Semi auto vs bolt accuracy - Pistolsmith

Go Back   Pistolsmith > Rifle and Shotgun Forum > Semi-Auto Rifles

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-10-2004, 08:34 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 199
Semi auto vs bolt accuracy

I know this has been discussed many times before, but bottom line can a top quality semi equal a top quality bolt. I understand the action movement on a semi vs the snug fixed seating of a bolt but what about something like a PSG1. Will a top notch semi ever equal the best bolt actions?
Remove Ads
Old 06-10-2004, 01:04 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 155
Simple answer, NO.

I don't see any benchrest champions being won with a semi. If you are looking for the absolute extreme in accuaracy the bolt action is on the top of the list ( it might be shared with a couple of obscure single action designs ).

If you are looking for .5-.7 MOA this can be achieved in a real good auto. The big difference here being you can get this level of accuracy in a box stock Remington, Savage, or Winchester bolt varmit style rifle for $700-$800. I would say double to triple that amount to get the same or close in a semi auto.

I am basing this grand statement on expectations that all of the above are using match grade ammo or better.

My question back is how accurate do you want your rifle to be. If your expectations are 5 shot groups with sub .20 inch groups don't waste your time or money chasing that in a semi auto action. My guess is it might be theoretically possible to achieve that kind of results but it would require vast sums of cash and several attempts in completely custom rifles before you would even get close.

In the super accuracy game reduction of the 5 shot group sizes requires significant investment for a tenth of an inch reduction in group sizes. The .5 MOA is a reasonably easy mark to get with the new technics in manufacturing and custom rifle builds now days. But to repeatably reduce that by .10 inch raises the bar to a whole new level. To reduce that repeatably by another .10" is another higher bar, and another .10" yet again. This is not a linear progression in bars of complexity, the last two are probably logarithmic in complexity and cost.

A good source of this information is on Benchrest Central, but be forwarned these guys are anal and nit picky, this is a competitive sport to them and more than a couple of these guys have dumped 3K-4K into a rifle only to be disappointed in the results, and either look to rebarreling or replacing the rifle. They also expect about 1000 rounds of life on a barrel. And 1500 rounds is the absolute outside and they consider it shot out. 99% of the shooters I know would consider one of these shot out guns to be one of the most accurate rifles they have ever shot or owned. Some calibers have even shorter lifespans on barrels, the current caliber for 1000 yard shooting is a 6.5-284, the barrel life on these is in the 800 round zone, and the real nasty overbore stuff (30-378) can be worse.

The average shooter really has no need to get into this mini arms race, it is an accuracy extreme that takes a group of very dedicated shooters to both spend the time and the dollars to chase this. What is a lot more interesting to the average shooter is the class called Hunter. This is a basic factory gun, although they do allow rebarreling I think.

Take a look at this link for the records:

Notice that I used repeatable in the above text, this is of grand importance in this game, notice these records are composite scores of 5 ea. 5 Shot groups, or 5 or 10 shot single groups. If you look at the table the current record for a 5-5-100 ( five shots/5 groups/100yds) is .1396 inch, it only increases to .1945 at 300 yards. And the currrent 5-5-1000 yards is 1.473". It takes both top shooters and top equipment to set those kind of records, notice some are several years old.

Hope this helps.
Old 06-10-2004, 04:18 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 199
Thnks schromf for that in depth and informative answer.Although I shoot mainly bullseye, my son enjoys my Bushmaster at 100 yards and is looking to get more serious at longer ranges.Your insight regarding a low priced bolt action's accuracy will certainly keep me within budget although I had no intention of spending thousands anyway. Regarding the bolt actions that you mentioned (Savage,Remington,Winchester) which would you consider the best? I have heard that the Remington 700 series is preferred by many but which 700 is the best for long range accuracy?
Old 06-10-2004, 10:03 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 155

I lost about a 3 hour post with answers, I will try again tommorrow or this weekend, real short answer until then is they all make good rifles. The devil is in the details, I will update on those later.
Old 06-12-2004, 10:53 PM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 155
I am going to pick this back up now, MODS: I know this is drifting into precision rifles, please excuse.

