PRS Style competition rifle setup

Carl

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At @Greenhorn 's request from a couple months ago, I’m going to go through my competition rifle setup. I know this won’t directly apply to most here, and that there are other places on the internet specifically aimed at this sort of thing. Hopefully there will be some value for some of you.

My specific game of choice has been PRS/NRL style competition. I’ve shot plenty of national level 2-day matches affiliated with those leagues, but have backed off a bit to just the more local stuff the past year.

My setup is a very common competitive setup for this style of match. Everyone has their favorite flavor, but there’s more convergence now on what top guys run than there was 5-6 years ago. If you’re in that world or follow guys online who are, none of this will be new.

Also, not trying to splash all the trophies in everyone’s face. Just how my reloading room is decorated. If you compete at something regularly for close to a decade and are decent at it, you can accumulate a few.

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Here is my current comp rifle. I change things up often whenever I get curious about something, but the formula has been pretty locked in since 2017. The specs are:

Bighorn (now Zermatt) TL3-SA
Masterpiece Arms ESR Chassis
Zero Compromise 5-27x56 w/ MPCT 2 reticle in an ARC M-Brace mount
Proof Prefit in 6 Dasher, Competition Contour, 1-7.5 twist, 26” long, 5/8-24 threaded muzzle
Trigger Tech Diamond Pro Curve – Single stage – set at 12 oz

This setup is ~ 18 lbs as you see it, ~ 19.5 lbs with the bipod that’s normally on it. As you can kind of see in the picture, the center of gravity is a few inches in front of the recoil lug. This is how I want my gun to balance, because it’s often I will shoot my gun balanced on a single bag as it is here. Weight kits have become very popular in the last few years; you can use them to fine tune the balance point, or just to make your rifle extra obscenely heavy. I have a whole stash of weights, but with the 7ish lb Proof Comp Contour barrel in this chassis I don’t need them to change the balance point, and I’m done making my rifle any heavier than this just for the very minor possible advantages.

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Here you can see the fore-end of the chassis, and I’m specifically trying to show the Arca-Swiss dovetail cut into the bottom. That’s used for attaching bipods, tripods, and other plates and accessories, AND being able to position them anywhere along the fore-end as the specific shooting situation requires. It’s been the standard in the precision rifle competition community for a few years now.

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The bipods I use almost exclusively are Ckyepods, created by Ckye Thomas who sold or licensed to MDT. They’re also “fully priced” and then some. The legs can change in both length and angle, and very quickly at that. Above you can see the extremes of how high and low it'll go, but there are many steps in between.

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They also have ALL the cant adjustment, as shown above. No worries about leveling out in angled terrain, I’ve shot prone with them off some steep sidehills and didn’t have to think about leveling the bipod at all. Pull the legs out, rotate the gun to level, and you’re ready to shoot.

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My tripod head also can clip into the Arca-Swiss dovetail on the fore-end and hold the rifle very effectively. With practice you can hold less than an MOA of wobble from the standing, and close to perfect from sitting. Recoil management does change a fair amount with it directly clipped in and not for the better. That tripod is a Feisol 3372 with an RRS leveling base on top. It’s just under 5 lbs. If your familiar with the RRS Anvil 30 setup, I think it is a better all around package when you look at compactness and angle (the leveling base goes +/- 15 degrees is all). If you’re using it to shoot while clipped in, I don’t think anything will beat my style setup at the weight point.

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One great thing about most chassis systems is the amount of adjustment available to make the rifle fit you well. The length of pull can be changed. The recoil pad on mine is shifted up to be more in line with the bore axis and minimize any moment that would be created by recoil. The cheek riser is adjustable in height, and…

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As is shown in this image the cheekpiece on mine can be shifted off center. My face meshes with it best when it’s shifted to the right. Setup like this, when I get on the gun I’m relaxed and looking through the center of the scope. It’s just comfortable, if you are me.

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One of my favorite parts of this chassis is the grip. This is the Enhanced Vertical Grip from MPA, and when they released it and the offset cheekpiece is when I decided to give them a try ~ 6 years ago. It puts my hand exactly where I want it and puts my trigger finger at 90 degrees to the trigger with a very relaxed hand:

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My grip, as good as I can take a picture of it myself. The thumb forward grip is very popular in precision rifle competition. It is best saved for guns that don’t recoil much, but that’s what everyone shoots in competition anyways.

