By Kris Scaddon
“Buy the most expensive rifle you can and then double that for your optic!” “There’s no such thing as a cheap, accurate rifle!” How many times did I hear this when I first joined my rifle club? How many times have I heard it since? A lot!
Through the first few months of exploring my new found love of firearms I think I probably asked just about every question I could think of. I read articles, watched YouTube content, spoke to other shooters at my club and researched, researched, researched. I wanted to know everything I could about the sport and importantly, what it was going to cost me to enjoy it.
As a father of two, maintaining a home and being the primary bread-winner in my household, money was not exactly abundant. Don’t get me wrong, I earnt an honest and decent wage and at the end of each month I was lucky enough to be able to save a few pennies. Through my research I would often hear comments such as “You’ll need £2k minimum for your rifle and £3k or more for your scope.” Or, “You can’t do this on a budget.” I looked at rifle prices and the cost of every add on you could think of. I was overwhelmed! All that and the cost of club membership, licensing, cabinets, ammo, bags, cleaning products – on paper it looked like an unachievable goal.
Never the less, my heart was set. I made cuts in my own expenditure, I worked every bit of overtime I could get my hands on and eventually saved up enough money to buy my first rifle. £1400 for the rifle, £1500 on glass, £250 moderator, £300 bipod, £60 bag and about £200 on extras including magazines and first few rounds of ammunition. All in I’d spent close to £3500, on one rifle!
Being the greedy bugger I am, I had asked for a number of calibres on my FAC grant. .22 rimfires, LBPs, .223, .308 and a few other bits and bobs. I didn’t have ten or fifteen £k in the bank to buy all of this!!! So I embarked on a project. I wanted to know if I could build an accurate, reliable rifle myself from pre-loved parts and show the ‘nay-sayers’ that it could be done.
I searched and searched, I visited every RFD in my region and searched the internet for bargains for weeks before I came across a used Remington 700 ADL with a 24” barrel 1:12 twist rate. It had no history, was covered in some form of gunsmith gunk, was sitting in a beaten up Remington plastic stock and had fused to the threads a Wildcat moderator. All in £320!!! I checked the barrel with the RFD and it appeared good through an endoscope, a bit of gunk and it clearly hadn’t had a decent clean in forever. It went on my ticket and it came home with me.
I spent hours cleaning, dismantling every component, cleaning and cleaning and cleaning!
Glass! How the heck was I going to by a half decent scope on a budget? Again I searched, I looked far and wide for a deal and nothing seemed to take my fancy or just didn’t fit the budget I had set. Then I came across a Vortex Viper HS-T which had been sitting in a local RFDs display cabinet for months. It was being sold at an astonishing discount, the reason; it had been in direct sunlight for months and the body of the optic had faded on one side. Wow! I was almost excited to part with a further £350 and to top it off, the optic came with mounts!
£670 now spent, I had a rifle and glass to hit the range with. All didn’t go to plan though, factory ammo, a sloppy stock and a cheap £20 eBay bipod were not the best combination, I was lucky to get 1 MOA groups. And, then I was offered some advice from someone who could see where I was going with my project. Find a better stock and hand-load my ammunition. I’d been hand-loading .308 for some time, so already had plenty of bits to get me started. I bought some .223 dies and got to work developing a load. I spent weeks traipsing back and forth between the range and my man cave. In that time luck would have it that a friend I had met in one shooting forum or another was parting with an Accuracy International AX stock – he had also displayed it in a shop window getting discoloured and devalued by sunlight. He offered the stock/chassis to me for a bargain, certainly not one I could ignore and tossed in two .223 magazines to boot! I was now a further £650 lighter in the pocket! Okay, that was a good deal, but is this now getting out of hand??? Was I adhering to the precept of this exercise? Was I staying true to the idea of building a budget, accurate rifle in buying an expensive all be it discounted stock/chassis? I think I was! I wanted an accurate, excellent rifle but I didn’t want to pay thousands upon thousands for it!
A year of research, searching for bargains, load development, learning about developing a rifle and £1320 lighter in the pocket I had the rifle I wanted. It was putting in ½ MOA groups all day long, it was smooth and reliable. Three years later it hasn’t missed a beat and is still my favourite centre-fire rifle!
Yes, £1300 and change is a lot to spend and I’m pretty sure you could buy a ½ MOA rifle for about that price but be researching, a bit of luck and plenty of patience I had a rifle that new would have cost me in excess of £2500-£3000!
Of course, in reading this there will be some who will disagree with the project. Some will argue that bargains like these don’t come along often however, they are there; if you’re patient and prepared to search for them. Yes, there’s an element of luck but I’m a firm believer that sometimes you make your own luck.
Happy shooting!Published in