New Rifle Checks & Range Rituals for Snipers

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been on the range and run into a shooter who was having trouble zeroing his rifle. A good number of these were attributed to the scope being installed incorrectly, and in particular, loose rings or bases. It several cases the action bolts were also loose allowing the action and barrel to jump about in the stock. So let’s look at a few checks you should run when you receive a new rifle, each time you clean the rifle, and before entering a sniper competition or deploying on an operation.

When you receive a new rifle, either factory or custom built, the first thing you should do is remove the barreled action from stock to ensure everything looks good and that the metal to stock fit is of acceptably close tolerance. If it is supposed to be aluminum pillar bedded, then check that the pillars are there. This will affect the toque values for the action bolts.  Also check that the trigger has adequate clearance from the stock and that there is not contact points or interference with the safety.

20190621 AX-AICS

.300 WinMag Mk13 Mod7 clone built on a Stiller’s MK13 action and Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel. 

If it has an aftermarket trigger such as Timney, Jewel, or Bix’n Andy, this is the time to set the trigger pull. Keep in mind that some competition triggers can be delivered with the trigger set at about 8 ounces, a fraction of what you may be used to with a factory 4+ pound trigger. A good starting point for a precision sniper rifle would be 2.5 pounds, but consideration should also be given to agency limits on trigger weight.

A convenient feature of the Bix’n Andy Dakota is it can be adjusted without removing the action from the stock

For a Jewel trigger the adjustment is screw #3 in the instructions; for a Timney Calvin Elite it is the lower screw on the front of the trigger frame; for Bix’n Andy it is on the bottom forward of the trigger; but for all, be sure to read the instructions before making adjustments.

Next, replace the barreled action in the stock and torque the action bolts. I use 65 in-lbs for fiberglass stocks with aluminum pillar bedding. A factory wood or plastic stock without pillars could be 35-45 in-lbs, but check with the manufacturers before going gorilla on your action bolts. Next take a business card and run it the length of the barrel between the barrel and the fore-end to ensure that the barrel is fully floated. This also works to get any debris out of the fore-end channel in the field.

Cycle the bolt and trigger to ensure everything is working as expected. Set the safety and pull the trigger to ensure that the safety works; then release the safety to see if the action fires. This has been a recall issue in the past, where rifles could fire when the safety was released.

At this point you can mount and torque the scope rail, rings, and mount the scope. (Separate article) Ensure that the eye-relief is correct and that the scope reticle is vertical and plumbed to the rifle.


Torquing the 1/2″ side nuts on the scope rings

At the Range:

If the rifle has an adjustable cheek rest, set the cheek rest so that your eye lines up perfectly with the scope. Bore sight the rifle at 25 yards, then zero the rifle to shoot about an inch low at 25 yards. This should put you very close to dead on at 100 yards. Once you are zeroed at 100 yards, loosen the turrets and zero them out so that your elevation is “0” and windage “0.” If the scope has a bullet drop compensator, then set the elevation to “1” or “100.”


Zeroing the turret to “0” for 100 yards 

Next, you will need to chronograph your ammunition in the this rifle since you will need the muzzle velocity (MV), ballistic coefficient (BC), and scope above bore height to generate a ballistics solutions chart or input the rifle’s data into your Kestrel. Keep in mind that your printed data is only valid for the environmental conditions at the time and elevation when you zeroed the rifle.  Changes in temperature and altitude can have a noticeable effect at longer ranges, but the Kestrel will adjust your firing solutions for environmental conditions and wind. For the LE sniper, where distances are statistically short, the environment will have little effect on bullet impact.

Kestrel A3-5 Bartlein24

.308 Win precision rifle built on a Rem 700 action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel in a McMillan A3-5 stock. 

Rifle Checks Prior to Competitions or Operations

Any competitor or hunter who travels to compete or hunt will know the importance of checking bolts, screws, and zero after a long trip. The same is true for snipers. Whether driving or flying, screws can vibrate loose and a scope can go out of zero, especially if some ham-fisted baggage handler decides to play shot-put with your rifle case or it falls off the conveyor belt. Many shooters will remove their scopes and hand-carry those, but this also requires re-zeroing at the first opportunity.

