The build for this article requires a little bit of background, so bear with me for two paragraphs while I detail the genesis of this rifle.
In the early summer of 2018, I spent the hot Arizona days attending the local police academy to fill my role as a police officer for a local municipal agency. Fast forward to the fall of 2019, I had spent a grand total of 5 minutes on the road as a solo officer, and my long-range shooting accomplishments were gaining traction.
I was approached by members of the agency SWAT Team in regard to testing for a team sniper position. Serving in the agency SWAT team had been a goal from day one of hire, however knowing that officers as new as I were not common candidates for such a position, I figured it was a goal on the distant horizon. That being said, many of the members of the team were supportive of my testing and I was not going to waste an opportunity to fulfill a position on a team where I could serve, learn, train, and spend paid time behind a rifle.
Prior to the testing for a position on our SWAT team, I knew that if I tested high enough and out tested the other applicant, than I would need a precision rifle chambered in .308 Winchester for work. While I had not tested or even obtained the position, I put it all on black and figured that if I didn’t make it this testing, I could train with the rifle until I made the team. Enter the build.
As any police officer working for an agency the size of mine, I am financially taken care of and comfortable, but not rich. The not rich part may be due to my addiction to shooting and training at every opportunity, but there are worse problems in life. In the precision rifle industry, the words budget and quality precision rifle components typically don’t fall into the same sentence; however, for this project they would have to. Price was a major concern, but it was essential that I didn’t cut corners when it came to precision, reliability, and repeatability. It should be noted that the agency does provide rifles for those on the team, however the option to use your own is present.
I began by looking for a rifle platform that I could count on good accuracy and had a heavy barrel with a threaded muzzle. Ideally, I wanted to spend less than $400 for the rifle, as I intended to ditch the stock immediately, so my focus was strictly based on features pertaining to the barreled action. Through hours of searching, I determined that the Savage Model 10 FP-SR would fit within my parameters nicely. I decided to go with the Savage for a handful of reasons. First it featured a 20-inch barrel. I wanted a short barrel that would not add unnecessary length to my build and maintain rigidity. Next, I chose the Savage knowing that the floating bolt head would increase the odds of rifle shooting within my expectations despite being a factory barreled action. The rifle featured a heavy barrel, Accu-Trigger, and threaded muzzle. I located the rifle on Gunbroker for $329.00 and it had a $75.00 rebate. I sold the stock for $60.00 on eBay bringing the grand total for the barreled action to $184.00.
Next, I moved onto the optics. You could say I selected the optics for this rifle Bass Ackwards. Coming from a Kahles K525i on my competition rifle, the bar was set high for my next optic purchase. I originally planned to go with a Vortex Optic mainly for price regarding their law enforcement discount. Never had I planned on purchasing an Athlon optic, but my plans were quickly changed thanks to a flyer I received in the mail from Midway USA. On the front page of the flyer, was an Athlon Ares BTR 2.5-15×50 FFP for a whopping $399.99. The Ares BTR featured a First Focal Plane reticle and a very well thought out reticle layout. Also on the Ares BTR, was illumination, zero stop, adjustable parallax, and exposed turrets. The reviews for the Ares were mixed. Some loved them, others hated them for their “mushy” feeling turrets. I pulled the trigger on the Ares BTR and within a week it was at my door step.
While this is not a review of the Athlon Ares, I will briefly offer some insight for those considering the optic. The turrets were mushy when I got the optic. However, by removing the turret caps, cleaning the insides of the caps and the o-ring around the base of the turret boss, I was able to achieve a very nice, audible “click” from the Athlon Ares BTR and was very satisfied. A tracking test of the Ares BTR reviewed an almost unsubstantial amount of error. Overall I am very pleased with my $400.00 Optic. A more in depth review of the Ares BTR will follow. It is worth noting that the Athlon Ares BTR 2.5-15×50 is typically priced at $799.99 on Midway and other websites. I did locate the optic for a little over $400.00 on Amazon while writing this article.
For scope rings I went with a set of Vortex Tactical Scope rings from Amazon for $38.00. These rings featured 6 screws per ring and appeared well built. I lapped the rings prior to installation and used blue threadlocker on the screws which were properly torqued. While I am on the subject of scope bolt-on accessories, I also added a Burris Bubble Level for $28.00.
