So to start out we need to figure out what your intention is and then we will move to your budget.
Are you intending to go to competition for training or are you ready to start competing and winning?
What is your ability to get to competitions? Are they local club matches or are you attending a national/regional 2-day qualifier match?
Once we know what that looks like we can figure out an APPROACH to take.
For this piece I am going to go step by step through MY APPROACH which was starting out at local club matches, because my budget was limited and I had to purchase items then test them to find optimal positioning or sell them so I could afford to replace them my process was much slower than most, I originally started this journey in 2018 and recently completed (I use that term lightly) this year.
So I decided to run with .308 as my primary round to begin with running 175 Sierra Match Kings. I chose this round because I am intimately familiar with it , which honestly is the only round I had ever shot because that was what we use in the military for our Sniper rifles. I was very comfortable with using it so naturally it made sense to use something I could train and compete with. I was getting better for matches and becoming more effective in my profession.
The 308 is known to have a lot more recoil and is affected by wind more than cartridges that are ballistically superior or much faster down the barrel such as a 6.5 Creedmoor or 6 Creedmoor which are popular choices for competition. I went with this decision because I was going to start my journey by attending local club matches and I wanted to use it for training and learning purposes while beginning my precision competitor journey.
So to set the baseline I was already in a decent spot because I had a rifle already that I had been using for years in 2013 I built my first rifle and decided I was going to just upgrade it minimize costs (military budget with a family did not allow for major purchases right out the gate)
My starting point looked like this, Remington 700 Short Action SPS Tactical sitting in a CADEX Defense Strike Dual Chassis, with Harris bipods and a Razor HD Gen ll 3-18 w/ EBR-2C (MRAD) reticle.
So now that I have my caliber selected, I needed to start shopping for parts. I wanted a reputable action, barrel, brake, trigger, chassis manufacturer and finally a scope.
Again, I had very little experience outside of service rifles, so I knew about all kinds of barrel manufacturers but never actually used any of them. But I knew I wanted a heavier barrel profile because .308 has a kick to it and I was going to need recoil mitigation as much as possible to conduct proper follow-through and follow-on shots as necessary.
I chose to go with Proof Research after speaking to three friends of mine who compete, and each had a different opinion based off what they shoot, which all sounded very similar performance when dealing with quality barrel manufacturers. So ultimately, I chose the one I liked the best based off what appealed to me. This came in $409 and originally was a 22-inch barrel with the M24 contour because I wanted to keep it like my service system style, but eventually was replaced with a 24-inch
The next step was to find a functional and consistent trigger, I knew I wanted a drop in trigger, which was adjustable as low as possible for when I was ready to start manipulating it as I became more comfortable with its capabilities. I was keen on flat trigger shoes because I got acquainted with them on my carbines prior to and wanted to keep all my trigger manipulations as consistent as possible across my systems.
The main factor contributing to my decision was price, I had no real experience with buying quality triggers, so I needed to do my due diligence and research prices and features to know what I was purchasing.
I had an idea of which two triggers I was interested in were the Timney Remington 7 Calvin Elite ($264.99), and the Triggertech Rem 700 Diamond ($289.99). I initially was going to buy the Triggertech (which I should have) because it goes as low as 4 ounces for trigger weight, which aligned with my original criteria of being able to drop trigger weight as I gained confidence and comfortability with it, BUT my gun smith had the Timney in the shop already, and I convinced myself that I was saving a few bucks not buying the more expensive one on top of paying for S&H.
Now this trigger served me well and I had and still don’t have any issues with it, but I eventually went with a Triggertech when I re-barreled the rifle further on down the road.
Now it was time to add a brake to the business end. I spent some time back and forth with this for a few reasons. I was not a fan of self-timing muzzle brakes and specifically because I was not confident that I could ensure it was lined up correctly and did not know how trustworthy they were not to creep over a period of firing. Many shooters I know have them and they all kept creeping to the 11 o’clock position and it was consistent of many brakes and many shooters.
I also wanted to have the option to throw a suppressor on it when I eventually decided to break the bank again and purchase one and go through all the legal paperwork. So that was two negatives for the self-timers.
I also didn’t really know how effective 4 ports were because everyone I knew at the time that had a 4 port was running a 6.5 CM, 6 CM, 6 GT, and calibers or similar recoil which meant that there was basically none. I knew that wasn’t going to be the case with the .308 but I couldn’t really use their data and feedback accurately because the bullets had such a deviation in recoil kick.
So, I set my sights on a Ballistic Research Machine 3 port fixed brake which came in at $225. It served its purpose and helped recoil management significantly.
