If everyone were flush with cash, we would all build our ultimate dream rifle whenever we needed. More than likely, we would build one for every conceivable situation we might find ourselves in. Unfortunately, there are very few people that can do that. Most of us are on a budget…some people are on a really tight one. The idea for this article began years ago with a forum post about which of the cheap military surplus rifles could double as a no frills, super cheap sniper rifle affordable to just about everyone if things got dicey. There were some great ideas and some were not even surplus rifles. That thread got me thinking and over the past several years, yes years, I have been trying to make this all work out. The idea for the build project described in this article was to take the above mentioned forum thread and expand on the idea a bit more…and then give it a catchy name!
600 for 600. Or 6-4-6 for short. More specifically, the idea of this project is this: can we effectively engage targets at 600 yards with a complete rifle package that cost a total of $600 or less. So, 600 yards for 600 bucks. Do note, this is the complete Sniper Weapon System (SWS) package price, to include the rifle, scope, base and scope rings, all assembled. With this SWS, we need to be able to do more than just get lucky and hit a target once or twice at 600 yards. We have to actually be a consistent and deadly as a sniper at 600 yards with it. Oh, and that $600, that is not dealer or discounted price but rather it had to be the retail price! It had to be something we could sell here at SC to our customers for $600 and still make money on. So with those parameters laid out, let us see if we can be successful with the 6-4-6 SWS concept.
Because we are talking about $600 for the entire package, it was going to involve a complete top down look at all the components, not just the rifle or just the scope. In fact, even the cost of the scope rings and base were going to have to be evaluated in order to keep the overall cost down. Even with the low overall cost of the SWS, there were a few hard requirements that we could not compromise on. To help us come up with the overall specs, we imagined when we might need a SWS setup like this and we kept coming back to a ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, global war type of scenario where the poor college kid with military training needed to get out and use his skills. The other scenario was a tiny county Sheriff office that had no budget for a sniper system, but there may be a deputy that was willing to put forth his own hard earned cash for a SWS he could use in a pinch.
With those rough mission parameters set, we then did what we always emphasize to our readers. We laid out some of the requirements for this project based on a defined mission of the rifle. That list needed to be more than just defining the max range and the cost of the SWS. So we came up with our set of requirements for the SWS to fill:
- The rifle needed a heavy barrel for consistent accuracy
- Needed to be chambered in .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Rem, or 243 Win.
- Had to be able to mount a bipod to the rifle – for field use.
- Needed at least 6x magnification, with a preference for 10x
- Scope could NOT be made in China (too much bad history with Chinese scopes)
- 1 piece Picatinny style rail for easy scope swapping in the field
- Better than average scope rings, preferably tactical and durable.
- External adjustment knobs on the scope
- Range finding reticle – we wanted it to be a self sufficient package with no requirement for a LRF
- At least a 3 round internal or external magazine – it is a sniper rifle and had to be combat effective
- Had to reliably be able to hit a man size silhuette at 600 yards, 1 MOA at 600 yards would be ideal.
- Had to cost no more than $600 as a retail SWS package. (Could we sell it at retail and make acceptable margin)
Okay, that was a pretty good list of requirements and it gave us our guideline to get started. So we began to search, and to look, and to review, and it took a lot longer than I thought. In fact it took so long that at one point in the process I considered changing the parameters from 600 for $600 to 700 for $700 just to give us an extra $100 to work with…but that felt like cheating, so we didn’t change it. Slowly we started to find some pieces to the puzzle that looked like they might work, the first of which was the scope.
We knew that the hardest part for the scope search was not going to be finding a scope that had the features within the budget, but to find one that had decent quality and was not made in China. There are plenty of bargain basement tactical scopes on the market that could work, but they are all made in China and we still do not trust cheap Chinese made scopes to last in the field or to be repeatable. There were also some decent quality scopes in our price range we thought might work, but they either did not have external knobs or they did not have a range finding reticle, which was frustrating. We had also reviewed some scopes that were lower priced and met all the requirements, but they were not low enough priced. These included the Bushnell Tactical 10x40mm, Vortex Diamondback 4-12x40mm and Redfield Revolution Tactical 3-9x40mm.
