For probably as long as both designs have existed, the argument has raged as to which rifle is better for tactical precision use: bolt-action or autoloader? Indeed, the question is raised nearly every time precision shooting aficionados gather, sometimes reaching a point of controversy so intense that one expects fisticuffs to ensue any moment. Yet, regardless of the personal preferences or even bias of those participating in the debate, the question is a legitimate one…if we understand the definitions and mission criteria.
The broad term, “tactical precision rifle” covers a wide spectrum of potential use, from classic military sniping to law enforcement SWAT sharpshooting and even the limited use of low-magnification scoped rifles in the Infantry squad. For each function, the requirements are somewhat different and before any meaningful discussion can take place, this fact needs to be understood.
Classic military sniping is perhaps the easiest to understand because it’s the most well known. It entails a highly accurate scoped rifle, carefully calibrated in increments to perhaps 1000 meters, an operator who is not only highly skilled as a marksman, but in woodcraft, camouflage, intelligence gathering, tactics and communications as well. His job is to infiltrate undetected into an assigned area of operations (usually based upon external intelligence information), locate, identify and neutralize his target(s) whether specifically assigned or “of opportunity,” then again without being detected, and egress the area.
Unless his mission is to neutralize as many “targets of opportunity“ as possible, the potential for multiple target engagement is fairly low. Most often, the military sniper goes in, locates and neutralizes his target, and then departs the area undetected.