recce rifle

Precision Rifle Build on a Budget

In the realm of long-range shooting and marksmanship, the allure of precision rifle shooting is undeniable.

Achieving remarkable accuracy at extended distances requires not only skill and practice but also the right equipment.

While precision rifles often come with hefty price tags, it’s entirely possible to have a precision rifle build on a reasonable budget.

Precision Rifle Build on a Budget
Cpl. John Luze, a competitor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team, fires a round with his M40A5 sniper rifle during a practice fire at Puckpunyal Military Area in Victoria, Australia, May 7, 2016. The Marine Corps Shooting Team traveled to Australia to compete in the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2016. The M40A5 is a bolt-action sniper rifle the Marine Corps uses for long-range enemy engagements.

In this article, we’ll dive into the essential components of a precision rifle, explore cost-effective alternatives, and provide a guide to help you build a precision rifle without draining your wallet.

The Essentials of a Precision Rifle Build on a Budget

Selecting the Right Caliber

If a shooter wanted advice on what type of bullet to start with for learning how to shoot accurately at long distances, we’d definitely recommend the .308 Winchester. We have a lot of confidence in this choice for a few important reasons.

For our Precision Rifle Build on a Budget, we’ve chosen the .308 Winchester. In military circles, it’s known as 7.62 NATO or 7.62x51mm. Winchester first manufactured it in 1952, and NATO started using it two years later.

Precision Rifle Build on a Budget
Cpl. John Luze, a competitor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team, loads a magazine before a practice fire with his M40A5 sniper rifle at Puckpunyal Military Area in Victoria, Australia, May 7, 2016. The M40A5 is a bolt-action sniper rifle that the Marine Corps uses for long-range enemy engagements.

This caliber is inherently accurate. Almost every ammunition company that manufactures 308 Winchester offers some kind of “match” option. 

Brands like Federal, Hornady, and Black Hills all have match bullets that can be extremely accurate in the right rifle. You can walk into almost any gun store in the country and find match-grade 308 ammo.

All in all, if you’re looking to learn and get better at long-range shooting, the .308 is a smart choice. 

Now that we’ve nailed down the best all-around caliber to use, it’s time to select the platform we’re going to use. In this case, the Remington Model 700 makes the most sense. It’s affordable and it has been around for decades and has been proven in the hands of Army and Marine Corps snipers.

Selecting the Rifle

The two rifles we settled on for this article are the Remington 700 SPS-Varmint and the 700 SPS-Tactical AAC-SD. Personal preference will probably dictate which one you decide upon.

The SPS-Varmint has a long 26-inch barrel with a twist rate of 1:12. This means the bullet spins once for every twelve inches as it travels down the barrel. This twist rate works best when paired with 168gr match ammunition. It can shoot heavier bullets as well, but that pushes the limits of how well the rifle performs at longer distances.

The SPS-Tactical AAC-SD comes with a shorter 20-inch barrel and a 1:10 twist rate. The 1:10 twist is particularly good for 175gr and heavier bullets. The 175gr Sierra Match King is popular for long-range shooting.

The shorter barrel makes the SPS-Tactical AAC-SD easier to transport while still having enough barrel length to propel factory ammunition up to 1000 yards with a decent velocity. This rifle also has a threaded muzzle, so you can attach things like muzzle brakes, flash hiders, and suppressors.

Precision Rifle Build on a Budget
Cpl. John Luze, a competitor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team, fires a round with his M40A5 sniper rifle during a practice fire at Puckpunyal Military Area in Victoria, Australia, May 7, 2016. The Marine Corps Shooting Team traveled to Australia to compete in the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2016. The M40A5 is a bolt-action sniper rifle the Marine Corps uses for long-range enemy engagements.

Both of these options from Remington come with plastic stocks. The SPS-Varmint offers a black or green plastic stock, while the SPS-Tactical AAC-SD has a Hogue Overmolded stock with aluminum bedding pillars. Most shooters tend to change these stocks when they can afford to, so they weren’t a big factor in our decision-making process.

Selecting the Right Scope

Investing in a high-quality scope is paramount for any precision rifle setup. A scope with excellent glass quality, reliable tracking, and appropriate magnification levels can make a world of difference in long-range shooting.

If you look around at precision long-range shooting competitions, you won’t find many scopes with a fixed magnification setting. Even most Law Enforcement (LE) snipers don’t prefer them if they have a choice. A fixed magnification scope limits you to one magnification level, one field of view, and fewer options at varying ranges. However, that’s not always a bad thing.

While fixed magnification scopes have some downsides, they also have some distinct advantages.

For one, they have fewer parts that move. You don’t need a magnification adjustment, which means fewer seals are necessary. The lens elements don’t have to move back and forth; they can stay fixed in place. Those extra moving parts and the need for careful assembly drive the cost above what you want when starting out.

Shooters new to long-range precision shooting often worry about having enough magnification power. They tend to want more magnification just to be safe. But if you use a 17x scope for hitting small targets at 1,000 yards, you’ll have trouble hitting fast-moving targets at 500 yards.

For a fixed-power scope, 10x magnification is the sweet spot.

Precision Rifle Build on a Budget
U.S. Marine Scout Sniper, Sgt. Adam Storey, Team 4, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 observes a cement factory through an M-40 sniper rifle near Bahkit, Iraq on June 3, 2008. U.S. Marines conduct an observation mission near a suspected Improvised Explosive Device factory.

Ten times magnification works well for shooting between 100 to 1,000 yards and provides a wide enough view for moving targets. 

While a 10x scope might not be the best for super precise bench rest competitions, it’s more than enough for hunting, shooting in the field, and practicing at the range.

When you’re looking for an affordable 10x scope, the Bushnell Elite 3200 10×40 is a top contender. The glass is super clear and better than any other scope we’ve seen in this price range. The scope also tracks accurately and has a standard Mildot reticle.

Scope Mounts and Rings

The last things you’ll need to finish building your rifle are a scope base and rings. There are many companies that make good-quality rings and bases. 

When you’re picking a base for your rifle, we recommend a 20 MOA base. This gives you extra elevation adjustment. 

We recommend the Nightforce Remington 700 scope base, which goes for roughly $59.

The price of rings can range from $15.00 to $300.00.

Rings are important because they hold your scope in place without harming it. You want rings that keep your scope steady even if your rifle accidentally gets dropped or bumped.

For rings, we recommend pairing the Vortex Optics Pro Picatinny-Style Rings with the Nightforce scope base. If you want to spend a little more and keep with the Nightforce brand, you can go with the Nightforce 30mm Ultralite Picatinny-Style Rings for roughly $170.

Conclusion

Always remember, it’s not about how cool or expensive your precision rifle looks. 

What truly matters is the skill of the shooter and what they can achieve with the rifle. It’s amusing to watch shooters compete against someone using a fancy, custom-built rifle that costs them upwards of $2.50 every time they shoot. 

Meanwhile, those using the trusty .308 are hitting the same targets, and spending way less.

That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to using a custom rifle that shoots big, heavy bullets. What we’re trying to get across is that a precision rifle is just a tool, and its performance depends on the person using it. 

The most vital thing in precision shooting is mastering the techniques. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can improve by upgrading your equipment. But the best investment for any shooter is to learn the proper shooting techniques.

In simple terms, it’s smarter to spend your money on training and ammunition before you go for all the flashy stuff of an impressive-looking precision rifle.