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Tactical Rifles

Tactical Rifles

WMS Firearms Training Ltd, 01974 831869
Price, £4995

Like its bigger brother the Timberwolf, The PGW Coyote is a purpose made gun with an innovative barrel design, full aluminium chassis stock with folding butt and a superb trigger. Accuracy is not only good; it seems to produce fantastic results with a wide range of both Match and FMJ ammunition. It’s supplied as a fully thought out package with everything you need to go except a scope and mounts, it’s only Achilles heel being a slightly unusual grip angle. Well presented and sorted it includes three magazines, folding stock, scope rail, Harris bipod, Peli case, muzzle brake, sling and cleaning kit. This makes it awesome value for money too as these accessories elsewhere can really ramp up the costs. One of my favourites.

SAVAGE MODEL 10BA

Edgar Brothers, 01625 613177
Price, £2915

Savage are one of the few large manufacturers who seem to have an ear to the ground, listening to what shooters want and need, rather than what they think we want and need. The Model 10 BA incorporates the 10-round AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System) magazine feed and a full aluminium chassis with more Picatinny rail than you will ever need. Comfy to shoot and with a cracking Accutrigger it may look and feel a little bulky but it’s a real performer and shoots right out of the box, with a muzzle brake included. A 1-10” twist rate on the button rifled barrel gives the gun heavy bullet ability for longer range use and is of course, a screw on-off barrel so easily replaceable long term. The Magpul-styled stock offers good adjustability and recoil control so overall, the package is one of the most complete with no specific weak points. Price is very good too!

STEYR MANNLICHER SSG08

Sportsman Gun Centre,
01392 354854
Price, £3894.99

Something about the hammer-forged barrels that appear on German and here, Austrian Tactical rifles just makes them perform on a diet of seemingly any ammunition. The SSG08 avoids the transatlantic trend to go for ultra-heavy barrels and shows the delightful external swirl on its tube that is the signature of the companies’ hammer-forging process. The gun feeds from an in-house, 10-round double column magazine with sleek multi lugged bolt for very fast rates of fire if needed. The stock is fully adjustable although not a folder and this gun which was a real tack driver was only let down by the underside rail running from the butt’s mid-point to the lower end of the recoil pad. I’d cut it off and shoot it in more comfort with a rear handhold. Saying that, it was the easiest rifle I have ever had to put round after round of nearly any 308 ammo into real cloverleaf groups at 100 yards in terms of mechanical handling.

HAENEL RS8

Viking Arms, 01423 780810
Price, £4480

The Haenel RS8 was one of my favourites; it is a very well rounded rifle with all the usual niceties but no flaws and for that reason, perhaps the winner? It was moderate in all respects from its 24” barrel profile adding minimal weight with portability to stock adjustability that would embarrass a tailor. A multi-lug bolt head was a fine balance between speed and control giving short 60° lift yet without the associated increase in effort. As is common in this market, the trigger is two stage but shows adjustability for both weight and position and many of the smaller subtleties really added up to make the gun very liveable with. Moderate ejection force and things like a long magazine allow hand-loaded 308 with heavy bullets just a little bit more overall length to experiment. Arriving with a bipod and case it is good value for money and hard to fault. Does all this success make it ‘boring’? Well perhaps it does but in a very good way.

TIKKA T3 TACTICAL

GMK, 01489 579999
Price, £1830

The Tikka T3 is one of the ‘guns of our time’ in the sporting world and its Tactical brother is a variation on a theme of the popular varmint model. A shorter 22” barrel will always steal a little velocity which on a long range 308 is crucial, but the T3 makes up for this with portability and light weight to shoot from more ambitious positions with significantly less setup time and bulk. Tikka fit a large muzzle brake as standard and it works well. The stock is the familiar injection moulded unit from Tikkka (with a few extra pieces bolted on of no significant mechanical ability!) A semi floating forend that meets the barrel as it approaches the ‘reinforce’ so can take a nudge if careless with forend handling but as an out of the box gun, it will not disappoint. No 10-round magazines available so some types of competitions will suffer from limited capacity and the trigger, although decent, isn’t in the same ballpark as the £3k plus rifles.