Since you cannot depend on someone else to have the correct tools, here are a few suggestions for a small tool kit. When rifle shooting I carry all the Allen wrenches and Torx wrenches to deal with scope rings, rails, bases, and turrets, plus a 1/2″ wrench for the scope ring bolts. With handguns, I carry Allen wrenches and screw drivers for sights and grip screws. Pennies and dimes also see a lot of action with the local shooters zeroing their slot-turret sporting scopes before hunting season. Another option is a set of Fix-it-Sticks.



Just because a rifle is new out of the box or fresh from the custom rifle builder, you cannot assume all screws and bolts are correctly tightened and torqued. And be assured, any looseness defeats the prime principle of accuracy – “Accuracy is the Product of Uniformity.” For a rifle/scope system to perform as expected, there can’t be any inconsistency in fit or torque values.  So provided that the rifle system and ammunition meet the standards of uniformity, then the rest is up to the shooter to do his or her part. Uniformity of grip, stock pressure, shooting position, and trigger control are of even greater importance than the rifle. A good shooter with a 1 MOA rifle will out shoot a mediocre shooter with a ½ MOA rifle.


Record everything! 

Finally, make a written check list to ensure nothing is missed and keep a written record of all work done on the rifle. As with your sniper data log, these are legal written records that will be called in to review in the event of an operational shooting.



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Trigger Upgrade

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Looking to improve that heavy stock trigger on your duty sniper weapon or favorite hunting rifle? Check our the new Dakota from Bix’n Andy and Bullet Central.

Last season I ran the Bix’n Andy TacSport Pro on one of my ELR competition rifles with considerable success, but light competition triggers are not always the best choice for a tactical weapon system or hunting rifle. The features needed in a trigger for a duty sniper rifle include rugged reliability, impervious to inclement weather, but still offering a clean, crisp break at an acceptable pull weight.

On left, the Dakota installed, with the bottom bolt release, on an STTU .300 WinMag sniper rifle. On the right, the Rem 700 compatible Dakota without the bottom release installed. 

2019 Mark Lonsdale

.416 Barrett ELR competition rifle that served me well last season. This rifle is built on a BAT Machine action with a Bartlein barrel in a McMillan Beast-2 stock. Scope is a NF ATACR 7-35x56mm FFP, with ballistic solutions from a Kestrel 5700 Elite with Applied Ballistics solver

Bix’n’ Andy have stepped up to the challenge with the clean and affordable Dakota. It is a simple process to switch from the stock Remington trigger to this adjustable trigger. The only tools required are a large Allen wrench to remove the action from the stock, and a pin punch to remove the two cross pins that hold the trigger in place.


One convenient feature of the Dakota is the trigger pull weight can be adjusted from 1 pound to 4.5 pounds without removing the rifle from the stock. This rifle is a .300 WinMag in a McMillan A6 stock with Badger M5 bottom metal.

While a clean 1 pound is a good pull weight for competition shooting, it is too light for most shooters for field use. The last thing a sniper needs is an accidental or negligent discharge in the heat of the moment, under operational stresses, or with cold fingers.

On several occasions, I’ve seen inexperienced shooters touch off a shot prematurely when the trigger was lighter than what they were used to. In fact, I just saw this on the range last week when a shooter was getting ready to shoot a new match rifle with a very light trigger. What he failed to do was dry fire the rifle several times to educate his trigger finger to the lighter pull, while building some level or neuro-muscle memory.

Going from a heavy factory trigger, usually over 4.5 pounds, to a more sensitive trigger is a process. For shooters new to light triggers, we recommend starting with a heavier trigger and then incrementally decreasing pull weight to an acceptable level. For tactical training and in hunting rifles, we recommend 2 to 2.5 pounds. For competition, which is a very controlled environment where you don’t chamber a round until on target, then a 1 pound trigger is safe and acceptable. But for purely competition use, the TacSport Pro is recommended.

From the Bullet Central web site, features that make the Bix’n Andy Dakota trigger so special are:

  • Fully Weather Resistant so that you can perform at your best no matter what mother nature throws at you.
  • Searless Design ensures simplicity and total reliability.
  • Single Stage trigger mechanism with a crisp release.
  • Rem 700 Model and all Rem 700 Style clone compatibility.
  • Ideal Over-Travel so that you do not interfere with the rifle’s position during fire.
  • Patented Ball Bearing Design with lifetime support guarantee.
  • Precision Machined Parts.
  • 1 lbs – 4.5 lbs (or 450g – 2,000g) Pull Weight for a wide range of adjustment.

