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Austin Buschman Precision Rifle Shooter Spotlight

Austin Buschman – What The Pros Use: Top Shooter Spotlight

This is one of a series of posts that will do a deep dive with six of the shooters who have consistently been at the very pinnacle of precision rifle shooting over several years. I share exhaustive details about their competition rifle, what they carry in their pack at a match, ammo load data, and some shooting and strategy tips. I’ll not just share what they are using, but on much of it, I will also share their thought process behind why they believe it gives them the best chance to win.

Meet Austin Buschman

Austin Buschman has been one of the most dominant shooters on the precision rifle scene over the past couple of years. In 2022, he won the golden bullet as the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) 2022 Overall Season Champion, plus he also won the inaugural 2022 World Championship in France, hosted by the International Precision Rifle Federation (IPRF). He’s currently tied for 1st in the 2023 PRS season rankings with Morgun King. Both shooters already captured 300 season points by winning 3 major two-day matches – and the season isn’t even halfway over! In January 2023, Austin Buschman became the first shooter in history to clean a two-day PRS match, which means out of 176 shots fired over two days, he didn’t miss a single target.

Austin Buschman 2022 PRS Season Champion and World Champion

While Buschman seems to have found a new gear in 2022 and 2023, he has consistently been on the podium at national competitions for years. Austin won his first two-day PRS match in September 2019, and since then, he has shot in 33 national-level, two-day PRS matches, and here is how he finished: 9 wins (27%), 18 top 3 finishes (55%), and 29 top 10 finishes (88%). The level of competition at these matches is unreal, so finishing in the top 10 in 88% of the major two-day rifle matches he’s competed in is quite the feat, representing the highest % of any active shooter. (View Austin’s PRS Profile & Latest Match Results)

That’s why Austin Buschman was one of the top shooters I chose to do a “What The Pros Use” spotlight article on. You can see the other shooters below that I plan to do a similar spotlight article on later this year (in alphabetical order, no ranking intended):

Top Shooter Spotlights
Austin Buschman Home Town - Hooker, Oklahoma

Austin lives in Hooker, Oklahoma, in the center of the Oklahoma panhandle, with his wife and two kids. His degree is in Mechanical Engineering, but his day job is as an electrical engineer for a local electrical co-op. Long-range shooting tends to attract many of us who are more analytical, left-brain people. Austin brings his methodical, engineering style to shooting – but he also has a more pragmatic approach. He is naturally a challenger and independent thinker, which has led him to diverge from the rest of the crowd in several places in terms of what gear he uses or what he has found to be important (or not) in reloading. So learning from Austin will be especially interesting!

He started shooting long-range in 2010, primarily to hunt prairie dogs at farther distances. In 2017, Austin shot his first 1-day PRS match. Austin recalls, “I sucked, but I loved it!” After some practice, he attended his first two-day pro match in 2018 – and he’s competed in 40+ pro-level, two-day matches since then. Austin has a lot of experience, and knows what it takes to win at the absolute highest levels.

I had an in-depth interview with Austin, and he shared so many tips that I decided to organize it into 4 articles, each with a different focus:

  1. Complete Rifle Setup (this article)
  2. Everything He Carries at a Match
  3. Ammo Load Data & Reloading Process
  4. Shooting Tips & Strategy (Practice, stage strategy, mental management, etc.)

Part 1: Austin Buschman’s Complete Rifle Setup

Austin was gracious enough to let me ask him about virtually every detail of his gear, so let’s look at what he’s using to get into the winner’s circle!

Austin Buschman 6 Dasher Precision Rifle

Not much has changed about Austin’s rifle setup for the past few years. He’s been using a Foundation Stock for 5 years, Nightforce Scopes for 4 years, and Bartlein barrels for over 4 years. The most recent changes were to Impact Precision actions and an ACE muzzle brake, but both of those were 2 years ago. So his competition rifle has remained relatively consistent for quite a while. It seems to be working! This is the rifle he’s used to win every major title to date.

Cartridge: 6mm Dasher

Action: Impact Precision 737R Short Action

Impact Precision Action 737R
  • Lots of people have asked Austin if there was something he changed about his gear or approach just before he became such a dominant competitor. Phil Cashin asked him that question on The Winner’s Circle Episode 1, and Austin shared that he believes it was mostly due to identifying areas that cost him hits after every match and then intentionally working to improve in those areas – and then rinse and repeat. But Austin did say, “I don’t think it was equipment, although, about that same time frame, I did start using Impact Actions. I think it was June 2021 when I got my first Impact Action ever, and I’ve used the same one in every pro-level match I’ve shot. I’ve never been out of the top five with that rifle which feels which feels really cool. I’m sure it’ll happen at some point might be my next match, but that’s kind of a marker in my head. I don’t know if the action had anything to do with me getting more consistent, but at some point at the end of 2021, I felt like I was getting more consistent, and it kind of just snowballed. It certainly speaks to the reliability of [the Impact Action]. Nothing will knock you out of the top 5 quicker than rifle reliability issues.
  • Left Bolt, Right Port. Austin is right-handed but lost sight in his right eye, so he had to learn to shoot left-handed. However, he likes the port of the action (where rounds are ejected) to be on the opposite side of his bolt, which is unconventional – but makes sense after he explains it: “So I started liking that configuration back when I began prairie dog hunting because I single loaded most of my rounds. It’s really easy to operate the bolt with your left hand and single feed rounds in the right port with your right hand, and I just fell in love with that configuration. It makes it very easy to single-feed rounds, and it makes it very easy if you ever have a malfunction or anything going on in the chamber or on top of the magazine, or in the reloading port. Your face is on the same side of the rifle as your loading port, and you’re looking right at it. You see it immediately. You don’t have to tilt your rifle or get out of position to see what’s going on inside the action. I’ve always used one of those, even before I started shooting PRS.”
  • Does your action have an AW magazine cut? No. Austin runs traditional AICS-style magazines that are double-stack, single-feed. (Note: If you aren’t familiar with AICS vs. AW, those are two different size cuts on the bottom of the action to accommodate magazines. The standard AICS cut is more narrow and removes less steel from the action leaving it very slightly stiffer/stronger, compared to an AW cut that is wider and allows for true double-stack magazines that are more compact. Most actions have an AICS cut, but you can often request or find custom actions that specifically have AW cuts.)

