Barrett’s 98B Tactical .300 Win Mag —
Splitting The .308/.338 Lapua Difference.
By Todd Burgreen
Photos By Ethan Burgreen
Barrett is known for innovative rifle design. Their first product, the semi-automatic M82 .50 BMG, typifies this. Much of this stems from their non-typical background.
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was founded in 1982 and centered on Ronnie Barrett’s idea of a shoulder-fired .50 BMG rifle. The company’s first conventional military success was the sale of about 100 M82A1 rifles to the Swedish Army in 1989. World events then transpired to give Barrett a major impetuous towards success in 1990, when the United States armed forces purchased significant numbers of the M82A1 during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq.
The United States Marine Corps initially bought about 125 rifles. Orders from the Army and Air Force soon followed. The success of the Barrett .50 BMG rifles allowed for Barrett to expand its product line to include AR and precision bolt-action rifles. Ronnie’s son Chris carries on the family tradition of insightful firearm design unconstrained by preconceived notion with the Barrett 98B and MRAD bolt action along with AR designs typified by the M468 and, eventually, the REC 7.
Even at 11 lbs. without the extras, the 98B Tactical is a “packable package.”
The 98B Tactical stems from the 98B, which was Barrett’s first non-.50 caliber platform. The 98B was driven into the background for a time by the company’s focus on the successful MRAD — Multi-Role Adaptive Design precision bolt rifle. The similarity in aesthetics and bolt design leaves no doubt as to the close relationship between the 98B and MRAD. The MRAD was initially introduced chambered in .338 Lapua in response to the United States Special Operations Command’s solicitation for a new long-range anti-personnel rifle. One of the main objectives of the USSOCOM specifications is caliber modularity — providing military snipers with the capability to change calibers without armorer support. This shows through in the Barrett MRAD.
Barrett has decided to kick start the 98B product line up by updating the design via the 98B Tactical as well as the 98B Fieldcraft. The original 98B was chambered in .338 Lapua with the 98B Tactical featuring .300 Win Mag and .308 Win cartridges. The 98B Fieldcraft, intended more for long range hunting applications, is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem Mag, .308, .300 Win Mag. The 98B series fills the performance gap between the big Barrett .50s and AR-15 pattern rifles.
The Barrett 98B combines many innovative patent-pending features with time-proven accuracy producing enhancements. The 98B’s distinctive aesthetics immediately puts you on notice this is no ordinary rifle. Just like the AR platform, the Barrett 98B is comprised of an upper and a lower section. The 98B’s upper features a monolithic rail system with a free-floated barrel inside.
The 98B features a 1:10 RH twist, 24″ fluted barrel and functions with a 10-round detachable double-stack magazine. Single-round feeding is possible if needed. Further listing of 98B dimensions includes an overall length of nearly 49″. Weight of the rifle is around 11 lbs. before loading it and adding optics and other accessories.
An integral 20-MOA offset upper rail is ready to accept a myriad of optics and extends long enough to allow for forward mounting of night vision devices. Interestingly, the forward half of the upper rail can be removed if not required. The 98B’s upper receiver KeyMod fore-end rail system can accept additional rail sections for mounting of laser designators, lights, and anything else a user would need to fulfill a mission.
The 98B’s bolt is encased in a polymer sleeve which makes cycling almost effortless. The rifle has a familiar AR-type pistol grip and safety lever. The rear stock is adjustable in terms of comb height. The modular Barrett adjustable trigger arrived set for 2.5 lbs. Barrett has aligned the shooter’s grip so as to facilitate a straight rearward pull.
The Barrett bolt features three sets of three locking lugs
around its radius. This allows for a 60-degree bolt throw.
The Schmidt & Bender 5-25x56mm PM II made Todd a
better shooter than he really is.
At The Bench
A tactical system is made up of rifle, optics, ammunition and the shooter. For this evaluation a Schmidt & Bender 5-25x56mm PM II was mounted AWP rings. In the past few years, Schmidt & Bender has won multiple US military optic contracts. I was fortunate to be accompanied by Schmidt & Bender’s Jerry Ricker during an EVTC range visit with the Barrett 98B Tactical.
The first requirement of a tactical precision rifle is accuracy. Ammunition used for testing the 98B Tactical .300 Win Mag consisted of Black Hills Match 190-grain BTHP, Federal Premium 190-grain Sierra MatchKing, and Hornady 178-grain A-Max TAP loadings. My reasoning for this selection was simple. If these loads don’t produce accuracy, nothing will. The Barrett 98B shot all the premium loads tested into 1MOA or better at 100 yards; mostly better with the Hornady 178-grain generating near 0.5″ groups The bench testing was done off a Champion tripod front rest and rear sand bag. The accuracy figures are based on firing five three-round groups and averaging group sizes.
Not a lot of time was spent at the 100-yard range. Three hundred yards and out is the more indicative test of a weapon system like the Barrett 98B. And accuracy out to 300 yards was MOA or better.
