This past week I was fortunate to attend a long-range shooting clinic at the JL Bar Ranch in central Texas. It was a writer’s event, so myself and about five other gun writers were all shooting the same rig, and what a rig it was:
- Sabatti STR chassis rifle. MSRP $2,495.00
- Trijicon’s brand new AccuPower 4.5-30×56 First Focal Plane (FFP) Long Range Riflescope w/ Red/Green MOA Crosshair Reticle, 34mm Tube. MSRP $2,675.00
- Hornady Match Ammunition 6.5 Creedmoor 140 Grain ELD
- Atlas BT46-LW17 PSR Bipod
- Hornady’s Ballistic App
- Various spotting scopes, including a Maven S1A
I had shot out to 1,000 yards once before, but this was the first time I really did all the work, myself, to make the shot — from zeroing the rifle to dialing in the proper elevation for each shot. I even got to practice estimating windage, though I did have a more experienced spotter behind me doing that most of the time.
I’m fairly new to long range shooting, so fortunately I didn’t have any bad habits to unlearn. The recoil and report from the 6.5 round in combination with the rifle’s muzzle brake, were mild enough that flinching wasn’t ever an issue, so as long as I stayed focused and relaxed, my groups stayed well under 1MOA. As a newb, I was grateful for the classroom time that preceded the range time. I’m also grateful that the Sabatti STR turned out to be a 1/4 MOA gun or better, because it made me feel like a shooting prodigy.
When I moved out to the 300-yard target for the first time on day 2, my opening shot landed just a hair to the right of the bullseye. My second shot landed a few inches above the bullseye. Then I started paying better attention to my trigger control, and just shot at those two bullet holes to make two tiny groups. I was able to stack two more bullets into the top hole, and one more into the bottom hole. The spotter was trying to count up the hits and was confused because some seemed to be missing from from the paper entirely, and I was like, “no, two more went into that top hole, and there’s another in the bottom hole. I’ve been shooting at those two holes instead of at the bullseye. Was I supposed to only shoot at the bullseye?” Again, this is at 300 yards. Insanity.
Anyway, here’s a brief look at some of the gear and how it performed.
Trijicon’s new 4.5-30 FFP Scope
This glass is Trijicon’s first serious entry into the long-range precision shooting market, and it’s a very good one. There are 50X and second focal plane versions of this scope, as well, but I opted for the 30X FFP flavor.
Being new to this sport, I don’t have the context that some of the other shooters on the line have, so I can’t compare this glass to Swarovski, Schmidt & Bender, or some of the other faves. I shoot Leupold glass, but nothing stronger than 8X. The new Maven RS1 scope I used on a recent hunt is 2.5-15X, so again not comparable in terms of magnification.
Still, I found it very, very easy to stay focused on the reticle and keep my hits on the steel even out to 1,000 yards. Once I got dialed in at a specific range, it was back-to-back hits, and then I’d move out 100 yards. Of course, it helps to have a 20-year Navy SEAL veteran and seasoned marksmanship instructor behind you making wind calls.
The reticle is illuminated, and you can switch to either red or green illumination. I didn’t use that feature, though I did play around with a little.
We did some ranging drills where we used the reticle instead of the elevation nobs, and it was dead-on. No complaints, there. In fact, as a casual user of a Horus 27D reticle on my main scope, I’m a big fan of the busier “Christmas tree”-style reticles, so I felt at home with the Trijicon MOA reticle.
The elevation knob’s clicks were positive and easy to track — I had no problems dialing whatever firing solution the Hornady app spit out.
Zeroing and setting the zero stop were also straightforward. The outer shell of the knob with the windage marks is removable, so once you get it zeroed at 100 yards you remove it and then put it back on so that the 0 on the dial is over the home hash mark.
You can also set a zero stop by using an allen wrench to loosen three small set screws on a small plate. This was pretty straightforward, I did it without incident.
Once the scope was zeroed an the stop was set, we’d dial in a firing solution in the Hornady app and go to work.
I found the glass quality to be outstanding, and I could easily see mirage through the scope and determine wind direction and speed. The instructor remarked that this was the first time he’d seen mirage this clearly through a rifle scope.
Throughout the course of the clinic we all gave these scopes a solid workout the way they were meant to be used. I didn’t hear any complaints about them, either on the range or off it. In all, the reception was very positive, and I was certainly impressed, myself. You get the legendary Trijicon durability and glass quality, in a capable long-range shooting package. What’s not to like?
- Extra Low Dispersion glass delivers true colors for exceptional target definition
- Fully multi-coated broadband anti-reflective optics virtually eliminate glare and loss of light
- 56mm objective lens for outstanding light transmission even in
- low-light conditions
- Precise tracking with crisp 0.25 MOA per click adjustments
- Exposed 100 MOA elevation adjustment range with Return to Zero and 50 MOA capped windage adjustment range with optional Windage Restrictor
- Upgraded illumination control with 5 red and 5 green
- user-selectable brightness settings
- Smooth, controlled magnification with repositionable magnification lever that accommodates multiple platforms and firing positions
- Rugged, aircraft-quality, hard-anodized 34mm aluminum body offers all-weather protection
- Intuitive first focal plane hold-over reticle designed for long-range precision makes target holds or dialing fast and easy
- Subtensions remain constant throughout magnification
- Illuminated open center dot for pinpoint target placement
- at high magnification
- Wind hold dot system for acquisition of moving targets and
- follow-up shot corrections
- Alternating stadia heights provide quick target ranging
Sabatti STR Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor
I’ve already raved about the rifle, above, so before I go on I’ll get my complaints about it out of the way–they’re really less “complaints” than “I wish it had this” type comments.
