His group measured 14 inches by 36, less than a vertical minute of angle at 1,760 yards—a mile! But even 300-grain .338 match bullets drift in wind.
“Three feet. And it was a still day.”
Preston Pritchett began building rifles on his own actions five years ago, in his machine shop near Prague, Oklahoma. Disarmingly modest, he talks with a drawl, engages you with a boyish grin. Pritchett’s specialty is heavy rifles that shoot exceedingly well at long range. Testimonials abound, like this one from a Montana hunter:
I’ve been running 155 [-grain] Scenars at 2,980 fps … with a 5-25X Schmidt & Bender PM2 … . I’ve taken 96 coyotes [16 at] over 500 meters. The longest shot [was] 1,120 meters.
That hunter also claimed a “five-shot group at 750 meters that went just under 2½ inches.”
These days, high-velocity ammo and powerful optics encourage even casual riflemen to shoot far. F-Class competition for amateurs has joined traditional long-range events like the Palma Match. But what features enable rifles to hit reliably beyond normal hunting ranges? Say, 1,000 yards?
Pritchett shrugs. “A good barrel and a rigid action. We like Krieger barrels cut-rifled 1:11 for .308s, 1:9.35 for the .338 Lapua. We’re particular about crowns.” Short and long actions for Pritchett’s Surgeon rifles are built on site, with CNC tooling and an electrical discharge machine that holds tolerances to half a tenth. That’s half a ten-thousandth of an inch. Eight-inch receivers vary less than three-tenths, end to end.
A magnum receiver weighs 19½ pounds before milling.
“We cut all our actions from bar stock. We thread the barrel shank and mill the action face and lug abutments with the receiver secured in one fixture,” says Pritchett. “Surfaces stay square and true.”
Final machining follows heat-treating to 40 C Rockwell, to eliminate heat warp. Each bolt is machined from 4140 bar stock and tapers slightly to the front to limit play. Nitride treatment of bearing surfaces prevents galling. An Picatinny rail adds 20 minutes of elevation to the short-action, 30 minutes to the long-action. You can zero a Surgeon rifle at distance without running out of clicks or moving the erector tube far from the sight’s optical axis.
Short-action rifles wear the Remington extractor, long-action bolts a claw fitted inside the right-hand lug. “It throws the case out in a low arc to target knobs on scopes,” Pritchett uses Jewell and Remington triggers and McMillan stocks, pillar bedded. Charles Cowden of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol chose a Surgeon rifle with a Schmidt & Bender 5.5-20X Tactical scope on the agency’s sniper course. His groups measured “.2 minute at 400 yards, .4 minute at 500 yards, .3 minute at 600.”
About the Author: Wayne van Zwoll is a regular contributor to the Gun Digest annual, and author of the Gun Digest Book of Sporting optics. He is a nationally-recognized expert on rifles, optics and western hunting.
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