First I want to start out with a couple of clear definitions.

1. Factory rifle-bone stock, no mods stock out of box with optics
2. Factory modified-tuning action, (lapping lugs etc.), replacement of barrel (with weight restrictions), trigger assemblies, floorplates and restocking to original or close style stock. This class doesn't exist I list it here because this is what most shooters tend to do. I really wish it did exist, so this class of guns didn't compete with the below class.
3. Unlimited-anything goes you used a couple of factory parts, sleeving actions falls into this. The title explains all, about the only restrictions are weight which moves you into light/heavy classes.

Next clear definitions:

4.Group-a series of 5 shoots, all count including flyers
5.Repeatable Groups- a series of 5 groups as defined above. For Record 5-5, total rounds fired 25 ea. Because ammo comes in boxes of 20 and this makes firing 25 rounds a inconvenience, I will budge and grant a 4-5 ( four groups of 5 shots) of significant interest group but not for record.
6. MOA Minute of Angle is a unit of measurement that corresponds to a specific area on an imaginary vertical or horizontal circle. One Minute of Angle is 1/60th of one degree in a 360- degree circle. In KISS terms 1" @ 100 yards, 2" @ 200 yards. There is math involved to work out MOA at known yardages, but this a whole subject in itself, for this thread accept the definition or do some homework.
7. All ammo is commercial match grade, I know this isn't real world and handloaders tailor rounds to rifles, for my purposes of this acticle it adds too many variables, I want to demonstrate what every shooter can expect from a rifle, not a individual shooters reloading ability. In calibers that don't have match grade ammo substitute the best commercial ammo you can buy. I recognise that reloading for a specific rifle can trim these groups a little but I am trying to seperate ammo vrs rifle discussion which is difficult at best.
8. 3 shoot groups show promise, they count for nothing. Flyers COUNT always. Hence the statement I shot a 1" 3 shoot group @ 100yds with an occasional flyer translates to me you probably shot a bad group: add the flyer, and finish out the 5 shoots and will discuss your accomplishments.

Further I am going to use the Hunter class at benchrest competions for some of my references. This class requires a stock factory rifle no modifications. This provides good data to base the opinions on, because this class is restricted, simply a stock rifle and who's winning. It is also a fun event that just about anyone can get out and compete in the benchrest game without large investment of time and money. I know the above looks a little restrictive but it cuts through the BS and makes reasonable comparisions possible.

Alright now to your question between Savage, Remington and Winchester.
Right up front I will say that anytime you buy a stock rifle and you get a .7 MOA 5-5 group you have a darn fine rifle. It will probably require some break in and cleaning to get that usually 100 rounds or under. That said in the target, Varmit or Police rifles of the above manufactures if you get one that shoots this you have a keeper. All of the above manufacturers are capable of consistant 1-1.25 MOA. Some riflles from the factory will get into the .7 MOA range and when you get one that is shooting that don't let it go. Rarely will a stock rifle get into the .4-.5 MOA ocassionally it will happen don't expect it, as disappoinment is certain on several purchases. Factory tolerances and barrels tend limit the lower end numbers.

First Winchester; they make the Stealth and varmit series rifles they are 1-1.25 MOA capable, I would say you could expect the 1-1.25 MOA and some rifles are capable of .7 MOA accuarcy. Moving to factory modified class you could expect .5-.6 MOA from these rifles. They make good solid guns they are just odd man out in the benchrest community, very seldom do you see a Winchester in the winners circle. I like the claw extractor a lot there great hunting guns and are fairly accurate but very few matches are won with Winchesters. One of the best choices is the FN police rifles, these use a Winchester action, so I include them, they are big and heavy though.

Savage, I think my numbers above on a stock rifle are reasonable expectations, I think on the 10 series heavy barrels, with the accu-trigger you have better odds of getting a .7 MOA out of the box. But again expect a 1-1.25 MOA and you won't be disappointed. I will note that Savage is coming on strong in the Hunter Class in benchrest. Rebarreled and tuned these are capable of getting down into the .35-.4 MOA range. One of the 1000 yard benchrest records is currently held with a Savage, but I think it has about three original parts in the rifle, it is extremely modified. The caliber was a 6.5-284.