Magazine: MDT 12-Round 6BR Metal Magazine

MDT vs. AI Magazine Comparison
  • The 12-round MDT magazine is the same height as the industry-standard Accuracy International AICS 10-Round magazine but can fit 12 rounds due to MDT’s unique Double Stack to Single Feed (DSSF) transition design.
  • MDT’s “6BR” magazine comes with a spacer, so it can be used right out of the box with a 6mm Dasher or other 6BR-based cartridges like the 6 BRA, 6 BRX, 22 BR, etc., without having to buy and install a separate spacer kit. (Note: If you are using a 308-size cartridge, like one of the Creedmoor cases, or the 6.5×47 Lapua, or similar-sized rounds, then you don’t need a spacer in your magazine. However, the 6 Dasher is based on the 6mm BR parent case, and it’s quite a bit shorter than those other cartridges. A spacer in the magazine allows those shorter rounds to feed from the magazine more reliably.)
  • Austin prefers to load one extra round on every stage. So if it is an 8-round stage, he’d load 9 rounds. If it’s a 10-round stage, he loads 11 rounds. Austin sees that extra round as insurance. If he has a feeding issue or ammo malfunction, he will simply eject or clear the round without worrying about whether he still has enough rounds to complete the stage or be forced to hand-feed a round for the final shot. Austin also mentioned that getting 12 rounds in this magazine is a tight fit, so if he comes against a 12-round stage, he simply tops off the mag with 12 (i.e., no extra round on those stages).
  • Do you ever run a magazine with a mag extension? No. This MDT 12-round mag is what Austin runs all the time.

Stock: Foundation Stocks Genesis 2 (MG-2)

PRS Foundation Stock
  • I asked why he ran this stock, and Austin said, “I’ve been running this Foundation stock for four years. I like the way it looks and feels, and I like the simplicity of it. I don’t want to attach a bunch of stuff to a chassis. This stock has everything I want and nothing else. I like the density of the material and how its homogeneous (i.e., uniform structure and composition throughout). The balance is just about perfect for the barrel contour I run. I don’t know of a single thing I’d add to it or take away from it. It’s exactly what I want in a rifle stock.
  • Austin prefers a configuration without the bag hook in the butt of the rifle, which is optional on this model. Austin: “The no butt hook is completely smooth, pretty much from the bottom of the pistol grip to the back of the stock, and I can run a rear bag all the way forward, right up underneath my pistol grip, or can run it all the way back, and it’s just a smooth sliding transition the whole way. There is no sling swivel stud on it or anything. It just works perfectly for running a rear bag underneath it.”
  • I reached out to the owner of Foundation Stocks, John-Kyle Truitt, and asked if the Genesis 2 (MG-2) was their bestseller. Here is his response: “The MG2 is neck and neck with our Centurion (MC1) stock as far as sales numbers go. While there are a few differences, the main one it comes down to is whether the customers prefer a vertical grip stock with a close grip to trigger proximity (MC1) or a more traditional competition grip that has a slight angle and generous palm swell (MG2).”
  • Finish: Austin said the finish on his stock is simply the raw micarta material they make the stock from, and it doesn’t have any color or distressing effect applied to it.
  • Bottom Metal: Hawkins M5 (Note: This is the metal portion attached to the underside of the stock that includes the trigger guard and part where you insert a detachable box magazine)
  • Additional Weights: Austin uses brass weights in the fore-end, which he said he’d bought off a member of Sniper’s Hide forum a long time ago, so he wasn’t sure what the brand was. The inside of the Foundation stock has a series of honeycombs where you can place weights, and he said he has brass weights in all of the spaces available. Austin thought there were 22 total weights, which brings the total weight of his stock to just over 7 lbs.
Foundation Stock Brass Weights
  • Where do you like the balance of the rifle to be? Austin said, “I don’t know the exact measurement, but about 4 inches in front of the very front of the magazine – maybe even a little further. For the PRS, you want the balance to be pretty far out. If you just put a really heavy barrel on your rifle, it usually comes out balanced about right, so most people don’t have to worry about it too much.”
  • Is your stock bedded? No. Austin has taken a barreled action out of his Foundation stock and then put it back in, and there was absolutely no zero shift. He said he’d even moved a barreled action from one Foundation stock to another Foundation stock and didn’t find any zero shift doing that either. That’s why Austin doesn’t believe bedding is necessary for a Foundation stock.
  • Do you run an arca rail on it? Yes. Austin runs the short, 4-inch long RRS/1.5” dovetail rail all the way to the front. “There is a longer one that runs the full length of the fore-end, but I prefer the shorter one. I can adjust where it is on the fore-end, and I may adjust it further back for a stage, but most of the time, I leave it in the front,” he explained.
  • Are there any other “must-have” accessories or customizations on your stock? Austin: “I do run skateboard grip tape in a few places on the fore-end and the grip. When your hands are sweaty or wet, it can get slippery – but the grip tape solves that problem.” I also noticed he runs an SAP Two-Round holder on the side of his stock near the action ejection port.