They all are fine scopes, not made in China, and passed our testing procedures. But they just took too much of the $600 retail budget to make work as part of the package. We thought we didn’t have much of a choice and were keeping these scopes in the back of our mind, but then Sightron rolled out their lower priced SIH-Tac 3-9x40mm scope which we brought in and reviewed. It did not perform as well as those other three and it had a mildot reticle with MOA knobs. But it performed well enough and there was no requirement that the reticle and knobs had to be in the same units and we were extremely comfortable doing mil reticle with MOA knobs, it is second nature. The good part was that the price was another step lower than even those other three budget scopes.
All of a sudden, there was some renewed hope that we could pull off this 6-4-6 concept…it only took about two years to get one step of it taken care of…we were hoping the other pieces would not take as long. We were wrong.
The Rings and Base
The rings and base were not really too much of a concern since we had been using the Burris XTR rings for years now on our entry level rifle packages with good enough results. We have used EGW bases, Nightforce standard duty bases, and now we are using the Leupold BackCountry Cross Slot bases. They are all made of aluminum and the quality has been pretty good, especially with the Nightforce and Leupold bases. Of course, we planned to use a 20 MOA canted base just to optimize what we had in the scope.
The Burris XTR rings are a six screw design that has been fine over the years, but we were never 100% happy with them as we have had cross bolts break and scope cap screws not thread in very well. Recently, without us really looking for them, we stumbled upon the new Leupold BackCountry rings and while they are a little more expensive than the Burris XTRs, their quality seems to be better and we like them and have opted to use those, combined with the matching base, for the 6-4-6 SWS. They are not a huge tactical ring, but they are robust enough. You can read our review of the BackCountry rings and bases here.
Even with the last minute change, this was the easiest part of the project to settle on.
So now we go from the easiest piece, to the hardest piece of the puzzle! Finding the right rifle. In our efforts over the years to make this project work, we found some rifles that appeared suitable, but just didn’t quite fit the bill. We even reviewed a few of them here at Sniper Central. These included rifles such as the Ruger American Predator, Mossberg MVP Long Range and the Thompson Center Venture Predator.
All of the rifles actually performed fine in their own right. But they either didn’t have a proper heavy barrel for prolonged sniper use or their costs were just too high for the 6-4-6 project, or both. All we were looking for was a simple varmint rifle with heavy barrel for cheap. Something like the old cheap varmint rifles from about 10 years ago from makers like Marlin, Stevens and others. Obviously they no longer were in fad and we could not find exactly what we wanted that would fit the budget.
Then finally, after years of waiting and searching on a casual basis, Remington came out with a heavy barrel version of their own cheap entry level rifle the Model 783. We had never really looked very much at the 783 rifles because of their price point and because when we thought of Remington, we thought of the Model 700. But when this new heavy barrel version of the rifle popped up and at a price point that could actually work for the 6-4-6 project, we figured we better give it a try! At first the Heavy Barrel version was only available with a 16″ barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win. It was not ideal, but at 600 yards, it could still work…especially if chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, though. The .308 Win should be fine as well at those ranges even with the short barrel. So we brought one in and reviewed it. During the review process we discovered that the 783 would soon be available with a 24″ heavy barrel as well, bonus!
The barrel was short, and it is not as heavy as we would like, but it is a heavy barrel and there were some additional bonus features on the 783 as well. Those included the barrel being threaded, a large tactical style bolt knob and it the rifle comes with a Picatinny rail! That last feature would work very much to our advantage in keeping the total price of our 6-4-6 SWS under $600 USD. Additionally, there is also a Varmint version of the 783 now available with a laminated stock and heavy barrel, but it costs over $100 more than the synthetic version, so we never considered it for this concept.
