There are three different types of long-range shooting: target, hunting, and tactical. Although some basic requirements and considerations are shared across the board, each has specific requirements.
Target rifles are typically heavier than other types of long-range rifles. The added weight, a longer barrel, and more complex stocks allow for the highest level of precision. They are perfect for hitting sub-MOA x-ring groups off the bench but are generally too unwieldy for field use. Target rifles are typically considered the Cadillac of rifles.
Hunting rifles will be lighter and more compact. Shorter, fluted barrels and composite stocks are typical but not a requirement. Although the design is not as advanced as target rifles, and some features will impact precision, it is negligible. These trade-offs are necessary to provide light enough rifles to be transported for long distances while still providing long-range capabilities.
Tactical rifles combine the features of the target and hunting rifles to provide a more versatile multi-use platform. Heavy bull barrels allow for long-range precision, while lightweight chassis designs allow for more effortless movement in the field. Although these designs have long been popular with military and law enforcement shooters, they are now growing in popularity with both hunters and PRS shooters.
What is the Best Long-Range Rifle?
Everyone has an opinion concerning what the best long-range rifle may be. In truth, the best long-range is the one that fits you and the conditions you will be facing.
Some of the features you should look for include:
The less contact the barrel makes with the stock, the more consistent it will shoot. This is especially true if you shoot using a sling or add accessories to the stocking, including a bi-pod or light.
Most long-range rifles will have a barrel length of 24″-28″. The minimum recommended length is 20″.
Minute of Angle (MOA) refers to the rifle’s accuracy as distance increases. For example, a 1 MOA gun will shoot 1-inch groups at 100 yards but 10″ groups at 1000 yards. It’s a bit more complicated, but you get the idea. For long-range hunting, selecting a rifle capable of less than 1 MOA is recommended.
The .308 is probably the most popular long-range cartridge and has performed well in target, hunting, and tactical situations. From a hunting standpoint, it is also large enough to take most North American big game, even at long ranges. The 6.5 Creedmoor is a relatively new range specifically designed for long ranges. It too can take many North American species even at long ranges; however, not all species.
When determining what your rifle will be chambered in, consider the range you will be shooting at and potential targets, weather, terrain, and your own experience level.
The best scope for your long-range hunting rifle is complicated, and we’ll save that conversation for a future post! In terms of choosing a long-range rifle, it should be set up to receive the most popular scopes without the need for a gunsmith or alterations.
What is Long-Range Shooting?
The NRA defines long-range as 1000 yards. However, unless you are a competition shooter, this may or may not be the distance you use to determine long-range. For example, in hunting circles, long-range is often considered any range greater than 600-yards. Anything over 1000 yards is extremely long range.
Our Recommendations for the Best Long-Range Hunting Rifle
Time to get down to what you have been waiting for – our recommendations for the best long-range hunting rifles. Everyone has different features or capabilities that are important. With this in mind, we have selected top rifles in three categories: precision, weight, and capacity.
The Howa HCR is a precision rifle at a budget price (in terms of precision rifles anyway) that can be used for hunting or tactical applications. Plus, each is guaranteed to be sub 1 MOA from the factory. Many will shoot sub ½ MOA out of the box.
The HCR incorporates Howa’s 1500 action, an Accurate-Mag aluminum chassis, and an M-Lok fore-end with a free-floating 20″-26″ barrel. The MBA-3 buttstock is fully adjustable for pull length & cheek weld. The barrel is threaded and available in either standard or heavy contours.
Christensen Arms Traverse
The Traverse may look like your father’s deer rifle but trust me; it is anything but. By combining a traditional design with a modern approach, Christensen Arms has delivered a long-range tack driver that is light enough to be packed into the backcountry.
The 416r stainless steel barrel is milled in-house and includes a slim target profile with precision rifling. Free-floating and coupled with a match chamber allows sub-MOA performance. The groundbreaking aspect is the carbon fiber wrap. Not only does it help dissipate heat, but it also limits vibration – one of the biggest problems regarding continued accuracy.
Carbon fiber is also used in stock construction for extreme durability and lightweight. At only 7.3 pounds, it is easy to handle, comfortable on the shoulder, and suitable for long treks.
Finally, you can order a Traverse in a wide range of calibers from .22-250 to 300 PRC, including .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor.
JP Enterprises LRI-20
Whether it is a zombie apocalypse or coteries of prairie dogs in the next zip code, sometimes you need a long-range hunting rifle with more capacity. The LRI-20 offers just that and more.
JP Enterprises boasts that the LRI-20 is the only semi-automatic precision rifle that can reliably hit targets up to 1200 yards. Based on the design, there is no reason to doubt this is true.
With an AR-10 style construction, the LRI-20 is a platform many shooters are familiar with. Add a 416r Super match barrel, 7075-T6 aluminum receiver, JP’s .308 Low Mass Operating System, and integrated barrel nut. You have a heavy-duty, long-distance platform unlike any other.
The downside is that you can only purchase the LRI-20 as a complete upper, not a full rifle. You must also buy the matching LRP-07 lower separately.
Does cost determine the quality, and do they need to speed a lot of money to get a quality long-range rifle?
As the price tag increases, so should the quality of the final product. After all, the increase in cost is usually the result of increased production costs, which should mean better craftsmanship and better materials. However, high cost does not imply a better long-range platform. In addition to craftsmanship and materials, you need a good design.
As far as needing to spend a lot of money goes, it depends on what you consider a lot of money. Although it is possible to spend several thousand dollars on a long-range hunting rifle, it is not necessary in some cases, even on the accessories for your rifle. Many of the best long-range hunting rifles on today’s market cost less than $2000. Some are less than $1000, though most will not include a scope or bipod.
After looking at all the variables, features, and platforms available, our opinion is that these are some of the best rifles for long-range hunting. They cover the best combination of precision, weight, and capacity, which should allow you to meet any of your hunting needs.