Tactical Division Hat Trick, Or: How I Learned To Love The .308 For PRS Shooting.

The Precision Rifle Series offers a Tactical division for .308 and .223 shooters. Originally intended for those wanting to compete and practice with work equipment (LE/MIL), the division is open to anyone to play in. Shooting a .308 or .223 in a field of 6mm and 6.5mm wonder cartridges starts the shooter at a strong ballistic disadvantage. The 6/6.5mm projectiles are lighter but more efficient, and generally leave the barrel at a higher muzzle velocity. In addition, if shooting a .308 there is increased recoil over the 6 and 6.5s. That being said, a good rifle driver with a .308 can be effective and still do decent in the overall crowd.

My journey to shooting a .308 in a few PRS matches was more by accident than on purpose. 2018 was to be the year of shooting a 6mm Creedmoor, however the downside to the 6mm cartridges is much shorter barrel life. Going back to a few weeks before the Long Range Shooting Experience (LRSE) match, I found myself with a burned out 6mm barrel and not enough rounds on the replacement barrel to trust it. However…with my Accuracy International AX I had done some load workups for the factory 20″ .308 barrel. Given the lack of time for shooting and reloading due to work and family life, I decided to switch gears and shoot the .308 for fun. I loaded up 20 rounds of what my notes said should work well, and headed to the range to check zero and try them out. After a quick zero check and a 5-round group, the accuracy was indeed superb with a sub-half MOA group. The other check was for velocity with the MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph…again turning out solid results of an average of 2630 feet per second with a standard deviation of 6 for ten shots. Now it was time to load some ammo for the match during the week and head off to Kentucky that Friday.

2018 Long Range Shooting Experience (LRSE) PRS Match

As anyone who has been to Rockcastle Shooting Center in mid-March, the wind and weather is not always favorable to shooters. In looking at the original forecast the week of the match, 10-15 mph winds were to be the norm for the weekend. Shooting a .308 was going to indeed be a tough proposition and make me work hard to earn points. Driving to the match, I had only fired out this .308 load to 300 yards, but felt comfortable with the consistency of it. Fortunately at the sight-in range, there was an opportunity to shoot to about 800 yards, where my elevation drops held true according to my Kestrel 5700 with Applied Ballistics.

For the match, I was fortunate to squad with several great people that kept the atmosphere light but focused when it was shooting time. Several of us were all shooting .308s, which helped tremendously on stage and wind planning. The match was challenging for shooters as it featured a good mix of prone shooting across natural terrain while battling wind, but also doing it while shooting off of obstacles. Something unique for LRSE is getting to shoot across a golf course, which is something many rifle shooters dream of. As is usually the case at LRSE, even with a 6 or 6.5, you have to work hard to earn your points. I finished at 35th place with 107 points, or 75% of the overall winner. This was good enough to win the Tactical class and a really cool trophy.

2018 MasterPiece Arms (MPA) Spring PRS Match

Next on the schedule was the MasterPiece Arms (MPA) PRS match in Blakely, GA. Since I had extra ammo loaded, I figured I would just shoot the .308 again as it was only a couple weeks after LRSE. Held at the Arena training facility, the spring MPA match was to take place at two main firing ranges, the large UKD range and F-Class range. There were 10 stages at each area, with a heavy emphasis on positional shooting. Because it was in the spring, we weren’t going to get away with perfect weather. We had heavy winds on Saturday as a large front moved in on us. Sunday begain with a weather delay due to severe thunderstorms. Once we got to shooting on Sunday, we had to contend with rain and very gusty winds.

The Friday before the match, I did a very quick zero check (nothing changed) and then spent time verifying data at longer ranges than LRSE. There were targets past a mile available, but I had no illusions of grandeur and focused between 600 and 1200 yards. The Applied Ballistics BC information was very close to what I was seeing, and only a minor tweak was needed for the extended range shots. With that done, I walked through and looked at the potential props available to make sure there wasn’t something very unusual.