We were happy enough with the little 16″ barreled rifle to encourage us to attempt to put this whole SWS together and see if we could consider it a real 600 yard rifle…all for less than $600 retail.
The Assembled Package
With the aluminum picatinny rail already installed on the rifle from the factory, it was a pretty easy process to mount the Sightron S1H-Tac 3-9x40mm scope. We used a level system to insure everything was mounted level and square to the rifle and it literally only took us a couple of minutes to do it.
With everything now assembled together, the rifle didn’t look half bad, at least not for a complete SWS that costs under $600. The smaller sized scope complements the size of the rifle nicely and the complete weight of the package came in at a svelte 8.3 pounds (3.77 kg) with the scope mounted. Of course a more tactical style stock would be better, but that was a compromise we had to live with at this extreme budget.
The rifle is handy to carry and totes around very easily and based just off of the looks and features of the assembled SWS, it would make a nice bug out rifle. But we needed to evaluate this as an actual Sniper Weapon System and not just a bug out rifle. With that being said, a wider forearm would be the number one priority for a stock enhancement. The swept back pistol grip is not horrible, and is completely functional for what we need. The capability of using a suppressor is nice as well.
In terms of our total cost, it is hard for us to put the exact numbers together because we get the items at wholesale because of our business. But I know I can say that we would likely sell the package at around $575 and be happy from a business perspective with the margins. Of course, if you go purely off of the MSRP for each item, the total price would be above our budget, in fact, it comes in at $808. This is still not bad, but the retail street price for us to sell this SWS package would fall under $600…so we hit that goal.
We now had all of the components selected and the SWS assembled. Really, the only thing left to answer was if this 6-4-6 Sniper Weapon System could get the job done. Because we had just recently fully tested this exact rifle, we did not feel that we needed to do the normal testing procedure and this was a different type of project. We elected to just use the American Eagle 120gr HPBT ammo that performed well enough in the evaluation of the rifle and use only it for all of the tests. There was no need to again test all the different ammo brands, we just wanted to take our known results and test the package as an actual SWS. We hit the normal range in order to conduct the initial 100 yard zero and to slip the rings. The temps were in the teens (F) with little to no wind.
During the 100 yard zero the groups were holding right at 1 MOA, about what we were getting during the full eval test. We returned a week later and confirmed the zero and then attached a suppressor and fired a confirmation target which gave us a group that measured a 1.2 MOA and was center 2.5 MOA high and .5 MOA left. That was just a formality and we removed the suppressor as it really wasn’t a part of the 6-4-6 SWS requirements. As a part of our testing to determine if it could function as an actual SWS we fired the 300 Yard Head shot test again. We had done it with the initial rifle testing and it shot fairly well scoring a 97.1. We wanted to do the test as a SWS to see how it would do in this configuration. We figured that the lower magnification scope (9x vs 20x) would probably effect the accuracy at 300 yards, and we were right. The group opened up to 4.822″ (1.535 MOA), but the lower magnification also allowed us to shoot the test a bit faster, 20 vs 22 seconds, due to its larger field of view.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (20 secs)||36|
|Accuracy Score (1.535 moa)||29.3|
|Energy Score (1384 ft-lbs)||21.2|
You can see that while the time score improved, it was not enough to overcome the larger group that opened up to nearly 5″ and the overall score dropped. It is nice to see that all three rounds were in the head, but we were still worried a bit about the reliability of consistent 600 yard hits on man sized targets. To get that data, we simply just needed to go out and shoot at 600 yards to see how it did.
