As was documented previously here on Sniper Central, we made a visit to the Ritter & Stark factory in Austria after we had heard what they were trying to accomplish with their high tech factory and new modular sniper rifle. We were impressed with what we found at their factory and the level of technical expertise they brought to the rifle building process and the amount of high tech machinery in their facility. But all of that only amounts to something significant if the rifle itself can perform when it needs to. While we were at the factory we had the opportunity to fire the SX-1 Modular Tactical Rifle (MTR) as well as the SLX and other prototype rifles, but we were not able to give them the full review treatment during that short visit. It took a few months for the rifles to be brought to the USA and we finally received a SX-1 MTR here at our facilities and were able to perform a full evaluation of the rifle to determine just how good it really is. The SX-1 MTR that we received came with all three of the current barrel offerings that include the 308 Winchester, 300 Winchester Magnum and 338 Lapua Magnum chamberings. Continue reading to see how well it performed and how it compares to other current top of the line sniper rifles.
The SX-1 MTR, which we will refer to as simply the SX-1 for the remainder of this review, comes in its own personalized Ritter & Stark case made by HPRC. The layout and quality of the case immediately gives the impression that no expenses were spared with SX-1 series of rifles. The case has slots for the rifle and all of its accessories which provides a nice visual treat when it is opened for the first time. The instruction manual that comes with the rifle is unlike any manual that we have seen packaged with a rifle before. It is a professional quality manual that uses high quality printed pages on thick paper and is written and illustrated exceptionally well by professional illustrators and is even in full color. It includes everything from disassembling the bolt, changing the barrels, removing and exchanging the muzzlebrake and many other operational procedures as well as specifications and safety notices.
As has been indicated, the SX-1 is a multi-caliber rifle and ours shipped with all three of the barrels which made for a tight fit in the case and adds considerable weight to it as well. There are several multi-caliber rifles on the market today and some of them are easy to switch, and others… not so much. During our review of the SX-1 we switched out the barrels several times and their approach is simple and sound. Once you do it once to learn the process, it becomes easy to switch out a barrel in under two minutes. For the review here, we will address the rifle as a whole as the caliber is only a small part of the rifle package. We did do the initial accuracy and evaluations using the 308 barrel but then performed additional shooting and long range work out to 1500 yards with both the 300 Win Mag and 338 Lapua barrels.
The MTR portion of the name of the rifle stands for Modular Tactical Rifle and that is the one main theme carried throughout the design of the SX-1 rifle, it is designed to be modular in almost every way. Part of this modularity is achieved by the ability to use AR/MSR components as well as using universal components and then being able to change out the barrel. The factory buttstock incorporates many features to allow the rifle to be adjusted to fit just about any operator, but if you do not like it, no problem, you can replace it with any AR-15 compatible stock and the instruction manual provides directions on how to do that. With that being said, the buttstock is a fine unit as it is. The buttpad is a thinner and somewhat hard rubber that can be adjusted up and down easily by hand. The length of pull is also adjustable and this is done using a combination of two different controls. There is a single locking screw on the right hand side of the stock that will lock the adjustment. Once this knob has been turned to unlock the adjustment, then the rotating nut at the back of the “buffer tube” can be turned to lengthen or shorten the length of pull. Then the locking nut can be set again to insure the stock does not move from its set location. Easy and effective.
Of course the cheekrest can be adjusted up or down as well by loosening the two locking screws on the right hand side of the cheekpiece and then adjusting it up or down and then re-tightening the screws. The cheekpiece itself is made of a hard kydex style material with a smooth finish. It is shaped nicely for the cheek and is large enough to provide a comfortable resting point, though the smooth finish can get a bit slick with sweat and face paint mixed in. The larger circumference rounded shape does help to keep the cheek in place, but we can still see some use of mole-skin or other self adhesive material being attached to help prevent a sliding cheek.
There is even a section on the lower part of the buttstock that can be removed and an accessory rail attached, making for additional options. The buttstock itself is classified as a skeleton style buttstock, but has all of the controls placed in accessible locations and everything is very well made and is cinched down solid when all of the locks are tightened up. The buttstock is foldable by pressing a single button on the right hand side of the buttstock mounting point which releases the buttstock to fold, it will then lock into place once it is folded all the way forward. When locked forward there is a different button on the left hand side of the rifle that will release the folded buttstock so it can be folded back and locked into the extended position. Additionally the pivot itself can be switched to the other side so the stock can either fold left or right. Again, how one goes about doing this is outlined in the detailed owners manual.
