It’s helpful to consider the target’s distance when selecting rifles for just about any task. Longer distances require stiffer stocks and larger cartridges. There’s also the expected effect at the selected distance. Is it just to knock some paint off a target or is there an animal that needs to be anchored in one shot? Here’s a handful of our top picks for several different distances.
Close distances mean rifles chambered in well-mannered cartridges. Chief among these cartridges is the .22 Long Rifle (LR) and our top pick for the .22 LR is Ruger’s 10/22. No other rimfire rifle has wider circulation or more aftermarket accessories. The 10/22 works just fine in any of its many configurations, with stocks coming in everything from traditional to folding to collapsible. They even have 10/22s that look similar to AR-15s. With no shortage of aftermarket triggers and magazines, it’s hard to find a rifle with more flexibility inside 100 yards than a Ruger 10/22.
This distance gets into the centerfire cartridge realm and it’s hard to imagine a better contender for target use than the Tikka T3X chambered in .223 Remington. Tikka rifles are manufactured in Finland and are some of the best rifles made, especially when considering the price. These rifles have hammer-forged barrels for long life, are well-known for being incredibly accurate, and have models for both hunters (lighter barrels) and target shooters (heavier barrels and/or chassis). The aftermarket support is also exceptional for Tikka with many companies offering chassis, lightweight carbon fiber hunting stocks, and triggers. If the goal inside 300 yards involves hunting, the T3X is available is many chamberings from .223 Remington all the way up to .300 Winchester Magnum.
This distance requires some selectivity in both cartridge and rifle selection. Just about any centerfire rifle is able to sling bullets at this distance, but we’re working under the assumption that the shooter is only interested in reliable precision at this distance. The Tikkas will do a good job at 600 yards, but under some conditions, the injection-molded polymer stocks might yield erratic accuracy. At 600 yards and beyond, Seekins Precision is a great company to consider.
Seekins offers the Pro Hunter 2 (PH2), Element, and the HIT. The PH2 has a steel receiver and the Element has an aluminum receiver, that being the biggest distinction between the two. Seekins bolt-action rifles have two opposing lugs, but unlike actions patterned on the Remington 700, those lugs ride at the 12 and 6 o’clock when the bolt is open. This creates excellent feeding because so much of the bolt engages the cartridge in the magazine and the massive feed ramp scoops the cartridge into the chamber. The PH2 offers tons of performance and is Seekins’ lowest-priced rifle, while the Element sheds every possible ounce of weight.
The HIT is a chassis rifle that has the same bolt design as the PH2 and the Element. The HIT has a unique receiver that allows the shooter to quickly swap barrels to change cartridges or barrel lengths. The chassis is as rigid as a rifle stock/chassis gets, so the HIT is a great choice for hitting targets at 600 yards and well beyond.
This is where rifles get specialized in order to provide reliable performance at extended distances. The top picks here are the Sako TRG and the Accuracy International AXSR. Both of these rifles were designed as military sniper rifles, and it shows in the construction. Each rifle has more than the two standard action screws and uses much more torque on those screws to hold the receiver firmly in the chassis. This is one of the secrets to the accuracy found with each rifle. Each rifle also has magazines designed for the cartridges chambered, so it’s not the one-size-fits-all approach of the AICS-pattern seen so frequently. The Sako TRG is a simple and robust solution, while the Accuracy International is equally robust, but hosts a multi-caliber capability.
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