Read the original at Badlands Fieldcraft. -NCS
System: a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network.
For a long time I’ve really only had two rifles that I considered part of my “Red Dawn Battery”. I own other rifles, but these two were the ones I considered my go to rifles for rural SHTF security. They are both DMR style rifles, a 16” 5.56 AR and a 20” .308 AR. From much personal experience, and depending greatly on the wind, I’ve come to expect reliable Minute Of Man (in the vitals of course) accuracy between 400-600 yards for the 5.56 and 500-800 yards for the .308.
As you can see, the wind greatly affects the distance I can reliably shoot. Another factor with these two rifles is they both utilize a BDC reticle for getting on target quick at closer distance but allowing for rapid engagement of farther targets, but the reticles are only accurate to a point. While BDC reticles have come a long way, with the ACSS reticles by Primary Arms leading the charge, there are none available that I’m aware of that can compensate for all the factors you have to consider for true long distance shooting. For the most accurate long range shooting, good solid data dialed on the turrets or held in the reticle is still the king.
I realized that given the terrain I live in I was needing a rifle, ammunition and optic combination that could give me a longer range capability. 800 yards isn’t really all that far in some of the terrain around here and in a tactical environment a couple hundred more yards of standoff is always nice to have.
I debated about which calibers I might like to use and for awhile I was torn between .308 and .300 Win Mag. Of course there are many other calibers to choose from, but I was wanting something with a good selection of factory match ammunition to choose from. Of course I could “roll my own”, but having hand loaded for years I have appreciation for the skill but would rather spend my time training.
I’ve always been fond of the .308 and since I’m already set up for it I thought a good bolt gun with an appropriate optic could push the .308 to 1000 yards easy enough. But then there was the .300, with its high BC and sled load of energy. In the end I settled on a bit of a compromise with the 6.5 Creedmoor. Similar energy to the .308 while resembling the .300 Win Mag ballistics, and with ammunition at a price point that didn’t make me feel guilty for not reloading. Not to mention it won’t pulverize my shoulder like the .300.
I had some criteria I was looking to stay within as I selected a rifle. It needed to be accurate, being capable of holding 1 MOA with factory match ammunition. I wanted a threaded barrel since I already own a suppressor. I wanted to utilize detectable magazines of either the SR25 or AICS style. And finally it needed to be lightweight. I wanted the entire system to be less than 10 pounds when it’s all assembled. This pretty much excludes anything with a chassis or target style adjustable stock. I set the limit at ten pounds for the rifle because I’m not just carrying it from the pickup to the bench at the range, I plan to carry it for miles over rough terrain and with an accompanying load of sustainment equipment as well. A quick search on SnipersHide produced a thread where the users there thought 15+ pounds for an empty “practical” rifle was acceptable. Maybe at the target range, but not in the bush. I also wanted to avoid breaking the bank on a rifle, especially since there are many economical choices available now that rival the custom rifles of ten years ago.
I looked around at what was available locally and decided on the Ruger American Predator. It’s not a wannabe target rifle in Uber-tactical get up, instead it’s a rifle designed to be carried into the bush and kill predators in field settings.
So with a sticker price of $499 you get a rifle with a proven and durable action, a good trigger, a 22” hammer forged threaded barrel and a stock that is lightweight with aluminum bedding and a detachable magazine well, all weighing in at 6.6 pounds. 10 years ago a rifle at this price point didn’t exist, and it would cost nearly double to have one modified to be as functional (trust me, I did it). It’s amazing how free market demand can influence competition and drive prices down while driving value up.
So far so good on the rifle, but what optic? My specific criteria for the scope was once again lightweight, durable and with a usable reticle and repeatable turrets. For magnification I was looking for something at least 10 power, but not being an astronomer I didn’t see the need for much more than that. That still leaves a massive amount to choose from and to be honest I was thinking something from Primary Arms would fit the bill.
But while I was at the gun shop I noticed the Vortex Diamondback Tactical. Turrets, a useful “Christmas Tree” style reticle and first focal plane for $450 had my curiosity. I did some research on the scope and found it got favorable reviews online and Vortex’s own page got me really curious: “The Diamondback Tactical is a long-range wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rather than cramming features in at the expense of turret performance and optical quality, the Diamondback Tactical dials it back, putting the focus where it counts.” A-ha! Someone was getting it, a solid tool without all the doo-dads that are marketed to unsuspecting buyers.
