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Precision rifle gear – The Rifle

If you’ve read one of our earlier articles on getting started in PRS-style shooting, or you’ve attended a match or two, you might be considering what rifle you could compete with. I’m hoping to do a few posts on different gear considerations, but this first one will focus around the core of your system – the rifle.

Run what you brung

Don’t correct my grammar, I know “brung” isn’t a word. It just rhymes better. If you are not jumping into your local match because you don’t think you have the right gear, you may be missing an opportunity. If you have a rifle from a different shooting discipline, or even your mountain gun or bush-stalking rifle, bring it along and have a go. As long as your rifle meets the requirement of the shoot (i.e. within any calibre / speed restrictions) and is safe, there are a few reasons you should run it before investing in a new gun.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Once you’ve experienced a few comps or handled and seen other competitors’ rifles, you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision on your first precision rifle purchase – this could save you thousands of dollars, or many hours of heartache and searching the internet for unavailable parts and conversion kits
  2. The sooner you start shooting this style of competition, the sooner you will learn and become more proficient
  3. If you somehow find out this sport isn’t for you (highly unlikely), you won’t have invested time and money in a rifle you won’t use again

So, get stuck in, get to your local match, and start sending rounds down range. Accept the fact that you won’t be as competitive with what you are running (or maybe you will be in a different class / division), and set yourself a goal to learn something from each stage.

Entry level – mid-range

An entry-level rifle is not only a time and money-saver when you get started, but with modern rifles and ammunition standards, might be all you need to be competitive for quite a few years. Climbing the ranks as a shooter is not a gear race (for the most part), and you will find that investment in training, quality ammunition / components, and time behind the trigger, will get you further much faster than buying a gun and scope combo that is more expensive than your car.

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced rifle, the common names in shooting are a good place to start. They have a lot of aftermarket support, which means you will be able to make changes and modifications as you go, such as buying a chassis or finding the right scope base. Generally speaking, you would be looking at Howa (Weatherby Vanguard), Tikka, Ruger, Remington, Bergara or Savage.

Rifles like the Winchester M70, Browning X-Bolt, Mossberg Patriot, Ruger M77 MkII, Ruger American or Savage Axis might all be great platforms to modify, but only to a point. If you have your heart set on one of these for whatever reason, do some research to see if there are sufficient aftermarket offerings to explore down the road. Primarily, this will be around the availability of suitable chassis systems or stocks, scope bases with a bit of cant built in (20 MOA rails, etc), and potentially the ease of changing barrels if you decide you want to rebarrel once you’ve worn out the factory barrel or want to make a change.

Whatever rifle and chassis / stock combo you go with, make sure to consider your magazine system. Having the ability to run 5 or 10 round AICS pattern magazines is almost a requirement for the sport, as you need reliability and (sometimes) a lot of rounds down range really fast. For long action chamberings, your AICS pattern mags will be limited to 3, 5 or 7 rounds in most instances. Generally speaking for practical or precision rifle sports, you want a short action cartridge based on a .308 case.

Back to the rifles we mentioned as good starters, here are some pros and cons:

The Howa 1500 is an absolute workhorse and makes a great practical match rifle with its heavy varmint barrel. Photo credit: Simon Gillice / Gillice Practical Rifle Events

Howa 1500 Short Action


  • Can be purchased as a barreled action without stock, saving on cost of parts you don’t need
  • Match rifle variants come with a very suitable heavy barrel profile, threaded muzzle and threaded bolt handle with oversized bolt knob
  • Great aftermarket support from the likes of MDT, KRG, etc
  • Weight adjustable two-stage trigger
  • Reliable function in adverse shooting conditions
  • Best value for money by far


  • AICS compatibility can be limited to certain mags (although this is easily remedied with notching out ahead of the feed ramp – best done by a gunsmith)
  • Aftermarket options are good, but not as universally supported as the likes of Tikka and Rem 700 actions (e.g. might be harder to find the trigger you want)


Tikka T3x / TAC A1 / CTR


  • Extremely slick action due to tight tolerances, polished finish and unique bolt lug design
  • Universal action length means changing cartridges down the road is relatively easy, even from short action to long action, etc.
  • The action is an excellent basis for a semi-custom rifle
  • TAC A1 comes with a fairly good factory chassis
  • Excellent aftermarket support by most major brands
  • TAC A1 and CTR magazines are fantastic in function, reliability and have a short height for a 10 round mag
  • The T1x 22LR is somewhat compatible with T3x parts and stocks, so a trainer set up replicating your main gun can be achieved


  • With the correct bolt stop, the Tikka is an excellent short or medium length action. If you want to change to a long action or magnum action cartridge in the future (e.g. 300 PRC), the action length can be limiting

    Tom S shooting as part of Team Gun Rack at the Tarata Teams Shoot 2022. The Tikka T3x is a slick action and a great basis for a semi-custom gun
  • TAC A1 and CTR mags are stupid expensive
  • T3x variants have very good barrels, but not usually of a profile sufficiently heavy for long strings of fire
  • Tikka barrels can be hard work to remove, but a good gunsmith will help with this
  • TAC A1 scope bases are supplied in 0 MOA and are high above the action, so you will want to change this if you change stocks. They are also somewhat difficult to remove (otherwise a good quality!)
  • A bit on the spendy side

Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) Short Action


  • An affordable package rifle ready to go (when you compare to adding a chassis to standard rifle)
  • Later generations keep modernising, e.g. replacing Keymod forends with M-LOK
  • Limited chamberings, but relevant options for our sport (6.5mm Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, and 308 Win if you don’t like winning)
  • Accepts a wider variety of magazines than most
  • Similarly to the Tikka TAC A1, features a variety of AR15 style controls and components


  • Not as refined as the Tikka TAC A1, which is probably the most directly comparable option, but reflective of the price point at 3/4 the street price of the Tikka
  • You will likely want to replace included items like the grip and muzzle brake

