Sniper rifles are cool. There is no denying that. The problem is that many people can’t afford to shell out the massive amounts of money to build a really decent precision rifle. While a standard out-of-the-box hunting rifle will do fine for most applications, there are a few features that snipers need on their weapons to make them hold up to the heavy use these types of rifles get. Many of the guns that come with these features start around $2,000 and skyrocket from there. Heavy barrels, proper bedding, mil-dot scopes, and bipods don’t typically come for free with a hunting gun. Since I’m a bit of a penny pincher, I decided to find out how cheaply I could build a functional no joke precision rifle that would hold up—while still looking a bit tacticool. Our first step is to define what exactly a sniper rifle is. In this industry, marketers and manufacturers regularly slap the words sniper and tactical on just about everything. This is usually all the excuse they need to charge a premium for their product. However, for the purposes of this post, let’s simply say that a sniper rifle is a firearm that is capable of consistently hitting combat effective groups at ranges exceeding that of iron-sighted carbines and handguns.
Have you ever noticed that your first five or six rounds at the range fly exactly where you want them to go, but after your barrel heats up a bit, rounds start flying off course? Thinner barrels on some hunting rifles are more susceptible to the effects of heat and fouling. To combat this, many precision shooters utilize heavy barreled rifles. While this does add weight, it keeps the rounds on point for longer. A properly maintained heavy barrel can stay consistent through many boxes of shells. The Marlin Model X7VH comes in at just above $300. Chambered in .308, this heavy-barreled rifle comes from the factory with a scope base attached. This will make it easier to pair with some rings, but more on that later. Marlin’s Pro-Fire adjustable trigger allows for precisely customizing the trigger-pull to your liking. Metal alloy pillars support the action to provide a solid and consistent platform for shooting. This type of free-floating design helps maintain a higher degree of accuracy. Marlin fluted the bolt to decrease weight—it isn’t much, but I admit those fluted bolts are always pleasing to look at. They are supposed to make the action a bit smoother as well. To top it all off, the stock features a raised cheek piece and a Soft-Tech recoil pad. This is a highly accurate rifle for the price. I think they could charge twice this, and it would still be a fair deal.
I thumbed through quite a few scopes before I found one that would be our next piece of the puzzle. The Bushnell Elite Tactical Riflescope is a fixed 10x40mm. The 10 represents the magnification, and the 40mm represents the size of the objective. For those new guys, the objective is the larger lens at the end of the scope. Bushnell Elite’s have an outstanding reputation for their clarity and durability. This particular model has a mil-dot reticle and since it is a fixed 10-power scope, the dots will line up perfectly to the mil standard. This configuration will allow you to hold over targets at greater distances and still be precise. Check out this article on mil-dots to learn more.
Since we can’t duct-tape a scope to a rifle, we’re going to need some rings. Normally, I tell people to buy the best rings they can afford. Like most things in the gun world, you get what you pay for. However, despite their price, these rings from Maxima are more than functional. With the relatively light recoil of the .308, these will be more than adequate. The rings are low which means the scope will be as close to the rifle as possible. This provides an easier angle to keep your cheek on the butt of the gun—that means better shooting!
The last puzzle piece if optional, but might come in handy for those impromptu prone engagements. The Shooter’s Ridge bipod mounts underneath the forend of your buttstock and gives you an adjustable 6-9 inch stable platform for precision shooting. The legs fold underneath for easy transporting, and the entire bipod easily attaches to your sling swivel stud. For just over 30 bucks, it won’t break the bank either.
The requirements for an effective sniper rifle are not as stringent as you might think. All the parts you need are readily available and most of it is quite affordable. With just a little effort, you’ll have people asking your advice at the range when you pull in those impossibly tight groups at ridiculous distances.