The “buffer tube” like assembly that the stock mounts to is attached to the pivoting mechanism that itself is attached to the main receiver. This receiver is where the pistol grip, barrel assembly, forearm assembly and other parts all attach to. The pistol grip is an AR/MSR style pistol grip and can be easily changed out just like any other MSR pistol grip. The grip that comes with the rifle is made of hard plastic and rubber and has a very nice shape to it with finger groves and a nice rubber texture to aide with gripping in all weather conditions. There is a small streamlined palm shelf on the bottom to help hold the hand in place for many hours if needed. The hand is well placed and aligned for a proper trigger squeeze.
The receiver has a large trigger guard machined into it with the magazine release lever just in front of that. It is interesting to note that the provided magazine adapter for the Magpul 308 magazines actually has a push button release where as the adapter for the 300 WM and 338 Lapua AICS magazines has the release lever that hangs below the trigger guard as seen in the picture above. Magazine adapters are available from R&S for both the AICS magazines and Magpul magazines in multiple calibers. This rifle came with AICS mags for the 300 & 338 and Magpul magazines for the 308. Switching the adapter out is very easy and is accomplished with only a single screw in less than a minute as a normal part of the caliber and barrel changing process. The magazines also drop free even when empty and snap in with a nice positive click when inserting them into the rifle.
The trigger itself is a two-stage trigger with a very nice pull and very clean break. The trigger on our evaluation rifle broke on average at 1.83 lbs with the first stage being about a half pound (8 oz). The shoe on the trigger is smooth and not very wide but maintained a very nice feel. There is a single screw in the top portion of the trigger that adjusts the weight of pull without having to disassemble the rifle. The modular theme continues with the trigger as any Remington 700 compatible trigger can be used on the SX-1. If you prefer a Timney, Jewel, or any other trigger, it is a simple replacement away. The provided trigger has a trigger safety as well which is a smaller lever that is a part of the trigger housing and protrudes down into the trigger guard. The trigger finger can pull that lever back to engage a safety that prevents the trigger from activating, pushing the lever forward engages the trigger mechanism again and allows the trigger to function as normal. This safety is in addition to the safety that is located on the rear of the bolt.
As seen in the picture above, the bolt has a safety on the rear shroud that is a lever that rotates to engage or disengage the firing pin safety. The safety is a three position safety with the first position being the firing position all the way to the right. Rotating the safety lever up to the first notch in a vertical position, or second position, places the rifle on safe but yet still allows the bolt to by cycled. The third position is reached by continuing to rotate the lever until it snaps in place aligned with the bolt release. This locks the bolt and prevents it from being cycled and keeps the rifle on safe. The effort required to rotate the lever from the fire position up into the vertical position is high and requires most users to remove their hand from the pistol grip to get enough strength and leverage to rotate it. Additionally, if the firing pin has been dropped, or ‘discharged’, then the safety operates differently. In this state there is almost no resistance at all to the safety lever and it can easily be moved, which will now lock the bolt in place and prevent cycling even if it has been moved only a fraction of an inch. We expected the behavior of the safety to remain the same no matter the condition of the firing pin and this may take some getting used to and caution to prevent bumping the safety up after discharging the rifle and before cycling the bolt.
The bolt itself is easily removed from the rifle by pressing the bolt release lever while pulling the bolt to the rear. The bolt is long enough that it requires the buttstock to be folded in order for the bolt to be removed from the receiver. The bolt is a unique design that incorporates several features required for building a multi-caliber rifle. The picture below shows the bolt with the bottom side exposed which shows some of those details. The bolt head is designed to be easily changed to accommodate the different case head diameters for each different cartridge family. The entire bolt can be disassembled in a matter of seconds without the use of any tools and reassembled just as easily. Because a small firing pin is a part of the bolt head and floats within the bolt head itself and then the main firing pin acts as a striker that hits the smaller firing pin, we asked about unintentional discharges if the rifle is slammed and that floating firing pin strikes the primer. This was tested with the R&S engineers going so far as to drop the rifle from the top floor of a 2 story building with a blank round chambered and they could not get it to strike the primer hard enough to discharge.
