IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN, the rifles my first agency had were a pair of bolt guns, I believe they were Remingtons in .25-06. Sporting guns with sporting ammo, they gave some precision and quite a bit of power. They were locked up in a storeroom, each put up in a two-gun case with rifle-sighted Remington 870s. Slugs, buckshot and rifle ammo rounded out the ensemble.
I never saw anyone shoot them and asked the boss about them. “Sign one of them out and go shoot it. It’s time to replace the ammo anyway.” For some reason, I selected the rifle that had only iron sights. The other had optics, details of which are lost in the fog of time. Even with factory irons, the Remington sporting rifle shot just fine. It was loud and hit hard, but it was fun to shoot.
Fast forward…rifles were had by SWAT but not for us mortals. A cop from one of our smaller communities in the county had gotten jammed up for pulling an AR-style rifle on a car stop. As a result, our people who had provided their own long guns were denied access to them during business hours.
On my second trip to instructor school, there was a rifle component and we had to provide them. The county sent me out with a Mini-14 GB. I didn’t even realize we had them.
Then came North Hollywood and Columbine. During the last years of the 20th Century, we somehow began to realize that cops needed quick and easy access to rifles. This was debated with some agencies selecting pistol caliber carbines and others going for semi-auto centerfire rifles. We rarely saw patrol deployments of bolt-action rifles.
Patrol Rifle Use
The patrol rifle has become our entry gun on drug raids and our distance and cover equalizer. With the advent of the War on Terror, optics are showing up more and more.
Even SWAT deployments of submachine guns aren’t as common as during the heyday of the 1980s and early 1990s. The misconception was that pistol bullets out of long barrels were less prone to collateral injury issues than rifles. The best way to actually know is to study the tests run around the country against commonly encountered objects: doors, wallboard, studs, and vehicles.
Light rifles of the pasture-poodle-shooter persuasion were found to be less likely to over-penetrate and more likely to stop threats than pistol bullets out of carbines or submachine guns. Even at that, the greater precision of the longer gun made pistol caliber carbines more effective than holster guns.
Rifles chambered for true battle rifle cartridges didn’t have some of the advantages of the 5.56mm. But those disadvantages turned into advantages when the target is a long way off or armored.
PBR (Patrol Bolt Rifle) is the moniker of the FN response to the patrol rifle question. This is a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 style action married to a precision barrel (not match grade) chambered for .308 with a four-round box magazine or a non-removable magazine (FLP – 5-shot steel floorplate) of like capacity.
The genesis of this thing is in the SPR (Special Police Rifle) long-range precision rifle built for FBI employment. Take this sub-MOA countersniper rifle and trim the barrel back, flute it to further lessen weight and ensure that it has the accuracy amenities of the SPR, and then put it with a rural patrol deputy, a US Border Patrol Agent or anyone that has precision shooter responsibility as an added duty. It’s not a “going through the door” piece, it’s a perimeter and sharpshooting rig. It’s a “barricaded gunman in the farm house with a long private drive” device. This patrol rifle can more than take that 160-meter shot.
For those applications, a bolt rifle of sufficient power is quite appropriate. Built on the Pre-’64 style Winchester bolt action, which features controlled round feeding, external claw extractor and a 3-position safety, mounted in the FN/Hogue olive drab synthetic stock. An aluminum full-length bedding block is embedded in the mounting bolt locations. This gives rigid stability throughout the unit and prevents shifting of point-of-impact caused by changes in temperature and humidity. The butt pad is soft rubber, clingy to keep that stock in the shoulder pocket.
A one-piece MIL-STD M1913 steel optics rail bridges the top of the action. It’s mounted with oversize 8-40 mounting screws. The 20-inch barrel is fluted. It is presented in a medium-heavy format and has cold rotary hammer-forged rifling. The rifling has four grooves in a right hand twist at a rate of 1 turn in 12 inches. The barrel has a nicely target-style crown.
