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Tactical Rifles: My view from behind the stock

Posted by on in Hardware Reviews
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Believe it or not, I truly do try to stay away from Internet arguments or debates. Not that I'm always successful, but I do try. Opinions offered on various blogs and forums are akin to a rectal orifice, everyone has one and they vary tremendously in olfactory quality. For that reason, when an acquaintance forwarded a video link that slammed a product built by Tactical Rifles of Zephyrhills, Florida I dismissed it and moved on with my life. 

The fecal storm surrounding this video, promoted vehemently on a certain gun form, has taken on a life of its own. Therefore, I cannot with good conscience stand at the sidelines without comment. 

First Experience  

My first experience with Tactical Rifles was approximately ten years ago. At the time, in addition to my work as a police officer, I was writing actively for a number of firearms and LE journals. David Rooney, President/Founder, of Tactical Rifles called me up one day and asked if I had time to chat. David had recently started advertising with one of the many publishing houses for whom I wrote. The publishers had asked Mr. Rooney to send a rifle to one of their writers for a review, but David didn't want to send it off blindly to a stranger. We spoke for a half-hour or so, David asked me about my background, training, and experience with precision rifles. Essentially, Rooney was concerned with sending a custom built precision rifle to someone that might not be able to appreciate such an item. This was before I had graduated from LE Sniper School, so I related my Marine Corps training and experience and put his fears to rest. A Tactical Rifles custom M40 arrived at my FFL dealer a week later. 

The rifle in question was a .308 Winchester built on a Remington 700 action. A twenty-inch barrel was free-floated into a woodland camouflage McMillan stock. Although I don't have the specs in front of me I can safely say that trigger was tuned somewhere in the 2.5 to 3 pound range. I installed a Leupold Mark IV 10x variable riflescope on the gun and headed to the range with a variety of .308 Winchester ammunition.

My plan was to zero the rifle at 100 yards and that is what I did. The target was a Birchwood Casey "Dirty Bird" bulls eye. I truly appreciate these targets as they provide an easy to view shot hole, even at distance. After perhaps a dozen rounds, I was getting very comfortable with the Tactical Rifles gun. I decided to shoot some groups for record at 100 yard. With a clean target and a 168 grain match load from Black Hills Ammunition I settle in behind the stock. I could see through the Leupold optic that my first shot was in the center ring. I fired the second round and was disappointed that I could not find a new shot hole. Clearing my head and taking several deep breaths, I pressed off the third shot. Peering through the scope it appeared that the first shot hole was a bit larger. 

I cleared the rifle and took a stroll down range to get a closer view of my handiwork. When I arrived at the target I was stuck by a sense of awe. The first shot hole was now a ragged cloverleaf. All three rounds had passed through the target within one-quarter of an inch from the others. That was the first time I'd ever fired a 0.25 inch three shot group and I remember it vividly to this day.  Needless to say I was excited about my testing opportunity with the TR M40.

A Decade of Experience  b2ap3_thumbnail_9---Copy.JPG

During the next ten years I had the opportunity to test out numerous Tactical Rifles custom built guns in bolt-action and semi-auto. Many were chambered in .308 Winchester, but other calibers included the .204 Ruger, 6.5x47 Lapua, 5.56mm, and even the big .338 Lapua Magnum. With the 6.5x47 Lapua rifle I cut a three shot group at 350 yard that measured less than 1.5 inches. The group calculated to be sub-quarter M.O.A. I've never had a Tactical Rifle gun that did not post half-M.O.A. groups with the right ammunition. 

While reviewing a 6.5 Grendel rifle built by TR, both David and I learned a hard lesson. Not all ammunition stamped 6.5 Grendel was made to the same specification. Savvy reader may already realize that this is the reason Les Baer developed the .264 LBC AR cartridge. By the way, that round is insanely accurate from the AR-15 rifle.

A few years ago I had the chance to get out on the range with David. We used his guns to engage targets all the way out to 1000 yards. I made my first 1000 yard hit on an eight inch steel plate using a TR .338 Lapua Magnum rifle while David spotted and called the wind for me. I can readily testify that not only is David Rooney the President of Tactical Rifles, the man can shoot as well.

Don't Take My Word Alone b2ap3_thumbnail_Tactical-Rifles-T7-Chimera.JPG

In 2011 I was introduced to Jim Gilliland, US Army. History Channel fans may know his name as he is credited with the longest confirmed kill with a .308 Winchester sniper rifle. The record breaking shot was over 1200 yards. Jim could shoot any rifle he wanted to, but his choice for sniper competitions and training is a Tactical Rifles custom .308. Jim showed me his personal rifle and I asked if it held up to the " Tactical Rifles Half-M.O.A. Guarantee".  "This rifle's never shot that bad." Jim joked, "I don't think I've ever shot a group that big with it. 

Fans of Major John Plaster's series "Ultimate Sniper" will recognize Jim Gilliland from the book and video material. As an interesting aside, Jim needed a .308 bolt-action rifle with SureFire 7.62 suppressor adapter on it for the "Ultimate Sniper III" video. I loaned Jim my personal Tactical Rifles gun to use during the taping of that video. After the material was compiled I spoke with Jim and Major Plaster, both were pleased with the performance of the TR rifle. The only issue Jim had with the gun was the cutout in the Manners stock for the bolt. He took a Dremel tool to the channel and widened it a bit. 

More recently, Jarrad and I took a trip down to Rifles Only in Kingsville, Texas. Jarrad had never been through a long range rifle program and this was his chance. Jacob Bynum, owner/lead instructor, took Jarrad from 100 yards all the way out to 1000 yards during two-day course. The rifle used was the very same Tactical Rifles .308 featured in Ultimate Sniper III. At the end of the weekend I asked Mr. Bynum, an accomplished rifleman who has trained thousands, for his thoughts on the TR Gun. Jacob commented that due to it's short barrel (18 inches with a muzzle brake) it was a good sub-1000 yard gun (for the 1000 yard shot Jarrad used a .300 Win. Mag. rifle). During the weekend course Jarrad fired hundreds of rounds of Black Hills match ammunition. He ran the gun hard, rapidly working the bolt for multiple target engagements as well as moving targets at 400 yards. 

Parting Shots  b2ap3_thumbnail_Jim-Gilliland-Sniper-1---Copy.gif

Are firearms manufacturers infallible? Certainly they are not. I cannot testify to rifles that I have not had personal experience with, but I can tell you this; I've used enough Tactical Rifle products over the last ten years to appreciate their wares. TR builds custom guns from the ground up. I know waiting six to twelve months can seem like a long time but go to Wilson Combat's site and put in an order for a custom M1911 then tell me what the deliver quote is. Order a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle. Then you'll really know what it's like to wait. 

I didn't write this piece to address all petulance and whining coming from Internet forums and blogs I did feel the need to relate my experience and by extension the experience of others. Don't believe me? That's fine too. I know what I've done and I know what I've seen. If you are basing your opinions on rumors and gossip you might consider treading lightly. 

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