If you are relatively new to precision rifle training, here is a quick guide to what you should bring to class and what you need to know to prepare.
The type of rifle you should bring depends on the types of targets and anticipated distances you will be shooting. For a “precision” rifle class, typically you can expect small targets and distances out to 300 yards or more. For this type of shooting, you want to stick to a bolt-action rifle or some type of accurized version of a military-style rifle, commonly referred to as a Designated Marksman’s Rifle or DMR.
Barrels should have a heavier profile. Skinny-barreled hunting rifles may not give you the best performance. While these barrels can be accurate enough for the context they are designed for, the slim profile barrels heat up faster which will cause groups to open up over strings of fire. On bolt action rifles, stick with something like one of the Palma profiles, a Varmint or Semi-Varmint profile, or Bull profile. The barrel should be free-floating in the stock or chassis.
Triggers should be set between 2-5 lbs. Be cautious with lighter triggers. Triggers heavier than 5 lbs pull will be more difficult to be accurate with.
Bipods are a must. You need something to support the front of your rifle. True, you can rest the rifle on a pack or beanbags, but bipods give the best results. Be realistic when you select your bipod size. The lower your shooting position, in general, the more stable, the therefore accurate, you can be. However, everyone is different and depending on your build and flexibility, there are limits to how low you can go. The most common bipods are relatively short 6″ – 9″ leg models. If you are getting into the precision rifle game later in life, or if you have had neck or back surgeries, or if you are carrying a few extra pounds… those short bipods will not be your friend. Go with the next size up, like a 9″ to 13″ bipod that will allow you to take a higher prone position.
Optics need to be clear and reliable, in strong rings and mounts. Make sure you are bringing enough magnification. A 1-6 low variable power optic is good on a carbine, it will give mediocre results at best in a precision rifle class. Generally, 2-10X or more magnification is advisable. A scope with finger-adjustable turret-style knobs will be easier to use. Either Miliradian or MOA-based reticles will work, most scope manufacturers are now offering knobs matched to reticle subtension (Mil reticle/mil knobs or MOA reticle, MOA knobs). That is the way to go. You may be tempted to use a Ballistic Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle, while these certainly have their applications, they have their limits.
First Focal Plane (FFP) optics are preferred for precision rifle applications. That doesn’t mean second-focal plane (SFP) optics won’t work, but for making precise measurements and using the reticle for holds, it is common for shooters to forget to adjust the magnification, resulting in incorrect measurements and holds.
Unless your instructor sends you explicit instructions before class to zero the rifle for some other distance, you are best served with a solid 100 yard no-wind zero. Trust me on this one.
Stick with a high-accuracy match bullet in either a Boat-Tail Hollow Point (BTHP) design like the Sierra Match-King or a polymer tip design like the Hornady AMAX or ELD-M. Full metal jacket ammunition like M80 “ball”, M193, or M855 will give less than satisfactory results. Soft point hunting ammunition can be very accurate, but is designed for terminal performance within realistic hunting ranges and velocities and may not do best at long range. You will spend more for match ammo, but it is a variable under your control that will make a difference in how much class time you spend learning, versus fighting your gear and wondering why your groups aren’t accurate.
Since most precision rifle classes involve a good deal of prone-position shooting, you should bring a shooting mat – something to lay on. If you don’t have an actual shooting mat, I have found a few packing blankets or a foam camping sleep pad will work just fine.
A “rear bag” of some sort to support the rear of the stock while shooting is highly recommended. If you need more information on these, check out this article by ADC Instructor Jeremy Decker.
Other than that, you need the normal stuff you would take to the shooting range – personal protective equipment, water, rain and sun gear, and appropriate clothing. If you are taking a class, you also need to make sure you are bringing an open mind.