Manufacturers of semi-automatics have designed rifles, to be sleek, adjustable, and lightweight with a touch of attitude but don’t be fooled by the packaging.
The most important factor in any rifle is its accuracy, and this is what every hunter needs to base their decision on when choosing a semi-automatic.
Which is the most accurate semi-automatic rifle and how do you know?
There is accuracy which in a simple definition is the ability to hit exactly what one is aiming at and then there is precision, which means doing it repeatedly in a consistent fashion without any deviation.
Combine these two to achieve a term known as accurizing, and you will have the most accurate semi-automatic rifle.
Therefore, simply firing one shot at the target and accepting it as accurate is not good enough. Shots need to fired multiple time under various conditions to obtain a true reflection of the rifle’s accurizing.
Accurizing focuses on four areas:
- Usability: Features that provide the shooter with a controlled hold on the firearm, producing a consistent trigger pull. Some may refer to these as the ergonomics of a rifle.
- Tolerance: Minimizing the effects of recoil on the rifle’s accuracy. Parts that are well designed and manufactured will move less during the firing of shots. Rifle bedding is the best example of the accurizing procedure.
- Harmonics: Simply put, with each shot fired the barrel bore resonates and vibrates. These small vibrations affect the overall ballistics. The less harmonics, the smaller the impact on the bullets ballistics which creates better accuracy.
- Projectile Propulsion Consistency: Firearms rely on the chemical reaction within a cartridge to provide propulsive force. Any variation in powder load or combustion efficiency will affect the internal ballistics
Savage Arms MSR 15 LR Valkyrie
- Caliber: .224 Valkyrie
- Weight: 10 lb. 5 oz.
- Barrel Length 22 in.
- Overall Length: 42.85 – 44.25 in.
Savage arms repurposed and tuned their 15 LR and chambered it specifically in the .224 Valkyrie for long distance shooting.
Hence the MSR (Modular Sniper Rifle), make no mistake this semi-automatic is built for extreme distance shooting and when you design a rifle for such a purpose, it needs to be pin-point accurate.
David Fortier from rifleshootermag.com ran the Savage Arms MSR 15 LR Valkyrie through its paces in an accuracy test.
Firing four five-shot groups at 100-yards from a bench rest.
|.224 Valkyrie||Bullet Weight (gr.)||Avg. Group (in.)|
|Federal Gold Medal Match BTHP||90||0.7|
|Federal/Nosler Ballistic Tip||60||0.8|
The impressive sub-MOA groupings at 100-yards are almost over shadowed when David Fortier decided to test the capabilities of the rifle at further distances.
David consistently hit small steel plates at speed from 400 to 580-yards out. He then moved up to 800-yards where the MSR 15 LR repeatedly hit the eight- and twelve-inch plates. That alone is enough to show just how accurate and precise the Savage Arms MSR 15 LR Valkyrie truly is.
Hera Arms 7SIX2 3040
- Caliber: .308 Win.
- Weight: 7 lb. 8 oz.
- Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 8 oz.
- Barrel Length: 20 in.
- Overall Length: 42.71 in.
The Hera Arms 7SIX2 is produced with a 1:11” twist which is flexible with lighter grained bullets such as the 150 grains and lower, which has a greater advantage for hunting.
During testing of eight various types of ammunition, the Hera Arms 7SIX2 achieved the best accuracy with the RWS 168-grain Target Elite Plus factory ammunition. The ammunition and rifle achieved an impressive 0.63” grouping at 100 yards.
Other impressive groupings, one of 0.74” was achieved with the Hornady 178-grain Precision Hunter factory cartridge and a grouping of 0.70” with a hand load 168-grain RWS Scorion match bullet.
CZ-USA Bren 2 MS Carbine
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO (.223 Rem available)
- Weight: 7 lb. 3 oz.
- Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 8 oz.
- Barrel Length: 16.5 in.
- Overall Length: 35.6 in.
Accuracy testing carried out by On Target Magazine contributor Dave Bahde on the CZ-USA Bren 2 MS Carbine, produced the results as shown in the table below.
Bahde complimented the Bren 2 Ms Carbine’s reliability while performing the range test. Through all shots fired there was not a single stoppage and the rifle’s accuracy was maintained throughout.
While the accuracy test was for 100-yards as shown below, it is worth noting that the Bahde achieved impressive accuracy at distance with the Black Hills 77-grain TMK where it grouped at 3-inches on 300-yards and a ten-shot round held tight within 2.5-inches at 200-yards.
Accuracy results are the averages of five 5-shot groups at 100-yards.
|Load||Bullet Weight (grains)||Average Group (in)|
|Hornady Frontier HP||55||1.00|
|Black Hill TSX||55||1.35|
|Barnes VOR-TX TSX||55||1.45|
|Black Hills TMK||69||1.50|
|Hornady Critical Defense||55||1.25|
Savage Model 64 TR SR V
- Caliber: .22LR
- Weight: 6 lb. 6 oz.
- Trigger Pull: 5 lb. 5 oz.
- Barrel Length: 16.5 in.
- Overall Length: 36.5 in.
From the testing conducted on the website gun-test.com the Savage produced groupings within the 1-inch range from the Federal Auto Match ammunition.
The Savage however, seemed to produce better accuracy recordings from the copper plated rounds. The CCI Mini-mag held an even tighter grouping measuring about 0.50 inches across.
