Monday, December 14, 2009

The Thousand Yard Conspiracy - Part 3: Going Long, for Short

You know that old saying "Good, Fast, Cheap; pick two", that is applied so often to racing, construction, computers... hell almost anything harder than falling off a log?

Well, it applies to shooting too; all you need to do is change a couple of the operators. "range, precision, price; pick two"

For over a year, I've been working on a long range shooting project, that I've called "The Thousand Yard Conspiracy".

The point of the project is to build a full custom, absolute class of the world, 1000 yard+ capable field target, and long range tactical competition rifle, with glass, and all the ancillary gear for shooting accurately at that range.

This is a no compromise project. I'm not saying that cost is no object, because I don't believe in spending money just for its own sake; but I'm not going to lose significant capability, just to save a few dollars.

I'm also not going to buy "just enough", even if it saves a LOT of money. Go down that road a few times, and the "just enoughs" multiply together to make "not quite enough"... and then where are you?

However, that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune to get into long range shooting.

As part of the whole process, I'm writing a series of articles about my choices, how and why I came to them; and about long range and high precision shooting in general.

In talking, and writing, about all of this, I realized there was going to be a LOT more written about the side topics, and answering my readers questions, than there was about the actual rifle itself.

By far the number two question I get asked (the number one is "are you crazy? 1000 yards is FAR"), whenever I mention what I'm building ... and especially when I mention how much it's going to cost is:

"How can I get into long distance shooting, cheaply"

Well, the short answer is, you can't.

You can't do anything well, while doing it cheaply.

If you're smart though, you can do it relatively inexpensively.

You do that, by buying for VALUE, not for PRICE.

A $400 WalMart/BassPro scope and rifle combo isn't going to have you shooting under 1moa at 1000 yards, ever. In fact, you're lucky if it will do 2moa at 300, and if it will stay on the paper at 600 it'll be a miracle.

That's cheap. That's buying for price, not for value; and that's what you get.

But, as I said above, you don't have to spend a fortune to shoot out to 1000 yards (though if you're going to shoot much beyond 1000, you really DO need to spend a fortune. Just be warned. The laws of physics, and the multiplication of errors do catch up).

So, how to get started?

Well the first thing, is really to figure out if you're absolutely sure you want to do this.

Even doing it "on the cheap" aint actually cheap. This is an expensive hobby. More importantly, it's an enormously TIME CONSUMING hobby.

It's not just the shooting part, it's the loading, and the research, and the practice, and the driving... oh lord the endless endless driving (long range shooting sites tend to be FAAAAAAR away from... pretty much anything).

You're talking, at minimum, several hundred hours per year time commitment.

If you have a dozen other hobbies that take up a dozen hours a week... It's going to be really hard to do this.

If you have an infant, or an 80 hour a week job, or you're homeschooling your kids... It's going to be really hard to do this (and your wife will probably kill you).

There's a lot of folks who get a little bit of the bug, and want to investigate further. Like Col Townshend Whelen said "Only accurate rifles are interesting".

Unfortunately, this is a fiddly and frustrating business, and it's not for everyone. Even if you really have a hankering to shoot 1moa at 1000 yards, you may find it's just not worth your time, money, or trouble.

I'll use myself as an example

When I was 16, I thought the best I could shoot was around 1 moa at 300 yards.

That's better than most hunters shoot... and in fact better than most shooters of any type. Most people are pretty happy with that.

I'm not most people.

In my late teens and early 20s, I got into slightly longer range shooting. After a few years, I found that I could hit consistently at under 1moa at 600 yards.

The funny thing was though, it wasn't a gradual progression of being more and more precise at longer and longer ranges.

One day, I was able to group 1moa at 300 yards, but no better than 3moa at 600. The next day, I was shooting 1 moa at 600.

It's like I broke through a wall. One second I couldn't do it, the next I could.

That wall was in my way for about 3 years; and those weren't idle years without practicing. I was shooting several hundred rounds a week, every week. At least 50 rounds of that was on precision rifle every week, sometimes as much as 200.

The a few years later, I decided to try some longer range shooting, and I started to try reaching out to 800 yards.

