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USMC-born sniper brings classic looks and sub-MOA precision!
The M40A1 has served on more deployments than almost any other American military weapon system. Again and again, it has proven the worth of one man and a good shooting rifle. Long-range or sniper-styled rifles are all the rage today, and if you look at modern examples of the concept, many resemble an M40A1 about as much as a duck looks like a chicken. The thing is, correctly assembled with quality components, the old M40A1 will hold its own on the battlefield with any of its modern counterparts.
Tactical Rifles, based out of Zephyrhills, Fla., has assembled a limited-production run of M40A1-styled rifles built on Remington 700 actions. These rifles will take you back in time and are nostalgically appealing examples of one of the most famous precision rifles to ever send a bullet toward an American GI’s enemy.
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David Rooney is the man behind Tactical Rifles. Rooney is a former British infantryman who moved to Florida in 1991. He began building precision rifles as a hobby, but for the last 11 years that’s all he has done. Currently, Tactical Rifles offers a variety of precision long guns, including its Tactical Long Range, which is built on a Remington 700 or Tactical Rifle’s own Chimera action. The company also offers a .300 Winchester Magnum version of the M40, a Classic Sporter and a variety of ARs. I recently had the chance to test Tactical Rifles’ M40A1.
The foundation of the Tactical Rifles M40A1 is the Remington 700 action, but Tactical Rifles takes extreme care in truing the action, lugs and bolt face. Alternatively, you can opt for Tactical Rifles’ own Chimera action in place of the Remington 700. The rifle’s 24-inch, heavy-contour, match-grade Shilen premium barrel is rough chambered with a lathe, and the finish work is done by hand to ensure a zero-spec match-grade chamber.
The barrel on the M40A1 can only be described as heavy. It measures 1.25 inches thick just forward of the action and tapers to 0.935 inches at the muzzle. There is a deep recess on the muzzle to protect the crown, and the barrel has a matte blue finish. The barreled action is then precision-bedded to a McMillan HTG stock, which has been painted with a woodland camo pattern. In addition, Tactical Rifles installs a heavyweight, hinged, stainless steel floorplate with an internal magazine. The M40A1 also comes standard with a Picatinny scope rail with a built-in 20-MOA offset.
Off the bench, I could find nothing to complain about with this rifle. It functioned perfectly. The Shilen trigger was crisp and broke cleanly at 3.75 pounds with just a slight bit of overtravel. The wide trigger made the pull weight feel a full pound lighter. And when I pulled the trigger, the bullets went exactly where I told them to go—this rifle is a definitely shooter. The average group size for 15 five-shot groups with three different loads was 0.89 inches. Considering that on my best days a half-inch group is about as good as I can do, I was impressed with the regularity with which I could create tight groups on the target. If fact, it was so consistent that I did something with this rifle I’ve never done with any other precision rifle I’ve ever tested before.
You see, I’ve turned my property into a shooting complex of sorts. There are several often-used ranges for shooting handguns and rifles from field positions. My accuracy and ballistics testing range is essentially an alley cut through the woods, and the 100-yard target is slightly uphill. With springtime comes new growth, and some half-inch- diameter maple tree branches were beginning to eek their way out in front of my backstop. I did not want to cut the tree. What could I do? The Tactical Rifles M40A1 offered the perfect answer. I shot the branches down. That says enough about the level of precision this rifle offers.
In a former life I was the designated marksman for my police department. I also still enjoy long-range shooting and have attended a number of precision rifle courses with Gunsite Academy and Magpul Dynamics. As a result of those experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot and evaluate a variety of precision rifles, from the mundane to the practically unthinkable. I can say without hesitation that the Tactical Rifles M40A1 will hang with any of them.
The Tactical Rifles M40A1 was shipped to me with a fine-performing 3-18x42mm Valdada IOR riflescope that had been pre-calibrated to the rifle. It’s an excellent optic that can be added to the Tactical Rifles package for an additional $1,759. But I’ve been testing Nightforce’s new 4-14x56mm SHV riflescope, and when I found out how well the M40A1 shot, I thought it would be the perfect test platform for the new Nightforce.
I mounted the 30mm scope in a set of steel Trijicon tactical rings and zeroed the reticle in two shots. I then performed a box drill, adjusting the reticle down and left, up, right, down, and then left and up, which took me back to the center of the target. Given a half-inch of error, which was representative of the groups the rifle was shooting, the box drill proved the exactness of the 0.25-MOA adjustments in the Nightforce SHV, and the last shot cut the same hole as the first.
With the new SHV, Nightforce cut costs but not corners. Nightforce riflescopes will never be cheap because of their quality materials, precise tolerances, skilled workmanship and extreme ruggedness. However, the SHV is the least expensive riflescope Nightforce builds. The company kept the price down by eliminating some features commonly found on its higher-end riflescopes. But make no mistake, this is still a premium optic.
It has a wide adjustment range and uses the same high-end glass found in any other Nightforce scope. Capped target turrets are standard, and you can choose between an illuminated or non-illuminated version. The scope offers a great magnification range for long-range shooting, hunting or varminting, which is exactly where the SHV model name comes from.
Between 0 and 800 yards, just about anything you want to shoot at with a Tactical Rifles M40A1 topped off with a Nightforce SHV riflescope is in what might be considered the danger zone—even half-inch maple limbs that might be blocking your target.
Tactical Rifles’ M40A1 has the throwback allure and sentimental tactical appeal any true rifleman will appreciate. American scout snipers have been pulling triggers on rifles just like this—to take and save lives—for a long time. Shooting the Tactical Rifles M40A1 is not like crawling up behind the latest long-range wonder cannon—it’s an old school approach to a tactical problem and, based on what I observed while testing the M40A1, there’s nothing wrong with the old school.
Maybe the best news is that if you want one of these rifles, they are currently in stock. You’ll not find that availability from hardly another custom precision rifle builder. If you want to tweak the build at all by changing the stock color or whatever, there’ll be a wait time.
One thing I can guarantee is that if you show up at the local range with a Tactical Rifles M40A1, you’re going to get some looks. Maybe at first it will only be the combat vets staring at you with a melancholy tear in their eye, but after you fire a few one-hole groups, you’ll have everyone’s attention.
Oh, and there’s another aspect of this package. For a limited time, Tactical Rifles will include a lifetime NRA membership when you purchase an M40A1 and IOR riflescope package. When’s the last time you heard of a deal this good?