A Comparative Review of Four Precision Rifles

NOTE:  This is an older piece of mine first published on a Canadian website.  I’ve added a few edits and I think it’s still worth a read – hope you agree.

The keenly awaited arrival of a PGW Coyote has prompted me to write a comparative review of four bolt action rifles that can be considered to fall under the Precision/Tactical/Sniper category and I’m comparing high end to low end though the expression ‘low end’ is, of course, relative.

When I originally penned this article I was basically writing for the guy wishing to upgrade from the Savage 10FP or Remington SPS or, perhaps, someone wanting to jump right into a fairly pricey piece of equipment.

In what follows, I offer up my comments on the four particular rifles and I’ve divided my observations into:

Price and Standard Equipment;
Stocks, Actions, Triggers and Barrels;
Looks, Fit and Finish;
Handling, Ergonomics and Aftermarket Accessories;
Accuracy and, lastly,
Concluding Remarks.

All technical data is sourced from manufacturers’ websites.

Introducing the Rifles

The four rifles being compared are:

PGW Coyote:  Chambered in .308 calibre this rifle is made by PGW Defence Technologies Inc. in Manitoba.

Sako TRG22:  Chambered in .308 and made by Sako in Finland.

Kimber Tactical:  Chambered in .308 and made by Kimber in the USA.

Remington 700 XCR Tactical Long Range Rifle: This rifle is something of the ‘odd man out’ in this line up for a couple of reasons – it is chambered in .300 Win Mag and the rifle under review no longer wears the factory clothes instead it wears an Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS). Rifle is, of course, made by Remington in the USA and the stock is made by Accuracy International in the UK.

Prices and Standard Equipment – Note these prices made have changed but the fact remains that none of these are cheap toys.  Prices are unless indicated otherwise in Canadian Dollars.

PGW Coyote: Retail on this rifle is $4,800. For that you get the rifle (which includes an aluminum 1913 Mil-Spec Picatinny scope rail with 25 deg cant) plus muzzle brake plus one eight-round detachable magazine. Available in tan/desert camo or green/green camo. You can customize your rifle (calibre, colours, options etc) but, one could reasonably assume, the cost will rise. An excellent aluminum folding chassis stock is available for the same cost.

Sako: Retailing in 2011 at approx $3,200 (for mine – the Black Stealth version) . The rifle comes with one detachable staggered 2-row ten-round magazine. Threaded for a brake, it doesn’t come with one but you do get a thread protector for your money. A pretty comprehensive ( multilingual ) owners manual, bolt tool, various sling attachments and a set of Allen keys rounds out your purchase. Available in green (same price) and black with shiny barrel (bit cheaper).

Kimber Tactical: Not to be confused with the Light Police Tactical (cheaper) nor the Advanced Tactical (more expensive) the Tactical carried  a 2011 MSRP of US$ 1,937. and in that year I paid about $2,200 or so for mine. Comes with a 1913 Mil-Spec Picatinny steel scope rail and the usual Kimber 8400 manual you would get with any of Kimber’s hunting rifles.

Remington XCR Tactical: Big Green’s offering retails for about $1,500 or so making it easily the cheapest rifle under review here. Add the approx $1,000 for the AICS and you sit at about $2,500. No scope rail included. Manual is the standard Remington one.

Stocks, Actions, Triggers and Barrels

PGW Coyote: Stocked in a McMillan A5 with spacers (supplied) for LOP adjustment, an adjustable saddle, one sling swivel and four flush swivel cups. The rifle is bedded using a monoblock and the receiver is proprietary to PGW and is made out of 416 steel. A push feed system with a 90 degree rotation and oversize bolt knob. The safety is of the Winchester Model 70 three-position wing type with middle ‘safe’ position. The barrel is a free-floating 24″ Krieger with a 1:10 twist and has a helical pattern fluting which gives this rifle such a distinctive appearance. The RifleBasix trigger (which came with this rifle – I think XMP’s come with some others ) is single-stage and adjustable.

Sako: The stock is an aluminum base to which a polyurethane clamshell forestock is attached. Adjustable for length of pull and with an adjustable cheekpiece (including  lateral adjustment). I find it disappointing that some additional spacers (not cheap) are required to take full advantage of all the adjustment capabilities. Designed to use Sako’s proprietary bipod, the stock does nevertheless accommodate a Harris or similar. Sling swivels and attachment points allow for you to carry this rifle slung pretty much anyway possible. A push feed system with an oversize bolt knob that is, annoyingly to me, made of some polymer/hard plastic but the 60 degree bolt throw is nice for fast operation and the trigger guard is (like the Coyote ) large enough to allow for gloved operation. The trigger is a military-style two-stage and is easily adjustable without stripping down the rifle. Trigger can be adjusted for pull (as low as 2 lbs), length, vertical and horizontal pitch. The TRG has a 26″ barrel which is cold hammer forged and is free floating with a 1:11 rate of twist.

