Expensive Bolt Action vs. Cheap AR-15

In this episode of TFBTV, James pits the new Ruger Precision Rifle – a high-end off-the-rack bolt action rifle with a $1,600 MSRP – against a $700 budget-build AR15 that James built himself. Which rifle will prevail? This test is done at 100 yards with three different brands of .223/5.56mm ammunition: MKE ZQI 55gr; Winchester White Box 55gr; and Prvi Partizan 69 grain hollow point match boattail ammunition.

James’ build uses an 18″ Del-Ton 1:8 twist barrel with an RRA free-floating handguard/half-rail and RRA two-stage trigger and a Magpul furniture set on the lower. The optic used is a Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-12x.

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]

James Reeves

• NRA-licensed concealed weapons instructor, 2012-present
Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, 2011
• “Co-Director” [air quotes] of TFBTV
• Former Regional Sales Rep, Interstate Arms Corp., MA
• Champion, Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition
• GLOCK® Certified Pistol Operator, 2017-2022
• Lawyer
► Instagram: jjreevesii
► Twitter: @jjreeves
► Vimeo: JJReeves
► 500px: JJReeves
► YouTube.com/c/JamesReeves


  • John

    Can someone give a summary of the results?

    • CommonSense23

      Shoots 5 round groups of different ammo thru a bolt action and semi. Not enough data to really know what’s going on.

    • USMC03Vet

      Both rifles out perform shooter. Don’t need to buy boutique to hit targets.

    • Brad

      The AR out-shot the RPR, not by much though.

    • Juggernaut

      “The RPR would have been more accurate if it had an MLOK handguard”- Patrick from TFB

  • Independent George

    Wouldn’t the better conparison be between the Ruger Precision with, say, a $500 Savage 10?

    • Jared Vynn

      The Savage stealth would be better, similar features and all.

  • micmac80

    you could mount a new barrel on 99$ Mosin Nagant and it would smoke both rifles

    • Nicks87

      Lol that’s pretty funny. Didn’t someone already attempt a Mosin upgrade project and it still was only capable of about 3-5 MOA?

      • snekrz

        That depends. They must have done something very wrong. I have two PU snipers that shoot between 1.25 and 2.25 inch groups with factory 188 light ball. All Ive done is shim them. This comparison would be better served in a larger caliber like 6.5CM or .308. The ruger would take the prize unless the AR10 wasnt a budget gun 😉

      • micmac80

        You talk junk, suplus nagants will do 3 moa some much better. Find a single plausible reason why Mosin nagant couldn’t ,do sub 1 moa or even better. In accuracy world rule of 3B rules them all, Barrel,Bullet,Bedding all other factors are far down the list in importance when it comes to Accuracy. Action is not the most important factor .

        For me its just irritating when someone ‘assembles’ a Ar15 kit and ownes it as if he actualy built a single part of it and its not even a shooter.
        RPR is also a junker rifle in a fancy stock ,where every one is changing barrels ASAP.At least take a Tikka when comparing against whatever ar15

        • The_Champ

          So a new barrel, a lot of bedding work, some fancy hand loads…..and you are hardly left with a surplus $99 Mosin anymore. Might want to do some trigger work as well, my M44 has likely the worst trigger of all of my milsurps.

          As commented below a bit of shim work can go a long ways, but as far as repeatable, dependable accuracy, I really don’t think any Mosin will compete with the firearms James is shooting. That’s just a pipe dream. Not sure why the big Mosin fans need to compare their rifle with EVERYTHING else.

          My Mosin might shoot 3 MOA on a really good day, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is what it is.

          I would however like to get my hands on a Finnish M39 someday, I’ve heard great things.

          Speaking of milsurps, I have quite a few, and if one stood any chance of shooting a repeatable 1 MOA it is the Swiss K31. However I’ve never mounted a scope on it to truly test it.

          • micmac80

            Have shoot a bunch of K31 with scope and surplus swiss ammo and most are sub moa its actualy hard to make a batter handload that the original swiss milsurp

            But the point was that the article itself is quite bonkers ,Mosin was just a provocation of how pointles the comparison was.

          • Ryfyle

            It’s something that needs polish to get good results, that’s for sure. However a lot of old eastern blocks never ditched there actions and a lot of performance can get milked out of it. Love to see more of them made domestically and chambered in domestic cartridges.

    • Haulin’ Oats

      That would be nice if the mosin was in 223.

  • Jared Vynn

    In the world of AR building $700 builds are not considered either budget or cheap. Budget or cheap builds start at about <$500 for most builders.

    Also obligatory "screw them" to RRA.

    • Nicks87

      For $500 you could build something very shootable in a AR platform.

      • jonp

        I’m working on one for less than that but I’m drilling my own lower

        • Get Gudder
          • Haulin’ Oats

            I’m thirsty and starving. But I’ll pass on your offer of free but rotting food and smelly water.

          • jonp

            I know but I wanted to make one myself

          • Stan Darsh

            Are you going with polymer or aluminum for the lower?

          • jonp

            Polymer. I have a couple of the polymer Bushmasters and they are holding up well so I though my first attempts should be in easy to work stuff that is not too expensive when I mess up the first couple

    • valorius

      $500 pre election. More like $375 post election.

  • Nicks87

    How about $1,600 AR vs a budget bolt action?

  • Mr. Katt

    For all practical purposes – take the “budget” AR and use the rest of the money for ammo.

    • Kurt Ingalls

      Exactly what Mr. Katt said!!!!!! 🙂

  • Blake

    How about a CZ-527 bolt action in .223 vs. the equivalent (~$600) worth of AR-15?

