By Michael Deming
Want to stir up a little trouble, start a conversation about religion, politics, or rifle accuracy amongst a group of shooters and sit back and enjoy the show. I’ve seen the banter back and forth on our Sportsman’s News forum about the rifle accuracy issues and what you need to do to make sure you get the best rifle, setup, and load. Most of the time, the “Custom Rifle” is the answer which will cost several thousand dollars or more. The conversation will move onto optics, the mounts, and then the reloading of custom ammo. It gets more complicated beyond that, but it is all factual information. There are some extremely talented shooters chiming in on this forum and all with their own valid opinions backed by years of experience. However, for most, it would be a bunch of confusing information.
Most people want a rifle they can pull out the gun safe a week before the season, run a cleaning patch or two through it and head to camp for opening weekend where they will send a couple of rounds down range at a target tacked to a tree. This is the reality for a great majority of people who hit the field every fall. We want things simple which means we want our rifle to hit where we aim it and we don’t want to spend a fortune doing it.
We have taken an opportunity to pull some entry level rifles off the shelves of Sportsman’s Warehouse and put some factory Doubletap Ammunition into them and see how they fair at the shooting range. We wanted to look at accuracy of an off the shelf rifle and see if they could truly cut the mustard at some longer range shooting. All rifles tested were in the Jack O’Connor favorite .270 caliber and tested just as they are sold without any gunsmith work on them.
We tested several package rifles which means they come with a scope and mounts ready to hit the field. The Savage Arms 111 Trophy Hunter XP, Howa Hogue Gameking, Remington 700 ADL combo, and the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2, which isn’t a package gun, but we put an entry level Vortex scope on the gun to make it comparable in price to the other guns tested. We were truly amazed at the results. Guns were all sighted in at a 100 yards using Double Tap ammunition loaded with 140 grain Nosler Accubond bullets and then the targets were moved out to 200 yards and beyond for some serious testing.
Remington 700 ADL Combo
The Remington 700 is probably the most well-known rifle action on the market and a common choice for those looking for an action for their custom rifles. This rifle is totally designed as an entry level rifle at an ultra-competitive price and only available in big box stores like Sportsman’s Warehouse. This was the lowest priced rifle in the testing, but it held its own at the range just fine. This rifle comes with a black synthetic stock. The overall rifle length is right at 44” with a 24” black matte finish barrel. The entire package weighs in right at 8 pounds. It comes equipped with Leupold rings and bases and a very basic 3-9×40 rifle scope branded with the Remington “R “on it. The trigger is a little on the stout side for what I like, but it still broke right at the 5 pound mark. The action feels a little rough as if it had sand or grit within it, but some oil made it a little less obvious, but didn’t appear to be a problem with the accuracy. The manufacture suggested retail price on this rifle is somewhere around $450.
At 200 yards, we shot 1.375” 3 shot groups consistently and when we moved to the 360 yard gong, we were ringing it like a dinner bell. This makes this gun a .6875 MOA rifle and a smoking value for anyone looking to get into shooting or hunting or just looking for a good backup rifle.
Savage Arms 111 Trophy Hunter XP
This rifle comes with a black synthetic stock and a black matte finish. It is topped with a Nikon 3-9×40 scope with the BDC reticle on a 1” tube. The overall length of the gun is 42.5” long with a 22” barrel and t tips the scale right at 8 pounds. It has a detachable box magazine and is equipped with the famous Accutrigger which is super crisp right out of the box. This gun has a manufacture suggested retail price of $675.00
At 200 yards, this rifle consistently put out 1.25” groups making it a .625 MOA gun which competes with just about any custom rifle on the market at a fraction of the price. We put our metal gong at 360 yards to see if could hold its groups at longer ranges and it was nothing short of fantastic. We even put one 3 shot group together at just under 2.75”. Pretty impressive for a factory gun right off the shelf with factory ammo.
Howa Hogue Gameking
This gun comes with a green or black synthetic Hogue stock. It is the heaviest of the guns tested at 9.45 pounds, but made up for the extra weight in accuracy. It has an overall length of 42.75” with a 22” barrel and blued finish. It is equipped with the new Howa Actuated Controlled Trigger (HACT) which is very crisp and light right out of the box and adjustable down to 2.5 pounds. It comes with a Nikko Sterling GameKing rifle scope that is 3.5-10×44 and has an illuminated reticle. It has a manufacture suggested retail price of $610.00
The weight on this rifle made me cringe just thinking about carrying it on the mountain all day long. However, our first three shot group at 200 yards had me rethinking my concerns. This rifle not only performed, it was as good as custom rifles sitting in my gun safe which cost five times as much. At 100 yards, I had to actually go down to the target to see if I could see where the other two rounds were going. They had actually pierced the same exact hole and barely noticeable until you were standing on top of the target. At 200 yards, this rifle was shooting .5” groups with five rounds in the group making this a .25 MOA rifle. As would be expected, it held consistency at our 360 yard gong and further. Definitely the most accurate rifle out of our testing procedure.
Weatherby Vanguard Series 2
The name Weatherby has been synonomous with high quality and expensive rifles, but the Vanguard 2 series brings the cost down significantly. This wasn’t a package rifle, but we wanted to include it in the comparison because it is a great entry level rifle. We topped it with a Diamondback 4-12×40 by Vortex. The rifle itself comes with a synthetic Monte Carlo style stock with Griptonite inserts and was the most comfortable stock of all the guns tested. The rifle has an overall length of 44.5” long and a barrel length of 24” and tips the scale at 8.5 pounds with our added scope and mounts. It comes with a two stage adjustable trigger which is extremely crisp out of the box. It has a matte bead blast blued finish and 3 position safety. The manufacture suggested retail price on the rifle only is $489.
Our range time with this gun compared equally to the other guns tested. Our consistent 200 yard groups held right at 1.5” making this a .75 MOA rifle and fall within the tolerances set by Weatherby as a .999 MOA guarantee. It held solid groups at our 360 yard gong and again at 500 yards. Once again, this is extremely impressive for an entry level factory rifle shooting premium ammunition.
After years of shooting custom rifles and countless hour of long range practice, I’ve become somewhat of a rifle snob and I didn’t expect a lot out of any of these rifles when I took on the assignment of putting them to the test. I am always looking to improve my accuracy and I start with the best rifles and ammunition I can possibly afford, so I’ve never given many off the shelf guns much consideration.
However, I am now a believer in the quality of craftsmanship from these top rifle manufactures even though they have cut a few corners to get the cost of their rifles down. The one place they didn’t sacrifice is in their ability to make an accurate rifle. There isn’t a rifle in this group I wouldn’t be more than happy to tote along for this year’s upcoming deer hunts. Mix a good rifle with some premium ammunition and you have a deadly combination. Doing your range time will get you ready to go with any of these rifles because they are all highly accurate and capable pieces of equipment and at a price that won’t break the bank.