Best Precision Rifle: 2018 Buyer’s Guide

Precision rifles are both a bit of a marketing gimmick, and a lot of a really nice rifle.
Best Precision Rifle - Featured Image

The precision rifle concept is a fairly new concept. That isn’t to say the idea of precision, long range bolt action rifles is new, but rather the particular configuration that tends to be promoted as a precision rifle.

A sniper rifle is a high-precision rifle designed for sniper missions. Go to  best sniper rifle article.

Combining features of a hunting rifle, benchrest rifle, sniper rifle and modern tactical rifles, precision rifles are a way to improve the ergonomics and handling of a bolt action rifle, while also taking advantage of the accuracy inherent in bolt action rifles.

Taking styling and ergonomic cues from trends in AR-15 style rifles, many precision rifles use stocks, pistol grips, and handguards that were first designed for the AR-15, which allows them to take advantage of the huge array of these kinds of parts on the market, permitting nearly unlimited customization of a rifle by the end user.

In a way, the precision rifle is one of those rare things that does many things well. Because precision rifles focus on the best parts of what  make a bolt action rifle so accurate, and combine them with modularity and modern ergonomics, they are capable of being used as target guns, hunting rifles, and even marksman and sniper rifles by military and law enforcement.

Typically precision rifles come in popular accuracy or hunting rounds like .308 Winchester or .223 Remington. But you can get them in .22LR and .338 Lapua Magnum as well, along with a number of other popular calibers.

Suffice it to say, there is a precision rifle for you, ranging from mild to wild. Let’s take a look at some of the best precision rifle on the market.

Best Precision Rifle Comparison

Rifle

Caliber

Weight (lbs)

Capacity

Barrel length

Length

22LR

6.8

10-15

18"

38"

223

9.24

10

20"

38.5"

22LR

xx

xx

xx

xx

338 Lapua Mag

338 Lapua Mag

xx

5

26"

50"

308

9.8

10

20"

42.75"

6.5 Creedmoor

xx

10

20-24-26"

xx

What Makes the Best Precision Rifle?

The best precision rifle should be accurate. That much is a given, but is there more that should go into one? We’ve looked at a few different designs in calibers ranging from .22 rimfire to .338 Lapua Magnum, and there are a few things that tend to be common. They have a “tactical” look, which really anymore is a cool way of saying “they take styling cues from AR style rifles or similar modern firearms. And that really means they are ergonomic and comfortable. Sticking a pistol grip, Picatinny rail, and maybe M-Lok slots on a gun’s handguard doesn’t make it tactical, it makes it practical. And accurate rifles are practical rifles. The same thing goes for a threaded muzzle. While anti-gun politicians whine about this horrible feature, a threaded muzzle is a must have for brakes that improve accuracy and sound suppressors that save your hearing and reduce noise pollution.

When choosing the best precision rifle, pick your favorite caliber first. There are many competing models in popular calibers. Comfort, the desired level of user customization that is available, and price point will all come into play when choosing a precision rifle. All precision rifles use certain common themes, like a free floating barrel, adjustable trigger, some sort of pistol grip stock, and the ability to mount high powered optics. What that leaves then is whatever combination of features you will value the most. At a minimum, one should probably look for AR-15 compatible stocks and pistol grips, as those two parts can be easily swapped out and there are huge numbers of stocks and grips to choose from, making it possible to quickly personalize your rifle. Ultimately though, choosing the best precision rifle has to be your choice based on a number of factors that matter to you.

The Best .308 Precision Rifle

The .308 Winchester, or it’s slightly modified NATO variant, 7.62 NATO hardly need any introduction. Likely the most popular sporting and military cartridge in the world, this round is as much at home in a bolt action deer rifle, as it is in a belt fed machine gun. Famed for accuracy and hard hitting stopping power since the early 1950’s, this is a round that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Ruger Precision Rifle

Ruger Precision Rifle

Nor is there much need to introduce the Ruger Precision Rifle. Likely the single most influential rifle in the precision rifle market, it could also be considered the best precision rifle by virtue of sales numbers alone. Taking advantage of the huge array of AR-15 parts available to the aftermarket, one might think of the Ruger Precision Rifle as a combination of the best features of a bolt action rifle wedded to the best features of an AR-15.

Starting with the M-Lok handguard which is just like one you can install on your favorite AR, you then find out the entire barrel assembly can be removed with AR tools. The pistol grip is also AR pattern, and while Ruger ships their precision rifle with an amazingly nice buttstock that is adjustable for length of pull and comb height, you can still mount any AR style stock on there if you like. Even the barrel is threaded to take any standard .308 AR-10 style muzzle devices, or to attach a suppressor.

The receiver includes a top Picatinny rail with 20moa elevation, making it ideal for mounting overly large scopes for long range shooting. You can mount almost any sort accessory on the M-Lok with either removable rail sections or accessories designed to attach directly to a M-Lok slot.

Ruger designed their best precision rifle to work with common Magpul PMAG magazines, and have loaded it down with more advanced features, like inline recoil path to improve accuracy potential, oversized bolt handle that can be removed and easily replaced with a different bolt handle design if desired, and of course an adjustable match target grade trigger. There is a lot to love about this rifle, which truly makes it one of the best precision rifles on the market today.

