The other day I noticed a novice shooter on a forum ask for some recommendations on a good entry level precision rifle. He had a $1200.00 budget and wanted feedback on Remington 700’s vs Savage production rifles. After noticing someone recommending a Mosin Nagant and saying “Ask Vasily Zaytsev…” as justification for why a Mosin was a good choice in 2015 I decided to step in. Has the Mosin put plenty of bad guys in the dirt? Yes. No argument there. Is it a realistic choice in 2015 for a shooter interested in long range precision rifle? No.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard guys say “Well MY _____ rifle shoots sub MOA all day long with any ammo!” as if that singular example makes up for all the other testimonials why that brand suffers from quality control issues or other problems. I encourage novice shooters to look for performance trends, not exceptions. I also tell them that 9 times out of 10 they need to ignore what they read on the internet or what Joe Bob says at the local gun store. Until you can verify what someone is basing their opinion on I would recommend taking it with a grain of salt. The end result of the conversation was a simple recommendation to get out and train instead of asking a bunch of random strangers online for their opinion on a rifle.
The best place to see what works and why it works is a training class or a competition. Both typically have a high round count for a short period of time which tests the shooter and the equipment, they are geared to focus you towards efficiency and evaluating your performance under stress. That’s going to give you a good idea of what works in a very short time. I’ve supplied students in the past with loaner rifles from Ashbury Precision Ordnance Barrett Firearms and Surgeon Rifles so they can see firsthand what matters and what doesn’t. I also encourage students to “test drive” each other’s rifles during classes so they can see the difference between various manufactures. If a rifle starts to malfunction I’ll use that as a learning point and show the class what they want to be aware of and try to avoid.
Beg borrow or steal (ok maybe not steal but you get the general idea) whatever you’re interested in buying before making the investment in a rifle or optic that doesn’t meet your needs. By hitting the range with other shooters at a competition or attending a class you get the opportunity to see firsthand how something performs and more than likely see why some things should be avoided. If you’re interested in hitting the range and seeing what some of the top shooters in the nation are using organizations like the Precision Rifle Series, National Rifle League and the 3 Gun Nation Long Range Division all make it easy for new shooters to get first hand experience with what works and why.