Again, I was able to shoot 1 moa at 600, but couldn't do better than 3 moa at 800.

Until one day I could. Another wall, another breakthrough.

For another few years after that, I couldn't shoot past 800 at all. My groups were all over the place. I couldn't even consistently put 5 shots into a half sheet of plywood (4.6 moa at 1000).

Then one day, three or four years ago, I sat down behind a friends gun, and I shot into about 3 moa at 1000 yards. Then I did it again... and again... sometimes I'd shoot into 2moa, sometimes 3; but I was suddenly better than I had been before.

Now, when I keep my practice up (and it takes a lot of practice), and with the right gun, I can shoot one MOA at 800 yards pretty consistently; but I can only manage 2-3 at 1000 yards.

The problem I have at the moment is that I don't have enough time to practice it, and I haven't had a good enough rifle so that my practice would be useful (you should always have a gun that shoots better than you do, otherwise you don't know if it's you or the gun).

That's why I'm building my 1000 yard gun. I plan on getting to under 1moa at 1000 yards. I don't know how long it's going to take me. Maybe I won't ever be able to break through this wall; but I believe I can, and I intend to do it in style.

Ok, I REALLY want to do this... how much is it actually going to cost?

The first thing you need to understand, is that the cost of the rifle, and the glass, is just the beginning.

You're going to spend FAR more over the life of the rifle on ammunition than you ever do on the rifle. You're going to spend far more on travel. You're going to spend far more on gear. You're going to spend far more on training.

Starting to get the picture?

But how much can ammo possibly cost?

Hmmm, have you been shopping for ammo lately?

Well, first question here is actually, "what are we going to chamber the rifle in", because that will determine the cost of shooting the thing.

Oh and you can't just take into account the cost of ammunition, you also have to account for the cost of barrels.

Yes Virginia, barrels wear out. They are a consumable item, just like ammunition; and different chamberings wear out barrels at different rates.

There are any number of chamberings that will get you out to (and a few beyond) 1000 yards, with sufficient precision. I can think of at least a dozen off the top of my head, and for an experienced handloader, or benchrest shooter (who are almost always both), any of them could be a worthy selection.

Unfortunately, unless you are into SERIOUS high precision reloading (and if you get at all serious about long range shooting, you will be eventually; but let's assume you're just starting out) you really only have two choices at anything approaching reasonable cost:

308 Winchester, or .300 Winchester magnum (which actually use the same diameter bullets, in different cases).

That may change soon enough; the .300wsm and several of the 6mm and 6.5mm long range cartridges are developing enough of a following that the price and availability of factory ammunition is getting much better; but for now, it's .308win and .300wm.

Also, some may disagree, and choose a .284 caliber, like the 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, the 7mm wsm, the 7mm saum etc...

The 7mm chamberings have probably the best balance between ballistic efficiency, recoil, and mass, of any common chambering... but for some reason, have comparatively little factory support.

The 7mm magnum is a very popular chambering (second most popular magnum in the U.S. behind .300wm... at least until the .300wsm overtakes it some time in the next few years at the going rate); but for some reason there is a distinct shortage of heavy weight, high ballistic coefficient factory loads available in the chambering (unlike .300wm for example, which has plenty of loads over 180gr available).

I particularly don't understand this, given the availability of really excellent bullets like the Berger 180gr VLD; which is more ballistically efficient (G7BC of .337, G1BC of .659) than any currently existing .308 caliber bullet (as are used in .300wm).

In fact, it may be the most ballistically efficient bullet in any chambering below the .338 (commonly used for 1500 yard+ shooting); and even then, only bullets over .300 gr. can best it.

The 180gr VLD can can be propelled at higher velocity from the 7mm magnum, than the best performing .308 bullets (210gr Bergers) can in the .300wm; with a flatter trajectory (20" less drop at 1000 yards, with the same retained energy), 125 yards more supersonic range, and substantially lower recoil.

The 7mm-08; which is a .308 case necked down to 7mm; outperforms the .308 similarly.

It really is a mystery to me, why there aren't more loads like this available from the factory.

