Gun writer Richard Mann met with Field & Stream‘s rifles editor David E. Petzal and deputy editor Dave Hurteau at his home shooting range West Virginia hills to test these six long-range tactical rifles, all new for 2017.
Over the course of four days, the trio generated roughly five gallons of brass, shooting the test rifles at distances from 10 to 500 yards—plus a few shots at 1,000-plus just for fun. When the smoke cleared, they narrowed the field down to the top six rifles that stood out because of their performance and value
After weighing and measuring the rifles, we evaluated them for the following:
• Accuracy: Testers fired three five-shot groups from a bench at 100 yards, deducting one point for every 1/4 inch the average group size was larger than 1/2 inch.
• Shooter Interface: They shot long-range rifles out to 500 yards, measuring accuracy and evaluating interface.
• Fit and Finish: They evaluated workmanship and appearance.
• Functionality: They tested ease of loading, action smoothness, and general operation. We evaluated features and subtracted points for malfunctions.
• Trigger: They measured pull-weight with a digital scale and evaluated quality of pull.
Finally, they weighted the test categories for a total possible score of 100 and crunched the numbers to get our rankings. The price of each rifle was then divided by its total score to determine the best value.
These long-range rifles were outfitted with the Bushnell 3–12x44mm Elite Tactical Hunter, Weaver rings and bases, and Hornady provided all test ammunition.
Top Six Long-Range / Tactical Rifles
Best of the Test and Best Bargain: Bergara B-14 HMR
|6.5 Creedmoor||9 lbs. 3 oz.||41.5″ overall length||24″ barrel||Adjustable composite stock|
Bergara’s custom shop in Georgia is staffed by craftsmen who either built rifles for the Marines when they were in the Corps, or did it as civilians. Marines like their rifles to shoot and get very cranky if they don’t. The rifles that come out of the custom shop are (a) expensive and (b) perfect. The Model B-14 HMR, which is about one-quarter the price of a custom Bergara, is not expensive, and it’s not perfect. There’s more of a gap between the barrel and the fore-end than I care for. That’s the end of the defects. This gun shoots.
Our test rifle, which I shot separately, put 20 bullets at 100 yards into a group that measured 1.2 inches. Try this with your rifle sometime. The B-14 HMR is a slick, finely finished rifle that reeks of class. You’ll have to be a very good shot to keep up with it. —D.E.P.
Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range
|6.5 Creedmoor||7 lbs. 7.9 oz.||42.75″ overall length||26″ barrel||Composite stock|
Do you yearn to hunt at long range and long for a dedicated rifle with which to do so? On the other hand, do you think you’ll spew chunks if you have to look at another paramilitary horror with a Picatinny rail and Adjustable Everything? Do you resent having to buy a truss at the end of hunting season? Cheer up. Browning has built a rifle for you. It’s called the Hell’s Canyon Long Range, and it’s an actual hunting rifle.
Our test gun was chambered in the mild-kicking, infinitely accurate, and deceptively potent 6.5 Creedmoor. Browning has given the rifle a 26-inch barrel, so you can squeeze more velocity out of factory ammo and a lot more velocity if you handload, as well as a very good trigger. The Hell’s Canyon Long Range is a sweetheart. There’s no other way to sum it up. —D.E.P.
Weatherby Vanguard Adaptive Composite (VAC)
|6.5 Creedmoor||8 lbs. 12.9 oz.||39.62″–40.87″ overall length||20″ barrel||Adjustable composite stock|
The Vanguard VAC is designated as a tactical rifle, not a long-range rifle. This is an important distinction, because it’s made to be handy, not to give the maximum amount of oomph to the three cartridges for which it’s chambered, which a true long-range rifle must do. A 20-inch barrel is kind of scant, folks. That said, we had no trouble whatsoever hitting at 500 yards with it, and we certainly could have stretched it out farther.
The VAC’s stock is a true ergonomic marvel. It adjusts with push buttons, and once you get it set up, leaning into it to aim is one of the true sensual joys of this life. (In fact, it’s so formfitting that a southpaw can’t shoot it. I know.) The trigger is excellent, and the muzzle is threaded for whatever you want to hang on it. —D.E.P.
|.308 Win.||9 lbs. 11 oz.||39.75″–42.40″ overall length||20″ barrel||Adjustable composite stock|
It’s ironic that a country that makes it almost impossible for a citizen to own any firearm makes some of the best guns for the money. Such is the case with Howa, which is Japanese. Howa guarantees the accuracy of the HCR, and it is not kidding.
Of note is the HACT trigger, which is so good I mistook it for a custom job. It’s not. Like the Vanguard, this is a short-barreled tactical rifle, not one made for true long range (600-plus). —D.E.P.
Savage Model 10 GRS
|.308 Win.||8 lb. 13 oz.||39.62″–40.87″ overall length||20″ barrel||Adjustable composite stock|
Part of Savage’s law-enforcement series, the 10 GRS is akin in purpose to the Vanguard and the Howa. Its accuracy was fair; fit and finish were lacking. The trigger scaled 1.2 pounds, which is too light for a tactical rifle but just right for competition shooting. It goes off literally at a touch—much too easily for a shooter who has not practiced with it. The stock is the same as the Vanguard’s—you’ll fall in love with it. —D.E.P.
Remington 700 Magpul
|.308 Win.||9 lbs. 2 oz.||40″–41.5″ overall length||22″ barrel||Modular synthetic stock|
It’s called the Magpul because it employs a Magpul Hunter stock, and the complete rifle offers all the right features for a reasonable price. I particularly like the black Cerakote finish, which beats the hell out of bluing. On the negative side is the X-Mark Pro trigger. “A level of shot control unmatched by any factory trigger today,” sayeth Remington. I, however, am obliged to say that it does not break like glass, has some creep, and is about 2 pounds too heavy. —D.E.P.
This story originally appeared on fieldandstream.com.