308 Win. Bolt Guns: Ruger’s Precision Rifle vs. Tikka T3 CTR
Finding: The Ruger Precision Rifle, $1399, is solely designed for precision shooting. The Tikka T3 CTR, $950, is more of a crossover rifle, straddling hunting and precision rifle use.
We admire long-range competitive shooters for doing something we mere shooting mortals find nearly impossible. Their ability to manage distance, wind, and overly complicated reticles on specialized rifles to deliver hits on targets that can hardly be seen with the naked eye is both an art and science. Usually a precision centerfire rifle is custom-made, costing upwards of $3,000 or more with a wait time that can take years, depending on the popularity of the custom-rifle builder. Adding a suitable optic can increase the cost an additional $1,000 to $2,000, plus bipod and other pieces of gear, not to mention quality ammo. All in, a shooter could easily sink $7,000 into a set up before even sending a single piece of lead downrange.
Firearm manufacturers, seeing the shooting public’s interest in long-range shooting, are offering rifles advertised as “tactical” and “precision” to attract long-range hunters and weekend paper punchers. We all know that setting a barreled action in a black polymer stock does not make a precision rifle. But lately, some large firearm manufacturers have begun mass-producing accurate rifles that rival some custom-built rifles without the wait or the high cost. These mass-produced precision rifles can handle many long-range chores, and some of them come in compact lengths and have the ability to add muzzle devices, such as suppressors.
We wanted to take a look at a few of these rifles to get a sense of their accuracy as well as their consistency, ease of use, ability to be customized, and cost. We began looking at such rifles in the January 2016 issue when we compared three bolt actions from Savage, Ruger, and Howa, all chambered in the very accurate 6.5 Creedmoor round. Our favorite in that test was the Savage Arms Model 12 Long Range Precision 19137, followed by the Ruger Precision Rifle 18005 and the Howa HB HKF92507KH+AB. Here we take a second look at the Ruger Precision rifle, this time in 308 Winchester, against a Tikka T3 CTR. The 308 Win. is a common and popular round, with many factory ammunition options available. We tried the spectrum of 308 Win. ammunition and bullet weights, from inexpensive Sellier & Bellot 150-grain soft-point hunting rounds and Norma USA’s 168-grain Sierra hollowpoint boattail to expensive 175-grain boattail Sierra MatchKing hollowpoints in the Federal Premium Gold Medal match ammo line, as well as Hornady 155-grain TAP FPDs. Both rifles were fired from a sandbag rest as well as from seated and prone positions. We also made sure the temperature, wind speed, and humidity conditions were similar when we shot these rifles, even though these factors have more affect on targets at farther distances than the distance tested. Barrels were allowed to cool after each string.
Test firing was conducted at 100 yards, though that distance may seem short compared to what these rifles’ makers say the products can do. This is the most common rifle-range distance many shooters have access to. Members of this particular test team had experience with high-end SIG Sauer SSG 3000 and Sako TRG M10 and TRG 42 rifles, and numerous chassis-style rifles with Remington, Savage, and custom-rifle-maker barreled actions, as well as long-range hunting rifles like the Savage 11/111 models and Remington Model 700 varmint rifles. A Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm LR/T scope (Brownells.com, $900, #526-000-150WB) was moved between rifles Warne Maxima-series steel rings to ensure there was no optic variability. The Mark 4 series has been used by the U.S. Marine Corps on the M14 rifle and with the U.S. Army’s M24 sniper weapon system. One might consider it to be a benchmark in tactical scopes. It is made with a one-piece 30mm tube and a 50mm objective. The M1 TMR (Tactical Milling Reticle) reticle is located in the second focal plane, so it stays one size even as the magnification power is increased. To use the Mil-Dot ranging features, the scope must be set to the highest magnification. We bore-sighted the rifles prior to starting range work. Here’s what our shooters found out at the range.