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Bolt Action Rifles Tactical

APA Paragon Rifle Review

by Tom Beckstrand   |  February 21st, 2014 0

APA ParagonIt’s hard not to love the .338 Lapua Magnum. With a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .767 in Lapua’s 300-grain Scenar load and a muzzle velocity of 2,750 feet per second (fps), it’s every long-range shooter’s dream. That is until we realize that we have a rifle chambered for $5 bills and one that’ll eventually beat the hell out of you after 50 rounds.

The .338 Lapua is an awesome cartridge, and it generates superb external ballistics. However, the rifle platform is often costly, it’s very expensive to feed, and the recoil and muzzle blast are spectacular. I think everybody needs to own a .338 Lapua Magnum at some point, but before purchasing the Big Dog, I recommend looking at today’s .300 Winchester Magnum.

The .300 Win. Mag. languished for a lot of years as a marginal selection for the long-range enthusiast. This was no fault of the caliber itself; it stemmed from the fact that the best bullets available lacked the BCs needed to make the round viable. Sierra had the best offerings, and they only had BCs of .523 for the 190-grain MatchKing (available loaded in Federal Gold Medal Match) and a .607 BC for thee 220-grain MatchKing, which I’ve never seen loaded for sale in any round. We often hear that the best bullets and loads in 6.5mm/.260 will match anything the .300 Win. Mag. can come up with in external ballistics without the recoil, expense and blast. Provided that we stick to the anemic 190-grain MatchKing, this statement is true. Once we look at today’s bullets for the .300 Win. Mag., the 6.5mm/.260 argument becomes laughable.

Today, there are much better bullets available for the .300 Win. Mag. I spent a large part of this year playing with Hornady’s 208-grain A-MAX, which is an amazing bullet and one that I will use for years to come. The 208 A-MAX has a BC of .633, so it beats Sierra’s best offering and is also lighter so we can push it at higher velocities. The secant ogive of the 208 A-MAX gives the bullet a great BC, but it will require some manipulation of the seating depth to get it to shoot accurately. That’s the problem with secant ogives. They have great BCs, but they are finicky. For the 208 A-MAX, the effort is worth the performance.

Another bullet that shows great promise is Berger’s new 230-grain hybrid. The hybrid line tries to use properties of both the secant and tangent ogives to provide a high BC (thanks to the secant shape) while being more forgiving with the seating depth (thanks to the tangent, or more rounded, ogive). Berger’s target bullet has a BC of .743, and the tactical bullet has a BC of .714. Now we’re in territory that previously was limited to only the big .338. Suddenly, the .300 Win. Mag. just got much more attractive.

AMERICAN PRECISION ARMS
To help me spearhead a .300 Win. Mag. project, I consulted with Jered Joplin, owner of American Precision Arms. I first met Jered years ago when I was still in the Army. I was serving as a sniper team leader and thought it would be a good idea to get a custom rifle built as a “getting out of the Army” present for myself. I asked teammates and instructors who they knew built a good product, and their responses kept pointing to Jered.

My first rifle-building experience with Jered was painless, and the product was superb, so I’ve been a repeat customer for years. During this time I’ve learned to give Jered some general guidelines, then let him do his thing. His solutions are always better than mine.

My guidance for Jered on the .300 Win. Mag. project was that I wanted a rifle capable of extreme long-range shooting, yet that was still portable. I see a lot of monster rifles built that ride the bags or sit well on the bench, but God help the man shooting it if he needs to carry it very far. I wanted as light a contour of barrel as possible without a substantial degradation of accuracy, a muzzlebrake, an action that could double as a family heirloom, detachable box magazines and, if possible, a side-folding stock. Jered and I argued a little on the barrel length and contour, but the product you see here is what he recommended. I think it’s perfect.

The heart of the rifle is Jered’s Genesis action that is built by Defiance. It has a Remington 700 footprint, but that’s where the similarities stop. The Pic rail that runs along the top of the action is held in place by six 8-40 screws and two pins. The base attaches firmly to the action, yet it is also removable should the base ever be damaged. The base also has a 30-MOA cant that makes it ideal for really long-range shooting.

The bolt is machined from one piece and bears Jered’s fingerprints also. The extractor is of the M16 style, a much improved extractor over the factory Remington type because it grabs a lot more of the case before trying to pull it out of the chamber. Jered also moved the ejector’s location inside the bolt to ensure more positive ejection of the rounds. With the typical configuration, empty cases can sometimes fall back into the action if it’s opened slowly. They then need to be fished out by hand.