Kimber Tactical: Kimber bills this rifle as ” essentially a full custom tactical rifle…” and it does have a lot of nice things included for the price. It is stocked in an marbled green coloured A5 McMillan like the Coyote – but without the adjustable saddle or, more to the point, the McMillan factory-adjustable comb that its big bother the Advanced Tactical wears. Two sling swivels but no other attachment points. Based on a Mauser action this is a controlled round feed system and the Kimber bolt with oversize handle has that massive Mauser-like extractor. Safety is the three-position wing type and the barrel is a 24″ tube which Kimber describes having a bull profile but which is more of a medium contour really – being slimmer than that of for example the Remington R5  Rate of twist on this recessed target crowned barrel is a 1:12. Trigger is a single stage and is adjustable.

Remington XCR Tactical: The AICS is what gets this rifle into the game. With plenty of anchor points for slings, adjustable for LOP and cheek weld etc the AICS mechanics are similar to the Sako’s – a bedding block with polymer skins or shell. AICS does not make a Remington rifle an Accuracy International rifle but it does, in my view, improve the rifle and certainly makes this un-braked .300 Win Mag far more enjoyable to shoot than otherwise would be the case. Model 700 receiver is 416 steel and the operation of the push feed action is via the regular Remington bolt ( no oversize bolt handle – easily remedied but not available from the factory ) which is nice and smooth but no different to any other Remington. Safety is in the usual position. A single-stage 40-X  trigger is very welcomed. The barrel is 26″ long and is “bull-ish” being Remington’s Varmint profile, Fluted with a recessed target crown the barrel is, of course, free-floating but is not advertised as being match-grade or anything similar.

Looks, Fit and Finish

Rifles in this price range ought to be pretty much flawless and so I have been picky here – much more so than if I was looking at an SPS or Stevens – but the comments also only reflect my observations about the four individual rifles, and cannot be taken as a reflection of all rifles from the same manufacturers.

PGW Coyote: To use a car analogy this rifle looks like “a Hummer that shoots” and it is the massive and fluted Krieger barrel that drives that analogy. I think the Coyote looks the most impressive and certainly others seem to think so also. Taking this rifle to the range guarantees you will have company as it is so powerful looking that it invites people to come over and admire it. As for fit and finish, the metalwork is indeed perfect and the tan coating looks to have been evenly and professionally applied. The lettering on the left side of the receiver is neat and subdued and the Maple Leaf on the right side above the bolt is a nice touch.

Sako: This rifle has a look that people either love or hate – I’m a fan of the look as well as being appreciative of its functionality. More commonplace now than they were a few years ago, these rifles still get some attention at the range. Mine was perfect in every regard when it arrived with absolutely nothing that could be nit-picked about it with respect to either the metalwork or the stock finish.

Kimber Tactical: The most traditional looking of the rifles – albeit with a heavier and more tactical stance. Kimber really took their time to create the impression that this is one of their top offerings with a deep matte bluing and perfect finishing nothing suggests anything other than a carefully assembled high-end rifle. However the colour of the stock is hideous: online pictures taken in studio lighting ( see Kimber’s website for example ) show a very appealing colour scheme but the reality is that I have thought on more than one occasion – “Krylon, I need to buy some Krylon”

Remington XCR Tactical: Coated in Remington’s Black TriNyte PVD Coating which is supposed to aid in durability the metalwork was nice but not so nice as either of the Coyote, TRG or Kimber. This rifle is, and looks, like a standard Remington. Stocked in an AICS, the overall impression is one of functionality as the AICS is all about business not refinement. Lots of eye appeal at the range – though one wonders are the looks the admiring glances of the misinformed who think it is an AI. There are no faults, misalignments or evidence of shoddy work to be found either in the rifle itself or the AICS.

Handling, Ergonomics and Aftermarket Accessories

PGW Coyote: Listed as weighing 13.5 lbs. The rifle, as tested, with scope, rings, Harris bipod, Blackhawk cheekpiece and (empty) magazine tips my bathroom scales at just over 16 lbs. Now sixteen pounds is no problem at the range but I really wouldn’t want to carry this rifle too far. Of course, the weight – plus the very efficient brake -sucks up recoil and makes this rifle an absolute joy to shoot. Truly, even the most recoil-sensitive can shoot this rifle with ease. Bolt operation was smooth from the first shot and the trigger does indeed break like the proverbial glass rod. Feeding was easy and smooth and the ejection was trouble free with spent casings dropping in a neat pile by my right forearm. The magazines are proprietary and while I might prefer AICS, I have never found them to be anything other than top quality and never have I had one fail. With an overall length of some 46″ this isn’t unwieldy and the balance point is right under the massive fluting which, for me, is just about perfect.

