X Ring Accuracy & Design is a fairly new custom rifle builder located in Florida. Like most full service gunsmiths they offer all types of custom built rifles as well as gunsmithing services on all types of rifles. This includes AR platforms as well as bolt action rifles. They also offer their own line of tactical rifles which, obviously, is what we were interested in here. XRing provided for us one of their typical configuration tactical rifles to run it through our standard battery of tests here and to provide a detailed write-up. Once the rifle arrived and was pulled out of the box it was clear that the rifle certainly looks the part of a solid tactical rifle, but like the old adage goes, “you cannot judge a book by its cover”, so it was then time to start going over it in detail.
As the word “custom” would indicate, the XRing custom built rifle is obviously built to the customer’s specifications and can be ordered to suit the desires of the purchaser, which is what the true beauty and fun is when ordering a custom built rifle. This particular rifle we are reviewing here was built to what XRing considers a normal specification tactical rifle, or one that is fairly common in the tactical world and would be a good representation of what XRing can do. Keep in mind while reading this review that these rifles can be ordered however the sniper team or individual shooter would desires and this is just one of a thousand different configurations that is possible.
This rifle utilizes an excellent McMillan fiberglass stock, in this case it is the A5 model with flush cups on the left hand side as well as a single sling stud up front to mount a bipod to. The color is a molded in five color desert camouflage pattern. When ordering a McMillan stock you can order the molded in colors and the actual colors are then placed in the fiberglass when the stock is actually manufactured, making those colors a permanent part of the stock itself. This leads to no possibility of paint scratches or color wearing off over time, but the patterns can also be a little crude and the patterns do not line up on the bottom of the stock where the two molds are placed together. The A5 stock has a medium height cheek comb and for most standard scopes there is not a need for any sort of a cheek riser, though if you have a scope with a large diameter objective and thick tube, the A5 stocks are also available with adjustable cheek pieces from McMillan. The A5 also has the butthook that allows the offhand to easily grip hold the stock in the shoulder socket while also being able to squeeze a sand sock.
he grip on the A5 stock is a near vertical pistol grip that fills the shooting hand nicely without a large palm swell and there is a deep channel behind the grip area to allow the thumb to wrap around the grip as well, giving it a near pistol grip effect. The grip, as well as the area behind the grip, has a molded in texture to help prevent slipping with the shooting hand. This texture is not an aggressive texture and it provides just a bit of improvement over smooth fiberglass. The area of the stock where the tang of the action extends to the rear is a flat surface that then molds into the action area of the stock. The stock through the action area is not overly built up and maintains a consistent profile up through the action and then flattens out to a beavertail style forearm.
One of the big changes McMillan made going from the A4 to the A5 stock design was in the forearm; many people did not like the thinner and taller profile of the A4 design so McMillan addressed that concern. The forearm area on the A5 stock is wide and flat and can accommodate very thick profile barrels. The one thing that is sacrificed with the A5 forearm vs. the A4 is that there is not enough height to install a bipod mounting spigot up front, instead the front swivel stud, or an accessory rail, needs to be used for bipod mounting. The forearm does have the same texture as the pistol grip area and the wide and low profile provides a very stable platform and solid rest when shooting from sandbags or other solid rests of that nature.
At first an observer may mistake the action used on this rifle for a standard Remington 700 action, but upon closer inspection that observer would see that it is anything but that. For this rifle XRing decided to use the excellent Stiller Tactical 30 Action from Stiller Precision Firearms. The Stiller Tactical 30 is a drop in replacement for a Remington 700 action, meaning it will fit any stock that is inletted for the Remington 700 action; in this case it is a short action, which is the length needed to handle the 308 Winchester cartridge. The Stiller has a more closed ejection port which does add to the stiffness of the action but the real improvement over a Remington 700 action is that it is machined too much tighter tolerances than the Remington. It is this reason that these custom actions from Stiller and other manufacturers such as Surgeon, have become popular for very high-end custom rifles. The bolt on the Stiller uses a standard Remington firing pin, but the bolt body is precision machined and has spiral flutes as well, this not only trims some weight, but can also aide with chambering when some gunk may have found its way into the chamber area. The bolt has an M-16 style extractor which is a big improvement over the standard Remington C clip style extractor. Stiller offers a straight bolt handle as well as a swept back handle and this XRing rifle has the latter. The bolt knob itself is slightly enlarged compared to the standard Remington bolt knob. Located on the left hand side of the action is the bolt release button, just pull the bolt to the rear while pressing this button and the bolt slides right out.