The next day I went back and asked to take the 4-16x scope outside to see how the glass looked at distance. I was honestly shocked to behold such high quality at this price. I fully expected muted colors, fish eye effect and a tight eye box. Even at 16 power there was no appreciable degradation of the image. I decided then and there I would go home with that scope and a set of Vortex Pro rings.
That afternoon I assembled my scope mounting tools and went to the range. I also swung into the farm and fleet and picked up a box of Hornady 147 grain ELD Match bullets. That afternoon I was able to get the scope installed and zeroed, producing a 3/8 MOA group in the process.
After shooting it a bit my suspicions about the stock were confirmed and I found it hard to get a good check weld. The stock is thin and not ideally suited to precision shooting, plus I needed about 3/4” of comb height to get a good check weld. I confirmed this by duct taping some foam pad to the stock to build it up. I had already decided I would like to use a stock pack so that I could store useful tools and a small data book with the rifle, so I ordered up a Triad Tactical stock pack.
This stock pack is nice because it has about 3/8” of foam built in to give a solid cheek weld, but it can also be built up by adding strips of included Velcro material underneath. They include these strips at no extra cost and I thought that was a nice touch. I used all the pieces it came with and now have a very solid cheek weld.
Next was a sling. Slings can be a great shooting aid as well as a carrying strap, but the prices of a lot of the tactical shooting slings out there border on the absurd. Having made many slings and being familiar with the price of webbing, buckles and hardware I have to wonder how they justify the cost.
Once again the free market was to the rescue and I came across the Magpul Rifleman Loop Sling. It’s a simple bare bones sling that combines the features of a Rhodesian Sling and a Loop Sling. I had never heard of a Rhodesian Sling, but I’m pretty sure if you add “Rhodesian” to the name of any gear it is automatically bad ass. The Rhodesian aspect to the sling is very similar to the Hasty Sling I was taught in the Marines. And with a price of about $20 I couldn’t order the parts to make my own any cheaper so I went ahead and ordered it up.
When it arrived I used a set of 1.5” heavy duty sling swivels to attach it and spent a bit of time dry firing in different positions to get the sling adjusted properly. Once I had it adjusted I taped up the tails with camo Gorilla tape.
While I was sitting there with a roll of duct tape next to me I got to thinking about how nice it would be to have some sort of rear support permanently attached to the rifle for quick use. For those unfamiliar with a rear support, it’s typically a bag of some sort that is placed under the rear of the stock to help support the rifle when shooting prone in conjunction with a front support like a bipod or pack.
I’ve seen quite a few ideas, typically using carabiners to attach a rear bag or even the monopods that attach to the stock. I’ve never cared for either. As I was sitting there, I looked over at the pile of duct tape and cut up ISO-mat that I had removed from my stock to put the stock pack on. This was the the foam I had used to build up the comb on my stock temporarily to see how much height I needed. I decided to try and use the foam to make a rear support for my rifle.
I took the foam and cut it into strips slightly wider than my sling and about 8 inches in length. I came up with the length after measuring the distance from the bottom of my stock to the floor while I was in the prone and then adding a couple inches. I made 4 of these strips and then putting two on each side sandwiched my sling between them right after the rear sling swivel. I wrapped the whole contraption liberally in camo Gorilla tape and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work slicker than snot on a gold tooth.
I highly encourage you to try it. While not as stable as having the stock fully bagged in, I’ve shot out to 600 yards using just it and a bipod and have produced multiple 1 MOA groups on paper at closer ranges. If you were patrolling or hunting and had to get the rifle into action quickly I think this is as good as it gets.
The final pieces I added were yet again shooting aids, this time a Pig Skinz barricade pad and my UTG Recon bipod mount to the forend of the stock. The Pig Skinz is a firm rubber pad to help cushion the stock should I want to rest it on something hard while shooting. The bipod mount is an adaptor that attaches to the traditional sling mount so I can utilize the picatinny quick detach on my bipod.
So far I’m very pleased with this set up, having everything I need and nothing I don’t. I feel its capabilities pick up where my other rifles leave off and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it with me into the bush to hunt predators, four-legged or two, should the need arise. It delivers comparable performance to other heavier rifles while saving precious pounds for extra food and water should I need to be out for multiple days. This project has been another example of “listening to my inner guide”. I could have bought any number of precision rifles over the last few years, yet I never felt it was the right time until now. I don’t think I would be as satisfied with my choices had I rushed into it back then.
I hope this has at a minimum been informative, but also entertaining. Feel free to email questions to [email protected]