Special Projects Unlimited 18-inch .308

A few weeks back I was introduced to Special Projects Unlimited and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing one of their rifles. Before accepting the weapon in question I made it clear that although I am sniper-qualified I am NOT currently sniper-active. In other words, I don't do precision rifle work every day. I know and understand the mechanics, but I'm not on par with a great many such shooters today. That understood, I accepted the weapon for test and evaluation and began seeking range time. When I finally got down behind the weapon I was quite pleased with what I experienced. Let's take a look at the rifle, its component parts, and performance.

Special Projects Unlimited LLC is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Quite honestly, I had never heard of the company before we were introduced by a common friend. Once I had talked to them I found out that they were interested in having me review a precision rifle--otherwise known as a "sniper rifle." Well, of course, I'm always happy to get down behind a good rifle, so we made arrangements to meet and I picked up the rifle pictured at right. The rifle was delivered in a hard case with the Special Projects Unlimited logo on it, and that is how it's been predominantly transported. But on the day I picked it up, I was on my way to BlackHawk in Norfolk, VA, and I just had to select a "drag bag" for the rifle.

As I accepted the rifle, the first thing that struck me was how heavy it was. Of course, that was as compared to the ARs and shotguns I'm more used to handling. On my digital scale, the rifle, as delivered, weighs 16.5 pounds. The most obvious features are the 18-inch barrel, adjustable stock and five-round box magazine. Basic stats are nice, but they come nowhere near telling the true story. In addition to the rifle itself, other equipment was included in the hard case, and I'll review that farther down.

Those of you into precision rifle work may recognize the US Optics Scope, Harris Bipod and McMillan fully adjustable stock. Note also the oversized bolt handle (shown right). The weapon is built on a Remington 700 action and uses a heavy/bull 18-inch barrel which has a threaded muzzle capped by a threat protector. I tried to talk the SPU rep into letting me keep the silencer, but it just wasn't going to happen. I think he saw that evil glint in my eye and thought better of it. I was also provided 30 rounds of Black Hills 175 g .308 ammo. The rep told me that the gun seems to prefer that ammo but allowed me to shoot any factory .308 ammo I wanted. On hand on range day, I had some Federal Match 168 g ammo and some American Eagle 150 g ammo. After my time at the range, although I did get everything to feed and fire (the rep thought the Federal stuff might not work), it was obvious that the weapon preferred the heavier rounds from Black Hills.

One of the things I knew I'd enjoy about the rifle was the fully adjustable and bedded McMillan A5 stock. When I went through sniper school a few years back I had to build up the stock quite a bit so that I could achieve a solid cheek weld AND proper eye relief. With the McMillan stock it's far easier to adjust it to fit a particular shooter. The length of the shoulder stock is also adjustable, so trigger reach can be made as comfortable as possible. One "special" feature of the McMillan stock that I particularly liked was the stippling on the curve of the stock and on the fore end. The photo right shows what I'm talking about on the stock. While smooth may feel nice sometimes, a little bit of texture goes a long way toward securing a firm yet comfortable grip.

For all that "neat" stuff about the rifle, the bottom line is, "How well does it shoot?"

I went through sniper school with a 20-inch barrel rifle. I heard back then that some folks were building them with 18-inch barrels, but I'd never seen one. This weapon from SPU was my first. It looks kind of stubby, but it performed like a full size gun. From the 100-yard mark, three-shot one-hole groups were common. Rifle ranges are at a premium in my area, so I was lucky to find a private range I could take it to that had a 300-yard distance available. The scope had already been zeroed and although I wasn't familiar with the come-ups for the weapon, I could guesstimate it fairly well based on past experience. I guess in proper parlance I "swagged" it. (SWAG = surgical wild ass guess).

Once I was settled and comfortable at the hundred yard line, I fired the first shot fully expecting that, from the cold bore, it would be slightly off to either side and maybe a bit high or low. Further, although I knew it had been previously zeroed, I didn't expect it to still be tight. I figured I'd have to make a minor adjustment. Not so. The cold bore shot was dead on--or at least within one-quarter inch at 100 yards. The next two shots were both touching the first one. A three-shot one-hole group was how I started. That was using the Black Hills ammo provided by SPU.

With a warm rifle and using the Federal Match 168 g, I fired several three-round groups but didn't achieve the one-hole group again. Two shots touching with one just a shade away was what I got. With the American Eagle 150 g (also a Federal company), it actually got worse. I realized that the lighter the round was I fired, the larger the groups got. Still, the worst group I had was 1/2-MOA or smaller.

Switching back to the Black Hills ammo, I moved out to 300 yards and got settled. My time from last group at the 100-yard mark to being settled and firing from the 300-yard mark was less than 30 minutes. I still considered the weapon warm and didn't worry about marking a cold bore shot. Obviously, I expected the groups to open up some and wasn't surprised that they did. Still, if one MOA is one inch at 100 yards, one MOA is three inches at 300 yards. That sub-1/4-MOA means all three shots stay within a .75-inch group. An American mint quarter--twenty-five cent piece--is just under 1 inch in diameter. The three groups I fired from the 300 yard line could all be covered with that quarter. If that's not 1/4-MOA accuracy, it's damn close and sub-1/2-MOA for sure. Remember that I admitted up front, I'm not an active sniper. I have the knowledge but not the experience, and I'm sure I don't have as much control as some of those gentlemen who do the work day in and day out.

Now, let's go back to the hard case...

The rifle was delivered in a specially marked Pelican 1720 case. Included in the case with the rifle was the following:

  • Fat Torque Wrench
  • Bolt tool
  • Leupold tool
  • Star Wrench tool set
  • Bore Guide
  • Cleaning kit
  • Cleaning rod
  • Militec lubricant
  • Militec grease
  • The 30 rounds of ammo listed above

To be honest I hadn't expected this 18-inch gun to perform so well. I knew that a 20-inch gun had done very well when I took it to school, but an 18-inch sniper rifle? I had neither the range available nor the expertise to test this weapon past the 300-yard mark. Given how well it did for my inexperienced shooting self out to 300, I have to believe that it will perform with great excellence well past that. The highlights, for me, were the portability--that 18-inch barrel makes for a much shorter overall length--and the fully adjustable stock. Taking the time to adjust the stock to fit me really made the shooting more pleasant and comfortable.

If you're in the market for a new precision .308 bolt gun, check out Special Projects Unlimited. Based on the performance of this rifle, they really know their stuff!