Review: KRG SOTIC Bolt Action Rifle

Review: KRG SOTIC Bolt Action Rifle
“SOTIC” stands for “Special Operations Target Interdiction Course” and was the title that the U.S. Special Forces’ sniper school went under for a number of years. The creative terminology was the result of U.S. Army politics, the need for Special Forces to have a comprehensive sniper training program, and Big Army’s belief that only they should have a sniper school (even if it was and is entry-­level instruction for untrained soldiers). So, the Special Forces created an eight-­week target interdiction course and the bureaucrats slept comfortably in their beds.

How SOTIC wound up on the side of a rifle goes back a few years to a time when three men from the 5th Special Forces Group and graduates of the program fell in love with SAKO’s TRG-­22. SAKO makes an excellent rifle and the three soldiers quickly became enamored with the performance and relatively light weight of that rifle. Those same Green Berets formed a company called the Kinetic Research Group (KRG) and began manufacturing the accessories they wanted for their SAKO rifles.

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KRG knows failure is not an option. That’s why they gave the SOTIC a left-side bolt stop that is designed to take the hardest impacts and channel them away from its support pin.

KRG quickly flourished and grew. The first item KRG made was a conversion system that allowed the TRG-­22 to use Accuracy International AICS magazines. SAKO magazines were insanely expensive and many argue the AICS magazine was a better product anyway. Next up was a folding stock for the TRG-­22. KRG has a folding stock for the TRG-­22 that retails for about $900. Contrast that to SAKO’s version that is heavy and adds about $2,500 to the price of the rifle.

The end goal for KRG has always been a complete rifle and the one in this review is the result of several years of gradual progress towards that goal. KRG stayed loyal to the TRG-­22 and built a clone rifle with several improvements based on their experience as snipers in combat.

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Another improvement KRG incorporated was an enlarged magazine well to accept the more available and affordable AICS-pattern magazines.

Expert Touches 

One change KRG made was to move the bolt stop to the left side of the rifle. They also made sure that any impact the stop endures is on the stop itself and not the pin holding it in place. Snipers and competitive shooters run bolts pretty quickly and bolt stops take a beating. This one will not break, even under heavy use.

KRG also opened the bottom of the action to better accept AICS-­pattern magazines. These magazines are just about everywhere in the world and are available from many different sources. They are about 30 years old and remain one of the most reliable ways to feed a bolt-­action rifle. Other than a relocated bolt stop and a wider magazine well, the SOTIC receiver is almost identical to a SAKO TRG-­22 receiver. The SOTIC also has some cosmetic relief cuts to dress things up a bit.

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All of the controls are within trigger-finger reach. Shooters can also dial in sear engagement, overtravel and pull weights without separating the chassis from the barreled action.

The SOTIC rifle has an improved extractor and ejector. No one is going to say the SAKO-­style extractor is a poor design, because it isn’t. SAKO-­style extractors are popular and work very effectively. However, the guys designing the SOTIC wanted a rifle that was as reliable and as easy to maintain as possible.

A quick spin through Brownells reveals a kit of replacement extractor/ejector parts for the TRG-­22. It costs $87. And, unfortunately, those parts are out of stock. The SOTIC rifle uses an M16-­style extractor and extractor spring with the same ejector and ejector plunger spring as an AR-­10. Those parts are much easier to find and cost a lot less when you find them. It’s always a good idea to have extra extractor and ejector parts and pieces around, and the SOTIC makes that step as painless as possible.

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The AICS-pattern magazines may be close to 30 years old, but the mags are still ultra reliable.

The move to a much heavier ejector spring cured one of the only TRG-­22 illnesses: weak ejection. Every once in a while, a fired case will just dribble out of the TRG-­22 receiver, but the SOTIC’s heavier spring kicks empties out with greater authority.

The final extraction/ejection massage KRG made with the SOTIC was to open up the ejection port enough to allow the shooter to get his fingers inside the action. Weird things happen to any rifle when the shooter is under stress and/or shooting in poor conditions. Sometimes you just need to be able to reach inside the action. The SOTIC gives you that option.

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The SOTIC was designed to be maintained by the shooter. This includes providing a barrel nut so the shooter (or gunsmith) can quickly rebarrel the rifle with simple tools.

Trigger Triumph

One of the best features about the TRG is the trigger. Current TRG rifles come with very good triggers, but the triggers made prior to 2013 were truly exceptional. The concern with pre-­2013 TRG triggers was with adjustability. Everything was adjustable on one of these triggers, so many owners of these rifles started making adjustments without reading the owner’s manual. This often necessitated the return of some rifles for repair, so SAKO made the triggers less adjustable to help eliminate the problem.

For those willing to read the owner’s manual, this change was a loss. Being able to adjust sear engagement, overtravel, first-­ and second-­stage pull weights, and first-­stage engagement distance all allowed the shooter to get his trigger set up just the way he liked it.

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Where would a long-range precision rifle be without a suppressor? The Special Forces folks at KRG made sure the SOTIC barrels came ready for cans.

KRG makes the SOTIC trigger and they stayed true to the pre-­2013 type. All of those adjustment options listed above are available on the SOTIC trigger. An improvement over even SAKO’s pre-­2013 TRG trigger is the SOTIC’s ability to adjust the trigger without removing the barreled action from the chassis. KRG will eventually offer the SOTIC trigger in a TRG-­22 drop-­in configuration.

Shooter Focused 

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If storage is at a premium, KRG’s premier Whiskey-3 Chassis is available in a folding version. Like the fixed version, it’s adjustable.

As you might expect from a rifle designed by trained snipers, the SOTIC can be fully maintained by the operator. Should you manage to damage the trigger, one bolt attaches it to the receiver. It takes about a minute and a couple of hex wrenches to swap one out.

The barrel attaches to the receiver with a nut using a system very similar to the one first commercialized by Savage. The barrel nut allows the shooter to easily rebarrel at home with an action wrench, vise and go/no-­go gauges. There is no need to send this rifle off to a gunsmith for a months-­long wait to rebarrel. Even if you don’t have the right tools, this system allows a local gunsmith with only the most basic tools to do the work in a few minutes.

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Everything on the SOTIC is hand-adjustable. This includes one-knob adjusting for length of pull and comb positioning. A shooter would be hard pressed to not find a combination that didn’t work for them.

The SOTIC will initially be offered in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor. KRG will eventually produce SOTIC and TRG-­22-compatible barrels in .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor and .243 Winchester. Plans are also on the board for a .223 Rem. bolt and barrel.

The SOTIC chassis is KRG’s Whiskey-­3 Gen 6 folder. This chassis offers toolless adjustment of comb height, length of pull and vertical adjustment of the buttpad. There are multiple attachment points on the rifle for slings, bipods, and a Picatinny rail should you desire night vision or infrared lasers.

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G&A’s test rifle featured an upgraded Chanlynn barrel — a limited-­availability, $100 option — and was phenomenally accurate. The best group during testing occurred with SIG Sauer’s new Elite Match 6.5 Creedmoor factory loading that put five rounds in .12-­inch at 100 yards!

Riflemen desiring an updated and improved TRG-­22 for anything from hunting to genuine sniper duty will be well served by the SOTIC. Even a marginally trained rifleman could completely maintain and rebarrel this rifle. The introductory pricing of the SOTIC will be $3,000 to honor early cost estimates, but that price will eventually climb to around $4,500 once it’s in full production. 
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