When building a rifle, everyone always likes to focus on the major components. Action, stock, scope and rings, barrel, trigger and muzzle device. If you’re buying a factory rifle, seeing which rifle off-the-shelf that meets your needs, is typically already set up with a barreled action in a chassis or stock. However, most shooters tend to miss these few items that play an important role into maximizing you and your rifle’s capability, making you a well rounded precision rifleman.
Here are 5 things that will make shooting a precision rifle a better experience for you. Not only a better shooting experience but it also unlocks your potential behind a rifle while gaining consistency, accuracy and speed.
1. ARCA Rail
This is probably my favorite advancement in the precision rifle industry. Actually, it’s more or less an adoption, as photographers and videographers have been using it for awhile to quickly attach and detach their cameras and lenses to tripods. I honestly don’t know how I shot and spotted from a tripod before, but the ARCA rail has been game changing.
I can quickly mount all my rifles with an ARCA rail on top of my tripods to clean the rifle or if I need to shoot from it. There’s no need to carry an extra table or shooting bag in my pack, especially if I plan on spending five days into the backcountry. This season, I shot my antelope directly attached via ARCA to the top of my tripod from a kneeling position so that I could clear some sage brush.
The ARCA Swiss has allowed me to quickly change out bipods, depending on where I’m going to bring the rifle or how I’m going to use it. For competitions, I’ll always bring a spare bipod such as an Accu-Tac or an Atlas PRS if I’m using my Ckye-pod as a primary. This is a nice to have when I need to quickly deploy the bipods for a stage that requires both positional shooting and a modified/regular prone position. In the case I find myself in a position where I need more elevation for barrel, I can quickly slide the bipods back toward the balance point on the fly that will allow me to maintain a good relationship with my rear bag and support hand on the back of the buttstock.
A good set of bipods will make or break your shooting experience. Too many times, I’ve seen shooter’s skimp on this area only to be let down when shooting in practical environments. Having a solid set of bipods will help you control the recoil of your rifle and increase the stability of your firing position in the prone. Even on flat ranges, it’s important to have a bipod that cants/swivels. It’s frustrating to have to adjust your legs to get the right height so that your rifle is not canted. We’ll talk about why that’s important in the next section.
Avoid bipods that are made of polymer. From my experience, they don’t hold up well over time with consistent and hard use. The Harris BRM-S 6-9” bipod is still my favorite budget bipod that I recommend. I have several of them on my rifles that I use occasionally at precision rifle competitions. Ditch the standard sling swivel stud mount that it comes with because from our experience that’s the weakest part of the bipod and the first thing to fail during use. There is a lot of aftermarket support for these such as feet and different mounting systems to attach to your rifle.
Other features you should look for in a bipod depending on your application are: deployment, durability, weight, adjustability, and height. Some other bipods I use on a regular basis for competition are the Atlas CAL Gen 2, Thunderbeast Bipods and the MDT Ckye-pods.
A sling serves two purposes for the rifleman. One is rifle retention. Two is to aid the shooter in their shooting position.
Whether you’re operating in an urban or mountainous environment it’s nice to be able to sling your rifle across or on the side of your body that will free up your hands. In urban areas, I find the sling convenient when I need to climb a ladder. Or in the mountains when I need to ground my pack in order to make a short movement or stalk to an area with possible contact.
Once I build a shooting position, especially with time and opportunity on my side, I’ll use my sling to help aid with stability and recoil control. This is done with a two point sling, which allows your non-shooting elbow to create fine-tuning tension that creates additional rearward pressure of the rifle back into your rifle to shoulder connection. I’ve seen this reduce the wobble zone and increase recoil management, which will minimize the amount of time it will take you to recover from recoil so that you can see where your bullet went and process the information downrange.
I am a fan of any two-point style slings that has a slider, allowing the shooter to quickly adjust the slack in the sling for manipulation. The Magpul PRS-1 sling is still one of my all-time favorite slings for both a carbine and precision rifle. I’ve also used it for my Leofoto tripod.
4. Bubble Level
Most shooters, both new and experienced, will always assume that their target is level to the ground and immediately try to level their reticle with it as they go through their aiming process. If you’ve ever shot in the mountains you know that there’s no such thing as “leveling to the horizon” when you’re looking down draws or up mountains.
There are a bunch of articles out there that explain the importance of having a scope level, with different visual diagrams of how cant affects your shot at longer distances. Long story short, with a .308 shooting 175 SMKs, 1 degree of cant will cause 9 inches of horizontal offset at 1000 yards. We already have wind to deal with, so let’s not add another variable with a simple solution such as mounting an anti-cant device on our optic.
Although I run Spuhr mounts on my rifle, which have an integral bubble level inside, I find it difficult to see. It is unnatural for me to look below the optic or my field of view just to look at the level. This is why I run a level that attaches to my optic. Since I’m already trained to look up in my peripheral to see my elevation turret when I’m dialing for a new target, it feels more natural to look up at the bubble level to ensure I am not canted.
There are a lot of great options on the market to choose from. Regular levels with an air bubble, ones with a ceramic ball, and electronic ones all have their pros and cons. My favorite level that’s easy to mount and aesthetically pleasing is the Flatline Ops Halo-X which is a standard bubble level. Checking my level is incorporated into my “Firing Controls” during my Shooter’s Checklist. Right before I decide to press the trigger, I’ll take a quick glance at my level to make sure I’m good then make a wind call.
5. DOPE Card
A DOPE card is the cheapest upgrade you can put on your rifle. In most practical situations as a hunter or professional sniper, you’re not going to want to be messing around with a ballistic solver to get your firing solution. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great range finding binoculars on the market, with ballistics, but pen and paper doesn’t require batteries and it’s easy to water proof. As a sniper, using a DOPE card was the most practical way we used to get rounds on target and, now as a hunter, I have used a DOPE card to kill all my animals.
There are several variations to mount your DOPE card. For my competition set ups, I run a Hawk Hill Data Card holder that directly attaches to my SPUHR optic mount. This is a great way to only use the data for the stage you are shooting and that allows me to keep my face on the gun without having to look down at an arm board.
As a sniper, I like to run an arm board and attach it to my buttstock when the rifle is stowed or I’m making movement to my position. When I get to my final firing position, I’ll be able to put the arm board on my non-shooting wrist.
As a hunter, same concept as a sniper, but the DOPE card will stay on the rifle. I use an old tactical ID holder that has a see through screen. I write all my data on a 3×5 note card with atmospherics of the area I’ll be operating in and I’ll always put clear tape on both sides of the card to waterproof it.
Can you be successful without any of these? Absolutely, but each of them help improve your long range consistency and accuracy, so why not get them to improve constantly.
Today, my goal is to intentionally place that bullet exactly where I want it, at any given distance. And I’m not afraid to utilize the tools that will aide me in that process.