One of my all-time favorite rifles is the Desert Tech SRS, the Covert model of the SRS made an already short precision rifle into a ridiculously shorter rifle on par with some SBR’s. The popularity of the SRS Covert speaks volumes about the utility of a short-barreled precision rifle.
Don’t miss the video below!
Why so Short?
Why would anybody want a short-barreled precision rifle in the first place? Like everything else in shooting, your setup depends greatly on the intended purpose. If you plan on shooting from a bench all day, then having a twenty-pound rifle that’s forty-inches long won’t matter. But if you’re planning on deploying from a vehicle, or maneuvering through any kind of obstacles then a shorter rifle is much more practical. And even if you’re aren’t confined to small spaces, a shorter rifle is still just handy to operate. Small pistol caliber and rifle carbines are used almost exclusively for shooting scenarios that require hasty movement through obstacles and barricades, the size makes them ideal.
Having a precision rifle of the same size gives all the same benefits, with the added one of precision shot placement. Law enforcement snipers have embraced this trend in rifles as it suits many of their operational needs. The typical distance used in LE shooting engagements is pretty short, which leads into our next subject.
But the Velocity!!
All else being equal, a short barrel will provide less velocity than an equivalent barrel of longer length. As the propellant burns inside the barrel, the bullet is accelerated towards the muzzle, and almost always it reaches a higher velocity as you extend the barrel. This gives more time for the pressure to accelerate the bullet.
So short barrels are slower, but for many marksmen, it is an irrelevant point. For example, if you’re the police marksman trying to engage a target from across the street, the ignoble target in the window opposite wont know the difference between 2600 feet per second, and 2400 feet per second. And though he wont give the velocity any thought it will likely blow his mind anyways. Many barrel cut-down tests have been shown on the reduced velocity of shorter barrels, the results are interesting. On average, a 308 will lose around 250 feet per second when going from twenty-six inches down to sixteen inches. That is certainly not insignificant, but can you shoot accurately with only 2400 feet per second? And furthermore, can you shoot accurately at long-range?
Other cartridges are similarly affected with barrel length, some more than others. But some would be surprised by what you can do even with these reduced velocity rifles. Looking into ballistic calculation, a thirty caliber 175 grain bullet fired at 2650 feet per second has already dropped to a velocity of 2415 feet per second by the time it reaches one hundred yards. So if your starting out at basically that velocity you’ve only lost about that distance in your overall range capacity. Going sub-sonic is typically where things go amiss, so we’ll call that the end of the line. The above data reduces your effective range from just over nine-hundred down to eight hundred yards, this only matters if you’re shooting that far, and what you intend on doing with the bullet when it gets there. If you are just trying to hit a target, then you’re fine, but if you’re trying to kill something then you may need something a little more portly.
Shooting long-range with shorter barreled rifles is not as hard as some would make you believe, and much of the shortcomings can be made up with better calibers, bullets, better propellants and so on. Despite the sixteen-inch 308’s reduced muzzle velocity, I’ve still been able to stretch it out to over twelve-hundred yards in good conditions. But if you want a better option there are plenty of them, an 18 inch 300 WM is another one I’ve shot quite a bit. And it is perfectly suitable for crushing targets out to 1400 yards and more, hitting close to a mile is certainly doable, it just depends on your energy requirements. I also have a sixteen-inch .260 Remington, and an eighteen-inch 6.5 Creedmoor, and they are both very useful inside a kilometer.
A longer barrel with more velocity will have some advantages, but so does the shorter barrel. Shorter barrels will be stiffer than a longer barrel, which will result in less barrel whip. Many people are of the opinion that shorter, stiffer barrels are more accurate than their longer counterparts, and that the benefits of stiffer and more consistent barrel harmonics outweigh the loss in velocity. In the end, you have to dance with who brought you, so make your choice accordingly.
The purpose here today was not to convince you to chop down your barrel, there are pros and cons to both long and short barrels. But I hope we put a seed in your mind, that longer isn’t always better, faster isn’t always best. As you put together your next rifle project in your mind, consider the possibility that going short might be a great option you’ll appreciate later.