Remington 700 Short Action


  • The “standard” action shape and footprint, due to its prolific nature and saturation of the US market – the best aftermarket options
  • Most custom actions utilise a Rem 700 footprint,  so accessories and stocks can generally be re-used as you upgrade
  • Training rifles in 22LR such as the Vudoo or Bergara B14R can be equipped with the same accessories and parts to create true trainer systems
  • System is so well known that there is an endless font of knowledge on trouble shooting or improvement
  • Lots of “off the shelf” options suitable for precision rifle shooting


  • Varying degrees of quality control and materials / manufacturing over the years, as Remington has had several bankruptcies and new owners. The good ones are good, but it can be hard to know before you spend the money
Bergara is the newest manufacturer on this list, but taps into the existing market presence of the Remington 700 footprint

Bergara B14 HMR Short Action


  • A clone of the Remington 700, but generally higher quality – all of the pros and none of the cons mentioned above
  • Factory stock is suitable for field style shooting and is a good compromise / cross-over option when considering precision shooting and hunting


  • A bit more expensive – you’re spending Tikka money here

Savage 110 Short Action


  • Very accurate rifles at a good price point
  • Good chassis options from the factory, made for Savage by MDT
  • Barrel nut design makes for easy barrel changes in the future – lots of pre-fit barrel options make this a good basis for a semi-custom gun


  • Several variations in bolt release over the years – make sure your action is compatible with aftermarket stocks
  • Mag release, bolt release and trigger mechanisms can be a bit “fiddly” (might be personal taste, and my bias here)
  • Aftermarket support is good, but probably not as well supported in the precision rifle game compared to other options on this list

Custom guns

Guns NZ team shooter Graeme running his Curtis Custom Axiom in an MPA set up. Image credit: Dylan Ackley

If you’re looking at the high end of the precision rifle spectrum, you’re likely looking at a “custom” action. Either, you have been in the sport for a while and have a good idea of what you want, or potentially you’re new to the sport, but money is no object and you want the perfect rifle from the outset.

I don’t have much experience with these actions myself, but generally speaking you are buying a Rem 700 SA clone (or variation thereof) which is compatible with Rem 700 accessories and stocks.  The action is going to cost around the price of a whole gun from the previous section, and then you have a choice of barrels. Barrel selection in New Zealand is improving dramatically, but prices are still a bit painful, especially if you are shooting a “barrel burner” of a cartridge.

Typical actions in this category would be:

  • Impact Precision
  • Lone Peak Arms
  • Defiance
  • Big Horn
  • Curtis Custom
  • Surgeon
  • BAT
  • Barnard (NZ)
  • Hardy Rifle Engineering (NZ)

Pair your action with a barrel – it’s helpful for getting bullets down range. You’ll probably encounter these names in barrel manufacturers:

  • Proof Research
  • Krieger
  • Bartlein
  • Criterion
  • Hawk Hill Custom
  • Benchmark
  • True-Flite (NZ)
  • Hardy Rifle Engineering (NZ)
  • Vulcan Barrels (NZ)


For most of us shooting precision rifle sports in New Zealand, gear selection is a bit of a journey, and it kind of follows the sequence listed above; start with the whatever you have, then get a dedicated precision gun at an affordable price point, and eventually spend all the money. If you aren’t sure what is right for you, hop in a comment section on Facebook, it’s always full of helpful information. Kidding! Go to a match – see what there is, talk to people, and see what makes sense for you.

You can always contact us for advice on where to purchase gear. We stock some of the above brands ourselves, or can point you in the right direction.

How to find PRS / Field Shooting matches in NZ

If you’re new to the precision rifle sports, or maybe you just read our recent article on what PRS and Field Shooting are, next steps are probably to find out how to get involved and where matches are held. This article will list out all of the current organisations which hold these kinds of matches – if we do miss any, feel free to drop us a message on Facebook and we’ll make sure to add it.

Speaking of Facebook, the bulk of info on matches, entries, updates, etc., is done through Facebook and Facebook Messenger. If you don’t like social media, or you’ve just never got around to it, it would be worthwhile creating a profile just so you can interact with these organisations.

A rare non-natural prop at a TLRS event. Featured shooter Mizz Gunrack

North Island

Gillice Practical Rifle Events

The original and the best! Simon has been running shoots for longer than most of us have been in the sport, and his events inspire and inform a lot of the other matches held across the country. You can follow GPRE on their Facebook or Instagram pages. Regular matches held by GPRE include the Pre-Roar Eye Opener (Mar), Desert Duel teams match (May), Speed vs Precision 22LR Match (Nov) and Tarata Practical Rifle Match (Nov).

As and when other properties / locations have been available, Simon has held other medium range and long range matches, as well as frequent 22LR shoots. Keep an eye on their social media for events not listed above. GPRE events are mostly held in the Central North Island, around Taranaki and Waiouru / Taihape.

Taranaki Long Range Shooting

TLRS, run by Graeme (and his loyal crew of volunteers), largely follows the format established by GPRE, adding its own flair and personality. Having started off as some social gong shoots a few years ago, the organisation and matches have evolved significantly to be some of the best precision matches in the country.

Surplus Steel is an awesome Service Rifle / Field Shooting crossover event that is a highlight of the shooting calendar

Regular events for TLRS include Surplus Steel (Jan), Ahititi Long Range Challenge (Feb) and Winter Blast (Jun / Jul). Other matches have included Bowers Valley Brawl (a dedicated long range / magnum event), and some 22LR matches. The Ahititi Long Range Challenge is the biggest event in the precision sports calendar, with the 2022 match consisting of 3 days of shooting, each day being a separate event. TLRS operates mostly in Ahititi (Taranaki), and other Central NI locations, up to Waitomo District.

TLRS and GPRE have collaborated in 2022 to run the SPARC 22LR series, four matches with distinct flavours, different match directors and locations, culminating in an upcoming series final.

To follow TLRS, you can check out their Facebook or Instagram pages. Graeme also runs Bolt Action Media, and co-hosts the Precision Unloaded Podcast with Mark (land owner / match director / podcast host extraordinaire).