Another neat feature of the Savage is that the barrels can be changed without much difficulty, it requires a barrel, a wrench and headspace guage to change the barrel. Its very simple. I don't own one of these yet but I am definately interested, seems be the best buy in an accurate rifle right now, the barrels are a little weak but then all factory barrrels tend to fall into that catagory.

Remington dominates the hunter class about 80% of the wins are with the Model 700's. Something must be working right. So based on numbers I would say that a Remington 700 Varmit, 700P, or a Sendaro are all solid options, and probably the best bet on an accurate stock rifle. I will broadcast the 1-1.25 MOA numbers as the above, but in real world .75 MOA and smaller is being shot out of stock Remingtons. I will pipe in that these 700 actions are very good building blocks for moving into the modified class. A tuned and trued 700 action, with a new barrel and trigger and attention to stock and bedding is about as good as it gets in a factory gun. I have never been a huge fan of Remington barrels, but comparing factory barrels to the custom barrelmakers isn't really a fair comparision.

The other upside of the 700 Remingtons are parts availablity and just about every gunsmith worth his salt knows how to work on a Remington today. I think it must be taught in gunsmithing 101 at school. The parts base is the best I will venture out on a limb here and say none of the others come close to having all the goodies.

I just purchased a 700 Stainless Special 5-R Milspec. I had one requirement I wanted to try the 5-R barrel, and the custom route on this was pricey, doesn't mean I won't end up there eventually, but I have good expectations. I think the odds of getting a .75 MOA rifle is pretty good. There is even a chance I will get into .5 MOA but I am not holding my breath, and handloads might get me there. My short list of modificatons to get the .5 MOA are in order are pretty short; bedding details, check the crown on the barrel. Next level would be lapping the lugs and trueing the action, and either have the barrel set back a thread, or rebarrel it with a Kreiger, Obermeyer, or Shileen barrel. I don't think I will need to get to the last level for .5 MOA but I might and I will be looking at the .35-.4 MOA level if I get into that expense. I remain reasonably optimistic, I haven't got it scoped or ringed yet but I will have this sorted out in a couple of weeks, and see what happens.

I would add that all manufactureres have quality isuues, look at what your buying. Check for obvious problems, look at the muzzle crown, if you see something bad, look at another; not all guns come out of the box equal. Another item is factory guns are built to perform across the spectrum of bullet options, light to heavy. This limits just how much you can expect from these rifles. The winners circle in benchrest ( not hunter class ) is rifles set up to shoot very limited range of bullets, and many are built and tweaked to shoot only one bullet type or weight. There is decided advantage when a rifle has been tight chambered, with the optimum barrel twist, set up so the bullet just touches the lands, factory guns don't do that nor will they ever try, just too many issues.

I closing I would like to say that I think caliber/cartridge choice is as important in the super accuracy game as the rifle choice. Some cartridges are more accurate than others, the same action/rifle in different chamberings can vary almost .75-1 MOA difference.

Hope this helps, and remember:

Only accurate guns are interesting
Old 06-13-2004, 11:17 AM   #6
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 155
Homework on Savage

