Super Short Precision Rifles: Is there such thing as a 16.5″ .308 Tactical Bolt Action Rifle?

How much do you give up going to a shorter barrel?

Our Remington 700 chambered in 308 Winchester with 16.5" barrel.

We keep cutting barrels and they keep getting shorter!

Our Remington 700 chambered in 308 Winchester with 16.5" barrel.

Our Remington 700 chambered in 308 Winchester with 16.5″ barrel.

Life is a series of choices involving some sort of compromise- just like building a rifle.  When configuring a bolt action rifle, many compromises must be made.  Barrel contour, length, magazine system, stock and optic choices all have advantages and disadvantages.  The 40 power scope might be great for target shooting at long range, however, you will be lost trying to quickly acquire targets up close.  Likewise, a 1 ounce trigger might pay dividends on the range in the form of small groups, but will prove a liability in many field conditions.  Barrel length is one of these factors.  Do you go long for maximum velocity, or go for a shorter, stouter package with a decreased overall length?

Starting with a 20″ #6 contour barrel on our Remington 700, we cut and crowned our 308 Remington 700 lightweight rifle to 16.5″ and then added a Surefire brake.  The shorter rifle is easier to handle.  It allows the user to move quickly in and out of position, allows position shooting unthinkable with a heavier configuration and has a strong cool factor- but at what price?  We decided to take a look and see if the shorter barrel would have a significant effect on accuracy and performance.

An article covering how the rifle was built (as well as showing previous configurations of it) can be found here.

16 inch remington 700 308

We ordered the following parts from Brownells for this rifle:

We headed out to the range with a chronograph and some Federal Gold Medal 168 and 175 grain ammunition to see how the rifle would perform.  Range conditions were 42F, with a full value 5-10MPH crosswind.  After bore sighting and confirming zero, groups were shot at 100 yards from a Harris bi-pod and rear bag off of a concrete bench.  Accuracy and velocity information are published below:

Federal 168 Gold Medal: 2509 FPS, SD 8, Average accuracy of .622″ (range .586-.689″)

Representative group at 100 yards with 168 Federal Gold Medal.

Representative group at 100 yards with 168 grain Federal Gold Medal measuring .586″.

Federal 175 Gold Medal: 2385 FPS, SD 10, .585″

Representative group fired at 100 yards, Federal 175 grain Gold Medal.

Representative group fired at 100 yards, Federal 175 grain Gold Medal measuring .585″.

Plugging the provided information into our ballistic calculator, we were able to establish the following drops, in inches for the rifle out to 600 yards with factory Federal 168 and 175 grain Gold Medal cartridges.  The data obtained from our 24″ gun is listed to provide a standard for comparison.

Muzzle velocity(FPS) 100 200 300 400 500 600
16.5” 168GM 2509 0 -4.5 -16.8 -38.5 -71.1 -117.5
16.5” 175GM 2385 0 -5.1 -18.6 -41.8 -76.7 -125.6
24” 168GM 2638 0 -3.9 -14.8 -33.9 -63.0 -104.2

Additionally, we calculated the zeros in Mils, shown here:

Muzzle velocity 100 200 300 400 500 600
16.5” 168GM 2509 0 .6 1.6 2.7 3.9 5.4
16.5” 175GM 2385 0 .7 1.7 2.9 4.3 5.8
24” 168GM 2638 0 .5 1.2 2.4 3.5 4.8

We were a little shocked that we only lost 129 feet per second when compared to the 24″ barrel.  That’s approximately 17 feet per second lost per inch of barrel.  The 168 goes subsonic around 850 yards, while the 175 around 900 yards.

You’ll notice a negligible difference in trajectory- only 13.3″ at 600 yards when comparing the 168 grain load.  Not bad.  In fact, with the Leupold Mark 4 equipped with 1/4 MOA cams and 168 grain Gold Medal ammunition, the rifle can shoot to 500 yards (13.2 minutes of elevation) with out using a full revolution (15 minutes) of the turret!

Accuracy hovered just over 1/2 MOA and felt recoil was very manageable.  In addition to looking cool, our short barrel seems to perform quite well. That’s good, we can’t cut it any longer.

Update: see Short Rifle, Long Range: Testing our 16.5″ 308 Remington 700 out to 635 yards

We were really impressed with our short rifle!

We were really impressed with our short rifle!