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I’ve been running Proof Prefit barrels for competition and also for my 223 practice barrel. I’ve got 3 of their 6mm Dasher barrels that are identically marked, so I number them to keep them straight. If you aren’t familiar with Prefit’s, many custom action makers's tolerances are consistent enough that Proof can cut a shouldered barrel, ship it to you, and be confident it’ll work correctly with your action. Very convenient, they have shot as good as anything I’ve ever had, and they are nicely priced on top of all that. You do lose the customization options you’d have with a traditional gunsmith.

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This is my muzzle break, an APA Little Bastard Gen 3. The ports on the top are threaded and come with set screws so you can tune it to reduce muzzle rise. I run mine wide open, and muzzle rise does NOT occur. To put in perspective how effective it is, I was training with a 223 setup just like this, except I didn’t have a muzzle break on it. So, a 18+ lb 223 with good ergonomics but a bare muzzle. It had enough more muzzle rise than my Dasher WITH this break, that I put one on the 223 to make the training more effective.

Why so much emphasis on muzzle rise? Seeing your hits, misses, and bullet trace perfectly will greatly increase the accuracy of your windage call after the first shot of your stage. Seeing it well and adjusting to that information correctly on the clock is a big difference between shooters. The less muzzle rise, the easier everything is to see, especially from highly compromised positions.

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Good optics help with spotting for certain, and this qualifies. It’s a Zero Compromise 5-27, has VERY good glass, and is worth more than the rest of the rifle put together. While it goes to 27, I spend the most time in the 12-16 power range. I bought it used and it came with the mount. It’s a high quality mount, but I’d personally prefer separate rings, and rings that were a bit lower. May make the switch at some point.

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The reticle in mine is an MPCT 2. Reticles are personal preference to a degree. I don’t think this one is 100% perfect, but it’s VERY close for my taste. I’m a big fan of the .2 mil windage marks, the way the tree doesn’t start until 2 mils below the middle, the floating center dot, and the reticle line weight. It isn’t nearly as thin in person as it looks in this image.

I’ll touch on my load real quick. Most recently I’ve been shooting:
109 Berger Hybrids
.035” jump
H4895, 29 to 30+ gr and sometimes thrown instead of weighed
Alpha brass
CCI 400 primers

I honestly think the Dasher case, a good bullet, and a good powder do 90% of the heavy lifting for keeping velocity spreads tight, add in the barrel and IMO you’ve got 90% of your accuracy variables. I’ll say loading for 8 Dasher barrels now, I’ve hardly ever put together a combination that couldn’t win your average 1 day match. I’ve basically quit load development other than finding a velocity I’m comfortable with. I think the common load development methods of OCW and ladders are just looking at noise for everyone shooting below the F-class or 1000 yd BR level, and that includes me. But to give a reference point, 10 shot groups are typically between .4 and .6 inches, my last 20 shot was .8 but I think some of that was lighting conditions changing while I let my barrel cool. A typical 10 shot string would have an ES in the 18-20 range as measured by a Magnetospeed. One thing I really like about this sport is that there’s a “good enough” accuracy, whereas in Benchrest there isn’t. With todays bullets, powders, and barrels it’s pretty simple to hit that “good enough” point, so you can move on and work on shooting.


I’m going to cut it off here, as I’ve exceeded 1600 words. On top of which, this is a hunting site, and this is NOT a hunting rifle even for me. If you have questions, ask away. If there’s interest I could also expand into my rifles-as-a-system thing I have going, more on loads and accuracy, or handloading processes. Just let me know.
 

SnowyMountaineer

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Harkening back to an older thread, how do you or did you use the bubble level in your mount? i.e. use it as a training instrument for teaching your body to align things plumb to the world, use it regularly in practice but not comps, use it all the time, etc.?
 

Carl

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I actually have two different "levels" on there. There is the bubble level on the scope mounted above the parallax knob, and there is the Anti-Cant indicator in the chassis just below the tang. They confusingly work opposite each other, it took me a bit to get used to it.

I use them both depending on the situation, the black ball on the white background has a lot of contrast and is easy to see. The bubble level in that location will actually show up near the target in my field of view while shooting, if I've got both eyes open like I should.

