It’s hard to argue against the idea that the perfect prairie dog rifle is a semi-automatic. Its 20-round magazine makes it ready for the relentlessly fast-paced action of my favorite hotspots in Wyoming and Nebraska; it makes for lightning-quick follow-up shots because its bolt does not have to be manually worked, a feature that allows this short-armed shooter to more easily stay on target at long ranges, see ground impact of misses and to correct them.
The one not-so-minor problem with this idealistic scenario is finding a semi-auto rifle that shoots in the same accuracy realm as the best built bolt-guns around. David Rooney of Tactical Rifles Inc. has made my dream a reality.
My type-A personality and days of shooting in the wide-open spaces of Arizona have made me an accuracy junkie. (Shooting soda-can-sized dogs at 400 yards and beyond is not work for mere 1 MoA guns, in my way of thinking.) If it’s not sub-½ MoA, especially at today’s ammo prices, it’s not for me when I’m prone on a dog town.
Prior to meeting Rooney, I was sure this kind of accuracy was the sole domain of my bolt-guns. Trying to keep an open mind, I listened with muted skepticism when he told me of his company’s ½-MoA guarantee with factory ammunition. When I shot my SVR (Special Varmint Rifle) in .223 Remington a few months later, I learned that, if anything, Rooney is too modest. The rifle was indeed a consistent sub-½ MoA performer with factory Hornady V-Max loads. Countless hole-digging varmints have fallen to it at exceptionally long ranges.
At NRA’s 2008 Annual Meetings and Exhibits, Tactical Rifles Inc. asked me to run its SVR chambered in .204 Ruger through its paces. I took the one rifle they had on display (pictured) and, as Mr. Modesty predicted, it shot even better than my cherished .223 SVR. I honestly didn’t think it was possible.
I fired 12 three-shot groups at 100 yards with factory Hornady V-Max and Remington Accutip ammo. Weather conditions were near-perfect. Bolt gun devotees will find the results hard to believe, but they are what they are. Five groups were sub-1/4 MoA with the smallest being .12 MoA. Five more were sub-½ MoA with the largest in this group measuring .42 MoA. The two others were .60 and .64 MoA. Both of these had one-shot flyers I attribute to the man shooting the muzzle-brake-equipped .338 Win. Mag. next to me. The average of the 12 groups was .32 MoA and the median was .31 MoA.
The SVR from Tactical Rifles Inc. is built to order but standard features include: completely accurized AR-15 TR flattop receiver; match-grade adjustable 2-4 pound trigger; stainless steel, select, match-grade, hand-lapped barrel with target crown; match-grade chamber; free-float handguard; and “Extreme Environment” finish. The test rifle’s finish was hydrographically applied with Natgear camo that attracted a lot of attention at the range.
The SVRs I’ve shot have the revolutionary Magpul Industries PRS adjustable stocks that I believe are indispensable on any precision AR-style rifle. I also use the Magpul PMAG 20-round magazines with self-leveling followers that seem to eliminate any reliability issues with the soft-tipped varmint bullets that can sometimes end up nose-down in standard magazines as they drag across the front wall.
If you’re one of those varmint hunting fanatics like me who hasn’t given semi-automatic rifles a fair shake, you need to have a conversation with Mr. Rooney at Tactical Rifles Inc. Just remember that he’s a little too modest when talking about his ½ MoA accuracy guarantee with factory ammunition!
Type: R-15-style, semi-auto rifle
Calibers: 233 Rem.; .204 Ruger
Barrel: 4"; match-grade, full profile
Trigger: Match grade, 2-stage
Safety: Two-position thumb lever
Magazine: Magpul 20-round PMAG
Stock: 2-style, free-floated handguard
Weight: 10 lbs., 8 ozs.