This rifle came with a Timney model 510 trigger which was set to brake right at 2 lbs. There are many nice triggers on the market these days, but we have always been partial to the Timney triggers because of their long history of quality and especially because of the wide trigger shoe. Not only do we like the wide shoe, but it also has ribs on it to help with trigger feel and this combination has always served us well on our rifles allowing for excellent control of the trigger, even with gloves on. The Timney on this XRing rifle did not let us down, once again having a good crisp break with solid repeatable performance with no over travel or creep.
On the bottom of this rifle is a CDI Precsion Gunworks Detachable Box Magazine (DBM) setup that utilizes the Accuracy International magazines. The rifle arrived with a 10 round magazine produced by C Products who makes AI knock off magazines. The 10 round magazines are nice to have when a team needs lots of ammo, but they do hang down quite a ways below the rifle and can get in the way when stalking, typically we prefer to use 5 round magazines with some spare 5 and 10 rounders in the ruck or drag bag. The CDI floorplate is a high quality unit and the mag release lever is properly located at the front of the trigger guard and is easy to operate with just the press of your trigger finger. The floorplate fits flush to the stock and worked without issue during our tests.
XRing decided to use a Krieger stainless steel barrel that is 24″ long with a 1:10″ rate of twist to stabilize the heavier bullets. These are match grade barrels and as many know, Krieger has a very good reputation as a high end barrel maker. The contour is a standard Remington heavy barrel contour which means it is the same thickness and shape as the Remington 700P as well as their varmint and other heavy barrel rifles. This is a lighter weight profile than what is commonly found on custom built rifles, but it does make the rifle lighter and easier to lug around the field when deployed. Yet it is still a heavy enough profile to provide good stiffness and accuracy. At the muzzle, the barrel has a side ported muzzlebrake to dampen recoil and reduce muzzleflip.
All of the metalwork on the rifle is covered with the Cerakote brand ceramic finish and while XRing did not do a camouflage pattern per se with their Cerakoting, they did finish the action in Coyote Tan color and the barrel and floorplate in Graphite Black, so while it is not a camouflage pattern, it still has a camouflage effect.
The overall design and style of the rifle is purely sniper in nature. With the camouflage stock and black and brown metal finish combined with the shape and style of the stock the rifle is ready for business. The overall length of the rifle is a fairly standard 45″ and the weight of just the rifle is 9.7 lbs which puts it on the lighter side of most custom tactical rifles. A lot of that has to do with the smaller contour barrel as that alone will shave a pound or more vs. some of the heavier contour barrels that are used. The flush cups also help with tactical usability for mounting various slings. The barreled action is also glass bedded to the McMillan stock, as is standard with high end custom built rifles, and the barrel is free floated to aid with accuracy. So the rifle has all the right components, it was now a matter of whether the rifle would perform.
For our shooting tests we used the Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x50mm scope that was provided with the rifle from XRing, it had the MOAR reticle with .25 MOA clicks. The scope was mounted to the 20 MOA rail with Burris XTR six screw rings. For our accuracy tests we used three different loads shot on over several different days to try and determine how the rifle would perform. The three different loads included Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr, HSM 175gr HPBT, and HSM 168gr AMAX. The Federal GMM is the law enforcement standard and we always try to use that load for accuracy tests when reviewing a rifle and the other two HSM loads are better suited for longer range shooting and are two that we have had good luck with in different rifles in the past.
We have mentioned it several times during our many rifles, scope and equipment reviews that since we are head quartered here in Montana, we have to be prepared to shoot and operate in all types of weather. This can be both a challenge to us as the operators and a challenge and a good test for equipment as well. It is one thing for everything to work well when it is 75 degrees, sunny and in a controlled environment. It is another thing to work well when it is 10 degrees out, snowing and lying in frozen mud. Well, such was the case when we took the XRing rifle out on the first range day. It was 4 degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) and brutally cold. The second trip out was 29 degrees with snow falling. These were good conditions to operationally test the rifle.
