When assembling a report of the most accurate weapons, namely those used for sharpshooting, you'd think that five heavy-barreled, bolt-action rifles would flush out the list. While bolt-action rifles are generally considered to house the most accurate fundamental gun design, skilled marksmen throughout history have proven that accuracy is only partially attributable to the machine. The shooter has significant influence, too. All things being equal, there are several distinct guns specially designed for sharpshooting. Here are five of our favorites.
A revolver on a sharpshooters list? Absolutely! While you'll never see a military sniper taking long-distance shots with a revolver, skilled marksmen have proven these guns can and do shoot with an incredible degree of accuracy.
Jerry Miculek is one famous revolver aficionado who has won more than 20 world championships, and he has shown that speed and accuracy can go hand in hand. Revolvers, especially those that sport a long barrel and are chambered in .357-magnum (less expensive .38-Special ammo can be used for practice) owe this inherent accuracy to their fixed barrels, robust construction, and precise tolerances.
The Berdan-Sharps, known to most shooters simply as a "Sharps," evolved from rather pedestrian roots. Based on a breech-loading rifle of the late 19th-century, the Sharps featured such advanced modifications as a heavy weight barrel measuring from 30-34", a slide-adjustable tang sight, double-set triggers, and a heavy-duty falling block action.
This rifle was made famous and introduced into pop culture by the 1990 movie Quigley Down Under, where it virtually co-starred with Tom Selleck's titular character. Standard chambering is .50-70 GOVT, which refers to a .50-caliber bullet over 70 grains of powder - a potent cartridge to say the least.
McMillan makes custom guns, and no sniper is more famous for using their product than legendary Navy Seal Chris Kyle. Kyle used a modified McMillan tactical bolt-action rifle to eliminate an enemy target from over 2,100 yards away.
That equates to a 1.2-mile shot, and his gun was allegedly equipped with a scope that topped out at just 10x, not an ideal magnification for accurate long-range work. The McMillan Tac-338 is chambered in the potent .338 Lapua round, an absolute monster of a cartridge. Shooting as flat as a .50-caliber, though with far less recoil and muzzle blast, the .338 Lapua is the marksmen's caliber.
Accuracy International AWM
This bolt-action rifle was made famous due to its role in the "longest confirmed kill shot in history." In 2009, Craig Harrison of the British Army used an AWM chambered in .338 Lapua to eliminate two Taliban machine gunners from a position later determined to be over 2,700 yards away.
The shots were confirmed by a support helicopter that used a laser measuring system to verify the range. The AWM features an ergonomic thumbhole stock, a precision barrel and action, a detachable box magazine for quick reloads, and a barrel-mounted suppressor to protect the ears of the shooter.
Though the M1 Garand isn't normally associated with sharp shooting, there is a case to be made for the venerable rifle. The M1 was the standard issue rifle for most U.S. troops during WWII, and its potent cartridge (.30-06), quick and reliable gas action, and superb durability lent itself to war in the trenches.
Modern operators have taken the M1 and converted it into a truly accurate and sophisticated weapon that rivals some bolt-action designs available today. The M1 provided eight rounds of high-powered .30-caliber bullets per magazine, a much-improved figure when compared to standard issue bolt-action rifles of the time.
While there is no one "perfect" gun to accommodate all sharpshooting requirements, most long-distance shooters, snipers, and designated marksmen will agree that it is tough to beat a quality bolt-action rifle when outfitted with a rugged and reliable scope.