Starter Rifles for Under $1000
May 09, 2019
An eclectic mixture of excitement and angst accompanies any new recreation, and precision rifle shooting is no different. While to-be participants are eager to begin, there’s often unsubstantiated fear about being unprepared that manifests itself in the overindulgence of top-tier gear to compensate for the unknown.
This is especially true with regard to rifles for long-range shooting events, and it’s easy to understand why. Countless articles on the subject have been published showing images of enviable, multi-thousand-dollar rifles. Fact is, there are innumerable bolt-action rifles available in the sub-$1,000 category that are capable of delivering fine accuracy at distance. Therefore, they are employable even in the highest levels of competition, such as the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) Bolt Gun Division matches.
Concerning said competition, the rifles contained within this roundup are legal for use in all three PRS Bolt Gun Divisions — Open, Tactical and Production — provided that the rifle does not exceed .30 caliber or a velocity of 3,200 feet per second (fps). The Tactical Division has a caliber stipulation that only allows rifles in .308 Win. or 5.56/.223, However, if you’re not competing, then chambering is a moot point.
As can be expected, no listing such as this can be all inclusive. Some companies and many models were omitted, including the omnipresent “chassis rifle.” Why? Most of those rifles greatly exceeded the $1,000 MSRP cap. In their place is an assortment under the guises of varmint, long-range and tactical rifles, among other monikers. Nonetheless, they’re all capable of pinpoint accuracy — exactly what’s needed for the game of precision shooting.
A true benchrest-style rifle, the MVP-LR’s barreled action is mated to the hearty stock via pillar bedding, and it has an adjustable cheekpiece for optimal eye-to-scope alignment. The fluted, medium-weight barrel is available in 20- (.224 Valkyrie, 5.56 NATO/.223 and 7.62 NATO/.308 Win.) and 22-inch (6.5 Creedmoor) lengths, and it’s threaded in the common 5/8x24 threads per inch (TPI) pattern to accept a brake or suppressor.
The 8-pound MVP-LR is fed by a standard AR magazine. But, uniquely, the 7.62 variant accepts both AR-10 and M1A/M14 magazines. Other features include a bolt with dual-opposed locking lugs, the LBA user-adjustable trigger, an oversized tactical bolt knob and a Picatinny rail.
MSRP: $910 to $975 | mossberg.com
Tikka T3x Varmint
For precision shooting at long range, the Tikka T3x Varmint in 6.5 Creedmoor is tough to beat.
The rifle has a blued, free-floating, 241⁄3-inch barrel, but it’s not threaded, so adding a brake or suppressor will require the services of a gunsmith. The modular, synthetic stock has an extra-wide forend reminiscent of those on benchrest-style rifles, as well as a raised but nonadjustable comb to better facilitate eye-to-optic alignment on riflescopes with a large bell.
Foam is added to reduce noise, and a cushy recoil pad mitigates the slight recoil produced by the Creedmoor. Should a bipod be desired, there’s a single swivel stud found on the forend.
Improvements over its predecessor include a widened and angled ejection port to better accommodate single-round feeding and additional screw placements for a snugger fit of a Picatinny rail. The rifle is fed from a detachable box magazine — a unique feature among varmint rifles.
MSRP: $950 | tikki.fi
Savage Arms 110 Tactical
No precision rifle on this list offers the level of user customization as Savage’s Model 110 Tactical. Thanks to the AccuFit stock and accompanying inserts, the length of pull can be adjusted from 12¾ inches to 13¾ inches, and comb height can be fine-tuned, too. Want a heavier or lighter trigger pull? Simply adjust the AccuTrigger.
Internally, the AccuStock’s aluminum rail system secures the barreled action to the stock in three locations along its length, thereby preventing accuracy-degrading movement.
Concerning the barreled action, the rifle is fitted with a blued, fluted, medium-weight, 20- (.308 Win.) or 24-inch (6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win.) barrel that is threaded to accept a brake or suppressor. Feeding the 110 Tactical is the readily available 10-round Magpul AICS short-action magazine.
Additional features include a bolt with dual-opposed lugs and floating head, an oversized bolt knob, a one-piece 20-MOA EGW rail, an extended magazine release and dual swivel studs.
MSRP: $799 | savagearms.com
Howa Model 1500 Hogue Rifle
Although it’s the least expensive rifle in this roundup, the Model 1500 Hogue Rifle (Heavy) has the most impressive assurance of performance. Not only is the rifle guaranteed to shoot sub-MOA groups, it also comes with a lifetime warranty. As such, it’s an economical option to test the precision-shooting waters — and make big waves.
If a Model 1500 sounds like the right rifle for you, opt for the heavy-barrel variant. In general, bull barrels outshoot their sporter-weight brethren.