The Gun Rack

Yes, that’s us! We’ve run a grand total of two 22LR events in the northern Waikato region (out towards Port Waikato) over the course of 2022, and hope to do more in the future. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more updates.

Our aim is to provide matches that the other regular match directors/ hosts can participate in (as they’re always doing the hard work), as well as holding events closer to Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland. This means a little bit less driving for those of us up this way, and also means we can attract new shooters to the sport.

Rifle being made safe at the end of a stage. We shoot in any conditions, so long as we can see the targets.

Precision Rifle Series New Zealand

PRS NZ are the official PRS affiliated organisation in New Zealand, and run matches in the Waiouru / Taihape area. It seems to be the aim of the organisation to get other match directors / locations involved and part of the series in due course, as well as qualifiying shooters to compete in the PRS USA Finale.

You can find them on Facebook. PRS NZ is also supported by Long Range Academy, and you can find out more at their website.

Central North Island Gun Club

CNIGC are primarily a Service Rifle club, and they host a few really cool events every year (along with all their club shoots). If I’m not shooting a precision or practical rifle match on the same day, I’ll try and be at their ANZAC shoot, Rapids, etc.

A couple years ago CNIGC worked with Simon from GPRE to run their first 22LR precision match. As far as I know, they have held more matches since then and have gone from strength to strength. Some of the CNIGC members have become familiar faces at other North Island matches, so it’s good to see the sport spreading to shooters from other disciplines.

CNIGC have a website where you can get in touch or find out more.

Auckland Shooting Club

Auckland Shooting Club are based in Makarau, about 45 mins north of Auckland central. They host 22LR precision club matches, amongst lots of other shooting disciplines. It’s not clear if this is restricted to members only, so get in touch, I’m sure they’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

Auckland Shooting Club have a Facebook page and a website for contact details.

The dreaded camo net is a prop that features at GPRE shoots every now and then – gear management is essential.

South Island

Now, I have very limited knowledge of the precision rifle scene down South, so Mainlanders, please excuse the brevity of this section.

Section 22 is a great resource for our Mainland friends looking to get into precision shooting. Blair also imports some essential gear for the sport

Section 22

Section 22 is run by Blair, and hosts a bunch of 22LR matches in the North Otago region. Blair also imports a bunch of shooting gear, including tripods, ammo pouches, Wiebad bags, etc. Section 22 is run as a private group on Facebook, so have a look for them there.

Sparrowhawk NZ

Sparrowhawk NZ has been around for a minute or two. These guys have their own range in South Canterbury and run regular shooter education and training courses. They also host matches at their range. You can find them on Facebook or at their website.

Boundary Creek

Another venue down South which frequently hosts precision style matches, the range is just outside of Oamaru. A private group on Facebook contains info on upcoming matches, so search for them on there.

Hokonui Precision Rifle Matches

22LR is a great way to get into precision shooting, yet is still a highly competitive and fun subsection of the sport when you’re fully into it.

Another private Facebook group for you to search and apply to. A great resource for matches being held in the South Island.

Alpine Long Range

Alpine Long Range hosts matches in the Canterbury region, not too far from Christchurch. You can follow them on Facebook to keep an eye out for upcoming matches.

Peak View Range

PVR operate an established range with targets available for plinking or practice at distances from 100m – 1000m. They also run competitions and have a shop to buy gear you might need. If you or your significant other need extra motivation to get out there, they also operate Peak View Retreat.

Peak View Range can be found in Nelson, on Facebook or their website.

New Zealand Mountain Challenge

The Vortex NZ Mountain Challenge has been running since 2015, and is a world class long range event. The most recent event had a 3-day format, with a 1000 yard shoot off, the main mountain challenge match, and a precision rifle match on the third day.

You can find more info on the Mountain Challenge on their Facebook page. The match is sold out fairly quickly from what I hear, so make sure to keep an eye on it if it interests you. The Mountain Challenge is an annual event in Wanaka.

Field Shooting and PRS in New Zealand

If you’re interested in competitive or long range shooting, you’ve probably heard the term “PRS” or noticed the preponderance of new shooting gear aimed at the “precision shooting” market. If you want to understand a bit more about what this is all about, and how you might be able to get involved, this article is a short primer on what is available and happening in New Zealand. We’ll do some follow up articles on what gear you need, basic skills to practice, etc., so keep an eye out for those.

What is PRS?

Precision or practical rifle competitions are not all “PRS Matches”. The PRS (Precision Rifle Series) is a trademarked, sanctioned series of matches in the USA, in which some of the best precision shooters in the world compete. It has developed over the years, and the level of competition and the equipment used has changed dramatically. There are PRS affiliated organisations around the world, notably Australia, South Africa and recently New Zealand.

In a PRS or PRS-style match, you would expect to have around  8 – 10 stages (small courses of fire within the overall match) in a one day match, with varying challenges to test different aspects of your shooting ability. Two day matches are more prevalent overseas and will probably feature more and more in the NZ scene. Two-day matches that have been run locally tend to be the same overall match course of fire, but day two might be .223 only, or some other variation.

Each stage will have a description which will tell you what targets you need to engage, and how you need to engage them – you don’t need to know this stuff in advance. You will also be given a time limit for each stage. If you’re new to the game, concentrate on making good hits instead of trying to be fast. You’ll have more fun if you hit steel, and it will be easier to operate safely and smoothly if you take your time.

What kind of shooting should you expect?

Precision shooting has developed largely around “square ranges”, which lends itself to man-made props, rather than using natural terrain or obstacles

Generally speaking, you would be engaging steel plate targets from 200m out to 700 / 800m, with the occasional long range stage over the 1000m mark. Some dedicated long range events stretch this out further.

Your shooting position is usually built around using a prop or obstacle for support, and you might have to “build and break” several positions on the same prop or multiple props and engage a single target or multiple targets.

There are occasionally prone stages, which would usually be long range stages or stages with a complex order of fire. Some match directors do offer a more prone focused match, whereas others might be more heavy on the positional / prop side of things. Unsupported positional shooting is not very common, but can be expected.