When I barreled my rifle up to the 24 inches, I did make the switch to a 4 port Area 419 Hellfire (down the road which we will get too), and I will say it was WORTH IT! Should have made the purchase originally, no creep, recoil even more controlled it is a game changer in the .308 world AND it comes in at $195, which would have saved me a few bones in the first place.
Now was the FINAL PIECE (or so I thought) I needed a “big boy action” and once againI had little experience with actions outside of the Remington 700 Short Action which is what we primarily use on our service rifles so naturally I chose to stick with that style of action to maintain comfortability as I wanted to have a solid feel for the system and familiarity for this build.
I chose to go with a Kelbly’s action, specifically the Atlas as it was a decent price point of $1149 and my local gunsmith had them in stock at the time, which made it a solid choice because it was easily accessible on top of being a reputable action and highly recommended from many shooters, I know who employ them in their rifle systems.
SO HERE WAS THE CATCH, my current chassis system the CADEX Defense Dual Strike was not cut to fit any other action (something I had never even know was a thing) one was rounded, and one was flat, which obviously means not compatible….
So I had two options, my gunsmith could fabricate one that would fit but it wouldn’t be original, he showed me some other pieces he had done on other guns, and although they were clean and well-made and you couldn’t tell the difference, I personally would know and again personally I didn’t like the idea of that, so I made the decision to buy a new chassis to fit the new action.
Now for the big ticket! The chassis system, when it came to the chassis there was no real option for me other than the KRG Whiskey-3! The only thing I really needed to decide on was did I want a folding chassis or a fixed chassis (or so I thought).
So I decided on a folding chassis and spent $1360.99 (initially). But after the initial purchase I put it together I was satisfied with my starting point, and yes! I said starting point.
The final step to complete this rifle build and begin fielding the system and tweaking was the largest purchase, the SCOPE. So, as I said earlier, I held off this purchase because I already had a quality scope which was the Razor, this had served me well, and as the theme of this article has really been I didn’t have much experience with anything else, so making an educated purchase at this time was probably not realistic.
So midway recap, .308 caliber, Whiskey-3 KRG, Vortex Razor HD Gen ll 3x18, 24” Proof Research Steel Barrel, BRM 3 port muzzle brake, TriggerTech Diamond, Kelbly Action, Atlas Bipods.
So as I began taking the weapon out to the range and shooting I was having a blast, my previous set ups and experience with service rifles did not compare to what I had right now, I was on cloud 9!
But after attending 4 club matches and 1 national level match I noticed some issues I was having…
Maintaining positive control of the rifle with the non-firing hand off any prop was becoming an issue because I had an open for end, so to mitigate this I purchased a night vision rail and flipped it around so I could reach it with my thumb. This worked for some positions but not all of them. So once again I made another purchase of the enclosed forend.
This solved that issue, and back at it I was, but I again noticed another issue which was staying on target when the shot broke due to the kick of the .308. I wasn’t ready to switch calibers, so I decided that I needed weights, and I went wild. I bought two short Gray Ops CNC weights, two long Gray Ops CNC weights and bolted them on, I then went and purchased the internal weight, the heavy XL spacer, the heavy XL ARCH rail, and a heavy rear flat bag rider from KRG.
This made life much easier as I was able to stay on target almost always now even with the heavy kick from the .308 round.
But I wasn’t satisfied so finally I made the biggest jump, I decided to go with a 26-inch competition barrel in 6.5 CM and I bought two Area 419 Hellfire 4 port brakes (because I still intend to shoot .308 for training).
So, after a decade of slowly building this rifle to what it is now, I have finally completed my first “race gun”, and it only cost me about all the money in the bank!
But to be fair, I do not regret a single dollar spent, the process of this journey has taught me more than anything, between what barrels do what, which actions are solid, the difference in muzzle velocity an inch adds when you choose your barrel length, the difference between a stock trigger and a real trigger, the nuances of open for ends, enclosed for ends, where to place weights to get proper balance and maximize their effectiveness.
Most importantly it showed me where I was lacking in knowledge after being a “certified Sniper” in the military and thinking I knew what was what, and it showed me what to look for when purchasing equipment and how to properly use it and what features are actually worth the money invested and what really didn’t make a difference.
Now these lessons learned will carry on into every future rifle purchased or built piece by piece, and it will allow me to make more well-informed decisions as I progress along this journey of marksmanship and competitions, and make me a better teacher when it comes to educating others who are just beginning their journey or are already following this path and looking for guidance along the way.
AND AS A CLOSER, most of these photos you can see are the KRG-C4 chassis... because I did end up buying that after I wrote this initially. But Instead of rewriting the whole thing I just wanted to note that it was included, most of you that know me and chat with me regularly know that I have a video addressing the chassis specifically on my YouTube. And lastly I did purchase new bipods this week, so I guess it's safe to say it never ends trying to tweak and adjust the race gun journey.