If you are looking to get started shooting a sniper rifle (often referred to as a sniper/precision rifle), there are many different options to choose from. You need to make sure you find the right rifle — the one that’s geared towards newer shooters — so that you can master the fundamentals of precision shooting.
When shopping for the best sniper rifle, it’s important to keep the following in mind: Rifle Caliber, Action Type, Barrel, and Price.
Let’s take a look at each sniper rifle’s attributes, and why they’re important.
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Sniper Rifle Price
How much money should you put down on a starter sniper rifle? In general, you are looking at an investment of about a thousand dollars for a beginner weapon. This includes the price of the scope. Here is a close look at Sniper Rifle Prices by category.
The Best Bolt Action Sniper Rifles
Now let’s look at some of the best bolt action rifles on the market today. Here are my top 3:
- Remington 700
- Tikka T3X Lite
- Savage AXIS
The Remington 700 series is a classic choice for a bolt-action rifle and one of the top choices for a beginning shooter. It boasts extreme accuracy and precision, as well as a great deal of flexibility when it comes to upgrades.
Which Remington 700 models should you consider?
Most, if not all, of the Remington models make viable choices for a beginner. Where should you start looking?
One good option is the 700 SPS Tactical, which runs around $700, making it an affordable option. The Model 700 SPS Tactical is a highly maneuverable member of the 700 family. It’s built for tack-driving accuracy with a 20″ heavy-contour tactical-style barrel and dual-point pillar bedding in its black synthetic stock.
Another viable choice, on the more expensive end, is the Sendero SF II. This Rifle costs around $1200. Remington dubs this rifle their best “over-the-counter rifle” in terms of precision and accuracy. We are going to warn you this one is tough to find in stock, but PSA lets you enter an email an be notified when back in stock.
Second on our list is a great sniper rifle from Tikka.
The Tika T3X Lite comes from Finland, one of the most popular places for shooting sports in the European Union.
This rifle has a weight of six and a half pounds and costs about $900. The weapon offers a ton of upgrades, and is available for shooting left handed. Obviously you will see versions well above $900, but this will include all kinds of upgrades built in.
Savage AXIS – Best Budget Bolt Action Sniper Rifle
Axis provides you with a high quality rifle on a budget, costing you around $400. This price range includes a scope in many cases. However, I would suggest adding your own scope later. These come with a number of upgrades, giving you a number of options that let you customize your rifle for your shooting needs.
Best Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle
Now that we have looked at three of our top picks for bolt-action rifle, let’s say you want to deliver rounds a bit faster.
In this case, you should look into a semi-automatic rifle. Here, you have a number of decent options. We are going to look at one semi-automatic rifle in particular: the AR-10.
AR-10 (“The Big One”)
You are likely familiar with the AR-15, the American answer to the Russian AK-47. The AR-10 is the AR-15’s predecessor.
Unlike its big brother, the AR-10 is designed to fire a .308/7.62 round ammunition, making it an ideal choice for those looking for the classic M-16 design, but with additional accuracy.
The AR-10 looks much like the AR-15, but is slightly larger in size (and looks a bit cooler, imo).
The parts, nevertheless, are largely interchangeable, but the AR-10 adds a bit of extra length to both the lower and upper receivers.
Which AR-10 rifle should you choose?
We would recommend using the Aero Precision M5E1, which runs between $1300 and $1600. With the scope and additional features, this will put a bigger dent in your budget, but gives you the increased rate of fire you might need.
If you are interested in the Aero Precision M5E1, you can read more about this rifle here.
Sniper Rifle Calibers
If you are just getting started shooting with a precision sniper rifle, we would recommend starting with the 7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester cartridge.
When you are still mastering the fundamentals of sharpshooting, you need to practice with a round that can deliver quick and accurate shots, something that will teach you the precision you need prior to learning how to deal with the difficult recoil of a larger round.
The 7.62x51mm is accurate for up to 800 yards, well within the range you will be shooting.
Sniper Rifle Ammo Price
Sniper and precision rifles also have some of the most expensive ammo, running anywhere from $0.75 to $1.50 per round of ammunition. If you are looking to purchase sniper rifle ammunition, have a look at some of our favorites for the best sniper rifles for beginners list.
Best .308 Win Ammo for a Sniper Rifle
Many shooting experts consider this the most accurate match round available from a factory. Federal utilizes their Sierra MatchKing Boat-tail bullet to provide extreme accuracy.
