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Accuracy International AI AXSR Review

Accuracy International AXSR Review

Earlier this year, I started planning what I might shoot in the Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge rifle match that is held each year up in Wyoming. The past two years I competed in that match I used a 300 Norma Mag built on a Surgeon XL action in AIAX chassis. In a conversation with Scott Seigmund from Accuracy International, he asked if I’d be interested in testing their new AXSR rifle. The AI AXSR is the commercial version of the rifle they developed for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) contract for USSOCOM. While I have owned custom rifles in Accuracy International chassis, I’d never spent much time behind one of their complete rifles. I had checked out the ASR rifle at SHOT Show earlier this year, and after learning a little more about it, my interest was piqued.

Scott asked me what I’d like the rifle chambered in, and while I had considered trying another cartridge, now that Lapua makes 300 Norma Mag brass, I was compelled to stay on that horse and see what kind of improvement I might get going from Norma to Lapua brass. I received the rifle from AI in early May, which gave me about six weeks to develop a load and get comfortable behind the rifle before the Wyoming ELR match.

300 Win Mag vs 300 Norma Mag vs 338 Lapua Mag

I ended up placing 4th overall at the Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge in Wyoming using the AI AXSR rifle. Jorge Ortiz took 1st place this year and he was also shooting an AI AXSR rifle chambered in 300 Norma Mag. In this post, I’ll share some highlights about the rifle, and give an honest perspective of both the strengths and weaknesses.

Accuracy International AXSR Rifle Specs

Let’s start with some specs for the Accuracy International AXSR rifle I tested:

  • Cartridge: 300 Norma Mag.
  • Action/Bolt: AI design, front locking, 6 lugs, 60-degree throw, 6mm striker fall
  • Barrel: 27-inch single-point, cut-rifled, match-grade barrel with 1:8.5 twist rate in Accuracy International’s custom contour, which was 0.98” at the muzzle (easily removable using AI’s QuickLoc barrel clamp system)
  • Chassis:
    • Folds bolt-side
    • Cheekpiece adjustable for height, lateral, and forward/backward
    • Butt adjustable for length of pull, height, and rotation
    • Optics Rail: Picatinny with 20 MOA of taper/cant built-in
    • Rail Interface: RRS compatible 1.5″ dovetail interfaces
    • Attachment interfaces: Available with keylock/keymod or M-LOK (more on this later)
    • Flush cup sling points
  • Trigger: Two-Stage competition model with a pull weight of 2 lbs. 7 oz.
  • Muzzle Brake: American Precision Arms Fat B*
  • Magazine: 10-round, true double-stack, detachable box magazine
  • Length: 51.0 inches unfolded, 41.5 inches folded (includes muzzle brake)
  • Weight:
    • 16.02 lbs. for the bare rifle with muzzle brake and empty magazine (no optics, bipod, etc.)
    • 21.75 lbs. fully loaded with scope and mount, bipod, bubble level, dope cardholder, and empty mag
Accuracy International AXSR 300 Norma Mag
AI AXSR 300 Norma Rifle
Dope Card and Electronic Rifle Bubble Level on AI AXSR Rifle
Atlas 5-H Bipod on AI Rifle

Here is what I added to the rifle:

With the ERA-TAC adjustable mount dialed to 40 MOA of incline plus the 20 MOA of taper/cant built into the rail on the AI AXSR rifle, I had a total of 60 MOA of downward taper. That paired perfectly with the Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 scope and made it so almost 100% of the scopes internal elevation adjustment was useable. Only 1.7 mils of travel were “below” my 100-yard zero, which allowed me to dial up to 35.9 mils of elevation adjustment. With the ammo I used and atmospherics at the Wyoming match, that would allow me to dial all the way out to 2900 yards! (Note: If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about here, check out this post that explains it in more detail.)

Of course, the cool thing about the ERA-TAC Adjustable Inclination Mount is that I could change the amount of taper/cant in the mount from in 10 MOA increments from 0 to 60 MOA. So if I needed to be able to dial beyond 2900 yards, I could add another 20 MOA to the mount for a total of 80 MOA (including the 20 MOA in the AXSR rail) and then change to a 1000-yard zero and be able to stretch beyond 3000 yards before I had to start holding any of my elevation adjustment.

AXSR Rifle Design & Testing

The AXSR is simply the commercial version of the rifle that Accuracy International submitted for the coveted Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program for USSOCOM. That program provided an exhaustive list of specifications and tests the rifle must endure to be considered for the contract. I was able to review the complete (but confidential) report Accuracy International submitted to USSOCOM itemizing each of the specs and details showing how their rifle either meets or exceeds their requirements.

While Accuracy International has a team of talented, in-house engineers, for the ASR solicitation they also teamed up with a highly respected, third-party engineering firm here in the U.S. that included some of the most experienced and serious engineers in the world when it came to rifle testing. Members of that group also had extensive experience with the unique requirements of a USSOCOM solicitation. This third-party firm helped with the chassis design, and performed much of the rigorous testing required for the ASR project.

Luckily, Accuracy International did give me permission to share a few photos to help you understand some of the extreme tests the rifle was put through during their product development and testing.

Testing after being submerged in mud, subjected to excessive ice build-up, and blasted with dust:

Testing AI ASR rifle in mud, ice and extreme dust

Testing at extreme temperatures, heating the rifle and ammunition to over 160° F (71° C) and freezing them at -40° F (-40° C … yes, those are the same):

Testing AI ASR rifle in extreme temperatures

Fired for 10,000+ rounds and inspecting for surface wear:

Testing AI rifle wear over 10,000+ rounds

They also did things like testing for corrosion after exposing the rifle to a salt fog for an extended period, they dropped the rifle from a height of 1.5 meters (5 feet), and a ton of other abusive tests! Below is one final photo to illustrate how unconventional some of the tests got. This test shows the sling and mounts will support at least 250 pounds!

Testing AI AXSR rifle sling and mount support weight

All of this testing gave me so much confidence in the reliability of the AI AXSR rifle system that I didn’t even pack a backup rifle when I traveled 800+ miles to compete in the Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge in Wyoming. Clearly, this rifle had been put through the paces!

My Load & Rifle Performance

Before Accuracy International shipped me the rifle, they took the exact rifle I tested to see what kind of groups it shot and then sent me the photos below and this message: “These are the initial test groups from the barrel. I think it’s going to be a good one. I leaked one shot on the second group, but it’s still a 0.350” group.”

300 Norma Mag ASR Berger 215 Hybrid Group Size

Wow! Honestly, I’ve shot out a couple of 300 Norma barrels on my custom rifle that were chambered by one of the most respected gunsmiths in the country, but I’ve never seen groups like that. I was excited to get my hands on this rifle!

You can see in the photo above, the guys at Accuracy International shot those groups with ammo loaded by Black Hills for the “ASR Program.” The ammo uses the 215 gr. Berger OTM Hybrid bullet, which is a fantastic bullet. I used that exact bullet out of my 300 Norma the past two times I competed in the Wyoming ELR match, but after doing some ballistic comparison with the new Hornady 230 gr. A-Tip, I was excited to give the A-Tip’s a shot. Here is what I found:

Berger 215 Hybrid vs Hornady 230 A-Tip

At least on paper, the Hornady 230 gr. A-Tip seemed to be a 15-20% improvement ballistically. The muzzle velocity I used for the 215 Hybrid was based on the real load I used in the past, and the 2930 fps with the 230 gr. A-Tip was estimated to have roughly equivalent chamber pressure. I calculated that by duplicating the energy at the muzzle from the 215 Hybrid load, which is a way to estimate what the muzzle velocity might be of a bullet with a different weight. I ran the ballistics for the 215 gr. load and wrote down what the energy was at the muzzle, and then I ran the ballistics for the 230 gr. bullet and simply tweaked the muzzle velocity until it was very close to the same at the muzzle as what I wrote down for the 215 gr. load. It turns out the real load with the 230 gr. A-Tip turned out to have a very similar velocity to this estimate, so it is a valid, apples-to-apples comparison.

300 Norma Mag Lapua Cases and Hornady 230 gr. A-Tip

Muzzle Velocity Consistency

As I said mentioned, the fact that Lapua released brass for the 300 Norma Mag is the primary reason I chose to run that cartridge again in the Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge this year. In past years I used Norma brass, and I never could get my muzzle velocity as consistent as I would like.

Now, I know guys who fixate on tiny standard deviations (SD’s) in muzzle velocity in traditional PRS/NRL style matches, and a few even want their SD’s in the 4-7 fps range (which would roughly equate to an ES around 15-35 fps). While I’d love that, I’m not sure it’s necessary for PRS/NRL matches. With 1.5-2.0 MOA target sizes inside of 1000 yards, higher SD’s typically wouldn’t result in a miss. Don’t get me wrong, more consistent muzzle velocity is always better – but you reach the point of diminishing returns in traditional long-range matches pretty quickly. However, as you extend your distance into 1400+ yards and your bullet’s time of flight extends, the consistency of your muzzle velocity starts to become critical for first-round hits.

While I was using Norma brass for my 300 Norma, I could never find a load that produced SD’s in the single digits (when firing a string of 10 shots or more). I would usually see 10-13 fps SD’s, which means 95% of my shots would be within 20-26 fps of my average muzzle velocity. If my average muzzle velocity with the 215 Hybrids was 3070 fps and my SD was 12 fps, I could expect over the long haul that 95% of my bullets would leave the muzzle between 3046 and 3094 fps. Okay, that may sound academic, so what does that mean on a target at 1600 yards?

Impact of Muzzle Velocity SD on Hit Probability At Long Range

The graphic above is taken from the Weapon Employment Zone (WEZ) Analysis in the Applied Ballistics Analytics software package. It simulates hundreds of shots fired with all the various uncertainties that play into shot placement at long range. I ran the analysis on the left with a 12 fps SD and the simulation on the right with a 7 fps SD. All things being equal, this analysis predicts your hit probability would go up 8-9% due to the smaller SD, and while that may sound small, it represents a 20% improvement! You can see the vertical spread of the shots on the left is much larger, and that is simply due to the less consistent muzzle velocity. Faster shots will hit high, and bullets that leave the muzzle with slower velocities will hit lower.