Whether or not I look at them in competition depends on: how much time I have, how large the target is and how far away it is, and how natural my position is. I find it most valuable when I'm in a funky position, especially if I can't keep my head level. If my head is crooked, I definitely want to check unless it's a large target and a real tight time limit.
 

Wind Gypsy

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I’ll touch on my load real quick. Most recently I’ve been shooting:
109 Berger Hybrids
.035” jump
H4895, 29 to 30+ gr and sometimes thrown instead of weighed
Alpha brass
CCI 400 primers

I have a setup much like yours in 6.5x47 - not much surprised me but the bolded and underlined.

Curious if you've done detailed analysis with two lots loaded identically with one weighing charges and the other thrown? Autotrickler is plenty fast for me but I've been playing with the idea of a Dillon for a couple years..
 

Carl

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I have a setup much like yours in 6.5x47 - not much surprised me but the bolded and underlined.

Curious if you've done detailed analysis with two lots loaded identically with one weighing charges and the other thrown? Autotrickler is plenty fast for me but I've been playing with the idea of a Dillon for a couple years..

Not quite. Like many things, I've tested it enough to be comfortable with it myself, but not in a rigorous fashion like I would if I was trying to PROVE something. Doing that is on my list, but I haven't got to it yet.

I've shot 2 seperate 10 shot strings over the chrono with thrown H4895. The ES was still around 20 like my weighed Varget loads. In January, I shot a club match where I dropped my charge .5 gr the night before the match, and threw all the charges. I finished 2nd of 37, dropped 5 shots out of 80. One miss due to hurrying on a swinging target, 4 misses on wind. We had a 4 shot string on a .4 mil circle at 1100, all were within the target for elevation, but I did have two of my wind misses there.

Some caveats; H4895 throws much better than Varget, I use plenty of Varget too but I rarely throw it. I'll use a Harrell's thrower, which is a different animal than say the Dillon powder charger. And if I was making ammo for something like the PRS Finale or AG Cup (which I doubt I'll ever shoot), I would weigh charges unless I did more testing first.

I do all my loading on a Hornady progressive. The Dillon is much more popular, but I haven't seen anything to make me invest the time and funds require to switch.

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Here's how I set it up when using the Autotrickler, with the scale mounted to the wall to isolate vibration.

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Here is how I use it with the Harrell's, I just sit it in the Hornady powder die without the funnel and charge each case when the ram is up.

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And this would be the "fastest" way, using the Case Activated Powder Measure. I'll use this with Benchmark, 8208, or Staball for 223 and Dasher practice loads.

I've come to really like that press, since I've got the kinks worked out.
 

Greenhorn

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So now, knowing what you know about all the ins/outs of precision shooting, along with hunting, what are you hunting with?
 

Carl

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So now, knowing what you know about all the ins/outs of precision shooting, along with hunting, what are you hunting with?

So I mentioned before a bit about a "system". I don't even really think in terms of having "a rifle" anymore, I just have piles of parts that can be assembled to what I need that month, as everything is modular and works together.

I have 3 Bighorn TL3-SA actions, and that's IT. I sold all my other centerfire bolt guns. The tolerances on headspace are held tight as I mentioned, so a barrel chambered for one goes on any of them. They also have interchangeable bolt faces, so I can set them up with 223, 308, or magnum bolt faces. Below is my stack of barrels in various states of wear, two are unchambered blanks but the rest could be screwed on in 5 minutes:

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I Have all of the actions in MPA chassis's with the same grip/cheekpiece/buttstock dimensions, all with Diamond triggers at 12 oz, so when you're on the gun they all feel identical.

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The top is the comp gun I've gone over already.

The middle is in a grey MPA Hybrid chassis. it saves 2+ lbs over the blue one. Sometimes I set it up with a heavy comp barrel like it is now, sometimes with something more like a varmint or heavy sporter contour. It's a 12-16 lb gun, and does serve as a "tweener" for my purposes.

The bottom is in a black MPA Ultralight chassis, which weighs a bit under 3 lbs. On it right now is a 3.5 lb 6mm Dasher barrel, and I also have a 4.5 lb 6.5 PRC barrel. One of those configurations is what I've hunted with the last few years. It finishes up at 10-12 lbs, just depending on the barrel and if I put I bipod on it.