Does this sound like a bit much? Don’t worry. At every match in New Zealand you will find that you will be put in a squad with experienced competitors who are happy to help you out, guide you through the day, and probably even lend you a bit of gear if you need it.

What is Field Shooting?

Field shooting is similar in ways to PRS-style matches, but has distinct differences and challenges different aspects of your shooting, gear management, admin and stage management. For an international comparison, it might be considered to be closer to the NRL Hunter series in the USA.

The Precision Rifle Series has largely developed using “flat ranges” or “square ranges”, with a perpendicular firing line, berms and often fixed target distances. This has lent itself to a lot of standardisation of types of props and stages you might encounter, including several “PRS Skills Stages”, which are the same at every match. Given the sheltered and somewhat artificial environment these kinds of ranges have, the sport has revolved around small targets and tight time limits.

Field matches often take advantage of natural terrain or props. Photo credit Dylan Ackley, featured shooter Kassie Phillips

Now, to be fair, not all PRS matches are like this, and depending on the geographical location in the USA, you might have a much more “field style” match. New Zealand matches are trying to emulate the US and Australian matches, but we are generally shooting on farms, not fixed ranges, so our PRS-style matches might favour the field shooting side of things overall.

So, what is field shooting? How is it different? Field shooting is based around the “practical” side of competitive shooting, rather than the “precision” side. Now, just as precision matches might have the occasional field flavour, the same is true in reverse, and depending on location and match director, you might find a lot of props, small targets and tight time frames.

When we say “practical”, we mean using shooting skills that are beneficial in practical scenarios. For most of us this means hunting or pest control. For our military and law enforcement friends, their skills might be deployed in a more “tactical” scenario when they’re on the job.

Loopholes and obscured targets are not uncommon, nor is unsupported positional shooting

In field shooting the target sizes and time limits are generally a bit more generous, but the shooting positions are often uncomfortable, improvised, unstable or offer limited visibility of the target(s). This forces you to think on your feet and approach each stage differently, developing a broad set of shooting skills. Precision matches, on the other hand, tend to offer stable props, familiar positions, and somewhat standardised courses of fire, which means you are focusing on a narrower set of skills, but you might become much more proficient at them over time.

There is a lot of crossover between these two styles of shooting, and you’ll often find the same competitors at both types of events. If you start investing in rifles and gear for one, you’ll be able to shoot the other as well. A lot of the same sills will translate across both sports equally well, such as focusing on your natural point of aim, building a solid position, squaring up to your rifle, etc.

If you’re keen on getting into this game, you will shoot in interesting conditions, see some gorgeous country, develop great friendships, and ultimately become a better shooter.

In the next article we’ll talk about how to find local matches and who to follow in NZ for updates on the sport and related content.

*Featured image credit: Gillice Practical Rifle Events*

Hunting with Hamish from Muddy Waters

New Zealand is a land of practically unlimited hunting opportunities – for those who know where to look and how to get there. However, if you live in suburbia, or you’re new to hunting, it can be really hard to get into it and pick up the skills you need to be confident going out solo. It was for this very reason that I took my wife, Kassie, to Muddy Waters to hunt her first deer.

Getting there

Muddy Waters is about 35 mins north west of Whanganui. We travelled from Pukekohe, and total drive time was 5 hours 45 mins, with the best rest stops along SH4 being Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, Taumaranui or Whanganui if you need the luxuries of a bigger town (fast food, petrol station, etc). Although you’re driving south, you do end up going west and then north again, as the location is up a road that has no northern access. This ends up being one of the great features of the block , as it is hemmed in by native bush and other large farms, with no encroaching suburbs or human population. All this means better conditions for the fallow deer that the Whanganui region is known for.

Your last 25 mins or so are on a metaled road with lots of twists and turns, so take it easy, you’re almost there

The Muddy Waters experience

I’ve been to Muddy Waters a few times now, but when I took Kassie there it was my first time there too. The GPS took us a little past the gate, and we backtracked and found our way. We drove down to the woolshed, where we met Hamish and discussed our plan for the hunt. With a little bit of daylight left, it was decided that the best course of action was to do a quick sight in / zero check, settle in for the night, and hit the hills in the morning.

Kassie was shooting my Tikka 6.5×55, which you may have seen a few times on our social media pages or in other articles on this website. We had just switched to ELD-M handloads, as they had only been out a couple years at this point. I was shooting a sporterised Swedish Mauser in 6.5×55 as well, shooting factory Federal ammo.

I checked zero on a kill-zone sized steel gong at 200 metres, as I hadn’t used the ammo before. This zero-checking exercise is also Hamish’s opportunity to identify how comfortable a shooter is taking a reasonable hunting shot. When I put a couple rounds on target, Hamish said “Oh, you guys can shoot, that’s going to make my life a bit easier”.

Kassie then immediately showed her skill, as she stacked two rounds on top of each other, sparks flying off the steel in the fading light. “Oh shit, you can really shoot!” Hamish exclaimed. Yeah, I was a proud husband at this point… Zeros confirmed, we packed away the rifles and saved the rest of our ammo.

If you’re driving from further afield, like us, you may want to pay the bit extra to stay the night and be fresh for your  hunt (or your drive home). The woolshed has a bunk house attached, with four bunks, a reasonable kitchen facility and a shower and toilet. After a quick packed dinner, a couple beers and plenty of yarns, we turned in to get some rest.

Kassie with the fully suppressed Tikka 6.5×55 and her first deer – a well-conditioned doe

Being early June, the crisp weather and short daylight hours meant deer would likely be out grazing most of the day, catching sun where possible. We ambled out after a coffee, without too much pressure on time, and took a quick ride in the side-by-side to the back of the block to start scouting around. I couldn’t believe how many deer were around, and we passed some beautiful looking bucks, but we were there for a meat hunt, not a trophy animal.

It’s easy to forget how much elevation you’ve gained from sea level, but on a clear day the views from the hilltops are outstanding. You can see all the way to snowcapped peaks of Ruapehu in one direction, and out to the sea on the west coast in the other.

