November 2017

Options in Precision Rifle: We Test Desert Tech, Howa, Ruger

We test a trio of 6.5mm-caliber chamberings to find the best combination of cartridge and carbine for a variety of uses. Winner: The SRS-A1 is accurate and handy—but very expensive.

Options in Precision Rifle: We Test Desert Tech, Howa, Ruger

We usually pack our DU-HA Tote roller cabinets into the truck bed with just one or two rifles plus chronograph, ammunition, support bags, writing tablet, and a small cooler. But we decided to pack four rifles instead. Top to bottom are the Ruger Hawkeye, Howa HCR, Desert Tech SRS-A1 and the Alexander Arms Overwatch (not tested here) for good measure. The new improved Tote with improved hinges and locks costs $379 from Du-Ha.com.

Trends in firearms sales reflect the needs and interests of the buying public. Whereas the AR-15 or “black rifle” market has slowed down considerably, the popularity of rifles that are capable of accuracy beyond the 300-, 600-, or even 1000-yard range is still going strong. Referred to as precision rifles, the traditional configuration of a barreled action bedded into a wood or fiberglass stock are being challenged by aluminum and synthetic chassis rifles. What’s more, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is rapidly becoming a favorite round. In this test, we decided to review three different types of rifles chambered to propel 0.264-inch diameter bullets that represent options to satisfy the long-distance enthusiast.

In this test, the traditional bolt-action rifle was represented by a new offering from Ruger that has, to the best of our knowledge, received virtually no press. Our $1139 6.5 Creedmoor Hawkeye MkIV Varmint Target boasted a 28-inch-long barrel, the longest tube we’ve heard of in quite some time. Howa’s $1450 HCR (Howa Chassis Rifle) was next up, featuring a fully adjustable buttstock from LUTH AR. Finally, we tried a unique design by Desert Tech. The $4995 Stealth Recon Scout (SRS-A1) lives up to its name by offering a 26-inch-long barrel packed into a compact profile.

For optics, our rifles shared a Steiner 4-16x50mm Predator Extreme scope. We also took turns looking down range with a Kahles 3-12x50mm scope supplied by Desert Tech. We painstakingly took time to break in the barrel of each rifle and then fired from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Center in Houston to collect basic accuracy data. For shots of record, we chose Winchester 140-grain Match, Hornady 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and the new 147-grain ELD Match rounds. We also shot a variety of rounds left over from previous tests to perform break in and for general comparison. What were the strengths and limitations of these three different platforms? Let’s find out.

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