In my experience, Lapua brass is the most consistent on the market, and straight out of the box it will typically produce lower SD’s than any other brand. To be clear, I’m not a fan-boy of any brand, but that is simply my experience over the past decade. And that proved true once again here! Once I received the rifle from AI, I only had six weeks before the match, so I performed what I consider “quick and dirty” load development with the Hornady 230 gr. A-Tip. The AI barrel only had 40 rounds on it when I received it, and I suspected the muzzle velocity would continue to speed up over the first 100-200 rounds before it settled in and became more consistent. I didn’t want to spend a ton of time fine-tuning a load, knowing my muzzle velocity would be changing for a while, so I figured I’d just find a load that was safe and provided decent performance that I could practice with, and then I could come back and fine-tune my load before the match and the barrel would be seasoned by that point. I’ve also learned the hard way to not spend too much time fine-tuning a load for a new bullet before you try it at distance. 😉

After firing around 40 rounds with various powder charge weights, I ended up settling on 84.5 gr. of Hodgdon H1000. I use one of the Hodgdon Extreme Series powders for most of my loads because it isn’t sensitive to temperature changes and has been a consistent performer for me. Honestly, I use either H4350 or H1000 for 90% of the loads I run in my rifles from 6mm to 338 caliber. The average muzzle velocity of the 84.5 gr. of H1000 after the first 80 rounds on the barrel was 2927 fps, which was VERY similar to the 2930 I originally estimated and used for the ballistic comparison above. According to QuickLOAD, this put me right at the top end of the range for safe pressures, but still inside it. I started off jumping the bullet 0.100” to the lands because I knew the rifling would erode over the first 100-200 rounds, and I wanted to minimize the impact that might have on my group size. I figured I’d go back and test a few bullet jumps when I came back to fine-tune my load before the match.

After that, I loaded up 50 rounds to shoot long. I started around 600 yards and stepped out the distance. I was using the Kestrel with Hornady 4DOF, and honestly, the predictive ballistics lined up fairly well before any truing. I simply had to change the Axial Form Factor from 1.00 to 1.06 to get the ballistic engine to line up with my actual impacts all the way out. And when I say “all the way out,” I really mean it! What the Kestrel called for at all distances from 600 yards to over 2000 yards was within 1 click (0.1 mils) of my actual impacts in the field! I hadn’t used the Kestrel with Hornady 4DOF much before this, but that was the simplest truing experience I have ever had. I tested it on multiple days in a variety of conditions, and it has been dead nuts on ever since I tweaked that Axial Form Factor.

At my range, we have a large 5 ft. tall x 6 ft. wide target at 1622 yards that we use for truing. During my first range long range session, I fired 9 shots that day at the 1622 yard target and 5 of those were touching! Those 5 shots are tough to differentiate in the photo of the target below, but it’s the cluster right in the center (may need to zoom in).

9 Shots with 230 gr A-Tip Bullets from AI AXSR 300 Norma Mag

At the end of that range session, my muzzle velocity had increased to an average of 2937 fps. Over the next 100 rounds, my average muzzle velocity climbed to 2945 fps and seemed to settle in there. I had 300 pieces of brand new Lapua brass that I wanted to shoot through at least once before the match. During one of my range practice sessions, while I was still shooting through the new Lapua brass, I recorded the string shown below of 36 consecutive shots over my LabRadar – and it had a standard deviation (SD) of just 5.5 fps! I’ve never seen or heard of something that low over such a large sample size. (Note: If you measure SD using less than 10 shots, you should know: “For small samples, standard deviation will almost always underestimate variation.” I hope to write more on that soon, but you can read more here.)

LabRadar Reading for 5.5 SD Ammo Over 36 Shots

For those that are naturally more skeptical (or cynical), I did record a video to prove I didn’t delete any shots from that string. It really was 36 consecutive shots. I was just as shocked as you at how consistent the 300 Norma load with minimal effort in load development was over that huge sample size. I did decide at that point, that “fine-tuning” my load might not be necessary. 😉

The only brass prep I did for that ammo was to sort the brass by weight, and I ended up culling around 5-7 pieces that were outliers from each box of 100 pieces. I also ran a neck expander mandrel through each piece of brand new Lapua brass. I used a K & M Precision Custom Diameter Expand Mandrel for 0.003” of bullet tension to ensure each case had consistent neck tension. I did load the ammo using a Prometheus powder scale, which always helps.

Testing Bullet Jump & Group Sizes

I did go back and try a couple of different bullet jump lengths to see if I could coax slightly smaller groups from the barrel. I was averaging around 0.7 MOA groups during my original load development, but long, boattail bullets like the 230 gr. A-Tip typically aren’t known for printing tiny groups. That’s why short-range Benchrest shooters use flat-base bullets (and slow-twist barrels). I started by testing 3 dramatically different bullet jumps: 0.030” into the lands, 0.050” off the lands, and 0.100” off the lands. I measured the distance to the lands using Mark Gordon’s super-precise and repeatable method. I figured one or two of those might far out-perform one or two of them, and that would give me direction on what range to do further testing. I started with a 7-shot group of each of the three bullet jumps, but I brought everything to the range with me to do follow-up tests on a smaller range of bullet jumps after those initial groups. Here is what I found:

Bullet Jump Test Groups 300 Norma Mag

I recently collaborated with the owner of Ballistic-X, a phone app designed to take a photo of a group and calculate the size of it (available for iOS or Android). I recommended a few advanced statistics to add to the group analysis, like mean radius (aka average distance to center), circular error probable (CEP), radial SD, etc. Unlike ES, these metrics take all shots in the group into consideration and should allow you to have more confidence in the results. The software already had all the data needed to do the calculations, so it was just a matter of programming the formulas and displaying the results. I believe the revised version of the app with these features will be released soon (potentially with some other very cool features I’m excited about). The graphics above were based on a test version of the app we were working on, and I used it to do the advanced group analysis. I plugged the stats from the groups above into Excel and charted them side-by-side to see which bullet jumps stood out:

Bullet Jump Group Size Statistics

None of them stood out! The stats for all three bullet jumps were virtually identical, no matter which metric you looked at. I believe the stats that are most meaningful for making these kinds of decisions are mean radius or CEP, but the differences were so slight that I believe they’re “in the noise” based on the 7-shot sample size.

While a 0.7 MOA group size doesn’t sound impressive, that was over a 7-shot group. Most people fire 3 shots or maybe 5 shots, which results in smaller group sizes. I did a larger sample size so I could have higher confidence in the results. If I would have stopped at 3 or 5 shots, the groups would have measured much smaller – but may have given me a false sense of confidence. I’d encourage you to go take your 0.25 MOA rifle out and fire a couple of 7-shot groups with it. I bet they don’t average 0.25 MOA!

However, you should also understand what the other stats are saying and not just pay attention to the extreme spread. Circular Error Probable (CEP) is a GREAT stat because it tells you how big the circle would need to be for 50% of the shots to fall inside of it. In this case, the radius of that circle would be around 0.25 MOA, meaning 50% of the shots would fall inside of a 0.5 MOA group.

I also believe most people over-estimate the effect of group size at extreme long range. If you remember from my last article, the average target at the Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge in Wyoming was just 1 MOA tall (0.3 mils) – and I finished 4th overall at that match against some world-class shooters, so clearly I was able to connect with a lot of those targets, even though my 7-shot groups measured 0.7 MOA. (Learn more about the effect of group size on hit probability here: How much does group size matter?)

ShotMarker electronic target system at Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge in Wyoming 2020

In fact, at the Wyoming ELR match, they had a tie-breaker stage where each competitor fired one 3-shot group through a Shot Marker electronic target at 950 yards, and it would precisely measure the extreme spread of the group. While I was writing down my adjustments for elevation and windage on that stage, I measured the wind with my Kestrel to be blowing over 20 mph. My 3-shot group with the AI AXSR 300 Norma Mag and 230 gr. A-Tips measured just 4.23 inches at 950 yards in 20 mph winds! Only 14 of the 180+ competitors shot groups under 5 inches, so clearly my group sizes weren’t that bad! I had the 7th smallest group of all the shooters at the match. The average 3-shot group on that stage at the match was 11.7” at 950 yards. Chase “Pump” Stroud had the best 3-shot group, which measured 2.03 inches! I think he was shooting a 338 EnABLR, so that is especially impressive with a big magnum like that pushing 300 gr. bullets at 3,300 fps!

My Final Load Details

After the bullet jump test, I ended up sticking with the 0.100” bullet jump because it had already proven to have extremely consistent muzzle velocities and there didn’t appear to be any measurable advantage in terms of group size by changing it.

Interestingly, my muzzle velocity with once-fired brass ended up being slightly higher at 2968 fps and was slightly less consistent. Where I had an SD of 5.5 fps over that long 36 shot string with brand new Lapua brass, my SD with once-fired brass averaged 9 fps (over 20+ shot strings). I did anneal with an Annealing Made Perfect machine, full-length resize with Redding dies, and expand the neck using the same K & M mandrel between firings. While a 5.5 fps SD is awesome, I wasn’t too worried about that creeping up a little but still being in the single digits. Here is what my final load details were that I used for the Wyoming match:

  • Bullet: Hornady 230 gr. A-Tip (Litz BC’s: G1 = 0.821, G7 = 0.421)
  • Powder: 84.5 gr. of Hodgdon H1000
  • Primer: Federal 215M
  • Case: Lapua 300 Norma Mag Brass
  • Neck Tension: 0.003″ (using K&M Precision neck expander mandrel)
  • CBTO: 2.808″ Base to Ogive (for a 0.100″ bullet jump, COAL: 3.671″)
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2945 fps with new brass, 2968 fps with once-fired brass (from 27″ barrel)

I do feel like this load with the 230 gr. A-Tips gave me a competitive advantage, especially in the extreme 20-30+ mph winds we experienced at the Wyoming ELR match. On one stage, in particular, I remember during my stage prep writing down wind brackets of 20 and 25 mph, meaning I didn’t expect to need to hold for winds below 20 mph or above 25 mph (and it was a full-value wind from 9:00). On that stage, we were shooting steel targets in the shape of wolves at 1278-1478 yards. My 20 and 25 mph wind holds for the 1478 wolf was 3.4 and 4.2 mils respectively, which narrow enough that my entire bracket fit on the target, similar to the diagram below.