After leaving the vehicle we walked a winding track, up and down ridges and gullies, keeping the bush edge largely on our left. After a while we reached the area we had planned to hunt, and passing through the gate we were told it was time to keep quiet and load up our rifle magazines. From here it wasn’t long before Hamish indicated to get low. We started to crouch and move into position, looking into the next valley. Luckily we had the wind in our favour, as the mob of deer ahead of us started to move up towards us and to our left, but at a steady, walking pace – definitely not spooked.

As we were on the side of a hill, with the slope going up to our right, there was no way to get a comfortable prone position. Kassie quietly got into a sitting position, and took a clean shoulder / heart shot on a nice fat doe at 180 metres. Hamish did mention afterwards it’s not the kind of shot he would usually advocate a beginner hunter taking (in terms of distance and position), but having seen her shoot the night before, he was confident in her ability.

I, on the other hand, managed to do the exact opposite. We left Kassie’s doe to peak over the top of the hill we were sitting on, and Hamish pointed out a scrubby looking buck. “Bro, that’s a cull – take him out”. I was stoked to get to take a shot at my first buck, considering we had paid for 2x meat animals, so this was a bit of a bonus.

Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was something else, but I pulled the shot left and instead of hitting him in the chest (he was facing us), my round broke his rear right leg. He dropped for a half second and started running / limping off. What was a relatively easy 100 metre shot, quickly turned into trying to dispatch a running deer at over 200 metres, as he rounded a hill and broke line of sight.

This shot was not a good one, and ended up leading to chasing a wounded animal. Not my finest moment

Having lost confidence in my rifle, and not wanting to go back to my pack for more ammo, I grabbed the Tikka off Kassie, and Hamish and I went after the wounded animal. I had a sick feeling in my gut, thinking the poor thing would end up caught caught on a fence, or slowly wasting away, so I was deeply encouraged when Hamish spotted a tiny drop of blood and a piece of shattered bone. At this point it had been about 10 minutes or so, and I was worried we may not see the buck again.

We climbed to the top of a nearby hill to get a better vantage, and we continuously scanned the area where we thought he may have broken for the bush edge. It had now been about 15 or 20 minutes, and I was almost certain the deer had made it to the bush and disappeared. Trying to find it in there was not going to be any fun.

Out of the corner of my eye, I picked up on some asymmetric movement, it was the limping gait of the buck that gave away its position, as it was perfectly camouflaged against a backdrop of felled trees. My heart was racing again, as he was less than 100 metres from entering the bush and dropping over a ridge, where we would have struggled to find him. Feeling more confident in my rifle, but still doubting myself, I took a few deep breaths and pulled the trigger on the 285 metre downhill shot. The buck dropped on the spot, the projectile having gone through half of his body and dumping a huge amount of energy before coming to a stop inside the front right shoulder.

This was the first animal I had not killed cleanly (and so far the only one – fingers crossed), and I was so fortunate to have a good guide with tracking ability, patience and sound advice. I was feeling elated at having shot my first buck, regaining the animal, and also having pulled off a decent shot after such a shocker. We talked through what had happened as we walked back to where Kassie was waiting.

Wrapping up

Now it was time to retrieve and gut our two animals – we were taking them out skin on, to protect the meat on the long ride home, before dropping them off for processing at Counties Custom Killing in Bombay. Hamish guided us through his technique of gutting a deer, which has been refined on hundreds of hunts, and is still the way I gut deer today. Being a fairly new hunter myself, this was invaluable to learn.

Kassie was first up and got stuck in, making a bit of a face when she was elbows deep in the body cavity. She was determined to do the whole job herself, and did well. We stuck the heart up in a nearby tree, and then Hamish and Kassie carried the deer out to the track, where we could get it later on the side-by-side.

A helping hand for a quick carry down to the track
Glad we caught up with him in the end. The shot was downhill as the buck was walking away from us, so went in from the top of the ribs and passed through the vitals and into the shoulder

After getting the vehicle and loading up Kassie’s deer and the rifles, we drove over to where my buck was and it was my turn. Having watched and listened to Hamish’s instructions on the first deer, I tried to incorporate as many of his tips and tricks as possible, and we quickly finished up with our second deer ready to go. I was really impressed when I used my rangefinder from the deer to our position on the hill and found it to be almost exactly the range Hamish had given me when I took the shot. Hamish’s range estimation was done with pure skill and knowledge of the land, so that was a very good indication of just how good a guide he is.

Returning to the woolshed, we hung the deer up in a cool store while we washed up and got ready to go. It was barely past lunch time, and we’d had a full hunting experience – the benefit of having a great guide, with local knowledge. The ride home seemed shorter than the trip down, as we chatted about what went right, and what went wrong, and what delicious small goods and steak cuts we were going to get done. If I’m honest, it wasn’t too long before Kassie fell asleep in the passenger seat, but I was in my own world anyway, thinking about the next time I’d get back there.

It’s been a while

Hamish describing the feel of a windpipe, and how to pull it through

This was three and a half years ago, and I’ve gone back a few times since, once to take my younger brothers out for a hunt, once to stock up the freezer, and most recently for the Crosshairs ELR course, held on the same property. Unfortunately 2021 hasn’t been the best year for getting out and about hunting, but I feel like I need to make another trip down that way soon…

Are there really that many deer?

Yes. There are bloody heaps. Manawatu-Whanganui has a fallow deer problem like northern Taranaki has a goat problem. If you go out with Hamish, you will likely pass multiple animals just getting to the spot you want to start your hunt from.

Are fallow deer good for first time hunters?

Yes, fallow are a great animal to hunt for your first time. They are a fair bit smaller than red deer, so are easy to process and / or carry out, especially if you are learning or getting fit. Unlike other deer species in New Zealand they almost exclusively eat grass. This means they are often considered to be the best tasting venison, so you can share your hard-earned kai with non-hunters without them turning their nose up at a gamey flavour. Or not. You’re probably not going to want to share…

Having such a predictable diet also makes them easier to locate when hunting, if you know the local terrain and likely feed spots.

