I’ve spent several years in the precision rifle world, which has allowed me to see and experience significant changes in terms of equipment, tactics, training and deployment strategies.
Everything has progressed, but rifles, scopes and equipment have seen the most significant progression. Properly equipping a police department’s marksmanship unit remains costly. I still remember the look on my chief’s face the first time I presented the cost of equipping a four-man unit. Substantial at the time, the entire budget would not be capable of purchasing several rifles today, let alone an entire unit’s.
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The position of police marksman requires significant thought when choosing rifles, ammunition and gear. Many items seen as exotic in my early years are now commonplace. Many agencies have forgone the factory-modified hunting rifles so common before and have chosen purpose-built precision rifles. Each agency may have different requirements based on their area of operation, common deployments and unit tasks. Concurrently, rifles need a long service life with the ability to fit different officers and various mission requirements. Manufacturers have really answered the call here, building better rifles with specific features suited to these tasks.
“No, it’s not from Star Wars!” This was a common statement when I deployed with my modern, personally owned sniper rifle over 10 years ago. Police rifles were mostly converted hunting rifles with big and long barrels, altered hunting scopes, a bipod and the ubiquitous tactical black finish. They either mimicked U.S. military sniper rifles or benchrest target machines—neither of which was suited for most police departments. Different was bad, especially when bucking the prevailing thoughts.
Function was irrelevant—it was all about that look, like a prop from the latest movie. Rifles termed “space aged” garnered everything from puzzlement to disdain. Short barrels were “evil,” adjustments “unnecessary,” and suppressors politically incorrect—the “tool of the assassin.” It has taken years to combat these stigmas, and thankfully they have mostly changed for many. Even the military has finally realized that different is not always bad, and building rifles designed to enhance real-world operation is a really good idea. Several U.S. companies now build state-of-the-art rifles designed specifically for police missions, and Ashbury Precision Ordnance is one of the best.
I recently got my hands on one of the company’s latest rifles, the SPR-308K1 SABER in 7.62mm NATO.
Ashbury starts with a SABER SX bolt action, precision CNC-machined from 416R stainless, using a one-piece, nitrided 4140 tool steel bolt. It is hand-fitted and mated to a 16.5-inch, 416R stainless steel, button-rifled, hand-lapped, match-grade barrel. It features 5R rifling and a 1-in-8-inch twist rate to properly stabilize police-specific ammunition. The barrel also sports 5/8×24 threading and comes capped with a Blackout 51T muzzle brake and suppressor mount. Chambered in .308/7.62mm NATO, the barrel is optimized for match-grade ammunition of various bullet weights and manufacture. A Rifle Basix single-stage trigger is also installed with a thumb-activated trigger safety.
Surrounding the barreled action is Ashbury’s SABER-FORSST ASX-A3 MOD-1 modular chassis system. Extremely versatile, users can set up this chassis in a number of configurations. It is built from aluminum and carbon-fiber-reinforced composites. The action sits in an interlocking receiver mount requiring no bedding. The action utilizes AICS-pattern five- and 10-round magazines. The large paddle-style magazine release is easy to access. Another enhancement is the pistol grip. Users can adjust the grip’s angle and distance from the trigger using various adaptors. Any standard AR grip can also be installed.
Ashbury’s Quattro Alloy Series V-17 “K1” forend covers the barrel and provides mounting options for accessories. It is vented, ergonomic and free-floating. The monolithic 20-MOA top rail attaches to the action and allows operators to solidly mount night vision or laser aiming devices. More accessory rails are in the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. Integral flush cups allow for sling mounting as needed.
The Tactically Adjustable Shoulder Stock (TASS) folds and is field adjustable for length of pull, cheek height and recoil pad drop. Extended or folded, the stock locks into place using a solid hinge. Flush-cup sling swivel points are included, and a height-adjustable monopod is available.
My test rifle came with a Leupold 3-18x44mm Mark 6 scope with a Horus H-59 reticle mounted in the first focal plane. Leupold’s Mark 6 line is top quality, with incredibly clear glass. I have an identical scope that has seen well over a year of hard testing on several rifle builds. The Mark 6’s pinch-and-turn knobs keep adjustments in place, and you’ll never lose your starting point with the zero stop feature. The Horus H-59 reticle allows for easy ranging, wind holds and elevation adjustments without having to touch the adjustment knobs. The scope’s light weight and short length allow for night vision use even on shorter rifles. It is an excellent choice for any rifle, but is well suited to police rifles.