Available in 22-, 24- and 26-inch lengths (depending on chambering), the nonthreaded barrel and its renowned Model 1500 action are mated to a Hogue Overmolded stock using pillars for a firm, consistent hold. Texturing in the pistol grip and forend areas, as well as overall tackiness of the Overmolded stock, enhance purchase.
Additionally, the rifle has a forged, one-piece, dual-lug bolt, a three-position safety, an internal magazine with floorplate and a two-position Howa Activated Controlled Trigger (HACT). For precision shooting, a tuned, two-position trigger is the cat’s meow.
Short-action chamberings available for precision shooting at distance include: .243 Win., 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. The gun weighs 8½ to 9.2 pounds.
MSRP: $570 | legacysports.com
Bergara B14 Ridge Special Purpose Short Barrel
Bergara’s B14 line encompasses its “bread-and-butter” rifles, but by no means are they sans extras. One in particular stands out as being a great choice for the budding precision shooter — the Ridge Special Purpose Short Barrel.
Like the rest of its ilk, the rifle is equipped with a matte-blue, No. 5-contour 4140 chrome moly steel barrel. Offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win., the 18-inch barrel is maneuverable and comes threaded for muzzle devices. Fans of longer barrels can get the Ridge with a 22-inch tube in those calibers, as well as .243 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem.
The Bergara action, which includes a two-lug bolt with sliding-plate extractor and coned nose, is secured to the glass-fiber-reinforced polymer stock with SoftTouch coating via aluminum pillars. Feeding the Ridge is a four-round internal magazine with a hinged floorplate. A nice feature of B14 rifles is that all are guaranteed to produce 1-MOA groups or less at 100 yards when using premium ammunition.
MSRP: $865 | bergararifles.com
Weatherby Vanguard WeatherGuard H-Bar
The “Flying W” often flies under the radar of all but the ardent big-game hunters. However, the company’s Japanese-made Vanguard-series rifles offer tremendous value and performance for the money. Case in point: the WeatherGuard H-Bar.
With the highly respected Vanguard action as its foundation, the company attaches a cold-hammer-forged, 20-inch, No. 3-contour (.740-inch diameter) bull barrel with a 5/8x24 TPI muzzle, and the works is treated with a tactical gray Cerakote finish for corrosion and wear resistance.
The black, Monte-Carlo-style Griptonite synthetic stock has gray panels in the pistol grip and forend areas to enhance purchase, and the palm has a right-hand swell. The rifle is fed by an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate. The gun weighs 8½ pounds.
A nice addition to the rifle is its smooth, crisp, two-position trigger with a three-position safety, and it comes with an accuracy guarantee of .99 inch or less at 100 yards for three shots using Weatherby or premium ammunition.
MSRP: $790 | weatherby.com
Remington Model 700 VTR
Of Remington’s extensive repertoire in the sub-$1,000 category, I opted for the Model 700 Varmint-Target Rifle (VTR) for several reasons. First, the accuracy and reliability of the Model 700 action is well established. In this case, that action is affixed to a triangular-shaped, 22-inch barrel that saves weight – overall weight is 7 pounds, 10 ounces – and, thanks to an integral muzzlebrake, reduces recoil. With less muzzle jump, you’ll be able to stay on target easier as well.
The rifle is chambered in .308 Win. and, unique to this list, .260 Rem. — and the latter has the preferred 1:8-inch twist to boot. The barreled action is housed in a flat dark earth color synthetic stock with Hogue Overmold Grip Panels and a Super Cell recoil pad.
Other significant features include the X-Mark Pro user-adjustable trigger, oversize bolt knob and a four-round magazine with hinged floorplate. Lastly, the number of aftermarket accessories and upgrades for the omnipresent Model 700 is unsurpassed, so you can customize it as desired.
MSRP: $930 | remington.com
Mc3: Priced to Perform
A simple way to upgrade your factory rifle is with an aftermarket stock. But prices on advanced composite models run sky high. That’s where McMillan’s new Mc3 stock line comes in. The Mc3 line offers solid, attractive and incredibly stiff stocks that won’t break the bank. Built as an injection molded polymer version of McMillan’s famous A5 pattern stock, the Mc3 matches the looks, lines and weight of the higher-priced A5, making it a superb choice for cash-strapped shooters looking for a bump in rifle performance. Mc3 stocks are available for long- or short-action Remington M700s.
MSRP: $319 | mc3stocks.com
So, you see, getting started in precision shooting doesn’t require a second mortgage. So, before making a significant investment in equipment — especially a rifle — try one of these sub-$1,000 models or something similar. Chances are, not only will you be well prepared to participate in recreational and competitive precision-shooting matches, you’re likely to do well. And with the money you saved, you can pair the rifle with quality glass and ammunition and, most importantly, spend significant time at the range practicing.