The Best .223 Precision Rifle

Savage Arms 10 BA Stealth

Savage Arms 10 BA Stealth

Let’s take a look at the Savage Arms 10 BA Stealth in .223. This is probably the best all around .223 precision rifle out there. Featuring an AR style buttstock, and pistol grip, a lightweight aluminum chassis with M-Lok cutouts for accessory mounting, a top Picatinny rail for optics mounting, and a factory blueprinted action mated to a threaded, heavy fluted target barrel, this precision rifle is silencer ready, and factory tuned for accuracy. Add in the extremely nice AccuTrigger Savage is famous for, and you’ve got yourself a real winner.

Starting from the rear, because this rifle uses an AR style adjustable stock and tube, it is possible to swap out any sort of adjustable stock you might want. There are tons of different AR stocks on the market, including ones with adjustable cheekpieces and finer length of pull adjustments. The same goes for the AR style pistol grip. It is an easy thing to quickly swap out to one you might like better if you are so inclined.

The threaded muzzle is a nice touch, as many people enjoy shooting their .223 precision rifles with a silencer. Not only is that just good manners at the range, but it also protects your hearing, and the hearing of others around you when hunting. Plus, law enforcement snipers may value that ability to suppress their gun for tactical reasons.

There are a couple of potential shortcomings that may bother some folks about the Savage 10 BA Stealth, but they are hardly dealbreakers. The chassis does not feature any sort of AR style handguard like some precision rifles, but there is plenty of real estate for attaching M-Lok accessories and rails, so it is hardly a real issue.

More irritating is the fact that Savage didn’t build their rifle to take common AR-15 magazines. On the other hand, you don’t need hundreds of rounds laid out in 30 round mags with a bolt action precision rifle. When you consider the many pros of this rifle, like a monolithic aluminum chassis, and fluted barrel, it’s not hard to see that it’s a pretty impressive .223 precision rifle.

The Best .22 LR Precision Rifle

There are actually several .22LR precision rifles on the market. Not surprisingly, Ruger makes one, as does Keystone Sporting Arms. We’ll take a look at two different ones, because they both serve similar, yet wildly different segments of the precision rifle market.

A .22 precision rifle may be seen as a “training rifle”, allowing use of a cheaper, smaller round and rifle to substitute for shooting a larger, more expensive and difficult to shoot round. A .22 is also simply fun to shoot, which when combined with the precision rifle concept creates a great rifle to train and shoot with.

Crickett Precision Rifle

Crickett Precision Rifle

The Crickett Precision Rifle is a unique precision rifle, inasmuch as it is marketed to the youth shooter market. Typically such rifles are more traditional in appearance, and are meant as first guns for children to learn gun safety and basic marksmanship skills with. They are invariably single shot, and require the bolt be manually cocked, and come with extensive safety features.

Keystone Sporting Arms dominates that youth rifle market with their various Crickett rifles, including the surprising Crickett Precision Rifle. This precision rifle is a classic Crickett youth rifle dressed up with a threaded, free floating barrel, pistol grip and adjustable stock. A perfect introduction to modern rifle styling, advanced marksmanship, and simply something different to shoot, this is a great first time rifle for new shooters.

Ruger Precision Rimfire Rifle

Ruger Precision Rimfire Rifle

Ruger probably has done more than any other company to popularize the precision rifle concept, and make it accessible to large numbers of shooters. Ruger has also long dominated the .22 rimfire market with their popular 10/22 rifles, so it is no surprise that they would also make a .22LR precision rifle.

Ruger’s .22 precision rifle is unique in that it plays up to the traditional training role of the .22LR, by allowing the user to modify the bolt pull to match the long stroke of a centerfire rifle. This allows the shooter to retain the same habits and movements operating the bolt on the .22 precision rifle as they would also have on a centerfire version. The Ruger Precision Rifle also uses standard AR-15 style pistol grips and 10/22 magazines, which allows use of common components for modification. This is probably the singularly best .22lr precision rifle on the market today.

The Best .338 Lapua Magnum Precision Rifle

The .338 Lapua Magnum was designed in the 1980’s as a dedicated sniper round. Intended to fill the gap between .300 Winchester Magnum and the enormous .50 BMG, the .338 Lapua Magnum has become a wildly successful sniper and sporting cartridge. With that in mind, we’ve chosen the Remington 700 Tactical Chassis Rifle as the best .338 Lapua Magnum precision rifle.

Remington 700 Tactical Chassis Rifle

Remington 700 Tactical Chassis Rifle

The Remington 700 is a great American success story. A rifle that is literally just as much at home as a deer rifle, or a military issued sniper rifle. Few modern sporting rifles can make that distinction, and none are as classically American as the Remington 700. Used as an official or unoffical sniper rifle in a variety of calibers since the Vietnam War, today this rifle is used as a platform to build some of the most state of the art sniper systems available.

Or you can just order one from Remington.

