McMillan Rifles

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  • McMillan Rifles

    This is a review I did a few years ago.

    McMillans tactical rifles systems.

    The McMillan 308 and 338 Sniper Weapon Systems on test.

    A look through any of the latest shooting magazines available on the newsagency rack, will have you seeing some sort of catch phrase such as “Sniper” or “Tactical” plastered onto advertisements for products such as scopes and rifles. While it is seen as a marketing tool for many manufacturers trying to cash in on the “Tacticool” factor, there are many items available for sale that are the genuine item, and are legitimately available to the general shooting public.

    One of these is the McMillan Bros trademark, world renowned for its benchrest actions and rifle stocks, a look at any top grade benchrest competition line up will see any number of rifles fitted with them. The same could also be said for the hunter and F-class crowd nowadays, with that side of the sport taking off in leaps and bounds. Without over emphasizing it, McMillan are pretty close to the cream of the crop when it comes to producing accuracy enhancing products.

    So is it possible to buy a rifle that is entirely built by McMillan to their level of perfection, in Australia? It is now. Ballistic and Mechanical Testing in Port Melbourne is now the authorised Australian distributor for McMillan rifles. While the sporting rifle side of things is still being set up by McMillan, and this is expected to be completed during late 2008, they are in full swing with their tactical products, and have been for many years.

    The flagship of the McMillan Tactical range, the Tac-50 broke the world record in 2002 for the longest confirmed kill by a sniper. At a distance of 2430M Corporal Rob Furlong, one of a five man sniper team from the Canadian Army’s Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry shot and killed an Al Queada fighter carrying an RPK machine gun during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. This has since been surpassed, but its still an impressive feat of shooting.

    The McMillan Tac Series of rifles is made up of the Tac-308 in 308 Winchester, the Tac 300 in 300 Winchester Magnum, the Tac-338 in the powerful 338 Lapua Magnum and the now legendary Tac-50 in the mighty .50 inch Browning Machine Gun (BMG) chambering.

    I have recently been given the opportunity to trial the Tac-308 and Tac-338 rifle packages; this was done specifically to launch the knowledge that these and other McMillan weapon systems and accessories are now available in Australia, through a new importer/ distributor.

    Upon opening the Pelican hard cases these rifles were delivered in, the first thing that comes to mind is, WOW! These tactical rifle packages are not your daddy’s heavy barrel hunting rifle gone bad, these are some very high quality rifles purpose built for one very ominous reason. To deliver a single well aimed projectile, exactly where you aimed it, these are the true no BS “snipers” rifle. I was expecting good things from these rifles, I was not left disappointed.

    So where to start on these rifles, everything you look at is of such quality that finding a starting point is hard. To make it easy, I’ll start at the muzzle and move back!

    The muzzle of the Tac-308 has a recessed target crown on this particular rifle; however as with everything on these rifles, there are options galore, including a threaded muzzle for the mounting of suppressors. Not an option for most of us, but for the few who utilise theses devices, having the rifle threaded from the outset is an added bonus.

    The Tac-338 comes standard with McMillan’s own design of muzzle break, with a conical forcing chamber internally and ports that look like the ace of clubs symbol to force the gases outwards and slightly rearward. The muzzle blast this beast creates is impressive to say the least, ear plugs and ear muffs are highly recommended for those shooting, or nearby! If I had not have actually used it, I would not have believed just how well this muzzle break works. Firing the 338 with full power loads felt similar to letting off the 308 with 168grn match ammo, yes there is more blast and a definite higher level of “thump” to the noise, but the recoil is no where what I expected it to be.

    Both rifles feature Schneider match grade air gauged barrels, in the McMillan spec’s tactical taper. Schneider barrels are cut rifled, so there is no stress relieving of the barrel required, it also ensures a consistent groove depth and twist rate, which is not always the case with button rifled barrels. The 22 inch long 308 barrel is in a one in eleven inch right hand twist rate, perfect for stabilising the common 168grn or 175grn match grade ammunition. The 338 features a 27 inch long tube running a one in ten inch right hand twist. The 338LM was developed to fire a projectile weight of 250grns, the one in ten inch twist rate stabilises these high ballistic coefficient bullets extremely well.