I then proceeded to address the matter of the stock or in this case, chassis. I was originally considering the MDT ESS chassis system. I liked the system, but did not LOVE the looks, and for me, looks are half the battle. Then I saw the MDT TAC 21 Chassis and knew it was the one. It placed the bore in-line with the stock, and featured a fully enclosed body around the receiver. I was especially pleased that the forend did not attach to the barrel like the Ruger Precision. While I own a Ruger Precision Rifle and really enjoy it, I have never been a fan of the way in which the forend is incorporated to the system. The MDT TAC 21 addressed that concern. I was interested in the Flat Dark Earth (FDE) version of the chassis, but found a black version on Brownell’s website marked down to $549.00. Couple the $549.00 price tag with a 10% coupon code and I received my MDT Chassis from Brownell’s for right at $500.00. Settling for a black chassis was well worth the almost $200.00 in savings.
The MDT TAC 21 does not include a rear stock but does feature an interface that allows the addition of common AR-15 style buffer tube/receiver extensions. For the stock I chose a LUTH-AR stripped down carbine stock. I chose the LUTH-AR stock because it did not cost me money out of pocket as I was able to trade other guns parts with a co-worker. I had an extra carbine buffer tube, castle nut, and end plate laying around. In total, the stock for the MDT TAC 21 cost me $0.00.
The MDT TAC 21 requires the addition of an AR-15 style pistol grip. Having used an Anarchy Outdoors Tuxedo Grip on my Ruger Precision Rifle and being quite satisfied, I purchased one for this build as well. The grip was here within 3 days and is a go to addition to my chassis rifles. This grip set me back $53.00.
I am a huge fan of the Harris bipod system for its functionality and price point. However, at this stage in the build, the money was running out. The Harris with the Badger Ordinance Rail adapter, and pod lock that I run on my PRS rifle set me back $170.00, and I could not swing that for this set up. So, I hopped on Amazon once again. Having no complaints about 2 prior Harris look alike bipods in the past, I bought a third. The names of the companies that manufacture these bipods change all the time, but they all seem the same. They are 6-9 bipods that feature a swiveling head, imitation pod-lock and are very robust for the $35.00 they ask. I am typically against purchasing knock-offs, however Harris let their patent lapse, so in this case it is fair game.
The last piece of the puzzle for this project was the muzzle brake. Early testing of the build without a brake proved to be quite painful as the LUTH-AR stock did not offer any sort of recoil pad, and recoil was directly inline with the shoulder. I am a big fan of Precision Armaments M41 brake, and use them on my wife and I’s PRS rifles. The downside to these brakes, is the dust. For this build I opted for the Precision Armament M11 brake, as it offered horizontal ports that would mitigate dust. I purchased the brake for $74.00.
Assembly was a breeze. The MDT TAC 21 Chassis, Athlon Ares BTR, Vortex Scope Rings, AO Tuxedo Grip, and LUTH-AR stock were all at my door step and in the shop before the Savage arrived at my FFL’s shop. The beauty of the TAC 21, was that I could install the stock, grip, scope rings and scope all before the barreled action arrived. Once the Savage did arrive, it only took approximately 20 minutes to install into the system. If you don’t have any experience removing and installing trigger groups, it might be a good idea to watch some disassembly videos pertaining to your firearm before embarking on the MDT TAC 21 Chassis final assembly.
Once the build was complete, I hit the range and immediately started the barrel break in process. I am not going to detail my break in process in this post, but will do so at a later date. Once the barrel was broke in, the groups started shrinking. What I initially though my settle into a 1 MOA gun, proved to be a consistent ½ MOA rifle after approximately 90 rounds ripped through the bore. This particular rifle is a fan of Hornady projectiles but seems to be more accepting of other ammunition as the bore becomes more seasoned.
In the end, I was extremely satisfied with my decision to assemble this rifle. By shopping the deals I was able to piece the rifle together at a pace that my finances would allow as opposed to a lump sum purchase of a rifle of this quality. I have added a price list below. Please note that these prices are what I purchased them for. It is up to you to be diligent in your search for good deals.
Build List and Cost:
Savage Model 10 FP-SR $184.00
FFL Transfer Fee $25.00
Athlon Ares BTR 2.5-15×50 $400.00
Vortex Tactical Scope Rings $38.00
Burris Bubble Level $28.00
MDT TAC 21 Chassis $500.00
Anarchy Outdoors Tuxedo Grip $53.00
LUTH-AR Carbine Stock $0.00
AR Buffer Tube/Receiver Extension and Hardware $0.00
Amazon Harris style Bi-Pod $35.00
Precision Armament M11 Brake $74.00
Total Cost: $1,337.00