A few years back, my urge to hear steel plinking from far away started to grow and get out of control I had a great place to shoot targets out to 400 yards and I had a Remington 700 in 25-06 outfitted with a heavy barrel and a Vortex 5-25x scope. I had the desire and the means to satisfy that desire.
I am in a group of guys who get together every Saturday morning to shoot (we don't play golf) for bragging rights and to tell lies. We focus mostly on the long range variety of shooting as that is what we enjoy most.
There was only one problem, it was costing me more than one dollar for every pull of the trigger. Some of my buddies were spending over two dollars per trigger pull with larger calibers.
All of us are normal middle class guys and we could afford to feed our large caliber rifles each week, but we really like to shoot - a lot. We couldn't afford to feed them as much as we wanted to shoot.
One day while in a local gun shop buying my weekly allotment of ammo, I noticed a little rifle on one of the racks that caught my eye. It was a Savage FVSR in model 93r17. Upon closer inspection I noticed it was outfitted with a fluted bull barrel that was already threaded. The bolt handle was an upgrade and had a really cool look to it.
I have a few big bore savages and am well acquainted with that company's ability to build accurate rifles. After 30 minutes or so of arguing with myself I bought it and took it home.
Initial set up
I knew I wanted to push this little rifle to it's limits and take it out to the maximum distance at our local range which is 400 yards.
After looking through all of the extra scopes and other equipment I had in my gun room and not being able to find what I really needed or wanted, I decided to buy new stuff for this project. I had only paid around $250 for the rifle. I wanted to build a capable little tack driver for under $600 total all in. I knew this would be a challenge but I was up for it.
Next stop, Amazon. I found several cheap Chinese scopes for well under $100. They might even work for quite a while on this little 17 with no recoil but I wanted to stay inexpensive -not cheap! I have never owned one of these little cheapos and quite frankly there is no way these things can have decent glass in them. Probably akin to looking through the bottom of a coke bottle.
The scope I decided to purchase was a UTG 6-24 model. At this writing I can't find that exact model on Amazon but here is the upgrade for the one I purchased. Now that I see this, I wish I had waited for this version. As you can see it meets all of the requirements of a great long range rimfire scope.
I saw the bipod as an opportunity to save a little money but did not sacrifice at all on stability or function. It is a 6-9 inch model and is designed for tradional rifle styles which will work perfectly with our Savage FVSR. Here is the one I settled on from Amazon.
I found one more little accessory that I have never used on any of my other rifles but just had to give it a try on this one. It's a monopod. See it in the picture at the top fo this article attached to the rear sling swivel. It is easily adjustable while I am shooting and creates a concrete foundation for holding on your shot. I'm not sure how I ever did without it now.
After outfitting the rifle with all of the equipment above, next stop was buying ammunition. I purchased 5 different brands and bullet weights of 17 hmr. Once it arrived, I headed for the range.
Of the ammunition I had which was made up of Hornady 17 and 25 grain and CCI 17 and 25 grain. This rifle liked the CCI 17 grain hollow points the best with a group of around 1 inch at 50 yards.
I am not complaining about this level of accuracy but I know this rifle will do better. While at home I removed the action from the stock. FYI, the factory stocks that come on these rifles are junk. Way too flimsy in the fore end area.
While I had it apart, I added bedding compound to the bottom channels in the fore end to try and stiffen it. I put in as much as I could without coming in contact with the barrel. Seems to have helped stiffen it up quite a bit. I truly wanted to go with a new Boyd's Tacticool stock but this would have driven the cost up way over my budget goal.
After a few days of curing I made sure the stock was free floated from the barrel all the way down the barrel to about 1 inch or so on the barrel side of the action.
Because Savage has a great design for stabilizing the action on this little rifle, I did not do anything with bedding it. There are already raised plastic rests in the stock for the action to rest on along with the action being supported by metal pillars.
Back to the Range
This time I really wanted to see what the rifle was capable of doing without my errors. I used my lead sled to accomplish that. I love this thing because it will accommodate traditional style rifles as well as ARs with long mags. You can create a tight fit on both the fore end and the butt of the stock for stabilization. You can be sure what your rifle is capable of vs what variability you add to the process. It's really a good tool for learning what you are doing wrong and right.
I do not advocate using a lead sled as a crutch for poor shooting and I certainly don't think this equipment should ever be relied on for hunting or even target competition, but it is a fantastic tool to efficiently understand what both your rifle and you are capable of .
With this set up I was able to fire a 10 shot group measuring less one half inch at 50 yards. I will do this and try to video the group being shot next time.