For more info, go to

 Stay tuned for more comprehensive field testing next week



STTU .300 WinMag built on a Rem 700 Long Action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel with Piercision brake, McMillan A6 adjustable stock with Badger M5 bottom metal, and Accu-Tac bipod. Scope is a Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm FFP with MIL reticle

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The Long Range Sniper Option

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

Unlike many who have migrated to the raft of newer calibers in the past 10 years, I have remained a firm proponent of .308 Win  and .300 WinMag for several reasons, not the least of which are accuracy, reliability, availability, and cost. But in recent years I had worked with .375 CheyTac and .416 Barrett for ELR competitions. While .375 CT may have a place as a military sniper rifle, .416 Barrett is essentially a single purpose ELR rifle for reaching out passed 3,000 yards.

I first ran into the .338 Lapua Magnums (8.6x70mm) in Kosovo in 1999/2000 where the Accuracy International AWM (L115A1) had found favor with NATO military snipers. As an upgraded L115A3, the .338 LM saw extensive use in Afghanistan and Iraq while US Navy SEALs had the McMillan TAC-338.


McMillan TAC-338 in .338 Lapua Magnum

However, I did not immediately jump on this caliber for a number of reasons: 1) my 300 WinMag could hit hard at 1,000 meters, and reach 1,500 meters; 2) the .338 LM was a bigger and heavier rifle; 3) 338 ammo was definitely more expensive, and; 4) it was not as readily available as it is now. But I have always remained open to anything that improves performance, so my thinking has since changed.

20190621 AX-AICS

Clone of the MK13 Mod7 .300 WinMag built on the Stiller’s TAC300/MK13 action

While I did well with the .416 Barrett at the FCSA 1.5 mile match and 2019 King of 2 Miles (Ko2M) – first place team – my professional interests are focused more on rifles and calibers that have military or law enforcement applications. A 40-pound rifle is simply not a practical field rifle, but my Hill Country .375 CheyTac, at a lean 24 pounds, complete with scope and bipod, was more to my liking. I was also able to get nine out of ten hits at 2,200+ yards with then.375 – more than enough effective range for a long range sniper rifle.


Hill Country .375 CheyTac, in rear, weighing in at a manageable 24 pounds. .338 Lapua Magnum in front weighing in at 16.5 pounds, both built on Stiller’s actions and McMillan A5 stocks

But when some ELR competitions introduced a .338 and under class, I was motivated to build a .338 Lapua Magnum. This rifle began as a Stiller’s TAC338 action since I’d already had excellent performance from my Stiller’s TAC300 in 300 WinMag and TAC408 on the .375 CT. From there I added a Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel, Piercision muzzle brake, and drop it into a McMillan A5 stock with Badger M5 bottom metal. Now I had a lean 16.5-pound long range rifle complete with scope and magazine – but the proof would be in the performance.

20200213_Acc Lab

.338 Lapua Magnum built on a Stiller’s TAC338 action, Bartlein barrel, Piercision brake, in a McMillan A5 stock with Badger M5 bottom metal. Kestrel 5700 Elite with Applied Ballistics firing solutions 

Team mate, Derek Rodgers, had suggested I try VihtaVuori N170 powder for the .338, but since I didn’t have any loading data for this powder, I started out with a conservative 92 grains behind the Sierra 300 grain SMK. Along with Peterson brass and Federal Large Rifle Magnum Match (215M) primers, this came in at 2,680 fps. While all the groups were sub-MOA, and many 0.5 MOA, as I increased MV, I found the best groups at 2,950 fps. But then load development with the N170 stopped when I ran out of powder.


Because of the impact of the COVID virus on the arms industry, and reloading components in particular, I was unable to get more N170, Retumbo, or N570, and had already used up all my H1000 on .300 WinMag development and training. But since I had a good supply of H50BMG for my .375 CT, I began working up a load with this slower burning powder. Right from the start I was getting 0.5” groups or better at 100 yards as I gradually increased the load and muzzle velocity.

As I sit here writing this, the testing continues. I already have the next three loads loaded up and ready for a trip to the range this week. I’ve also added the Hornady 285 grain ELD-M bullet to my testing.

