Accurate-Mag: Special Service .300/.338 Norma Mag Rifle | Gun Review

Accurate-Mag’s long-range thoroughbred takes down tangos at 1,200-plus yards!

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  • Precision Rifle
    Known for building some of the most rugged mags in military use today, Accurate-Mag has now designed and built the Special Service rifle, a rugged, fully customizable bolt action capable of reaching the farthest targets with repeatable precision thanks in part to its Savage’s action and trigger.
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  • Precision Rifle
    Designed to truly max out a sniper’s effective range, the .300 (left) and .338 (right) Norma Magnum cartridges are very efficient, providing the same downrange energy of other large sniper rounds with less recoil.
  • Enduring Freedom
    A U.S. Marine scout sniper with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan provides security for Marines patrolling the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province July 10, 2009. The Marines are deployed in support of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and will participate in counterinsurgency operations and train and mentor Afghan national security forces to improve security and stability in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg/Released)
  • Enduring Freedom
    British marine Sgt. Gareth Beardshaw looks through his binoculars and gives distance readings to Color Sgt. Jason Walker as the sniper team returns enemy fire in Lakari Bazaar, Afghanistan, July 19, 2009. Afghan National Army soldiers and U.S. Marines with 1st Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment are working together to deny freedom of movement to the country's enemies. The Marine battalion is the ground combat element of Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. James A. Burks/Released)
  • Barrett M107
    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Quinn, left, and Airman 1st Class James Costello, both assigned to the 56th Security Forces Squadron, qualify on the Barrett M107 .50-caliber long range sniper rifle at the Florence Army National Guard Range, Ariz., Feb. 11, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sandra Welch/Released)
  • Enduring Freedom
    U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mark Trent, a scout sniper with 3rd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, provides security inside a compound in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 16, 2010. The Marines took shelter inside the compound after clearing it of insurgents and improvised explosive devices. Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers are conducting Operation Moshtarak to remove the Taliban from the town. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)
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  • 101004-8640M-M-001
    09192010-M-8640M-001 FORT PICKETT Va.- Lance Cpl Matthew Gearhart, a scout sniper with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Weapons Co., aims in on his target during a training exercise aboard Ft. Pickett Va., Sep. 19. Gearhart and the rest of the battalion is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • Precision Rifle
    Accurate Mag will offer a variety of chassis to fit any shooter’s needs. A .308 model is shown in the black chassis, a Norma Mag in forest green.
  • Precision Rifle
    Accurate-Mag equips the Special Service with a soft Kickeez buttpad that helps tame the recoil of the magnum rounds. The rifle’s buttstock is also adjustable for cheek height and length of pull, so operators can find the perfect fit behind the rifle.
  • Precision Rifle
    Precision Armament’s Severe-Duty muzzle brake mitigates linear and torsional recoil and really tames the .300 and .338 Norma Mag.
  • Precision Rifle
    More features of the Special Service include its Savage 110 barreled action, Savage AccuTrigger, Magpul MOE pistol grip and 20-MOA Picatinny top rail.
  • Precision Rifle
    The skeletonized buttstock helps reduce weight. Also note the V-notch below the cheekpiece, which is designed to accommodate your support hand as you push the rifle against your shoulder while firing.
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  • Precision Rifle
    Vin Battaglia, the vice president of Operations and Principal at BML Tool, demonstrates how easily it is to take down the Accurate-Mag Special Service rifle for maintenance—a boon for operators in the field
  • Precision Rifle
    The forward bedding section contains a setscrew that can be tightened with a hex wrench. While the action screws hold the barreled action to the chassis, the setscrew pushes the barreled action back into the chassis for additional contact and greater consistency.
  • Precision Rifle
    Notice the steel insert in the Special Service’s aluminum chassis. The steel insert is designed to reduce wear on the aluminum chassis. It also serves as a liner for the mag well and a stop that prohibits mags from being over-inserted.
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  • Precision Rifle
    The weight and ergonomics of the Special Service help reduce the .300 Norma Mag’s recoil to that of a .308, making for fast, accurate follow-up shots. This target shows the first cold-barrel shot with the .300 Special Service, with the remaining rounds clustered in a 0.25-MOA group.
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For 2013, Accurate-Mag has introduced a rifle designed to be accurate out to 1,200 yards, reliable and consistent, all while chambered in cartridges with excellent downrange ballistics. This firearm also has the ability to adapt to any scenario—and any shooter. And the Accurate-Mag Special Service rifle embodies all these elements at a lower cost than its competitors. Accurate-Mag is known for its steel, single-stacked, centerfire-rifle mags, which are high quality and meet all mil-spec and NATO Stanag requirements. The M24- and M40-type service rifles, as well as the MK13 and NATO variants, in military use are outfitted with Accurate-Mag magazines. OEM rifle manufacturers like Colt, Savage, Ruger, McMillian, Remington and others use Accurate-Mag magazines too.

