There has been more innovation surrounding rifle chassis and stocks in the past 5 years than any other component of precision shooting! A large part of that was driven by competition and R&D for military contracts, like the Precision Sniper Rifle contract, but now the precision rifle community is benefiting from the hard work companies continue to put in that direction. It’s an exciting time to be shooting precision rifles! It seems like cool new chassis come out every year, and 2015 was no exception.
I recently surveyed the top 100 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this post reviews the rifle chassis and stocks those elite shooters were using in 2015. The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically from 300 to 1200 yards. These world-class shooters represent the best of the best in terms of long-range shooting in field conditions. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view what other gear they’re running scroll to the bottom of this article.
Best Rifle Chassis & Stocks
Here are the chassis and stocks the top 100 competitors were running this year. These are grouped by where each shooter finished overall. For example, if they finished in the top 10 then you’ll see a black bar. If they finished between 11 and 20, that is represented by a dark blue bar, etc. Essentially the darker the bar, the higher up the shooters finished that are included in that bar.
Manners Stocks were the most popular for the 2nd year in a row … and this year by a really wide margin. Up until last year, McMillan’s fiberglass stocks were the most popular. In 2014, Manners edged them out, but it was pretty even. But in 2015, you can see Manners took a pretty commanding lead. There were twice as many people using Manners stocks as any other brand. About 1/3 of the shooters in the top 100 were using Manners stocks, and almost 40% of the shooters in the top 50 were using Manners stocks.
Of the shooters using Manners stocks, 42% were using one of Manners new Elite Tactical models featuring a 100% aircraft grade carbon fiber shell. I used one of those on my precision rifle build last year, and you can read my review for more details on that carbon fiber stock. The other competitors were using Manner’s traditional shells, which are made with 35% carbon fiber and 65% fiberglass in multiple layers. They are hand laid with high temperature epoxy resins, placed under a vacuum, and heat cured to get the perfect resin to fabric weight ratio.
Manners even makes a folding stock, and 3 shooters were using one of their folding models. Here is a look at the Manners Elite Tactical Folder that I built a precision rifle on last year. It features the 100% carbon fiber shell. You can read the full review for more details on this stock.
McMillan Tactical Stock
McMillan stocks hung on to the #2 spot, with a very respectable representation. 67% of the shooters were using the popular McMillan A5 Stock, including one shooter in the top 10. But there were 2 other McMillan stocks represented in the top 10:
- McMillan A3-5 Stock – This is a combination of the A3 and the A5 stocks. According to McMillan, the lightweight A-3 stock is “the most widely used field sniper stock available.” The A3-5 is the same lightweight stock, with the addition of an A-5 style butt hook. I’ve weighed McMillan short action stocks in both A5 and A3-5, and the A3-5 was almost 1 pound lighter. Compared to the A5, the A3-5 has a slimmer forend, which shaves some weight. But, I was talking to Jim See (placed 6th overall in 2015) about stocks, and he shared one reason he prefers the A5 design is because the wide beavertail forend happens to be about the same width as a 56mm objective lens on a scope. So if he is shooting off a barricade or out a window, he can hold the forend and scope against the side of the window or barricade, and because the stock and scope are the same width … his rifle will be level (if what he’s bracing against is level). Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have ever thought about a little detail like that. I guess that’s why Jim has finished among the top 20 every year … and not me!
- McMillan Baker Special Stock – The Baker Special was designed by high power shooter Billie Baker. It includes with an adjustable cheek rest, but is only available with a blind magazine. There are options for a 2-way or 3-way buttplate and a forend rail.
There was also one shooter in the top 100 who was using a McMillan A4 Stock. Here is a look at all 4 of the McMillan stocks represented in the top 100:
There were also a large number of Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS) represented among the top shooters this year. Most of the shooters were running the legendary AICS Classic chassis. I noticed in photos from some of the PRS matches that a couple of the shooters were running the AICS Classis chassis with Victor Company’s ViperSkins. Because the AI is a chassis design with plastic stock sides, the Viper Skins replace the factory stock sides with some that are more modern like the AT & AX designs. If you’d like to see more details on the Victor Company Viper Skins, check out a full review I did on ViperSkins.
Manners, McMillan, and Accuracy International made up 67% of the stocks and chassis used by the top 100 shooters. The rest of the shooters were spread across a range of stocks and chassis. These other designs are also very capable, and have a lot of compelling and innovative features. Here is a quick review of the other stocks and chassis represented among the top 100 shooters:
J. Allen JAE-700 Stock
6 shooters in the top 100 were using stock from J. Allen, including one shooter in the top 20 and 2 more in the top 50. Their most popular model is the JAE-700, which is pictured below.
