Back when I was first looking into a good bolt action, I was searching for something that would fulfill two important roles. One being mid to long range precision shooting and the other being an accurate hunting weapon.
Four years ago I had seen an article about building a budget “sniper” rifle. The cost of the actual rifle was supposed to be less than $500 with a total complete cost less than $1000. Now for most people back then, that was almost unheard of unless you went with something similar to a Mosin-Nagant or a heavily used “Pawn Shop Special”. There were several choices I could have gone with when it came to a well-used weapon, but I decided to go the new route. So then began my search.
There were several rifles I had in mind already when I went into the search. They are listed:
All five rifles that I listed were available from the $350-$550 range in pretty much any shop you happened to find them. The Savage Axis had been the first true budget bolt action to go on the market and the rest seemed to follow. Features tended to include a paddle style safety trigger, adjustable trigger pull weight, a polymer style stock, and a barrel that was secured to the receiver using a barrel nut instead of a direct threaded type. All of the rifles were accurate. The 783 was known for being a good shooting rifle, as was the Savage. I had recently owned a Mossberg MVP in 5.56 and found that at that time, my version wasn’t the most accurate. And finally the XL7. To this day almost five years later I’ve only seen one on a rifle rack for sale. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Then my neighbor at the time bought a Ruger American in .243 Win and I got to shoot it. I liked how smooth the bolt was, the fit and feel of the rifle, how lightweight it was, and I definitely liked how accurate the .243 was. I decided I would go with a Ruger, especially since it was the 2014 Guns and Ammo Rifle of the Year
During this period of time, then President Obama was leading the world in civilian gun sales. It seemed that everytime someone burped a word about gun control there was a mass buyout of anything gun related. Mass shootings, the threat of terrorism, and many other threats sent the gun community into panicked buying mode. Going to the local gun shops yielded high-priced weapons and scarce ammunition since no manufacturer was able to keep up with the demand. If you remember, even the stupidly cheap .22LR had gone the way of the do-do, and when it was found, was so expensive to make it unrealistic to buy. Calibers such as 5.56/.223, 9mm, .38 Special, .308 Win, and .22LR were so hard to find, that many people quit shooting altogether. What was on the shelves were the out of vogue calibers – .243 and .270 Win, .30-06 Springfield, and a spattering of other less popular rounds. With this in mind, I went with .30-06 Springfield. It had fought two World Wars, Korea, and was still one of the most popular hunting rounds in the world. Even today in 2017, the .30-06 remains a favorite amongst shooters. Surely it was good enough to do whatever I might ask it to.
Black Friday was coming up now… I had spent the better part of 6 months looking and researching rifles and finally shooting them. A trip to Walmart found me a Ruger in .30-06. It was on sale for $400 at the time so I was well within my projected budget. To layaway it went. Here in SC on Black Friday it’s a sales tax-free day so no matter what you buy it’s not taxed. So began an ordeal of trying to get my rifle. I went back to the Walmart to pick it up and the manager had misplaced it. To say I was angry was an understatement. Two hours later with me finally threatening to call the DM, he brings out my rifle. I asked about a discount for the trouble and He knocked $50 off of the price since the other’s in the cabinet were now on sale. Since all he did was bring it down to the sale price that wasn’t good enough. After some coaxing he gave a “manager’s special” and I picked up my .30-06 for $280!!! After all the BS and all the waiting and the run around I finally had my Ruger.
During the same time, I had been researching good rifle scopes that would fit in the $200 or less range. Nikon, Leupold, and Vortex all had great choices. Vortex was still relatively new on the scene So it came down to the Nikon Prostaff and a Leupold Rifleman. Both could be had in the range of $150-$180. When it came to features, I wanted a 3-9×40 variable zoom, positive click adjustments and a fast focus in case of other shooters. I decided to go with the Nikon. $180 after tax brought the total package of the Budget Sniper project to $480 after adding a set of Weaver medium height rings to mount the scope…
Completing the Project
A rifle is a fine instrument for someone seeking to put food on the table or to protect the homestead. The only problem is carrying around an 8+ pound rifle all day gets tiring so I opted on a Blackhawk! sling at $20. Realizing that I would probably end up shooting from prone at the range or in certain hunting applications, another $40 got me a Harris type bipod. My rifle was now fully assembled with a total cost of less than $550 complete.
The shooting was easy and smooth. With the Ruger’s light trigger pull, lack of creep, and the steadiness of my Harris style bipod, I was making good consistent shots every time as long as my marksmanship stayed on point. I’ve tried the three main bullet weights available for the .30-06 from 150-180 grain rounds. I found the bullet weights from 165-168 grains were the most accurate for my particular gun. Seeing as this was a budget build, I wanted budget ammunition. I went again to the local Walmart and picked up a box of Remington 165gr Core-Lokts and a box of Winchester 165gr Power Points. Both rounds shot great and were very consistent. The only difference I saw in performance was that the Winchesters printed about 1/4″ higher than the Remingtons. The cause I could only determine to be was due to a slightly higher velocity. There were no misfeeds or ejection issues.
I’ve had this rifle build now for over 4 years. It has remained my go to hunting platform and has continued to be highly accurate and extremely reliable. The bolt has a glass-like smoothness to it when cycled. The trigger has actually improved over the years of shooting it. All of that I guess should be expected considering the round count in the rifle. To my closest estimation, I’ve fired the Ruger almost 600 times. I practice with it often and typically shoot 40+ rounds every time I go to the range. Since purchasing the gun, I’ve since spray painted it a desert brown color. It was just the hardware store special rattle can treatment. After all…. It’s a budget rifle build.