Trigger: Bix’N Andy TacSport Pro Single Stage Trigger

Bix’N Andy TacSport Pro Single Stage Trigger
  • Austin uses a Bix’N Andy TacSport Pro Single Stage, which is a trigger with a unique ball-bearing design.
  • Pull Weight: 1.25 lbs. (or 20 ounces). When I surveyed the top 200 nationally-ranked shooters in 2019, the overwhelming majority used a trigger pull weight of 8-16 ounces (see the data), so Austin is running heavier than most. Here is what he said when I asked him why: “That is light enough that I don’t think it affects any of my shots, even from positional. My it’s my general theory is that a guy should run it as heavy as he can without affecting any of his shot placement or any precision. So for me, 1 ¼ pounds is light enough that I don’t think it matters for any shots, but if I went any heavier, I think it would start to matter. In my mind, that should eliminate some potential for a negligent discharge, which I don’t ever want to have one.”
  • Trigger Shoe: Standard/Included. You can customize the shape, width, and feel of the trigger shoe on this Bix’N Andy trigger, but Austin said he just uses the standard one that comes with it.

Barrel: 28” Bartlein 4-Groove Barrel

  • Contour: Heavy Varmint with 1” muzzle. Bartlein’s standard Heavy Varmint contour measures 0.90” at the muzzle on a 28-inch barrel, but Austin’s contour is slightly larger. Austin said, “Bartlein doesn’t have an ‘official’ name for this contour, but if you call Bartlein and say ‘Heavy Varmint with a 1-inch muzzle,’ they’ll know what you mean.”
  • Length: 28”
  • Twist Rate: 1:7.5”
  • Rifling: 4-groove. Bartlein offers 3 different types of rifling in their barrels: 4-groove, 5R, and Conventional-5. (Learn more)
  • Muzzle Thread: 5/8×24
  • Who chambered the barrel? Austin chambered it himself on his own lathe!
  • Did you use a standard Alpha Dasher reamer? No. Austin uses his own custom 6 Dasher reamer to cut his chambers. His reamer has 0.150” of freebore and a 0.274” neck. I asked if there were any other differences, and Austin said, “There are a couple of other differences, but they are probably into the weeds. It just doesn’t matter to the average guy.”
  • What do you think the accurate barrel life typically is for a 6 Dasher? Austin: “I’ve never shot a Bartlein barrel to the point that they stopped shooting good. I don’t know when they might lose precision with my typical load. I run a pretty light load in my 6 Dasher, so a barrel might go for a really long time – but I stopped using them somewhere before 2000 rounds. So all I know is that they will go 2000 rounds and still shoot great, and I don’t really want to find out when they don’t shoot great, so I take them off.”

