For those who want to bypass the factory rifle, the alternative is purchasing a custom action from Borden, Surgeon, Stiller, or one of the custom builders found in the pages of Precision Shooting magazine. Starting from the custom action and building from there has its advantages, mainly in the perfect machining and fit of the overall package. It is a quicker way to achieve perfection in accuracy, and those with the prerequisite cash can use this strategy very effectively.
AR-15 accuracy can be enhanced with a free floating fore-end tub and a quality barrel.
Quality requires greenbacks, and accuracy can be bought. But not everybody buys it all at once, thus the lower cost step of the factory rifle. We play the shooting game with what we have and toss the dollars on the table, then move another space forward. This way we stay in the game, and that is how I’ve played it over the years. The strategy works, and I don’t know anybody involved in shooting who hasn’t owned a factory rifle at some point. I like to think I took a short cut, because several years ago, I reentered the game with a new Winchester Model 70 Stealth, chambered in .223 Remington. The name “Stealth” is just a marketing term, because it is nothing more than an all black “Heavy Varmint” Model 70 with a thick 26 inch barrel. At the time, these rifles were difficult to locate, but I finally acquired one. And it shot lights out. I moved ahead a quick two spaces with this rifle as I began to develop a strategy for enhancement.
Of course, most rifles become recipients of optics, so I mounted an old Leupold 10x varmint scope, dating back to the mid-1970s. I knew it would be replaced with a newer model at a later date, so I concentrated on applying my cash to acquiring some of the best mounts that money could buy at that time, manufactured by Badger Ordnance. The steel rail offers a 20 minute of angle forward cant, to gain extra elevation adjustment range in the scope, and the perfectly matched rings offer a quality machined fit. All the parts are black phosphate-coated, and Badger Ordnance quality is well known to military and competition shooters around the globe. Though some may prefer a less expensive option, the Badgers are always an excellent choice.
The old Leupold isn’t a bad optic for its approximate 1977 time period, but I eventually installed a Leupold 4.5-14x with 40 mm objective that came with target turrets. The old 10x Leupold went back into the Styrofoam cradle to wait for its next rifle, and that one came in the form of an Anschütz .22 rimfire. The 10x liked that job, but since it had no target turrets, it soon crept back into its Styrofoam cradle in shame. Too much was demanded of its crew cut style friction adjustments.
The Stealth was black as midnight, and I adjusted the trigger to break at 2.8-3 pounds. Top of the line mounts were present, a good mid-range Leupold was installed, and the rifle loved Sierra 69 grain MatchKings. Life was good. The rifle shot tiny groups and it held .5 minute of angle to the 300 yard targets. Any shot beyond that range was a no-go for me, as the terrain simply wouldn’t allow it, due to planted crops, grass and trees. I’d moved at least six spaces forward in the game, I figured.
But then, I installed a McMillan A5 fiberglass stock on another rifle, a .308 Winchester chambered Model 70, and the Stealth just never felt the same again. I tried to be happy with the black fiberglass of the .223 rifle, but to no avail. The game strategy was assaulting my senses on a daily basis, and finally I gave in and ordered another McMillan. As I waited through the several weeks that it takes to receive one of these stocks, these words reverberated through my subconscious... quality requires greenbacks.
Accuracy requires a solid mounting system for the rifle's scope. Shown is a Larue Tactical SPR 1.5 attached to an AR-15 rifle. This mount allows positioning of the scope to achieve proper eye relief.
Having had prior experience with Williams Firearms Company one piece steel bottom metal, I had specified that the A5 be inletted for it. Technically, the bottom metal probably does not count as an accuracy enhancement, but the elimination of the middle screw on the Model 70 action’s bottom metal does offer a way to prevent any binding from any extra tension of the middle screw. I’ve always been careful about tightening that middle trigger guard screw to only minimum torque on Winchester 70s using the factory two piece floorplate/trigger guard combination. Using the new bottom metal was more of a desire for a quality, finely machined component to address the entire rifle package. Quality requires greenbacks, whether it is for accuracy or function.
When the stock finally arrived, I’d already been shooting the other A5-equipped Winchester 70, a Sharpshooter chambered in .308 Winchester, so there was no transition time needed to get used to it. Once the barreled action was bolted into place, it was right back to drilling those dime-sized groups, and later, the rifle was pillar bedded in Marine-Tex for a perfect mating of fiberglass and steel. The McMillan A5’s color pattern is “Campfire Camo,” a mix of olive green, woodland beige, tan and black. The texture on the grip and fore-end is molded in, and the stock provides for solid, easy handling of the rifle. Accuracy requires stability and consistency, and the McMillan provides it.
And that is one attribute the Model 70 action can also provide with its massive recoil lug and the wide flat behind it. When this is mated to cured Marine-Tex, the action is as rock solid as it can be, and the vibration of firing a cartridge will be consistent from the first to the last. The accuracy game is about eliminating variables that can cause a change in the behavior of the rifle. Move ahead a few more spaces in the accuracy game, but watch out for that ammunition snafu ahead. A precision rifle requires accurate ammunition, and this is easily achieved with handloading equipment. Those who pay little attention to ammunition will fall a few steps back in the accuracy game.
Accurate ammunition does not require match bullets, but it sure helps! Match grade bullets such as the various Sierra MatchKings will provide excellent shooting results with the least amount of trial and error. Those who want a game bullet, or in the case of the .223 Remington cartridge, a varmint bullet, can find a wide variety of weights and manufacturers. I have had great results with Sierra GameKing 55 grain Spitzers and Hornady V-MAX bullets. For a tougher bullet that will penetrate deeper and retain weight better, the Nosler 60 grain Partition is an excellent choice.
The key is to find a bullet/powder combination that consistently shoots like a laser, because only hits count. I always choose accuracy over velocity, and for this A5- equipped Winchester 70 in .223 Remington, I stick with 24.5 grains of Varget powder. A Sierra 69 grain MatchKing bullet is used in CCI BR-4 primed Winchester or Lapua brass. This load clocks 2910 to 2915 ft/sec. from the 26 inch barrel, and the powder charge was intentionally reduced to achieve tighter groups. This enhanced factory rifle has shot five rounds into the .3s on good days and .5 inch comes fairly easily. Certainly it is accurate enough for ground squirrels and gophers or the occasional marauding fox.