Bracketing Wind Hold On Long Range Target

I ended up cleaning this stage (i.e. made all first-round hits), but I remember at least one impact hit a wolf in the face (far left side) and one impact was in the butt (far right side), meaning I used my full bracket. But, what if instead of using a 300 Norma with those super-aerodynamic 230 gr. A-Tips I was shooting a 6.5 PRC with the Hornady 147 gr. ELDM? That was also a popular choice at this match. For that load and distance, the 20 and 25 mph wind holds would be 4.8 mils and 5.9 mils. So instead of the bracket being 0.8 mils wide, it would be 1.1 mils wide for the same wind. While that isn’t a huge difference when you try to center that larger bracket on the wolf’s body it doesn’t completely fit. It spills off either side, meaning if the wind is 21-24 mph you’d hit, but if it was 20 or 25 mph you’d likely miss. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs with all the uncertainties we deal with in those kinds of long-range shots, but I saw a ton of shooters miss BARELY off the edge of a target on the left or right side. But, the super-high BC of the 230 gr. A-Tips pushed near 3000 fps results in tighter brackets for the same wind and made my wind calls slightly more forgiving.

Now, some guys were using 338 and 375 caliber rifles with better ballistics than my 300 Norma, although few of those guys ended up placing well overall. Clearly, it takes more than good ballistics to win here. In the example above, if I would’ve called the wind at 22-27 mph instead of 20-25 mph, I would have likely missed at least two shots on that stage. But, I will say I was very happy with this 300 Norma load that I ended up bringing to the match, especially when the wind started howling.

My Thoughts On The AI AXSR Rifle: The Good & The Bad

I ended up firing almost 500 rounds from the AI AXSR over the couple of months that I had it, so I’d like to share with you guys a 100% honest review and full disclosure on what I loved about it and what I didn’t like.

Things I Loved

Overall Weight

First, I thought the overall weight and balance of the rifle was pretty ideal for a 300 Norma Mag. If anything, I may have preferred it to weigh 2-3 pounds more for this type of competition use. However, I know there are elite military units that carry the AI ASR rifle through all sorts of terrain, and for that, I think it’s the ideal balance for carrying weight, shootability, and ability to spot your own impacts even through recoil.

10-Round Double-Stack Magazine

I also absolutely loved the 10-round double-stack magazine – even more than I thought I would! My custom 300 Norma rifle that I built on a Surgeon XL only has 5 round single-stack magazines, which means in past matches I’ve had to do mag changes while on the clock. That didn’t seem like a huge deal to me until I got to experience how nice it was to have a 10-round magazine. This magazine was built for the wide Accuracy International action, but it was also specifically made for the 300 Norma. These magazines fed flawlessly, and I can’t remember having a single issue with them. Not having to change magazines mid-stage meant that was one less thing I had to think about while I was on the clock. The 10-round magazines aren’t any taller than the 5-round magazines I’ve been using, so I can’t see any downside to these higher capacity magazines.

AI 10 Round Double Stack Magazine 300 Norma

QuickLoc Barrel Clamp System for Easy Barrel Swaps

Another thing I loved was how quick and easy it was to remove the barrel. You just need a hex key and a crescent wrench, and I could take it off and reinstall it in under 2 minutes – maybe even under 1 minute! This would not only allow you to change out the barrel to another caliber completely, but it made it also made it easy for me to remove the barrel periodically to measure the distance to the lands, to see how much the rifling had eroded. Overall, I don’t see any downside to AI’s QuickLoc Barrel Clamp System, and it sure makes it convenient to remove and install a barrel without having to drag out a barrel vise and specialized tools.

Accuracy International AI Quick Lock Barrel Change Rifle

AI actions are also made to such strict standards that you can buy a new, pre-chambered barrel off the shelf, and just spin it onto your rifle and go. You never have to send the action off to a gunsmith to custom chamber a barrel for that rifle. There are a few other actions that allow you to do this, like the Impact Precision action, without having to use a barrel nut to set headspace. That means they hold the tolerances of their components and the assembled actions to extremely strict standards, otherwise slight variations in chamber headspace could be very dangerous. That shows how far manufacturing has come in the past few years, and AI has been able to sell pre-fit barrels off the shelf for any of their actions for several years. That is just one example that shows they’re truly an industry leader because that is absolutely the way of the future.

Folding Stock

The folding stock is also nice, especially with a long 27-inch barrel like this 300 Norma has. Folding the stock reduces the overall length by 9.5 inches (from 51.0 to 41.5 inches). I especially liked that the butt folds towards the bolt, which not only captures the bolt to ensure it doesn’t get knocked around or move in transit, but it also leaves the other side of the rifle completely flat. If you did want to sling it while it’s folded, there wouldn’t be anything digging into your back, because both the butt and bolt are on the opposite side.

Full-Length Arca-Rail

One new addition on the AXSR chassis over previous models is a full-length arca-rail on the bottom of the handguard and forward of the magazine. This allows you to quickly clamp into an RRS-style tripod for a rock-solid platform. If you’ve never felt how solid a rifle with an arca-rail can be locked into a nice tripod, you are missing out! With a few advanced techniques and practice, you can get almost as stable standing and shooting off a tripod as you can from a prone position. The full-length arca-rail was first introduced on the Masterpiece Arms BA Competition Chassis, but the flexibility an integral rail provides in the field has caused it to be adopted by virtually every manufacturer offering a chassis built for serious long-range use. This is a welcomed modern touch, and I was glad to see AI embrace it.

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Ergonomics & Adjustability of AI Chassis

I also loved the ergonomics and adjustability of the AI chassis. It’s certainly hard to beat! All the adjustments are toolless, quick, and once you lock it back they’re rock-solid and you won’t have to think about it again. Being able to adjust the rifle to fit your body and shooting style is such an important thing, in my opinion. I know many other world-class and even world-champion rifle shooters that would say the same thing. If you aren’t comfortable behind the rifle, it is very difficult to be consistent behind the rifle – and consistency is everything in the long-range game!

Adjustable Rifle Stock Chassis

Overall Performance

Finally, I loved the overall performance! As a reminder, Jorge Ortiz (pictured below) was also using an Accuracy International ASR rifle chambered in 300 Norma to take 1st place overall at this year’s Nightforce ELR Steel Challenge in Wyoming. (Read about Jorge’s rifle and ammo.) I finished 4th overall, so 2 of the top 4 shooters at a flagship, national-level extended long-range competition were using this rifle platform from Accuracy International. That proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this rifle is capable of performing at the absolute highest levels. You can’t fire 4.2” groups at 950 yards or get SD’s down to 5.5 fps over 36 shots if the rifle you’re using isn’t extremely high quality. The AI AXSR is clearly one of the most capable rifle platforms on the market.

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Things I Didn’t Love

I have a strict commitment to full disclosure with my readers, so as I was using the rifle I kept a running list of all the things I didn’t like or had issues with. Here they are:

Some Trigger Issues

The biggest thing is I ran into issues with the trigger during the match. We literally measured wind gusts at 50 and even 60 mph at the match, which means dust and sand got in the tiniest places. Towards the end of day 1 of the match, I would occasionally close the bolt and the rifle wouldn’t cock the firing pin back. When that happened, I’d go to pull the trigger and it just felt mushy and nothing would happen. This happened on the clock on 2-3 stages on day 1 and another 4-5 stages on day 2, and likely cost me a couple of points in the match. It caused me to time out on one stage and not even engage a couple of the targets, and on another stage, almost half of my time was gone before I coaxed the rifle to fire the first round. That can add a lot of stress while you’re on the clock, and it did cause me to rush some shots. Luckily, I’m used to the fast pace of PRS/NRL style matches, so I can put rounds downrange quickly – but that’s less than ideal for this type of match.

Now, even without this equipment failure, I wouldn’t have won the match. I’m certainly not claiming that. Jorge shot lights out! He scored 98 points overall and I was only at 91. He flat-out out-shot me, and everyone else there! I’d suspect the trigger issue cost me 3-6 points total – but not 9. And all three of the guys who beat me may have had to overcome their own equipment issues during the match. Firing that many rounds over two days certainly doesn’t always go off without a hitch!

AI Competition Trigger

I was a little hesitant to spray anything down into the trigger, so I simply cleaned off the sear on the bolt and the trigger with a toothbrush after day 1 and then between every stage on day 2. Looking back, I probably should have sprayed carb cleaner or lighter fluid down into the trigger, and it may have immediately fixed the issue. I even had a can of cleaner in my hand at least once, but I felt like I was shooting well, and I just didn’t want to risk that it might cause the trigger to stop functionality altogether – especially since I didn’t have a backup rifle.

I called Scott at Accuracy International after the match and shared the issues with him. He certainly seemed surprised to hear of any issues with the trigger. A few guys at the match ask me if it was the AI’s standard trigger or their competition trigger, and I honestly didn’t know. One shooter at the match told me he had never had a single issue with his standard trigger, and I know several guys at the match were running AI rifles. So my issue could be an isolated one. I asked Scott if it was the standard trigger or competition trigger, and he said it was their competition trigger, but it had a different spring set that they were trying out. So I guess it was a “custom” trigger that I was beta testing! 😉 Scott still was surprised to hear about my issues and said he was anxious to get the rifle back and take a closer look for himself.

Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage

AI Trigger Pull Weight

The AI trigger is also a two-stage trigger, and I personally prefer single-stage triggers, like the TriggerTech Diamond. I am fully aware of the safety benefits of a two-stage trigger and can understand why they went with that design choice. However, I’ve been running a TriggerTech Diamond in all my rifles for a couple of years and it’s still my personal preference. The TriggerTech Diamond is adjustable down to 4 ounces, although I usually run mine from 10-14 ounces. Recently I read an article in Precision Rifle Shooter magazine where someone asked TriggerTech’s VP of Operations, Quinn Richardson, if the 4-ounce Diamond trigger could handle a drop test without firing. A bit to my surprise, Richardson replied, “The 4-ounce pull weight minimum on the Diamond allows for the shooter to run the bolt very quickly without worrying about the firing pin following the bolt body. It can also safely handle some jarring, but that trigger wasn’t meant to be dropped.” While the AI two-stage trigger can handle a drop test, I did measure the total pull weight of the trigger five times, and it averaged 2 pounds 7.0 ounces. That is heavier than I’m used to, but I didn’t feel like it handicapped me or caused me to pull any shots. About half of that pull weight is in the first stage, so breaking that second stage only feels like a little over 1 pound. Call me old-fashioned, but I still personally prefer a crisp, single-stage in that 10-14 ounce range. I’m certainly not looking to replace my TriggerTech’s after this experience!