The RPR took the precision rifle world for quite a ride when it first came out. Ruger made an excellent move by introducing an affordable rifle into an arena that was dominated by expensive custom built rifles and actual sniper rifles. And in another stroke of genius they managed to make a rifle that appealed to the AR 15 crowd at the same time, which brought even more customers into their fold.
The Ruger Precision Rifle utilizes a bolt action receiver that is built into a chassis. It is fed by SR-25 pattern 308 sized P-mags for the 308, 6mm, and 6.5 chambered rifles. The rifle seems to almost clone the aesthetics of the extremely popular AR 15, using the same pistol grip, and similar operation for the safety. The model I have also includes a folding butt stock for shortening the footprint of the rifle when transporting. The twenty-four inch hammer forged barrel uses 5R rifling which if you ask the internet is the only good kind of rifling. The one in eight twist barrel is ideal for launching the heavy for caliber bullets that many long range shooters prefer. The ten and a half pound rifle is about forty-five inches long unless you fold it, in which case it is thirty-five inches long.
Having been one of those in the community with a preference for the custom built rifle, it took me some time to actually give the Ruger a try. To be honest I did look down at it a bit, perhaps like many others I was angry that it shot just as good as rifles that cost twice as much or more.
But it didn’t take long for the RPR to prove its worth to those in the community, and now a days its common to see them shooting at top PRS events. I shot in the Hornady Precision Rifle Challenge this past summer and saw several RPR’s including Doug Koenig who did extremely well shooting with significantly more expensive competitors, taking home the top Production Rifle trophy.
I figured it was time for me to open up to the Ruger, so I took the opportunity when it came. I opened up the box, to find the all black rifle complete with a magazine, bipod and a few other items. I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the rifle, and get a feel for the controls and such. For me there are couple things that stand out when first handling a rifle, the first one is throwing the bolt. I shouldered the rifle and ran the bolt a few times, you can tell a lot about a rifle by the feel of the bolt-throw. The Ruger was smooth and had a positive lockup feel when closed into battery, you could also feel a metal on plastic sensation a little bit which I assumed to be the piece at the rear of the bolt. Not that there was anything negative about it, as plastic on metal frequently gives a low-friction feeling which I do like. The bolt lift was not bad, but did take a little bit of getting used to. Not bad, obviously not as good as some of the other rifle actions frequently used today.
The next feature that seals the deal for me is the trigger pull. I don’t consider myself a trigger snob but I do enjoy a perfect trigger whenever I can. The trigger on the RPR was a good one, clean and without the abrasive skipping often felt on triggers of lower tiered firearms. I’ve never been a big fan of blade safeties, when they first came out many years ago, the first thing I did was figure out how to remove them. That being said I wasn’t so hateful of this one to look for a way to remove it.
The main safety was in the same place your traditional AR style rifle safety goes, which made it very convenient and familiar to use. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they put it on both sides like AR’s often do, but certainly not a deal breaker. The RPR runs on 308 sized P-Mags, and it came with a ten-round magazine. I would later try the twenty-round ones as well, just in case you ever needed to do some long strings of fire.
The folding buttstock of the rifle made it much shorter for transportation, and doubled as a quick way to remove the bolt for inspection, lube, or cleaning. Up front we had the hammer-forged twenty-four inch barrel inside a free-floated handguard. The muzzle of the barrel is threaded 5/8-24, which was great because I planned on mounting some stuff there.
The handguard on my particular rifle uses KeyMod for accessory attachment, but they are also available in the more modern and useful M-Lok. I secured the Atlas bipod to the pic rail underneath, and then I was ready to mount up a riflescope. Continue Reading Here…
With modern rifles and bullets, the distances we shoot at animals keeps creeping further and further out. But as bullets travel further away, they lose more and more velocity. How much they lose, and how fast they impact is a very important subject when it comes to cleanly killing an animal. We’ve killed many animals over the years, and its an interesting and important subject. And one particular instance is one I’d like to discuss today.
Last fall, a friend of mine shot a small deer at 900 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor using a 143 ELDX. This was certainly towards the end of the envelope of energy and velocity for that combo, but it did the job as good as one could hope. The deer took a single shot quartering away, the impact hit just behind the rib cage and passed completely through the animal, exiting through the front of the chest. The heart was punctured, and the deer made it about forty yards before tumbling down the hillside. Everything looked textbook as far as killing it cleanly and quickly. The impact velocity was right around 1800 FPS which according to Hornady should have been enough to open the bullet.