    Sitting above the barrel and mounted to the receiver of both rifles is a McCann Industries scope mount and accessory rail. This rather bulky mounting system is designed to not only hold the scope, but also copious amount of other optical equipment, such as a night vision amplifier which sits in front of the scope objective lens. Attached to many law enforcement agencies rifles around the world is also a riflescope camera system, which relays the exact scope image the sniper has back to the forward incident command post. This assists with the investigation following a sniper taking a life ending shot, by being able to confirm that there is sufficient cause to employ a lethal use of force generally leaves the law enforcement sniper in the clear.

    The McCann rail has a built in 25 minute of angle cant on it as well, allowing the rifle scope to be zeroed at 100m, and have the ability to be adjusted for zero out to 1000m plus and not run out of adjustment on the scope turrets. Holdover aiming is no longer an acceptable practice for precision long range shooting, modern tactical scope systems that can be adjusted with precise repeatability has done away with the guess work, the scopes on these two rifles are prime examples of this.

    Leupold are renowned for their excellent optics, and are often the bar which others are measured by. The Mark 4 LR tactical series of riflescopes are no different, while there are many other brands of tactical riflescope on the market, the MK4 LR series of scope offers everything you need, without the features that make scopes difficult to use.

    The Tac 308 was fitted with the 3.5-10X40 M1 front focal plane (FFP) scope which was installed with the tactical milling reticle (TMR). This is mounted to the McCann rail by a set of Leupold Mark 4 steel rings. This range of magnification is pretty much spot on for the usefulness of the 308 Winchester chambering for tactical purposes. Whereas the powerful Tac 338 has a scope more suited to its long rang usefulness, an 8.5-25X50 M1 again with the FFP TMR reticle, this scope is also mounted with Leupold Mk 4 rings.

    My only gripe with these scopes is the TMR reticle, while I’m sure the specialist’s can make use of this particular design I prefer a more conventional Mil-Dot reticle for a tactical precision rifle scope. The reason for my dislike of the TMR reticle is that it has a small section of the crosshairs missing where they would generally meet, making it harder to aim at “exactly” the same place for grouping tests and precision shots at long range.

    Sat underneath the impressive optics package and the space aged McCann rail system is where the world class McMillan action sits, if you can’t see it in the rest of the rifle, this is where you really start to see the value in these rifles. The extremely close tolerances and attention to detail that is built into these actions makes the monetary value easily seen. The actions in both of these rifles are the McMillan repeater benchrest actions, obviously the 308 is the short action version and the 338 is the magnum action of this series.

    The bolts on these action feature many improvements over the standard Remington 700 series that they are based on. Such as the helical fluting in the bolt body to allow for clearance of any debris from the “oh so tight” tolerances, longer outward swept bolt handle not to mention McMillan’s own design of Sako style extractor claw. Match grade firing pins and firing pin springs are fitted to the bolts of all McMillan actioned rifles, standard.

    That’s the easy to see bit dealt with, what cant be seen is the precision alignment of the bolt head to the action and the action to the barrel, these tolerances are held to within 0.0005 of an inch, that’s a pretty exact bit of machining to achieve . Every action and barrel is fitted together using an individually cut thread then hand fitted to ensure these tolerances are kept to this high standard, no mass producing of the barrel and action threads then throwing them together in the hope that they shoot well.

    The bolts on the McMillan actions are also of harder grade steel than the common Remington 700 or other commercial actions, made of 17-4 stainless steel and hardened to 43 RC the actions are very tough indeed. While that action is strong enough, the bolt is made even tougher, machined from 9310 steel and surface hardened to at least 60RC making it almost impossible to dent or warp.

    A tactical rifle is no good if you only have one shot, even if that is all that is needed! Hanging off the bottom of the McMillan actions are Badger Ordnance detachable box magazines and steel trigger guard assemblies. Holding 5 rounds in each of the magazines is standard; however the 308 can be supplied with 10 round magazines on special order. Interestingly enough the magazine fitted to the Tac 338 actually had the Accuracy International symbol stamped to on the base of it; apparently the AI mags are cheaper than the Badger ones!

    The trigger assemblies fitted to these actions are either a fully tuned Remington style or a Jewel type, depending both on what is available at the time, or customers request. Regardless of which one is used they come tuned to 3lbs which is the standard for many law enforcement departments; however as these are really your “factory custom rifle” triggers can be tuned to a specific weight upon ordering.

    With all the time and care its taken to produce the actions and make sure everything is as solid as it can be, putting it into a second rate stock simply would be a crime. It just so happens that McMillan makes some of the best tactical rifle stocks in the world. The latest of these is the A5 type stocks which are fitted to these rifles. More precisely the 338 is fitted with an A5 which has the integral adjustable. The 308 has the A5 stock with the “saddle” type adjustable cheek rest, which is made of aluminium and covered in a thin layer of rubber to provide a non slip cheek weld.