CZ 750 S1 M1 SPORT

Edgar Brothers 01625 613177
Price, £2692

The CZ 750 S1 M1 to give it its full name is CZ’s take on the police/military market. It’s supplied as a package and requires only the addition of a suitable optic. It’s a very comfortable gun with a composite stock that is never as cold to the touch as aluminium chassis units and with a virtually ambidextrous thumbhole deign, easy to adapt to most positions. No monopod option… but I don’t like them anyway, the stock shows great adjustability for head position in both vertical and lateral positioning which is a factor I do like. The curved recoil pad would always attract the grinder in my workshop but otherwise the gun is a delight to shoot with a sweet trigger and a 26” barrel to eke out all the fps possible from the ballistically challenged 308 cartridge. Of a slightly older design, its Mauser claw controlled feed action did seem a little brass intolerant and ejection was not always perfect! But if you want European looks and finishing style to scope mounts and action, the CZ is it and harks back to more classic lines that the current Transatlantic and Germanic designs avoid. The extraction problem was a one off issue with my gun but in terms of value, you get a lot from the CZ with fitted case, two magazines and a brake included.

BLASER TACTICAL 2

Blaser Sporting Ltd, 0207 6222116
Price Fixed stock £5430, Folding stock £6318

The Blaser Tactical 2 is perhaps the ultimate evolution in a rifle designed to combine the inherent speed and accuracy of Blaser’s straight pull bolt with full serviceability in military and police environments. The Blaser system is something you either love or hate but what is undeniable is that this is the fastest thing to shoot the legal side of a semi auto. Lurking behind the spotlights of a bolt system is the undeniable precision of German engineering pedigree to deliver a rifle that combines speed with the safety of a de—cocker, razor sharp, single stage trigger and masses of stock adjustability, although it does favour taller shooters. Weak points are the recoil pad shape (I’d grind the points off!) and that’s about it, it feeds and ejects without fuss and everything is thought of for you. A folding stock is available but not to my liking as it seems to deform the great ergonomics of the parent gun and adds a fair lump in price. The Blaser system makes replacing barrels a two minute bolt-on job. The gun is frankly ‘boring’, the greatest complement I can pay to its utter functionality and certainly one of my favourites, partially for its unique character!

BRÜGGER & THOMET APR 308

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Viking Arms, 01423 780810
Price £8985 including VAT

If you want a unique gun that really stands out from the crowd, there can perhaps only be one. The Brügger & Thomet APR308 offers a fully integrated chassis stock, moderator/muzzle brake combo with all the accessories, mirage band, mag feed, folding stock with a sleek yet utterly solid hinge, it’s been a hard act to follow. The stock shows masses of adjustability and the trigger is two stage perfection, a light pull to the stop and one tiny squeeze puts bullet on bullet. Accessing the accuracy it gives is effortless but 308 is always easy to load for with masses of choice, but when I used a 167 grain handload, first time out, I shot my first ever perfect score on a McQueens. But is it twice as good as its competition?... Well no but it’s an aspirational design with fast and smooth functionality, folded portability, moderate weight, excellent balance and utter dependability. There are also many optional extras like Picatinny rails, fitted Peli case, barrel and moderator options that will see you at £10k plus, a cliché, but Swiss watch precision!

DESERT TECH

Desert Tech, 01604 686800
Price, £4750

Desert Tech was previously Desert Tactical Arms and although the name has changed it is the one option that truly stands apart from the class. Being a bullpup design, size and weight are vastly reduced but not without some drawbacks. Although very slick in use the gun takes a slight ergonomic adjustment to accommodate firing as the bolt handle is right under your chin so a little slower operation than the normal bolt in front of your face systems. Available in multiple chamberings, the 308 shows a 6-round magazine and although the triggers have been updated to improve performance no 10 round mag is yet available. The Desert Tech scores in its ability to handle a barrel 6” longer than normal. No feelings of increased length or conversely, a short barrel with options in fast twist and fully suppressed to cater for those wanting a truly compact gun. A left hander is in progress as it’s a pure right hander for obvious reasons! The 60 second barrel change is also one of the fastest, most secure and has accurate return to zero with a bolt swap just as quick to enable calibre changes.

BARRETT MRAD

RIFLECRAFT TACTICAL HUNTER
Riflecraft Ltd, 01379 853745
Prices MRAD £6,178
LSS/Tactical Hunter £1,450

Barrett needs little introduction as they are famous for the big, .50 cal guns. However, they now offer their 98 Bravo in 308 as well as 338 Lapua and also their latest the MRAD - Multi Role Adaptive Rifle. It’s pretty much a 98 Bravo with the build taking some cues from the AR15 with hinged upper and lower receiver halves, AR grip so plenty of choice and a similar mag system, in 308 it holds 10 in a double column polymer box. The upper offers a fully free-float and Picatinny rails and there’s a folding stock with adjustable LOP and comb height. It can switch calibres easily with a removable bolt head, the barrel is retained by twin cross bolts. Also offers length options on a single calibre too, a single stage trigger is fitted. Riflecraft’s new Tactical Hunter uses the MDT (Modular Driven Technologies Corp) LSS (Light Sniper System) chassis.