Cheekpiece Needs Some Padding

Another thing is there needs to be some kind of pad on the cheekpiece. I ended up buying a HopticUSA Saddle Blanket, which is simply a 1/8” thick polyethylene pad with an adhesive backing. I tried the one that was laser-cut for other AI rifles, but it didn’t fit for the AXSR – so I used the standard Saddle Blacket and cut it to fit. It was only $16 and it made all the difference in the world. Before I added the pad it felt like with each shot my face would get a light electrical shock from the cheekpiece. I guess the recoil and harmonics flowing through the rifle were just slapping me in a funny way, but adding a thin neoprene pad took that away completely and made the rifle much more comfortable to shoot.

Adding Thumbshelf for Those Who Don’t Use Wrap-Around Grip

One thing that might sound knit-picky, but would have been a welcome feature is a thumb shelf for those of us who don’t use a full wrap-around grip. I typically don’t wrap my thumb around the grip to ensure I don’t torque the gun and it theoretically makes running the bolt slightly faster. I leave my thumb on the same side of the grip as the rest of my fingers. Honestly, with the thumb shelves on most chassis and stocks, it’s simply more comfortable, in my opinion. However, there wasn’t anything to index my thumb on with the AI AXSR chassis. It seems like there is room and clearance for at least something to index off of, and I think it would have made it more comfortable and helped ensure the grip is repeatable for those of us that don’t do a full wrap-around grip with our thumb.

M-LOK vs. AI’s Keyslot Interface On Handguard

The rifle I tested featured a handguard with AI’s keyslot interface, which looks similar to keymod – but is apparently different. Like many people, I’ve read the 2017 study conducted by USSOCOM that seemed to clearly show M-LOK was superior to keymod, and since that study, it seems like most manufacturers have migrated toward M-LOK. So I would have preferred the handguard be configured for M-LOK. The rifle Accuracy International submitted for the ASR program did have a M-LOK handguard, but the AXSR that is commercially available only comes with AI’s keyslot interface. However, AI told me you can purchase the alternate handguard with the M-LOK interface as a replacement, but there isn’t currently a way to order an AXSR rifle that comes that way from the factory. (Note: Victor Company makes a handguard for the AIAX chassis featuring M-LOK and a full-length, acra-rail along the bottom to make the rifle more flexible for mounting to tripods, bipods, barricade stops, etc.)

A close up of a gun

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 When I gave this feedback to the guys at Accuracy International, they educated me on their keyslot interface. After lots of testing, they feel like their keyslot design is superior to both M-LOK and keymod because it provides stability in all directions and there is never any doubt if the fasteners are fully engaged. If you’ve ever installed something with M-LOK, you know that you have to be careful to ensure each of the backing nuts are turned perpendicular to the hole, and apparently, there isn’t a way to “do it wrong” or not have full engagement for all the fasteners on AI’s keyslot design.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that those claims are correct, and AI’s keyslot design is truly a superior design to M-LOK. Despite the merit of the interface, there are still drastically more aftermarket products available for M-LOK. For example, remember that I would have preferred the rifle weigh 2 to 3 pounds more? It turns out Dave Preston from Gray Ops CNC makes an external weight kit that can mount via M-LOK – but he doesn’t make keymod/keyslot version. I did notice that Jorge’s AXSR rifle had a handguard with M-LOK, so he seems to be with me on this one. (After asking around, it turns out Jorge bought a limited edition version of the ASR rifle, which was identical to what AI submitted to SOCOM and M-LOK was part of that solicitation.)  While AI owns the intellectual property for the keyslot and it might have a few advantages over M-LOK, if I bought one of these rifles I’d prefer M-LOK so it was compatible with more attachments without extra hassle.

Improved, But Proprietary Platform Limits Trigger Options

Finally, the last potential downside with an AI rifle is that it is a proprietary platform. By that I mean the action isn’t a Remington 700 clone, like most other high-end rifles on the market which share most of the same dimensions and basic design as the original Rem 700 action. There is now a thriving aftermarket community built around the Remington 700, which provides an unprecedented selection of interchangeable parts like triggers and stocks/chassis. However, the AI AXSR chassis doesn’t leave much to be desired. I doubt many people buy an AI rifle and then want to swap it from the AI chassis to another chassis or stock. So the only real drawback you’re stuck with triggers that were specifically designed for the AI action, and there aren’t many options.

Now, AI didn’t make that departure based on ignorance. While sticking to the Rem 700 footprint may allow you to pick from a ton of triggers and stocks, it also means you may be stuck with design decisions the original Remington engineers made in 1962, and some of those are less than ideal. Iain Harrison explains, “Remington’s first priority with the 700 was ease of manufacture, with accuracy being a fortunate byproduct — with more than 5-million rifles in circulation, this isn’t a dig at Big Green, which has a hugely successful lineup often used as a base for accurized custom builds.”

Accuracy International Action and Bolt

The Accuracy International action is the only major outlier among popular precision rifles, but because it departed from the Rem 700 design it can offer a few novel features. For example, the safety on most Rem 700 clones is part of the trigger and works by blocking the sear, and the full load of the cocked firing pin must be maintained by the trigger when the safety is engaged. In contrast, the safety on the AI is part of the bolt, and when engaged it mechanically blocks firing pin and is delinked from the trigger. It’d be hard to argue that isn’t a better design! Also, most Rem 700 actions have a cylindrical design, compared to the beefy AI actions which are made from square bar stock. That square action is what makes them a natural fit for true, double-stack magazines – like the ones I sure loved using with this rifle! Clearly, there are pros and cons when you depart from the Remington 700 footprint, but I thought it wouldn’t be fair to not mention that as a consideration.

My Take-Aways

It’s hard to argue with the results! I’d finished in the top 20 at the Wyoming ELR match in past years, but 4th place is the highest I’ve ever finished in national level competitions. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if the rifle wasn’t capable of performing at the highest level. Jorge finishing 1st with his AI ASR that was also chambered in 300 Norma Mag just seems to put an exclamation mark on that point!

I can honestly say that I really enjoyed using the AI AXSR and may even end up buying one of my own to use at next year’s match. While there were a few drawbacks, overall, I was extremely impressed, and the pros seem to outweigh the cons. Of all the things I described under “Things I Didn’t Love”, the only one that I’d consider a serious drawback was the issues with the trigger. While that is a concern, that match was in very extreme conditions, and even then, there were a ton of other shooters using AI rifles without any issues. It could be due to the “custom” spring set that happened to be in the trigger AI sent me for testing. It also may have been fixed with one squirt of cleaner into the trigger, but I just didn’t know enough about the AI trigger at the time to know whether that might make it better or worse.

If you’re in the market for a top-tier rifle, the AI AXSR is a clear contender. While the AI AXSR rifle sells for $8,975, I doubt anyone would be disappointed with the investment in one of these rifles. I hope this objective, hands-on, in-depth review helps you make an informed decision.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to write up this great article, I have always like and been wanting an AI but it’s just not in my budget, I’ll stick to my MDT build for now with my diamond tech trigger, in 6.5 CM. How many total shooters were at the competition? and getting 4th place with the trigger issues you were having in freakin awesome.
    Thanks again.

    • You bet, Ted! Glad you found it interesting. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks. There was so much I wanted to share that I probably went a little overboard … as I tend to do!

      The AI rifle certainly isn’t a budget-friendly rifle. They pretty much have an uncompromising approach to every component and even the people/companies involved with making different parts, which leads to a steep price point. But don’t feel bad about your MDT build!

      236 shooters registered for the 2020 Wyoming ELR match, and it sold out in less than a week. While COVID-19 kept a few people from traveling, we still had over 190 shooters, including some of the most respected shooters from across the country. I was really happy with my finish. Honestly, before they posted the results I felt like I shot pretty well given the conditions, but sustained winds of 20-30 mph can be very humbling … so I was hoping that I might finished in the top 15, but I was a little surprised to see 4th. I guess everyone else struggled in the wind, too. Well, except for Jorge! He killed it.

      The trigger issues were pretty frustrating in the moment, but honestly I should have just sprayed some carb cleaner down in it. I even had a can in my hand at one point. I was just afraid it’d make it worse, but I’d bet it would’ve fixed it. This was just the first time I’d ever used a complete rifle build from AI, so I was overly cautious because of my lack of experience with it.

      Thanks again for the kind words,

  2. Great write-up Cal. Two things. First, is there a reason that you chose a 300 Norma over the 308 Norma? Second was an observation that many shooters don’t properly respect what neck tension can have on the consistency of powder burn and resulting velocity variations. For most of us average guys out there it isn’t really a factor but in long range with shooters of your caliber it can make or break a match it would seem to me. What do you think?

    • Thanks, Jon. There are a few reasons people are going with the 300 Norma Mag over the 308 Norma Mag:

      1. First, the 308 Norma is an older cartridge that was designed around 1959, and the 300 Norma Mag is a more modern cartridge designed in 2012. We’ve learned a lot about cartridge design over the past 50 years, and the 300 Norma Mag integrates many of those best practices.
      2. I’d say my short answer is brass selection. The 300 Norma Mag has become very popular after the USSOCOM adoption, so companies like Lapua started making brass for it. Brass is soooo important when it comes to consistent ammo for extended long-range work.
      3. Finally, the 300 Norma Mag has 22% more case capacity than the older 308 Norma Mag, so it provides higher muzzle velocities and improved external ballistics.

      I agree that neck tension is important. I will only perform a step in my loading process if I think it adds measurable value, and as you can see in this article … I do expand necks with a mandrel for consistent neck tension. I don’t do things like cleaning primer pockets or other steps that lots of people might do, but I have found that consistent neck tension is important to minimize the variation in your muzzle velocity. Now, is it important under 1000 yards? It depends on how small the targets are. I’d say for the typical 1.5-2.0 MOA targets in traditional PRS/NRL matches, probably not … unless you are one of the guys who are competitive in the top 10% of the sport, and at that point, you tend to have to obsess lots of things because the difference between 1st and 7th place is often so thin. But for most people, I think they can safely ignore it. As your bullet’s time of flight starts to extend to 2 seconds or more, I’d say consistent muzzle velocity becomes critical if the goal is first-round hits. If you’re just plinking at the range and walking bullets on a target at extended range, no big deal … but if you’re competitive and looking for first-round hits, it is an important step, in my opinion.

