Best Sniper & Precision Rifle for Beginners [2019]

Want to find the best sniper/precision rifle for you as a beginner?

You’ve come to the right place.  We’ve already covered our best recommendations for pistols, rifles, and shotguns, and now we dive into the world of long distance shooting.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

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Caliber

More Common Bullet Calibers
More Common Bullet Calibers

For the introductory long distance rifle, we recommend going with the 7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester cartridge.

It is one of the most widely used rounds so you’ll be sure to find tons of information and it is available for a reasonable price (starting at ~75 cents a round).

Plus it’s good up to 800 yards and beyond.

Bolt Action vs Semi-Automatic

Bolt action rifles are the go-to for accuracy’s sake since there’s less movement going on when the round is fired.  They are also easier to make accurate than with a semi-automatic for a number of sciencey reasons.

However, there’s been a lot of progress in semi-autos that are getting them close to on-par with bolt guns, out to reasonable distances.  However, the ability to rapidly re-engage a target without working the bolt might push you towards this route instead.

Free Floating Barrel

You want to eliminate the contact between the stock and the barrel for two main reasons.

First is that the stock can change with outside influences such as weather or use.  This would alter the alignment with the barrel over time.

Second, you want the barrel to be able to vibrate at its natural frequency.

In normal rifles, the barrel rests on the stock, but in free floating barrels, there is no touching of the barrel with the stock.  The standard test is to see if you can slide a dollar bill between the barrel and stock.

Free Float Barrel Dollar Bill, Gunsamerica
Free Float Barrel Dollar Bill, Gunsamerica

Price

Since it’s a beginner rifle, we’re looking to keep the whole package around $1000 including the scope.

Ammo is also more expensive for precision rifles (with Match ammo running up to $1.50 per round and standard ammo at around 75 cents per round).  But check out our recommendations in our online ammo buying guide.

Ready for some recommendations of the best?

Bolt Action Contestants

Remington 700

Best Beginner Bolt Action Rifle
650
at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Remington 700 (all) series will always come up in a list of the best beginner rifles as the gold standard.  They start off accurate and there’s endless upgrades.  You can’t go wrong with any of the models but be sure to look at the entry-level 700 SPS Tactical (~$700) or the highest end Sendero SF II (~$1200) which Remington calls their “most accurate over-the-counter rifle.”

Readers' Ratings

4.98/5 (412)

Your Rating?

Tikka T3X Lite

Best Do-It-All Bolt-Action
590
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A Finnish rifle that weighs in at 6.5 lbs and can shoot 1 MOA (1″ at 100 yards) out of the box.  Again, there’s tons of upgrades for this sweet gun which clocks in at about $600-$700.  Also available in south paw for you lefties out there.

Savage AXIS

500
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The AXIS is great value for the money ($400-$500) and tons of upgrades available.  Also take a look at the law enforcement models which have an upgraded trigger and a heavy barrel.

Semi-Auto Contestants

AR-10

AR-10 vs AR-15
AR-10 vs AR-15

You might have heard of the AR-15 which fires the .223/5.56 round, but it was originally designed to fire the .308/7.62 round as the AR-10.

At a side glance you might not be able to tell the difference between an AR-10 and an AR-15, but the AR-10 is slightly larger over for both the lower and upper receiver.  However, most of the lower receiver internals and furniture are interchangeable.

As an AR platform, many manufactures make an AR-10 style rifle for precision shooting.

Our go-to is with Aero Precision’s M5E1 line ($1300-1600) which will push your budget a little higher to almost $2000 with a good scope, but now you are ready to send a lot of (accurate) lead downrange.  Full review here.

Aero M5E1 On The Grass
Aero M5E1 On The Grass
Best Semi-Auto Precision Rifle
1490
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Looking for more AR-10 options?  Check out our Guide to the Best AR-10s.

Scope Rings/Mounts

Once you have your rifle, don’t cheap out on the scope rings.  An accurate rifle is pretty useless if the thing holding your scope to it is wobbling around.

Leupold Quick Release Rings
Leupold Quick Release Rings

We actually recommend going with a one-piece mount so you don’t have to deal with the potential headache of aligning rings shown above.

For a cheaper (but heavier) option, we love the Burris PEPR mount ($65) or for slightly more you can shave 5 oz off your rifle with Aero Precision mounts ($80).

I would suggest the “extended” version and remember to match the mount with your scope (either 30mm or 1 inch typically.

Aero Precision Extended Mount
Aero Precision Extended Mount

 

Scopes

Nikon ProStaff 3-9x
Nikon ProStaff 3-9x

Another thing where you don’t want to skimp.  You’ll always hear the adage “Buy Once, Cry Once” with scopes since if you have a quality scope, you can always put it on a better rifle.