5 shooters were using an XLR chassis, including 2 in the top 10! 4 of the 5 were running the XLR Element chassis, and 1 shooter was running the XLR Carbon chassis. The 2 in the top 10 were both using the XLR Element chassis.
5 shooters were using the KMW Sentinel Combat Stock, including 2 shooters in the top 50.
McRees Precision Stock
3 shooters were using a McRees Precision Stock. 1 shooters said they were using the McRees Precision G7 Rifle Stock, 1 shooter indicated they were using a G5 side folding model, and one shooter said they were using “Gen4,” which may have been a previous version of this stock.
Desert Tech SRS-A1 Chassis
2 shooters were using the Desert Tech DTA SRS-A1 Chassis, which features a compact, bullpup design. 1 of the shooters finished in the top 20 and the other finished in the top 50.
KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis
2 shooters were running the KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis by the Kinetic Research Group, including one shooter in the top 50.
Rock Solid Stock
2 shooters were running the Rock Solid Stock, including one shooter in the top 50.
JP AMCS Chassis
1 shooter was running the JP Advanced Modular Chassis System (AMCS) from JP Enterprises, and he finished in the top 50.
Ashbury Precision Chassis
1 shooter was running the Ashbury Precision SABER-FORSST Modular Rifle Chassis System. This is a pretty interesting chassis, which I hadn’t seen before this year. It is a modular, folding chassis with a ton of features and options.
Kelbly KTS Stock
1 shooter was running the Kelbly KTS stock.
Masterpiece Arms BA Chassis
1 shooter was using the Masterpiece Arms BA Chassis, which was another very cool chassis that I hadn’t seen until this year. Man, it’s a fun time to be a precision rifle shooter!
Folding Chassis & Folding Stocks
Many of these chassis and stocks have options for either folding or a fixed stock. So I was interested to know how many guys opted to use a folding design. I suspected most were running fixed stocks, but the results were interesting.
There was not a single shooter in the top 10 using a folding stock, and only 2 shooters in the top 20 had folding stocks. But outside of the top 20, folding chassis and stocks were far more popular with 1 in 3 shooters using them. I’m not implying some shooters didn’t place in the top 10 because they were using a folding stock, but this is an interesting correlation.
I can appreciate the convenience of a folding stock, and personally own a Manner’s folder and an Accuracy International folder. But I realize most of benefit of the folding feature is convenience during transport and cleaning, and it doesn’t provide tangible benefits while shooting in the field. The metal hinge in a folding stock will always add weight compared to their non-folding counterparts, and that could make maneuvering and off-hand shots slightly more difficult. Folding stocks also cost more than fixed stocks. All of these factors likely play into why fixed, non-folding stocks and chassis are more popular among these top PRS shooters.
Other “What The Pros Use” Articles
This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:
- Calibers & Cartridges
- Scopes & Reticles
- Rifle Actions
- Rifle Chassis & Stocks
- Rifle Suppressors & Muzzle Brakes
- Shooting Bags
- Bullets, Brass, Primers & Powders
- Special Bonus Post!
Meet The Pros
You know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.
The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. These matches aren’t shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and even some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from hard to you-have-to-be-kidding-me. You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting to comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each PRS match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. You might start off the day with a single cold bore shot on a small target at 400 yards, then at the next stage make a 1400 yard shot through 3 distinct winds across a canyon, then try to hit a golf ball on a string at 164 yards with no backstop to help you spot misses (can’t make that up), then see how many times you can ring an small 6” target at 1000 yards in 30 seconds, next shoot off a roof top at 10”, 8”, and 6” targets at 600 yards, followed by a speed drill on 1” targets at 200 yards and repeated at 7 yards … plus 10 other stages, and then come back tomorrow and do some more! Many stages involve some type of gaming strategy, and physical fitness can also come into play. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.
There are about 15 national-level PRS matches each year. At the end of the year the match scores are evaluated and the top ranked shooters are invited to compete head-to-head in the PRS Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the championship, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 100 shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision, Jim See of Center Shot Rifles, Matt Parry of Parry Custom Gun, Aaron Roberts of Roberts Precision Rifles, shooters from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other world-class shooters.
Think of the best shooter you know … it’s actually very unlikely that person is good enough to break into the top 100. I know I’m not! I competed against a few of these guys for the first time earlier this year, and I was humbled. It’s incredible what these guys can do with a rifle. For example, the match in Oklahoma I was in had a station that required you to engage 4 steel targets scattered at random distances from 300 to 800 yards, and you only had 15 seconds! I think I hit 2, and rushed my 3rd shot. I didn’t even get the 4th shot off! But, one of these guys cleaned that stage with 4 seconds to spare! Yep, he got 4 rounds on target at distance in 11 seconds. That’s the caliber of shooter we’re talking about. It’s very different from benchrest or F-class competitions, but make no mistake … these guys are serious marksmen.