With Features of his SWAT and Hunting .308s in mind, a Shooter Creates ‘a Quality Rifle made Specifically for my needs.’
Story and photos by Nick Perna
I own a couple of excellent precision long-distance tactical rifles. One is a Ruger Ranch rifle, topped with a Vortex 3×12 scope. It’s a nice, fairly compact gun, good for packing out in the bush. The other gun is my old SWAT rifle, a Remington 700. Both are .308 caliber. My old sniper rifle is a beast, to say the least. It has a 26-inch bull barrel. For optics, it sports an old-school Leupold 3×12, a reliable, no-frills affair. Both have bipods. They are both excellent rifles. Each one has accounted for multiple wild pigs and other game. Both have a few drawbacks, though. For the Ruger, the stock is a little short for my taste. The only case of “scope eye” I have ever suffered is from that gun. For the unacquainted, scope eye – also known as scope bite – is when the eyepiece of the optic collides with the shooter’s forehead when fired, causing bruising, bleeding and embarrassment. It happened to me when I initially purchased the gun and was zeroing the scope. It’s now my wife’s hunting rifle.
As for my old sniper gun, it’s a little on the heavy side. The bull barrel, carbon fiber stock, optic, bipod and night vision mount add up to some weight. It really becomes apparent on long stalks, when carrying it can get a little fatiguing, which is not something you want to be concerned with when you have to take an important shot.
SO, I DECIDED to build a gun that incorporated the best features of both guns. I opted to base it off of the Remington 700 platform. I did this for a few reasons. First and foremost, my familiarity with it. Second, it’s a proven system with a long, successful track record. Third, there are a lot of easily obtainable aftermarket options available for it. Most importantly, though, I knew where to get a good deal on one – I picked a used one up at a local gun store for less than $400. On the upside, it came with a solid scope mount, which saved me the trouble of having to shell out another 200 bucks to get a good one. On the downside, it had an internal magazine. To load it, you have to pull the bolt back and drop the rounds in the mag. Not a huge deal, but not what I want in a tactical gun. But what do you expect for only 400 bucks?
I opted to stay with .308 for economic reasons as well. I have plenty of bullets in that caliber on hand. There are a lot of great precision rifle calibers on the market today, but the ammo is expensive. Another reason for sticking with the old 7.62mm is that this rifle is primarily going to be used in California as a hunting rifle.
Here in California, you can’t use ammunition with lead in the projectile. You also can’t have ammo delivered to you without going through a licensed firearms dealer or gun store. This means hunting ammo is hard to come by and I already have a limited amount of copper-slug .308 ammo socked away. Plus, being a former law enforcement sniper, I’m familiar with the ballistic abilities of the round.
THE ORIGINAL STOCK it came with was adequate, but I wanted something more specifically tailored to my needs. No need to look any further than Magpul. Magpul is to gun geeks what Lego is to kids. Magpul provides plug and-play add-ons and accessories for most modern firearms. The Magpul Hunter 700 stock is a great product for anyone looking to accessorize their bolt gun. It’s made from reinforced polymers with aluminum bedding for the portions that attach to the rifle’s action. There are multiple M-Lok slots to mount a bipod, sling, lights and so on. There are also predrilled holes for using traditional sling mounts. The stock has a rubber recoil butt pad, a spacer system where spacers can be added or taken away to change the length of the stock, and an adjustable cheek riser. I picked one up for around $250.
Keeping with the Lego theme, I also purchased a Magpul bolt action magazine well and five-round magazine. This fit nicely into the Hunter stock and allowed me to upgrade from the internal mag to an external one. Installing the mag well and stock was super simple. Once I separated the old stock from the action, I removed the internal mag housing. I then placed the Magpul mag well in the Magpul stock. The last step was to reattach them to the rifle’s receiver via two bolts. The product costs about $110. I chose not to Loctite them, instead opting to ensure they were hand-tight, and marking the screws with a Sharpie to make sure they don’t drift over time. I did this just in case I need to separate the stock from the action for whatever reason. This proved to be a good call when I tried to mount the Magpul bipod mount onto the M-Lok slot. I couldn’t get the bolts to line up properly in the slot, so I ended up having to take the stock off the action to facilitate this. There’s probably an easier way to do this, but YouTube didn’t provide one.
FOR THE OPTIC, I went with a lesser-known brand, Huskemaw Optics of Wyoming. Huskemaw makes excellent scopes. Their primary clients are hunters. This is one well-built scope! It is built to survive the rigors of backwoods hunting. It has a second focal plane reticle sandwiched in between two layers of glass for added protection. You can order a bullet drop compensator, or BDC, based on the specific ammunition you are using. Adjustments are in ⅓ minute of angle. This means that at 100 yards, if you click the windage or elevation once, it will move the point of impact roughly ⅓ inch. Most hunting and tactical scopes use ¼ MOA. I’m not sure why Huskemaw opted to do this, but it doesn’t take away from the overall functionality of this excellent scope. After adding a Harris bipod, I called it complete. I was fortunate enough to have already had the scope and bipod, so that kept the overall cost of this build well under $1,000. After completing assembly, I ran the gun through its paces. After a few quick adjustments, I shot the three-round group shown above at 100 yards. Not bad. There is nothing better than building something exactly how you want it. This was a fun project that resulted in a quality rifle made specifically for my needs.