The extractor on the bolt is a M-16 style extractor that provides a very positive and durable extraction. There are two rows of three lugs, for a total of six, on the bolt head which allows for a shorter bolt rotation when cycling the action and makes it extremely strong in the event of a catastrophic cartridge failure during firing. The bolt itself is very robust and finished in a matte black finish that matches the rest of the rifle well. The bolt handle is not swept back and has a somewhat large bolt knob and appears to be very solidly mounted to the bolt.
A part of the interesting design of the rifle is that the picatinny scope rail itself is a part of the barrel and chamber assembly so when the barrel is changed out, the scope rail, and the attached scope if there is one, is removed as a single unit. This allows for a scope and caliber to be tied together as a unit, this can allow some creative matching of optics to rifle capability and mission. Such as a lower powered optic more suitable to the .308 can be attached to a .308 barrel and a higher powered optic perhaps mounted to the 300WM or 338 Lapua barrel for operations where extreme range engagements are more likely. The scope rail that is attached to the barrel then blends directly into the full rail that extends on top of, and the full length of the hand guard allowing for forward mounted night vision to be utilized with the scope. This top rail also allows for the use of top mounted bipods and other accessories. The aluminum handguard also incorporates M-LOK slots for many additional accessory mounting options. The handguard is mounted with four simple screws with lock washers and the rifle can even be fired and operated without the handguard at all.
The barrels are made by Ritter & Stark in their own factory using their own state of the art machinery. They also have the ability to cut their own twist rates at whatever rate they need or desire. The .308 barrels come standard with a 1:11″ twist and the .300WM and .338 Lapua barrels both have a 1:10″ twist. The barrels are fluted to save some weight and all three of them have a highly effective multi-chamber muzzlebrake installed. The 308 barrel is 24″ long where as the 300WM and 338 Lapua barrels are 27″ to maximize velocity on those long range cartridges. The barrels are changed out by first removing the magazine and bolt and then removing the handguard. From there it is a simple matter of removing the three crossbolts that hold the barrel to the receiver and then removing the barrel and placing the new one in and reversing the process. The bolt head will need to be changed and this is accomplished easily without the use of tools. All of the screws have the same hex head size so just a single provided Allen wrench is all that is needed for a caliber conversion.
As a whole, the SX-1 is a very well built rifle with modularity as its primary focus. Because the rifle has to be able to incorporate different cartridges from the mild to the wild, it is a fairly large and heavy rifle, the .308 version comes in at over 11 pounds without any optics mounted. The 338 and 300 version is only about a pound heavier and this is due to the longer barrel. The modularity allows for the rifle to be configured in many different ways to suit the individual operator, but as it comes from the factory it is a very flexible and capable rifle. It handles well in the field and the overall appearance is one that is similar to other chassis style rifles.
For our shooting tests we elected to utilize the .308 barrel primarily which gave us the most options in terms of ammunition to use as well as other additional rifles to compare it against. We also wanted to get some accuracy information for some of the heavier cartridge offerings so we did some accuracy tests using the 300 Win Mag barrel as well as some long distance shooting out to over 1400 yards for a feel for how the rifle does at more extreme ranges. We utilized the same optics on the rifle for all of our tests which was a new Leupold Mk6 3-18x44mm mounted using a 34mm DLOK mount.
For the 308 accuracy tests we used four different brands of ammunition of varying weights to see how the rifle performed with different manufacturers as well as bullet weights. The selected loads were the benchmark Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr, HSM M118LR 175gr, Hornady 155gr ELX Match, and Winchester XM80C 147gr ball ammunition. Again, we use ball ammunition as a test to see how the rifle does with not so great ammunition as well. For the 300 Win Mag we decided on the benchmark Federal Gold Medal Match 190gr, Blackhills 190gr Match, and RUAG 220gr HPBT ammunition. If you are not familiar with our testing procedures, please read our How We Test page. The results from our 100 yard accuracy tests are posted below.