Scope: Nightforce ATACR F1 7-35×56 with Mil-C Reticle

Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56
Nightforce Mil-C vs Mil-XT Reticle Christmas Tree Hold Overs
Austin Buschman with Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56 Scope
  • Austin has been running Nightforce scopes for 4 years. Last time I surveyed the top 150+ nationally-ranked precision rifle shooters, this was the most popular brand and model among the whole group, with 20% of them choosing this Nightforce ATACR F1 7-35sx56 scope (see the data).
  • Reticle: Mil-C. Austin said, “I have been running the Mil-C reticle for PRS matches for 3 years, and I think it is just about the perfect reticle.” So I asked several questions to try to understand what he loves about it.
    • Don’t you find yourself needing holdovers on some stages? Many PRS shooters run a scope with a Christmas Tree reticle with dots for holdovers on the bottom half of the reticle (like the Mil-XT), but this Mil-C reticle doesn’t have a holdover tree. Austin said, “I’ve been using the Mil-C reticle for the past 3 years, and I haven’t had a single stage in that time where I needed a Christmas Tree reticle. There was always some way around it. I have a scope with the Mil-XT reticle I use a little bit, but I just found myself never using the Christmas tree on it. So why have it there?” I asked if he thought the holdovers might make it harder to spot impacts, but Austin wasn’t sure if that part of the reticle was ever in the way, although it’s really hard to say. He didn’t think it’d ever obscure your view enough that you wouldn’t see something. He simply prefers the reticle to be more open, which is a big part of why he really likes the Mil-C reticle.
    • Austin: “I really like that the Mil-C is is exactly the same on the vertical and horizontal stadia/axis. I don’t like reticles that do their hash marks one way on the vertical axis and a different way on the horizontal. I just wanted to look the same on whether I’m going up and down, and I like the 2/10th hash marks because they just make sense to me. I don’t think in 2/10ths. I think in 1/10ths, but I can hold halfway in between them or exactly on them. So in my mind, I have a hold on my reticle for exactly every 1/10th. So that is something I like about the Mil-C or the Mil-XT since they’re both that way.”
  • Bubble Level: I asked Austin if he used a bubble level or one of the electronic levels, and he said he just uses a cheap bubble level he bought off Amazon that clamps to the scope tube. He wasn’t sure what the brand was.
Vortex Defender Scope Cap with Austin's Dope Card
  • Scope Caps: Another unique thing to Austin is how he writes down his “dope” for a stage. He runs a Vortex Defender scope cap on the eyepiece, which is what holds his target adjustments during a stage. Austin uses Rite in the Rain waterproof cardstock paper, prints a grid on both sides of it, and then cuts it to fit into the scope cap. On the objective lens of his scope, Austin runs the Tenebraex scope cover that is included with the scope from Nightforce. Austin: “I saw a picture of a guy on Snipers Hide when I was like 18 years old, well before PRS was even around. The picture was of his coyote hunting rifle, and he had all of his dope written down on a card and taped inside his flip-up scope cap. I thought that was the most incredibly genius thing I’ve ever seen, so I copied him, and when I started shooting PRS, I just did the exact same thing, and it always worked. In my mind, this has always been so perfect because it’s right there in front of my eyes as I’m looking at my turret. I’ve always thought that is exactly where I want my dope written.” Austin did mention that he has to write very small on his dope card, and he’s noticed that some people can’t see text that small when it’s that close to your face.
  • How many wind calls do you write down for a stage? Austin: “I typically only write down one wind hold, but sometimes I’ll write down two wind columns in the little space on the right, basically a low number and a high number, but that’s the most I’ll ever put down for wind. I’ve found that most of the time a guy has time to think about the wind while he’s on the stage.” What I’ve learned in a few conversations with Austin is that he is very quick at doing calculations in his head, and he also is able to keep a calm and clear mind while he is on the clock during a stage, which allows him to do this while many other shooters struggle with that approach. Austin said, “To me, that is fun; to think, ‘Okay, the wind went down by this much on that target, so at the next target distance, what is that number for the wind hold going to be?’”

Scope Mount:Hawkins Heavy Tactical Scope Rings

Hawkins Heavy Tactical Scope Rings
  • Height: 1.00”. Austin likes for his scope to sit very close to the barrel, so he runs a relatively short ring height. Austin: “I like it to be mounted lower because it just makes my gun smaller overall and easier to maneuver and fit into stuff.”
  • Diameter: 34mm. (Note: That’s the tube diameter of the Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 scope he runs.)
  • Why don’t you use a one-piece mount? Austin said Hawkins makes a one-piece mount that he considered, but the lowest height you can get the one-piece mount in is 1.270”. He prefers the 1.0” height of the Hawkins rings to keep his scope mounted slightly lower and closer to the barrel. Austin said he hasn’t ever found a disadvantage to having split rings over a one-piece mount. Austin “For years, I’ve had split rings, even before I used Hawkins, and I could always take my scope off, put it back on, and torque it down the same amount, and it seemed like I didn’t ever lose my zero. So I don’t know what I’d try to gain with the one-piece mount besides weight.”

Muzzle Brake: ACE 6mm Muzzle Brake

ACE Muzzle Brake
  • Like most competition shooters, Austin uses a muzzle brake on his rifle because it can reduce recoil more effectively than a suppressor and helps you stay on target better, so you can spot shots easier.
  • Austin believes the ACE muzzle brake is “the best brake with flat ports on the market.” Austin: “It does a really good job of shooting nice and flat, and it has good recoil reduction, but the main thing I like about it is the reduction in the back blast and concussion at the shooter’s position. So I used to use a couple of brakes from different companies that have ports pointed back at a little bit angled towards the shooter. With those, my ears would always ring for days after a two-day match, no matter how much hearing protection I wore. That always bothered me because I wondered about the longevity of my hearing if I kept competing in this sport. I bought a little better earmuffs (MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X electronic earmuffs), but that didn’t fix the problem completely. Switching from a break that was pointed back at me to the ACE helped with the ringing a lot. When I use the ACE brake and good hearing protection, I normally don’t notice any ringing or anything with my hearing after a two-day match. That’s really the main reason I use it, and I think it’s the best one with flat ports on the market. It’s also got all the holes in the top of the brake to help you stay on target and spot impacts. The ACE brake is not the best for straight-back recoil reduction, but when I’m shooting a 6 Dasher with a 105-grain bullet, I simply don’t require my muzzle brake to be the absolute best at straight-back recoil reduction. I don’t need it. I wanted something else from the muzzle brake, which was to do a good enough job while not having a lot of back blast – if that makes sense.”
  • Do you ever use a suppressor? Austin said he only uses a suppressor in a match if required (i.e., suppressor-only match format). I asked which suppressor he uses, and Austin said before this year, he used a Form 1 suppressor that he made himself. But he recently bought a KGM R6 Suppressor, and Austin said, “It is pretty good, and that’s probably what I’ll use from now on.”