After much hiking to get to the deer, we found a massive blood trail and a perfectly perforated buck. We retraced his steps, as well as the video we recorded looking to see all the details. I was absolutely amazed when as we stood there recounting the events, I looked down to see the bullet laying there in the dirt, not far from where the deer lay dead. The bright copper shown against the damp hillside. Even though the bullet had hit a rock after exiting the deer, it had come to rest nearby. Our immediate impression was “that doesn’t look right”. The bullet had barely opened at all, it had only lost its plastic tip, and bent the front of the bullet off to one side. On further inspection back at the house, the bullet weighed 142.3 grains. Probably just the weight of the lost plastic tip.
Despite the bullet not opening as best we could tell, it still did plenty of damage. But it seems the 1800 FPS in this instance wasn’t enough to cause sufficient deformation of the bullet. This is one of the reasons I like to use “softer” bullets when shooting long-range, they are much easier to rupture.
Impact velocity greatly effects the bullets ability to do damage. I have found several bullets in elk over the years, that obviously didn’t do the job. Whoever shot those bullets may still be scratching their head wondering what happened. Bullets can fail to perform just like anything else, which is one reason why I stress shot placement so often. This event is a perfect example why, even though the bullet did not rupture as designed, it still made a hole through the most vital of organs, causing a quick death for the animal in question.
Distance to the target, and the impact velocity of any given bullet is just one of the many things marksmen need to take into account when evaluating a firing solution. Another anecdote featuring the same bullet; a friend of mine shot a cow elk at approximately 600 yards, the bullet impacted broadside passing through both lungs and stopping in the offside shoulder. Again this one had lost its tip, and barely opened. The cow made it into the trees a few dozen yards, where it lay down and expired. In this case one would surely expect the bullet to have opened, as the impact was likely in the 2200 FPS range. And again, due to good shot placement, it worked despite the bullet not opening.
These are of course a couple of anecdotal examples, and surely not a full representation of this particular bullets performance. But it is certainly food for thought, and something to keep in mind. I have gone into much more detail on the subject in this article about shot placement, I’d invite you to read that one as well, and we can carry on the discussion.
I hope these discussions are helpful, the game we hunt deserve the best skillset we can prepare to avoid undue suffering.
Has technology pushed back the goal posts in hunting?
I can remember, not too long ago, when shooting a deer from a distance like 600yds or more would get you raked over the coals by the general hunting public. I remember telling my own Father about my aspirations of hitting targets at 1000 yards, and hearing his skepticism. I remember a well known gunsmith telling me that it was silly to twist a .223 Remington barrel for 75 grain bullets and higher. “Everything else peeters out past six or seven hundred yards” I told him. Again, came the refrain; “you cant shoot that far.”
Like Ralphie, in the famous Christmas Story, I felt like nobody understood my dream. Nobody could see what I saw in my mind. But there was a wave coming, and it was fueled by science, technology, and at least in my case, a quest for ballistic perfection.
Don’t get me wrong here, its not that I simply wanted to kill something from as far away as possible, that could be borderline recklessness. What I wanted was something more, I wanted to build a rifle or rifles that would make me unstoppable at hitting small targets at distances like half a mile or more. And to that end the ability, if needed, to take my game wherever it presented itself be it near or far. It’s easy now, to see my former folly. I had focused so hard on equipment, and failed to see my part as a marksman that is equally important. Thankfully, these Rocky Mountains are a great educator. In today’s hardware driven market, it is hard not to fall for the sales pitch of this rifle will make you a sniper. Many of the best manufactures sell more than just hardware, they sell you training to go with it. Dont be a fool thinking that your wallet will make up for your aspirations.
You can buy accuracy to a degree, but you cant buy skill.
There is so much more to making a good shot, than just the hardware. Skill is equally important, perhaps more so. “Its the Indian, not the arrow” many people say. You can put a good rifle in the hands of a skilled marksman, and he will deal deadly force against anything within range. But even the finest precision rifle in the unwashed hands of a novice may be useless beyond its point blank aiming radius.
