Thank you for your curiosity and inquiry, and I will be rather straight to the bone, because most people that "Think they want to do this", have no idea what's involved, both in time, dedication, and money, and will not follow through, once they know what it's about!
This site has nothing against beginners, and most people have to start at the basics of any endeavor, but this may NOT be the place to start.
This is a site devoted to the art and science of long (and VERY LONG) range shooting, under "field" conditions.
... "long" meaning from 500 to 1000 yards/meters, and VERY LONG meaning from 1100 to 2000 yards/meters.
... "under field conditions" meaning that you carry your rifle (and about 40 pounds of "stuff") through perhaps a few miles of woods, or desert, to the place where you will shoot.
... targets are steel plates (painted white, brown, or some other combination) that "Clank" when hit... there are no scoring rings... it's either "HIT" or "MISS"!
You may "see" the whole target (if you're lucky) or you might see only part of it because of brush, bushes, or trees, and you may have to shoot through bushes, or trees, because there is no place to get a clear shot.
You will only know the size of it (for example 20"x40", or 20"x10"), and that it is not round, nice, and clean.
If you are one of the last shooters, there may be little or no paint left on the target (it has been all shot off), and it may be almost impossible to see.
(Yes, I know... the first guys got an advantage... but this is real life shooting, and real life's NOT FAIR!)
There are no excuses, and "No Whining" during a tactical match... you shoot at what you see, you swallow your complaints [and pride], and then go home... but you'll be back ;)
You will have to estimate the range (no laser rangefinders), and you will (depending on the match rules), get one, or maybe two shots... the range may be from 1/5th to 2/3rds of a mile!
This is NOT formal match shooting, where you know the distance to the targets, and everybody is on the same firing line, and shooting at the same distance, at the same time.
You may have to shoot in a heavy rain, while others before or after you, got to shoot in a light drizzle, or no rain at all....
... NOT FAIR???
That's right... it's not fair!
This is NOT a "Fair Competition"... it's TOUGH to compete at this! No whining!
This is the most difficult form of competitive shooting there is.
Most of the people on this site (and in this sport) are active, retired, or "ex"...military snipers and Sniper/instructors, police "SWAT" shooters and/or instructors, people from the FBI, USIA, CIA, Federal Marshals service, and similar backgrounds.
There are many that weren't shooters in the service, but wanted to be, and now have a chance to compete at the best, toughest game in town.
OK??? you still here?
There are only 2 or 3 "Basic" rifles that are considered acceptable out of the box... the very best of them is the Winchester M70 "Stealth", or the prior M70/HBV before it.
The other two are the Remington M700 "Varmint Special", and the Remington "PSS".
The Remington rifles have had quality control issues over the last few years, so if you get one, look it over very carefully.
If the rifle is in stainless, you will have to get it colored... black, dark green, tan, etc... Baked on Teflon (about $150 to $200), or just spray on Krylon, or muffler paint will do.
All three are in the $700+ price range... hold out for the Winchester Stealth!
Used, you can save about $100 to $250, on a clean one.
The Caliber MUST be .308 for a beginner... many matches require it, it's cheap to shoot, and the barrel will last for +/- 10,000 rounds.
First.. the scope MUST HAVE a "Mil-dot" Reticle... no exception.
This is the ONLY WAY you have to determine your shooting ranges... without mil-dots, you might as well not have sights at all!
There are two different types of elevation adjustments.
- The standard 1/4 click target style, that may require 8 to 12 complete turns to go from 100 to 1200 yards/meters.
- The "one minute click (1 moa), range cam" (aka BDC), that go from 100 to 1200 in a bit less that one turn of the elevation turret.
I won't go into the details here, because it's a long write, but the BDC cam is WAY preferable... under match conditions, you WILL loose count of the number of turns you have made to the 1/4 moa turret, and miss the target by 8 FEET (experienced tactical shooters have done it... so will you).
On power... 10x is standard, or 3x to 10x with variables.
Don't waste money on large, or high powered scope... not only is it not needed, it will be a detriment.
A 40mm front objective is all that is needed.
What you really need is "TOUGH"!... you will drag this scope over rocks, fall down rock slides, into streams, etc... and if the scope fails, the trip to the match (and all the money for fees) is wasted.
There are only a few scopes that are desirable.
The following scopes have 1/4 minute turrets:
- Bausch & Lomb 10x Tactical... discontinued, but in very high demand, they can be had USED (clean) for around $800.
- Leupold M1-LR Mil-Dot... new around $800, used around $600.
- Leupold 10x MK4-M1 Mil-Dot... new around $1100, used around $800.
The following are cam (BDC) style scopes that have proven their way:
(please note the "M3 in their designation, instead of the "M1").
- Leupold 10x MK4-M3 Mil-Dot... new around $1100, used around $800.
- Leupold M3-LR Mil-Dot... new around $800, used around $600.
There are some shooters that use the Tasco "Super Duper Sniper Scope" (at around $400), but I will NOT recommend it.
Don't use hunting mount bases, or rings... they won't handle the rough treatment.
A quick recommendation... bases and rings made by Badger, A.R.M.S., and the "MK4" line of mounts by Leupold (but not others in the Leupold line)... figure on spending $250 or more on a base and rings (a one piece base is VERY DESIRABLE!!). Other specialty rings that are acceptable are the Barrett adjustable rings.
THERE ARE NO OTHERS!!!
That's about it... the complete starter's rifle will be around $1700 to $2000.
However... this rifle will hold it's own in the best of company, and will shoot well enough, that if you are not placing in top end of the matches, it's YOUR Fault!
You will need to shoot 500 to 2000 rounds a year, especially as a beginner, so hand loading is definitely a plus.
Typical matches are 2 to 5 days, and are $300 to $600 entrance, plus lodging food, ammo, and transportation.
This is NOT an inexpensive pass time.
You don't have to be rich to do it, but you better have some cash available, and the dedication (both time and effort), or you're wasting your money.
There is no "junior league"... you are either IN IT, or you are NOT!
When you go to your first few matches, you will get creamed... but don't worry...
Just listen to the other shooters, ask them questions, they will be more than happy to help... it DOES get better ;)
Please read the "Rules of Engagement" section of the Duty Roster, especially the part about not "posting beginners questions".
Read the archives... just about ALL of your questions have been answered there, and you will get a feel for this site... feel free to e-mail some of the regulars, and most of them will answer your questions off line.SniperCountry/Paul "Pablito" Coburn - Coburn Research Laboratories.