Accuracy tests were shot from the bench with a sandbag upfront and a sandsock utilized at the rear of the rifle. The accuracy results for the XRing rifle combined over all our shooting sessions are listed below:
|Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr||1.058″||.740″||1.01 MOA|
|HSM 168gr AMAX||.448″||.214″||.43 MOA|
|HSM 175gr HPBT SMK||.752″||.669″||.72 MOA|
When we are testing and evaluating a 308 rifle, we typically will start with Federal Gold Medal Match to establish a baseline for a rifle and then branch out to the other types of ammo from there. As you might suspect based off of the results from the chart above, we were surprised and not entirely excited about the results we were getting with the Federal Gold Medal Match ammo. We even went so far as to check the scope mounts and action screws on the rifle to be sure everything was tight and properly torqued. Once everything was verified, we continued with the testing, and we were glad we did. As soon as we switched to the HSM 168gr AMAX, the rifle really came alive! The first group fired with the AMAX load was an impressive .214″ center to center. The next group was .321″ and the rifle continued to perform with this ammo. The HSM 175gr was not as good as the 168 AMAX, but it did better than the GMM and on a whole wasn’t too bad. We talked to the folks at XRing to ask about the GMM performance and they indicated that they have some other chamber reamers that do better with the GMM ammo and SMK bullets but the one they used on this rifle tended to be a better all-around reamer. Obviously, if it were our rifle, the 168gr AMAX load would be the required ammo for this rifle.
The Timney trigger was excellent and the McMillan A5 stock is exceptionally comfortable and usable as a sniper grade stock, which were both no surprise as all. Recoil was easily managed with the muzzlebrake providing excellent recoil reduction as well as reduced muzzle flip. When behind the rifle everything falls naturally in place and the rifle is pleasant to shoot and quite effective. Functionally the rifle operated about as you would expect from a quality bolt action, but with one exception.
The one thing we did have some problems with was with bolt chatter while feeding from the magazine. When just cycling the bolt or single feeding the action, the bolt would slide and chamber with no problems. But when trying to feed a round from the magazine, the bolt would chatter sliding forward and at times was so bad that it would bind up and not continue forward without backing it out a fraction of an inch and trying it again. It felt as if the bolt just needed to be worn in and perhaps the Cerakote worn down. We also mentioned this to XRing and they had us swap out the C Products magazine with an actual Accuracy International brand magazine which we grabbed from one of the rifles here at SC. This helped a little, but did not completely resolve the issue. During our fiddling with the feeding while back indoors, and quite a bit warmer temperatures, we noticed that the bolt cycled and fed much better. So we tested it a few more times and were able to discover that it seemed to be the cold temperatures that were affecting it. When things get really cold, natural lubrication from metal finishes such as Cerakoting can sometimes freeze and fail to lubricate as effectively, we believe this is what was happening and since this is a new rifle the Cerakoting on the bolt rails inside the action has not been worn in fully yet. The bolt chatter issue in the extreme cold should resolve itself once the Cerakote on the rails smooth out.
On a whole the XRing rifle that we evaluated here would work well as a duty sniper rifle. Accuracy with the right ammunition is excellent and it has all the features one would expect from a custom built sniper rifle. The weight of the rifle is another plus with the bare rifle falling under 10 lbs. which helps when lugging the rifle up and down hills, buildings, and other obstacles that a sniper encounters when deployed. This is a good traditional rifle with a 24″ barrel for a bit of extra velocity for long range shooting as well as for recoil and muzzle flip reduction. If the bolt chatter and feeding issues resolve themselves over time at the range, there would be no hesitation deploying with this rifle. Certainly we would go with a 5 round magazine, loaded with the 168gr AMAX load, and a good sling with flush cups, and then head out and train, train, train. With XRing being a custom rifle builder, a purchaser could also change any of the minor things that a team might prefer over what is here on this rifle. That is the real beauty of having a rifle built to order.