Unfortunately, right now, as with the 6.5s and all the short magnums; I don't believe the .284s/7mms have sufficient factory support to be a viable choice for the beginner, when compared against the .308 or .300wm.

Of the two, .308 win is a fair bit cheaper to shoot (both in ammo, and in barrel life), and has far less recoil (though I personally don't find .300wm to be taxing); but has a couple hundred yards less useful range.

Basically, the .308 is marginal at 1000 yards, has no range beyond it, and won't do 1000 consistently in any kind of wind. The .300wm is solid out to 1250 yards, and can do 1000 consistently in 10 knot winds.

The tradeoff is 50% more recoil, half the barrel life, more expensive ammo and components, and more irritation in reloading (the .300wm is a belted magnum case, which are more difficult to reload).

So, the real question is, how much are you going to be shooting at 1000 yards, vs 600-800 yards, and how much shooting are you going to be doing in windy conditions? Because out to 800 yards, the .308 is just fine, at up to 10 knots wind. It's only that last 200 yards that kills it.

In general, my recommendation for a someone just getting in to long range shooting, is go for the .308 until you are hitting consistently under 2moa at 800 yards. That's when you can really use the capability of the winmag.

I personally followed that same prescription. I shot 600 to 800 yards almost exclusively with .308 (up to 600 yards I use a match grade AR firing 75gr max pressure loads), until I managed to get consistent at 800 yards, and my .308 couldn't give me the results I wanted at longer ranges. That's when I bought a .300 winmag practice rifle, and started to build up my custom 1000 yard rifle.

Shots Per Dollar, or Dollars Per Shot?

Now as to the actual costs of shooting, I'll steal from one of my other posts where I did a detailed analysis of the costs of shooting 10,000 rounds of match grade ammo (reloading, and including barrels).

From a cost perspective the .308win is, hands down, the winner. Barrel life, even in a match rifle, frequently exceeds 10,000 rounds; and the most exacting competitors still expect at least a 5000 round life. Powder charges are low (in the 40-45gr range). Even top quality brass is only (lapua, norma, nosler) $0.70-$0.90 a case, with Winchester brass at $0.30 for only slightly less quality (enough so that most shooters use it). Match case life is typically 5 loads (though many will go to 10 or more), with another AT LEAST 10 practice loads.

All in all, it's a great value.

I choose to use Berger bullets, Federal or CCI match primers, Hodgdon powder, and top quality match grade brass.

The bullet and primer for each load will cost $0.45. The powder will cost $22 per pound. The barrels will be $600 (including labor to chamber and mount).

So to be conservative, that's:
  • $0.70 per case
  • $0.45 for the primer and bullet
  • 45gr of powder (155 loads per pound less wastage) at $22 a pound for $0.14 of powder
  • 10,000 rounds per $600 barrel (including chambering and mounting)
If we presume a 10,000 round amortization, shooting costs look something like this:
.308win, 185gr Berger "long range boat tail", 10,000 round costs
  • 2000 cases, $1,400
  • 10,000 bullets and primers, $4,500
  • 65 pounds of powder, $1,430.
  • 1 barrel, $600.
Total .308win = $7,930
Per round .308win = $0.79
$0.79 a round total cost, for serious match grade shooting... that's a great deal all around. A .300wm loaded to the same standard will run more like $1.10 to $1.20 a round.

Doing the same thing with factory match grade .308 (Federal, Black Hills, Norma, Nosler, or Lapua) will run you about $1.50 to $2 a round in bulk (of course, you'll have 10,000 really nice brass cases to reload at the end of it). In .300wm it's more like $2 to $2.50 a round.

Neither cost of course includes the barrel (or two barrels for the winmag) that you'll shoot through, so tack on an extra $0.06 or $0.12 per round.

Comparing the cost of reloading, to the cost of factory match grade ammo; it is immediately obvious why just about everyone at all serious about long range shooting, ends up being serious about precision reloading as well.

So, that's anywhere from $8000 all the way up to $27,000 in consumables over a 10,000 round shooting period (at most, 5 years of serious shooting).

Are we there yet?