At some point in the future, I would like to get the opportunity to shoot the .338 EnABler and .375 EnABler since they are more suited to magazine fed rifles. With the USSOCOM interest in the .338 Norma Magnum, this caliber is also on my “to do” list.

So after decades of professional shooting, the .338 LM is definitely one of my go-to calibers and rifles. I feel sure that it will go down in history as one of the most utilized military and competition rounds, along with the .308 Win (7.62x51mm) and .300 WinMag (7.62x67mmB). For anyone looking to get into ELR shooting, defined as 1,500 yards plus, the .338 LM is an excellent entry level caliber. But to run with the big dogs, an ELR shooter will need the longer legs of .375 CT or larger.



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Glock Trigger Job – DIY

Have a little free time and a modicum of talent, try your hand at improving the trigger on your Glock. See link:

Keep in mind that a professional trigger job is not about cutting or lightening of springs or removing metal, it’s about polishing surfaces and removing friction

Caveat: If you have any concerns about your skills, let a professional do it.

Glock 23 40


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CQB – A Guide to Unarmed Combat & Close Quarters Shooting

CQB by Mark V. Lonsdale

CQB by Mark V. Lonsdale 

Available on

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Sniper II – available directly from STTU –

Sniper II by Mark V. Lonsdale

SNIPER II by Mark V. Lonsdale 

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Alpine Operations

Alpine Operations – A Guide to Cold Weather Operations, High Angle Rescue, and Mountain Warfare

Alpine Operations Mark V Lonsdale



From Sir Edmund Hillary 

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Berger Wins Sub-Contract For Advanced Sniper Rifle Program Ammunition

Berger Wins Sub-Contract For Advanced Sniper Rifle Program Ammunition

The single-year contract specifies 800,000 rounds of .300 Norma Mag. that will be loaded with Berger’s .30-cal., 215-grain hybrid bullets along with Lapua brass. The contract also includes 200,000 rounds of .338 Norma Mag. loaded with Lapua’s .338-caliber, 300-grain armor-piercing AP529 projectiles and Lapua brass. This .338 Norma Mag. load extends the range for snipers over the .300 Norma Mag. load. Berger and Lapua products had already been chosen for the Advanced Sniper Rifle program ammunition—now the loads themselves will be produced by Capstone. Ammunition for the contract will be loaded and tested at the aforementioned facility in Arizona.

With both brands well known by competitive shooters for high quality and match-grade precision, the combination of Berger bullets and Lapua cartridge cases for the Advanced Sniper Rifle program’s .300 and .338 Norma Mag. ammunition should prove potent for the U.S. military.

Learn more at

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MK13 300 Win Mag

STTU is currently evaluating a MK13 Mod 7 clone built on a Stiller’s MK13 (TAC300) action. Where .308 Win gives the average sniper a 600-800 meter capability, .300 WinMag stretches that out to 1,200-1,500 meters

TeamWendy MK13

.300 WinMag built on a Stiller’s MK13 action with a Bartlein barrel in an AX-AICS chassis. Scope is the NighForce ATACR 5-25x56mm FFP with a Tremor 3 reticle 

20190621 AX-AICS

Initial testing with factory Federal 190 grain SMKs, Berger 185 Juggernauts, and Berger 215 Hybrids. The Kestrel 5700 Elite with Applied Ballistics utilized for firing solutions. 

Test and Evaluation to follow…..


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.338 Lapua Magnum

The .338 Lapua Magnum was the first cartridge and caliber to be developed specifically for military sniper applications. It was also a good bridge between 300 Winchester Magnum and 50 BMG.

STTU is currently involved in test and evaluation of a .338 Lapua Magnum built on a Stiller’s TAC338 action, Bartlein barrel, and McMillan A5 stock. Stiller’s Actions also won the USMC contract for the MK13 300 WinMag with their TAC300/MK13 action.

338 LapuaMagnum Kestrel

.338 Lapua Magnum  built on a Stiller’s TAC338 action, Bartlein barrel, Piercision brake, Badger Ordnance bottom metal, and a McMillan A5 stock. Scope is a NightForce ATACR 7-35 x56mm FFP with a Tremor 3 reticle.

Stillers Badger TAC338 7.31.19


.338 Lapua Magnum ammunition development utilizing Peterson brass, Vihtavuori N170 powder, 300 grain Sierra Matchkings, and Cutting Edge 275 grain Lazers 

More coming as the range testing continues…..


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