Top Precision Rifles for Hunting in 2019
April 22, 2019
The Precision Rifle Series is one of the biggest trends driving shooting sports today. It’s a beautiful thing for riflemen, because it’s pushing manufacturers to unprecedented levels of innovation and to greater levels of practical accuracy. I like to think of it as “Practical Rifle Shooting.”
PRS-type matches typically comprise several 10-shot stages, each fired at multiple different targets from multiple different improvised positions, within a two-minute time limit. No coaching is allowed, so shooters must spot their own impacts or misses and adapt accordingly for errors in wind calls and so forth.
As in all competitive shooting disciplines, specialty rifles have emerged that are optimized for the sport. These tend to be heavy bolt actions sporting 10-round detachable magazines, with stocks configurable for length of pull, cheekrest height, and more. They’re often chambered in light-recoiling 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges and rifled with fast twist rates ideal for stabilizing streamlined bullets that maintain velocity at distance and shrug off wind.
Because they’re typically very heavy (15 to 20 pounds all set up) and because many of them use machined aluminum chassis-type stocks, most PRS rifles aren’t particularly suited to hunting. However, there are some notable exceptions, and absolutely nothing improves your lethality in the field as effectively as shooting PRS matches and hunting with the same rifle.
PRS-type rifles—even the lightweight ones—are optimized for precision.
Caliber choice is critical, but an easy pick is the 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s mild recoiling, effective at long range, inherently accurate, and provides lots of barrel life. And importantly, it punches above its weight class, providing plenty of authority for most predators, plus deer, antelope, and, with the right bullet and careful shot placement, even elk.
Stocks are engineered for ultimate ergonomics, meaning that they help you achieve stable field positions and execute clean, accurate shots. For the most part, they add configurability to basic ergonomics, making it possible to finesse the cheekrest to perfect height and the stock length to just the right fit. As an aside, the lightest composite stocks are not configurable, because adjustable cheek-rests and adjustable-LOP features add considerable weight.
Barrels and actions usually offer greater concentricity and tighter tolerances than run-of-the-mill production-grade hunting rifles. As a result, PRS-type rifles typically shoot sub-MOA groups, and good ones shoot sub-half-MOA groups with preferred ammo. Even better, they’ll hold those tiny groups over 10-shot strings, and exhibit little or no point of impact shift as the barrel heats.
With the stock massaged to fit the shooter just right, a super-accurate load sorted out, and an accurate ballistic profile created, these rifles enable levels of precision previously unheard of to most hunters. As an aside, this doesn’t necessarily mean such a rifle will enable you to effectively snipe away at very distant game. It does mean your shots may be placed with greater precision. The result? Cleaner, more ethical kills.
In ascending order of price, let’s take a look at three different options that make superb crossover PRS/hunting rifles.
Remington M700 Magpul
Founded on Remington’s legendary Model 700 action with a heavier profile barrel than most big-game rifles wear. The stock is made by Magpul and is configurable via a set of different-height cheekpieces and LOP spacers.
As the least expensive of the three rifles spotlighted here, it wears some standard-issue parts. The barrel, while sporting 5R rifling, is still a production-grade tube. The action, being an M700, is inherently accurate but is not trued (blueprinted, some call it). The synthetic stock is still an injection-molded version, meaning it’s less rigid than a handlaid stock of carbon fiber.
All that said, the M700 Magpul is a very good value for the dollars and provides all the performance you need to get started in the sport of PRS and to upgrade your hunting precision. The M700 Magpul is chambered in four different cartridges: 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .300 Win. Mag.
Expect the M700 Magpul to shoot sub-MOA with ammo it likes. When first introduced (and available only in .308), I tested one and found that it put three out of four loads tested into sub-MOA groups. And that’s with a rigorous test comprising three consecutive five-shot groups without allowing the barrel to cool. Outstanding performance, indeed!
Seekins Precision Havak
Seekins manufactures a broad line of highly sought parts for AR-type rifles and my favorite heavy-duty precision scope rings. Lesser known is the fact that Seekins makes a mighty fine precision hunting rifle.
Of quality that rivals full custom rifles costing twice the price, the Havak is built on a custom-grade action, fit with a superb match-quality barrel, and properly bedded into a real-deal superlight carbon-fiber stock.
The CNC-machined action is perfectly square and true, and each bolt’s lugs are lapped to its individual action. Barrels are precision-grade with 5R rifling and are of surprisingly large diameter. This provides the stiffness necessary for true precision, and deep fluting reduces weight to mountain-rifle levels.
This rifle’s only disadvantage is the non-configurable stock. LOP is what it is, and if you want an adjustable cheekrest, you’ll have to use an add-on. On the plus side, the stock is incredibly light, shockingly stiff, and as strong as a railroad tie.
A hunting buddy ordered one in 6.5 Creedmoor and received the built-to-order rifle within three months. To date, no ammo groups over one MOA, and Hornady’s 147-grain ELD-Match factory load clusters like amorous flies, averaging a scant 0.40 inch.
Christensen Arms MPR
If you like the chassis-stock look, this outstanding rifle is your poison. Built on Christensen’s excellent custom-level action with a large-diameter, lightweight, match-grade barrel wrapped in carbon fiber, it’s bedded into a fully configurable, folding chassis.
Excellent ergonomics are provided via the easily adjustable stock. Outstanding accuracy and ammo tolerance come from the carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel. Carbon fiber tends to tame barrel oscillations while stiffening its spine, resulting in a tube that’s bull-barrel consistent but mountain-rifle light. Combined with the handlapped match-tolerance bore, it typically provides incredible levels of accuracy and consistency.
While hunters may balk at the folding stock with its aluminum parts (aluminum is cold and noisy in the field), those who give the MPR a chance will be pleasantly surprised at its friendliness. Skin-to-stock surfaces are carbon fiber or rubberized, minimizing the cold-touch factor, and being able to fold the rifle up and sling it on your back while scaling treacherous terrain is a wonderful advantage.
I tested one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Amazingly, not one in eight loads tested via three consecutive five-shot groups without allowing the barrel to cool averaged over one MOA.