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.
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):
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:
- Complete Rifle Setup (this article)
- Everything He Carries at a Match
- Ammo Load Data & Reloading Process
- 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!
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
- The 6 Dasher cartridge still remains the most popular among the top-ranked shooters, and Austin has been using it for the past few years.
- Austin typically prefers to shoot Berger 105 gr. Hybrid bullets for his match ammo. His muzzle velocity from a 28” 6 Dasher barrel is 2,880 fps. The other bullet that he occasionally uses is the Berger 109 gr. Long Range Hybrid.
- I share Austin’s complete match load data and reloading methods in this article: A PRS Champ’s Load Data & Reloading Process
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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:
- Part 1: Austin’s Complete Rifle Setup
- Part 2: Everything Austin Carries at a Match
- Part 3: Austin’s Load Data & Reloading Process
- Part 4: Austin Talks PRS Strategy, Mental Management & Shooting Tips