We're not quite ready to get to the cost of the rifle and scope yet, no.

There's a whole other additional cost in 1000 yard shooting gear.

If you're just getting started we can say that you can live without it for now; but you aren't going to get very far along without at least a range finder, and a spotting scope.

If you want to shoot at 1000 yards on anything other than a measured, known distance range, you need to be able to get an ACCURATE distance to your target.

The cheapest way to do that WELL, is with a $400 to $600 rangefinder. Right now, Bushnell (yes, really. They DO occaisonally make good stuff), Nikon, Newcon Optik, and Leica all make rangefinders that will do the job in that price range, at least under good conditions.

I recommend the Leica, which unsurprisingly is the most expensive. The others will get it done, but not as well, or in the same conditions as the Leica will.

Also, you can't practice your shooting, if you can't see what you're hitting, and where you're hitting it. For that, you need a spotting scope; and a cheapy won't do at 1000 yards.

The lowest cost models you're looking at that will actually do the job well enough to get by at 1000 yards; are the 80mm or 100mm extended definition models from Konus, Vortex, or Celestron. They run from $600 to $800.

DO NOT buy a spotting scope smaller than 80mm for this task, and don't buy one that isn't "extended definition" or "extra low dispersion" (if the scope costs over $2k, it's in there. If it uses flourite lenses, and costs more than $600, it's probably in there). They just can't resolve at range well enough to do the job.

Note, that doesn't mean they'll be able to spot a .30 caliber hole at 1000 yards (you're going to need a MUCH more expensive scope for that). But you'll be able to read your 300 yard holes just fine... maybe even your 600 yard holes (or at least the lead smear/black ring). Use some shoot-n-sees for 600 and 800 (presuming you aren't using reactives or gongs. most do) and you'll be golden.

With a reasonable quality scope at 100 yards; you WILL be able to see the inch wide smears of lead you leave on a thick piece of fluorescent orange painted steel, or the big hole you ripped in the similarly painted sheet of plywood, or whether you broke the cheap dinner plate, or knocked down the 16" popper etc... Which you won't be able to see with your naked eye, and may or may not be able to see clearly with your rifle scope (depending on your eyes, and how much you spend on said rifle scope. )

The next step up is a Kowa at about twice the price. Kowa is who most competitive shooters use, as the best compromise between quality, and price.

The next step up from there, is half again as much, up to twice as much; for a Swarovski, Leica, or other high end Swiss/Austrian/German piece.

I'll be going into WAY TOO MUCH detail on this subject in a later post.

Ok, NOW we can get into how much the rifle is going to cost

Again, I'm going to steal a quote from another piece to start this one off.

You should note that almost $8000 baseline cost of consumables before you start thinking about how much the rifle is going to cost.

Are you prepared to spend that much and more, just on shooting this rifle? If not, stop now; because no matter how much or how little the rifle costs, there's no point if you can't pay for the consumables.

Ok, got that firmly fixed in your mind?

A lot of folks complain about the cost of a good match grade rifle and glass, which can start around $1400 and $1200 respectively; and go up into the $5000 and $4000 range.

That's between $2600 and say $9000 dollars (including your first $600 barrel) for anything from the top end of factory offerings and bottom end of the "good glass"; all the way up to the best of the best custom work.

The most common advice you'll hear experienced gunnies (but NOT experienced long range shooters) give to the less experienced goes something like this:

"You don't need to spend a lot of money to shoot well. Most rifles will shoot better than their owners. Buy something decent, but low priced. Don't buy too much rifle, or too much scope. Save the money you would have spent on extra ammo to practice with".

Often it's followed by something like "don't waste your money on all that. You'll do just fine with a factory Remington, and a Leupold. It'll shoot better than you do."

Well, first, let's leave aside the fact that these days a factory Remington and a Leupold can run you nearly as much as low end custom rifle with a Night Force on it, and probably won't shoot nearly as well...

For hunters, and casual target shooters (and if this is your first long range gun, you don't know if this is going to just be a casual thing for you or not yet. You might end up not liking it, or not having the time for it) that's great advice.

For serious match shooters, or those who intend to become serious match shooters though... Eh, not so much.