Downrange Power

The Special Service rifle uses Accurate-Mag’s proprietary chassis, built from forged 7075 aluminum and machined to accept a short or long action from either Remington or Savage Arms. The chassis is made with three components: the stock section, bedding section and forend. The stock is completely customizable for any shooter stature with an adjustable length of pull and cheekpiece. (Length of pull is adjusted via a click-stop knob, while a hex wrench is required to adjust the cheekpiece.) A Kickeez recoil pad is used, and the cheekpiece has a soft, pliable pad. The bedding section holds the barreled action via the two action bolts, but Accurate-Mag ensures the barreled action is rock solid and snugs it up with a setscrew in the forward end of the bedding section. While the action screws hold the barreled action to the chassis, the setscrew pushes it into the chassis. When I disassembled the rifle I could see the action was making full contact with the chassis—the workmanship on the chassis was excellent.

A Magpul pistol grip was used on the two test rifles I received (one in .300 Norma Mag and the other in .338 Norma Mag), but it can easily be swapped out for most any AR-style pistol grip. The magazine well is massive so you can easily insert and remove the fine steel Accurate-Mag magazines. The release is large and can be operated with gloved hands, and the mag well has a steel insert, which is different from those of aluminum chassis rifles. The steel insert reduces wear that would normally occur on the aluminum chassis. It also is what the magazine stops against when the magazine is fully seated. This small feature could go a long way in the maintenance of the rifle and lessen the wear on the aluminum.

The forend section is a vented piece of aluminum that allows the barrel to free-float. I attached a Harris bipod to the two sample rifles, and other accessories can be attached to the Picatinny rails on both sides of the forend. The Special Service rifle’s entire chassis is finished in an anodized black, desert tan or forest green. Note that a Special Service model with a stock that folds to either side of the receiver is in development. (Some operators like folding stocks that fold to the right of the receiver, locking the bolt in place, while others prefer the stock to fold to the left so they have access to the bolt and can operate the weapon while the stock is folded.) Accurate-Mag also has forend tops that mate up with forend and provides a built-in Picatinny rail forward of the scope, giving the operator the ability to add night-vision accessories.

The two samples rifles each sported a Savage Model 110 barreled action, which is stock from the factory and, like all Savage actions, employs the excellent AccuTrigger—the trigger pull averaged 3.1 pounds. Each rifle also came mounted with a 20-MOA Picatinny rail and a 26-inch barrel that had a contour somewhere between a varmint and USMC type. The barrel offers a good combination of weight and rigidity and is topped off with a Precision Armament muzzle brake at the end of the barrel.