Bipod: Thunder Beast Bipod

Thunder Beast Bipod TBAC
  • Austin runs the Thunder Beast Arms (TBAC) bipod on almost all stages.
  • Clamp/Attachment: The Thunder Beast bipod comes standard with an ADM Picatinny QD mount, but Austin replaced it with an ARCALOCK Clamp made by Area 419 so it would mount on the RRS/dovetail rail on his Foundation stock.
  • Why do you prefer the TBAC over something like an MDT Ckyepod? Austin: “I actually haven’t tried a Ckyepod, so I don’t know if I prefer the Thunder Beast over it. There are a few things that I like about the Thunrderbeast bipod. I like when it folds up, it is really small and doesn’t stick down far from the fore-end, so when I’m sitting on a positional bag a lot of times, I can still have the bipod on the rifle, even on top of some rock or flat prop. It’s also really solid and well-built. I prefer to shoot prone stages off my Thunderbeast bipod because it doesn’t have any bounce or flex to it. I really like a Harris bipod, but I feel like it has a little bit of bounce to it when you shoot. One thing I really like about the Thunderbeast is adjusting the rifle’s cant is very smooth and easy to micro-adjust. That is a big plus. I hate whenever you are behind the rifle, and you are trying to adjust it so that it’s level, and when you adjust, the rifle goes way too far, or it seems like you can’t get the bipod to adjust the cant at all and you’re moving the legs around in the dirt. It seems like the tension adjustment works really well. It’s very smooth when canting and then also stays in place once you’re level.”
  • What type of feet do you typically run on it? Austin: “I sometimes add the leg extensions on stages where I need more height, but I’m always running the rubber feet.”
  • Do you ever use a different bipod for any specific kind of stage? Austin runs the Thunder Beast (TBAC) bipod on almost all stages, but he does keep a traditional Harris 6-9” bipod in his pack that he might use on 1 or 2 stages during a typical two-day match. Austin: “The legs on the Thunderbeast Arms bipod have a wider stance than a Harris, which is true for most other bipods, including Atlas, an Accu-Tac, the normal configuration of a MDT CkyePod. So the one thing I like about the Harris is the narrower stance of the legs allows you to run a bipod on a few stages where a wider leg stance wouldn’t work as good. People who have an Atlas or a Thunder Beast or one of those other brands besides the Harris end up not using their bipod, and it makes them take less stable shots. One example is a tire stage. Harris bipod legs are narrow enough to fit perfectly on the sidewall of a tire, like the rounded portion of a tire when it’s laid on its side. The size of the tire matters because on a huge tire, any bipod will work. But, on a smaller tire, the Harris works perfectly, but some of the other bipods have legs that are spread too wide and will fall off one side or the other or simply make your position a little bit precarious.” When the difference between winning the match or being in 2nd or 3rd place might only be 1 extra hit throughout a 200-shot match – little things like that can make the difference.
Tire stage where Harris bipod would help

Overall Weight & Performance

  • Total Weight: 20 lbs. Without a bipod or loaded mag (basically just the rifle and scope), Austin said he is “real close to 20 lbs.” The TBAC bipod and clamp that he uses weighs right at 16 ounces. (Note: While that may sound very heavy to some, many PRS competitors are running 22-26 pound rifles. There has been a major trend over the past 3-4 years towards 20+ pound rifles. The increased inertia of a heavy rifle resists movement and helps most people shoot more precisely. That makes the rifle more forgiving for shooters, especially when you’re trying to hit a tiny target a long way off from improvised shooting positions on a barricade or wobbly prop – and do it quickly.)
  • Group Size: 0.3-0.4 MOA. I asked Austin what his typical group size was with this rifle, and here is his response: “Are you talking about a 5-shot group size at 100 yards? I very rarely shoot five-shot groups and measure them. It’s hard to say what an average is because about the only time I go measure one is if I think it was an exceptional group and I want to take a picture of it. I would guess my average is very close to 0.1 mils.” Very interesting! 0.1 mil is equivalent to 0.34 MOA or 0.36” at 100 yards. There is a lot to chew on there, and I feel like it just shows you one last way that Austin’s methods are very different than the approach most precision shooters take.
Austin Bushman Team USA Rifle Shooter

View Other Articles From Austin Buschman’s Spotlight

This was one of a 4-part series that spotlights Austin Buschman, the gear he runs, and other aspects of his precision rifle shooting. Here are links to all of those articles:

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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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29 comments

  1. Very good info

      • Great article after somewhat of a pause, any thoughts on when 1.25′ straight contours are going to replace most of the stock or chassis weights. I get it that the weights are not just about making the gun heavier but primarily about balancing the rifle on the barricades, but still find it somewhat unusual to go for a tapered section and then load up on weights. I really love the fast that Austin’s setup is about as barebones as possible, not gadgets and dodads littering the rig only thing surprising is actually the rather high magnification scope.

