Best Civilian Sniper Rifles

What are some of the best civilian sniper rifles? We’ll take a look at some here. But first, let’s discuss the sniper’s role so we understand the purpose of these rifles.

Sniper Duties

There is the assumption that a sniper’s main job is to shoot people. A sniper slithers into a position (usually on a rooftop) while stalking his quarry. He then, sometimes indiscriminately, shoots a victim or three. Following that, he slinks away undetected.

The reality is shooting is less an aspect of a sniper’s job than most people realize. Make no mistake, they are there to shoot when necessary. However, that is frequently less often than most people realize.

Intelligence gathering is a major part of a sniper’s duties. Intel is then sent back to a command element for various uses. It’s used for planning and helps the command element decide how to proceed with whatever operation is unfolding.

Author with a Remington 700.
The author, circa 1994, when he was part of a tactical team as a sniper. The rifle is a Remington 700 PSS in .308. Photo by Sue Davis.

As a law enforcement sniper, my job often entailed relaying information to give the command element a clear picture of what the perpetrators were doing. Information provided to command was perhaps how many hostages were involved and their exact location. Information could also include the nature of the building or area they were kept in, the best approaches for the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), and a host of other intel.

Yes, if necessary, we were tasked with tactically neutralizing perpetrators. Tactical Neutralization is a polite way of saying we’d shoot them in the brain stem, or the Medulla Oblongata, which instantly shuts their brain down. Most military general sniping scenarios don’t require that type of surgical accuracy; they’re mainly focused on hitting man-sized targets at extended ranges. This brings me to one of our next points: accuracy.

For the best civilian sniper rifles, how accurate should they be?

How accurate did we have to be? The Medulla Oblongata is about the size of your thumb. Yeah, that’s fairly small. At the very most, a sniper rifle for hostage rescue operations is a one MOA (Minute Of Angle) rifle. That means it can shoot an approximately one-inch group at 100 yards. More precision is even better.

As such, sniping for hostage rescue purposes often falls into the 100-yard range. Most people are shocked to learn that such a range is considered for sniping. Honestly, you can’t realistically expect to hit the Medulla (also known as the No-Reflex Zone) at long ranges. It’s foolhardy to try at 500 yards because the chance of missing that tiny target is high. But, what about a general sniper rifle?

It’s casually accepted that a sniper rifle should achieve at least one MOA accuracy. These days, most of them are capable of far better accuracy than that. 1/2-MOA is not at all unheard of. My issued sniper rifle, a Remington 700 PSS, was capable of about 1/2 MOA.

What is your want or need?

For those seeking a civilian sniper rifle, I ask: in what scenario do you expect to use this rifle?

I’ll go out on a limb and assume some might have a “Red Dawn” scenario going through their mind. It’s not the craziest idea in the world. We’re living in some seriously bizarre times; wouldn’t you agree?

How many of you want to be able to fight against invaders? Come on, let me see your hands. You won’t get any judgment from me. Or, perhaps you just want to defend your homestead from anyone wishing to harm you and yours from a long distance away.

Other folks might want a sniper rifle just to have one, like having an AR-15 or AK-47. The “I’ll own it just because I can” crowd. Our Constitution allows it, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Meanwhile, others might just like to hunt game animals with such a rifle. Competitive shooting is another avenue to use sniper rifles.

There are probably a few other scenarios that I’m not thinking of for why civilians want to own a sniper rifle, but you get the idea.

What Is a sniper rifle?

Military sniper rifles are very rare for civilians to access and, in the cases where they can, very expensive. Let’s look at some desirable characteristics of sniper rifles:

  • Deadly and accurate at extended range.
  • Made for precision, repeatable adjustment in both the sighting system and rifle.
  • Durable and rugged enough to stand up to extreme conditions.
  • Chambered in a high-powered cartridge capable of performing at long range.
  • (Possibly) compatible with a sound suppressor to hide the shot signature.
  • A heavy barrel to minimize the effects of heat and deliver superior barrel harmonics.

Historically, bolt-action rifles were used. Over recent decades, semi-auto systems have been used more and more. However, the more moving parts a weapon has the less precision it typically exhibits. Ultimately, does a sniper rifle have to be fancy? Not really.


Ideally, it’s a good idea for the user to have some sniper training. You can hit the battlefield with your trusty rifle with the idea “Imma shoot some stuff here.” That’s all well and fine. However, do you really know what you’re doing?

Are you aware of escape routes set up from your hide? Do you know what a hide is? Do you know which type of targets you’re intending to hit and which ones deserve your bullet? Can you bounce the report of your rifle off objects to make it sound as though your shot came from a different area? Are you aware shooting from deep inside a building will at least partially mask the report of your rifle? Have you ever coordinated your actions with other snipers or support personnel to work in concert? Have you practiced camouflage and stalking?

A true sniper has been trained and is quite a bit more than just picking up a rifle and deciding to shoot something.

Best Civilian Sniper Rifles

Since the article is about rifles, I reckon I’d better get to that part, eh? Let’s look at a few that might work for you.

Accuracy International AXMC Multi Caliber Rifle System

This bolt-action rifle is impressive! It can be configured in three different calibers: .338 Lapua, .300 Winchester Magnum, or .308 Winchester. Caliber changes are accomplished by switching out the barrel, bolt, and magazine. It comes standard in .338 Lapua and a 10-round box magazine.

The chassis is a work of art with quick adjustable length of pull (LOP) and comb height to customize it to any shooter. The stock also folds for more compact storage.