At 218 yards, 4 inch clay pigeons had no chance at all and this little rifle claimed it's share of golf balls at the same distance. I 'll try and get footage to post here on our next outing.
How is this possible with so little money?
I am often asked how I get my little rimfire rifles to be so accurate. They are all tack drivers within their effective range. In fact everyone in my shooting group owns what can be referred to as a tack driver.
Others can easily see that we don't invest a lot of money into them to make them shoot well. A custom built Kidd will cost well over $2000, others customs can cost much more and as you know, I have no more than $600 in the rifle above.....actually $490. And I can somewhat consistently hit golf balls at 218 yards. What gives?
This is the real difference between rimfire and big bore centerfire rifles as a hobby. The PRS competitors can have as much as $10,000 or more invested in their competition rifle and gear. And this is just to be competitive. Spending that amount doesn't guarantee a win.
The fact is a large caliber center fire rifle would destroy the scopes that we use over and over. The recoil of a 300 mag requires a much more robust scope than a rimfire. This rimfire scope can be found for around $200 where the 300 mag may require a $5000 scope. Everything on a 300 mag, in order to hold together, is required to be more heavy duty than the same equipment on a rimfire.
All of this heavier duty stuff is much more expensive. That is why I am able to own over 20 little tack drivers instead of two big bore range rifles. I guess we coud call it a poor man's sport.
There are several rifles that are inexpensive but have inherent accuracy right out of the box.
Start with a great foundation
There are several manufacturers who supply great rifles that would serve as the foundation for a super long range rimfire set up including Savage, Ruger, CZ, Volquartzen, Remington, Winchester, Marlin, Lithgow, etc. You can also go the custom route with a 10/22 build using parts from Kidd or one of the other company's that are in this business.
If you are looking for value, that is the best rifle for the money there are only two in my mind that stick out. The Savage MKII bolt action and the Ruger 10/22 semi automatic. I have the Savage in several models but like the FVSR the most. This is the tactical model with a 16.5 inch threaded barrel from the factory. It has the outstanding Accu-trigger option and shoots really well. My favorite Ruger is the model 1230 Tactical. Ruger also does a good job with the American line for a really decent price.
Depending on the model you choose to start with the Savage MKII can be had in the $300-$600 range. The Ruger 1230 currently runs around $470.
Determine the best optic for you
What is long range for you? To me, for my rimfires, it is around 400 yards. Knowing that, we need to work backwards and find a scope that will do what we want at that distance which I call my maximum effective range. This doesn't mean I won't take a shot that is further, it just means that any hits beyond 400 involves more luck than skill.
My recommendation for magnification is as much as you can get with glass that is still clear. It does no good to have 50x magnification if the target looks like it is in a fog bank. Unfortunately, this is what you run into with some high power cheaper scopes.
I also don't recommend putting a $4800 scope on a rimfire rifle. This is extreme overkill.
One good place to start is with the lines of scopes made specifically for rimfire rifles. Several of them come with turrets graduated for you exact round rifle combination and are surprisingly accurate. Here are a couple that I would recommend.
This is the Bushnell Rimfire Optics 6-18X40 Riflescope. I would normally prefer more magnification but this optic has crystal clear glass for a scope in this price range which makes up for it.
It also has turrets with external graduation and a side adjustment for parallax. Not a perfect choice but definitely usable out to 400 yards.
My other recommendation is the UTG 6-24 discussed above. It runs around $220. This is the scope I used on my $600 project. For the price, slightly over $200, it has a very clear sight picture at high magnification and holds it's zero well. I have experiemented with it by moving the zero around randomly and then bringing it back to zero to determine how well it will return. It is always right on the money.
Always spring for the scope base that adds additional moa to the system. You'll need it at 400 yards. They are relatively in expensive and well worth the extra few dollars. Here are some on Amazon.
What else for a budget long range system?
I don't consider any long range rimfire rifle complete until it has a good bipod to allow stable holds in the field. At the range it's ok to use bags or sleds but in the field it's not practical to carry all of that around with you. A good bipod is the ticket.
The goal of this project was to create a rimfire tack driver for $600 or less. Let's see how we did. The rifle was $250, scope $220, bipod $18, monopod $100. Total cost $490. That 's a really low cost per gain in accuracy which is the whole purpose of this site. To show that you really don't need big bucks to get competitive and have a ton of fun shooting long range rim fire rifles.
The other reason I took this project on was because I had a blast and knew I would. Happy long range rimfire shooting!