You may recognise the name from their TAC21 Remington 700 exoskeleton. LSS is a minimalistic chassis system that will accept any and all AR15 components so think butts, pistol grips etc. The build is vestigial with just enough material to accept the action securely and mount an AI-type mag system. A slim/solid under rail makes up the forend with a Picatinny base on the end so good for forward-mounted NV. The LSS is configured for most popular makes of rifle – Remington, Savage, Howa/Weatherby Vanguard, Tikka etc and looks to be highly practical.

SAKO TRG 22

GMK, 01489 579999
Price starting from, £3080

The TRG is probably the first truly Tactical rifle I ever shot and has always sat in the middle ground for me in terms of technical ability combined with a slightly ‘warmer’ look and feel than the chassisbased rifles. Accessories for the gun, scope mounts, magazines, bipods etc. are expensive so beware but as a true system, they take some beating. I like its ergonomics and the fact it doesn’t visually appear quite as militaristic as some may assume, even though its record among professional users is well received. A short lift, 3-lug bolt coupled with a long bolt handle and quiet cycling with impeccable manners really seems to add a bit of Scandinavian class to the breed. With plenty of trigger guard space for gloved fingers, it’s more simplified layout is perhaps ergonomically a gun you learn to love, rather than one that you mould around your own physique. Make no mistake, this one definitely goes on my shortlist and if purchased as a package with accessories, starts to look extremely good value for money.

ACCURACY INTERNATIONAL AX308

Sporting Services, 01342 716427
Price starting from, £4704

The Accuracy International hardly needs introduction, its worldwide reputation for accuracy and reliability precedes it in all arenas or both competition and combat, to the point even the Americans have a hankering for it. Filtering down from its military heritage the newest AX308 is the single calibre version of the multi-calibre AXMC. This gun sets the standard by which all others are judged by and commands high prices. Compared to the older AW, the AX features more adjustability from the stock system with fewer tools and spacers required. The forend, once of aluminium bar within the chassis is now a Picatinny tube to increase the forend length and stiffness without weight gain and adding extensive mounting options for multiple sights or accessories. Numerous barrel options and brakes are available but the gun comes with just one 10-round dual stack mag and the simple twin chamber brake although this is a gun that can be entirely specified by the user to suit requirements. The folding stock is now standard and the pistol grip is an improvement over the previous thumbhole design that I never found very comfortable. A 20MOA Picatinny rail is included and this gun really does guarantee the very best start, but watch out for the optional extras and their price

END GAME

So to round up, what would I go for? I liked the Haenel RS8 and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it’s probably for its utter functionality with little regard to fashion or ego, it’s just performs with utter dependency without fuss. Were money to be no limit, the Accuracy International AX308 would be mine; it is simply the stand alone gun without peer although I would opt for the AXMC so I could add a 338 Lapua barrel in the future. It is hard to ignore the history of the brand dare I say it’s also one of the few things in the shooting world that we Brits can say is entirely OURS, well, until we put an optic on it!

STEELCORE SCD 762

THUNDERBOLT
Steel Core Designs, 01732 887165
Price, £4440

The Steelcore uses a quad lugged bolt formerly famous with target rifle designs. Streamlined and tweaked to give perfect magazine feeding performance it has clearly been UK designed and built to snap at the heels of the AI and I must say, does a very good job. It’s a total system with accessories supplied, an ergonomic stock shows multiple adjustments and good trigger, once you get used to its slightly unusual 3 stage feel.

Accuracy was beyond doubt and the monopod and stock design really weld it in place for those precision shots! Although I’d prefer a slightly chunkier handle for the short, yet fairly stern bolt lift. It’s super smooth to operate with the latest coatings offsetting the obviously close tolerances of the action. A Bellville washer system on the firing pin gives a fast lock time too. The stock can fold, has a carry handle on the underside and is very long in ‘wheelbase’ from the incorporated low centre of gravity bipod that swivels around the forend. It feels slightly different in balance to competitors, more akin to the length of a 50 cal in a way, but a superb system at very competitive price with brake and monopod included.

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