      Ultimately, for matches like this I really want SD’s in the single digits. If I’m not achieving that, I feel like I will likely drop some points because of it, so I’ll try to do whatever I can to make that happen. I’d say the fastest way to do that is to start with high-quality brass – and Lapua is the gold-standard to which everyone else is striving to equal. I realize that brass is expensive, but if low variation in muzzle velocity is important … that’s the direction I’m going to head every time.


  3. Well done Cal. Congratulations on your finish. Again, a very impressive showing. A couple things about your post:
    You are causing distress to guys like me that want to know the 3rd party involved in the Engineering of this rifle. Hush Hush I suppose, or you would have shared, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a guess right? My first thought was SAGE International, and I know you probably cannot confirm or deny. I’ve had a lot of dealings and experience with the company and nothing negative to say about anyone there. First rate, first class, and lots of experience. If they were involved in one of my designs or projects, I would be shouting it from the rooftops. I know, ….. NDA’s.
    The other thing that caught me by surprise a bit, was the deviation from your new, to once fired Lapua brass. I wonder if it was, or could have been, caused, or coupled with, the seasoning of the barrel?
    Lastly, the bullet jump you settled on. I completely understand how and why you ended up there, but as I have followed your writings almost religiously, (read, like a heretic) I’m sorta confused again, as I thought we/you already determined that the best set was between. 055″ and .065″, unless I am getting to old and already forgetting what I was supposed to have learned. No worries though, cuz I know you will set me straight. Keep up the good work you do!

    A message to AI from me, relayed through you, if you don’t mind ? While I realize that all those engineers and machine operators and armorer’s have to be paid to build these fine weapons, I don’t think that us, now civilians, should have to pay military prices for the same gear. You’ve said it 100 times, “You get what you pay for”, and I get that, but like me, you have a desire and passion to get others involved in the shooting sports and when it’s all said and done, that’s the only thing that is important in what we do, because when we are gone, posterity will carry the message and nobody will remember us at all, a 100 years from now……..so my point, and message to AI, ….this field of endeavor has become only for the rich, which will never be definitive proof of whom the best rifleman in the country is. Some unknown, poor, Audie Murphy country boy type, that given the opportunity with the same gear, would probably kick all our butts. Sad, but true. So lower the price AI, so I can have a chance at one of these masterpieces, ….lol…..Thx.

    • Hey, Rick. I appreciate your thoughts here. I reached out to AI to see if I could share the name of that engineering firm. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t and I’m not under an NDA, but I do try to very sensitive with what I share, especially when it related to government contracts and the DOD. I think of that as professional discretion. I never want to share something a friend in the industry told me but didn’t want me to publish. If they are okay with me sharing that, I’ll come back here and reply to this comment with more details.

      I don’t think the muzzle velocity changes and increase in SD had to do with the barrel being seasoned because one day I had some rounds left that hadn’t been fired yet and some rounds that were loaded with once-fired brass. I fired those the same day at the range, and they both just had different muzzle velocities. I think it likely had to do with the brass being slightly different in dimensions from new to once-fired, and that affected how pressures built in the chamber.

      On the bullet jump, I started with 0.100″ because of some insider info Scott had shared with me related to what they found to produce the best results. In fact, I shared his quote directly in this post, but I’ll provide the excerpt here:

      Even more recently, a friend in the industry reached out to me after reading my articles on this research to let me know it aligned with some extremely in-depth research they’ve conducted. Scott Seigmund is Vice President of Accuracy International of North America, and here is what he shared with me:

      “A few years ago, we did extensive data analysis on 338 rifle test groups involving two significantly different freebore lengths. The test involved 25 different rifles (50 in total). One group of 25 rifles had a standard CIP 338 Lapua chamber while the second group of rifles had chambers with a large increase in freebore. The data was analyzed by David O’Reilly, our operations manager and statistical expert. The results even surprised me with an increase in accuracy of 19% with the 300 grain bullets jumping about 0.100″. The test was done using the same lot of 338 Lapua 300 grain Scenar ammunition and over 2500 shots collected. While I would love to claim credit for this “discovery” it was basically gifted to us by Wade Stuteville. Wade was on to this bullet jump thing a long time ago and has done a lot of testing in this area. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know and has no ego about what he knows. Just a great, caring, and giving person.” – Scott Seigmund

      Wow! The test involved 50 rifles and over 2500 shots! That sounds like some serious research, and I’d think those results are conclusive. Thank you, Scott, for your willingness to share that with the rest of us!

      In further conversations, Scott said as they’ve also done considerable research on the 300 Norma Mag as they were prepared to submit their rifle for the SOCOM Advanced Sniper Rifle contract, and they found longer bullet jumps improved performance on that cartridge also.

      I’ve talked with a few other very well-respected guys in the industry who also have found that longer bullet jumps are especially helpful in magnums. They’ve asked me not to share their name or specifics, because they know the shooting community has such strong feelings about minimal bullet jump that they don’t want to have to deal with the potential backlash that might come from that. I understand that! Longer jumps does certainly challenge conventional wisdom, and we can be a pretty stubborn group of people in the shooting world. But, I will say a couple of the people I respect most in the precision, long-range rifle world intentionally chamber their person rifles that are shooting magnum cartridges to have more than 0.100″ of bullet jump. They’ve had great success with it.

      I don’t think we can say things like “0.055-0.065″ of bullet jump is best … or even 0.100″ or something else is best. I think it depends on the cartridge, and potentially even other factors like neck tension. So while I started off with 0.100” of jump and that is what I ended up sticking with, you’ll notice I did test a few other jumps. I just feel like we don’t know a lot about the true best practices for bullet jump, so the best thing to do is still to test it and see what seems to produce the best results.

      And I’m sure there are people from Accuracy International that will be reading these comments – maybe even the majority of their staff. So I’ll pass your comments along exactly as you typed them. However, I will say that AI brings an uncompromising approach to their rifles. When they are picking components, they choose whatever they believe is the absolute best. Notice they are using an APA brake. I did that huge independent test on muzzle brakes, and that is what I think is the best too. It’s exactly what I run on my custom 300 Norma Mag. The APA brake is expensive, and I couldn’t argue that it gives you the “best bang for your buck” … but I do think it is the best in terms of pure performance. When AI goes to pick what barrel manufacturer to buy barrels from, they go with whoever they think is the absolute best in the industry. The company they use is the same one that I’d use if I were building a full custom rifle without any budget in mind. They certainly aren’t the cheapest. Even the person that chambers their barrels is a careful decision based on who they think is the best in the industry. The guy who chambers most of their barrels is the same guy I picked to chamber some of my top-shelf, high-end, full-custom rifle builds. That guy is also not the cheapest, but I believe he’s one of the absolute best in the industry. It’s not that he runs a massive shop turning out thousands of guns a year … it’s a very small shop with just a few employees, but he consistently turns out world-class rifles. When you have an uncompromising approach like this to every facet of the rifle and every person that touches it as it’s being built … you naturally end up at a high price. It’s not that AI is making money hand-over-fist on these. Honestly, on high-end equipment like this the margins are often significantly lower than on entry-level gear. But, AI isn’t focused on entry-level … they are trying to produce the best equipment out there. It’s just a different go-to-market strategy. I guess that is what you might expect when an Olympic rifle shooter starts a company! Their standards are a bit higher than most companies, and so is the price tag. I know that can be frustrating for those on a budget, but it’s just a different product than what other people offer.

      As always, I appreciate your thoughts, Rick!


      • Hey, Rick. The guys over at AI said it was okay to share who the third-party engineering firm was that they worked with, which was Atlas Development Group (ADG) in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This was actually the first product in the history of AI where they went outside the company for engineering support on a major solicitation. ADG led the chassis design for the ASR, as well as most of the required testing. The AI engineering team in the UK was responsible for the action, fire control, magazines, and drop testing to prove the safety and fire control. The guys leading ADG are all formerly senior engineers at Remington Arms and they formed their own engineering consulting firm when faced with the prospect of relocation to Birmingham, Alabama. The team at ADG has extensive first-hand experience working on U.S. military firearms and are very familiar with the unique requirements and goals of a USSOCOM solicitation that aren’t necessarily defined in the hard specs. The ADG team was also very serious about real, objective testing for every requirement of the ASR solicitation, which seems to be a good match with the approach AI seems to bring in every aspect of their business.

        Most shooters probably don’t know ADG as an engineering consulting firm, but might be familiar with them as a brass case manufacturer. Scott Seigmund, the VP of AI North America, says that ADG brass is of exceedingly high quality and has been benchmarked against Lapua for quality and durability. That’s a big statement, but Scott isn’t a guy that makes big claims like that without some data and experience to back it up. It certainly made me intrigued about ADG brass, knowing these are the kind of serious-minded and experienced engineers that are behind it.


  4. Great write up ad always! I do have one question. When your sd numbers started going up that could be because of the increased speed. Why didn’t you try to back down your load to match the speed that was giving you the lower sd numbers? Just curious. Thank you! Love your articles!

    • Hey, Jay. Glad you found this interesting. You absolute could be right about pulling back on the load to get a lower SD. Honestly, when I finally shot through all the brass it was just a week before the match, and the 9 fps SD didn’t bother me that much. 5.5 fps is cool, but I’m not sure I missed a shot because I was at 9 fps. I missed 99% of the shots because the wind was freaking ridiculous! 😉

      Also, this was a loaner rifle that I knew I’d return to AI, so I didn’t want to “waste” a bunch of time tuning the load if it wasn’t going to help me in that one match that I was going to take it to. So really maybe just laziness! 😉 I would suspect you are probably right, but I just didn’t have time to spend another day at the range doing load development to try to figure it out.


  5. Hi Cal,

    I have had similar problems with stock (2014 era) AI triggers when training in very dusty environments. My partners and I brought cleaner, compressed air and spare trigger groups to ensure we could complete the training. If I remember right, I got this lesson from some of your blog posts with other aftermarket triggers at dusty matches 😉. I think AIs are phenomenal guns, but I think your failure to fire experience with the AI trigger is not an isolated incident. I think it is a weak point in the AI design.

    Keep the great articles coming!


    • Very interesting, Joseph. I probably should have just had the confidence to blow the trigger out. Next time I know! Thanks for sharing your experience, too.