  • Haulin’ Oats

    A better comparison would be the Savage MSR Recon (a very accurate and cheap $750 ar) vs your $1600 Bolt rifle of the same caliber, twist rate, and barrel length. Both rifles should also be using the same match ammo from the same lot number and the same exact (serial number) optic and mount. This test would have also been conducted at an indoor range during after hours or a slow weekday.

    And if you really wanted to be fair, you would spend $1600 on a good ar, because the FN’s best AR15 could out shoot both of your rifles.

    None the less, I enjoyed your review. Good work James, just next time build a better rifle.

  • jonp

    What 2 stage trigger do you have on your budget build, James?

  • civilianaf

    I’ve had 9mm white box ammo that my Glock wouldn’t run with. My buddy had a similar experience a couple weeks later with his. Its the only ammo I don’t use anymore.

  • Kevin Craig

    In what world is a Ruger Precision, or any other $1,600 rifle, “high end”?

    • James I

      My thoughts exactly. The Ruger Precision is it’s self a “budget” precision rifle.

    • USMC03Vet

      Considering that is 3x(or more) than an entry level AR15 that sounds about right for consumer non professional shooters. I take donations Mr. Money Bags.

      • Kevin Craig

        The most expensive firearm I own (at least purchase price) is a Turkish 1911.

    • Michael Frank

      That’s easy.

      In the world of diminishing returns.

      Next question…

    • Ehtacs

      It’s also more of a $1,150 rifle on the street. $400 more than the AR15 in the discussion but I guess $1600 MSRP makes it sound crazier

    • valorius

      The real world.

    • Dan

      I came here to say exactly that. Perhaps the author should get out more if he thinks the RPR is anything near “high end”

  • Kurt Ingalls

    Ha haaaaa……to all the AR “snobs”…..bolt or not……………… 🙂 ….check out AKOU and Rob Ski’s “cheap” PSA AR-15……..

  • Stan Darsh

    When has Del-Ton ever offered either an 18″ bbl or a 1×8 twist?

  • scaatylobo

    Shot against a few shooters at a “zombie shoot match” and I won with a Mossberg MVP in 5.56.
    That is a MUCH cheaper gun than the 1600 + for this toy.
    I see that as a VERY viable tool in place of a M-4,for most scenarios.

    • iksnilol

      Meh, most people miss the point of the RPR in 5.56. It’s handloading. A regular AR-15 can’t use 90 grain projectiles seated far out. RPR can.

      • Dougscamo

        Waited late last night to see a comment from you….and not a dang word about James R’s attire….#disappointed…

        • iksnilol

          What is there to be said, comrade?

          Birds fly, fish swim and James wears tight shirts.

          • DW

            Tight shirts=tight groups

          • iksnilol

            which again equals tight pants 😉

  • datimes

    Of all his ‘credits’ listed above I’m the most curious about Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition, 2014. I spend a lot of time in KW and I will investigate this.

    • datimes

      It was a “Hot Time” at the 20th Annual Schooner Wharf Cinco de Mayo Celebration.
      Thank you to all the participants – Well Done!

      Cinco de Mayo Contest Winners – 2014

      Taco Eating Competition
      Male Taco Eating Champion – James “The Lawyer” Reeves 00:01:22
      Female Taco Eating Champion – Nicole Matangos 00:01:48
      Honorable Mention – Amanda Witt
      That was too easy.

    • RealitiCzech

      Investigate it fully. We will not abide stolen taco eating valor.

  • Dave

    Am I the only one who noticed he started the movie calling himself James Gay?

  • Keith Denigan

    I’d spend $350 on a Howa Mini action 223 and probably outshoot both…

  • Don Ward

    Don’t have the time to watch this at the moment. But being a James Reeves video, I assume his experiment is analogous to hiring one expensive call girl versus resorting to ten cheap hookers at a truck stop.

    • SPQR9

      You say that like there is something wrong with that …

      • Don Ward

        I’m not afraid to push the limits of science!

    • Beju

      Do you think that he can find 10 Louisiana lot lizards at one single stop?

      • sauerquint

        If you get 10 together you might have a full set of teeth

    • Matt Taylor

      Stand back boys, I shall volunteer for this analogous study!

  • Kyle v

    It should be considered that the ruger was purposed designed for longer, heavier projectiles. It was designed for handloaders using 75-85gr projectiles. It has a long enough barrel to keep decent velocity for the case capacity and the proper twist rate

    • Kyle Vanwinkle

      As well as a magazine built for longer cartridge over all length

  • jerry young

    The saying you get what you pay for comes to mind and not always does more expensive mean better, My son paid $1800 for his name brand AR and I built my first one with a basic parts kit for just under $500, They both shoot equally as well at 100 yards and look nearly identical with minor differences, while I don’t have a .223 bolt action rifle to compare them to I can shoot a tighter group with my AR at 100 yards than with my 30-06 bolt action

  • Klaus Von Schmitto

    Move things out to 500 meters and see what 900 dollars buys you.

  • Treyh007

    Caution** Land Cruisers down range! I saw these rifles a couple places last week for under $1100.

  • Haulin’ Oats

    Consumer reports does things the same way and regularly turn down free cars and other expensive goods so they can buy their own at random from any dealer usa like you or I. This helps to keep the integrity of their results very high.

  • RogUinta

    Testing for accuracy using garbage ammo off a lead sled sitting on a flimsy card table. Good luck to ya.

  • Jim Jones

    While the Ruger Precision Rifle is a nice gun, it is definitely not by any stretch of the imagination, a high end bold gun. This is a cool comparison none the less.

  • MisterTheory

    I am struggling with the validity of this comparison. Seems like they should both be factory built firearms and 100 yards is like having a sweet performance car stuck in first gear.