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Best Sniper & Precision Rifle for Beginners [Ultimate Guide]

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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Things To Consider

Caliber

Common Rifle Calibers
Common Rifle Calibers

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

Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr
Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr

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?

Best Sniper Rifles for Beginners

1. 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 bolt 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

4.99/5 (1118)

Your Rating?

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Bergara B-14 HMR

A touch more premium option, the Bergara B-14 HMR is one of the best factory produced rifles — period.

Bergara B-14 HMR magazines and bipod
Bergara B-14 HMR

Based on the Remington 700, you’re basically getting what the R700 should be today. Modern, high quality, accurate, and built to last.

The Bergara B-14 HMR fits all standard R700 stocks, chassis, and triggers so the aftermarket options are MASSIVE.

And these rifles shoot, sub-MOA comes guaranteed with each rifle and Bergara lives up to the claim. We have a lot more to say about the B-14 HMR, so take a look at the Hands-on Review!

900
at GunPrime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Accessories

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.

9 Tested Long Range Scopes
Oh yes…we love optics!

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 Best Long Range Scopes.

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

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49 Leave a Reply

  • David

    I considered the Bergara before buying my Ruger Precision. The Bergara bolt action is silky smooth, close to the Browning X-Bolt which is saying something. But the Ruger was more customizable and didn't have a wood stock. Lots of people like their Bergara rifles though. I'd like to shoot one for a few years, if I didn't already have my long range rifle.

    No Ruger precision in this list? Is it because you're trying to stay below $1000?

    December 31, 2020 12:11 pm
  • Paul Stenson

    I am always asking questions and looking for information. What do you think about the Savage 110 ultralight?

    December 26, 2020 12:19 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      I haven't gotten to use one personally but I've heard very positive feedback, but Savage is known to have some QC issues on their cheaper lines.

      December 26, 2020 1:06 pm
  • Austin

    Can you own a Remington 700 in California?

    November 17, 2020 8:38 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      Yes

      November 17, 2020 10:20 pm
  • Jose Vega

    Looking for a scope for target shooting between 200 and 500 yards. I wear glasses so I would like a scope that would magnify the target as much as possible, without breaking the bank!

    August 13, 2020 10:45 am
    • Ron

      Vortex Viper 6.5 x20
      On sale now for $299 at Midway

      September 15, 2020 7:04 am
  • John Fowler

    The Thompson Center Compass in 5.56, 6.5, .308, 30-06 or 300 WinMag is an excellent rifle with both great standard features and excellent accuracy as in guaranteed accuracy. 5R rifled barrel with threaded muzzle that is free floated. Pillar bedded synthetic stock. Adjustable trigger. 3 position safety. Detachable 5 round magazine. Soft and sticky butt pad. Scope bases and sling swivel mounts included. Slap on a GI canvas sling with qd swivels, rings to fit the scope you have chosen, a Bear Tooth cheek riser and a flash suppressor or sound suppressor and go to work on your pet load or shoot federal or hornady factory match. BTW Bushnell made a 3-9 with mildots that came with uncle mikes covers. Add a tenebraex kill flash and no sun shade needed. Working man's precision or deer system for under $500 total with all above by watching the deals.

    July 30, 2020 7:43 am
  • sambat p.m capt

    want a holster for my guys having glock 17 with gtl.can u help pl.thks

    April 12, 2020 11:27 pm
    • Bull o' the Woods

      This is spam.

      May 19, 2020 5:29 pm
  • Leon Gromowa

    The two best long range sniper rifles for the money is the Ruger Bolt Action Precision in 6.5 creedmoor or PRC. The Savage Model 10 BDA Stealth in 308. Both of these will shoot just as well as a lot of the very expensive rifles made.

    November 22, 2019 3:58 pm
    • Pablo

      What about This deadly rifle T5000. Hear about it?

      January 16, 2020 2:33 pm
      • Bull o' the Woods

        That is a Russian military product available only to their armed forces and those of a handful of satellite states. Not a commercial product and not available in the US. Would cost out the wazoo if you ever found one. Probably illegal to own. No evidence it is superior to available alternatives.

        May 19, 2020 5:27 pm
  • gunnoob

    Similar to reddogs comment, I had some concern around recent remington rifles quality control. Can anyone vouch for them that they fixed the problem they had with the trigger misfire?

    November 18, 2019 9:37 am
    • Leon Gromowa

      You couldn't give me a Reminton rifle.

      November 22, 2019 4:00 pm
      • Leon Gromowa

        I hit the wrong key, Remington is what it should spell.