    Regardless of which stock we are talking about they are both fully adjustable for comb hight via the finger adjustable screws on the sides, and the length of pull is adjusted using a spacer system underneath the actual butt pad. The forend of the A5 stocks are flat bottomed with quick detachable sling mounting points and the standard Uncle Mikes QD mount for attaching the bipod.

    The grip is of a straighter pistol grip type of design, with a well pronounced palm swell and a textured feel to it. Moving back under the comb is a “butt hook” for resting the clenched fist of the left hand under. This is done so that when the bipod is on its lowest setting the clenched fist can be used to make slight elevation and horizontal changes and the rifle barrel will remain almost horizontal, stuffing a sock filled with sand under it almost has the same effect. Now that the tech specs are all done, how do these rifles shoot? Damn well as it happens.

    With quality ammunition the 308 shoots very well, and with optics that have either a bit more magnification, or a better reticle design, achieving or bettering the ½ MOA guarantee that McMillan advertise would be easily done. I managed several groups that were easily better than ½ MOA even with the reticle design that I loathe so much. The action feel is quite stiff due to the tight tolerances and the deep fluting on the bolt body, which will no doubt ease up with a bit of use, the rifle I had on test had only a few boxes of ammo put through it before I got my hands on it. The feel of the shooting position, which for this type of rifle is always prone or supported in some way, is very comfortable, although I must admit, it felt a little “hard edged” to someone used to sporter and varmint style stocks.

    By far the three best ammunition brands to use with this particular rifle turned out to be the Norma Diamond 168grn, Winchester Supreme match 168grn and Remington’s 175grn premier match ammo. With these ammunition types achieving five shot ragged one hole groups was the norm not the exception. Other brands and types of ammunition shot reasonably well, most easily under an inch for five shots, but the true “match” ammo was a standout as expected with a rifle of this type. Recoil of this rifle was mild as expected due to its design and weight, allowing the fall of shot to be seen on the target.

    Moving on to the 338 Lapua Magnum rifle, I found this rifle to be an absolute gem to shoot. It was as accurate as the 308, but with so much more authority that I can see why it is being utilised by those who protect us. This rifle is a big, heavy piece of gear but it just “feels” exceptional to shoot. It is extremely stable and easy to hold a sight picture on long distance targets. I fell in love with this rifle!

    After hearing all the “its gunna kick like a mule” comments from those who knew what I was doing, I was expecting to be belted around the shooting mound, not so! The 338LM chambering in this rifle is a pussy cat to shoot, when I was using the accuracy loads I was provided the 308 was kicking me more! I loaded up some full power loads to run through it as well; with compressed charges of AR2217 powder and 250grn Sierra Match King projectiles it made one hell of a boom, kicking dust and debris up all over the place around the muzzle end of the rifle, but the recoil was about the same as the 308 firing 175grn match ammo! The muzzle break worked so well that I actually preferred to shoot the 338 over the 308.

    The accuracy of the 338 was superb, every bit as good as the 308. I only had 60 rounds of 338 to play with for group testing and long range shooting. I would have loved some more time with this rifle to tweak the loads, and run another 100 rounds through it to really see what it was capable of, but the rifles had to be returned for the SHOT show. Maybe another time!

    While most of us would have a hard time justifying the price tag on these two rifles, when you take into consideration the build quality, features and the overall package you get when buying one of these tactical rifle systems it’s easy to see where your money goes. The McMillan logo is “Shoot to win”; these rifles are designed and put together to do just that. If it’s on the range shooting at targets for the high score, or in an overwatch position looking through the scope at a clear and present threat, you can be confident that these rifles will not let you down.

    Photos. A review is no good without photos now!

    The McMillan 308 and 338 Tactical weapon packages are the real deal, these rifles are built for the professional marksman.

    Pick your distance, then choose your rifle! The McMillan Bros have fielded a rifle to cover everything from 50m through to 1500m.

    The Tac-338 seen here is a very serious mid to long range weapon, with the capability to reach out to an effective 1500m; its performance is only over shadowed by the mighty 50BMG for long range applications, which McMillan also have covered!

    The Tac-308 is built as a close to mid range weapon system, its compact size and midrange magnification optics package make it a perfect package for urban and rural sniping applications for military and law enforcement marksmen.