A good rule of thumb is to match it up with your rifle in an almost 1:1 ratio.  It’s better to get the cheapest AXIS we mentioned above but pair it with a decent $300 scope.

And scopes do get really expensive…our favorite is Schmidt and Bender’s PMII which retails for around $4000.

You’ll also want to pair up the power of the scope with your purpose.

Do you want more zoom to hit really far targets, shoot competition where just 1-4x is needed, or a more middle of the road 3-9x?

Check out our Optics and Scope Guide for the AR-15.  Since you’re going precision/sniper rifle, you’ll want to disregard the 1x optics and focus on magnified scopes.  And if you’re going strictly long-distance…check out our How to Choose a Rifle Scope article.

What precision/sniper rifle did you end up getting? Let us know in the comments!

28 Leave a Reply

  • Website Sucks

    Interested in reading this but your fucking POS website keeps force loading a spam Amazon page. Fuck you and your webmaster in the ass and learn how to code.

    1 second ago
  • Bullitt5094

    As a beginner, my recent and absolute first-ever rifle purchase was the Bergara B-14 BMP 6.5 Creed with a Nikon FX-1000 6-24x50 MRAD FFP Illuminated. I believe you missed on this rifle (a great value for a little over $1000) The caliber (6.5 ammo is less expensive and as good long range as the .308 IMHO) and the scope, Cry just a little more... the FX-1000 can be found often for less than $650. Quite a value for it's performance. It took very little time for this true beginner to shoot with the die-hard .308 guys at the range with less than $2000 invested in this rifle. Much to their chagrin. Nikon makes some pretty good single piece ring sets too in the same price range you recommended. Just comments from the subject of the article. A true beginner. Shooting less than 6 months.

    6 months ago
  • TonyG

    When I was looking, the Remington 700 (a TRUE 700, not a falsely marketed 770) was more than I could afford. The Ruger American came out around then, with a floated barrel and accuracy really close to the R700. That's what I got and I have been pretty happy with it. Retailing at around $400, I think it deserves at least an honorable mention in this list.

    8 months ago
  • Keith Speegle

    I am going to get the one not mentioned here; Savage Tactical with the 20" barrel and AR10 mags.

    10 months ago
  • David

    I'm not a new shooter, but I'm new to long range. I got a Savage Axis in 30-06 as an inheritance from my Grandpa a year ago and it's my first bolt action. After getting a feel for it at a local range, I got the $20 trigger kit from M-CARBO. Took the trigger to a very crisp 3.5 lbs. Other than that it's completely stock. I went to a long distance range with it and, with the help of a good spotter, was pinging steel at 800 yards on cheapest rounds academy had for sale. Prior to this, the longest shot I'd taken was at 300 yds with an AR once. We almost got it to 1000 yards, but we were at the far end of the ballistic arch for those rounds and I was having a hard time holding 30 MOA over the target. All in all, I don't think you can really ask any more of a rifle going for $350 brand new. I'll probly move up to an R700 soon, as my savage is an aireloom now, but if theres anyone looking to get their feet wet in the sport for cheap, I cant recommend an axis more. Just make sure to get that trigger kit though. My trigger pull was 9 lbs and wobbly side to side beforehand. Couldnt hit the side of a barn before.

    10 months ago
    • David L

      Congrats! Reaching out that far for the first time is a lot of fun. If you're looking for your next upgrade, I would highly recommend you look at Tikka, Ruger, and Savage. All three have been putting out some outstanding bolt guns for decent prices.

      10 months ago
  • Jim

    You obviously deal mainly with novice shooters here. I was hoping to gain a bit more intel on my Mosin Nagant and my 8mm Mauser. In your pictured ammo, I didn't see any 7.62x54r or 7.65x53 rpumds. Being a long-gun shooter, I am always looking for something I didn't know about my weapons of choice since my military days. I hope to catch some information on your site as it looks interesting. Thanks for the targets.

    11 months ago
  • Steve

    I used this review as a guide to what I needed to look for. While I didn't go "low budget", I didn't go nuts either. The Savage Arms 10 BA Stealth was on sale for $200 off and there was also a $100 refund from Savage Arms, bringing the total to $900. It has generally very good reviews for a long distance precision rifle., comes with a an adjustable Accu-trigger and a Fab Defense® GL-SHOCK six-position, shock-absorbing buttstock with adjustable cheek.. I went with 6.5 Creedmoor because so many articles say that it is the superior accurate distance round. Savage Arms 10 BA Stealth in 6.5 Creedmoor Vortex Viper HS-T 6-24x50mm Riflescope w/ VMR-1 MRAD Reticle VG6 Precision Gamma 65 Muzzle Device I'll see how this works out and then consider other modifications later.