Once you’ve picked up some knowledge and head out on your own, fallow is a great target species, often found at the boundaries of DOC land and farms (be careful to be on the right side of the fence).

Is Muddy Waters only for beginner hunters?

Not at all. It’s a really good environment to learn in, and especially to pick up hunting skills if you haven’t had the opportunity to do this with friends and family. However, it’s equally good for more advanced hunters to have a casual meat hunt with some mates, or if you want to nab a trophy buck.

Given that the hunting is so good, you can also use the opportunity to test your equipment out for harder missions, or tick off bucket list activities. For example, a couple years ago I took my longest range shot on a deer at Muddy Waters, and this year Graeme from Taranaki Long Range Shooting achieved his goal of taking down a deer with an original condition Lee Enfield No1 MkIII.

Muddy Waters can also accommodate very accessible hunting, so if a long hike is something that is difficult for you for whatever reason, this could be a prime way to get into hunting.

Is Muddy Waters fair chase hunting?

Absolutely. While you have very high odds, due to the sheer number of animals in the area, it is up to you to hunt and shoot effectively. The deer are not fenced in, and migrate freely between the native bush, the beef and sheep farm Muddy Waters is located on, and the neighbouring properties too. Free range, fair chase, ethical hunting.

Hamish maintains a really good line of genetics in the herd by culling out animals which may not have the best coats or antlers – these animals are targeted for meat hunts. So even though the animals are not a farmed herd, they do benefit from superior genetics surviving multiple seasons, which means you can call up Hamish and talk about a hunt for a prime trophy buck.

What do I need to hunt at Muddy Waters?

Not much. Take a sleeping bag and pillow if you’re going overnight. Appropriate clothing and footwear (including wet weather gear), food, snacks and water. But otherwise, talk to Hamish about what you want to take. He does have a rifle that can be loaned to clients if you don’t have your own, or want to take a new hunter with you.

How do I book a hunt and what does it cost?

You can reach Hamish on the Muddy Waters Facebook page, or by email to enquire about bookings and pricing. At time of writing there is a special rate on meat hunts due to high deer numbers.

Protean Innovations: The evolution of the bipod

I’ve recently completed a couple rifle builds, and while I was working on them I was on the lookout for a new bipod. I currently run a couple Harris-style bipods that switch between rifles, and one really odd piece of kit that sits on my SKS. I was looking for something different, something better. Top of mind for competition shooting (PRS-style matches) was something like the Harris or Atlas offerings – but then I stumbled on something really unique – Protean Innovations.

I saw some of their bipods in pics and videos on their Instagram page, and I was instantly intrigued. The bipods seemed to be built for exactly the kind of shooting I had in mind. I reached out to see if I could get a unit to test and evaluate, and their CEO Kyle Hayes, got in touch and offered to send me some gear to check out. A week or two later I received a nice little care package with a Gen II bipod and the Stability Tracker bipod (which is their gen 3 model, effectively). Also in the parcel were a bunch of Protean Innovations accessories. And not for nothing, a personal letter signed and sent by Kyle himself. That says something about the kind of company they are.

Unpacking the Protean Innovations care package
Unpacking the Protean Innovations care package

First impressions

First things first, opening this package was awesome, not only to get some new gear to test out, but also because of the way they package their products. Instead of plastic and cardboard, the Protean Innovations bipods came in their own camo pouches. These can easily be attached to molle webbing, a belt, or whatever else you want. Pro Tip: They also make great water bottle pouches to go on your belt when you’re hunting.

Looking the units over the first thing I noticed was the quality of the materials, workmanship and anodizing/coating. Despite a lot of aluminium-on-aluminium, there is no discernible friction in the system, and all tolerances seem to be exactly right for flawless deployment – precisely what you want in a “quick deploy” kind of system.


My primary use for these bipods would be for my competition guns, so that’s how I decided to test them. Of course they’re just as applicable to hunting or LE/MIL scenarios, but that’s not my use case, and I’ll leave it to other reviewers to cover those bases.

In terms of competition, I’ve used these at the PSNZ22 run by Precision Shooter, the TSCC Practical Rimfire shoot run by Gillice Practical Rifle Events, and the CNIGC Good Morning Vietnam shoot. I’ve also used the Stability Tracker bipod to get my bolt action centrefire competition rifles ready, but haven’t competed in F-Class this season.

Gen II Bipod

I ran the Gen II bipod on my 22LR HK416D, using the quad rail on the forend to mount the system. The Protean innovations bipod slides along the rail when you hold the deployment trigger, and catches into position when you let go. This allows you to deploy it securely at multiple angles. This can be great for practical shooting competitions, where you often shoot from angled positions, or through barricades/obstacles that have very specific fields of view at certain heights from the ground. For those thinking of a hunting application, it means you can lower your profile as you shoot downhill from a ridge into a valley, or something like that.

What if you don’t have a rail on the bottom of your rifle? Protean Innovations sells a simple and cost-effective adapter, called the Stability Rail, that will attach to your sling swivel stud and give you an easy to use picatinny rail. There are, obviously, other conversion system out there, if you prefer something else.

The Stability Rail is super easy to attach. It also has a hole to attach your sling, useful if you only have one sling swivel stud on your rifle
The Stability Rail is super easy to attach. It also has a hole to attach your sling, useful if you only have one sling swivel stud on your rifle

In this competition, which has a lot of positional shooting and some stages which cannot be shot supported, I used the Stability Grip attachment. This acts as a forward pistol grip, and attaches to the bipod deployment trigger. You can still pull the trigger and move the pistol grip forwards or backwards to deploy or retract the bipod.

I found this system great. It not only allowed me to quickly transition between off-hand and prone-supported positions, but the pistol grip allowed me to take more controlled standing shots, and be confident in my ability to quickly deploy the bipod, without having to play with small buttons or release levers.

