Guest Article: Mel From Sniper Central


Sniper Central has been around for a couple of decades now and one of our core values that we have always sought after was to provide sound information to those that come looking for it. We have fielded hundreds and thousands of questions about various different sniper and long range shooting rifles and we have always provided honest and unbiased feedback… and we always will. About a decade ago we answered one individual’s question and he followed up with the typical expressions of gratitude and then he posed another question that caught us somewhat by surprise. He asked “Why doesn’t Sniper Central just offer a basic package ready to go for those of us just trying to get into the long range shooting game?”. That was a very good question and it set us off on a new and rewarding path.

There are a great number of fantastic custom rifle builders out on the market today and we have tested and own many of their rifles and I can vouch that the quality continues to go up and the innovation never ceases. Unfortunately, the cost continues to go up as well because these wonderful pieces of craftsmanship take time to build and time equals money. For the shooter who is just looking to try out the long range shooting hobby, or someone who does not have large amounts of disposable income, or even a small police department in rural America, the cost is just too much. This is where we wanted to fill in a need. We do not have a desire to be a full custom rifle builder, but we continued to see this niche remain unfilled, so we decided to do what we could to help the little guy out and get more long range shooters into the game. Our primary mission at Sniper Central will always remain to provide the best information regarding sniping and to support our SC community, but we also knew that we could offer a basic semi-custom rifle package that performed well and would be relatively affordable for the entry level team or shooter.  

Our packages are based on either the Howa 1500, Remington 700, or Tikka T3x actions. To keep the costs down, the factory heavy barreled actions are used by default. We do offer a Benchmark custom barrel option if desired, though we still try to refrain from doing full blown custom builds. We can cut and crown those barrels to the desired length as well as thread the barrel and install a muzzlebrake. We also offer some other options as well. There are various stock and chassis options to choose from as well as the typical color choices for those stocks. Because we are refraining from the full custom builds and because the modern aluminum bedding blocks and V-Blocks are so good, we do not currently offer glass bedding, even on pillar bedded McMillan stocks. Accuracy on the factory barreled rifles run .75 MOA or better. With the Benchmark barreled rifles, they will shoot sub .5 MOA with match grade ammo, even without glass bedding. The idea behind these rifles was to allow the customer to select various options and colors without a full custom build, thus minimizing the price. Because of our volume and for being a dealer, we are able to get good discounts which allows us to pass those savings on to the the buyer. Our packages also include optics, mounts, bipods, and even DBM setups if desired. We can get any of the optics that are out there and try to really take care of the buyer in terms of the price. We don’t make a lot of money on these, but rather we hope to always add people to our sniping community. For you semi-auto shooters, we are also looking at adding a SASS and SPR offering in the next year. But there are so many AR builders out there, we have to be sure we are offering something unique and of value to our community.  

Of all the rifles we build, about 10% go to police departments, which may surprise some since there are so many super high scale builders out there that departments can go with.

Unfortunately, people sometimes fail to remember that a vast majority, upwards of 90%, of the police departments in the USA are small rural departments with very limited budgets. It brightens our day when we are able to help these small departments get a quality precision rifle package they can afford.

I wanted to also talk a little about putting together a rifle package and how one might approach a Long Range versus Hunting rifle setup. Please first understand where I am coming from when I write this. I was trained at Ft Benning Georgia at the US Army Sniper School back in the 1990’s, I then also attended a FBI SWAT Sniper school a year or so later. While I have, and do, hunt, my background is on the sniping side. There is one thing that I have come to realize over the years of owning and running and that is that rifle selection really comes down to building the rifle for the mission. If you do not define the mission and then build the rifle to fill it, you typically will end up with a rifle that may be very accurate, but it ends up being a safe-queen.  

So first and foremost, define the mission of the rifle. If you are looking for a range rifle to shoot competition from fixed positions, then that will change a lot from a rifle that is intended to go antelope hunting while on foot in the plains of Wyoming. Both rifles are intended to be as accurate as possible for long range shooting, but the means of getting there will be vastly different. A traditional long range rifle primarily used at the range will encompass using heavy stocks with wide and flat forearms to rest on either sandbags or big fancy bipods. The cheekpieces are elevated or adjustable to create perfect alignment with a scope that has far too much magnification or objective size for the field. The barrel tends to be 26”+ inches with a very heavy contour to provide the ultimate stiffness and extra velocity from the specialize cartridge (think 6.5×284, 300 Norma, 6mmBC, etc). These rifles are fantastically accurate, superbly stable- even during recoil- and weigh more than a Rangers patrol pack with full load out! They are large, long and unusable in the field, but are sweet to shoot all day long, even with the big dog cartridges. Most of them will likely have a muzzlebrake as well.  

Counter that with a long range hunting rifle that has to achieve its accuracy while being portable, and portable does not just mean light weight. If the mission profile dictates a rifle that will be carried 10-20 miles in a single day while on a hunting trip, the restriction may be for a total weight of 11 pounds or less. If the area of operation is going to be wide open plains, the capability of 600-900 yard shots will also dictate caliber, barrel size, and other features of the rifle. If the target is Elk versus Antelope, well, that too will factor into the caliber choice. (Yes, Elk have been taken with 243s, but it is not advisable, nor as humane as we should allow)  As you can see, the mission is the primary driver on what goes into building a rifle and it is through a series of these types of questions that we try to get a person zeroed in on what they really want.

Lots of times people say they want a rifle capable of 1000+ yard shooting, but then we ask them how often do they plan to shoot at those ranges? Most answer maybe once a year if they are lucky. That will then dictate a lot of the build suggestions as the rifle just needs to be “capable” of an occasional 1000 yard engagement, not exclusively 1000 yard engagements. That is a big difference. So be sure that you sit down with a piece of paper and outline exactly what you want the rifle to do, and be honest, because everything is a compromise. There is no single rifle that can do all things. You have all heard the saying… “Jack of all trades, master of none”. We want to be a master marksmen.

Is it possible to make a rifle work in all conditions? Yes. The M24 I carried in the military weighed over 15 pounds when loaded and I have lugged that thing on 20+ mile road marches… so it is doable, though not fun. The rifle was, and still is, supremely capable and I loved the one I was issued and the one I have now. But there can be better alternatives for your mission. For the hunting mission I described earlier, perhaps a Remington 700 action chambered in 260 with a 22” medium-heavy barrel bedded in a McMillan HTG stock with a low mounted 3-12x40mm tactical scope might work wonders for lugging across those wind swept plains. The package would weigh about 11 pounds and would be wonderfully balanced and capable of 1000+ yard shooting if using 130-140gr bullets, even in the wind swept plains of Wyoming.  

But that is just for those mission parameters… what parameters do you have?

Melvin Ewing

Sniper Central