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Old 03-07-2010, 20:59   #1
NEOH212
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Semi-auto vs Bolt action accuracy.

Here's a question for the expert. Is there really a noticeable difference in accuracy between a semi-auto precession rifle compared to a bolt gun? Assuming that both firearms are designed to be precession rifles, have the same high quality optics, and are shooting match quality ammunition that is the most accurate for the firearms, and most importantly a shooter behind the gun that knows what he/she is doing, how much difference is there really? I understand that there are many ways to define accuracy. Lets take it from the standpoint of expecting a rifle to shoot sub MOA out to 500 meters consistently, assuming that the shooter is trained to do so. I know that there are many good quality bolt action rifles that are up to the task, but are the semi-auto rifles that far behind in this day and age and by how much if any? I don't want to make this into a discussion of which platform is better tactically. I just want to keep it on the topic of accuracy. Thanks much!
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:23   #2
Zak Smith
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If we are talking about cartridges near the .308 level of case capacity and overall-length, the average of the best semi-autos is approximately 0.25-0.50 MOA worse in accuracy than the average of the best bolt guns. The semi-autos typically shoot a little slower and are typically a little more finicky regarding which loads they "like" as well.
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Old 03-18-2010, 02:03   #3
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Yes, lets assume .308 as the base line and as an example, the FN_AR heavy barrel version as the firearm, Versus lets say one of FN's bolt guns. With factory match ammo, good optics and a capable shooter, will there be a decipherable difference between the two? Would I be wasting my money with a $2500 FN manufactured FBI sniper rifle when I could get the same accuracy with the FN-AR? (Note, i'm not considering this as an actual purchase. Rather i'm just using these firearms for comparison purpose's only.) Or am I overlooking something here? Thanks.
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Old 03-18-2010, 12:56   #4
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In my original reply, I was referring to the "best semi-autos" vs. the "best bolt guns." The FNAR is clearly not in this class - it's a 1 MOA rifle on a good day. Some of the FN SPR's have a 1/2 moa guarantee. Converting an accuracy "guarantee" is usable accuracy is somewhat problematic. If they can find one type of ammunition that shoots 1/2 moa, their obligation is fulfilled; however, it might not be the load or bullet you want to use for various reasons. It is not clear what this guarantee actually covers or what ammunition is required.

However, this is pretty good for a factory rifle. In the $2400 price range, I think you can buy something better for the money in a Sako TRG or a custom-style rifle.

Custom match-grade barrels are usually very tolerant of different loads and not very picky and usually shoot better than 1/2 when new. I have had 6.5mm and .30 caliber barrels that shot 0.3 moa or better.

So the answer to your question is that the bolt rifle would have significantly more accuracy than the FNAR.
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Old 03-19-2010, 02:35   #5
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That was my thought, but I'm glad that a professional could settle this question once and for all for me. So in light of that, let me ask you this if you don't mind. I have always been a bolt gun guy when it comes to a long range rifle. I'm not unhappy with the accuracy of the rifles that I own now but I would like to get into a true, "Precession" bolt action rifle. Would I be better off spending the money on one of the better factory rifles, such as a Sako or equivalent, or can I do better for my money on a custom build form a respected builder? My main concern is that I don't want to be disappointed with a rifle that won't live up to my (reasonable) expectations of accuracy, such as .5 moa @ 100 yards. I'm no professional but I can shoot. I have good shooting technique and have the fundamentals down as well. I figure that I can only improve from here. I want a rifle that I know is more accurate than I am and one that I can build my skill to match what the rifle is capable of. I have no problem spending $4K+ on the right setup, so as long as I only have to buy once! Thanks again for all of the info.
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Old 03-19-2010, 12:56   #6
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Take a look at this article - I discuss rifle selection


GATE Long-Range Shooting
article | Practical Long-Range Rifle Shooting, Part I - Rifle & Equipment GATE Long-Range Shooting

In that breakdown for the kind of accuracy you want, you want a high-end custom (not necessarily super expensive but built right) or a high-end factory. For the former, I always recommend GA Precision. There are a lot of rifle builders around the country who build very accurate rifles, including long-range practical rifles; however, most of them are "local" in that they do not do a high volume and do not really sell nationally. GAP builds excellent rifles and does a pretty high volume of them. One of our local gun shops here tries to keep one or two in stock, but they almost always sell out within days.

For a high-end factory, it will be hard to beat the TRG-42 for performance/price. The other obvious high-end choice is the AI.

-z
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Old 03-20-2010, 01:25   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zak Smith View Post
Take a look at this article - I discuss rifle selection


GATE Long-Range Shooting
article | Practical Long-Range Rifle Shooting, Part I - Rifle & Equipment GATE Long-Range Shooting

In that breakdown for the kind of accuracy you want, you want a high-end custom (not necessarily super expensive but built right) or a high-end factory. For the former, I always recommend GA Precision. There are a lot of rifle builders around the country who build very accurate rifles, including long-range practical rifles; however, most of them are "local" in that they do not do a high volume and do not really sell nationally. GAP builds excellent rifles and does a pretty high volume of them. One of our local gun shops here tries to keep one or two in stock, but they almost always sell out within days.

For a high-end factory, it will be hard to beat the TRG-42 for performance/price. The other obvious high-end choice is the AI.

-z
Excellent article! I think that i'm going to look into the GA rifles. I have been asking around and that name keeps coming up often. I thank you sir for your time. When I get the new stick, I'll let you know how it turns out.
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