Gun Review Barrett 98B Tactical lead

Tactical precision rifles have changed so much over the years that they are almost unrecognizable from the rifles I first deployed with as a SWAT marksman close to two decades ago. There were few models available at that time, and their accuracy was only marginally better than their hunting versions. Often nothing more than hunting rifles with black stocks, heavy barrels and “tactical” in the name, they were anything but precise. If you wanted real precision you sent the rifle to an expert gunsmith. Built-in rails, folding stocks, quick-detach (QD) sling attachment points and muzzle brakes were unheard of. In essence, you had to make a few compromises, as gaining true precision was costly and time consuming.

Now precision rifles have reached new heights thanks to their increased use on tactical teams, military contracts and an exploding competitive market. While the 7.62mm NATO remains the most popular chambering for police precision rifles, it is not the only one out there. Law enforcement agencies have used everything from 5.56mm to .50 BMG, and it’s important to remember that every department, officer and soldier has different needs. The 7.62mm NATO does just fine for many, while others want a bit more range. The .338 Lapua Mag has gained significant popularity as an intermediate cartridge, but it has its issues, including the fact that .338 Lapua rifles and ammunition are expensive. Some also believe the .338 Lapua is just a bit too much bullet. This makes the .300 Win Mag a solid alternative.

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Having served our Army marksmen for decades, it is a proven long-range cartridge with bullets that buck the wind a bit better than the 7.62mm. One of my good friends, a President’s Hundred shooter, has used an Army Marksmanship Unit rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag to great effect. Because of its long history as a hunting and competition cartridge, there is a good selection of loadings available. The recoil is manageable, it works with a standard long action and, overall, .300 Win Mag ammunition/rifles cost less. In fact, my local police department chose the .300 Win Mag when it needed a rifle to cover the airport, and it’s been using this chambering for years. Precision rifle manufacturers are starting to jump back on the .300 Win Mag bandwagon, and Barrett’s new 98B Tactical is one of the best examples out there so far.

Mention Barrett Firearms and most people will immediately think of the M82 or M107 semi-automatic .50 BMG rifles. Fielded by our military and a few police agencies for years, they are also seen in movies, on television and in numerous video games. This popularity tends to overshadow the company’s other fine rifles. Of course, this has changed a bit with the introduction of the MRAD, which has become one of the most popular bolt-action rifles on the market. Barrett’s recent upgrades to the REC7 AR serve as another indication of its versatility, but the company makes some bolt guns you simply don’t hear as much about. One of the simplest and sleekest bolt actions out there is the Barrett 98B, designed by Chris Barrett. Originally chambered in .338 Lapua, the new Barrett 98B Tactical rifle comes chambered in either .308 Win or .300 Win Mag.

Barrett 98B Tactical Details

Barrett firearms have always been reliable and well built; they’re truly designed for operation in the field. I recently tested the new REC7 Gen II, and it was one of the nicest AR-platform rifles I’ve ever handled. I’ve also spent some time behind an MRAD, so I definitely looked forward to testing the 98B Tactical in .300 Win Mag.

Removing the 98B Tactical from its box, I immediately noticed its balance and similarity to the MRAD. Their magazines look the same, and their buttstocks and overall feel are similar. But with the 98B, there is no folding stock or caliber interchangeability; it is a simple precision rifle with proven features and no bells or whistles.

“Firing 10-round strings as fast as I could run the bolt, reacquire the target and pull the trigger yielded 100-yard groups hovering at about an inch.”

The exterior of the rifle is smooth, with no sharp edges. Instead of fixed rails, the handguard has KeyMod insertion points along the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock sides. The rifle also features a 17-inch-long top Picatinny rail with a 20-MOA offset for increased scope range. There is plenty of room to mount a large scope in conjunction with most night vision. The heavy, 24-inch barrel features a match chamber and a 1-in-10-inch twist rate. It is capped with a Barrett muzzle brake. Weighing in at around 11 pounds (unloaded), the 98B Tactical is light compared to other precision rifles in this caliber.

The 98B Tactical utilizes a polymer, 10-round magazine that is released via a toggle in front of the triggerguard; it’s easy to reach with either hand. The rifle also has one of the smoothest-feeding actions I’ve ever tested. The large bolt knob provides for easy manipulation in any condition, and the polymer bolt guide helps keep dirt out of the action.

