As a member of the World Champion Team USA F/TR squad, Paul Phillips regularly competes (and wins) at 1000 yards. Paul is also a long-range hunter. Here’s his story about developing his ultimate long-range hunting rifle. Chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum, this rig is accurate out to 1800 yards.
The Long-Range ChallengeBy Paul Phillips
Being an avid big game rifle hunter, my goal was to build the most accurate long-range hunting rifle possible that would still be light enough to carry. My thought was to use the same type of high-quality components as what I used on my US F/TR Team Rifle, except in a bigger caliber — a caliber that would have plenty of knock-down power at very long ranges. After extensive research, including both ballistic data analysis, as well as discussion with top gunsmiths and champion long-range shooters, I chose the .338 Lapua Magnum. My past experience from being a member of a USMC Scout Sniper Platoon and a shooting member of two World Champion U.S. F-Class F/TR teams, I knew that this rifle was more than capable of performing the task. After establishing that the rifle had half-MOA accuracy at 600 yards, we wanted to see how far the rifle could maintain sub-MOA accuracy, to see what the cartridge and rifle could achieve. Could this gun shoot sub-MOA at a mile? That was our challenge.
Rifle Components and Gunsmithing
My rifle was built on a Stiller Tac-338 single-shot action. It has a 30″, 1:10″-twist Brux barrel, a McMillan A-5 stock with Magnum fill, a Sinclair Bipod, and a Remington X-Mark trigger set at two pounds. The rifle wears a Nightforce NXS 8-32x56mm scope in Nightforce rings on a +40 MOA rail. I chose David Tooley to install the barrel, custom brake, apply a Cerakote dark earth finish and bed the stock. After speaking with Mr. Tooley in great length, I chose his no-neck-turn match .338 Lapua chamber specifically designed for the 300 grain Berger Bullet. This rifle weighs 17 pounds and, with the muzzle brake, it recoils like a standard .308 Winchester.
Load Development and Accuracy Testing
I used the 600-yard range at the Midland County Sportsman’s Club. If I was going to have any chance of hitting small targets at a mile, I would need to find a load that could produce half-minute (0.5 MOA) or better accuracy. I found an accurate load that gave me consistent half-minute groups that chronographed at 2825 FPS. My load consisted of Lapua brass, Federal 215M Primer, Alliant Reloder 25, and Berger 300gr Hybrid OTM bullet. With the Berger 300-grainer’s listed 0.419 G7 BC, this load would be good enough to reach 1880 yards before going subsonic. This load’s calculated energy at one mile is 960 ft/pounds. This is similar to a .44 magnum pistol round at point-blank range.
With my +40 MOA scope rail, my 100-yard zero ended up with the elevation at the bottom of the tube and the windage just 2 MOA left of center. This left a full 65 Minutes of Elevation — enough to get out to 1800 yards. This gave me the capability to aim and shoot from 100 yards to 1800 yards with a projectile that is still supersonic at 1800.
Hitting a 10″ Balloon at One Mile
For a one-mile target, I chose a balloon inflated to 10″ in diameter. The balloon would be a challenging, reactive target that would show up well on video. I teamed up with a fellow long-range shooter, John Droelle and friend Justin Fargo to attempt this feat. Using my known 600-yard Zero, my ballistics program showed my come-up for 1783 yards to be 53 MOA. After two sighters that measured 4 inches apart, I adjusted up one minute from my spotter shot and nailed my 10″ balloon at one mile. This video was recorded with my iPhone attached to my 25-power Kowa spotting scope, so it may seem a lot closer than it really is. Below is a video of the shot. Needless to say I achieved my goal and was very excited.
Watch Hit on 10″-Diameter Balloon at One Mile with .338 Lapua Magnum
After my balloon shot, I let my friend Justin Fargo, a novice shooter, try his skills. Justin told me that he had never shot past 100 yards using a common deer rifle. Surprisingly, Justin not only kept all his shots under 1 MOA, he hit the 9-inch white circle in the middle of the target. This bullet hole measured only 4.3 inches from the center of where he was aiming. Truly amazing! The target below shows Justin’s shots at one mile. Note that All the hits are located within the 24-inch black circle.