    1 year ago
  • Jerry

    Remington 700 police, .308. Vortex Viper pst gen II ffp ebr-2c MOA EGW guns match rings/NF SD 20 MOA rail

    1 year ago
  • Tom Julius

    I bought a Remington 700 with a Magpul stock (both for $700 with Remington discount) and paired it with a Nikon M- 308 scope. It's really accurate out to 600 yards... I can't find a longer range in the Tampa area... Can you think of any modifications I should make...

    1 year ago
    • James

      Have you tried the dade city range? Its kind if a drive but might have some longer range.

      1 month ago
    • Eric Hung

      Next up would likely be a trigger!

      1 year ago
  • Justin S

    Have you done a updated version of this to update rifles or ammo such as the 6.5 creedmore?

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Not yet, but on it!

      1 year ago
      • Justin Smith

        Awesome I'm in the market for a precision rifle and looking at the Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 creedmoor myself.

        1 year ago
        • James

          I bought a Savage 10 BA Stealth a little less than a year ago, in 6.5CM. Bolted a Nikon ProStaff on top of it. About $1600 OTD, and I can double tap a 6" plate at 1000 yards with Blackwater Precision ammo. Comparing the specs to the Ruger Precision, they're damn near the same rifle - I bought a Precision Rimfire to practice, since I don't have regular access to a 1000 yard range. I'd say you're on the right track looking at the RP, but you could save yourself a couple hundred going with the Savage if you wanted to.

          8 months ago
        • Cabman

          very interested in your opinions for 6.5

          1 year ago
  • Joel B

    Been thinking about the Savage 10FCP-SR rifle, and pairing that with a MDT chassie. What's your thoughts on that?

    2 years ago
    • James Barger

      I have that s very rifle, and it is incredibly accurate. The only mods I've made are to replace factory comp with a linear comp, more to reduce side blast on the line at group shoots. You will probably need some sort of cheek piece; I have the Karsten adjustable which is the gold standard. I like my son's Burris XTR2 , 5-25x50 much better than my Bushnell Elite 6-24x50.

      1 year ago
  • Louie

    This was a good article to read since I'm looking to purchase my first rifle. The purpose of the rifle is getting to shot long distance. Some thing about being patient calms me down. I doing a lot of research and with budget i was looking to get a combo deal. A lot of people I asked are giving me bad feedback, and some are good on the Remington Model 700 .308 ADL Bolt-Action Rifle Combo. I keep hearing that I will out grow that rifle and spend more down the road. Wanted to get some feedback from you what you think. I know down the road after 1000 rounds i would change the body or scoop. That's when I saved up more money like I said I'm on a budget. Let me know when you have a moment. Thank you,

    2 years ago
  • Michael

    What do you think about the new Mega Arms SF-MATEN? It's coming out this summer . How does it stack up against the Aero AR-10? Thanks ! Mike

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      AR-10 full review out now! Haven't had the chance yet to try the Mega though.

      2 years ago
  • Ivan

    Gentlemen, Just recently took up rifle shooting 100-300yards. and purchased a Ruger Precision Rifle 20" barrel .308. Cal I have conflicting opinions and wanted your take on this purchase versus others in it's price range. Scope Burris Eliminator III Laser Rangefinding Rifle 3-12x-44mm. Eat. $3k all in thanks I

    2 years ago
    • Dave

      I have the same rifle both .308 and the 6.5 creedmore. excellent rifles. I'm tagging clay pigeons at 500 yards no problem with the .308. I have noticed that the ruger precision does not like ball ammo...cheap ammo= bad shooting. good choice on the rifle

      1 year ago
  • Jesus Jose Gonzalez Jr

    I'm starting to build my long range rifle what would you recommend on a 7.62 caliber rifle bolt action..

    2 years ago
  • Thom C. Berg

    Wise choice including the Tikka in the list above! Put mine in a laminated stock (bedding, etc.) and installed a muzzle break, 'cuz it kicked like a mule........and am enjoying outstanding accuracy and groupings out to 300 yards (so far). I'll do better once I'm comfortable with its new Millet scope (had a Vortex, didn't like that much). But............you were right!! Merry Christmas.

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Thanks Thom, glad to hear it!

      2 years ago
  • Vince Naughton

    I have an Aero Precision AR-15 assembled upper and stripped lower that I want to build a target/varmint, long-range shooter with. I was thinking of a 20" to 24" barrel, chambered in 223 Wylde for a little extra precision. My 1st question is: Can a 5.56 mil-spec or .223 Rem bolt with its carrier group be used, or does it need to be in 223 Wylde? 2nd question: Can you recommend a manufacturer(s) who makes good barrels with a supplied head-spaced bolt and carrier? Thank you, Vince

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Good question Vince...as far as I know bolts are bolts and since the Wylde is sort of a compromise between .223 and 5.56, any good bolt should work. I'd check out my AR-15 Upgrades article.

      2 years ago
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