Best .300 Win Mag Ammo for a Sniper Rifle
If we could judge ammo based on its looks alone, then this 300 Win Mag cartridge by Federal would be a perfect 10. However it works even better than it looks. It delivers match accuracy with its unusually high G1 ballistic coefficient of 0.608.
Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle vs Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle
When you are shooting with a sniper/precision rifle, you are aiming for accuracy. For this reason, a bolt-action rifle is an ideal choice for precision shooting.
With a bolt action rifle, you are sacrificing the rate of fire for accuracy. Instead of the rifle chambering the next round automatically, one loads the next round by manually operating a bolt, ejecting the previous round and chambering the next.
This means lets you place shots more precisely, as you don’t have the added force necessary for chambering the next round.
Free Floating Barrel
A free-floating barrel is designed to reduce the amount of contact between the stock and the barrel.
Why is a Sniper Rifle with a Free Floating Barrel Better?
For one thing, a free floating barrel can account for changes in the shape or condition of the stock due to weather or other conditions: a significant factor when shooting a weapon with a wooden stock.
Additionally, this allows the barrel to vibrate at its own natural frequency, rather than losing some of this energy into the barrel.
The technology was developed to increase the accuracy of the weapon. Instead of mounting the barrel to the stock, it mounts to the receiver instead, containing the recoil of the shot.
How to Know if Your Rifle has a Free Floating Barrel?
If you can stick a dollar bill between the barrel and the mounting, your rifle has a free floating barrel.
Sniper Rifle Scope Rings and Mounts
In addition to your rifle, you will need a scope and the tools to mount it. If you don’t invest the right amount of money into your scope rings, you will have a wobbly scope, significantly lowering your accuracy.
It’s a good idea to go for a one piece mount, like the one above, simply because the single piece offers you more stability and less hassle.
Here are two options, one less expensive, and the other on the pricier side:
This $71 mount offers a great choice for beginners not looking to break budget. Allows for up to 2 inches of forward scope positioning. Includes both smooth and Picatinny ring tops.
These cost slightly more (usually around $80), but give you less rifle weight, which is worth the extra fifteen bucks. Sometimes Amazon has them even cheaper than the Burris. This scope mount is designed to fit upper receivers with Mil-Spec 1913 Picatinny rails and features a cross-slot keyway that offers excellent recoil protection.
Sniper Rifle Scopes
Great sniper rifle scopes are more or less universally interchangeable, which means that if you bought a cheaper rifle that you are planning on upgrading, it might be a good idea to invest in a worthwhile scope now, rather than upgrade later.
Scopes can cost as little as $300. There are tons of different options to choose from when buying a scope. Take into account the degree of fogproof construction (necessary to make sure that you don’t fog up the lens), the amount of optical clarity you will achieve, and whether it accounts for winds and elevation.
The exit pupil is also important, as you may need an exit pupil designed to reduce glare for shooting in the desert heat. This largely depends on your environment. In New Mexico, you might want to have the glare reduced. In Siberia, this is less pressing.
Sniper Rifle Scope Degree of Magnification
You will also want to look at the degree of magnification, which largely depends on the distance you aim to be shooting.
If you want a top-of the line scope, we would recommend Schmidt and Bender’s PMII. This will cost you about $4000, but will be worth the investment.
Look, I understand not wanting to drop $4K on a scope. I just wanted you to see just how badass a scope can get. We have an entire article on some great value rifle scopes. That said, Schmidt Bender is a well-respected and high-quality optics brand that is known for producing reliable and accurate products. The DT reticle and turret system are designed for long-range shooting and offer precise adjustments. Because of the high quality materials and construction you find a more durable long lasting scope. So if money is no object, get one.
About a third as much as the Schmidt, but damn near as good is the Swarovski Riflescope. The scope features a large 52mm objective lens that gathers plenty of light, making it ideal for use in low-light conditions. The scope also has a broadband multi-coated lens system that minimizes glare and maximizes image clarity. One of the standout features of the Swarovski Riflescope Z5 is its ballistic turret system, which allows for precise adjustments to be made to the elevation and windage of the scope. It is also nitrogen purged to prevent fogging.
If you are thinking about getting a scope for one of the AR models, check out our beginner’s guide to choosing the best AR 15 scope.
That ends our guide to sniper rifles. Let us know what rifle you ended up getting!