Small Caliber, Long Reach

The Ruger Precision Rifle In .243 Win Offers The
Long-Range Rifleman Several Benefits Over The Rifle’s
Other Bigger-Caliber Chamberings.

By Dave Anderson

Ruger has done it again with the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR). Since the company was founded back in 1949, it has done a remarkably good job of producing what we shooters want—or even things we didn’t know we wanted.

Since its introduction, the RPR has been in great demand and short supply. The RPR shown here is one I purchased recently, kind of an impulse buy. Holt Bodinson did a thorough and meticulous review article on a RPR in 6.5 Creedmoor (October, 2015 issue). Rather than go over ground already covered, I thought it more useful to recount my experience with the rifle, chambered to a different cartridge.

I stopped by my favorite gun shop with a different rifle in mind. By chance, the dealer had just received the first dozen of his RPR order. There were four each chambered for .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. My initial plans were instantly canceled, and I bought an RPR in .243 Win.
Hold on, that got your attention. Why select a .243 when the other two cartridges are available? Well, I already have a super-accurate Weatherby Vanguard 6.5 Creedmoor with 24-inch barrel, and .308 rifles with barrel lengths from 18-1/2 to 24 inches. But I didn’t have a 26-inch fast-twist .243.

From what dealers say, the biggest demand for the RPR is in 6.5 Creedmoor, followed by .308 Win. I hear rumors of shooters paying a premium for the Creedmoor chambering (though my dealer had all three priced the same, and well below retail).

Later on the dealer told me all the RPR rifles sold within three days. Although my .243 was first out the door, the remaining three .243’s didn’t sell until the Creedmoor and .308 rifles were gone. While I won’t argue with anyone about their cartridge choice, I think it’s a mistake to overlook the .243.

What do I like about it? One factor is recoil, the other is the barrel on the RPR. None of these cartridges has onerous recoil in a 10+ pound rifle (more like 14+ with scope, mounts, and bipod), certainly not in terms of a few groups to sight in for a hunting trip. But for competition, in which you might fire 90 rounds or more in a couple of hours, less recoil helps ensure the last shot of the day is fired with the same clean trigger break as the first one.

To stretch the .243 out to 1,000 yards or further, you want long, high ballistic coefficient bullets. Such bullets resist wind drift better and keep the bullet supersonic to a greater range. The tradeoff is they need a fast twist-barrel, plus enough muzzle velocity to get the bullet spinning fast enough to stabilize.

The easiest way to gain velocity is with a longer barrel. On a hunting rifle, I prefer the fast-handling features of a fairly compact rifle with barrel length in the range of about 19 to 22 inches. With an RPR, which might be carried (for example) in a police vehicle and quickly deployed as needed, I can see the virtues of the 20-inch barrel on the .308 version.

For a target rifle to be mostly fired prone or from a bench, I really appreciate the 26-inch barrel of the .243 SPR. F-Class competitors often go to even longer barrels, 28 to 30 inches or even more. The 26-inch barrel on the .243 is one of the main reasons I selected it over the 6.5 CM (24-inch barrel) and .308 Win (20 inch).

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The Ruger RPR is a fine long-range precision rifle and an amazing value. Standard
features include fully adjustable stock, 20 MOA Picatinny sight rail, detachable
10-shot magazine, reversible safety, and a very good adjustable trigger. The Bushnell
Elite Tactical 4.5-30×50 is likewise very well made with accurate and repeatable
adjustments. The weight (unloaded) is 13 pounds, 10 ounces, and 14.5 pounds with
the Harris bipod attached.

The RPR .243 barrel has a 1:7.7-inch twist. It will easily stabilize 105- or 107-grain match bullets. With 115-grain match bullets, it is on the bubble. Berger recommends a 1:7 twist with the Berger 115-grain VLD match bullet. A 1:7 twist will stabilize the bullet even if you are shooting in subzero weather at sea level. Stability improves as both temperature and altitude increase, so depending on what these factors are for you, 1:7.7 may or may not work. About all you can do is try them.

I was delighted to find the 115-grain Berger VLD match bullet shot beautifully in my rifle. Shooting at an elevation of about 1,850 feet above sea level on a chilly 40-degree day, muzzle velocity averaged about 2,975 fps.

Since I expect to shoot this rifle a lot, I used moly-coated bullets from the start. Usually I use moly to enhance barrel life, and to maintain accuracy for more shots between cleanings. The modest velocity gains possible I consider of lesser importance.

In this case I felt velocity did matter, both to spin the bullets faster for stability and for better long-range trajectory and wind resistance. If the moly added only about 50 to 75 fps, it was still worth it. I also went to slower burning powders.

