The sport of long range shooting is on the rise across our great nation, and it is here to stay. Whether it is long range hunting, bench rest shooting, steel silhouettes, formal F Class events, or just plain fun recreational shooting, public interest in long range shooting grows daily. And there is even more intense interest in long range shooting evident at the trade shows, where manufacturers of rifles, scopes, ammunition and accessories are lining up to get in on the action.
It is an excellent sport, where you can simply take out your basic deer rifle and a couple of boxes of ammunition for a day of fun. After all, there is a special feeling you get when you pull that trigger and then wait those moments before you hear your bullet connecting with that gong, blowing up that rock or taking that animal. But as with all shooting sports, the day will come when you realize that old Granddad’s .30-06 just will not compete with the big boys.
You are looking for a setup that will not be more expensive than your last car, but that you can still use to be a serious contender. You really don’t want to wait months for a custom rifle, and you may not have the time to work up a good hand load. Well look no more. I have found a long range rig that will do everything you want and more, without forcing you to sell your firstborn. You can buy this setup, sight it in, and you will be ready to compete using store bought ammunition.
The rifle I have selected is the Thompson/Center Icon Precision Hunter, which has been available now for a short while. John Barsness recently wrote an excellent review of this rifle, which was published in both Varmint Hunter magazine and on this website last year. Without repeating the article, I would like to tell you about my first experiences with the Thompson/Center Icon Precision Hunter.
Weighing in right at nine pounds without a scope and rings, it is not exactly what you would want to carry on a mountain hike, but it is not so heavy that you will have to delegate it to bench shooting only. Besides, you will appreciate the extra weight after a day at the range. The 22 inch heavy fluted barrel makes up a lot of that weight. The six deep flutes in combination with the holes in the bottom of the forearm help to keep things cool. I would have appreciated about 2 more inches of barrel.
Thompson/Center uses rifling called “5R” for the Icon Precision Hunter rifle. They cut five lands and grooves instead of six. They are cut at a 150 degree angle, not the usual 90. The lands look like small mounts and are directly opposed to the grooves. This detail may sound trivial, but what it means is hardly any barrel break in period needed, and little or no copper fouling. In other words, sight it in and you are ready. This will save you a lot of expensive ammunition and time. And when cleaning time comes, you will definitely appreciate this unique rifling.
The action is flat on the bottom with the exception of three lugs that lock into the aluminum bedding. These lugs are where the three action bolts thread into the action. I cannot think of a more secure way of bedding a rifle unless you epoxy it in the stock. The scope bases are also part of the action and accept Weaver style rings.
The trigger is very crisp with hardly any take up. It is adjustable with a specialty tool provided with each rifle. This adjustment is for weight of pull only. The location of the adjustment screw is under the back strap of the action, which does not make it very easy to see what you are doing, and the Allen head screw is very small. I adjusted the trigger down to an average of 2 pounds, 3 ounces.