We have been reviewing Tactical Operations (TacOps for short) rifles for the better part of two decades now and we have always enjoyed the experience and been impressed by their operation. It had been a while since we had last reviewed a TacOps rifle and we figured it might be a good time to revisit their rifles and see what may have changed over the years. The Tango-51 has always been their bread and butter tactical rifle offering with a long list of successful Law Enforcement engagements and it was the rifle we first reviewed all those years ago. Since we were wanting to take a look at any new developments with TacOps rifles, we figured this would be a great place to look. As all of you know, custom tactical rifles take time to build, and so our order for the Tango was placed a while ago and it recently arrived. The wait time on a Tango build can range anywhere from 8-18 months depending on how large the demand currently is from Law Enforcement agencies and/or other civilian customers. It is always best to contact TacOps directly to determine the current build time on their rifles. But with our wait finally over and the rifle in our hands, it was time to check it out.
When we placed the order for the rifle, we wanted to review a rifle that represented what Tactical Operations considered their most typical tactical rifle so we allowed them to configure the rifle to their own specs. TacOps provides a lot of rifles to many Law Enforcement agencies and the Tango-51 is tailored to fit the LE market with is compact design and focuses on closer range extreme precision shooting. They offer many other models that use different stocks and barrel contours that cater to the longer range military style sniper role and, of course, their rifles are customizable to the customers specifications. The first thing you notice when opening up the packaging on a new TacOps rifle is probably the thing that they pride themselves on most, and that is the attention to detail everywhere on the rifle.
When Tactical Operations first designed the Tango-51 all those years ago in the 1990s, one of their primary areas they wanted to focus on was to keep the rifle compact and light weight for use in urban environments by Law Enforcement. As a part of that goal, they had to find a stock that would provide the traditional wider semi-beavertail forend for stability from a rest and usable with a bipod, yet smaller than the traditional tactical stock that carried so much bulk and weight. They settled on the McMillan Sako Varminter stock. Of course, the McMillan stocks can be ordered with all types of different options to include several different adjustable cheekpieces, spacer systems and other goodies, but for the Tango, it is a fixed length of pull, fixed cheekpiece stock that has a unique finish that is applied by Tactical Operations. McMillan has since renamed the stock the “Remington Varminter” for reasons unknown.
As mentioned, the buttstock is a fixed length of pull with a nice decelerator pad for recoil absorption. The normal length of pull for McMillan stocks is 13.5″ but Tactical Operations has all of them made with a 13.875″ LOP as it fits a wider range of shooter more comfortably, especially those over six foot in height. There is a raised Monte-Carlo comb without a cheekpiece which allows the rifle to be fired either right or left handed with no problem. The raised comb helps with getting your eye aligned with the scope, but for scopes with a larger than average objective lens, like the Schmidt & Bender scope we had mounted for the testing, it might require some additional height. To help raise the eye a little bit more on our rifle, it was only fitting that we use a Tactical Operations strap on cheekpiece.
The pistol grip on the Remington Varminter stock is not a full vertical pistol grip like what is found on more traditional tactical stocks like the McMillan A4 or A5 or Manners T4. It is more vertical than a sporter stock, but it does slant away from the trigger a bit and while the pistol grip is wider than a sporter stock, it does not incorporate a full palm swell. One of the long time features that Tactical Operations has always done to their rifles, unless ordered without it, is their custom rough texture applied to the pistol grip and forearm of the stock. As is evident in the picture, it is done in a black color and while it is aggressive, providing ample amounts of solid grip in any weather conditions, the texturing is not sharp and is smoothed and pleasant to hold. This texturing has always been one of the unique things they do and it is a very nice feature. This texturing makes the pistol grip a bit wider than the way it comes to the factory but it fits very nicely in my hand. With the non-vertical pistol grip, your trigger finger does have to reach a little bit more to be placed on the trigger, especially for those that have smaller hands. Getting a perfect trigger squeeze might be a bit more difficult to achieve than with a vertical pistol grip that brings the hand closer to the trigger.
