In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a surge of interest these days in taking game at extreme ranges. As to what constitutes extreme range, that’s highly subjective, and in large part depends on one’s field and range experience, as well as equipment. I mean, to the guy who’s spent a lifetime hunting whitetails in tight cover and uses a lever-action .30/30 pushing traditional flat-point bullets, 200 yards would be extreme range. An experienced shooter, on the other hand, behind a 7mm or .300 Mag who spends time on the range and regularly hunts open country, would find a 400- yard shot a very doable under the right circumstances. And for the guy who competes in 1,000-yard matches, 750 yards is no big thing. Again, we’re assuming the right circumstances, meaning a perfectly steady rest, a cartridge capable of delivering enough energy for the job, and knowing the exact distance — something which laser rangefinders now make possible. Under those conditions, the only problem is wind deflection, which of course can be considerable.
Shooting at distances where you’re so far away from the game that it doesn’t even know you’re in the country, where hunting skills have no influence whatever on the outcome, it could be argued that it becomes nothing but a shooting contest. Where one draws the line is strictly a personal thing, but there’s no question that technology is constantly pushing the envelope of hunting ethics. While no rifle or optic manufacturer I know of actually promotes shooting game at extreme ranges, subliminal messages are there nonetheless in the naming of certain rifles, and in high magnification scopes having reticles that can be calibrated out to 700 yards or more.
Just what makes a long-range rifle in the hunting context? Well, on a truly dedicated rifle that’s designed from scratch — where there are no economic restraints like having to use an existing barreled action
or stock — certain features have evolved that have come to characterize what we’re talking about. First and foremost, the stock is designed for shooting from the prone position. The grip will have a tight radius and be nearly vertical, with or without a palm swell. These features combine to provide more trigger control because the hand is in a less strained, more natural position. The stock’s comb will be approximately parallel with the bore, and sometimes so high and so far forward that the point of the comb will be grooved to clear the cocking piece when the bolt is fully withdrawn. Though not mandatory, some LRRs will have adjustable combs and length of pull. The forend will be wider than normal for more stability off sandbags and makeshift field rests, and there will be two swivel studs to accommodate both a bipod and sling at the same time.
As for the barreled action, it will be based on a bolt action long enough to handle full-length magnum cartridges, with a barrel of at least 26 inches or more in length, and of medium heavy weight measuring .750-.800|-inch at a braked muzzle. The long barrel, of course, is to extract factory ballistics and then some. As for suitable cartridges, I personally would set the minimum at the .300 Winchester Magnum, but the 7mm and .300 Ultra Mags are better yet, and where elk are concerned, the .338 Lapua. Overkill? Not when you’re bound and determined to shoot your elk in another zip code.
In many ways, a long range hunting rifle is not that much different from a lot of tactical and varmint rifles already out there. Three good examples are Shaw Precision Rifles’ Mark VII VS, Remington’s Model 700 Target Tactical, and H-S Precision’s Professional Long Range, all of which are new this year and have most or all of the features we’ve talked about here. The VS stands for Varmint Special, yet despite its moniker, it’s offered in both short and magnum-length calibers, including.338 Lapua, which is not exactly a varmint caliber! H-S Precision’s PLR stands for Professional Long Range, so despite the disparity in their purpose-built names, both are remarkably similar and ideally suited to taking game at extreme ranges.
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Two other interesting rifles to debut this year are of the dangerous game kind from Dakota and Montana Rifle Co. From Dakota we have the Model 76 Professional Hunter, and from MRC, the Model SCR (Seven Continents Rifle). The SCR is virtually identical to Montana’s
Dangerous Game Rifle, but it has a synthetic stock instead of walnut, and is specially reinforced to handle the potent cartridges for which the gun is chambered — .338 Lapua, .338 Norma, .378 Weatherby Mag, .416 Rigby, .460 Weatherby Mag, and .505 Gibbs.
In the two .338 calibers, the gun sports a 26-inch muzzle-braked barrel that measures .650 at the muzzle and no open sights. In the .378 and .416 calibers, a 24-inch barrel is furnished that measures .750 at the muzzle with Marble front and rear replaceable sights. In .460 and .505, the 24-inch barrel measures .850 at the muzzle and the same Marble front and rear replaceable iron sights. The SCR is offered in blued steel or stainless. All Montana rifles are based on the company’s own Model 1999 action, which is a virtual clone of the Winchester Model 70, but with several subtle improvements.
Like Montana’s SCR, Dakota’s Model 76 Professional Hunter differs from the existing Model 76 Safari only in that it comes in a synthetic stock, a concept that Dakota accepted only grudgingly after fighting it for nearly two decades, and then offering them only on select models. After all, the company was founded on the belief that real rifles are of blued steel and walnut, period.
Anyway, the PH comes with a pillar bedded synthetic stock, a Cerakote black matte metal finish, a 23-inch Douglas Premium barrel with barrel band front sight and swivel stud. The fixed rear sight is of solid steel sitting on a quarter rib. The PH is offered in .375 H&H, .404 Jeffery, .416 Rem., .416 Rigby, .458 Lott and .450 Rigby.
Both guns a well thought out as to incorporating the details that separate a DGR from a general purpose hunting rifle. If, like me, you believe that a dangerous game rifle should have a barrel no longer than 22 inches, I’m assuming you can order it that way, seeing as how both guns are pretty much made to order, so bobbing a barrel is probably doable. In the case of MRC’s Seven Continents Rifle, the 26-inch spout that’s standard with the two .338 cartridges is appropriate, because both would be long range rifles rather than DGRs. In such cases, caliber determines ultimate use.–Jon R. Sundra