The rifle used for this test is a full custom built by Matthew Stewart in Oklahoma (StewartRifles.com).
Matthew was a former machinist with Surgeon Rifles for more than 10 years before he started his own company building high-precision rifles in 2013.
For this build, he used a Surgeon 591 short-action (SurgeonRifles.com) that includes an integral rail and a recoil lug machined into the action for maximum strength and a super-flat surface to bed it to the stock. The barrel is a Bartlein 5R, 1:8 twist BartleinBarrels.com) with an MTU contour that has a diameter of .930 inch at the muzzle. The barrel was finished at 26 inches with a threaded muzzle for use with suppressors, and it is chambered in 6.5x47mm Lapua.
Stewart used Surgeon bottom metal with a detachable box magazine. It rides in a custom McMillan A-5 stock (McMillanUSA.com) with an adjustable cheekpiece and rear spacers to adjust overa ll length. He pillar-bedded the rifle into the stock with Devcon titanium bedding, and the entire barrel was free floated.
The trigger is a Jewel hunter/varmint (HVR) (OTMTactical.com) with a top-mounted safety. The trigger is adjusted to a superclean and crisp 2.25-pound break.
With the S&B scope mounted in Vortex 34mm precisionmatched rings, the rifle weighs in at a healthy 15.1 pounds.
FOR A TEST SUCH AS THIS, I NEEDED A SPECIAL RIFLE CAPABLE OF DELIVERING LONGRANGE ACCURACY NOT POSSIBLE WITH MOST FACTORY GUNS. I DECIDED THAT A FULL CUSTOM BUILD FROM STEWART RIFLES IN OKLAHOMA WOULD BE THE TICKET.
ADDING IT ALL UP
Now, to answer the original question: Does magnification matter? I discovered the answer is, Yes, it does matter— perhaps not in the way I originally thought. However, looking at the average of all shots fired at all distances and then graphing it by magnification (see Graph 1), the overall average was better at 20x and 25x than it was at 5x and 10x.
As you increase distances beyond 500 yards, I speculate that this would become even more apparent. Also, if you had to shoot at non-symmetrical or small targets at long ranges, (that doesn’t allow you to hold at the center of the white target, as I did), this would also present a significant challenge at low magnifications.
I had one puzzling outlier with the very good groups at 300 yards at 5X, but at that distance and magnification, I could still see the target well. It is also easier and faster when shooting if the scope is dialed up to 20x or more, because it doesn’t take nearly as much time to compose the shot with the confidence that the scope is centered on the target.
IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING A NEW SCOPE
FOR LONG-RANGE SHOOTING, IT MIGHT BE A
GOOD IDEA TO CHOOSE ONE
THAT IS CAPABLE OF HIGHER MAGNIFICATIONS.
If you are contemplating a new scope for long-range shooting, it might be a good idea to choose one that is capable of higher magnifications. This doesn’t mean you can’t shoot long range with a 10x or even a 5x scope, as I have shown, but it’s not as easy; it takes longer to compose each shot; and it’s not as accurate. GW
Both of these targets were shot at 500 yards. Target #17 on the left was the author’s worst group of the 500-yard test at 1.372 MOA. It was shot at 5x magnification.Target #23 on the right was his best at this distance. It measured .502 MOA and was shot at 20x magnification.
The author used three different versions of ammunition from Lapua. All proved to be very consistent, with incredibly low velocity variation from shot to shot.