      • Thanks, Mr. T. And that’s a good question. There are guys running straight contours these days, but not all stocks/chassis can accommodate that contour. I’d bet anything designed in the past 2-3 years can, but anything that was designed 5+ years ago may assume there would always be a taper to the barrel and only support up to MTU. I think that is actually the case on the MPA BA Competition chassis that I am still running.

        But, you’re not off base. I think it’d probably trend that way. I do think exactly where the rifle balances and the overall weight is a bit of a personal preference thing. I’d suspect most people want it somewhere between 3-6″ forward of the magazine, but it’d be interesting to see what each of the 6 top shooters I’ve interviewing say in terms of balance point and overall weight.

        And Austin does seem to be a minimalist. He likes to keep things simple. That will be really apparent in his approach to reloading, which is going to be the focus of the next article that will be published very soon. I’ve written the draft and sent it to Austin to review, so I’d expect that to be published within the next day or two. You’ll get a kick out of that. (UPDATE: It’s now published, read it here: The PRS Champ’s Load Data & Reloading Process.)

        That 7-35 scope magnification is about what most guys are running these days, including me. You know, I ran a 5-25 scope for a long time, but I NEVER found myself on 5x in any rifle competition. About the lowest magnification I ever run is 10x, and I’d say it pretty rare to be any less than 14x. If you practice finding targets through the scope, the field of view is big enough to not have to hunt around for it in the scope. I also don’t typically run 35x in a match, unless it’s a TYL rack … and even then I may only run up to 30x. But, when I’m checking zero, I ALWAYS dial up to 35x. It’s really nice to have the extra magnification for that. It’s one of those things that you don’t even realize how nice it is until you get behind a scope that only goes up to 20 or 25x. Honestly, if a competition scope was 10-40x, I wouldn’t complain. I’d bet most of these top shooters typically stay in that 18-28x range on the overwhelming majority of stages. I’ve asked several of them before, and that seems to be the consensus. They have such great recoil management and are exceedingly good at finding targets through high magnification. They’ve practiced enough that they instinctively point at a target and it’s in their field of view even at 28x. It’s pretty amazing to watch actually. So as long as a scope covers about 12-30x, that is pretty ideal for PRS competitions. So 7-35 gives you a little room on either side of that range and is pretty ideal. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t start to drift up to 10-40x over time. I think scope manufacturers hedged their bets a bit by not giving up too much on the low side too quickly, since we’re all used to hunting scopes where you need a little more on the low side. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes over the next few years.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  2. I like tht topic and it’s well written. Thank you. One thing which comes to mind is there’s no disclosure as to what products are being used because the shooter is sponsored by a particular company. Since money talks, that would skew the reason for using one product over a possible preferred product. I’ve heard shooters say “If I wasn’t being sponsored, I would use such and such brand.” Disclosing who sponsors the shooter , if applicable, may be helpful. Your thoughts on that?

    • Hey, Robin. That is a fantastic question. I can’t speak for all the pro shooters, but I’ve been personal friends with Austin for a few years. We shot on a team together for a Battle of the States for a couple of years back in 2017 and 2018. He’s been running probably 95% of this stuff since before he was a pro shooter. The only things he’s switched to in the past 2 years are newer products, and weren’t even an option back then. Even in this article, he’s talking about how little has changed on his rifle over the past 4 or 5 years. In 2018, he finished the season at #65 overall. There aren’t many sponsorships for #65 – like I’d bet zero. So if he’s still using the same gear, it seems like you can trust it to me.

      Here is a relevant quote from Austin that I remember from a podcast earlier this year:

      The equipment I use, that’s the stuff I trust 100%. And my reloading components, I use them because I trust them 100%. For everything I use, I would use something else if I didn’t think that was the best that I could possibly use.– Austin Bushman in Episode 1 2023 of The Winner’s Circle talking about his rifle, gear, and ammo components.

      I think it’s on that same podcast that Austin explains that he was really fortunate that the companies he was already using and paid for their products out of pocket for a long time came alongside him and were interested in sponsoring him. I’m sure that isn’t the case for every shooter, but it meant that he didn’t have to jump ship or debate on whether it was worth it to switch to another product. I’ve had a lot of conversation around this with Austin, and I can promise you I’ve never heard him even hint at something like “If I wasn’t being sponsored, I would use such and such brand.” I’m not claiming there aren’t guys out there that might say that, but I’ve never heard anything close to that from him.

      I think one thing that people who worry about sponsorships skewing this are underestimating is how competitive these guys are. The guys who regularly finish in the top 5 at pro-level matches ALL have a killer instinct. They want to win more than many of us can probably understand. Many of the matches are decided by 1-3 shots. I saw a match earlier this year where the difference from 1st to 11th was only 6 hits! (Austin won that one by the way.) I’d say this is especially true of the guys who finish in the top 5 regularly: If they thought they had a chance of getting just 1 more hit in a two-day match by switching to different gear … 100% of them are going to do it immediately. The sponsorship dollars in this game simply aren’t big dollars like in other sports. It’s still a relatively small number of sponsors with many of them being mom-and-pop type companies. So nobody is throwing big dollars at these guys that could wildly skew what gear they’re running.

