my rifle, which, because it uses a quick-detach device that is also a muzzle brake, allows me the best of both worlds if I want them.

Accu-Tac SR5 G2 bipod

Firing from shooting sticks or a rest is common in the hunting world, but in precision rifle the bipod is the shooting rest of choice. There are many, many different bipods out there, but I went with an Accu-Tac SR5 G2 bipod for this rifle because it’s very stable and allows me to swing the feet of the bipod forwards or backwards as needed. A nice feature of the SR5 G2 is a quick-adjust lever which lets me cant my rifle in unusual shooting positions so my scope is level while shooting.

Primary Arms 6-30x55 mm Platinum Series scope

Good glass is the beating heart of an accurate rifle, and for this build, I was able to get my hands on the Primary Arms 6-30x55 mm Platinum Series scope with MOA adjustments. This rugged, first focal plane scope uses their new Hera reticle, which provides cascading dots in the field of view for quick, on the fly, holdovers, and comes with a sun shade and Butler Creek scope caps. Built using high-quality Japanese glass, it includes features that are usually found in scopes costing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars more.

Finding a new use for the guns already in your gun safe is a great way to get more out of the shooting sports. If you’re looking for a new challenge, or want to improve your long-distance rifle shooting, take a look at turning one of the guns you already own into a purpose-built rifle for precision rifle shooting. At worst, you’ll have made an already-accurate gun into even more of a tack driver. You may have found a great new pastime that gives you additional thrills―and new opportunities to make friends with your fellow gun owners.


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