What I Learned — With the Right Equipment, Even a Novice Can Make Hits at a Mile
The above results demonstrate that even a novice shooter with a high-quality, custom rifle and match-grade ammo can make extreme long range shots with great accuracy. It is very important to understand the ballistics of the bullet and the effect of wind drift to make precision, first-shot hits on your target. It is also important that you know your target, backstop and beyond when making these shots. To date, I have shot approximately 40 shots at a mile in calm conditions while averaging 3-shot groups between ½ to 1 MOA (1 MOA is about 18.5″ at that distance). My next experiment is to see how well these bullets perform traveling at subsonic speeds out to 1.5 – 2 miles. Stay tuned!
Special thanks to the following people that helped out with this project: Geoff Esterline, David Tooley, Dick Davis, John Droelle, Ray Gross and Bryan Litz.
Editor’s Comment: The point of this article is to show the kind of accuracy a precision rifle system can achieve, consistently, at extreme long range. Though this rifle will do duty as a hunting arm, Phillips is not advocating that a .338 LM be used to harvest animals at the full limit of its supersonic range. Because winds are hard to predict at extreme long range in a hunting situation, Phillips cautions that the practical distance at which he would shoot game with a rig like this is much, much shorter.
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If you missed Top Shot All-Stars last night on the History Channel, don’t fret — you can watch the latest full episode online HERE. This week competitors faced the ultimate long-range challenge — shooting a 40″ exploding target at ONE MILE — the longest distance ever attempted on Top Shot. The rifle was a Barrett MRAD chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum. Whoever hit the target the quickest (and with the least number of shots) won a prize (an Oculus rifle scope). The top seven shooters were “safe” from the elimination round. The four who faltered faced possible elimination. This wasn’t easy. At one mile (1760 yards) a 10 mph wind shift can move the bullet nearly twenty FEET laterally. And a lot can happen in the 3+ seconds it takes the bullet to hit the target. (Ballistics based on a 250gr Lapua Scenar launched at 2900 fps, with full value wind vector. Lapua factory .338 LM ammo was used during this episode.)
CLICK to watch Mile Shot Full Episode on History.com
Some competitors did remarkably well — hitting the one-mile target with ease. However, challenging winds sent others to elimination, where they faced off using a prehistoric weapon, the Atlatl. To see who did well and who was eliminated, visit the Top Shot All Stars Video Archive.
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These days, quality .338 Lapua Magnum brass is hard to locate — and expensive when you can find it. Here’s a money-saving solution for you .338 LM shooters. Grafs.com has acquired a large quantity of once-fired .338 Lapua Mag cartridge brass. This brass bears the “NT” headstamp, but Graf’s says this brass is “manufactured by Lapua, to Lapua specs”. Cost is $159.99 for one hundred (100) cases. That price includes shipping charges, but there is one $6.95 handling fee per order. This .338 LM brass is IN-STOCK as of March 5, 2013.
How does that price compare to brand-new Lapua-made .338 LM brass? MidwayUSA sells a box of 100 Lapua-made .338 LM cases for $257.99, but MidwayUSA is “out of stock” with no back-orders being taken. Elsewhere we’ve seen Lapua-made .338 LM brass sell for up to $289.00 per hundred.
Product tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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How would you like a modular precision rifle that can shoot .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Win Mag, and .308 Win rounds — all from the same action and chassis? And how would you like to be able to swap calibers in the field (with barrel and bolt change-outs) with just a couple simple hand tools? This kind of rifle system is not just a pipe-dream. Accuracy International’s PSR Rifle system is truly three guns in one, and it’s now in production. Watch the video to see the features of this advanced modular rifle.
Scott Seigmund, V.P. of Accuracy International (North America), gave us a run-down on the features of AI’s new PSR (Precision Sniper Rifle) modular system. By changing barrels, bolts, and magazines, the gun can shoot three different cartridge types. All the equipment (including bipod, optics, extra bolts, barrels, and mags) are carried in AI’s fitted “deployment” box.