In my various .243s with 80- to 95-grain bullets, my go-to powders have long been Hodgdon or IMR 4350 and more recently Alliant RL-17. With heavier bullets, I went to slower burning powders and had no trouble getting velocities of 2,950 to 3,000 fps with 115-grain bullets and 3,050 to 3,100 fps with 105-grain bullets. Powders I had on hand included Winchester 780 Supreme, Alliant RL-22, IMR 7828, Ramshot Magnum and Hodgdon Retumbo.

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The adjustable stock of the Ruger RPR allows a custom fit for individual
shooter size and style. Many shooters, for example, prefer a longer length
of pull when shooting prone. In keeping with the modular concept of the
rifle the adjustable stock can be removed and replaced with most any
AR-style stock. The stock folds to the left for storage or bolt removal.

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Dave fitted his Ruger Precision Rifle in .243 Win with a Bushnell Elite Tactical
scope, 4.5-30×50 in Weaver 30mm rings. Shooting accessories include Leica 1600
laser rangefinder, Kestrel weather station with Applied Ballistics program,
Ranger custom shooting glasses from Tactical Rx.

In comparing the .243 Win, 6.5 CM and .308 Win here, remember I’m talking in terms of shooting paper or steel. If your plans include hunting game, especially game larger than deer, both the 6.5 CM and the .308, with their heavier bullets and greater momentum, are superior.

Much as I like the .243 cartridge I’m not enthused about its design, a 20-degree shoulder and short case neck. I consider the 6.5 Creedmoor a really well designed cartridge, with its longer case neck and 30-degree shoulder. Another argument favoring the Creedmoor is the superb Hornady target ammunition. And all things being equal, the .243 will likely have a shorter barrel life.

But all nitpicking aside, this .243 Win, 115-grain load is really quite something. It shoots flatter than the 6.5 Creedmoor, and resists wind-drift just as well. There’s nothing you can load in the .308 to come even close. Needless to say, recoil in a 14-pound rifle is negligible.

The Ruger RPR is a most impressive rifle. It is accurate and completely reliable. I like the modular construction, the ease of changing stock, handguard, pistol grip and safety. I like the AR-style barrel fitting to make barrel changes relatively simple. I like the ingenious magazine latch arrangement, allowing the use of several makes of detachable magazines. The supplied 20 MOA Picatinny sight rail is a nice touch, as is the rail to attach a bipod, where it suits you best. The overall quality of materials and workmanship is high.

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Typical 5-shot groups at 100 yards from the RPR .243 measured in the
range of 0.65 to 0.75 inches. These loads were assembled in Lapua cases,
Federal 210 primers, Alliant RL-22 powder, Berger 115-grain VLD Target
bullets (moly-coated). Muzzle velocity averaged 2,975 fps.

Its only feature that could be better is the trigger. Don’t get me wrong, it is crisp, consistent, with a quality clean trigger break. At its lightest setting, my trigger breaks at 2-1/2 pounds with very little variation.

This is fine for a hunting rifle, but on a match rifle I want the ability to adjust the trigger to a pound or less. I hope to see some high quality aftermarket match triggers available eventually.

As I write this in the frozen north country, it will be a couple of months before the snow melts enough to the allow the 1,000-yard range to open. I plan to have a few hundred of these .243, 115-grain loads ready to go when it does.

Precision Rifle
Maker: Ruger
411 Sunapee Street
Newport, NH 03773
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/sturm-ruger-co/

Action: Bolt action repeater
Caliber: .243 (tested) 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win
Capacity: 10
Barrel length: 24 inches
Overall length: 42 inches, (45.5 inches stock extended, 34.6 folded)
Weight: 10.6 pounds
Finish: Matt black
Sights: None, 20 MOA Picatinny rail
Stock: Fully adjustable synthetic
Price: $1,399

Elite Tactical
LRS 4.5-30×50
Maker: Bushnell
9200 Cody
Overland Park
KS 66214
(913) 752-3400
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/bushnell-outdoor-products/

Power range: 4.5X, 30X
Objective lens: 50mm
Tube diameter: 30mm
Parallax: Adjustable, left side knob
Eye relief: 4 inches
Adjustments: 1/4 inch at 100 yards
Adjustment range: 70 MOA elevation, 18 MOA windage
Reticle: Mil-dot, second focal plane
Weight: 24 ounces
Length overall: 13.1 inches
Length of main tube: 5.7 inches
Other: 3-inch sunshade, fully multi-coated, Rainguard HD, matte finish, Argon gas filled
Price: $1,352.95

Nielsen-Kellerman (Kestral)
21 Creek Circle
Boothwyn, PA 19061
(800) 784-4221
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/nielson-kellerman/

TacticalRx
4337 Tennyson Street
Denver, CO 80212
(303) 455-3369
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/tacticalrx/

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