The stock remains thin through the action area where TacOps does their full custom glass and pillar bed job on the action. The forearm then tapers into a nice semi-beavertail forearm area that again has the TacOps texture applied to to provide additional gripping surface for offhand shooting and while carrying the rifle. The forearm is not as wide as many tactical and varmint stocks, but provides a good compromise between functionality and lighter weight and smaller bulk. The same can be said for the length of the forearm as it is fairly short compared to other stock designs. Tactical Operations is a fan of using accessory rails on their rifles and the Tango is no different, but it is a bit different because McMillan does not install an accessory rail on the Remington Varminter stock because the forearm is too short. What TacOps does is take a normal 10″ long rail and then they mill it down to 8″ and have it anodized. They then send that 10″ rail to Birdsong and have them apply their Black-T to the rail to prevent discoloration. In the end, the Tango has an accessory rail on the underside of the forearm that runs the full length, this allows the operator to add sling studs, hand stops, bipod adapters and any other accessory rail feature they care to.
From the beginning, Tactical Operations has always built their rifles using the standard Remington 700 action and they developed their own series of procedures they used to maximize accuracy using the 700 action. As the new custom made Remington “compatible” actions started coming onto the market they of course can and do use those for their builds as well. But they will still use a Remington 700 on many of their rifle builds and it is what was used on our Tango-51 build here. They focus a lot of attention on hitting both the front and rear of the actions with their proprietary procedures for truing the action and while we have known TacOps for years, they still keep the exact procedures tight to their vest and will not divulge their details. We have seen one of their trued actions in the white (bare action with no metal finish) and they are a work of art. Sufficeth to say, they lovingly turn the mass produced Remington action into something they are proud of, and it shows, especially when you cycle the action. It is smooth and even with no chattering or binding of the bolt in any way.
The bolt itself uses the standard Tactical Operations bolt knob that is beautifully attached to the handle as if it was manufactured that way from the factory. The knob does thread onto the handle and can be removed if desired. The rear tang of the action has the F and S, for Fire and Safe, marked in white and red to offer a nice contrast and additional safety mechanism to easily visually identify what condition the firearm is in. The bolt is a standard Remington bolt, but again, it is touched up and machined by Tactical Operations to their specifications for smoothness and accuracy. They chamfer all of the edges on the lugs as well for added smoothness and precision when operating the bolt.
The factory floorplates have long been a weak spot on Remington rifles. The hinged design itself is not horrible, but the cheap pot metal used for construction isn’t great and their have been failures in the field when those floorplates are not tenderly cared for. If treated kindly, they last and do just fine, but both military and law enforcement snipers are not always known to be kind when in the field. Tactical Operations has designed and now manufacturers their own steel floorplates which is a change from the original rifles built all those years back. Beyond the better metal, the floorplate is also a bit larger and incorporates some features that TacOps liked including a better floorplate release and hinging mechanism among others. TacOps did surprise us by engraving the floorplate with a beautiful rendering of our own Sniper Central logo… very classy.
Tactical Operations replaced the standard factory Remington XMarkPro trigger with a Timney 510 trigger which was adjusted and tuned to their specifications. Tactical Operations has grown to really love the Timney triggers and we can understand why. We really like the wide trigger shoes on the Timney triggers with the vertical ribs and wide feel. When we measured the weight of the trigger with our trigger pull gauge it broke consistently at 2.5 lbs with a very crisp break and no over travel. We also like the straight trigger shoe version of the Timney known as the model 517 which would be an option on the Tango-51 and would bring the trigger shoe closer to the pistol grip for those with shorter fingers. TacOps will also use the older style Remington trigger (non XMarkPro) if the customer desires, but nearly all their rifles use the Timney now.
As we have mentioned, the Tango-51 is designed for, and intended to be used by Law Enforcement snipers in urban type environments, though it can perform admirably in other roles as well. In an effort to keep the weight and size down on the Tango, TacOps elects to use a standard Remington heavy barrel profile on their custom installed barrels. This barrel contour tapers down quickly in a step and then remains fairly consistent in diameter out to the muzzle. What this profile gives up in additional rigidity, it gains back in light weight and as long as the quality and precision of the barrel is maintained, the accuracy will be there. They only use Krieger custom match grade barrels with four lands and grooves. TacOps has tested every land and groove profile, to include the popular 5R, and they have found that while the 5R is easier to clean, they get better accuracy with the 4 land and groove profile. Tactical Operations has always gone to extreme measures to insure that the barrels are manufactured to their specifications including exceptionally tight tolerances for barrel run out.
Like most high end rifle manufacturers, TacOps does all their own chambering and crowning of the barrels once the bore and rifling pass their inspection. They use a specially design reamer that is manufactured to their unique specifications and while this reamer is designed around the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammunition, the rifles still perform with other makes of ammunition as well. The barrel on our Tango-51 is 20″ long, measured from the end of the threading inside the action to the crown. TacOps has long been a proponent of shorter barrels as they feel it can give an edge in ultimate accuracy compared to the small amount of velocity that is given up versus a longer barrel. When attaching the barrel to the action, Tactical Operations again uses their own unique process which involves using torque settings of 500 ft-lbs. They originally used 150-180 ft-lbs, but then upped that to 250 after a while. They then discovered that they could reduce cold bore shot movement if they went to 500 ft-lbs which is what they do.