An article published in “The Complete Book of Guns” in 2017 backs up the findings made by those done on gun-test.com on the Savage’s excellent accuracy. The table below shows the results from the test conducted with a five-shot group at 50-yards:
|Load||Velocity (fps)||Accuracy (inches)|
|Federal 40 Game-Shok High Velocity||1,113||0.65|
|Gemtech 42 Silencer Subsonic||1,163||0.55|
|Remington 40 Target||1,024||1.35|
Smith & Wesson M&P10
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Weight: 9 lb. 1 oz.
- Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 6 oz.
- Barrel Length: 20 in.
- Overall Length: 39.5 in.
A November 2017 review of the Smith & Wesson M&P10 appeared in an issue of Shooting Illustrated, the same review was later highlighted again on the NRA’s website.
In the article, features of the M&P10 that the author mentioned help to improve the rifle’s accuracy was the smooth two-stage match-grade trigger and the 20-inch carbon-steel barrel.
For the accuracy test five consecutive, five-shot groups at 100-yards were taken from a supported-prone position.
|Load||Bullet Weight (grain)||Average Group (in)|
|Federal Fusion MSR||140||1.20|
|Hornady SST (handload)||140||1.70|
|Hornady Precision Hunter||143||1.33|
DRD Tactical KIVAARI .338 Lapua
- Caliber: .338 Lapua Magnum
- Weight: 13 lb. 6 oz.
- Trigger Pull:
- Barrel Length: 24 in.
- Overall Length: 47 in.
Accuracy testing on the DRD Tactical Kivaari was carried out by firearm enthusiast Leroy Thompson, who has written 53 books and more than 3,000 articles on military, law enforcement, and firearms topics.
Leroy performed a 3-shot test at 100-yards and 300-yards with three different ammunition brands all weighing 250-grains. His results are shown below, it is worth noting however, that Leroy mentions during his testing that the Kivaari is entirely capable of consistently providing one MOA or less groups.
|Load||3 Shots at 100-yards||3 Shots at 300-yards|
|Black Hills 250-grain Sierra||1.87 inches||4.25 inches|
|Nammo (Lapua) 250-grain Scenar||1.5 inches||2.5 inches|
|Hornady 250-grain||1.87 inches||4.75 inches|
The .338 Lapua is synonymous is long-range hunting and accuracy. The tests performed support that reputation and to achieve a 2.5” grouping from a 250-grain bullet at 300-yards is impressive.
Sig Sauer MCX Virtus Rifle
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Weight: 6 lb.
- Trigger Pull: 5.5 – 9.5 lb.
- Barrel Length: 16 in.
- Overall Length: 35.5 in.
A note worth mention for the Sig Sauer MCX Virtus is the interchangeable cold hammer-forged 16” barrels, offering the shooter flexibility between the 5.56 NATO and .300 Blackout.
An in-depth review article of the Sig MCX Virtus, on the website thetruthaboutguns.com, an accuracy test at 100-yards was done using Eagle Eye Ammunition .223 Remington ammo.
The author noted how he was not a fan of the trigger, calling it a “crappy less-than-ideal trigger” but still managed a grouping of less than 1 MOA.
From a four-shot grouping the Sig Sauer MCX Virtus achieved a ¾ MOA grouping which is twice as tight as a similar Beretta.
There is not many, possibly only a handful, of semi-automatic rifle’s that can boast a ¾ MOA at 100-yards from 3-shots.
Ruger AR-556 MPR .223 Rem
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Weight: 6 lb. 8 oz.
- Trigger Pull: 4.5 lb.
- Barrel Length: 18 in.
- Overall Length: 35 – 38.25 in.
Ruger’s Multi-Purpose Rifle (MPR) is vastly different from the original AR-556 that Ruger produced. The biggest difference is the barrel length and handguard. A longer barrel of 18” with a twist rate of 1:8 allows the rifle to handle various bullet weights from 35 grains to 77-grains.
This added barrel length provides a little more velocity at 50 feet per second.
Author, James Tarr for Rifle Shooter Magazine conducted a similar accuracy test to the one done by David Fortier.
The accuracy results below were obtained from an average of four five-shot groups at 100-yards from a sandbag rest. Five different ammo brands were used, three of those in the .223 Rem and two in the 5.56 NATO at a distance of 100-yards.
|Cartridge||Bullet Weight (gr.)||Average Group (in.)|
|Black Hills Sierra TMK||77||0.98|
|Black Hills Sierra OTM||77||1.37|
A sub-MOA at 100-yards on any rifle, whether it is semi-automatic or not, shows excellent accuracy. Putting together three or five-shot groupings consistently with different ammo brands and bullet weights is a clear sign of a rifle’s precision.
There would be an almost never-ending list to showcase each semi-automatic rifle’s accuracy testing, but from just the ones highlighted above it is clear to see that the Ruger AR-556 MPR, the Sig Sauer MCX Virtus and the Hera Arms 7SIX2 were the pick of the bunch.
Why not the Savage Arms MSR 15 LR Valkyrie? As impressive as it is in long distance accuracy and speed, in most hunting scenarios throwing a 90- or 60-grain bullet at an animal over 800-yards away, may not be the smartest choice.
For the three semi-automatic rifles chosen as most accurate, they all held their accuracy and precision to produce sub-MOA groupings but what set them apart from the others was the higher caliber. A higher caliber generally, however not a definite rule, produces higher harmonics which will influence the overall ballistics. To have those harmonics and still maintain tight groupings is impressive.