It's nice if you put as many rounds down a comp rifle as I do, to have everything feel the same with your hunting setup. You can ABSOLUTELY go lighter and keep most of the features this offers if you want to. Between the very high cost per lb saved, and losing the flexibility of the "system", I've been holding tight with this arrangement for a while.



Man, I haven't felt this dumb in a long time. I have no idea what you're talking about in at least 75% of the thread.
Definitely not my intention, but there's for sure a lot of vocabulary that's pretty specific to the precision rifle world.
 

Backofbeyond

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I’m effing fascinated. So many questions, but how did you get into PRS? How did you start? It definitely does not give off the vibe of being able to dip your toe into.

I would love to some day get into something like PRS or F-Class shooting, but with young kids right now it’s just not in the cards.
 

rtraverdavis

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I’m effing fascinated. So many questions, but how did you get into PRS? How did you start? It definitely does not give off the vibe of being able to dip your toe into.

I would love to some day get into something like PRS or F-Class shooting, but with young kids right now it’s just not in the cards.
Same. I’m fascinated by this stuff.

Really, really cool posts, @Carl . I love seeing an expert in their field get into the minutiae of their craft. The idea of a “system” for rifles like you have puts a whole new spin on the old “beware the man who owns one gun” thing. Thanks for sharing!
 

turbobrick

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Interesting timing for this thread, this morning I finished putting together my first PRS/NRL style rifle. I'm not sure I'll be able to shoot any competitions, but maybe at some point. Its more so I can have fun reloading and shooting tight groups at 300 yards. Thanks for all your info, really cool to see from the inside.
 

Carl

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A couple from the field:

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"Ultralight" setup as a 6.5 PRC just after firing.

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"Ultralight" setup as a 6 Dasher this year.

I’m effing fascinated. So many questions, but how did you get into PRS? How did you start? It definitely does not give off the vibe of being able to dip your toe into.

I started with local matches, at least from a competition standpoint. I had a pretty good base of precision rifle knowledge already. These days there's tons of content on it, but it can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff if you don't already know. I haven't seen a ton of it, but the stuff I have seen from Phil Velayo is pretty sound. If you were in my area, we have a few people (myself included) who will loan a setup to a new shooter who wants to try a competition out. It's a fantastic way to try it, if you can arrange it. I loaned a rifle to a new shooter at the January match I mentioned, and I loaned TWO out at our February match. I ran the February match so couldn't shoot it anyways.

I feel like I'm prying, but what's your day job @Carl?

I was teaching engineering at MSU and doing residential construction for myself, until this winter. I was tired of having no time for anything, so I dropped the professor gig to just do construction.

Interesting timing for this thread, this morning I finished putting together my first PRS/NRL style rifle. I'm not sure I'll be able to shoot any competitions, but maybe at some point. Its more so I can have fun reloading and shooting tight groups at 300 yards. Thanks for all your info, really cool to see from the inside.

Hope you have fun! I've obviously gotten deep into the competition side, but I have a great time at the range working on stuff by myself. They're quite different, but having competitions coming up does focus my practice.
 

mtmuley

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I was teaching engineering at MSU and doing residential construction for myself, until this winter. I was tired of having no time for anything, so I dropped the professor gig to just do construction.
WHAT? Stopped being a professor to do construction? Nice. I was never a professor, but I do know construction. I'd rather shoot. Thanks Carl for all this info. How to integrate all of it into hunting scenarios is something I will look at. Thought provoking for sure. mtmuley
 

Carl

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Ha! It does sound crazy on paper, I'll admit that.

I should mention, one real downside of focusing on shooting rifles with essentially zero recoil is it can build some bad habits. You can get away with so much. There's absolutely a parallel skill set to shooting rifles with recoil well, pursuing competition shooting skills generally takes you in the other direction.
 

mtmuley

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Ha! It does sound crazy on paper, I'll admit that.

I should mention, one real downside of focusing on shooting rifles with essentially zero recoil is it can build some bad habits. You can get away with so much. There's absolutely a parallel skill set to shooting rifles with recoil well, pursuing competition shooting skills generally takes you in the other direction.
So since I can shoot a rifle with heavy recoil is maybe a good thing? mtmuley
 

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