Precision Rifle on a Budget Part 1


We have all seen those $3,000 tactical rifles in the gun magazines that all shoot sub-moa groups at 500 yards and dream of them as we sleep at night. (Well at least I do…).    This is pretty much how my “Precision Rifle on a Budget” project got started.   My Budget??   $1000

While there are many different manufacturers that produce these stock and sometimes custom rifles, there are a few features that are common to most every precision build:

  • Quality Free Floated Barrel
  • Quality Stock (one that can free float the barrel)
  • Quality Trigger
  • Quality Rings and Base
  • Quality Scope

These are the basic features that are needed for a sub-moa rifle build, but there are countless other jobs that can be done to a rifle to further enhance its accuracy potential.  Some custom precision rifle builders will go as far as to “true” the bolt and action.   Having all of this work done at custom shops would generally end up costing as much as buying a quality stock rifle in the first place.  As an experiment, I wanted to create a build loosely following a recipe I found at John McQuay at  By the end I wanted to end up with a reasonably accurate sub-moa rifle that I could compete with and that would cost me less than $1000…

I started this project by looking for a Remington 700 Varmint for cheap. I was originally looking for a used one, yet a particularly good deal jumped out at me from a local sporting goods store’s flyer: A brand new Remington 700 Varmint on Black Friday sale for $399 after the Remington rebate.  And it eventually turned out to be even cheaper since it I found that I was eligible for yet another rebate from the store itself.

Total: $326.98 (Rifle)

There are numerous after market barrels I could have thrown on the rifle, but I knew that since this was a budget build, I would have to stick with the barrel already on the rifle.  It turns out that Remington’s Varmint contour barrels are made on the exact same line as the other “bull barrel” contours in Remington’s LE and Military rifle lines, but just wear a blue finish instead of the Parkerized one.  The barreled action itself was at this point almost definitely capable of sub minute of angle groups.

The next step in the project was to select a quality stock that would float the varmint contoured barrel.   There are several great companies out there but I selected a stock patterned after the M40 by Bell and Carlson.  Being made primarily of fiberglass, it was strong enough for the riggors of a field environment as well as being light weight. These series of stocks also have a good amount of aluminum running nearly the entire length of the stock. This gives the stock enough torsional rigidity and strength to “lift” the weight of the barrel and free float it.   Also, unlike 100% plastic stocks, the aluminum and fiberglass allows the action screws to be properly tightened to whatever torque you think they should be at. (People argue the spec all over the place; from 20-60 inch pounds.) Keep in mind that cheaper plastic stocks, expecially the cheap plastic trigger guards present on original factory“bottom metal” on some rifles may start to crack after only 10-15 inch pounds.

  1. Rifle: ($326.98)
  2. Bell and Carlson M40 ($275)
  • Total: $601.98

I had already purchased the scope I was going to use on this build (more on that later) and I set out to find a set of quality rings and base for reasonable price. Badger Ordnance would have been a great choice, but would have put me over my budget. After hours on the forums (you all know how informative those forums are) and a few youtube reviews, I settled on TPS.

TPS makes excellent precision mounting hardware and is probably at the upper end of what I should have spent on the build.  I could have very easily spent half as much on a pair of Burris Xtream Tactical rings, but I felt that the added cost was well worth a little extra peace of mind.   I also (my poor budget) opted for the steel alloy rings and base instead of the aluminum since I felt that it would give me a sturdier zero in field environments (totally unfounded but again, it was a peace of mind thing.)

  1. Rifle: ($326.98)
  2. Bell and Carlson M40 ($275)
  3. TPS Steel Base ($64.95)
  4. TPS T-R-S Steel Rings ($69.95)
  • Total: $736.88

Now, as noted before, a plastic trigger guard would not have allowed me to torque the action screws to their proper setting.   At this point I had to decide which route I would have to go magazine wise.   The Remington 700 is traditionally an internal magazine design. There are several bottom metal sets on the market that would allow the use of detachable magazines. This is a huge plus during tactical competitions and such, but would have cost more than my budget allowed. So, in interest of staying within my budged amount, I saved roughly $300+ and decided to purchase a custom quality, standard, internal magazine/bottom metal assembly from for $224.97.

  1. Rifle: ($326.98)
  2. Bell and Carlson M40 ($275)
  3. TPS Steel Base ($64.95)
  4. TPS T-R-S Steel Rings ($69.95)
  5. Bottom Metal and Fitted Internal Fixed Magazine Box ($224.97)
  • Total: $961.85

Running dangerously close to my budget, I decided to add one more item to the build. More of an assessory than an accuracy enhancing feature, the KRG Bolt Lift added that “custom rifle” feel I felt my build needed.   And the difference it added to the manipulation of the bolt itself was worth it. Rounds could now be put on target a little faster than before, and this partially made up for the small capacity of the internal magazine.

  1. Rifle: ($326.98)
  2. Bell and Carlson M40 ($275)
  3. TPS Steel Base ($64.95)
  4. TPS T-R-S Steel Rings ($69.95)
  5. Bottom Metal ($224.97)
  6. KRG Bolt Lift ($28)
  • GRAND TOTAL: $989.85 for the Base Rifle w/o scope


So, I completed my “Precision Rifle on a Budget” rifle for just under my budget.   A Harris Bipod or any additional accessories would have set it over my budget, but since this is more of an experimental build, I decided to leave the rifle as is and just buy a few cans of Krylon and give it even more of a custom look.  (More in Part 2)

Back to my budget scope of choice.   For years I had been looking at the Bushnell Elite Tactical 3200 10x40mm just for a scope to test and then throw on a .22 or something. There are very few scopes on the market that offer the dollar per performance ratio that the Bushnell Elite Tactical Series does. The Elite Tactical 3200 sits close to the bottom of the line up in terms of both price as and features but the quality is immediately apparent.   It being a fixed-powered scope allowed Bushnell to put more quality towards the glass, which I feel compares favorably with at least a few $400-$500 scopes I have looked though.  Somewhere on the interwebs I read that Barett ships there .50 cal rifles with the 3200 as an entry level scope. After some additional research I even found that lists the Bushnell Elite Tactical 3200 as the most basic scope they ship there rifles with. For those interested in reading more about the gear and sites mentioned in this build here are the links:

John McQuay’s Budget Precision build:

John’s Youtube DIY playlist:

Bell and Carlson M40 Stock:

TPS rings and base:

Remington Bottom Metal:

KRG Bolt Lift:



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