If the full $17,200 three-barrel system is not enough for you, and you need something even more exotic — AI offers a special take-down version of the PSR rifle. Scott showed us a complete .338 LM rifle (with 20″ barrel) stowed in a transport box smaller than a typical carry-on case. Scott said the price on the take-down system has not yet been set.
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Berger Bullets has released a new, 250-grain .338 caliber Hybrid OTM Tactical bullet. This is a slippery projectile, with an impressive .349 G7-model Ballistic Coefficient (.682 G1 BC). This new bullet gives Berger TWO heavyweight .338-cal bullets in its line-up — Berger already offered a 300gr OTM Tactical Hybrid with a .419 G7 BC, and a whopping .818 G1 BC. Berger tells us: “The .338-Cal 250gr and 300gr Hybrid OTM Tactical bullets were optimized for use in the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge, but will work great in other cartridges as well.”
The new .338 cal, 250gr Hybrid was designed by Bryan Litz. The new 250-grainer’s Hybrid design blends a tangent ogive with a secant ogive. These blended shapes yield outstanding ballistic performance, yet the blended Hybrid design is normally less “finicky” about seating depth position than are secant-ogive, VLD-style bullets. Hence less load tuning should be required with the Hybrids compared to VLD designs. According to Bryan, these thick-jacket OTM Tactical bullets have been optimized for specific cartridges. They should be successful at either magazine-feedable lengths or loaded long for single-shot firing situations, which can allow for more powder capacity and higher velocities.
.338 Cal Hybrids for Long-Range Hunting?
While Berger officially says that the new 250gr Hybrid and its larger 300gr cousin are “not recommended for hunting”, large .338-caliber bullets with similar construction, such as the Sierra 300gr Match King, have been used successfully by long-range hunters for many years. One experienced hunting guide told us: “This combination of bullet diameter and bullet weight has proven to be a very effective on elk and other large game.” Berger’s 250gr and 300gr OTM Hybrids offer a higher BC option than other bullets in this caliber and weight ranges. Berger does plan, in the future, to offer .338 caliber 250-grain and 300-grain Hybrid Hunting bullets.
Loaded Ammo with new .338 Hybrids Available from Bryan Litz
Bryan Litz’s ammunition business, Applied Ballistics Munitions, now offers loaded .338-caliber ammo for two cartridges: .338 Edge and .338 Lapua Magnum. This ammo (for both cartridge types) is offered with your choice of either the 300gr OTM Hybrid or the new 250gr and 300gr OTM hybrid. If you’re not familiar with the .338 Edge, this is a 300 Remington Ultra Magnum necked-up for the .338 bullet. The .338 Edge has become popular with long-range hunters.
Story tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions
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This video by Mark Dalzell demonstrates the long-range capabilities of the Savage 110 BA chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. Mark took his “BadAss” rig out to the southwest Nevada desert just north of Jean Dry Lakes. He placed a 2′x3′ target way, way out there — a full mile (1760 yards) away. At that range, flight time to target was 3.75 seconds! Sighting with a Nightforce 5-22x50mm NXS scope, Mark needed a few shots to get on target, but eventually made multiple hits, using 67 MOA of elevation and 2.25 MOA left windage. You can view the hits starting at 1:56 time-mark on the video. (Mark had a second camera set up closer to the target — this displays frame in frame in the video, and if you watch carefully you can see the strikes.) The ammo was HSM 250gr HPBT match with a 3.600″ COAL. The shooting was done at 8:13 in the morning, with clear conditions, very light winds. Temp was 57°, humidity 24.5, Density Altitude 3666. Video soundtrack is La Grange by ZZ Top.
LISTEN TO MARK TALK about One Mile Shooting
CLICK “PLAY” to hear Mark Dalzell TALK about his .338 LM Savage 110 BA and how he scored hits at 1760 yards.
