Growing up hunting in the area of Texas that I did, the terrain and vegetation meant we never needed to shoot very far. Almost all of our whitetails were taken at less than 200 yards. In the Army, we qualified with M4s from 50m-300m and close-quarters combat training is – unsurprisingly – performed in close quarters. My military work never afforded the opportunity to engage from far away either. Over the last few years, I’ve grown interested in the art and science of distance shooting, and I am looking forward to adding this new shooting skillset to my toolbox. Thanks to some fortuitous timing and a couple of good deals, I recently decided to purchase a rifle and optic in order to get started. In this article, I will detail what components went into my neophyte long gun and the thought process behind why I chose them. I purchased all of these items personally and was not compensated or incentivized in any way by any retailer or manufacturer. As a beginner in this particular shooting discipline, I fully acknowledge that some of you more seasoned long-gunners may disagree with some of my choices – and you may well have a good reason! This is definitely all part of a precision long-range learning experience for me.

The author’s entry-level long-range setup: a Ruger Precision Rifle in .308 and Gen1 Vortex Viper PST, plus Magpul bipod.

The rifle

As is often the case for many people’s firearm purchases, a good sale was the impetus for me. I had been weighing several options, including the Ruger Precision Rifle, for some time. Perusing the internet one day, I happened to discover that Gander Outdoors was offering the Ruger in .308, MSRP $1,599, on clearance as part of an inventory reduction. Luckily that particular weekend, they were also offering further discounting for a holiday sale. For a final out-the-door price at just under $590, I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. There is a school of thought among some shooters that more modern calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor would have been a better choice, and a few people did express that opinion to me. However, others advised that learning on the generally less-forgiving .308 would make me a better shooter later if I did opt to change calibers, after building a solid foundation in the fundamentals. Ultimately, the dollars and cents helped me finalize the decision between possible routes. I left my local Gander, new bolt .308 in hand, excited to begin my foray into the precision shooting game and eager to start learning. After purchasing the firearm and adding a Magpul bipod, I turned my attention toward optics.

Testing the Ruger Precision Rifle’s fit and feel, and acclimatizing to the Vortex Viper’s 4” eye relief.

The glass

The realm of riflescopes offers a myriad of options that can be a bit daunting for the uninitiated. MOA vs mils, first focal plane or second, widely varying magnification levels, and of course the plethora of different makes and models at a broad range of price points – there are plenty of choices to make! Seeking to achieve a reasonable amount of quality and reliability without breaking the bank, I found myself leaning toward Vortex’s Viper series when another good deal fell into my lap. As I reached out to some friends who were experienced distance shooters to ask them to share some scope education, one let me know that he happened to have a first-generation Viper PST just sitting on a shelf collecting dust. He’d purchased it new a few years prior, with the same intent to assemble his own “budget build” as I was doing, but had simply never gotten around to it. From an original MSRP of $949.99 at release, my friend offered to send me his like-new-in-box, unused glass for $350 shipped. I was only too happy to take him up on his offer and felt lucky to have come in at under $1,000 for my learning-oriented rifle and scope combination. This particular Viper’s features include a 6-24x magnification range, a first focal plane EBR-2C illuminated MRAD reticle, and I added a few of Vortex’s own add-ons to round it out. Finishing off the setup is a pair of precision-matched 30mm rings at a 1.45” height, low-profile bubble level, set of protective flip caps, and hard-anodized aluminum throw lever. The scope also came with a four-inch sunshade extension that threads securely over the objective lens, helping to shield it from obtrusive reflection and glare.

The author continuing to test fit and feel, and manipulating the factory stock’s adjustable comb height and length of pull.

With the bipod legs and stock folded, the dimensions become nicely manageable for storage or transport.

Now with my weapon ready to go, next up is all-important training! Thankfully I have a friend who is a former Army sniper, and he has agreed to meet up with me soon to run me through the fundamentals and math needed for far-away rifle work. I have begun reading up on some training materials in preparation, although I have a lot of work to put in before I can consider joining the ranks of you hard-chargers out there #TrainingForMammoth! Now that I have taken the first step on the precision long-range path, I can’t wait to keep it going; I believe this rifle represents the start of a long friendship between me and one of the more cerebrally-involved domains in our beloved shooting sports world. Please feel free to comment with your feedback, or to show off your own entry-level marksmanship machines. See you at the range!

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