I should move on from the generalizations and get down to real information we can use. The foundations of a good shot are anchored firmly on several things, I dont claim any kind of authority or prestige, so I’ll just throw em out there in the order I see em.
A properly trained marksman, who can yield at least MOA accuracy in expected conditions
Ammunition matched to the rifle providing at least MOA accuracy
MOA is a good start, but ideally you should strive for much better
If you cover those three basic pillars, you are well on your way. But all three of them have been around for at least half a century, so why has it taken so long to break these time cemented barriers that I mentioned above? I think part of it is human nature, and conservative thinking.
If you cover these bases, all it takes is a little pinch of science and a dash of high tech equipment to shatter the barriers that once congested both minds and ranges.
Now lets talk a little bit about hunting. As I outlined in my last piece, killing an animal, is about placing enough energy in the right spot. To me, that is what accuracy is all about, being able to hit my target exactly where I want to. The capacity to place a shot accurately should be the main determining factor in a hunter’s killing radius. If two hundred yards is as far as you can shoot accurately, then you would be imprudent to shoot beyond that.
Now we have come back to my original point, which was people looking down their noses at long range shooting, and long range hunting in particular. Shooting animals at long range distances is a taboo subject, mainly because people have either shot beyond their accuracy envelope, or watched someone else do it, and experienced poor results (wounded/unrecovered animals). Nobody likes seeing things like that happen, so most will shy away from questionable shots, which is a safe and conservative choice.
And so it was for the better part of the twentieth century, few dared to push the limits, mostly those in competition or LE/Mil circles. But to the average shooter, and particularly the hunter, the subject remained taboo and legend.
The advent of technology has brought a miriad of supplies to the industry, this has allowed everyone, even rednecks like me the ability to crash through the taboo with impressive impacts.
Some of these technological advances are worth pointing out, in no particular order:
Better bullets with higher Ballistic Coefficients allowing the bullets to cheat wind and resistance, keeping them on track further.
Better propellants, giving higher velocities, more stable and efficient burns.
Compact, accurate, and affordable laser rangefinders, allowing marksmen to extract the data they require to make proper predictions.
Precise and accurate telescopic sights, to adjust their shots according to data with exactness.
Reticles that allow precise measurements and wind holds.
Chronographs, Doppler radar, and other bullet flight testing equipment.
Ballistic computers, inexpensive and incredibly valuable for predictions.
Handheld Weather Stations, giving exact local atmospheric data.
All of these tools, as well as others have not only become available to the average shooter, but they are affordable, and fit in a pocket. The science of shooting has also progressed greatly, even in the short time I have been following it. And again, it is all available right at your fingertips.
So it seems no small wonder then, that what once seemed nearly impossible, is now commonplace. Even as little as twenty years ago, who would shoot at something so far away that a guess could be off by hundreds of yards? And the target could barely be made out in your 3X9 scope? And even if you doped the wind right, and managed the correct holdover, your bullet may have run completely out of energy before it gets there.
These high tech gadgets have given us the tools to cross all those T’s and dot all the i’s. Now you hear about it at every end of the internet, on hunting forums and Facebook pages.
Which begs the question; Are we now living in a post short-range world? And is taking those long shots any more irresponsible with the help of today’s technology? I guess that depends on how you look at it. I have heard both sides of the argument for some time, and I have yet to find a compelling argument against this new anomaly as long as one does his due diligence. For starters, anybody can make a poor shot on an animal. If you hunt long enough, you will eventually make a bad shot, we’ve all seen it. Whether its caused by buck fever, lack of experience, weather conditions, equipment failure, or any one of a million other things that people can blame it on rightly or wrongfully. I’m not making an excuse for it, nor am I defending it, it just happens. I would go as far as to say that more animals are wounded and go unrecovered at close range, than at long range. Simply due to the numbers, the majority of hunters probably never shoot beyond 400 yards. Hitch that to their hit a paper plate at 100yds mindset, and you can count on some animals going unrecovered or lost.
We’ve seen people miss easy and simple shots, as well as make incredible and amazing shots. I’ve said it before, a good shot should be no surprise to a marksman, it should be expected after much practice and experience making same or similar shots in the same conditions and circumstances regardless of range.