We would also like to point out the unique markings on the barrel. Not only is the barrel marked specifically for “308 FGM” (Federal Gold Medal) ammunition on the right hand side, but if you look in the picture below you will see the markings on the left hand side. There is large script with the new Tactical Operations logo combined with the rifle model “Tango 51”. We only point it out as it is a nice professional looking detail which TacOps seems to revel in. We were told that our rifle barrel was the last to be engraved by hand as their engraver has retired. From here on out the rifles are laser engraved and feature the new Tactical Operations logo which is a bit different than what is one this Tango.
Tactical Operations has always been a proponent of suppressors and the use of them on their rifles and they also design and manufacturer their own line of suppressors that include a steel, titanium, and steel/titanium hybrid models. But something that is new for TacOps is their own muzzlebrake design which was installed on our Tango we were testing here. Of course, the threading for the muzzlebrake matches that of their suppressors so that the break can be removed and a suppressor used. The design of the brake utilizes three large ports on either side to direct the gasses to the side and back. As is the standard for tactical muzzlebrakes today, there are no ports on the bottom to kick up dust and betray the snipers position. TacOps also has a version of the brake with a port on top to help reduce muzzle rise as well, but ours did not have this port.
Another minor bit of detail that doesn’t contribute to the functionality of the rifle, but does contribute to the long list of minor detail items that TacOps goes to great length to do. If you look at the front of the muzzlebrake in the picture below, you will see the laser engraved Tactical Operations name around the circumference. Does it provide any functionality? Nope. But it is that attention to detail that gives the rifle owner confidence that the same detail has been taken throughout the rifle build process and should lead to likewise excellent performance.
The overall look and feel of the rifle is the standard Tactical Operations high level of detail. All of the metal work is finished in the outstanding Birdsond Green-T/Black-T finish. Tactical Operations has always done the green and black contrasting colors with the larger parts being done in green and other smaller parts done in black to offer a contrast. That was even carried out to the muzzlebrake versus barrel. The green motif is used due to its excellent low light concealment properties versus an all black rifle, though other colors can be selected if desired. All of the fit and finish is done to the normal TacOps high level of excellence and it is good to see that level of quality has remained so high after all these years. The rifle as a whole is compact and easier to handle, which is a contrast to most precision rifles these days. The weight, without optics, comes in at 9.4 pounds, which while may still be heavy for a hunting rifle, is considerably lighter than most tactical rifles today. The compact rifle is easy to handle in the field which does make it a good fit for urban environments.
With the details of the rifle now documented, we needed to get down to business and see how the rifle performed. One of the things that put Tactical Operations on the map was the fact that they guaranteed that their rifles would shoot .25 MOA or better with Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition. Back when TacOps first started building rifles this was just about unheard of, and even today it is extremely rare that a builder will guarantee .25 MOA or better… and then stand behind that guarantee. As is common on all Tactical Operations rifles, our Tango shipped with a test target that they used to certify the rifle at 100 yards which measured a minuscule 0.04″ center to center. Yes, it was a single bullet hole. We do not know what process they use to certify their rifles, but that is some extreme accuracy.
Tactical Operations mounted the Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25x56mm scope that we had selected for use on this rifle and they used their own 24 MOA canted two-piece bases and a set of Leupold Mk4 rings finished in Green-T to mount the scope. With everything mounted and ready to go, it was time to start putting the rifle through its paces and see how it did for us and if the .25 MOA accuracy was still there.