So yeah, don't waste your money buy jumping into a huge purchase before you KNOW you're serious about it. As I said, you may not like it, and you may not have the time for it.

Once you know that you're definitely interested in getting serious though, it's time to spend some money; and this is where I want to point back to that cost of consumables from above.

$2400, or hell even $7k (and for $7k you can get a top of the line custom rifle, with top of the line glass) is NOTHING compared to the cost of the ammo you are going to be shooting through the rifle over its life, plus the cost of travel, training, ancillary gear like spotting scopes, rangefinders, and rifle rests...

Spend your money on GOOD equipment, so you won't need to buy it again when it breaks, or buy better when you outgrow it. Don't WASTE your money buying the most expensive thing, but buy for VALUE, not price.

You are going to get more value in long range shooting, buying the right combination of rifle and glass; than trying to shoot for the lowest possible price.

Admittedly, an extra $2000 or $4000 or however much to spend on ammo would be nice, but not at the cost of buying a rifle, or a scope, that won't get the job done for you, no matter how much you practice.

Are you done trying to scare me off?

Ok, yes, I'm done trying to scare you off. Let's talk about where to really get started.

My advice for the person interested in getting into long range shooting, is to borrow a friends long range rifle if you can, and see if you like it.

If you don't, great, you wont be bankrupting yourself unnecessarily for something you don't enjoy or have the time for.

If you DO... well, as Obi Wan almost said "You've taken your first step into a much more expensive world"

To get started with your OWN rifle, my suggestion is buy yourself a either one of the Savage model 12s (there are a LOT of different configurations), or a TC encore.

You can either buy one of the heavy barreled varmint/match/target/benchrest stock versions of the Savage; or buy the cheapest model 12, and replace the stock and barrel with higher end ones.

The top end factory Savages run about $1400 street. The midrange models with reasonable stocks and barrels run about $800 street.

The lowest end models run about $600 street, but their stocks and barrels are iffy. Replacement stocks with aluminum bedding blocks run from $300 to $600. Replacement match grade barrels, run from $400 to $600.

You can also just buy an accurized model 12 action with trigger for about $600 (though you can sometimes find a discount dealer who will sell them to you for $400 or $450), and a separate stock and barrel; again, for anywhere from $700 to $1300.

So, if you're really smart about it, you might be able to build up a top quality Savage for around $1100; and in general the price spread will be $800 to $1600 depending on exactly what features you want and who you're buying from.

You can (and probably should) do the same kind of buildup with the Encore; because the factory .308 and .300wm barrels are OK, but not great.

A factory Encore in .308 will run around $600, to $700, depending on whether you buy blued or stainless, and of course on who is selling it (list is up to $800, but who pays list).

A factory Encore receiver with pistol stock (you normally can't buy it without a stock set of some kind, and even if you do, it's not any cheaper) is about $325, or about $350 with a rifle stock and forend (or $50 to $100 more for stainless). Every once in a while you can get someone to sell either to you for $300 blue or $350 stainless.

A top grade Encore barrel in .308. from a maker like Bullberry (one of the best in the business) will run from $400 to $500 depending on length, and whether it's blued or stainless. A slightly lower end maker might run as low as $300.

If you want a custom stock set to go with it, that will run another $300-$600 from Bullberry; and it will be MUCH nice than factory ($600 gets you something worth giving to your grandkids).

All that's going to run you from as little as $600 to as much as $1600 if you splurge on the more expensive configurations or barrel and stock, for either rifle.

Oh and stick a decent bipod, sling swivels, a GOOD rail, and a limbsaver or decelerator on either (even on a .308. You may change chamberings later, and you'll want the pad... plus the encore can be VERY light, and the stock buttpad is not forgiving).

That'll run you $100 to $300 extra depending on what configuration you bought your rifle, barrel, and stock in (some of them will have a rail, a good pad, and sling swivels installed already).

So let's call it $900 to $1700, with a happy medium somewhere around $1200 or so.

What about that "buy a factory Remington, it'll shoot better than you do" advice?