    McCann Industries provided the scope mount for the McMillan tactical rifle package; this allows night vision image intensifiers to be mounted in front of the already zeroed scope. This allows the day scope to be used as the night scope without rezeroing.

    The Leupold Mark 4 M1 3.5-10x40 FFP riflescope as seen on top of the Tac-308 package is a very good choice of precision optics for such an accurate rifle. Repeatable windage and elevation adjustments, crystal clear optics and no gimmick features.

    The size difference between the 308 and 338 versions of these rifles is obvious when laying them side by side. Both are designed to have the same features and handle similarly to enhance weapon familiarity when both rifles are used by the same operator.

    While similar in design to the Remington 700 bolt the McMillan one has a number of upgrades, such as the helical fluting to clear debris from the action, match grade firing pin and firing pin spring and the Sako style claw extractor.

    The magazines are of a slightly different design, the 308 uses a staggered row design while the 338 one is a single stack, both hold 5 rounds.

    A Sako style claw extractor provides positive extraction, which is definitely needed when running hi-power loads in the 338 where they tend to get a bit sticky!

    The muzzle break fitted to the 338 was surprisingly efficient, it made the hard kicking 338 a pussy cat to shoot. It changes the whole recoil signature to something akin to a 243 Winchester!

    The butt on the A-5 stock is adjusted for length of pull by adding ¼ inch spacer plates under the rubber recoil pad, the integral adjustable comb as seen on the 338 is superbly made and adjustable for height and cheek angle.

    While these groups were not benchrest standard, they were shot one after the other off the bipod and my fist under the butt of the rifle. I shot this rifle as it was designed to be shot, not off heavily weighted bags and rests. The consistency of groups with various brands of ammo shows the quality of the barrel.

    The groups by the 338 Lapua were just as impressive as the 308, actually more so considering the extra power behind them. On the left was the unknown loads I was given with the rifle, the right target was hit with the full power loads I detailed in the main article.

    Does accuracy and precision have a name, you bet it does. McMillan Bros!

  • #2
    very , very nice rifles mate

    thank you for the review i have always been curious about these


    • Guest's Avatar
      Shooter commented
      Editing a comment
      Any time mate. I got the Tac 50 Review sitting here for release soon! Thats a much "nicer" bit of kit!

  • #3
    Nice review Shooter.

    I think I'm looking at the 338/375 place of birth.

    The .50 review will be good.


    • Guest's Avatar
      Shooter commented
      Editing a comment
      Hiya mate,

      Yeah the LR bug was found when I was using the Tac338, the little bugger really didn't bite real hard until I played with the 50. What you have is the result of wanting it all, in one rifle.

      I'll post the 50 review when I get through writing my current obligations up.


  • #4
    Do they do one in .30-06.....just kidding.

    Great review, very interesting.
    I'm in love with Jennifer Hawkins and Alessandra Ambrosio


    • pete86
      pete86 commented
      Editing a comment
      Great write up, thanks mate.

      Was one of the ammunition brands you tested Black Hills?

      Regards Pete

  • #5
    As for the slot in the bolt face, not sure on that one. The guns were handed back a few years ago. Without having them on hand I can't look at it.

    Black hills ammo, I had some 308 Black hills ammo provided with the gun.


    • Guest's Avatar
      nuthead commented
      Editing a comment
      Nice review, I'm sure they're nice rifles and I'd like to own one but realistically I can't see myself ever using it. The cartridges are either too powerful or not powerful enough, not match grade accurate and the rifles are all too heavy for hunting (maybe for tactical matches? even then I'd use a 260)

  • #6
    The guns are accurate enough, I shot these ones off a bipod with my clenched fist as a rear rest, as was the practice 5 years ago when this review was conducted. Not off a heavy bipod and read sand sack as would be used now. Methods change for testing products.

    You'll find that most guys conducting reviews shoot off a bench, with either a heavy front bag rest with a rear bag, or dedicated bench rest with rear bag, to highlight ANY potential accuracy, I tend to be a little less "diplomatic" and more practical in terms of my reviewing techniques. If I test it and say it'll shoot MOA or better, it'll do it in the field any day of the week, not just at the range off a heavy rest with perfect wind conditions.



    • Guest's Avatar
      Homer commented
      Editing a comment
      G'Day Fella's,

      Mmmmmmmm Donuts!
      Shooter, thanks for the details and images, very nice bit of kit!!!


  • #7
    Great review mate, heaps of useful info.
    Love your country, love your family, love your sport.


    • #8
      Nice review on some serious bits of gear.