      Those are just my thoughts. I feel like I know Austin better than these other guys, and know he was running a lot of this stuff before his breakthrough in performance. But, I’d say we probably shouldn’t dismiss any of them, because of how competitive the sport is and the competitive nature that each of these guys at the VERY top have. Hope that’s helpful!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Excellent read! Well done.

  4. Great article. I am one of the owners of Alpha Munitions and want to give some clarity on our Dasher reamer. We based the dimensions on prints from top gunsmiths around the country who had a lot of experience with the Dasher. There are no “Alpha Specific” dimensions other than we spec a .274” neck for PRS shooting. Most shooters running our Dasher brass are not using our reamer, rather whatever their gunsmiths recommended. With that said, Dasher is a wildcat and there are hundreds of variations and we did have have standardize to one. We would never design a chamber only for our brass, and will always share our reamer prints with everyone. It’s all open source.

    Thank you for taking the time to write these articles. It they are full of great information for the community.

    • Thanks for clarifying, Tom. Sorry if I caused confusion. I went ahead and removed those original comments from the article where I was trying to explain what I meant by “Alpha Dasher reamer.” I did know you guys collaborated with very well respected gunsmiths on those specs. I think one of those was Joe Walls, who is the gunsmith who chambered the two 6 Dasher barrels that are currently on my match rifles. I’m also loading Alpha brass straight out of the box and have been very impressed!

      Since we have you, would you mind clarifying all the differences? I guess what is confusing is it seems like multiple gunsmiths advertise barrels that have been chambered for “Lapua Dasher” or “Alpha Dasher.” I also recently bought a 6 Dasher sizing die from Short Action Customs, and they told me I’d got the wrong one if I was intending to use it with Alpha Dasher brass. They allowed me to exchanged it for a “Alpha Dasher” sizing die. Is the neck diameter the only difference? It seems like if that was the case, I would have simply been able to use a different neck/shoulder bushing from Short Action Customs, but they had me return the whole die.

      I’m sure I’m probably missing something here, but this is something I’d been interested in learning more about, but hadn’t tried to figure it out.

      Thanks for the help!
      Cal

  5. Excellent practical information like the skateboard grip tape.

    • Thanks, Ed! I totally agree with you. Little things like that are helpful. You’re going to love the next article!

  6. Hi Cal

    I found this article very informative and interesting.

    I have a Bartlein barrel on my Cadex rifle but I didn’t know anything about Varmint contour. But I will now be reading more about it.

    Will any of the shooters you will be interviewing be using 6.5 creedmoor rifles?

    From Canada, thanks for the interesting reading

    Paul

    • Hey, Paul. Thanks for taking the time to let me know this was helpful. Here is an article you might find interesting. It provides all of the contours that the top shooters were using the last time I surveyed 150+ top-ranked shooters a couple of years ago. I’d bet the most popular contours haven’t changed dramatically since I published this, although they might be skewed 10% heavier if I were to guess.

      https://precisionrifleblog.com/2019/01/05/best-rifle-barrel-2/

      And there is at least one of the 6 top shooters I plan to interview that uses a 6.5 Creedmoor. I know Morgan King does, and I have heard others have been experimenting with them since he has found so much success with one. I don’t know if any of the other 6 I’m interviewing are planning to use one, but I guess we’ll find out over the next couple of months! 😉 I do know for sure at least one of them will be right up your alley.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Good Stuff

  8. Great article Cal. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited your data driven articles. Bringing it all together on top pro shooters complete package with their opinion on why / what they do is great information. Nice to know shooters like Austin use and stick with what they find successful for them, rather than going with the latest fad.

    Looking forward to your next article.

    • Thanks, Lee! It’s funny. I feel like a lot of these top guys switch gear less frequently than others do. Might be correlated! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. Excellent write up. Austin is such a great example of the skilled shooter with a technical approach, and his humble ways make me want to cheer his future success. Well done.

    • Thanks, Allen. Austin really is a guy that is easy to root for. Glad to hear that came across clearly in the article.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  10. Cal. Glad to see you back to writing about the PRS. . I absolutely fell in love with this blog when I first got into the sport of PRS shooting. So much so that I decided to start a gun club and now we’re hosting the PRS Finale at my range this year! (Twin Peaks Rifle Club). I’ve become good friends with several of these guys you’re interviewing, and I can’t wait to see all the information you you dig up from them!

    • Wow! That’s awesome, Ryan. And humbling. Thanks for taking the time to share that. And congrats on hosting the PRS Finale! I’m sure that will be a great time.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  11. i have to say that Austin earn my full respect , as a right-handed guy , he pushed himself to left-handed , and have done good job in PRS competition , that’s not a easy thing . PRS is’t a arm race , people who know his/her equipment , have great fundamental skills , and have a good wind-call win. obviously ,Austin is one of best of them . honestly, i feel shame with myself to make excues for lazy when i read his story . shooters shold spend more time to practise in range rather than chasing lastest gears . a impress lesson form Austin .

  12. Thanks for the articles! I would love to learn how each pro handles the wind. The system they use. For example, in his scope cap, does he use a 10mph wind? And how do they estimate the wind mph?
    Thanks.

