Without question, the .308 Win. and its military counterpart, the 7.62 NATO, are the go-to cartridges for precision tactical rifles. The trend began with the standardization of military sniper rifles during the 1960s. When law enforcement agencies began deploying SWAT teams in the 1980s, the availability of inexpensive and accurate bolt guns chambered in .308 Win. effectively standardized the cartridge for the police sharpshooter role.
Fifty-five years after the 7.62 NATO became a U.S. service round, new cartridges have entered the marketplace that match the accuracy, mild recoil and versatility of the .308 Win., while offering a flatter trajectory and increased resistance to wind drift. One of them is the 6.5x47 mm Lapua. Designed as a competition round in Europe, this relative newcomer is the ballistic twin of the .260 Rem. and is available in a factory-loaded match format using Lapua's precision Scenar competition bullets combined with some of the world's finest brass cases.
Tactical Rifles in Dade City, FL, is a firm believer in the virtues of the efficient 6.5x47 mm Lapua, and the company's custom-built Tactical M40A1-3 precision rifle is the perfect platform to harness the cartridge's capabilities. Owner David Rooney and his crew have made a name for themselves by applying benchrest tolerances to the construction of tactical rifles. The fruits of their labor are some of the most accurate long guns on the market.
The test rifle was fitted with a heavy, but relatively short, hand-lapped 22-inch Broughton stainless steel match barrel that had been extensively stress-relieved to prevent inconsistency under the heat of extended firing. (Tactical Rifles also uses Krieger barrels on some of its guns.) The barrel was mated to a Remington Model 700 action, which was free-float bedded into a McMillan A1-3 fiberglass stock covered with Tac-Coat—a hard, acrylic, textured finish applied in-house.
Cartridges are fed via Accuracy International's five- or 10-round detachable magazines. Unlike staggered magazines that can lead to feeding issues in push-feed actions, the AI magazine delivers the cartridge directly in line with the 6-o'clock position of the bolt for the ultimate in reliability. The magazines fit into a proprietary Tactical Rifles floorplate/trigger guard unit, which provides increased strength and durability over standard bottom metal. The magazine well also features generous internal tolerances to prevent dirt and mud from blocking proper magazine insertion, a problem that has plagued some competitors' models in the harsh environments of Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of the metalwork, including the Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x50 mm scope, wore a subdued green, "extreme environment" moly-based epoxy finish providing corrosion resistance and camouflage. The company's attention to detail is outstanding, and the rifle showed the obvious fit and finish of a custom rig.
The M40A1-3 isn't light, but it's well balanced and its mass virtually eliminates felt recoil and muzzle rise. At longer ranges, I was able to watch my shots impact the target through the scope. This compact, yet potent package would be an ideal setup for a law enforcement designated marksman, especially when working in a potentially cramped urban environment. A stand hunter interested in a long-range rig would likely find the setup equally suitable.
Precision tactical rifles are designed to put the first round on target when life is hanging in the balance—the cold-bore shot is often the only one that matters. After being dragged all over the United States in airplanes and autos, the test rifle still managed to put the first round within 1⁄8 inch of the target's center on the first shot. That's the kind of performance serious precision shooters demand. I fired the standard five, five-shot groups at 100 yards with the 139-grain Lapua factory load before moving to the 300- and 500-yard lines for some practical testing—shooting prone with the Harris bipod.
As expected, the M40A1-3 was consistently quite accurate, which made it possible to explore the full potential of the 6.5x47 mm Lapua. The average 100-yard, five-shot group was .379 inch, which speaks volumes for the precision construction of both the rifle and the Lapua ammunition. Tactical Rifles guarantees all of its precision rifles will shoot 1⁄2 MOA at 100 yards, and this example more than satisfied that claim. Despite increasingly gusty winds, three-round groups at 300 yards averaged .58 MOA. Out of more than 150 total rounds fired, including plenty of called fliers, the worst group of the day was only .71 MOA at 300 yards.
While the rifle obviously performed admirably at shorter ranges, shooting at 500 yards is where the M40A1-3 really came into its own. Many production rifles can print impressive groups at 100 or even 300 yards, but beyond that you really separate the men from the boys. Ten minutes of elevation put the first round on target, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't make a miss happen. The best three-shot group at 500 yards measured an impressive 1.296 inches, and the average was just 2.059 inches.
The Tactical Rifles M40A1-3 embodies the essential qualities of a precision rifle: accuracy, reliable feeding and most important—consistency. If you miss, it's your fault.