The Model 700 Tactical Chassis Rifle can be had with a 24” or 26” barrel, ships with an adjustable Magpul stock, a Picatinny rail topped handguard, and of course the entire gun is fitted into a MDT TAC21 chassis. There are other extra features too, like an AR-15 pistol grip that is easily changed for a different design if you like, and the really awesome externally adjustable trigger.

Usually when adjusting a trigger, you have to at least partly field strip the rifle, but using the MDT chassis, you are able to adjust your trigger pull almost on the fly with just a single simple tool. This is a great away to modify your rifle whenever you like it, instead of tinkering around with a field stripped rifle, and hoping what felt good when your gun was apart still feels good when it’s time to shoot it.

While not as refined in some ways like the Ruger Precision Rifle, this offering from Remington weds the idea of the everyman’s precision rifle, with military grade sniper technology that is a bit more specialized than a common precision rifle. Really, this is a great example of how blurry the line between precision rifle and sniper rifle is.

Ruger Precision Rimfire Rifle

Ruger Precision Rimfire Rifle

Ruger probably has done more than any other company to popularize the precision rifle concept, and make it accessible to large numbers of shooters. Ruger has also long dominated the .22 rimfire market with their popular 10/22 rifles, so it is no surprise that they would also make a .22LR precision rifle.

Ruger’s .22 precision rifle is unique in that it plays up to the traditional training role of the .22LR, by allowing the user to modify the bolt pull to match the long stroke of a centerfire rifle. This allows the shooter to retain the same habits and movements operating the bolt on the .22 precision rifle as they would also have on a centerfire version. The Ruger Precision Rifle also uses standard AR-15 style pistol grips and 10/22 magazines, which allows use of common components for modification. This is probably the singularly best .22lr precision rifle on the market today.

The Best 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Rifle

6.5 Creedmoor is an increasingly popular cartridge in bolt action precision rifles.

Based on the .30 TC, which in turn is based off the .308 Winchester, it is incredibly easy to build a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle, as you really only have install a 6.5 barrel on a .308 rifle action. 

However, what makes the 6.5 Creedmoor so impressive are the awesome ballistics.

Capable of sub MOA groupings at 1000 yards in skilled hands with a good rifle, the 6.5 Creedmoor brings reach out and touch something capability to platforms that usually bottom out around 800 yards or so.

Which means of course, that the best 6.5 Creedmoor precision rile needs to be something truly amazing.

Howa Australian Precision Chassis Rifle

Howa Australian Precision Chassis Rifle.jpg

The Howa Australian Precision Rifle is quite likely the most affordable 6.5 Creedmoor precision rifle. Easily found under a $1000, it has the expected AR-15 compatible furniture, which allows for easy customization, a free floating barrel inside an M-Lok compatible handguard, blueprinted action, special match trigger, and plenty of room to install your favorite scope.

In fact, you can even order this precision rifle as an already scoped package, making it possible to have a truly turn key precision rifle system straight from the factory. What is especially nice is the LUTH-AR MBA-4 adjustable stock. Featuring a unique, easily adjustable stock comb, you can fit this stock to your unique needs in a matter of just a couple of minutes, which of course makes for a more accurate gun.

Naturally, the Howa Australian Precision Rifle is also threaded for a muzzle brake or silencer, making it ready for hunting, polite target shooting or even law enforcement sniper use. The fact that this rifle can be sold so cheaply is a testimony to the use of plenty of off the shelf technology and parts, which makes it possible to invest in a better trigger and barrel, while still keeping the price crazy low.

Customizing a Precision Rifle

We’ve already discussed in some depth how many of the best precision rifles use AR-15 parts in their build. After all, these are some of the  most common gun parts available, there is a huge industry devoted to providing these parts.

The three most common AR parts found on a precision rifle are buttstocks, pistol grips, and free floating handguards. There are quite literally thousands of these products available, and it would be impossible to cover them all here. Typically the best precision rifles will ship with a Magpul pistol grip and stock, or grip and stock inspired by those designs. The choice of stock depends on personal comfort and how you choose to use your rifle. The same goes with a pistol grip, while handguards are a more practical consideration and come in a bewildering variety.

Muzzle devices another easy way to customize your precision rifle. Check the thread pitch the manufacturer uses, and you can find a huge variety of muzzle brakes and flash hiders for the thread pitch and caliber of your precision rifle.

Conclusion

Precision rifles are both a bit of a marketing gimmick, and a lot of a really nice rifle.

Taking styling cues from modern semi automatic rifles, and combining them with design features that wring the most accuracy possible from a bolt action rifles, these guns do away with traditional and fairly static bolt action rifle design and open up a world of potential.

Often easily customizable, usually featuring removable magazines and AR-15 style furniture, precision rifles are the future of accurized bolt action rifles for hunting, competition and law enforcement use.

While more expensive that other bolt action rifles, they are basically a “semi-custom” rifle built to standards that would have previously required going to a gunsmith and having a one-off target or match grade rifle built.

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern mass production, what once was a custom rifle, is now a production rifle, and there has never been a better time to buy a precision rifle!

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