We took the rifle out several times over a series of a few weeks to test it in various conditions, at various ranges, and using various ammunition as we tried to get a good feel for the capabilities of the rifle and how it handled. For our 100 yard accuracy tests we used three different loads, the standard Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr, HSM 168gr AMAX match, and some RUAG Swiss-p 175gr to test a bit heavier load. All of the accuracy tests were fired from a bench with a sand bag up front and a sand sock at the rear. The weather was typical Montana spring time weather, a bit chilly with temps ranging in the high 30’s to high 40’s. We try not to let the rifle get too hot during testing, but we do not let it cool either, this provides a good gauge of accuracy potential in all conditions. The results of the 100 yard tests are listed below.
|Fed GMM 168gr||.569″ (.543 MOA)||.210″ (.201 MOA)|
|HSM 168gr AMAX||.388″ (.371 MOA)||.157″ (.150 MOA)|
|RAUG SwissP 175gr||.632″ (.603 MOA)||.486″ (.464 MOA)|
When addressing the results, we need to indicate that these groups are raw, we do not throw out flyers and as indicated we do not clamp the rifles down in a vice or wait 10 minutes to cool between shots. We like to do a more ‘real world’ test of the rifles. With that being said, we saw a pattern that even though the TacOps rifles have a custom chamber designed around the Federal GMM 168gr ammo, this Tango-51 preferred the HSM 168gr AMAX. Our average group was not far away from .25 MOA (regardless of our shooting) and when we did things right, the results were sub .25 MOA. The Federal was not quiet as consistently tight and while we did go sub .25, it took work on our part to get there. The rifle really didn’t care much for the RAUG, but with that being said, we need to put it in perspective that it was still .5 MOA. Is the rifle a sub .25 MOA rifle? Yep, it sure is.
The rifle is quite compact and as such it is easy to tote around in the field and becomes quite handy. It is easy to see why they are popular with Law Enforcement snipers. That compact and fairly light design does have its draw backs though, which are usually exhibited in heavier recoil and more muzzle flip when firing. This is where the new muzzlebrake does help. It is as effective as most of the large chamber muzzlebrake designs out there and it does a good job of controlling recoil. Due to the short and compact design, there is still a bit of muzzle rise during recoil, which is to be expected. We tested rapid bolt cycling and followup shots, and it did fine, but the newly finished action slowed us up just a bit. The fit and finish on the rifles are tight and it will take some more shooting to wear in the self lubricating Green-T finish to get the super smooth cycling that our other TacOps rifles have.
With the large amount of up elevation available in the S&B scope combined with the canted bases, the rifle is setup for long range shooting as well and the Tango also does well in these regards. We have wanted to incorporate an easy to perform mid-range test into our rifle reviews to help show longer range potential. But setting up a long range session requires a decent amount of planning and traveling to ranges further out. So we came up with a new test we will now start incorporating into these reviews. It involves what is called a Figure 14 target which is the target used by the allied forces in World War 2 to train their snipers. It incorporates a soldier wearing a recognizable Nazi helmet with a featureless face and a scattered background. Its a classic target that is quiet effective for realism training for snipers at mid ranges. Our test involves setting up a single target at 300 yards and firing a single timed three shot group and a score tabulated. Where possible, we fire it from the prone and there are no re-dos, no called flyers, and no mulligans. The idea is to test the rifle at a precision target without precise aiming points, in a realistic type scenario. Thee bad guys, three head shots required at 300 yards. This is a bit different than an ultimate accuracy test as the rifle has to be comfortable and usable to the shooter in a stress fire scenario. The Tango is our first rifle review where we incorporated this test.
We intended to use the best performing ammo for the test, which would have been the HSM 168gr AMAX, but we failed to save three rounds for it, so we used the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr. With the target hung and 1.3 MIL of up elevation dialed in from our 100 yard zero, we fired our 3 rounds using the traditional “between the eyes” aiming point and did it in a very respectable 21 seconds. The results were impressive. The group measured 1.191″ inches center to center which equates to .379 MOA, which for this test should be exceptional given the 300 yard distance and the fact it is one group only and the pressure is on without a tiny little dot to aim at. There was a slight left to right breeze as well, which we had accounted for with .2 MIL of left dialed in to the scope.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (21 secs)||45.7|
|Accuracy Score (.379 moa)||158.3|
To conclude this review, we asked if the quality of the Tactical Operations rifles maintained their high levels over all these years? The answer is yes, they have. They do a few things differently including the new floorplates and the laser engraving, muzzlebrakes and some others, but these are positive changes required in an evolving market. These are still extremely high quality hand built rifles that make no excuses and are intended on being the creme of the crop no matter what the cost is. Yes, they are still expensive ($6000+ USD) and they do take a while do get, anywhere from 8 to 18 months. But what you do get is one of the finest hand built rifles on the market and they still do shoot .25 MOA or better when you as a shooter can do it. The Bravo-51 we had built well over a decade ago still performs as well now as it did the day it arrived and we would continue to expect nothing less from this Tango-51 down the road. If you are in the market and you have the time and money, it still might be worth checking out one of their rifles after all these years.
Sniper Central 2016