As it happens, the factory Remington with the closest performance to either of the options I've talked about here (and I don't think it will match either one) is the "700 Target Tactical", which lists out at $2,000, and streets at about $1700.

The "XCR long range tactical", a much lower end model, is $1400 list, and around $1200 street. It has a decent Bell and Carlson stock on it, and a 40x trigger; so it should preform reasonably well... though again, not as well as the Savage or Encore.

With ANY of the Remington factory options, you'd still be stuck with a production Remington Barrel, rather than a Krieger or a Bullberry; although on some of the models, they have decent profiles and crowns, and 5r rifling available.

This isn't to say the Remington barrels are BAD, but they certainly aren't AS GOOD, as Krieger, Lilja, Hart etc...

If it were my money, and I were buying a factory Remington only (no custom shop) with boltons and parts swaps allowed; I'd buy the VLS (about $800 street), and replace the trigger with a Jewell HVR ($240); or an SPS varmint (about $550 street) and replace the trigger with the Jewell and the stock with a Bell and Carlson($300).

Except it it were my money, I wouldn't be buying a Remington at all. Not when I could buy the Savage; or a Howa 1100 or Weatherby Vanguard Sub-moa (same rifle, different furniture and branding); for their current street pricing.

Unless you feel like spending $2500+ with Remingtons custom shop (at which point you get a rifle equal to any $2500+ custom rifle. Those guys really know what they're doing); at any price point you can name, you're going to be able to buy or build a rifle from another vendor, that will outshoot the Remington at that price point.

The same goes for Winchester, or Browning by the way (technically the same company as it happens, operating under two different names - the parent company is FNH out of Belgium. They're even making rifles in the same factory now).

This is not to say there aren't great precision options in the Model 70 and A-Bolt families; they're just much more expensive for what you get than building your own Savage.

Marlin isn't even competing in the precision bolt rifle market... though why would they, considering they are owned by Remington (who is in turn, owned by Cerberus).

The new TC Icon bolt action is interesting, but it's an all new design, and there aren't any accessories, stocks, barrels etc... out there for it yet.

The fundamentals are there however, with a nice adjustable trigger, 60 degree three lug bolt, aluminum bedding block system, and a very decent 5R rifled barrel.

TC is even offering a tactical model they call the "warlord", with a Manners T2A stock, Badger bottom metal and AI magazines, fluted 5R barrel with 1:10 twist offered (so you can shoot bullets over 180gr), a built in 20moa rail (for 1000 yard shooting in .308with most decent scopes); and a 1/2moa at 100 yards guarantee.

There are only two problems with it I can find:

First, the barrel is only 22" long (so you lose a couple hundred fps on hot loads vs. a 26" barrel which I prefer for long range shooting).

Second, the damn thing costs $3,000.

Now, I'm guessing it's going to be just as good as any other $3,000 custom rifle... But for $3k I'm going for full custom.

Alright, what about the glass?

I've done a lot of posts about scopes; and I'm about to do two more, so I won't go into detail here; I'll just make a couple of general suggestions, and give you a price range.

To get started with long range shooting, buy a very decent, but not overly expensive scope, with a maximum power around 14-16x, and a 40mm through 50mm objective.

You can go higher powered, but don't go above around 22x or 25x.

Something like the Bushnell Elite 4200 line ($600-$700), the Burris XTR ($800-$900) , the Nikon Monarch X ($750-$950), the Pentax Lightseeker 30 ($550-$750) the lower end Zeiss Conquest ($800-$1100), the Vortex Viper ($500-$700) etc...

Basically something in the $500-$600 range, up to the $900-$1000 price range, fully multicoated with ED glass; and enough elevation to get you to 1000 in .308 with a 20moa base (an absolute minimum of 30moa total adjustment, with more like 50moa being better. That gets you 450" of elevation above a 300 yard zero at 1000 yards, which is more than enough).

If you go below this price range in a variable scope, in this magnification range; it's not going to do the job. The optical quality just wont be sufficient, and the durability and repeatability of adjustments are likely to be pore.

On the other hand, you don't need to go above this price range to shoot at 1000 yards and under; at least in decent conditions, and bright sunlight.