Oh, worth a mention, you only need to pull the deploy trigger and slide it forward or backwards to manipulate the bipod. Unlike a Harris bipod, you don’t need to reach all the forward of your rifle and pull back the individual legs. You can stay completely in position on the rifle.

Other accessories that really make this a unique system include the Stability Spiked Shoe and the standard Stability Feet. The feet that come on the bipod from the factory are a quite grippy rubber design, and have a bit of bend in them, allowing you to achieve those angled positions in the field. With the extra grip you get compared to bipods with hard or round feet, you don’t get nearly as much “hop” or “bounce” when shooting larger centrefire rifles on hard surfaces, such as concrete benches or floors.

The feet allow for various angles, and the grippy, relatively soft rubber takes a lot out "bounce" out of heavier recoiling rifles.
The feet allow for various angles, and the grippy, relatively soft rubber takes a lot out “bounce” out of heavier recoiling rifles.

The spiked shoes are easily slipped over the rubber feet in seconds, and stay completely secure. This is a revolutionary approach to bipod feet. While there are endless options for more traditional bipod systems, they usually require tools and can take minutes to switch over – not ideal for field use or in high-pressure competitions.

I thoroughly enjoyed using this bipod in competition, and although I didn’t have my best day shooting, I can confidently say the Gen II and Stability Grip combination greatly enhanced my ability to tackle a very creative shooting course put on by Kerry, Matt and the others from the Precision Shooter crew.

In fact, I ran this bipod again at the Good Morning Vietnam shoot, put on by Central North Island Gun Club, and I can honestly say that without it, I would not have achieved my 3rd place in Open Division.

I was shooting my Aero Precision build, with most parts from, and yes, I was that guy with the muzzle brake on the competition line. I heard all the comments behind me. However, I wasn’t the only one! So was the guy on my left, and the guy on my right! Thankfully only .223, with .308 and 7.62×39 further down the line.

But, even still, it was quite difficult to maintain a good sight picture with vented muzzle gas coming directly from another competitor’s rifle and getting in behind my glasses, making my eyes sting and glasses fog up in any longer strings of fire.

So, in the couple courses of fire where a supported prone position was allowed, the extra stability, and the option to quickly deploy after running to the firing line, all helped me get rounds down range before my vision became too impaired, and helped me to stay on target when my eyes were dripping tears from the stinging gas exiting the filthy brake next door.

My two rifles for the CNIGC shoot. As you can see, the Protean Innovations bipod is supper easy to slip on and off.
My two rifles for the CNIGC shoot. As you can see, the Protean Innovations bipod is supper easy to slip on and off.

Stability Tracker

Now this is the next evolution in bipods and shooting support. Yup, this is the version after the Gen II, and the features show.

The appearance is refined, and weight reduced, with a single locking mechanism (compared to the two on the Gen II). The function is smoother, and the front attachment trigger is smaller, and less obtrusive.

Another feature which aids smooth operation is the integral picatinny rail which the bipod operates on. With rounded and lower profile rail slots, the operation is greatly eased. The whole unit still attaches to your picatinny rail, but less real estate is taken up for the operation of the system, as the guts of the bipod hangs below and moves on its own mechanism. This also allows Protean Innovations to introduce the piece de resistance, the tracking feature.

With a simple flip of the tracking trigger with either your left or right hand, you can now pan your rifle on the horizontal axis, without moving position or lifting your bipod from its place.

At the rear of the bipod, you can see the deployment trigger hanging down, and the tracking trigger, which looks a bit like a toggle, sitting just below the picatinny rail.
At the rear of the bipod, you can see the deployment trigger hanging down, and the tracking trigger, which looks a bit like a toggle, sitting just below the picatinny rail.

For moving targets this allows you to easily introduce lag or lead without twisting the rifle or running out of horizontal movement, which is very limited on traditional bipods. In competition with multiple targets at varying distances and placements from your shooting position, this can mean being able to engage more targets from the same firing position, without having to move and add time to your run.

To lock the bipod back in place, all you have to do is flip the trigger back to its original position, and as the rifle tracks around to centre, it will click in place. It couldn’t be easier.

I used the Stability Tracker bipod, as well as the Stability Grip again, for Simon Gillice’s practical 22LR event. The bipod ran flawlessly, and as at previous competitions, I had a few people coming up to me and asking where and how they could get their hands on what is objectively a cool looking setup.

Gear for the TSSC Pracitical 22LR shoot.
Gear for the TSSC Pracitical 22LR shoot.

I did have one failure one the day, and as always, I tell the bad with the good. Between stages I noticed the pin on the tracking trigger was coming loose. Thankfully it didn’t pop out during the stage, or it would have been gone forever. So, I pushed it back in and stopped using the tracking feature for the day, and it was otherwise absolutely fine.

When I got back home, Kyle proved again, exactly the type of company they are. He gave me instruction on how I could stake the hole with a nail and hammer, similar to how you stake an AR15 bolt carrier. This repair worked and has lasted well. But, he didn’t stop there. Kyle later informed me that they took the feedback on board, and had sourced oversized pins to stop this happening in the future. This is a company that is dedicated to a quality product and, as their name says, innovation.

This excerpt below from an email directly from Kyle shows that not only did they seriously consider the issue around the pins, but also that they are constantly refining the design, and looking for better ways to support your rifle.

“For a long term solution I have located a supplier here in the US that makes pins that are oversized. This will eliminate this issue all together. We are continually refining the design. The next production run will have a few enhancements where we will remove some more weight without compromising strength, we will fix the press fit pin issue, and we are working on trimming up the leg extension triggers as well to remove more weight. All in all it should all be even better on the next go around by the time we get to it.”

I did also ask Kyle if a canting version would ever be on the market, but he (quite reasonably) said the R&D showed it would not work. He did do the entire redesign, but found that it added considerable weight, unnecessary complexity, and extra moving parts which made the bipod noisy. With all that weighing against the cant feature, he decided not to pursue it. Not to mention the increased cost to the consumer of the extra feature, which would push the bipod into a price bracket that is probably not viable for your average Joe.

The two models side by side.
The two models side by side.