My first issue is that this particular gun has a single-stage match trigger, but I’m used to a two-stage trigger. (I run a Geissle High Speed DMR trigger in my .308 AR… I know, I know… it’s too operator for a guy who just shoots in his back yard. Leave me alone and let me waste my money however I like.)
I have a really great Timney single-stage trigger in my own 6.5CM gun, a Remington 700 Magpul Edition, and I take that on hunts, so it’s not like this is a deal-breaker. The Sabatti’s stock trigger compares well to the Timney; I wouldn’t replace it with anything but a two-stage. But still, when I’m shooting with a really light single-stage I have to focus more deliberately on trigger control, so I’d like to be able to put a two-stage in there and try that.
Sabatti apparently has a two-stage trigger option on their Desert variant of this gun… which, *drool* by the way. My new mission in life is to get that trigger in the gun I’ve got for T&E.
My second issue is really minor. The bolt throw lever has a large, knurled knob on it, and the knuckle of my trigger finger tends to rest against that when I’m shooting. This was a mild annoyance and discomfort, and probably not something that will bother most people. (I have large hands.)
My third and final issue is that I’d like a shorter barrel option. This gun comes with a heavy profile 26″ barrel, which is good for a bench rest gun that you’re trying to push out past 1000 yards. But by the time you throw a suppressor on it, you’re swinging a looong shootin’ iron. I can imagine that the combination of weight and length would be difficult to manage in an urban tactical or competition environment.
The stock folds, and this helps manage length a little, but pairing that folding stock with a ~18″ or even shorter barrel would make for a nice compact sniper rifle. My main point is that STR’s current configuration is a great start, but Sabatti needs to offer more barrel length options to really entice the American market. A 26″ barrel may be all that European bench rest shooters need, but over here we like flexibility and options.
Now, back to the good stuff. In fact, I’ll start with the cold hammer forged barrel, which, aside from being long and heavy, is very good. The accuracy speaks for itself, but Sabatti’s big selling point here is Multi-Radial Rifling, which TFB has done a piece on but which I still don’t quite understand the mechanics of.
IFG explained to us that traditional rifling engraves the bullet as it passes through the barrel, so that if you capture an intact bullet and study it, you can see the rifling marks in a pattern on the side. MRR, in contrast, sort of swages the bullet. It shapes it by compression without the engraving, so there’s less friction and wear.
One this means on a practical level is that the barrels don’t wear out nearly as fast as regular barrels, even for rounds like 6.5CM that usually have shorter barrel lives. They told us that the Sabatti pro shooting team has never changed the barrel on a rifle, and they’ve been shooting them in practice and competition since 2011.
When I heard that detail, my prepper ears perked up, and I thought, “I’m going to do a SHTF build based on one of their guns for AllOutdoor.com.” So look for that, eventually.
The rifle’s chassis is all aluminum, so it feels very sturdy. The Picatinny quad rails are all chamfered a bit, which is a nice touch. And the cheek riser and length of pull are easily adjustable.
The all-aluminum chassis also adds some weight, and it’s about 12 or 13 lbs without a scope or bipod.
The gun takes a short-action AICS mag, but the bolt itself is actually long action (despite the short action round). This was supposedly done for some reliability reasons. I don’t have much more detail on that decision, though.
In summary, the Sabatti STR is a shooter. It’s easy to set up and adjust, and many of us on the line — myself included — were routinely seeing some 1/4 MOA groups from these guns.
I have the rifle in for T&E, so I’ll write more about it when I get back out to a real range. My home range is 200 yards max, so there’s almost no point in running it, there, other than to maybe investigate how it does with different ammo types. But with good ammo, like the Hornady ELD we ran, shooting this gun at anything under 500 is just not much of a challenge, so I need find someplace where I can really stretch it out.
Other Gear and Conclusions
The Atlas bipod was great; everybody loves it, so there’s not much to say, there. I wanted to pick up the new KAC bipod, but I didn’t give myself enough time to have it shipped so I bought the Atlas at my LGS and brought it along, instead.
I actually sold one of the Maven S1A spotting scopes (I should charge them a commission, but they don’t do middlemen). At one point, somebody spotted me for a few hours with that scope, and was impressed enough that he said he was going to order one. I thought it was great, myself, but it’s kind of nuts that the spotting scope doesn’t go out any further than the rifle optic (i.e. 30X). It was very clear, and very easy to track hits with. (It also works great as a mini-telescope for looking at the moon, or for bird watching.)
The Hornady App was great, but I will say that I had some responsiveness problems and a few crashes on my new iPhone X. I was the only one who had any problems with it, so maybe it’s just my phone. I found it to be very user-friendly and very accurate for Hornady loads.
As for the ammo itself, the Sabatti shot it very well, as I’ve described above. I have some equivalent Barnes match ammo here at the house, so when I get the chance to run this rifle again at 500+ yards I’m going to see which it likes better.
Ultimately, I had a fantastic time at the clinic and the ranch. I learned a ton, shot the best groups of my life at the longest ranges of my life, and got introduced to a new sport, some great new glass, and a new rifle that wasn’t even on my radar before this trip.