To build, or not to build? OTC Rifles vs. Custom Rifles

It has often been said, “You get what you pay for” in this world. The same holds true for custom rifles.

 
This is an old adage that I heard my father tell me many times as a child growing up. But, does the saying always ring true? Is it possible to achieve the same level of performance from an over the counter rifle that costs less than custom rifles?
In the wide realm of shooting sports, we, as consumers, are bombarded with an astounding amount of choices to choose from when selecting a rifle over the counter or even custom rifles to pursue our hunting dreams.

The overwhelming amount of information can often push us into “sensory overload,” causing you to overlook many of the key considerations for choosing a rifle that will maximize your chances of success. The purpose of this article is not to evaluate the plethora of options that stand before a person who has made the choice to build a custom rifle, but rather to look at what some of the distinctive differences are in an over the counter rifles vs. custom rifles.

The first order of business is to look at price. An over the counter rifles at most sporting goods stores will retail between $500-$1,000; while a custom will cost a customer anywhere from $2,000, to a cool $6,000. From a monetary standpoint, the contrast in these two choices is astounding. After all, in theory the OTC rifle will produce the same outcome as the custom, when the bullet is placed in the right spot. For some, this thought alone is enough to push them to go the OTC route.

Custom Rifle

The overwhelming amount of information can often push us into sensory overload, causing you to overlook many of the key considerations for choosing a rifle that will maximize your chances of success.

However, a custom built rifle offers much more than just fancy bells and whistles, and a larger aesthetic appeal. For the first example of this we look at accuracy. Buying an over the counter is well, let’s face it, a crap shoot. Some of them will shoot hole for hole with their custom counterparts, while others more closely resemble the pattern produced by shotguns. On the other hand, any custom gun maker worth their salt will produce a product that comes with an accuracy guarantee of ½ MOA or less. Often times, the time and money that is spent in trying to obtain mediocre accuracy from an OTC rifle will greatly chip away at the monetary differences between these two rifles.

Accuracy is an important thing to consider when looking for a new rifle.An important factor to accuracy is fit. With an over the counter rifle you are forced to “fit the gun,” rather than having a gun that fits you. As a long range shooter this is a major problem for me. Take one quick walk through your local sporting goods store and I am sure that you will understand what I mean. All rifles will have a relatively straight comb, one standard length of pull, and will all be around the same weight (within a ½ pound). Building a custom gives you endless options for creating a gun that fits you. Barrel contour and length, stock options for everything from length of pull to hand positioning, and a wide variety of trigger choices, all add up to a rifle that fits you and your needs.

The main attributes listed above equate to, in my opinion, the most important factor to be considered, confidence. As marksman, we all have limitations to our ability. For some, it may be shooting at long range, for others shooting off-hand. While on the experience of a lifetime we owe it to ourselves and our quarry to be the best we can be. The only way to accomplish this is to be practicing with a piece of equipment that has the ability to perform much better than we can produce. This allows for the shooter to grow without being limited by the rifle. For example, a race car driver will never know their full potential as a driver if they continue to drive cars that don’t have the capability (for one reason or another) of winning a race.   Confidence is gained by knowing, and working to continually extend our limitations with a weapon that has room for us to realize our potential.

I am not sure if I was able to debunk the old saying of “you get what you pay for”; but for me personally, a still believe the adage rings true.  Remember, the purpose of this is not to give all of the nuts and bolts of these two choices, but rather to hopefully give you a look at some of the attributes that should be considered before making your choice to purchase a new rifle. If you have any questions, be sure to post them. I am always willing to help any way I can!

Hunt Hard,
Levi Day

Custom Rifle

Standard Remington 700


Comments

  1. says

    Great article Levi. Is there a happy medium when it comes to Standard vs. Custom. I have read on other forums where guys buy say a Remington 700 action and go custom from there. What are your thoughts on that and will that save a guys some money?

  2. says

    Ryan, Thanks for the kind words! You pose a great question. Going the semi-custom route can save a guy some serious coin while still helping them to acheive the performance they are looking for. The first thing to consider is the platform, or action, in which to start your build on. The Rem. 700 is a great choice. It has a wide availability of parts and is very functional.

  3. says

    I agree with you Levi. Also wanted to point out, as a long distance hunter and F-class shooter myself, one thing I tell people is what are you really trying to accomplish. Starting off there will help in your quest to finding what you ultimately want and will pay for. But over all, practice, pratice, and more practice is key. Some of the OTC rifles, not all, but some are completely capable of producing tight groups. In the end, its the marksmens experience that will come through. Although, a custom rifle would help push those goals you have. Not to mention it's cool!

    I try and help others with tips and techniques as well. I appreciate your post Levi Day.

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