Good Shooting Mark. That’s darn good for a factory rifle. You also had the elevation dialed in real close before the firing started! That shows a good knowledge of your ammo’s long-range ballistics. We also noticed how effective that muzzle brake was. Recoil looked about the same as an un-braked .308 Win.
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Correspondent Kelly Bachand visited the Savage booth at SHOT Show 2012. As always we were impressed with the wide range of affordable, rimfire rifles marketed by Savage. The popular Mark II BTVS is a good choice for rimifire tactical games, and it is also a nice carry-around varminter for squirrels and other small critters. The model 93 ‘Package Series’ rifles are real bargains. MSRP on the model 93R17 XP Camo package (which includes 3-9x40mm scope) is $456.00, while the “street price” is around $385.00.
What really caught Kelly’s eye was the impressive Model 110 FCP chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. This rifle features a stiff, high-quality HS Precision fiberglass tactical stock with V-block insert. New for 2012 is the .300 Win Mag chambering. (Other chamberings are .338 LM and .308 Win, both introduced last year). The Model 110 FCP HS Precision features a 5-round detachable box magazine, 26″ heavy fluted barrel, muzzle brake, and AccuTrigger. It even comes with scope rail.
In .338 Lapua Magnum, the m110 FCP weighs 10.7 lbs. The .300 WM and .300 Win are somewhat lighter, tipping the scales at 9 lbs. without optics. MSRP for the .300 WM version is $1192.00 — a good value, considering what the stock would cost by itself. The big .338 Lapua Magnum version has a $1549.00 MSRP on Savage’s website.
If you’re on a tight budget, Savage also offers a long-range big-caliber rifle in a polyethylene (tupperware) Accustock. The Model 11/111 Long Range Hunter is a lighter hunting variant that features a composite AccuStock with 3D bedding and a Karsten adjustable cheekpiece. It also has a 5-round detachable magazine, heavy fluted barrel, muzzle brake and AccuTrigger. MSRP for a Long Range Hunter in .300 Win Magnum, is $989.00.
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If you’ve ever lusted for a SAKO TRG42 in .338 Lapua Magnum, now’s the time to break out the checkbook. This could be the deal of the decade. EuroOptic.com is selling brand new, .338 LM SAKO TRG42s for just $2250.00. That is not a misprint. For a limited time (while supplies last), EuroOptic is offering AccurateShooter.com readers new TRG42s in .338 Lapua Magnum for just $2250.00 — that’s over $1000.00 cheaper than the price at some other gun vendors. This was a special purchase, and inventory is limited, so don’t delay. The TRG42s have black furniture with a matte black barrel finish (not phosphate), and no Picatinny rail. The $2250.00 price applies only to black-stock models, chambered in .338 LM. Shop around and you’ll see you can’t come close to this price on a new TRG42 anywhere else. If you order, mention AccurateShooter.com to get the $2250.00 special price.
SAKO TRG42 in .338 Lapua Magnum for $2250.00
EuroOptic Exclusive: .260 Remington TRG22s
Want a SAKO TRG22 chambered in .260 Remington? Well you won’t find one at your local gunstore. EuroOptic.com commissioned a special run of .260 Rem TRG22s, SNs 0XX-200, and they are now in stock. These are fitted with 26″, 1:8″ twist, black phosphate-coated barrels. Actions come with milspec Picatinny rails pre-installed. Four different stock finishes are currently available: Matte Black, Remington Green, Desert Digital Camo, and Woodland Digital Camo. The Camo stock sets are an Eurooptic exclusive — not available anywhere else. These are very special rifles, and with the high interest in the .260 Rem cartridge (which won the National High Power Championship in the hands of SGT Sherri Gallagher), you can expect the rifles to sell out quickly. Price for the .260 Rem TRG22s in black and green is $3100.00. The Digital Camo versions are priced somewhat higher, at $3350.00. Shown below is a the TRG22 in Desert Digital. If you have questions, call (570) 220-3159 and ask for Jason Baney. CLICK HERE for sale info and rifle specs.