Disclaimer: This is not a post about building a ‘sniper’ rifle. There are a myriad of articles and posts out there on turning your economy poodle shooter into a super accurate ‘sniper’ rifles or, at the very least, long range super accurate SAR’s (Surgical Asshole Remover). Why? I’d be willing to bet that 99.99% or more of the readership here and elsewhere are not, ‘snipers.’ Anything offered here that a trained, qualified, and certified ‘sniper’ would read wouldn’t be anything more than basic information.
So, this post is about squeezing the most accuracy from your chosen platform and what, in fact, determines a rifle’s ‘inherent’ (as in already present the rifle based on how it was built and the quality of the parts from the original build) accuracy. It’s also not how to do it on the cheap, either. Bottom line is that you get what you pay for in all endeavors in life, 99.99% of the time, and the more quality you can afford, the more you’re lessening the chances that your rifle will take a dump at a most inopportune moment. Notice that I wrote, ‘lessening the chances’ and not, ‘removing the chances.’ Remember that anything man-made will break over time and use, and that quality is the key to lowering the odds of when and where.
Ok, on to how to get better performance from your rifle. The foundation of rifle performance is contained in one word: Consistency. The more consistent performance, the more accurate the rifle. This foundation is comprised of three elements, like a three legged stool. Take one away, and the stool falls over. All three have to be there for the stool to stand. They are: The platform itself, the shooter, and the ammunition used. If anyone of the three are not consistently (shot after shot) performing to their potential, accuracy is going to suffer.
Let’s knock out the ammunition first. Crap ammo makes for crap accuracy. Sure, in a SHTF situation, “any chair in a bar fight.” Ammo is ammo, and the worst ammo in the world beats no ammo. Right now we’re looking at squeezing the most accuracy out of your chosen rifle. There are two ways to do that with the ammo: First, buy nothing but match or super match grade ammo. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s very consistent. The other way is to hand load your rounds. This is also expensive at first, and must be learned. Single stage presses are the way to go for hand loading extremely accurate ammunition. Progressive presses don’t have the capability to accurately measure each step of the loading process, such as primer seating depth, bullet seating depth, or powder throws. The ‘sweet spot’ load for each rifle is going to be different depending on the case (and the preparations performed on the brass prior to loading), the primer, propellant, and projectiles used. Further, the bullets must all be seated consistently to get to the level of similar performance down range. That means micrometer bullet seaters. More money, but worth it if your goal is maximum down range accuracy.
Next up is the shooter. If the shooter isn’t taught or if taught, doesn’t train on the basic fundamentals of shooting in trigger depression, natural point of aim, wind reading, distance come ups, and follow through, no amount of money spent on ammunition is going to make a difference at longer ranges. It takes discipline and time to achieve the discipline that leads to consistent habits when one gets behind the sights of a rifle position not withstanding. If follows, then, that if you are trying to squeeze out every drop of potential accuracy at longer ranges, you must practice dry fire a lot. Further, when performing your dry fire, you must aim at achieving flawless dry fire to apply during live fire. Old saying: Perfect practice makes perfect. Shooting is a perishable skill. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
Lastly is the platform. First things first on caliber: For this subject/post, it really doesn’t matter. All calibers have their advantages and disadvantages and limitations. In the hands of a shooter who knows what he’s about (has been trained in deliberate, accurate, deadly shooting), has quality ammunition and a quality platform, whatever caliber is being employed will work for the projected down range result.
So let’s get to what needs to be present in the platform in order to squeeze out the most accuracy possible.
This example is a 1:7 twist. The 1:8 is identical except for the twist rate.
First, the barrel in optimum length for the performance of the caliber. For some platforms, this can be as little as 16 inches; for some, as long as 26 inches. Coupled with barrel length is the twist rate of the rifling. For example, my ‘go to’ AR has a 1/8 twist rate to provide the best stabilization for the ammunition I use. It’s also a versatile enough twist rate that I can go up or down on the bullet weight and still achieve acceptable performance at various ranges within the limitations of the round itself. Finish also has a bit to do with it. Chrome lining has come a long way, (my wife’s AR has a double chromed lined FN MG barrel and is very accurate) but there are also improvements such as Melonite, Nitride, and other barrel finishes that increase barrel life and accuracy while reducing barrel damage from the elements or infrequent cleaning like chromoly barrels are subjected to during their life. Bottom line: Get the best barrel you can afford – look for sales. I was able to get a 1/8 twist 16 inch barrel mid length Nitride finished barrel assembly for $134.99 ($152 shipped) from Palmetto State Armory. They’re still on sale if you’re so inclined – down from $169.99 before tax/shipping. It was a very good deal!
Barrel Mounting – On any platform, you’re going to need to ensure the barrel is mounted properly (trued) to the receiver (aka ‘action’) so that when checking the head-space for the bolt, there is no error.Bolt runs and inner receiver – should be gently (very gently) polished to reduce bolt lug, bolt body, or gas key friction during the bolt’s travels during extracting, ejecting, and stripping a new round to load into the chamber. Suggest jeweler’s rouge or JB’s Bore Bright polishing. Remember, gentle action is what the doctor ordered. You can always polish more, but once material is removed, you can’t put it back. On chromoly barrels, I use the JB’s to condition the barrel when new to remove any factory residue from the manufacturing process, burrs, and other imperfections. It does make a difference!
AR Feed Ramps
M1A Feed Ramps
Feed ramps – Polished as described above.
And now, the trigger. You can spend a lot of money on a really good trigger; it all depends on what you’re after. Me? I like the Geissele Super Dynamic strain of triggers as shown below, but there are other really good triggers out there that don’t cost as much – again, it’s all about what you’re after. Some don’t like the flat trigger, but for me, it makes consistent trigger depression straight to the rear of the trigger well pretty much a given.
Geissle Flat SDE
Lastly are the sights. You can spend a lot of money on optics or irons, your choice. I’ve owned ACOGS, Leupolds, Vortex, Primary Arms, Aimpoint, and a few really cheap ones. Right now I’m pretty much settled on, depending on the purpose of the rifle, as all of the above except ACOG. the eye relief is too short for my comfort. If you choose to go with optics, remember that the scope base and rings are just as important, even more so, than the choice of scope. If you go with iron sights, and they’re going to be your primary sighting system, make sure they are designed and constructed for the use you’re preparing for. Match sights, such as diopters are really that adaptable to SHTF or survival roles. Then again, if that’s all you got, “any chair in a bar fight.” Bottom line is that you want to always buy the best you can afford for the capability your’e after.
And that is pretty much it. Follow the road map above, and you’ll wring out the best accuracy possible from your chosen platform, caliber notwithstanding.