While traveling around the 3-Gun circuit this year, the one gun that got a lot of attention was my JP Enterprises rifle. It seems that there are two camps with serious shooters, those with a JP rifle and those who want a JP rifle.
It’s not that my JP-15 rifle is flashy or eye-catching. On the surface, it’s just another AR-15-style competition rifle. The only thing distinctive is the gray/blue DuraCoat finish and that’s kind of subdued. Even though some of the other JP rifles are very distinctive and cool looking, it’s not so much the looks that built JP Enterprises’ reputation—it’s the performance.
Take my rifle, for example. I have used it for an intensive season of 3-Gun shooting and probably had something like 5,000 rounds through the gun before I decided to mount a big 6-24x50mm Swarovski scope and test it for accuracy. The first five-shot, 100-yard group I fired using Federal match ammo with a 69-grain Sierra bullet measured 0.3 inches. The average of 30 five-shot groups with six different ammo products was 0.74 inches. This is one of the most accurate factory rifles I have tested in 30 years of my career. But keep in mind that this is a 3-Gun rifle built to go fast, not as a long-range ultra-precision rifle. This level of accuracy is remarkable.
This is why serious competitors want JP rifles, because they perform at every level. One reason is because the company’s owner, John Paul, is not just a rifle manufacturer—he is a hardcore competition shooter himself. He knows what it takes to make a rifle perform and he takes a lot of pride in his products. Never one to rest on his accomplishments, he is always working to improve performance. For example, he and I just had an email exchange about the results I got with this rifle. He told me about a new rifle he had recently built to use in sniper competitions.
As he wrote: “I have a test sample PSC-11 rifle I’ve been working with, and shot my all-time personal record of 0.106 inches at 100 yards with a 77-grain SMK loaded with 24.5 grains of TAC, a Federal 205M and new Winchester. This is my long-range match load. I was breaking it in and it was erratic at first, but then the rifle settled in. I fired the second round of a group and thought it had shifted POI (point of impact), and I had enough other holes in this target that I couldn’t find it. When I fired the third round, the hole opened ever so slightly and I knew I was on it.
“I’ve had some groups in the sub-0.2-inch range, like in the 0.17- to 0.18-inch range, but never anything like this. I will probably never shoot another group like that in my life. This particular rifle has a 20-inch, medium-contour barrel and a Leupold 4.5-14X M4 scope with the H-27 reticle. I have it set up for the two-man team sniper matches for my secondary rifle.”
His level of “gun guy” dedication and passion does not compare. Is there any wonder why JP’s rifles are so coveted by top competitors? John Paul is a fixture at most of the big 3-Gun matches and he is often one of the top sponsors, putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak. For that matter, he is one of the top shooters as well. For example, he took first place in the Scoped Tactical Senior Division of the grueling 2011 Iron Man 3-Gun match.
JP History Lesson
John Paul is usually a moving target at these events, always working, talking to competitors, or shooting. But I managed to corner him at a recent 3-Gun match, where we sat down for a few minutes with a tape recorder. Here is a little bit of the road map that led him from a kid growing up in Minnesota to one of the top black rifle makers in the world.
“My love of shooting goes back to my father,” John told me. “When I was 10 or 11 years old, he enrolled me in the Junior Small-Bore Rifle club where we lived on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. He bought a Mossberg bolt-action .22 and put a receiver sight and a sling on it for me to use in matches. I soon discovered I had a knack for shooting.
“Then I was lucky enough to attend a military high school, and because of my background, I made the varsity rifle team as a freshman. That was typical three-position indoor rifle shooting, and it was really intense—two hours of practice every day after school and all day Saturday. It laid the foundation for my love of precision rifle shooting. I then went to the University of Notre Dame where I also participated on their ROTC rifle team.
“It wasn’t too long after I finished school that I realized I was pretty much unemployable in the conventional sense. I worked as a professional musician for a number of years back in the 1970s, playing keyboards for an inner-city rock band. Then I custom-painted motorcycles for a while. Like I said, totally unemployable. “I was always into shooting. I found a gun shop in the area that was for sale, so I decided to sell my house and buy this retail gun shop. I worked for the owner for six months, apprenticing as a gunsmith. I did a lot of custom work on bolt-action rifles, revolvers, semi-auto handguns. With all the shooting experience, I thought I knew a lot about guns, but taking over that shop made me realize I knew nothing. I owned it for four years before I felt I had mastered anything.
“I got into a lot of other shooting sports—bullseye, indoor PPC, silhouette shooting, bowling pins and just about everything else. But in the end I settled into the practical shooting sports. I entered my first 3-Gun match and I realized that the AR-15 was the only competitive rifle for that game. But it had many shortcomings, so I set out to solve them one by one, starting with the recoil impulse. My first product was a recoil compensator. Then we developed an improved trigger. One thing led to another and before I knew it we had a complete rifle of our own design. Today, we have a complete line of rifles: semi-auto, select-fire and manual. Note that I say ‘we,’ as JP Enterprises is a team effort. I’m privileged to work with other talented people who are able to run with my ideas, in particular my wife, Kathy, who is the CEO and the real boss at JPE. Without her, we could not function. I’m just the guy who pulls the trigger and comes up with the next product or modification.