  6. Thanks for the awesome review on the AXSR! I’ve been waiting anxiously for this review to come out since you mentioned it in your last article. In fact, my wife asked me why I was up earlier than usual this morning and I had to explain that a new article came out 🙂

    Those pictures of the testing process were AWESOME! Sorry to hear about your trigger issues. Many claim the AIAT/AX/AXMC triggers are “bomb proof”, so when I heard the AXSR was going to utilize a different version of the competition trigger I was hesitant. I’d be interested to hear what the issue was when Scott takes a look at it. As with all new products sometimes it takes a while to work out the kinks.

    I have a somewhat related question for you: Does firing pin sized make a difference on 338 LM, 300NM, 300PRC, etc? I know small firing pins can be important for short action to avoid pierced primers, especially for the cartridges used in PRS, but I am not sure how important firing pin size is for long action cartridges as mentioned above (300NM, etc). I am asking because I am trying to decide between the AXSR, AXMC, and MRAD which all have different firing pin sizes. From my understanding the AXSR is all small firing pin, the AXMC is large firing pin with optional small firing pin only for short action, and the MRAD is all large firing pin (However, even though the MRAD is all large firing pin it is my understanding that the bolts are headspaced specifically to the barrels they are paired with – would this help eliminate pierced primers?). Thanks for your thoughts!

    Thanks again for taking your time to put together such incredible articles!

    • Thanks, Mick. I’ll definitely post an update once they get the rifle back to the shop and get it checked out. I actually was waiting to publish this before I sent the rifle back because there were a few things that I still had to measure and take photos of … but I’ll have it back to them soon and let you know what they say.

      On the question about firing pin size, I’ve always heard the smaller the better. I believe that’s because a smaller firing pin is supposed to give more consistent ignition, and consistent ignition leads to lower SD’s. I have heard guys saying that when talking about mid-sized short-action cartridges, like the Creedmoor, Dasher/BR, and x47 Lapua cases, so I’m not sure how much that applies to magnums. I haven’t ever seen any objective research done on it either, so it could be old wives’ tales! I know our industry sure is full of those!

      If I were in your shoes and trying to decide between those rifles, I know that I’d go with the AXSR. If the bolt and barrel have to be paired on the MRAD, that means when you go to replace a barrel you have to send the rifle off to a gunsmith. With the AI, you can just buy one off the shelf. But, I also was really impressed with the overall build quality and thought that was put into the AI AXSR. I don’t want to dog those other rifles, because some of it may come down to personal preference, but the AXSR is what I’d personally do … and actually might end up buying myself. 😉


  7. A great article although i don’t compeat I really enjoy reading your informative reviews on all products. I’m just an average shooter 100 to 400 yards that shoots for the enjoyment of bettering myself keep up the great work. Danny

    • Thanks, Danny. I obviously enjoy learning about this stuff too, and probably would even if I didn’t compete. So I totally understand. Glad you enjoyed it!


  8. Cal,
    Very interesting article and well done…
    I always get valuable insight from your work!
    If you get a chance to run a temperature sensitivity test on H4350 and H1000 I think many of your readers would be grateful. I use 5fps/10 degrees (F). There is a bunch of shooter stories but not the kind of analysis you are known for available.
    Again, thanks!

    • Thanks, Jeffrey. I appreciate the kind words. I try really hard to give 100% honest, balanced, and objective reviews. Reviews in magazines always feel more like paid advertisements, and guys on forums just spout their opinions and anecdotal experience like its the unquestionable truth handed down from God himself! When I say something like “Most shooters …”, I always check myself and in my head, I ask, “Is that really ‘most shooters’ or is it ‘many shooters’ … or maybe even just ‘some’ or ‘a few’?” I don’t want to overstate anything, and I try to present both sides of an argument to provide a balanced perspective. Honestly, if someone can’t represent both sides of a debate, I’m not sure they’re educated enough to talk about it. I really do put a lot of effort into being objective and balanced, so I do appreciate you noticing that and taking the time to say that you appreciate it.


    • Cal,
      You are always on point with your reviews. I know from reading your reviews that you are always honest about everything you see as an asset or a fault. I was surprised to see that the heavier bullets in the bigger calibers didn’t do as well as I would have thought. The 375 Chevy Tac seems to be a prime round for this competition, with the advantage of heavy bullet weight, high velocity and accuracy. It has done very well in the King of Two Miles so I would have expected it to be competitive in the format you were shooting. Just goes to show that sometimes, the caliber, velocity and accuracy don’t out weigh the shooter. Congrats on some great shooting. Keep up the unbiased reviews on what is trending. I have become enamored with the 6mm calibers, so my next build will be a 6mm BR Norma. Time to see what a short fat round will do in that caliber. I have been shooting a 6mm TCU in a 24” barrel lately and it’s running 2850 fps with a 95 gr. Berger with an SD of 6.0. Very pleased with the round only shooting 26.6 gr. of H4895. Always tinkering with something new. Obviously you are becoming an icon in the long range shooting community, as I have seen your name mentioned in other articles on a regular basis. Nice to know someone famous. Thanks for all your hard work.

      • Thanks, Wade. Icon might be a little strong! I’m honored that so many people find what I write interesting. It still blows me away how many people read it.

        I think there is a balance between external ballistics and shootability, and this match is pioneering new territory so we’re all trying to figure out what striking the right balance for these distances and conditions looks like. It’s probably similar to why people don’t use a 300 Norma for a traditional PRS/NRL match with targets 400-1000 yards. The ballistics are clearly better, but 6mm’s dominate those kinds of matches.

        And I can appreciate the incessant tinkering! I feel you, buddy! If you made me pick what my favorite rifle was to shoot, it’d be my 6mm’s. Luckily I don’t have to pick just one! Last month I shot my first 3 Gun match, and on Sunday I shot my first NRL22 match. It’s fun to mix it up!

        Thanks for the kind words, Wade.

  9. Cal, given the muzzle device and heavy weight, how was the recoil compared to a more common precision rifle that weighs about 11, 12 lbs and shoots 6.5C?

    • Good quesiton, Nathan. I’d guess the recoil would feel slightly heavier than a 6.5 Creedmoor that had a total weight of 11-12 pounds. It’s enough recoil to make you lose your sight picture for a second, but if you keep a good body position the rifle should settle back on target and as long as the target is 600-700 yards or more, I’m always able to watch my bullet splash so I can spot my own shots.

      Honestly, the recoil is not too bad with a 20+ pound 300 Norma Mag. I’ve heard of guys making ultralight hunting rifles in 300 Norma, and I’m not sure I want any part of that! With a heavy rifle, you can get used to the recoil pretty quickly and it doesn’t bother you. But, I’d been shooting this rifle a ton before and during the Wyoming match. When I got back, I had a NRL style match that I shot with my 6mm Creedmoor two weeks later … and when I went back to my normal match rifle to practice, it put a big smile on my face! I had got so used to the 300 Norma, I had forgot how little recoil those Creedmoor cases produce. Plus, my 6CM match rifle weighs around 18 pounds … so it’s just a pleasure to shoot with very, very little recoil. With the APA Gen 3 Little B* brake I have on there, I literally watch the bullet all the way to the target. It really did put a huge smile on my face the first time I fired it after shooting the 300 Norma for several weeks. So I can’t say the 300 Norma recoil isn’t more, but it’s not bad. 375 CheyTac is worse, and really takes some management and practice to shoot well. 50 BMG is definitely bad, and not fun at all … unless it weighs 50 pounds or is mounted to a vehicle!

      Hope that’s helpful, Nathan.


  10. Thanks for this review Cal. Detailed as always.

    Do you think the BARRETT MRAD, with say a 6.5 PRC or hot 6 mm barrel, would be a good PRS rifle?

    • That’s a good question, Eric. I haven’t been behind a MRAD enough to know for sure. I’m sure it’d be capable with a good barrel on it. I’m not sure how the weight and balance would be, but it’s likely in the same range of overall weight as my typical match rifles. I don’t love the MRAD trigger, but in all fairness, it probably wouldn’t cause you to miss shots. It’s probably more of a personal preference thing. I assume that you’re asking so that you could have one rifle with a 6mm barrel for PRS and maybe a 300 or 338 for ELR or hunting. That’s a good idea. Lots of guys buy 2-3 mediocre rifles, but it might be a better use of money to buy one great rifle that you could swap barrels on. That’s what the rifles that were trying to get the ASR contract were basically all designed to do, like the MRAD or the AI AXSR.

      Honestly, if I were AI or Barrett, I’d be reaching out to TriggerTech to see if they could make an aftermarket trigger for their proprietary platforms. I might even consider splitting some of the R&D cost with them to help get that product to market. If they could just get one great aftermarket trigger, preferably a single-stage with the roller-pin design that TriggerTech has patented or the ball bearing design like the Bix N Andy trigger, then I think more civilians might consider their rifles. I know it probably seems to some that I’m overly critical or hyper-focused on the trigger, but a good trigger is such a critical part of a precision rifle. When those guys are focused on the military, they design triggers with a different set of criteria than the competition/hobbyist shooter has in the commercial world. If they just had a solid aftermarket trigger, like those from TriggerTech, I think it might sway more people over to their platform.


  11. Dear Cal
    Your PRB is the best on line review I follow. I purchased a Desert Tech SRSA-2 Chassis and had SAC Customs design Bartlein Barrels for it in 5 different calibers and twist rates with custom 10 round mags. My Night Force Scope is identical to yours. My scope mount is made by Steven Ivey of Project One LLC in Shelbyville, T 931-409-3109. This mount, RTM60-MIL-34, has a micrometer adjustment to result in 0 to 60 Mils elevation change. I have found its repeatability rock solid shooting .338 LaPua brass with Berger 300 grain Tactical OTM bullets. As an electrical engineer, I fully enjoy you rigorous approach to ELR shooting.
    I would love to see your opinion on this mount

    • Hey, Tony. Thanks! SAC does some great work. Mark Gordon is a maniac when it comes to the details and repeatable processes. I feel like the two of us are alike in many ways! Having swappable barrels on a platform like that can be pretty ideal. Only need one scope and mount, and that Nightforce is a great one! I could buy any scope I’d like, and I think that one is the best one on the market … at least for my use. I use it on just about all my rifles, from 6mm Creedmoor to 375 CheyTac. Just a great scope that holds zero, tracks perfectly, has a great reticle, and is just pretty ideal all-around.