It is the middle of winter here in Montana, and that means snow. If you are not okay shooting and operating in frozen temps, then you shouldn’t be a sniper in Montana. We headed out to one of our favorite “proving grounds” for training and shooting to conduct our longer range shooting tests, a ranch owned by a friend of Sniper Central. The temps were in the upper 20’s (F) and there was about twelve inches of snow on the ground, about two of those from the night before. We setup our steel target and then headed out into the field with the 6-4-6 SWS, ammo, and our Kilo 2400 LRF to get accurate ranges to the target. We had the DOPE from our 300 yard headshot test, but we did not want to just jump all the way to 600 yards on a day that had a decent amount of wind. So we first went to 500 yards and got setup. The wind was blowing to our 5 O’clock at about 7-10 mph, so we dialed in 2 MOA of left and 10 MOA up from our 100 yard zero and proceeded to engage our target. The sweet sound of steel ringing is music to our ears! The first shot was a hit and so we fired two more, each responding with the sounds of a hit.
You can see the well formed three round group at the bottom of the target that measured 6″, making it a 1.15 MOA group. This was better accuracy than we achieved with the 300 yard head shot test, but the nature of that test with the undefined head target and time component introduced, is intended to degrade accuracy. The 500 yard group was centered low so we knew we needed to add a bit more elevation to our computed ballistics charts. Now it was time to move back to 600 yards. We repainted the target (Krylon isn’t overly happy in sub freezing temps) and then moved back in the field to a laser measured 602 yards (I figured that was close enough).
We were using a bipod and had the legs extended which ended up giving us a nice solid platform while we laid in the comfy snow. We took the elevation knob up to 15 MOA and dialed in another half MOA of left to compensate for the wind at the longer range. This was the moment of truth, just how capable was the 6-4-6 SWS at 600 yards? The first round down range was a solid hit, giving us that nice audible clang and an obvious visual mark visible through the 9x scope showing a hit just slightly left of center mass. That was surprisingly easy. We were very comfortable with the results of that first round so without hesitation we fired two more to get a group at 600 yards, each were hits.
The three round group measured 5.2″ from center to center, which is only .823 MOA, even better than our 500 yard group. That was more than acceptable accuracy for what we were trying to achieve. In fact, we did not need the full 2.5 MOA of left wind as the group was center a bit to the left. The hits were so easy and the rifle comfortable in this environment that we dialed out one click (.25 MOA) of the wind and decided to test the rifles ability at 600 yards and went for a head-shot.
We still seemed to have too much wind dialed in, but that first round was still a solid hit on the left edge of the head. Keep in mind, this is with a 9x scope using moderately priced American Eagle 120gr HPBT ammunition from a complete SWS package that cost less than $600. Our first 7 rounds fired from 500 and 600 yards (one of them a head-shot) were all hits in sub freezing temps from snow covered ground in 7-10 mph winds. Not bad for $600.
600 yards for $600? Yep! You bet! Is it the first rifle I am going to grab from the rifle rack when called to perform sniper duty? No, of course not. When compared to a Tactical Operations Alpha-66 or similar rifle, it is not even comparable or nearly as capable. We never claimed that it would be. But could this little SWS package be serviceable for sniping in a pinch? Yep, it can. I would put the max effective range at between 800-900 yards given scope and rifle limitations, but it certainly could get hits at 1000 yards as well. We will be taking it to some longer ranges like that just to see and document it. But for this article we wanted to test the project at the designed 600 yards and it passed admirably at that distance.
When putting these SWS packages together, we would still opt for the longer 24″ barrel. Especially since a very low budget SWS like this is not going to have a budget for a suppressor which would make a 24″ barrel a bit long and unwieldy when attached. The 24″ barrel would help stretch the range of the 6.5 CM, and especially the 308, even more and it provides a better balance to the rifle. The normal limitations of the 783 that we mentioned in the full review still apply, but evaluating the project for what it is and how much is paid, this little SWS didn’t turn out bad at all! Oh, and it was a lot of fun to finally see it all come together after all these years.
Oh, to answer the question I’m sure many are wondering, will we be selling the 6-4-6 SWS? Yep! Why not? So if you are interested in picking up a complete SWS for under $600, just contact us!