OK I got doing some diigging on the Savage record, something flagged in my head as not right, and I was right. The 1 mile record set with a Savage, in a 7 WSM ( not a 6.5-284 as I posted above ). Here is the link: ... =000019;p=
Old 06-13-2004, 03:17 PM   #7
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 199
Sorry you lost that previous post and again thank you for the detailed explanation. I'm assuming that your outline holds for 308 chambering which is where I think we are leaning. The M40 which is a Rem 700 seems to be the standard military and police rifle (700TWS, and police 700 LTR)as outlined in the Standard catalogue of military firearms and so We were leaning toward that platform. Of course the Parker Hale is shown as a dedicated sniper and it is out of our budget. I believe the Savage accu-trigger is fairly new and so maybe my locals didn't recommend it. You mentioned the 10 series and I was wondering why not the 12 series. Is it because the accu-trigger is not available on that line? In respect to barrels I get the drift that they are more or less similar in stock configuration.I was under the impression prior to your insightful post that the Rem 700 VS SF was the way to go but I have read a few articles in the gun rags about the accu-trigger and as I mentioned earlier I am an old fasioned bullseye man so I know how important a good trigger is. So I guess it comes down to the old "Hand pick" and look over the details that you outlined. Thanks again.
Old 06-13-2004, 04:51 PM   #8
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 155
The M40A1 with minor changes was exactly what I wanted. The Army rifle is the Remington M24. The first can only be bought as a reproduction by custom houses, the Marine Corps built all the originals. The second is a Remington stock item with a fabulous price tag.

I went through the same quandry on the rifle I just purchased, I looked at all I could get my hands on, and read for months. I came close to buying the 700P the price was right, but there were four things I didn't like. First it was a little too heavy, second was the stock I really thought it was too thick in the grip, third the 26" barrel was too long and makes it a little unwieldy, forth it is the same barrel as on the commercial varmit rifles. Bonus was no J-lock.

I looked back at the varmit series in Remingtons as they are a little cheaper and the stocks fit me better, but I don't like the J lock. and I was flipping back and forth between the two above for a couple of months.

Remington did a very limited production of the 700 Stainless Special with the 5-R Milspec barrels ( I think these barrels are a overrun from the M24's ) they are still out there but I don't think they are going to last long or be easy to find once their gone. Here it is with pic's ( different SN) : ... m=19162641

Do some reading on the 5-R barrels only 3 people make these, Mike Rock, Boots Obermeyer, and Remington after they brought them in house and cancelled buying Milke Rocks barrels. The Rock and Obermeyer barrels cost right at $300, Obermeyers have anywhere from a 1-2 year wait to get them, then they need to be chambered and installed, it will cost you around $600 to get one of these barrels. I was going to build from scratch in the beginning, then these rifles showed up and I thought why not give it a try before you dump $2500. I have to say I don't like the J-lock still, but this rifle has a pretty good chance of being a shooter out of the box and I can jump past all the gunsmith stuff and move into optics for right now.

If I am unhappy with the results I will skim bed it first . If I am disappointed its going to be off to GA Precision I think. I have too many custom things happening right now though and I really didn't want to get into another custom gun until I have the other projects closed up.

Concerning the Savages the 12 Series have accu-triggers, the 10 series just seem to have a better stock selection. Also the Model 10FP-LE1 is cheaper by a couple hundred dollars. But the model 12 series do have single shots which is intersting.
Old 06-13-2004, 05:38 PM   #9
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 199
Again great information from you that will be helpful. Thanks again.
Old 10-13-2004, 07:30 PM   #10
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 42
Virtually nobody can consistently deliver 1 MOA under field

conditions, with any rifle or load,even on targets that don't move,much less shoot back. The reason to choose the autorifle is the need for fast repeat shots. Combat is the only reason to need such fast shots. If the targets are shooting back, you do not want to be stuck with nothing more than a bolt action.

  Pistolsmith > Rifle and Shotgun Forum > Semi-Auto Rifles

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Semi-auto magazines in bolt guns Curt Dawson Semi-Auto Rifles 1 04-06-2007 08:08 AM
cheap semi-auto rifles PaStEUriZed Semi-Auto Rifles 3 11-10-2006 02:47 PM
Semi-Auto MP-40 nero Semi-Auto Rifles 3 09-15-2004 07:14 AM
CA legal semi-auto .308 Max1991A1 Semi-Auto Rifles 0 09-15-2003 07:45 PM
Best Semi-auto 22 rifle? Beavo Semi-Auto Rifles 13 03-16-2003 09:27 AM

Top Gun Sites Top Sites List

Powered by vBulletin 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2020 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Copyright © 1999-2012 Pistolsmith. All rights reserved.