      I have heard of the Ivey mount, and have known a couple very accomplished shooters that used them. Honestly, a couple of the guys that I have immense respect for, and that are pioneers in the ELR game. I haven’t personally used that mount, but I do know they’ve tested them and found them to be repeatable. As with everything in ELR, if there is ANY movement or any element that isn’t 100% repeatable … it will show up. As you extend the distance and time of flight, it just magnifies any issues that you might have been able to get away with at shorter distances.

      I do love the challenge of the ELR game, and how we’re pushing boundaries and making advancements. 10 years ago, hitting targets a mile away with first-round hits in 20-30 mph winds would just be absurd … someone would think you were completely full of crap if you said you could do that. But here we are! 😉 I still love the PRS/NRL style matches shooting mid-sized 6mm cartridges out to 1000 yards or really quickly off barricades, but ELR is simply a different kind of challenge.


  12. Dear Cal What a beautiful, quick reply. Shows respect.
    I look forward to your next post.

  13. Cal ,nice review post as before. thanks for sharing.)))

    In this article, you have cited multiple websites, including articles, nice products or shooting gear, which is great and greatly expands the relevant knowledge.

    I am very interested in those knowledge, I don’t know if you have more good links or book recommendations, about long range shooting, reloading, exterior ballistics, etc.
    I have purchased and read the full set of books by bryan lizt. In addition, I also watched Magpul Art of Precision Rifle DVD . https://precisionrifleblog.com/2020/03/21/bullet-jump-and-seating- depth-reloading-best-practices/ Some of the books mentioned in this article, I also plan to buy and read them.

    Can you share your book list? I am very interested in .

    thanks again ,
    best wishes

    • Hey, that’s a good question. I think the books from Nathan Foster are pretty amazing. I find myself referencing them pretty often. Nathan is a gunsmith with a lot of experience and an informed/balanced/pragmatic view. Here is a link to his book collection: https://www.ballisticstudies.com/shop/Book+Bundles/The+Entire+Collection+-+25+Off/The+Entire+Collection+Paperback-2.html

      I also think Ryan Cleckner’s book Long Range Shooting Handbook: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting is good, although it is more of an intro … as the name says.

      I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about Dr. Harold Vaughn’s book, Rifle Accuracy Facts, a hundred times too. It’s now out of print, but you can find a link to a scanned PDF version of it here.

      A good reloading book is Top-Grade Ammo. It was published just a couple of years ago and seems to have a lot of good advice. Much of it is focused on high power shooting or a specific discipline other than precision bolt-actions, but there are still nuggets in there. Probably the best all-around reference I’ve come across.

      I’ve learned from a lot of different books, but most seem to be hit or miss on content. There are sections that might be really helpful … but overall, none of them have content like what Applied Ballistics puts out, in terms of serious/rigorous, professional research. I have found Nathan’s books educational cover-to-cover, and I’d definitely buy those again.

      Hope that’s helpful! I’ve bought a ton of books, but those are the ones I’d buy again. 😉


      • Thank you very much for your suggestions. These books are excellent knowledge treasures. To me, they are the Bible of preciosn rifle shooting. I will buy and read them one by one.

        cheers , ~v~

  14. Great post Cal as always. Could you address your decision to use .003 neck tension? I always thought the conventional wisdom was to strive for the lighter side .001-.0015 neck tension at least for calibers similar to my 6.5X47 to get low ES which seems to work for me. Seems that the excessive force required to push that bullet with my little arbor press might deform the nose. What I’m wondering now is if I should experiment with .003 neck tension. Thanks for your thoughts

    • Great question, Mike. I might be able to write a book in reply to that question! I’ve actually already bought equipment in hopes of doing some objective research on that, but for now, I’m mostly basing that off the the most rigorous scientific study I’ve ever seen on neck tension, which was conducted by Bryan Litz and published in Modern Advancements for Long Range Shooting Volume II. He tested 3 different cartridges (223, 243, and 308) with 0.001″ of neck tension (relatively light) and 0.003″ of neck tension (relatively heavy). Bryan shares the full details in his book, but I’ll just share his conclusion here:

      “The 223 Remington saw its SD improve from 9 fps to 6 fps for the higher neck tension. The .243 Winchester saw an even more dramatic improvement in MV, going from 13 fps to 7 fps! The .308 Winchester which already had a respectably low SD of 7 fps saw no improvement for the higher neck tension.”

      So basically, Bryan found heavier neck tension was better in most cases, and at the very worse it was as good as light neck tension. I know that seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but I tend to side with hard data over “conventional wisdom” every time! If you find this interesting, I’d highly recommend getting Bryan’s book … there is even a good study in there on barrels from that PRB guy. 😉

      I didn’t do any testing on different neck tension on the 300 Norma, but I can say I got some pretty tiny SD’s with 0.003″ of neck tension … so it at least seems to be anecdotal evidence that might support Bryan’s research.

      I do think consistent neck tension is important. Whether it is 0.001 or 0.003 may not matter as much, although Bryan’s research seems to indicate that it does have a measurable impact. I think repeating something similar to what Bryan did and seeing if the results showed a similar pattern would be very interesting. I hope to do it one day if I get time!


  15. Cal,

    Great article as usual. The .300 Norma is a winner. Just one aside. In the Norma Reloading Manual Vol. 2, from 2013. Page 326 has the general info for that cartridge. Page 366 has the info for the .338 Norma Mag. While the cartridge dimensions are different, the text appears to be the same. Just wondered if anyone else noticed this?

    Another point re comment by Rick Bowen re the price on AI’s product and the problem for average shooters. The simple fact is that today’s products by Mossberg, Savage Ruger, etc. going for $500 probably exceed the shooting ability of most rifle owners. Those that can do better will usually demonstrate that ability and will find a way to obtain a better rifle. In the end, a great shooter will almost always be recognized if he persists. But the fact is, you will always have different leagues. Nascar drivers can make it to Formula I, if they have the talent and are willing to make the deals required. A millionaire who buys his mediocre daughter a Stradivarius violin will still have a mediocre daughter. The welder who buys his daughter a $1,000 violin might put her on the road to Carnegie Hall. We should all be millionaires. But in the end, talent will usually be recognized.

    • Thanks, Reginald. I don’t have a copy of the Norma reloading manual, but that is interesting. Maybe someone else can comment on that.

      I do agree with your points on the price of the gear. While it is fun to be able to shoot nice rifles and gear, an expensive rifle won’t make someone a good shooter … just like a nice paintbrush won’t make someone paint like Monet. The only way I know of someone can become a good shooter is out at the range … one round at a time! Training can help. Shooting competitions can help. But ultimately it comes down to this: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. 😉


  16. Hey Cal,

    Congrats on all your accomplishments and the fabulous way you research and present or wright these articles in a way that even some of us old school boys can soak up your info, even though my soaker upper is a little rusty, haha. If its alright Id like to share a little info on some of my experiences , I traded half of everything the wife owns to get an AXMC after a good friend let me use his for a year and a half before I was able to get my own, we had problems with it piercing primers and the barrel would come loose, we were told Oh your loads are way to hot, I say Nay , cause it did not matter if it was min. or max it still did it . Im not trying to nock the gun but they said they never heard of this before, so my buddy gets on internet and says this looks like a common problem, they wont warranty it, so we find out ware to get the bolt bushing, these guys say they do at least 150 AI bolts a year. His barrel still wont stay tight either. Now I do my trading and abunch of cash for my own new AXMC in 338 Lapua a week before a mile shoot, right out of the gate its miss firing and piercing primers just like my buddys gun did, they wont warranty it cause I shot brand new reloads in it instead of some government issue ammo that no one is ever going to shoot. But the shoot happens to be an hour and ahalf or so from the repair place, now they dont want to bushing the bolt they think they can fix the firing pin to fit the hole better, so I spent over half the day there and they took the gun apart and test fired it quite a few times and got it to work but still cratering the primer alittle bit, he thought I should lighten the load a little. So at this point Im just going to watch the shoot but the guys gave me so much crap so I went and quick zeroed it and it hit about 2 min. lower than my app. said , now Im on and this is a mile shoot just alittle over and I hit the plate 6 times in a row and then it turned into a shotgun, I thought it was the wind down the canyon , later I figured it out , the barrel came loose, I was lucky enough to get 2nd but 1 more hit would have tied for 1st, but the way she was shooting I believe that barrel coming loose cost me 1st place.

    I ended up having to buy a new firing pin assembly and a bushing job. that cost me another 500.00 for a brand new gun that cost more then the wifes car. I hated the factory trigger and got the new match trigger ,love it. Since all that I have figured out if I torque the barrel shoot it re torque it and shoot it at least 4-5 times then it seems to stay tight. I love the thing when its all working right but man what a bunch of crap-ola . Both guns have never miss fired or cratered a primer since with same loads. Was shooting a 30-338 Lapua but I think the 300 Norma is a better way to go, same or better performance less hassle and the 300 Norma fit in the AI mags. the 30-338s would not.

    I have two 300 Normas now when I finally got the velocities to even out I got the ES down to 4 fps , and 5 in one hole, I went home and loaded some more and tried it at 9 hundred yds to see if it was a shotgun and had one shot out of 7 that raised the ES to 6 , and the group was a little over 2 inchs. I was pretty happy, I usually do my long range test groups at 1170 yds. and try for 3 in. groups. Its tough where I test loads cause I have to drive 100 miles rd trip and theres wind towers all over up there , seems like its always blowing in 3 different directions . Im wondering if the New AIs have a different barrel nut, they must cause I cant imagine having to stop and get your torque wrench out during a shoot.
    I know Im all over the place here, but am also wondering about bullet runout and neck turning, I pull my hair out trying to make straight ammo, I try to do everything exactly the same way every time. I clean the fired cases with rice just enough to get most of the carbon out, it takes alot longer than stainless pins but I dont like the way they scratch and ding up the cases, I think theres to much drag on the bullets when the cases are to clean, down to bare metal, then Anneal and size and trim and bevel, and I lube each case one at a time by hand so the lube is even on every case , I do that thinking that maybe thats why the runnout varies so much cause there not lubed evenly , and no idea what to get for a neck turner. Oh heres a tip to add weight to your AI, I use a 34mm scope ring lapping bar under front forearm and a 30mm bar under the stock for a bag rider, I dont have to carry it for the mile stuff, it weighs 30 lbs with everything on it, with a good brake it just sits there.