You might be able to go to a fixed power scope for less, but not much (the excellent Leupold high power fixed target scopes run around $500... and they're a spectacular value for money); and unless you're shooting on a fixed known distance range, I MUCH prefer a variable.

Realistically, in this price range, you pay more and you get more optical quality, features, and durability; almost linearly.

Oh and the classic gunnies advice "just buy a Leupold" ?

Well, there's certainly nothing wrong with Leupolds; they're the default choice for a lot of shooters; and I still recommend them if you want a high magnification fixed power scope... But have you SEEN Leupolds pricing over the past few years?

On the higher end, Leupold is charging almost as much as Night Force... About $1500 for their equivalent to the $1600 NF; with lower optical quality and less toughness. In the midrange, I think you're getting $600 worth of scope, when Leupold is charging $900.

Personally, I think Burris is offering the best value for money out there right now, in their higher end models. The XTR line are probably the best balance of features, quality, and price, on the market today, at about $800-$900

At the low end of our price scale, I'm also hearing a lot of really good things about Vortexes Viper line (their low end lines are crap like everyone elses under $300 scopes are), at around $500-$600; but I have no direct experience.

Oh, and I'm not going to go into specifics on rings, mounts, and rails except to say, don't cheap out here. A $30 set of rings on a $20 rail is going to be about as precise and repeatable as you would expect any $50 piece of kit to be (i.e. NOT).

So for whatever+x dollars, will it shoot?

If you're smart about it, for anywhere from $1300, to $2600, rifle and glass; you can get a rig that will shoot 1000 yards all day long.

In general, the more you spend in that price range (presuming you're bargaining well), the more consistent and precise your combination is going to be, and the easier it will be to hit at range; but the value "sweet spot" on the rifle is likely around $1100-$1200, and on the glass around $800.

So let's call it $1900-$2000 for the sweet spot, rifle and glass. For that money, you're getting a great trigger, a great barrel, a decent stock, and a decent tactical scope.

Call it a Savage Model 12 precision action, with a Bell and Carlson stock, a Krieger Barrel, and a Burris XTR tactical. That combo right there would run right at about $1900-$2000 including a bipod, swivels, recoil pad etc....

If you just wanted to maximize value completely, and not have any extras, you could build up a single shot Encore, blued with factory stock, a Bullberry barrel, a Vortex tactical scope, and a Harris bipod; for $1400 all up.

Frankly, that's cheaper than buying a straight up factory hunting rifle and mid grade hunting glass.

The great thing about buying this way is though, even if you find out you don't like, or don't have time for, long range precision shooting; you've still got a great rifle and scope, that are useful for hunting, and general target shooting, and you haven't paid too much extra for the capability you won't use.

This is why I recommend the Savage and the Encore specifically. They are the most easily built up, and upgraded, precision rifles out there.

For a few hundred dollars, you can take any Savage or Encore, and put a SERIOUS match grade barrel in it, without any gunsmithing. Both already come with excellent triggers, that can be tuned for little or no money. Both can be fitted with serious target shooting stocks, again, without any gunsmithing.

And most importantly, for that money, they'll really shoot.

No, barring a miracle "golden sample" you're not going to get under 1moa accuracy at 1000 yards with one (or likely even 800 yards); but yeah, they're going to shoot.

In comparison, the receiver alone for my 1000 yard rifle cost $900, the trigger $300, the stock $700, the bottom metal $300, the barrel $600, and the bits and bobs (rails, sling swivels, bipod etc..) another $200 (all costs including labor). Then the scope and rings are going to cost another $3,500 or so on top of that.

Call it somewhere around $7k total.

Basically, when you buy a Savage or an Encore, you've got something that doesn't cost a lot to break in with; but that can be upgraded later, for a lot less money than other platforms; so you can grow with it as you get better, and demand more out of your equipment.

Will your $1400 Encore and Vortex, or your $1900 Savage and Burris outshoot my $6,000 custom rig?

Not a chance in hell.

But will it outshoot 95% of the rifles out there?

Absolutely... and you may not outshoot my rifle, but you might outshoot me.