|Cartridge||Ammunition||Average Group||Best Group|
|.308 Win||Fed GMM 168gr||0.501″ (0.479 MOA)||0.365″ (0.349 MOA)|
|.308 Win||HSM M118LR 175gr||0.403″ (0.385 MOA)||0.194″ (0.185 MOA)|
|.308 Win||Hornady 155gr ELX||1.166″ (1.114 MOA)||0.611″ (0.584 MOA)|
|.308 Win||Win XM80C 147gr Ball||1.542″ (1.473 MOA)||0.724″ (0.691 MOA)|
|300 WM||Fed GMM 190gr||1.343″ (1.283 MOA)||0.820″ (0.783 MOA)|
|300 WM||Blackhills 190gr||1.227″ (1.172 MOA)||1.088″ (1.039 MOA)|
|300 WM||RUAG 220gr Match||0.449″ (0.429 MOA)||0.332″ (0.317 MOA)|
The rifle shipped with two verification targets from the factory, one for the .308 barrel and one for the .300WM barrel. The factory group for the .308 measured 0.5 MOA and the one for the 300WM measured 0.4 MOA. We were hoping to beat both of the factory test targets and as you can see from the results above, we were able to. As you will also likely notice, it was ammunition dependent, which is nothing new as most all rifles will prefer certain ammunition over others. The 308 barrel was extremely consistent with both the Federal 168gr and the HSM 175gr with both of those AVERAGING under .5 MOA and we are right on the verge of calling the rifle a .25 MOA rifle with that HSM M118LR ammo as it printed groups sub .25 MOA and averaged only .385 MOA overall. Recall, these are groups fired from a sand bag and not any sort of a clamped in rest. The rifle did not seem to like the lighter weight bullets as much as the Hornady and M80 ball ammo did not perform nearly as well as the heavier bullets, in fact, both averaged over 1 MOA. What was odd is that we saw the same pattern with the 300 Win Mag barrel. We fired the Federal and Blackhills 190gr ammo first and were worried that this particular barrel was not going to perform well, and then we fired the 220 gr RUAG and the rifle really came alive, once again AVERAGING well under .5 MOA.
Recoil was well tamed with both the 308 and 300WM and it was no problem to fire a good number of rounds even with the thin recoil pad. The SX-1 does have a bolt stop mechanism when the magazine is empty which is a great indicator that you are out of ammo, but it also prevents single feeding the rifle when in a pinch. The short rotation of the bolt was very nice and this allowed for easy rapid bolt manipulation and the bolt itself was mostly smooth with just a bit of notchiness that will likely improve as it gets broke in. We know that R&S spent a good amount of time working on the extractor and plunger location and the results are excellent. The 308 extractor does an excellent job of projecting the brass forward and out. The 300 Win Mag did not send the spent brass as far forward but still extracted with 100 percent certainty.
For our 300 yard rapid fire head shot test we elected to use the 308 barrel with the HSM M118LR ammo that had performed so well at 100 yards. We set everything up and when the timing began were able to engage the target rapidly without any hiccups and the results were impressive. During these tests and with the longer shooting sessions under the sun, we noticed that the handguard did an excellent job shielding the optics from mirage from a heated barrel, even when firing long strings of 300 WM when the barrel heated up considerably.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (20 secs)||48|
|Accuracy Score (.507 moa)||118.3|
When looking at the 300y Leaderboard, the results rank the SX-1 as #3 on the all time list, while being able to do it as a multi caliber rifle. The results continued to impress us when we took the rifle out to longer distances with the 300 Win Mag barrel. At just under 1500 yards we were engaging our 35″ silhouette steel targets with impressive consistency and tight 1 MOA groups even at those extreme ranges and always tricky winds near Butte, Montana.
The fact that this high precision rifle is so flexible allows for it to fill many roles that might normally need to be filled with multiple rifles. After doing a barrel change once, we were able to accomplish the task in under two minutes if we pushed ourselves and that would also include the optics as they can be left mounted to the individual barrels if desired. We do need to note that even with everything installed as a single unit, you will still need to confirm your zero as we did see a point of impact shift of about .5 – 1 MOA when removing a barrel and scope combo and then reinstalling it. The barrel change can easily be done in the field with just the single wrench by the operator and not a gunsmith. This allows for a lot of flexibility and then combine that flexibility with excellent accuracy and the additional modularity of the rifle and you have a rifle that can do a lot of things very well. The price is not cheap but the capabilities are excellent and having a single weapon system that does multiple roles effectively can also reduce training time while increasing flexibility of a sniper team, and these abilities may fully justify that expense.
Sniper Central 2017