A lot of people over the last 10 years or so have become interested in long range precision shooting. One of the simple facts of life when it comes to precision shooting at ranges past 700 yards is that the rifles often cost a lot of money. There is a huge mind boggling selection of rifles to pick from these days. You can have your choice of full custom, semi custom factory rifles, plain factory rifles meant to fill the need and factory rifles worked over to provide the desired results. A lot of people do not understand there is a big difference between a target rifle for LR shooting and true tactical or sniper rifles. I submit to you that they are all three different levels all together. One type is meant to shoot accurately while being treated gently. The other is to be treated like you wish you could treat your sister in law over years and still deliver an acceptable level of accuracy. It would surprise a lot of people to know military sniper rifles often do not shoot to the same level as a Camp perry target rifle. But thats OK. it does not need to. It just needs to shoot that good all the time no matter what you do to it. In a later article I will go into more depth on precision rifles and long range since this is a topic a lot of people want to know about but assume it is way more difficult then it really is. Do not let it fool you. Making hits at 1,000 yards is not as hard as it may seem. And often you can get it done with a semi auto A type rifle faster and cheaper then what you can with a worked up bolt gun. Again, I will make the case later.
Now I would like to take a look at what I believe to be a great starter rifle for those wanting to start the craft and a even more useful general purpose heavy recce to use a phrase borrowed from Howard.
The rifle I am going to talk about is the FN USA Patrol Bolt Rifle. Everyone who knows anything about me, knows I love and prefer the Winchester pre 64 controlled round feed action and the FN uses this action. Winchester and FN are pretty much the same thing these days and have been working close even before the New Haven plant went tango uniform. The result of this was the FBI bought a few heavy snipers from FN using the Model 70. A side project resulted in a neat little gun that everyone should take a look at. The PBR is no longer made and called the PBR but FN still makes it with a few slight changes. I will refer to it as the PBR because that is what I have but it can be bought still, just under another name.
The PBR came and the current model comes with a Hogue over molded stock, same as the M700 ACC model. The difference is the PBR has a full length bedding block. If you do not know about this feature, it is meant to take the place of glass or devcon or marineTex ing the action in the stock. To keep the action from moving in the stock and increasing the rigidity. Along with free floating the barrel this helps keep the gun more consistant and so more accurate. Bedding blocks are poo pooed by some but for what the PBR is meant to do, it is acceptable. The stock is not the most comfy but for a gun meant to be issued out to a wide variety of LEO or whatever, it is not bad at all. Some even really like it. I find the rubber coating wants to catch on everything on my body and make it slow to handle some times. thats OK because it is not meant for 3 gun slinging.
A really nice touch that FN provides is the one piece picatinny Near MFG scope base with cant for aiding zeroing to longer ranges. A lot of people who start out in long range shooting do not know just how important the base and rings are to the system. I prefer bases made by Badger Ord but again, it is more then enough for what this is meant for and you can always change it as you want. I recommend using it for a long time until yuou are good enough to know exactly what you need.
To mount the scope to the base I used Leupold MK4 rings and a ancient tactical Leupold MRT 10x with mildot reticule that was meant for paring with the M700 PSS rifles back in the late 90s. It is still a fine optic and if you can get one i suggest trying it out. The specs are 3.5x-10x with 1/4 inch target turrets and a 40mm objective lens. I also added a synthetic Military sling and harris BR model Bipods.
The barrel on the PBR is 24 inch chrome moly with fluting and a recessed crown to protect it from morons who do not pay attention. Unlike the FBI model, the barrel is not chrome lined. The taper on the barrel is pretty steep so it is not as heavy as a straight taper HBAR used on Winchester sharpshooter IIs or the FN SPR A3G.
The PBR also has the nice feature of a detachable box magazine. The mag holds 4 in it and is made of SS and ejects cleanly and sharp from the rifle. It is well made but hard to load rounds into it. Not a big deal once you get used to it but a pain anyway. Spare mags can be had from brownells fro about 44 bucks a pop.
As I said above, the action is the pre 64 model 70 so it has the huge external extractor. A lot of people like the M700 more and say that the extractor on a M700 will not break. I am here to tell you that is pure BS. I have had four M700 extractors break on me over the years. They will and can break off. The M70 holds the case as it picks it up and strips it off the mag and feeds it. It will extract it out of the chamber or rip the head off and because of the solid metal ejector, you can eject the empty as hard or soft as you want/need. One benefit of this is you can work the bolt in any position and not worry about feeding problems. As much as I love the M70 I can not see this as a real advantage as I have never been able to induce at malfunction in a m700 in any position as long as I worked the bolt. with purpose. On a gun meant for very hard use in ways that may get you killed, I like the controlled round feed ( CRF ) and so do the vast majority of dangerous game hunters in Africa.
The action of the PBR is as smooth as most of its type and is very unlikely to bind. The rifle is very handy and I see it as a perfect scouting rifle or light sniper that would be good for riding in the trunk until you need it. The new versions come with barrels as short as 16 inches so adding a can would make for a very handy suppressed sniping rifle for urban use. In fact, I feel this is very close to being a perfect urban sniper as far as bolt guns go. The barrel has a 1/12 twist so it will handle up to a 175 match round. Some always want a 1/10 and of course if you can a 1/10 get it, but the USMC has done alright with a 1/12 for years if that settles your nerves over it.
I have shot several PBRs out to as far as 800 yards over the years and found them to preform my demands. It is not perfect for this role or the most comfortable. Nor is it put together with the right parts or intended to really be a long range head shooter. If you imagine the PBR as having the same role as a MK12 or a recce but as a bolt gun I think you will be close to what this gun best fits as.
The rifle is very accurate though and with proper ammo, hits out to 800 yards or easy. 1,000 yard hits are not out of the question but do not get all twisted out of shape if its not as easy as you would hope. There is a little more to it then a 308 rifle with a heavy barre. But not as much more as you may think!! More on this later as I said.
After putting it together and shooting it some and checking out ammo selection etc. I set up at 100 yards to get a cold bore group to see how solid the system would be. I think 3 rounds is a good test of this gun since it is not truly a target or sniper rifle, but something in between.
This is a three round group from 10 yards using Black Hills match 175 grain HPBT. Point of impact is exactly point of aim. I am very happy with this as I am sure you can imagine. I intend to use the PBR as a light mid range sniper and sort of a small to deer size hunting rifle. It is easy to move with, lighter then my Sharpshooter II and shorter. Its not as comfortable in prone, but that is just fine I gave up the gravel belly days a while ago and need something a little better for more common field shooting or from the harris bipods. One day I will get a McMillan HTG stock like used on the M40A1 rifle, but maybe I won’t if the hogue proves solid enough.
If you want to start out in the Long range shooting hobby but also want something you could hunt with easier or carry easily across the suburb while being out of sight after the end of the world. The PBR or its current incarnation is a great place to start. If you want to move on to more custom, you can save the action to build from. I always advise using the Model 70 for a sniper rifle and this is a good way to start and give you more then the M700 AAC model which is very close to being the same.