Hunting rifles do not need to be in the same configuration as they have for the last Century. The shooting industry has imploded with aftermarket upgrades allowing hunters to change out those factory cookie-cutter stocks, grandpa’s rifle scope, and the go-to box of ammunition purchased every year at the local sporting goods store. If you're new to owning a firearm, or a seasoned gun enthusiast, consider the following upgrades and preparation tips in the off-season to increase your hunting success odds.
Replacing the factory stock with an aftermarket stock or chassis can be one of the best upgrades to your hunting rifle for a few reasons. For many years, traditional rifle stocks like McMillian and Manners were the only acceptable option for hunting rifles due to a few traits differing from chassis and stocks. The first is the weight and the size. Many chassis were heavy and large in many ways, making them designed around tactical applications. That is NO LONGER the case, and modern chassis specifically designed for hunting, like the Element 4.0 Magnesium chassis, will be our focus on why this could be the best upgrade for your hunting rifle.
A rifle chassis can contribute multiple upgrade factors. Here are just a few of them.
There have been many improvements over the decades within the hunting industry and the tools we use to accomplish the end goal of a successful hunt. The optics we use to locate, achieve a precise sight picture and take aimat these animals have had some impressive improvements, and the options available are expansive, covering options for every hunter's preferences. Here are three areas that have had significant improvements to consider when updating your hunting rifle with a new rifle scope.
Rifle Scope Glass Quality: With all optics, glass quality has improved immensely over the years. And not just on the high-tier optics. Some optics cost a fraction of what a consumer would have spent a decade ago for that clarity. Yet there is still lesser quality throughout almost all the rifle scope brands. Upgrading your rifle scope can be one of the more expensive items on the rifle. If you are going to do this, consider spending more if specific models have noticeably better glass.
Reliability of Rifle Scope: This is a tricky area to decide on when comparing scopes at a retail store. How would you know which rifle scope is more reliable than the other? You won't.. But suppose you research this before comparing scopes in person or purchasing online. In that case, it can be a worthwhile lifetime investment. There are many sources of information online regarding gear decisions; forums are a great place to start! More importantly, try and find articles that were contributed by someone who specifically takes the time to test multiple options and has a reputation for well-evaluated reviews. Forums such as Rokslide, Long Range Only, and Snipershide, to name a few. Rifle scopes can be a primary culprit for accuracy issues for most rifles and changes in POI over multiple shots due to internal issues. Preventing this with a more dependable scope will often save you money!
Increased Opportunities With Distance: This is not to say every hunter and every rifle needs long-range capabilities. But, increasing your comfortable shooting limits can create opportunities that were previously not considered. There is a lot more than just the rifle scope that goes into precision shooting at distances, but a good starting point is having a scope that is capable of doing so with precision. With options available on exposed elevation and windage turrets and many different reticles to work to your preference, why not? There can be a slight weight increase to obtain a scope that ticks all the boxes, but if that allows you to execute a well-placed shot at a distance to seal the deal because it was the only opportunity, or the terrain in that area heavily limits you from any close encounters then to most, worth it!
Replacing the trigger on your rifle is a very affordable upgrade and far too often overlooked as an option to improve the rifle's accuracy. Some prevalent aftermarket triggers include those offered by Trigger Tech,Timey,Bix’n Andy, and Rifle Basix. With offerings covering many of your popular factory rifles from Remington, Savage, Tikka, Howa, Weatherby, Browning, and many others, upgrading your factory rifle trigger is a simple DIY task, taking the rifle you enjoy shooting to the next level.
These triggers can adjust the trigger pull weight, and many can adjust overtravel. Some will have different trigger shoe options like a flat design and, in a few models, the ability to change the location of the trigger shoe forward and aft and up and down.
Having a ninety-degree trigger press is one of the critical fundamentals of precision shooting. This skill set is difficult to obtain every single time and even more difficult when the trigger has a higher pull weight, which can also lead to recoil and target anticipation/panic. Aftermarket triggers can help conquer this with a lighter trigger pull weight.
You never know if there is a different box of ammunition that just might shoot better in your rifle! In the off-season, taking the time to try a handful of different ammunition can easily lead to increased rifle accuracy. And as time passes, especially if new ammunition for your cartridge is released, continue to try more! You can find more consistent ammunition, as some options are better than others, and the combination works best in your rifle.
If you hand-load your ammunition, then all the better! You can try various combinations, tailoring the ammunition to your rifle. Either way of obtaining more accurate ammunition for your hunting rifle, one aspect of this is spending more time at the range getting trigger time. This practice is irreplaceable when it comes to your improvements on the never-ending goal of accuracy and precision on your rifle.
Shooting Bipods and Tripods are not a direct upgrade to the rifle but rather the shooting system. Hunting rarely presents the perfect position to shoot from with no brush interference, level terrain, or a comfortable amount of time to get set up how you would prefer. Having options to shoot from can be the difference between hitting or missing the target completely. Consider the options to add stability to the best rifle for your hunting style.
Shooting Bipods are available in all different sizes and weights. Some designs focus on the minimalist mountain hunter where ounces matter, and the design's simplicity is all needed. Others will have all the bells and whistles for leg adjustment, leg angles, cant adjustment, and panning. Ideally, using different bipods on different hunts or rifles, depending on the terrain and species, is the best way to look at these tools and use them for different jobs. Lastly, attaching it to Arca Swiss on the rifle allows almost any bipod to be more versatile. On hunting chassis systems like the Element 4.0 chassis line, where the Arca Swiss is machined into the chassis, there is no need for additional attachment hardware or a few pounds of weight added to the rifle. This allows the bipod to be quickly positioned at any point of the stock's forend, helping you conquer different shooting positions and angles.
Most gun owners and hunters will carry a tripod to glass off; why not allow this multi-functional tool to work for your rifle as one of the most stable shooting platforms? Tripods can cover a more extensive range of shooting heights and stability in different terrains than a bipod, allowing hunters to leave the bipod at the house, saving weight by using the tripod to shoot from when the option presents itself.
Lastly, practicing with these new upgrades is not an upgrade to your hunting rifle but rather some of the best advice you can follow. The rifle is only helpful if the person using it can capitalize on its capabilities. Anyone in the shooting industry will tell you that humans are the weakest link in the equation of the firing solution. So get out to the range and practice. If you have the capabilities, get into some terrain and practice shooting with varying winds, wind direction, angles, and positions. Very rarely will you have a nice shooting bench to hunt from.
Consider this time a great way to test some of the upgrades listed previously and others, such as different bipods, shooting sticks, or shooting from tripods. These changes to your hunting rifle must be practiced before going into the field on a hunt. The animals we pursue deserve a clean, lethal shot. If you want to make the most of it, take a shooting class, especially if long-range is in the mix. Experienced instructors will make a huge difference.
Upgrading your hunting rifle can be a rewarding experience, both in terms of improved performance and increased shooting enjoyment. By carefully considering the various upgrade options available, you can tailor your rifle to your specific needs and preferences.
From chassis systems to optics to triggers, there is a wide range of upgrades available to enhance the performance and accuracy of your rifle. Additionally, simple accessories such as bipods and tripods can make a big difference in stability and comfort.
Of course, no amount of upgrades can replace practice. Once you have upgraded your rifle, be sure to spend time shooting in realistic hunting situations to become familiar with its capabilities and confident in your ability to make accurate shots.
If you want to learn more about rifle upgrades, several resources are available on the XLR Industries blog. Tips from our experts can help you choose the right upgrades for your rifle and shooting needs.