Precision Rifle Series: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Rifle for PRS
First Things First
Jumping into PRS? Stop. The best thing you can do is stop looking at all the options and opinions and just show up to a match. PRS matches are a lot like car shows in a way. Guys LOVE to talk to you about their rifles. They’ll let you hold them, cycle the actions, heck they’ll probably let you run a mag of ammo after the match! And that right there will save you untold hours weighing options. Much like a bow, a rifle is as much about feel in hand and during recoil as it is about function.
Rule Number 1: Choosing the Best Rifle for PRS Means Buy Once, Buy Quality
It’s precision rifle, not accuracy-by-volume rifle. Your rifle needs to be accurate like a benchrest rifle but as reliable as a backcountry hunting rifle. It must perform in various conditions – dust, rain, snow, and both of you will have to love each other. Investing in high-quality, reputable gear is crucial. Cheaper alternatives might seem appealing but often lead to higher expenses in the long run. So show up at a match, ask questions, and for goodness sake invest in good reputable gear.
Rule Number 1a: There are many like it, but this one is yours
Rifles are very personal, almost intimate tools in this game. Chassis like the JP APAC allow near unlimited modularity and adjustability for length of pull, comb height, grip angle and even a folding stock. This allows the shooter to adjust the fit of the rifle to be perfect for their body and style of shooting. Stocks offer a more traditional look and feel, with all the modern adjustability for length of pull etc. The difference in recoil is also very different between chassis and stocks and even between stocks and stocks. Try before you buy and find what fits YOU.
It’s Not 2010 Anymore: The Evolution of Precision Rifles
Modern Precision Rifles are like Legos for Adults. The parts to a precision rifle you’ll likely recognize – Action, chassis (or stock), barrel, muzzle device (suppressor if you’re civilized), trigger, scope mount, and scope. That’s it.
There may be more than 2 action screws, screws that hold the action to the chassis, but they will be for accessories or just putting the chassis together. If you can use a torque wrench and know which way to tighten a ¼” socket head screw, you can build your own custom rifle at home.
Why? Because modern machining tolerances are so good that quality actions and barrels are “Pre-Fit” or machined to such tight tolerances that they will fit (headspace) perfectly every time. The game is all about precision after all. With Pre-Fits, a barrel need only be torqued onto a receiver (remember that torque wrench) and you now have a barrel attached to an action.
The action manufacturer Impact has made a reputation for their actions being so consistently machined that any barrel maker or gunsmith can Pre-Fit, or cut to spec, a barrel without ever seeing your action. Likewise, barrel manufacturers like Proof have begun offering Pre-Fit barrels in every modern caliber for everything from hunting to PRS.
We’ll stick with PRS for now.
As with mating barrels to actions, modern chassis and stocks are so well made that there is no play between a quality action and stock. A modern chassis and stock does NOT need to be bedded. If you hear someone say bedding, they either want to sell you something you don’t need or the stock design is lacking.
Foundation Stocks are machined so well that like Impact Actions, they fit consistently and smoothly every single time. Manufacturers like Manners have even designed Mini Chassis to fit in their stocks to maintain consistent fit while offering a more modular solution for multiple stock options.
Understanding PRS Divisions
In as few words as possible, Open division is king. 95%+ of the sport competes in Open division. Anything goes, but you really don’t need all the do-dads to get started. All you need is an accurate, reliable rifle, a properly mounted scope, a ballistic calculator, a bipod, and a support bag.
Tac is exactly Open but with a 308 or 223 and some velocity restrictions. If you already have a 308 or 223, by all means, compete in Tac. It’s Open but your wind calls will be roughly double the hotrod 6mm calibers.
Production is legitimately interesting and a good way to enter the sport on a budget. Companies like GA Precision make very high-quality “Production Legal” rifles like their Pinnacle Production Rifle (PPR). One might even argue they have “gamed” the price point rule of production rifles by offering an incredible deal at very close to dealer cost. Why? Well, George the owner has competed for decades and he likes winning at everything. With a scope that falls under the price rules of the division, Production is a great way to get started.
Gas Gun – For those who just like being different. It’s like Open but with more moving parts in recoil and a smaller list of cartridges that will function. Is it a blast? Absolutely! And with a rifle like a JP LRI-20 in 6mm Creedmoor, you’ll definitely have the accuracy and reliability boxes checked. You will however be competing in a sport with a heavy emphasis on spotting impacts with a rifle that moves more than other rifles while you’re trying to spot. With regard to reliability, just remember, that there is always time for lube.
The good news is precision rifles are cheaper than the big 3: women, cars, and boats. The bad news is PRS as a sport still involves racing so it’s adjacent to that world in terms of cost. For Open, Tac, or Gas Gun divisions, a rifle that will last 10 seasons will cost you roughly $8,000 completely set up. For Production division, you should budget roughly $6,000. In either case, you will have a rifle that will last you many, many seasons of shooting with proper maintenance.
Example of a High-End Open Division Build
Here’s an example build:
- JP APAC Chassis: $1,700
- Impact Action: $1,500
- Proof Pre-Fit Competition Barrel: $580
- Vortex Razor Gen 3: $3,000
- Trigger Tech Trigger: $300
- Thunderbeast Arms Magnus-RR Suppressor: $1,600
- Thunderbeast Bipod: $450
- WieBad Tater Tot support bag: $100
- Hawkins Scope Mount: $400
Remember, the best deals often come from holiday sales or the used market. Volunteering as a Range Officer (RO) at matches can also lead to great finds.
Conclusion: The Best Time to Start PRS
Whether you’re assembling a custom rifle or selecting a top-tier pre-built model, know at the end of the day that the sport is growing so quickly because so many companies are investing in building the absolute best parts we have ever had. Precision rifle sports are incredibly fun and now is the best time to jump in!
Don’t hesitate – find a local PRS match, connect with seasoned shooters, and explore our resources for the best rifle for PRS.