Accuracy International AXMC.
The AXMC from Accuracy International has all the bells and whistles. A highly adjustable and customizable chassis, rail system, and interchangeable calibers round out the package. The price matches the fanciness. Photo by WordPress.

Shooters can also configure the pistol grip with interchangeable back straps. A two-stage trigger contributes to extreme accuracy. A full-length M1913 Picatinny rail spans the top of the entire receiver and handguard, giving lots of room for mounting any sort of optic. The handguard has key slots for mounting accessories, bipods, and a sling. A double-chamber muzzle brake is standard for reducing recoil. However, a threaded barrel is available for a suppressor.

Brace yourself, because the weight of this rifle is substantial; it weighs 15 pounds with an empty mag and no scope. The barrel length is 27 inches with an overall length of 49.2 inches. The rifle is available in several colors to match various environments.

This rifle is built from the ground up for sniping. Period. It’s a stellar choice if you want to undertake that sort of mission. The heavy weight and high price tag are two downsides to this choice. This one sells for over $5,000 — scope not included.

Savage 110 Tactical

Savage has a long history of producing very accurate rifles and that is why it made this list of best civilian sniper rifles. Their Model 110 bolt-action is intended for sniping purposes and is available in several calibers: .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, and 6mm ARC. In addition, the bolt handle is oversized, which is a nice touch.

The length-of-pull and comb height are adjustable for each shooter. The Accu-Trigger is adjustable too. The 20-inch barrel is threaded (comes with a muzzle protector) so a suppressor can be added. The magazine capacity is 10 rounds.

Savage 110 Tactical rifle.
Savage’s 110 Tactical rifle is a basic package the delivers the goods. The length-of-pull and comb are both adjustable. It is economically priced. Photo by Shooting Times.

Weight is a very reasonable 7.38 pounds. Conveniently, the forend includes two sling swivel studs so a bipod is easily added. A one-piece Picatinny scope rail adorns the top of the receiver for easily mounting a scope.

MSRP for this rifle is $889, but it’s available on the street for well under that. Overall, this is an excellent choice because of its potential accuracy and capacity. It’s very adjustable to fit each shooter.

Remington 700

Since about the 1960s, the US military’s sniper weapon of choice has mostly been the Remington Model 700. It has a long history and is still in use by many agencies. The Army designated it the M24 while the Marine Corps designated it the M40. After all, if it’s good enough for the military, it should be among the best civilian sniper rifles. Aftermarket accessories and support for this platform are surpassed by few weapons in history. Undoubtedly, parts and accessories abound for this rifle.

As a law enforcement sniper, I was issued the Remington 700 PSS, which was excellent. The Remington’s SPS (Special Purpose Synthetic) Tactical rifle is the one listed on Remington’s website at the time of writing. I’ve used one of these in the past. They’re truly excellent and extremely accurate. They feature a heavy, 20-inch barrel. The Hogue stock is comfortable and adequate for use, although it’s not as high-tech as those used on some other rifles.

Remington 700 SPS Tactical rifle.
Remington’s 700 SPS Tactical is one of their current options. The 700 has been used by law enforcement agencies and militaries for decades and has a huge support industry backing it. Photo by

The recessed bolt face locks up inside the counter-bored breech and is surrounded by the receiver. As a result, this forms three rings enclosing the cartridge case head and offers a lot of strength. The integral magazine holds four rounds of .308 Winchester. This rifle weighs in at 7.5 pounds and is priced in the low $700 range.

This rifle is one of the more “Plain Jane” rifles on the list, but it’s effective.

Ruger American Predator

This Ruger American Predator is another “Plain Jane” rifle delivering a lot for the price. This is part of why it makes this list of best civilian sniper rifles. The American Predator comes with a 22″ free-floated medium-weight barrel. The barrel is also threaded for a suppressor and includes a thread protector. The removable magazine holds four rounds and comes in a wide range of calibers. The synthetic stock is not adjustable. Weight is a very light 6.6 pounds.

A sniper in a ghillie suit armed with a Ruger American Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor.
A ghillie-clad sniper armed with a Ruger American Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor. This rifle is no-frills but huge on accuracy and is inexpensive. Photo by Rebecca Davis.

This rifle has an exceptionally great trigger. It’s light, crisp, and adjustable by the shooter. Of course, the one-piece Picatinny rail mounted on the receiver makes it a snap to mount a scope.

Despite the Plain Jane nature of this rifle, it’s capable of astounding accuracy. I’ve obtained 1-1/8 inch groups at 200 yards with the 6.5 Creedmoor. This rifle sells in the mid-$500 range and some come as a package with a Vortex scope already mounted. For the price, this one is impossible to beat.

The Bottom Line

Competent training goes a long way in a sniper’s ability to operate effectively in the field. You can give an incompetent person the most state-of-the-art rifle and they will likely yield mediocre results at best. Conversely, a highly trained sniper can accomplish a lot with a simple, unsophisticated rifle.

As Gunny Hathcock used to say, “It’s the nut behind the butt.” In other words, Hathcock meant the shooter is more important than the type of rifle. That makes the real difference. These days, you don’t need to spend a mint or have the latest and fanciest gear to have an effective sniper rifle. However, you need to know what you’re doing. Training will facilitate that.

This list of the best civilian sniper rifles is by no means all-inclusive. Rather, this is a tiny sampling of what’s out there.  Some research will turn up many more prospects to meet your needs. Happy hunting!

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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