For closer engagements, Ashbury mounted a Trijicon RMR miniature reflex sight in the 1 o’clock position. Officers can find themselves in close contact, where fast target acquisition is necessary, and the RMR makes that simple. Trijicon’s RMR remains the standard for these sights. It’s built to withstand the rigors of combat and hard use.
Bipods are another tactical necessity for most police rifles, and Harris remains the first choice for many. I attached Harris’ 6- to 9-inch model with an Anypoint Bipod-Tripod mount, which uses a standard bi-pod ad-apter (Manfrotto in this case), allowing you to attach it to a standard tripod. The adjustable head has a large and easy-to-access lever that helps you get on target and then lock it into place. It is excellent when shooting from a standing or seated position.
My test rifle came in a hard case with five- and 10-round magazines, a SABER multi- tool, an Armageddon Gear sling, and both long and short screws to accommodate the number of spacers used in the buttstock.
For testing, I used an AAC 762-SD sound suppressor. Attaching it using the Blackout muzzle brake was simple and easy, with little change in the point of impact. The 762-SD is compact yet facilitates communication without the need for hearing protection on deployments.
Ashbury provided a few boxes of RUAG Swiss-P ammunition. Still a bit new to many American shooters, this is some of the most accurate factory match ammunition available. I’ve tested it in calibers ranging from 5.56mm to .338 Lapua Mag, and it’s consistent, accurate and built to very high standards. And it did not disappoint here. Given the barrel’s 1-in-8-inch twist rate, the 175-grain BTHP ammunition created the best group at 100 yards, which measured a mere 0.35 inches. All of the 175-grain ammunition grouped into less than 0.5 inches, and nothing was greater than 0.7 inches. Every Ashbury Precision Ordnance rifle I’ve tested has been as accurate as a tactical rifle can get, and this model was no exception. Some 200-grain Swiss-P Subsonic ammo was also provided, and rounds at 25 and 50 yards mostly created one-hole groups; any variance was a result of the shooter, not the rifle.
If you glance at the SPR-308K1 SABER’s specs, you might think it’s heavy, but it’s not. With all of the accessories attached, it was about 14.5 pounds, about the norm for this type of rifle. It was very well balanced and easy to maneuver around my truck, barricades and from various positions. Working around the range, using it from a rifle bag and operating as a police marksman would, the SPR-308K1 was well balanced, handy and easy to deploy. Its Cerakote finish is also long lasting and nice looking.
It’s becoming common for marksmen to utilize tripods for long deployments, especially those where prone is not an option. Tripods can be fantastic in a house, for example. Ashbury’s Anypoint Bipod-Tripod Mount allows you to attach a photography/spotting scope mount behind the bipod. It snaps into the head on the tripod, in this case a heavy-duty pedestal mount. The rifle locks in tightly yet can be maneuvered easily. I set up the rifle and tripod up at the back of a couple of rooms and adjusted it for a comfortable seated position. Move closer to a window or other opening and you can hold steep angles comfortably for long periods of time. You can even set it up in a standing position, providing plenty of support while not hindering your ability to move the rifle as needed. If you need to go, move the lever, grab the rifle and move. It is very handy and solid.
When you test a rifle like this, you expect superb accuracy—and the SPR-308K1 SABER delivered. But it’s the setup and deployment where these rifles really shine. The chassis is easy to adjust, making it simple for every officer to get behind the rifle. Its moving parts truly lock into place. In all, the rifle’s ergonomics are excellent, and cold-bore shots were dead on. Plenty quiet, the AAC 762-SD suppressor did nothing to adversely affect the rifle’s performance. With the suppressor attached or removed, the impact shift was less than an inch at 100 yards.
Barrel length remains an issue for many operators, but I’m not sure why. That question was answered for me at a Clint Smith Advanced Precision Rifle school years ago. Lying next to a .300 Win Mag rifle, my 16-inch-barreled, suppressed, 7.62mm NATO Robar rifle hit steel more often at 1,000 yards. Given that real police operations are well under 100 yards, a 16.5-inch barrel is all you will ever need. This length keeps things handy, provides excellent ballistics and allows for an easy deployment, especially when suppressed.
All in all, the Ashbury Precision Ordnance SPR-308K1 SABER is an excellent rifle, with the added bonus of being completely American made, which is important to many police agencies and other units. The SPR-308K1 is perfectly suited to police use, target shooting or even hunting. Most everything on this rifle is available for use with your barreled action, making it incredibly versatile. Check it out, you just may like it; shoot it and you will not be disappointed.
For more information, visit ashburyprecisionordnance.com or call 434-296-8600.