Mag Loads

The rifles are available in .300 Norma Mag and .338 Norma Mag, with the first of the chambering having a 6 percent better burn than the .300 Win Mag because its case is slightly larger in diameter. What this means downrange is that the Norma round has more energy than the Winchester. As for the .338 Norma Mag, this cartridge rivals the .338 Lapua Mag, sporting a better burn rate and a smaller size with more energy at distance. The .338 Norma Mag is a shortened .338 Lapua Mag, with the same shoulder angle but a less-tapered body. The .338 Norma Mag bullets used were 300-grain Sierra MatchKings. The barrel twist is a relatively quick 1-in-9.25 inches. The military has shown great interest in the cartridge, and General Dynamics has built a light machine gun based on it. Black Hills’ factory specs on the .338 Norma Mag are 2,725 fps and 4,946 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, very good indications that the round works. The .300 Norma Mag is a necked-down .338 Norma Mag, and Berger’s 215-grain bullets seem to have been made for the chambering. The twist rate is 1 in 9 inches.

Black Hills loads the Norma rounds here in the U.S. with Norma 217 powder. It is a slow-burning powder made for large magnum cartridges like the .338 Lapua, .338 Norma and .30-378 Weatherby. It is also a good powder for loading large overbore magnums like 7mm Rem Mag and Ultra Mags. This powder, like URP, contains a lot of energy and is less sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture compared with other powders. The new Norma rounds have been approved by CIP in Europe, which is an organization analogous to the U.S.’ SAAMI, which itself is currently reviewing the.338 Norma Mag for approval.

Fire In The Hole

Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x50mm scopes with H58 reticles were used on both rifles. Eye relief was close to 4 inches, which is plenty for these recoiling rifles. The H58 is a mil-radian-based grid system for fast ranging and holdovers that also features markers to adjust lead on moving targets. At the range, on a bright spring day with no wind and a temperature in the mid-50s, the .300 Norma and .338 Norma rifles shot almost identically. I opted to cut my teeth on the smaller of the new Norma rounds, extending the bipod leg’s of the .300 and getting comfortable behind it. Adjusting the length of pull was easy, and I increased the cheekpiece slightly so my eye aligned with the Leupold. I have fired .300 Win Mags before in hunting rifles—the recoil can be something to reckon with. But the weight and ergonomics of the .300 Special Service rifle made the felt recoil similar to a .308’s. At 100 yards, my first shot hit the 5.5-inch target with ease. The next four shots were all well within the target.

Moving on to a fresh target, groups became increasing clustered. It was as if I had been shooting the Special Service for years. At about $6 per round, I did not want to waste ammunition on chrono testing. I was getting more satisfaction shooting one tight, ragged hole at distance. (The chrono numbers were actually better than factory specifications.) After the barrel-warming shot, the groups clustered, and by the second magazine, I was shooting groups that were quarter-MOA. You can’t ignore that type of accuracy. The Savage barreled action performed as I expected: perfectly. The AccuTrigger is one of the best mass-produced factory triggers, and Accurate-Mag was wise to outfit the Special Service rifle with the setup.

As I moved to the .338 Norma Mag rifle and loaded the double-stack magazine, I was anticipating a lot of felt recoil. At the bench, both rifles were easy to load. On the bench or in prone, the magazine fell free from the chassis, and the gaping magazine well-afforded quick reloads. I especially liked the large magazine release lever, which allows the user to keep his or her shooting hand on the pistol grip and operate the mag release while inserting a fresh mag with the non-shooting hand. Touching off the .338 Norma Mag was enjoyable, and the rifle proved to be just as accurate as its .300 sibling. I do not doubt that the Precision Armament muzzle brake helped tame the recoil in the .338. By the second magazine, I was again shooting sub-MOA groups. I liked the Special Service rifle in both caliber options. The combination of weight, ergonomics, customization and components made for some very sweet shooting.

The Accurate-Mag Special Service rifle proved to be an excellent shooter with the new .300 and .338 Norma Magnum rounds. The customization and adaptability of the rifle make it very versatile, but its performance is what makes this a truly special rifle.

For more information, visit accurate-mag.com or call 203-880-9485.