“I owned that store for 13 years and sold it in 1990. It was the last FFL in Minneapolis, as the city had become too dangerous for this type of business. We had a series of break-ins and my insurance got canceled. I just got fed up with it. I got a call at 6:00am one Saturday and I knew before I answered that it was the police. Sure enough, somebody had hooked a truck to the place and pulled a wall down. I made up my mind; I was going to go in and clean it up and liquidate the inventory that was left and move on.
“Within 30 days, I had sold the place and decided to go someplace else in the firearms industry, I just didn’t know where. So I signed up to attend all the shooting schools. Back then, there weren’t that many: Gunsite, Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute and the Chapman Academy. Still, I was on the road for a month. My wife thought I was crazy, but she let me do it because I wanted to get a feel for where the industry was headed.
“A good friend of mine, Dan Coonan, had a connection with a barrel maker and hooked me up and I started selling drop-in comp kits for 1911s and P1s. It was tough at first because I only had a couple of products. But I stuck with it and built the line to what we have today.
“Now it’s international. I went to the Nordic Rifle Championship in Denmark a few years ago and just about everybody was shooting one of my rifles or a rifle built using my components. We were not exporting anything, so somebody was buying our product and exporting it to that market.”
Going Long With JP
“When it comes to competition, I tried most of it, but I felt that 3-Gun competition was my cup of tea. It’s a perfect match for an adrenalin junkie, which I am. Back when I started, the Soldier of Fortune match was the only real national level match. That match was the beginning of 3-Gun shooting as we know it, and it ran for 29 consecutive years. The match directors at SOF looked at their event primarily as a training venue for law enforcement and military personnel who wanted to improve or maintain their skill set. I thought it was just great fun. SOF consisted of about one-third military, one-third law enforcement and one-third civilian competitors. The rule structure was rigid and there was no ‘gaming’ allowed. They didn’t mess around—if you tried that, they gave you a huge penalty or sent you home.
“But, the SOF match is more responsible than anything else for how I developed my equipment. Well, at least until I shot in the ITRC (International Tactical Rifle Championship) in Wyoming many years later.
“While the SOF helped me develop rifles for 3-Gun and action rifle shooting, the ITRC lead me to precision long-range rifles. I realized that they had a more pragmatic idea of what the gear needed to do and how it should be expected to perform. We came out with a different type of a forearm system. I developed a reticle that Trijicon put into a scope for me. I wanted wind dope and a trajectory map for 2,000 feet of altitude air density. That worked out well because almost all long-range competition is done in high desert terrain.
“There wasn’t a .308 rifle system out there that I liked, so I decided to develop one with our LRP. One thing I didn’t like was the charging handle, so we developed our side-mounted charging system. Also, I incorporated what I knew about recoil impulse control from all the work with the .223. We developed what I think is the mildest-recoiling .308 platform on the market, and most people shooting it will agree.
“The ITRC is a team event with two-man teams. One shooter does the long-range work out to 1,000 yards. The other is a carbine shooter firing from 50 to 500 yards. So you basically had a team with a bolt gun and a semi-auto. It’s very physical, as you move through a long course over tough terrain while carrying all your gear. This fueled my obsession with long-range precision shooting. So I decided to develop a bolt gun with a chassis system that had the same ergonomics as the gas gun.
“Now, in addition to the 3-Gun competitions, I am constantly going to sniper matches. Going out and actually using our rifles in these matches is invaluable to a firearms manufacturer. I develop guns from the guy behind the trigger’s point of view, rather than just the rifle manufacturer’s. I know if it doesn’t work for me it’s not going to work for any other professional-level shooter.”
“There was a time when the military and law enforcement community kind of scoffed at all this competitive shooting because they thought it was just a game with no practical application. But then the Army Marksmanship Unit realized that there was a lot they can benefit from here. Now they have their own team at most of the 3-Gun or sniper shoots. They use what the team brings back from competition to make their soldiers more effective in the field. I am proud to say that the AMU team shoots our rifles. They can have anything they want, but they pick ours, which I take as a huge compliment.
“Of course, we make a lot of rifles for military and LE these days. It’s very gratifying when I get a call from a cop or military user to tell me that something that we made or brought to the table has helped them come home alive.”
No matter if it’s for home defense, military, LE or competition shooting, JP Enterprises makes a rifle that will lead the pack. You can rest assured that it’s also been well tested and vetted on the toughest shooting grounds in the world. For more, visit jprifles.com or call 651-426-9196.