Even though we had some wind, the sun was out on Saturday and we ended up firing 14 stages from about 8am to 7pm. Fortunately everyone had to deal with the wind, but the slower projectile and lower BC made it a little extra special for those of us shooting .308s or .223s. With the many positional stages, I also had to make it a point to build a good position to be able to see what the bullet was doing down range to stay on top of any corrections needed. As a general strategy, I focused heavily on maximizing points for stages that played to my strengths, and tried to survive those that I would either struggle with positions on or the few extended range stages that the wind was just tough to work with. This match was a shining example for me on being able to use a tripod for rear support, as it enabled me to stabilize the rifle quicker and stay on target to see what the bullet was doing. I know this enabled me to get more points.

Sunday started a little later, but we had 6 stages to work through. Several were under a shelter for us, so it wasn’t a very miserable experience other than having to fight through 6-12 mph winds that changed every 3-4 seconds. When the shooting stopped, I had 145 points, which was 83% of the winner. This was enough to win Tactical with a 25th place overall finish.

To qualify for the Precision Rifle Series finale, your best three finishes for the year are used to calculate a score that determines your placement in the nation. Only the top shooters get an invite to the match. At this point, I had two great finishes so I decided to roll into my last spring PRS match shooting the short .308 barrel on the AX. The recipe of 175gr Sierra Tipped MatchKings at about 2625 fps was hammering, and I only had a couple weeks to load more ammo before the drive to central Alabama.

2018 Alabama Precision Spring PRS Match

Due to scheduling conflicts, I had not been able to make it to any of the prior Alabama Precision matches at the Carbon Hill, AL facility. I was excited to finally make it out for some fun and challenging stages. This match was only about three hours from the house, so Alan from work and myself drove across Friday after breakfast to make it for sign-in and some zero/data verification. I was running low on my stash of components, so I had to be conservative to ensure I had enough ammo for the match. Aside from a quick zero check, I wanted to verify data to distance and get a few rounds on the moving target to verify lead information if nothing else.

After arrival and check-in, we stopped at the 100 yard zero range. The .308 was still spot-on and I had brought my .223 trainer rifle to play with, but it needed a zero as I had swapped some scopes around. With that done, we went to the top of the hill where the majority of shooting was to take place. The facility is a reclaimed strip mine that is now a timber lease. On top, there were many firing positions with a lot of targets down range. We found a spot on one of the towers and did some quick bullet drop checks from 500 to 1200 yards. I found my Kestrel with Applied Ballistics software to be tracking true my bullet performance, so I decided to expend my remaining rounds on the moving target. At 457 yards, the mover needed about 1.5 Mils to center for consistent hits on target. After firing a few more rounds from my .223 trainer on the mover and at a few other targets, we decided to pack up for the afternoon and prep for the morning.

Over the next two days we shot 20 stages plus the Accushot Challenge. The longest target was at 1200 yards, while most were between 300 and 800 yards. There were quite a few different positional challenges, and all stages had 90 second time limits. For the longer stages (past 800 yards), the wind proved to be tricky as it was switching back and forth as it came down the valley. Aside from some wind to contend with, we had sunny and warm weather for the match. In total, we had 187 points possible and the .308 connected 138 times for a 74% overall hit percentage. I finished in 21st place overall, winning the Top Tactical award.

With three Tactical division wins, I was able to maximize points possible for PRS Finale consideration. While I originally did not set out to shoot Tactical division, pushing hard with the .308 has turned out to be a fun venture. Benefits to the .308 include very long barrel life and not worrying about round counts eating into precious barrel life. With a suppressor on the end, the 20″ barrel is pretty tame with a little recoil management. Looking back on shooting a lot of .308 this past spring, it forced me to be better with reading the wind and making better wind calls. Given many matches out west are vicious with the wind, running a .308 early in the season might be the way to go for getting spun up on the year.

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