Our sample had the detachable box magazine. A model is available with the hinged floorplate. The rifle’s overall length is 40 inches. It weighs in at 9 pounds sans ammo and optics.
Mike Rafferty and I repaired to the gun club to shoot the PBR. He’d installed a bipod in the third sling swivel stud.
He also brought along the Caldwell Lead Sled from Battenfeld Technologies. A rifle rest that is designed to hold bags of shot, increasing the rest’s weight and consuming much of a rifle’s recoil, the Caldwell Lead Sled seemed to hold our sample rifle tightly. We believed this would make each shot repeatable. While the Caldwell Lead Sled is known for recoil reduction with hard-kicking guns, we needed it to get the best hold on the rifle we could. It worked very well.
Mike had the foresight to install my Weaver Grand Slam telescope onto the PBR. A variable power optic, the Grand Slam was a good fit to the PBR’s mission. It’s a 1.5-5x variable. At the 1.5x setting, there’s a wide field of view. At the maximum 5x setting, you can identify threats out a fair distance.
We had three loads to examine. A “gold standard” in .308 is the Federal Gold Medal Match loading. Loaded with the 155-grain Sierra MatchKing boat-tail hollow point bullet, the Gold Medal Match is known for precision. This load was followed by a load known for terminal effectiveness while minimizing the risk of perforation, Hornady’s TAP (Tactical Application Police) Urban loaded with the 110-grain AMAX bullet. The 110-grain load is light for the .308. My hope was that it would sufficiently stabilize in our barrel. By the way, FNH USA’s PBRs are tested with Federal 168-grain Match HPBT.
The last load tried is a compromise between defeating intermediate barriers and not perforating human threats. This was the CorBon 130-grain DPX load.
Mike began the festivities by checking the rifle out. He’d already checked the scope with a boresighter and wanted to ensure everything else was ready. The PBR was installed in the Lead Sled and he commenced with the Gold Medal Match load.
We were unable to tell if he was even on paper. He held for a different part of the target and we started to see some results. He followed up by shooting the other two loads on a separate target, using part of the target for each group. After we figured out where he was hitting, we began shooting in earnest.
He even removed the PBR from the Lead Sled and used the bipod. Finally, I got some time behind the rifle. Just short of the 200-yard target line, a steel plate was set up. Using Hornady TAP and shooting from the bipod on a bench, I held at the top of the target as I figured it for nearly 200 yards. The bullet went just over it. Mike called the correction and I held center.
The 110-grain TAP round hit like a hammer, the thump easily heard back at the shooting bench. I followed up by holding center with the DPX load and was rewarded by a loud impact. This was followed up by more hits.
When we recovered his targets, we saw what FN had wrought. The Federal Gold Medal Match put three bullets into 0.63 of an inch at point-of-aim. CorBon DPX likewise put three bullets into 0.63 of an inch at 100 yards.
Hornady’s TAP Urban 110-grain AMAX put three bullets into 0.75 of an inch. This group was 4 inches over point-of-aim. As noted, 110 grains is light for the .308. The gun was sighted dead on for the 130- to 155-grain bullet. A lighter bullet will shoot higher at the same distance.
I noticed that the PBR, like the SPR I’d fired before, shot “soft.” I attribute that to the rifle’s weight, not inconsiderable at 9 pounds before optics and bipod, as well as to the Hogue stock and soft butt pad.
The rifle is wonderfully accurate. My Grand Slam scope is positioned in a great place for shooting. In benching the piece sans the Caldwell Lead Sled, the Hogue stock and recoil pad cushioned the .308 recoil very nicely. The trigger needs no attention either.
All in all, the FNH PBR is an impressive rifle. Rafferty had to pick on the magazine, which he didn’t like. It’s hard to load and one shouldn’t feed individual rounds without loading them from the magazine. He noted that he’d have to stock up on FN magazines. Even with the magazine issue, though, he said he’d happily buy the PBR. Only accurate rifles are interesting, it’s said, and this one is all of that.
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