The trigger is from Huber and reminds me why I’m glad I let Jered choose what components to use on this rifle. I’d never heard of Huber triggers before I shot a Paragon, so I was skeptical of putting one in this rifle. Like many readers, once I know what I like, I usually stick with it. Especially when I’m spending my money.

The trigger from Huber Concepts is amazing. I’ve shot some nice triggers in my life, but when my finger first touched the shoe, I paused to take a closer look. The black shoe is melted and bears no sharp edges. It is extremely comfortable, and firing the trigger was a treat. Mine is set up as a single stage, and it is exceptionally crisp with no creep. This one breaks at just over 2 pounds.

The barrel is from Broughton and is a 5.8 contour unique to American Precision Arms. Broughton makes excellent stainless steel barrels that are button rifled and very accurate. The Broughton barrels are so accurate that Jered guarantees quarter MOA for three shots on his .223 and .308 Paragon models. This type of guarantee would be impossible with anything other than a premium barrel.

New for this year and featured on this Paragon is the Manners MCS-TF1 stock. Manners builds high-quality fiberglass stocks that are known to handle abuse well. For a long time, its webpage showed a truck parked on one of its stocks. The TF1 is a great choice if you’re looking for a stock that folds into a compact package for transport, has a forend that works both on the bags and fits comfortably in the support hand, and has an adjustable cheekpiece. It represents my first choice for a rifle built in .300 Win. Mag. because it’s substantial enough to shoot comfortably in the prone (which is where I’ll be when I want to shoot far) but not so big as to rule out positional shooting. It’s a tough balance to strike, but the Manners TF1 does it well.

Great rifle components only combine for a superb rifle when someone who knows what he’s doing assembles them. In this Jered excels. After I shot the rifle to test it for accuracy, I took it apart to have a look at the bedding job. It’s beautiful. Proper bedding is crucial for accuracy because it’s the only place where the barreled action contacts the stock (which is what we hold on to). It is the critical junction between the shooter and the working parts of the rifle. The bedding job is flawless and smooth with seating marks atop the pillars in perfect alignment with the bore’s axis.

RANGE TIME
The load I wanted to use in the Paragon used Hornady’s 208 A-MAX. I love its BC and its weight, so I had some loaded up for the range. The 208 A-MAX has that secant or flat ogive that makes the bullet temperamental. After some load development, I fired several groups with the A-MAX and liked what I saw.

The Paragon comes with a quarter-MOA guarantee when chambered in .223 and .308. These are common calibers, and match ammo from numerous manufacturers is very high quality. The guarantee is also for three-shot groups.

My groups were five shots at 100 yards using handloads and a bullet that either loves or hates your rifle. This .300 Win. Mag. A-MAX handload was a match for the Paragon. The smallest group measured .51 inch, and the group average was .57 inch. I’m usually good for half-MOA shooting if the rifle and ammo are up to it. Smaller than that and I need to be having a good day no matter how impressive the rifle and ammo. After shooting the Paragon, I got the distinct impression that the rifle was more accurate than I was.

WINNERS AND LOSERS
While I love the .338 Lapua Magnum and still desire to own “one more,” I think that most long-range shooters (myself included) will be better served by the .300 Winchester Magnum. The ammo for the .300 is much more readily available, actions and stocks that fit them are more common, and even with a steep price point like the one found on the APA Paragon, .300 Win. Mag. rifles are less expensive than their .338 Lapua counterparts.

Once we start looking at the cost of ammo and its components, the .300 Win. Mag. really pulls away from the .338 Lapua. Ammo is cheaper, bullets are cheaper, and the .300 Win. Mag. only uses about 75 percent of the powder that the .338 does. When we load with the Hornady 208 A-MAX and the 230 Berger, we also have bullets that give us what all but the best .338-caliber bullets do at a fraction of the price.

We can get a rifle in .300 Win. Mag. for about two-thirds of what a comparable model would cost in .338 Lapua Mag., the ammo costs half as much, and the .300 only has about two-thirds of the recoil. All these figures combine to form a compelling argument of why all of our wallets and shoulders prefer the .300 over the .338.

The Paragon I tested in .300 Win. Mag. represents the best that money can buy from a man who has been building me rifles for several years. If you have some time, I encourage you to visit the APA website and watch the torture-testing videos where Jered abuses his $6,000 rifle. It’ll make you a little sad to see a fine rifle treated this way, but you’ll also get to see firsthand what kind of product comes from premium components and a skilled builder. Combine the .300 Win. Mag. with the Paragon, and we create a rifle that I’d shoot and enjoy more than any .338 Lapua.

APA Paragon

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