    Sorry I better quit here so you dont fall asleep, I dont have your talent for writing or spelling. you dont need to put this in your comments, Im just rambling on , I could ask a thousand ??? Anyway thank you very much for your service to our sport and to all the men and women who have sacrificed , Bless you all !!!!!

    • Wow, Danny. That’s a lot! I haven’t heard of those problems, but as I said, this was the first time I’ve ever spent significant time behind a complete AI rifle. If you look at another comment a reader left, it sounds like the AXMC had a large firing pin, but the AXSR has been changed to all small firing pin. I’d think of all the crazy testing they seem to have put it through for the ASR contract that if there were widespread issues with the firing pin or barrel loosening for ammo that wasn’t pushing pressures, it would have surfaced. It sounds like even the third-party specialists you took it to thought your loads were too hot. I do think a ton of reloaders (maybe even most) are running loads that are hotter than they think they are, but they aren’t necessarily seeing significant pressure signs … so they think they’re fine. I’d run your load info in QuickLOAD, and I’d suspect you are running overpressure. Not saying there wasn’t an issue with the rifle too, but I bet the load might have something to do with it too.

      I don’t neck turn, and I also don’t pay much attention to bullet runout. I usually just buy high-quality brass, use match-grade dies (typically Redding or Whidden), and am careful with the initial die setup. But I’m not trying to get Benchrest size groups either. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to group sizes and muzzle velocity variation, so I try to get it to a certain level … and then I load up a bunch of ammo and go practice. I used to spend a ton of time on load development and tuning, but I’m not sure that is the best use of time, at least for the kind of competitions that I enjoy.

      I do appreciate your encouragement. Glad you found this interesting, and glad you got your AI shooting. When everything is working, they are really sweet rifles!


    • PS. Since they fixed the play in the firing pin there is no more signs of pressure, the 30-338 Lapua was running at 2980 fps with 85 gr. of H1000. 230 gr. Berger. Barrel is about done , still running same 100 rds of Lapua brass through it, most pr. pockets are still tight, I thought barrel was done last year but changed bullet length quite a bit and she still shoots good.

      My standard 300 Norma barrel with 215 Bergers runs at 3000 fps with 81.5 gr. of H1000

      My 300 Norma Imp. barrel runs 215s at 3092 with 85.7 gr. of H1000. This is 3 gr. under what the guy that chambered this barrel is recommending for an accurate mild load . I like my stuff to last a long time so I try not to run them hot, I used to be a speed freak many years ago but Gordy Gridders beat it into my head that you dont need to run anything over 3000 fps. This Imp.version is just Idling .

      You may be right about pressure but I backed off at least a couple Gr. from where I started getting pressure, no extr. marks , primers look good pockets still tight on all barrels. Just seems like the new nice and tight firing pin works 10 times better. Wish someone could tell me how to fix the barrel clamp. Anyway , thank you Sir, you all take care and stay safe.

  17. George Hoksbergen

    Hi Cal, great content as always!
    I’m curious if you have ever recorded equipment/rifle failures during matches. I experienced a ejector failure in my gas gun this weekend while shooting 880yds, and it got me wondering what happens at professional levels. I’m guessing it doesn’t happen much with high quality gear and guns.

    • Hey, George. If you play this game long enough, you eventually run into equipment issues. Having said that, with the number of matches that I’ve been at … it’s pretty rare to see equipment failures among the top shooters. I think you’re right, if you use high-quality gear it should hopefully take that to near zero. I do pick my actions and triggers with durability/resiliency in mind. I don’t use Benchrest actions for field matches … I want them to be made to tight tolerances but still have appropriate clearances. My Surgeon and Impact Precision actions have never failed me that I can remember.

      Now triggers are another story. I have had problems here. I’ve had issues with two Jewell triggers over the years. I’ve blown up at least one or two Timney triggers early on when I was getting into this too. But, I can say with 100% honesty that I’ve never, ever, ever had a problem with a TriggerTech. I’ve never seen or heard of someone having an issue with one either, although I’m sure it’s happened. It just must not be frequent at all. I haven’t thought about this until just now, but I think this tells it all: When I used to shoot Jewell triggers, I’d carry lighter fluid with me in my pack during every match. Now that I’ve been using TriggerTech’s for a couple of years, I couldn’t even tell you if I had lighter fluid anymore! I am not a fan-boy of any one brand, but I’m just speaking from experience here. I just think it’s great that there is a product on the market we can say that about. Really light, crisp triggers seem to have always been fragile or finicky … but the roller pin design with the camming action just seems to clear dirt or grit out of the way naturally as it functions. I actually don’t think TriggerTech intended that when it designed it, but it more than a fortunate bi-product. It helps make that trigger what it is, and is why they’ve attracted such a big following in such a quick time. I live in West Texas where it is windy and sandy all the time. The high school I graduated from was literally named Sands High School! So I’ve put the TriggerTech’s through some serious crap … and never had an issue.

      I have had some issues with scopes holding zero at times. You can go back and look at what scope topped my rifles a few years ago in my blog posts, and notice I’m not using those anymore. I’m not saying they are crap, but I do think they weren’t as rugged as the Nightforce ATACR scopes that I am running now. I bought all those scopes out of pocket, so it’s not that I’m sponsored or getting free gear or something. I could also afford to buy whatever brand or model I want to use. I think the NF ATACR 7-35×56 scopes are the best out there, at least in my opinion. Ultimately, there might be others that have a more crisp or higher contract image quality (although the NF glass is better than a lot of guys say it is) … but I don’t think I’ve ever missed a shot because of image clarity! Now, I have missed shots because my scope’s zero shifted before (even though that scope had amazing image clarity!). In fact, I’ve dropped a dozen points in a single match because of that! It’s a matter of priorities. I think when you’re shooting field matches like what I do, you have to think about how rugged the equipment is as you are selecting what you run. The NF scopes have one of the thickest scope bodies of any on the market. I’ve actually heard twice as thick as any other scope. I’ve witnessed first-hand the kind of pounding they can put those scopes through and they still maintain their zero.

      Ultimately, it sucks to have put the practice in, be tuned up and ready to perform … and your equipment fails you when it counts most. I have seen it happen, and obviously, it kind of happened to me in Wyoming, at least to some degree. It is really frustrating, and I always feel for other shooters that run into equipment issues. Even if they were beating me, I hate it for them. Nobody wants to win a match because the other guy had an equipment issue. I know I certainly don’t want to win that way. But, it’s part of the game. Like I said, those other guys that beat me may have had to overcome equipment issues too. Over two days in those crazy windy conditions, it was putting a lot of equipment to the test … in ways they hadn’t be tested before.

      Hope that’s helpful!


      • Cal,

        You make some really good points. Just a couple of general comments. I don’t shoot with you guys & I’m no Pedro Pistolero but I’ve spent a few days on the range. Equipment failures are failures, period. Malfunctions are a different matter. Do they result from improper maintenance, happenstance, untoward interventions or sabotage? I used to be a very trusting soul who believed all shooters were great guys. I left gear lying at ease while I went to the John, firing point, target holder, etc. Now I put the weapon in the box and lock it. Some guys think its fun to mess with your equipment or target. Others are just dangerous pricks. Getting to the range early in some places allows you to park near the firing line. If you get things right, your dash cam is like having a guardian angel protecting your gear. Final point. If ammo is a factor, be careful of unwarranted substitutions, either of yours with lesser quality, or by others with premium grade. The simple fact is that sometimes some people will do incredibly stupid things, intentionally or otherwise.

  18. Cal,
    A few years back you got into a conversation about eye protection and spoke about a couple of different amplified in ear solutions that ranged all the way from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars for the ones that the Olympic shooters use.

    I was recently at Scheels and saw a pair of ear amplified dampeners and took them for a test spin, my ears were ringing pretty dang bad by the end of the day.

    I would really like your take on what is the best of the best in that regard. When I go shooting I typically am wearing ear pro for 6 to 8 hours and having sore ears at the end of the day is never a good time much less ringing ears and a headache.

    If you could please point me in right direction I would be very grateful. I’m at the point where trying to save a couple bucks is not nearly as important as my hearing and sanity
    And yes, I do remember that the ear protection you swear by is in the thousand dollar range I’m at the point where I would rather go big or go home

    • Hey, Seth. 2-3 years ago, I invested in a set of custom, in-ear, hearing protection. I thought it was stupid-expensive at the time, and wondered if I’d regret spending that much … but I 100% don’t. I’d absolutely buy them again. I’m around guns so often and find myself shooting for 6-8 hours straight several days a year … and these are amazing. They are amplified, which is nice, but the biggest thing is they are custom-molded to my ears. I had to go to a professional audiologist to get fitted like someone would for high-end hearing aids, but the fit is perfect. They’re so comfortable, I often find myself driving home from the range and notice I forgot to take them out. No soreness in the ears at all, even if you wear them for 12 hours a day for 5 days in a row.

      What I bought is the ESP Stealth: https://www.espamerica.com/stealth/

      I’ve noticed a lot of other people who compete frequently use this same ear pro. It’s pretty ideal from my perspective.


  19. Hey Cal, I also recently picked up an AXSR in 300 Norma. I notice your barrel had a 1:8.5 twist, whereas the manual for my AXSR lists the twist rate as 1:9.5. I would have preferred 1:8.5. Did you order a custom barrel?

    Thanks, and thanks for another awesome article.

    • Hey, Chris. The guys from AI told me the 300 Norma they sent me had a 1:8.5 twist … but I also noticed the manual said 1:9.5, so I just assumed they were mistaken. I reached out to Scott Seigmund, the VP of Accuracy International North America, and asked him about it directly. He said he was 100% sure the barrels for the 300 Norma were 1:8.5, and thanked me for pointing out the misprint in the manual. He said they’d work to get it fixed.

      Based on that, I’d bet your’s is actually 1:8.5, too … and the manual is just wrong.


      • Awesome. Thanks for the prompt and helpful reply, Cal. This has me wanting a short action AI as well!

  20. Many thanks for getting back to me on that Cal. That is great to know that there is such a proficient and experienced crew so nearby to me. I’m always looking for consultations and/or input from different engineers on one project or another around here. I recently had a nice discussion with the guys at Noreen Firearms and AI actually came up in the discussions. We both decided that their rifle and .300 Norma Mag project was pretty remarkable….and for the guy that remarked about my previous comments and said in so many words, that if i was given a rifle by AI, I probably wouldn’t be any good with it……classy…….. thanks again Cal.