The trigger is adjustable, and it was crisp, breaking cleanly at about 4 pounds. The oversized triggerguard accommodates gloves or large hands. The pistol grip is comfortable, and any AR-style pistol grip can be installed.

Built into the fixed, skeletonized buttstock is an easy-to-adjust cheekpiece. I tried it with several scopes, and it accommodated both low-power variables and a couple 25x scopes with 56mm objectives with equal aplomb. The buttstock sits nicely on a rear bag or rest, and a small rail is included on the bottom for adding a monopod. QD sling cups are positioned on both sides of the buttstock, and includes a keymod sling swivel rail. Finally, the 98B came with a Harris bipod and mount for extra stability (sold separately).

“Shooting the Barrett 98B Tactical was truly a pleasure. Recoil was minimal, and the action was really smooth.”

For testing, I added a Leupold 1.1-8x24mm Mark 8 CQBSS front focal plane (FFP) scope in a Leupold mount. One of the earliest models of the Mark 8 series, it has served me well for a number of rifle tests. The glass is incredibly clear, the adjustments are precise, and the scope has always performed flawlessly. Having an increased field of view on the lower power settings is incredibly useful for any working police officer.

Range Time

Running a .300 Win Mag rifle is anything but new to me; one of my first deployment rifles was custom-built in this chambering. Loaded with 168-grain bullets specifically designed for hostage-rescue training, it was laser accurate, comfortable to shoot and offered longer range. When I used this rifle in a few police sniper training schools, people chuckled when I stopped crawling 300 yards away from the target—until I drilled the target with authority. It was also nice to load up with some 190-grain match ammunition and smack steel out to 800 yards and beyond. The .300 Win Mag really offered some versatility despite the increased recoil.

It was easy to set up the Barrett 98B Tactical and find a comfortable position behind it. Once the scope was properly mounted, it was just a matter of setting the cheek height. The 98B’s straight-back stock design works very well for prone positions. It allowed me to stay close to the ground yet get a solid purchase “in the pocket,” which is essential when shooting magnums

The stock design, combined with the muzzle brake, made recoil all but nonexistent. It felt similar to a typical 7.62mm NATO rifle. The buttstock’s bottom rail accommodated my rear sandbag perfectly, which made for some solid accuracy. None of my 100-yard groups fell outside 0.70 inches, with the best group measuring right at 0.5 inches. All grouping was done from prone using the supplied bipod. The best group came from RWS’ 190-grain Target Elite Plus ammunition, with the 190-grain Federal Gold Medal Match BTHP load a close second.

Next, I shot steel targets from 200 to 400 yards. Plugging the data into my ATRAG computer, I dialed in and engaged the steel targets using mostly the 190-grain Federal ammunition. The rifle was dead on. Smacking the steel was simply a matter of reading the wind correctly. Out to 300 yards, I could mostly ignore the wind; at 400 yards it was more noticeable. Still, I needed no hold outside the width of the target in the 13-mph wind. The Barrett 98B Tactical was precise and accurate out to any practical police distance, and I didn’t have to precisely read the wind.

Final Notes

Shooting the Barrett 98B Tactical was truly a pleasure. Recoil was minimal, and the action was really smooth. In fact, it was so smooth that bolt-manipulation drills were almost addictive. The bolt knob is easy to reach, ejection is positive and consistent—this design is about as fast as it gets. The bolt lift is minimal but positive. Rapid bolt manipulation is critical for police work, or any high-risk operation. The 98B Tactical allows you to be about as fast as you can be with complete reliability.

The magazines inserted easily and dropped free with a push of the release. Loading was equally as easy, and single-feeding was smooth, whether dropped on top of the magazine or pushed into place. Running a couple of 10-round rapid-fire drills, the 98B Tactical just kept spitting out brass and nailing the target. Firing 10-round strings as fast as I could run the bolt, reacquire the target and pull the trigger yielded 100-yard groups hovering at about an inch.

The 98B Tactical’s simple yet state-of-the-art design made for some truly pleasurable shooting at the range. It reminded me of my first custom rifle, only it was smoother and easier to shoot.

The Barrett 98B Tactical is accurate, well balanced, smooth operating and easy to maneuver and manipulate. Everything about this bolt-action rifle is user friendly and operationally sound. Take it out of the box, add a scope, and go to work. If you’re an officer looking for a deployment rifle, this is an excellent choice. It should really be one of your first considerations. For more even more info, visit

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