        November 22, 2019 4:01 pm
      • Jack Ingram

        what do you base such a strong position on? I have owned a lot of guns and the most accurate out of the box rifle I ever owned was a Remington 700 in 308. It was billed as a "Police" sniper rifle. I don't remember the "name" Sort of parkerized finish, heavy barrel, black plastic stock with built in aluminum bedding block. I put on a 40X Remington 2oz trigger. ( not a mistake 2oz) and a Leupold 6-24 scope nothing else. One hole 5 shot groups at 100. Outside to outside of 1/2 inch all day any day. Never shot it farther. Federal 168 grain hpbt match ammo factory loads.

        January 27, 2020 3:47 pm
    • Bull o' the Woods

      An investment firm called the Cerberus Capital Management created a subsidiary called the Freedom Group in 2007 to manage holdings in the firearms industry. Remember that these guys are slash-and-burn investment bankers, not shooters. They acquired Remington, Bushmaster, DPMS, Marlin, and Para Ordnance among other brands. The Freedom Group recently changed its name to "Remington Outdoor Company" and killed off the Bushmaster, DPMS, and Para Ordnance brands. Since the creation of the Freedom Group, the company has been notable for rationalizing operations to increase revenue and decrease costs. As part of this process, they have consolidated manufacturing and laid-off experienced employees. Quality has suffered at every company acquired, especially Marlin. Again, these guys are not shooters. Their only goal is to maximize return on investment. As a result, quality control is sketchy. I have a Remington 700 bought in the early 1990s and a couple of Marlin lever guns from the mid-1990s that are shooters. I would not buy any of these rifles as currently manufactured by Remington Outdoor Company.

      May 19, 2020 6:04 pm
  • reddog

    I disagree on the Rem 700. If you don't care about quality, they may be okay but the 700's being built today are junk, if we are talking about accurate rifles. Ask the gunsmiths out there about what has happened to the quality of the 700 and they will tell you that they are not the same 700's as your daddy bought by a long shot. That's why there has been an explosion of 700 clones in the last few years. Quality. I am a life long proponent of the Rem 700 but would not buy one again unless they start building them with quality in mind. Sorry for being negative here but the truth hurts. If I was just starting out in firearms today I would buy a Savage in whatever caliber I liked. Out of the box, they shoot more accurately than any other factory production rifle. Best bang for the buck.

    November 17, 2019 10:28 am
  • Jay Crane

    First was a Remington 700 SPS Varmint - great barrel on a cheap stock. Later upgraded the stock to an Accuracy International AICS 2.0 and added a Timney two-stage trigger. Paired with a Vortex HST 6-24x50, I can consistently get sub .5 MOA groups using match ammunition. I added a Ruger Precision later, threw the same scope on it. I like my Remington 700 AICS a bit better, but out of the box, it's an extremely solid gun. I got both in .308.

    October 30, 2019 5:34 pm
  • Rick

    6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Precision paired with a first gen Razor HD 5-20x50. Sub MOA gun out of the box, even with a newb shooter. Getting sub MOA at 200 yards even (furthest my range has locally) with little effort. And you can get the 6.5 for about $1,150 if you shop around.

    October 24, 2019 10:37 am
  • 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.

    February 5, 2019 6:55 pm
  • 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.

    November 25, 2018 8:08 pm
  • Keith Speegle

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

    September 27, 2018 6:45 am
  • 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.

    September 22, 2018 11:32 pm
    • 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.

      September 23, 2018 10:21 am
  • 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.

    September 10, 2018 8:05 pm
  • 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.

    July 27, 2018 1:08 pm
  • Jerry

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

    June 15, 2018 2:36 am
  • 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...

    March 10, 2018 9:14 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Next up would likely be a trigger!

      March 12, 2018 10:27 am
    • James

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

      June 24, 2019 8:53 am
  • Justin S

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

    October 16, 2017 2:40 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Not yet, but on it!

      October 17, 2017 3:35 pm
      • Justin Smith

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

        October 17, 2017 3:40 pm
        • Cabman

          very interested in your opinions for 6.5

          November 1, 2017 1:25 pm
        • 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.

          December 6, 2018 11:27 pm
  • Joel B

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

    June 16, 2017 12:32 pm
    • 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.

      September 21, 2017 7:43 am
  • 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,

    April 10, 2017 3:48 pm
  • 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

    April 9, 2017 5:49 pm
    • Eric Hung

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

      June 5, 2017 12:14 pm
  • 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

    April 6, 2017 9:53 am
    • 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

      December 1, 2017 5:34 pm
  • 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..

    February 3, 2017 8:06 pm
  • 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.

    December 14, 2016 5:43 pm
    • ehung

      Thanks Thom, glad to hear it!

      December 14, 2016 10:02 pm
  • 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

    October 27, 2016 1:01 pm
    • 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.

      October 28, 2016 1:37 am