Sako: Listed as weighing 10.75 lbs the rifle as tested weighed just a hair under 14 lbs because added to the rifle’s svelte 10.75 book weight is a Near mount and Near muzzle brake as well as scope, rings, Harris bipod, Blackhawk cheekpiece and empty magazine. Even though it weighs less than the Coyote I am even less-inclined to carry this rifle far as the balance point with that 26″ tube and longish brake does effect the rifle’s manageability. I have shot hundreds of rounds through this rifle both at the range and in competition and I am impressed with its smoothness, love the angle of the pistol grip (more so than the A5’s) and the overall ‘feel’ of the rifle.  Sako’s trigger is a joy to use – I like military-type triggers – and I have adjusted this one to be a perfect fit for me and it lets off at an even two pounds in a totally consistent, repeatable manner. Sako’s bolt is super slick and the 60 degree throw allows for fast rapid-fire drills. Sako’s mag inserts, feeds and releases perfectly though praise of the mags leads me to my biggest criticism of the TRG – the price of accessories: the proprietary spare mags cost $300+ and the Sako bipod cost nearly $700 ( yes, that’s right, seven hundred dollars ). Needless to say, my Sako has only one mag and wears a Harris bipod !

Kimber Tactical: Book weight is a mere 9lbs 4 oz but fully laden with cheekpiece, scope, rings and bipod it registers 13 lbs on my scales so I think book weight is a tad off. Nevertheless, this rifle is the lightweight of the bunch and as much as thirteen pounds would wear on you after a while, this rifle is the most suited for taking on a hunt. Handling like a slimmed down Coyote, the balance point in nicely centered and the 24″ tube allows for easy maneuverability. Kimber’s bolt is very smooth and the trigger is excellent. Lacking a brake, the rifle feels different to the braked Coyote and TRG but the weight of the rifle makes the .308 feel like most sporting .243’s. Ammunition is fed by an internal magazine with hinged floor plate and the ammunition feeds reliably both from the magazine and from single loading.

Remington XCR Tactical: Outfitted with a 20 MOA base, rings, scope and bipod and with an empty mag inserted this rifle as tested weighs 14 lbs. With an OAL of 46.5″ its only an inch or so shorter than the braked TRG but it is considerably more manageable than its length would suggest. AICS somehow allows for easier carriage and the balance point certainly isn’t as far forward as the TRG. The Remington bolt is smooth but, particularly on a long actioned rifle like this an oversized bolt handle would be nice. The 40-X trigger is a lot better than the stock Remington or the newer (at time of writing ) X-Mark Pro and has a crisp break. AICS is what makes this rifle shine though as even un-braked this .300 Win Mag is very well-mannered with recoil being nicely absorbed. Magazine fed or single loaded, ammunition feeds perfectly.

Accuracy: Pretty much most readers will appreciate that in order to obtain a viable data-set for accuracy evaluation, thousands of rounds would have to be fired over a period of weeks at varying distances and in various conditions. That, of course, I have not done. What I have done is fired a series of 5 shot groups out of each rifle, off a bench (front rest and rear bag) at a target 100m distant. Most will also appreciate that there are at least four elements to accuracy – rifle, ammunition, glass and shooter. Rather than make it a test of my handloads vs. factory ammo, I simply used Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition which is tipped with the 168g Sierra Match King for the .308’s and 190’s for the .300 Win Mag.

The rifles were glassed as follows:

Coyote: Nightforce NXS 8-32×56 TPS HRT rings
Sako: Elite 6500 Tactical 4.5-30×50 Burris Tactical rings
Kimber Elite 4200 Tactical 6-24×50 TPS HRT rings
Remington Long Range Elite Tactical 6-24×50 Millet Angle Loc Rings

I consider a benchmark of a superior rifle is its ability to put “Five Inside A Dime” at 100m as, when measured, that will usually yield a group that is nicely under a half-minute. When I can do that, I know that me, the ammo and the rifle are working well.   The data for these rifles was obtained in similar weather conditions on Jan 8+9 and 15+16 2011

The best 5 shot groups out of 3 such attempts with each rifle were:

Coyote: 0.138″ (no appreciable spread – all groups inside a dime)
Sako: 0.176″ (no appreciable spread – all groups inside a dime)
Kimber: 0.401″ (largest group 0.72″)
Remington: 0.686″ (largest group 1.11″)

Concluding Remarks:

Clearly each of the rifles is a very good example of the makers art and  I think there is a sense with bolt rifles that you do get what you pay for though the marginal improvements the more you spend are exactly that – marginal. Is the Coyote worth $2K more than the Sako and is the Sako worth well over 1K more than the Kimber ? Much depends on your income and willingness to spend money on stuff like this and so it is a 100% personal choice.

When spending a lot of money, it is comforting to have aftersales service. I can say that since this review was written I’ve had plenty of opportunity to deal with PGW and the service from those guys is faultless. Sako is serviced through Stoeger Canada and I did contact them once about my ejector spring – they were OK to deal with and offered to replace the spring if I sent the bolt to them. I contacted Kimber about barrel break in and they were very helpful – apparently they have a customer rep who is tasked to deal with Canadian customers. I have never had an occasion to contact Remington.

Check out the upcoming review – back to the 1980’s with 700P and Leupold Mk4

2 thoughts on “A Comparative Review of Four Precision Rifles

    • Yeah they are Tom – it was an old post that was re-printed here to add to the blog’s content. I think that these days there is less cheese ! Cheers and thanks for the feedback.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s