    • Hey, Brandon. Glad you found this interesting. That’s a good question, and the next post will have a little about that … but I’ll try to answer. As far as what they write down, I’ve never seen a pro shooter or anyone that places well write down a generic 10 mph crosswind before a stage. It’s always their best guess at what the wind is actually doing. They might write down wind holds for a 7 mph wind at 4:30, or 13 mph wind from 1:00. In fact, if the targets are spread out, they might apply a different wind angle or speed to certain targets. For example, the wind hold for target 1 might be for an 11 mph wind from 11:30, and target 2 might be a 16 mph wind from 10:00. Maybe the bullet’s path to target 1 was more protected by a row of trees that blocked some wind, but target 2 was a heavy pan and you were shooting across a valley so the bullet would be exposed to more wind.

      I’d say many guys (if not most) write down 2 wind holds for each target before a stage. One will be the lowest wind they think they could experience, and the other is the highest wind they think is plausible. If there is more than a 3-4 mph spread between the high and low, some may write down a 3rd wind call that splits the other two. It would have to be a pretty windy match for there to be 3-4 mph between their high and low calls, but it does happen occasionally. In that case, they end up with 3 columns of wind. If they started off by holding the middle wind on target 1 and it wasn’t enough, then they know they need to run the wind holds in their “high wind” column on the rest of the targets. If they notice their hits on target 3 had a little too much wind, they might favor in between their middle number and high number for the remaining targets. By having 2 wind columns (or sometimes more), it can make it easier to keep your bearings and know how to apply the knowledge of what the wind made the bullet do at one target distance to the next distance. That is a huge part of this game!

      I’d say that describes how the majority of shooters write down winds. It’s most common for people to write down two winds for each target, but there are little nuances to all of this. Austin Buschman is exceptional at adjusting on the fly and calculating adjustments in his head while he’s on a stage, but I’d bet he is in the minority in terms of only writing down one wind. I’m not saying it’s dumb. I wish I could do that … and obviously, it seems to be working pretty well for him! 😉 Just trying to give you context for what the majority of guys do.

      As far as how they know how to estimate the wind speed … I’d say that comes with the experience of thousands of rounds being sent down range. There is no easy answer to that. You can get a baseline wind speed at your location with a Kestrel weather station, which all these guys use (more on that in the next article), but that still doesn’t tell you what the wind is doing between you and the target. It’s simply a baseline. Much of it is making an educated guess at how the wind would move over different terrain, and looking at grass, trees, landmarks … but maybe even more important than trying to make your initial wind hold perfect is always adjusting after every shot to try to make the next one dead center (more on that will be published in Part 4 of Austin’s spotlight).

      I know that’s a lot, but those are some really good questions!

      Anyone else, please chime in if you’d like to share a different perspective with Brandon.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  13. Hey Cal
    Thanks! Thorough and well presented as always but with all the details you cover, I don’t understand your reluctance to simply list the sponsors. Please consider doing so as it would lend more credibility about the shooter’s choices for the readers. Thanks again

    • Hey, Gary. Thanks for the compliments on the content. Sorry if you can’t understand it. I guess I have a hard time trying to understand why you can’t understand it. I’ve certainly tried to explain it a few ways at this point, including in this comment on this same article.

      I feel like that long comment I already typed out related to this gives the majority of my answer … but for just for you, Gary, let me take one more stab at it from one last perspective: Did you know that I actually did ask about sponsors one year on my “What The Pros Use” gear survey? I’d guess that was around 2016. When I did that, a significant number of the top PRS shooters were so offended by the question that they flat-out refused to take the survey if that question was going to be required. The way it was set up at that point, each shooter had to complete my survey before they got the registration link for the PRS Finale. That is how we ensured we got 100% participation. So think about what they were saying by refusing to take it! I didn’t understand at the time what the big deal was, but it caused a fairly large stir among several shooters (none of these 6 shooters I’m spotlighting, by the way).

      Gary, why do you think that is? Some of them may have been sensitive because, at some level, it questions their integrity. Gary, think about your own motivation that is behind your desire to know what stuff is sponsored and what isn’t. You want to know because you want to discount what they say about something if they were supported by that company, right? Well, there you go. You are actually saying you can’t trust their integrity on that decision. You believe that they must have made some kind of compromise to get some kind of personal benefit. You don’t trust them. I’d say you should either trust their judgment or not. If you decide you don’t – then maybe just don’t read these articles.

      Ultimately, whether they paid out of pocket for something, picked it up off a prize table at a match, or it was given to them by the company – they are still using it to win! It is clearly capable of better performance than you and I are capable of. And man, I’ll say one more time … you and I really can’t ever understand how competitive these guys are. Not only do they want to win more than we can understand, they also HATE losing more than we can understand. The winner of many of these matches are decided by 1-2 misses. If they thought they had a chance of getting just 1 more hit in a two-day match by switching to different gear … 100% of them are going to do it immediately! The sponsorship dollars in this game simply aren’t big dollars like in other sports. In fact, almost none of it is cash – the overwhelming majority is free or discounted product. There aren’t big dollars being thrown around here, so chill out on the sponsorship stuff.

      Hope that helps you understand, Gary.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • Gary. I can tell you that I’m good friends with a lot of these guys being interviewed. None of them will run “sponsored” equipment that gives them a disadvantage.