I was glad to hear the option had been thoroughly explored before deciding against it, and Kyle has a good point in that you can easily adjust your height using the legs (and extended legs option if you need them), if you often shoot from uneven surfaces. The aim of the system is quick deployment, not lots of finicky adjustment. And if you are on the F-Class line, chances are you are shooting from a flat and stable position. Feedback from PRS shooters and long range shooters has been that a lack of cant has not affected the usability of the bipod.

In our emails, Kyle did say that if he can ever figure out a reasonable way to introduce a cant feature, avoiding the above pitfalls, he will certainly consider it. So, it’s not out of the picture, but it is not a feature the Stability Tracker has right now.

Pros and Cons for the Gen II

The Gen II is a great model, and you can see in it how Protean Innovations continues to evolve their designs. Here are some of the pros and cons of this model.


  • High quality, solid metal construction and finish
  • Can be made more versatile with optional extras (spike feet, leg extensions, stability grip)
  • Angled shooting positions are easily achieved
  • Can lower your shooting profile when shooting downhill
  • Bipod feet designs reduces bipod hop from recoil
  • Bipod feet design allow for good vertical travel without losing grip
  • Quick deployment of a stable shooting platform when needed, quickly stowed when not
  • Interfaces with a common MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail
  • Easily transferable between multiple rifles in seconds
  • Easy/quick to extend legs to correct length
  • Cheaper price than Stability Tracker model


  • Will need an adapter for chassis or stocks without a rail
  • It is possible to overextend the bipod rearward if you are in a hurry (I was!). There is a simple fix. Either, get used to the operation and take your time, or, I mounted a picatinny-sling swivel stud adapter that I had lying around (took the stud out), just behind the rearward most point of travel, stopping it from going too far back. Easy fix. You could achieve the same with a rail riser, cut down scope ring, or any other picatinny accessory
  • If you push upwards on the stability grip while pushing the deployment trigger forwards to collapse the bipod, it can be a bit difficult to stow the bipod. This is a user issue – once you get used to it, it works beautifully
  • The model is likely to be discontinued as the Stability Tracker takes over as the primary model. If you want one, you’d need to get it in the very near future
Creating a backstop for the Gen II bipod with Stability Grip means I don't have to think about anything when deploying the bipod.
Creating a backstop for the Gen II bipod with Stability Grip means I don’t have to think about anything when deploying the bipod.

Pros and Cons for the Stability Tracker

The Stability Tracker really is next level when it comes to bipods. Here are the pros and cons.


  • All the same pros as the Gen II, except that it is obviously a bit more expensive. Also;
  • Ability to pan for lead/lag
  • Smoother operation during deployment/stowing, thanks to its own integral rail
  • Simplified attachment compared to Gen II is even easier and quicker to use
  • Does not have the possibility of overextending during deployment


  • Will need an adapter if you don’t have a rail on your rifle
  • For a high-end bipod, lack of cant may put some off, but trade-off for weight/complexity is justified

Is this the right bipod for me?

Probably. I can’t personally think of a time when I would not use this system. I still have and use other bipods, but all of my rifles with rails or adapters will now be sharing Protean Innovation products. They’re so easy to switch between rifles, and I like the idea of using one system across multiple rifles. Building familiarity only increases efficiency.

The system is as innovative and user-friendly, as it is cool-looking.
The system is as innovative and user-friendly, as it is cool-looking.

I would definitely recommend the Stability Tracker for anyone looking to shoot PRS-style matches at a competitive level. For hunting, I love the low-profile capabilities the Protean Innovation bipods give you when shooting downhill. And for range use, it has pretty much eliminated the hop I used to get from my more powerful centrefire rifles when shooting off the bench – this is probably the biggest highlight for me.

If you’re in the LE/MIL line of work, this testimonial from one of their customers might resonate with you:

“We have had one army sniper use the Tracker while deployed in Afghanistan. His testimonial was that he pitched his Harris after one mission and never went back to it afterwards. Said he used the tracker the entire time during his tour and refused to use anything else.”


If you’re looking for a bipod that is innovative and actually improves your shooting experience, I would not look past the Stability Tracker by Protean Innovations. It is robust, quick to deploy, technologically advanced, and a joy to use. The fact that the company are so good to their customers, take on feedback, and actually continue to innovate, is just a huge bonus.

Free Boyds gunstock this Christmas

So, it’s been an awesome year, both personally, and for The Gun Rack. Having recently started importing Boyds gunstocks, it’s been great to bring Kiwis (and the occasional Aussie) a product they haven’t been able to have for a long time (certainly not at a decent price, anyway).

To celebrate the end of an awesome year, I’m giving away one free stock to one of you lucky buggers. If you buy a stock in our next order, you will have a 1 in 10 chance of having the full cost of your stock refunded to you, including the GST and shipping costs.

Lots of pepper in this @boydsgunstocks order! #boyds #wood #gunstock #rifle #pewpewpew #accessorize #laminate

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How will it work?

This is the last order for the year, and I already have 2 out of 10 spots filled (those 2 guys will qualify too). For the next 8 people who jump onto this order, simply:

  • Head on over to the Boyds website and find the stock and upgrade options you want
  • Send me an email with the stock details to get a quote
  • Place your order (this includes payment upfront, as usual)
  • Wait for your awesome stock to arrive, and hopefully for some cash to hit your bank account too!

If you want to read more about the ordering process, head over here, or email me. Unfortunately the stock won’t arrive before Christmas, as it takes a while to manufacture, ship, get through customs, courier, etc. However, if you are the lucky winner, you will get your money back as soon as the order is complete (which will hopefully be before Christmas!).

The winner will be chosen using a random draw method of some description. The decision will be random, and it will also be final (And no correspondence will be entered into, etc, etc,. Basically, I’m giving away something free, don’t be a douche if you don’t win).

Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks for being part of The Gun Rack community and our journey importing Boyds gunstocks into NZ (and AU). I’m hoping in the new year to be bringing in some other cool bits and pieces – will keep you updated on that.