The Barrett 98B was tested over an extended time period constantly producing sub-MOA groups with several different ammunition brands — an important logistic consideration. Another sign of an accurate, dependable rifle is how cold bore zeros compare over time and if the point of impact shifts after a few rounds heat up the barrel. The Barrett 98B showed no “heating-up” shifts and cold bore zeros remained consistent.
The 98B Tactical’s adjustable cheekpiece helps you get comfortable
behind the rifle, which translates, into more accurate shooting.
A full length Picatinney rail runs along the upper receiver and
fore-end. The forward half is removable to cut unneeded weight.
The side and bottom portions of the fore-end is configured with
KeyMod attachment points.
Targets Of Opportunity
The 98B Tactical’s relatively light 11-lb. weight means it can be carried afield without fatiguing the user and is easier to adapt to non-standard firing positions (or offhand shots) if needed.
Tactical rifles weighing significantly more than the Barrett 98B — while accurate from a fixed prone position — are challenging to shoot in any other position besides prone. Some are even difficult to handle when using shooting sticks or other means of support.
The 24″ barrel is a solid compromise balancing weight, performance, and ease of handling. The 98B Tactical had no problems with shifting points of aim even when firing 10 aimed rounds in relatively rapid fashion. And let’s face it, the majority of real world precision rifle scenarios will not require 10 rounds fired during one mission or call out, especially for law enforcement snipers.
After testing innate accuracy from the bench, field tests were performed at Echo Valley Training Center. This consisted of shooting prone off a bipod or backpack from fixed firing positions overlooking a multi-stepped berm arrayed with various targets of opportunity. This is where all of the 98B Tactical’s technological innovation pays off for the sniper. Extremely accurate range rifles don’t always translate into effective tactical rifles.
But the 98B Tactical’s advantages in accuracy and ergonomics quickly become apparent. Any department or individual contemplating a new tactical rifle would do well to consider it. Not only for what it offers in performance, but also because of the advantage of having Barrett as the company backing it in terms of service, parts and accessories.
After firing over 100 rounds, the 98B’s ergonomics, especially firing from the prone position, can be fully appreciated. The Barrett muzzle brake is very effective at taming recoil by redirecting muzzle blast forward, making it easier to fire multiple rounds accurately and quickly.
The Barrett 98B Tactical can be broken down into upper and lower
receivers for transport. The polymer sleeve that encases the bolt
has been removed from the receiver.
About The Bolt
Chris Barrett designed the bolt system to be totally enclosed by the receiver captured within Teflon-infused polymer guides. This prevents dust and grime entering the bolt raceway.
The Barrett bolt features three sets of three locking lugs. An oversized bolt handle offers plenty of purchase to work the action. Bolt lift is 60 degrees allowing ample clearance for manipulation, no matter the optic mounted. The 98B Tactical’s ease of manipulation aids a shooter chambering a fresh round with minimal head movement. This enables a fast, accurate follow-up shot.
Orientation and intimate familiarity with a weapon such as the Barrett 98B Tactical is a must for shooter and rifle to achieve full potential. For most applications, especially in the law enforcement realm, the .300 WM chambered 98B Tactical is suitable for a wide range of applications. It also provides a ballistic advantage over most adversary weapons encountered.
The .300 Win Mag in the 98B Tactical can extend accurate fire beyond 1,000 yards — effectively filling the gap between the .308 Win and .338 Lapua. You may not need a rifle capable of accurate fire out to 1,000 yards, but if you want one, look no further than the Barrett 98B Tactical.
Schmidt & Bender Optics
Schmidt & Bender was founded in 1957 and has been family owned for its entire existence. S&B’s focus has always been producing the highest quality scopes, with hunting originally in mind. The company started producing telescopic sights for large German hunting equipment sales chains under various brand names. Then they gradually started to produce telescopic sights under their own.
Hunting in Europe is pursued differently than here in the US, with night hunts common. This calls for the highest light gathering and clearest optics possible. Much of the assembly process is done by hand, which is why the company can only turn out a limited number of scopes annually.
In 1992 Schmidt & Bender Hungaria Optik GmbH in Budapest, Hungary, was founded as an independent company by S&B. Schmidt & Bender bought Hungarian Optical Works since this company produced and still produces the optical components Schmidt & Bender uses in their rifle scopes.
Most recently, S&B was chosen to provide the optic for the US military’s Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The company will be supplying its 5-25×56 PMII scope in a special PSR version to US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Special Forces for existing and future sniper rifles.
Another milestone that established S&B as a major player in the tactical optic market was the S&B 3-12×50 PM II model being chosen for use by the US Marines on their sniper rifles. This was after two years of comprehensive testing against 25 rival scopes.
For More Info:
Schmidt & Bender USA Inc.
Echo Valley Training Center
Black Hills Ammunition
Hornady Mfg. Inc.
ATK/Federal Cartridge Company