We know what it takes to make a good shot, we outlined that above. Making a good shot is the same whether you are shooting 200 yards or 800 yards, the difference of course is the variables that come into play. For example, the wind at 200 yards is much less a factor than it is at 800 yards. What might only blow your bullet off course by an inch or so up close, may blow you completely off target at the further distance. Also, at 800 yards, one MOA is eight plus inches, which is why sub MOA is a much better goal.
As long as one considers all the additional variables and their consequence, they can be mitigated and overcome. Unless they cant be, what I mean by that is the further away your target the more downrange forces that simply cannot be anticipated unless you have forward observers or other assistance. And the further out the target, the more of these variables you have to worry about. Perhaps someday soon, technology will cover that as well.
Conditions will always dictate what you can and cant do, if it is a dead calm morning, you might be able to pull off something incredible. But if it is a switch wind breezy afternoon for example, it would be a wise choice to keep within your known envelope. A wise shooter, will always keep within his known realm of proficiency. But an even wiser shooter will recognize that his realm changes with atmosphere and weather. Keeping your finger in the air like a weak a politician, and paying close attention to what is happening around you, will go a long way towards letting you know when to shoot, or more importantly when not to shoot.
The ethics of long range hunting will be debated forever. There are those who think taking long shots will always be reckless, and there are those who are willing to take a long hard look at the data, make their calculations, and either take the shot, or choose another course of action.
Those who claim moral high ground, saying long range shots are unethical will always abound. But the truth is this; Not taking long range shots does not necessarily make you an ethical hunter, but staying inside your limits does. For some people, that limit may be four hundred yards, for others it might be twelve hundred yards. It is up to each individual to figure that out, and prove it to themselves repeatedly long before an animal falls in their crosshair.
I don’t hold anything against those who dislike long range shots, they are entitled to their opinion. But the irritating part of the debate comes when someone tells me (or anyone else) that you shouldn’t do that, simply because they cant do it. They love to make insults like; that’s not really hunting, or real hunters get closer. And it occasionally comes from people who hunt from a shoot house, with a Keurig and heater, overlooking senderos strewn with corn feeders on land so flat you cant see more than a hundred yards without jackin up the shoot house. Its really an ignorant position to take, particularly when you don’t know someone else’s skill-set or practices.
Just because a person can make a long shot, doesn’t mean they cant stalk into arrow range of an animal. There was a time where big bore muskets were used to shoot deer at what we today would consider archery range, should we go back in the name of purity? Would our ancestors look down their noses at our modern equipment thinking there is no challenge? It was the push for innovation that took us from those ancient smooth bores and stick bows to the rifle and/or bow you hunt with today.
Another problem with this way of thinking is that it is a never ending slippery slope. Long range hunting < spot and stalking < archery stalking < spear hunting < knife hunting < teeth and hands < etc. < etc. Where does it end? Are we so dedicated to our own ideal of hunting that we would deny another’s? Surely if a stalk into bow range is your thing, with wooden arrows and handmade broadheads, who am I to stop you? Despite having seen many wounded animals with arrows still in them, I wouldn’t argue that archery is unethical, nor would I want to keep people from doing it.
That leads me to my last point.
The worst thing that we hunters can do as a group, is to fracture off into different tribes pitted against each other. The anti hunting movement is growing wildly, everywhere you look there are people trying to take away our ability to hunt and fish the way we enjoy. We as a group need to stand together more than ever, for divided we will surely lose.
I used to be infuriated by the mass hordes of hunters that would flood my favorite hunting spots. It drove me nuts that they didn’t understand my plan, and walked right through my hunt. As years have passed, and age has toned my opinions, I have changed my attitude. Those hordes have just as much right to be there as I do, and I would rather it be other hunters interfering in my hunt than protesters.
Instead, I have evolved as a hunter. I now welcome these large groups of bush beaters, and like the predator that I am, I simply await the inevitable, like a hawk kiting in the sky. Instead of trying to beat them through the forest, and beat them to the stalk, I await the escaping game from a position where my skill allows me an advantage over the hordes. An advantage I intend to keep.
Technology and necessity have indeed pushed back the goal posts in todays hunt. I see nothing wrong with it, provided marksmen respect their prey enough to become swift and lethal, and stay within their known limits.