Did the HS Precision Pro Series SA SPL achieve benchrest accuracy without the weight? L.P. Brezny puts one in .25 WSSM to the test.
With H.S. Precision sitting almost in my backyard out here in western South Dakota it is easy to get a look at their product line. And I really like the Pro Series 2000 SA SPL varmint rifle. The SA stands for short action and the SPL means Sporter Light.
H.S. apparently believes there is a real need for a very cool ultra lightweight centerfire rifle out there in the prairie dog towns, speed goat water holes, and over those calling rigs when taking on coyotes and other related critters. They are right. When first shouldering the rifle that was equipped with a Leupold 4X12 VX-II scope, I found that the total weight of the complete rig lacking rounds in the magazine was under six pounds.
With an ultra light pencil thin barrel that is fluted to again drop off excess heat and weight the slim sporter benefits from a lightweight stock in a composite material. It also has an all-steel magazine well but still retains the heft of a 22 rimfire rifle. With all that, the rifle can still be chambered with the power of a heavy centerfire cartridge locked inside its slim custom stocked wrapper.
The Pro Series I was introduced to for testing and review by H.S. Precision was chambered in 25 WSSM, a very versatile critter control cartridge, as well as a very effective whitetail, pronghorn, or mule deer round. I have tended to lean toward the 25 WSSM out in the open West quite often, as I do own several other rifles chambered in this cartridge. When it came to live fire testing the new rifle handloads came to the forefront. With a set of Redding dies in a three-unit set I can buy new Winchester brass, or resize and neck up both .223 WSSM, or 243 WSSM of which I have about a lifetime supply sitting around the storage room currently.
What was of real interest here was possibly obtaining an answer to the question regarding how well the new H.S. Precision rifle could take on the temperamental super short 25 caliber round as a handloaded affair? Many a riflemen has met his handloading match trying to get the most out of this cartridge, and I am no exception to the rule. The fact is simple, 25’s in super short cases can be a devil to work with at times.
First up was the need to create a load for sighting in the rifle. I settled on of 51.5 grains of Ramshot Hunter, Federal LR primer, and an 87-grain Speer TNT bullet. The once-fired factory nickel-plated brass needed some additional work beyond a simple resizing in the full-length Redding die. The cases were first run across a torch so as to anneal them a bit softer, and with luck increase case life a bit.
These Winchester plated cases can be tough to work with because they are also heavy, with very thin walls. At times they move through a reloading die quite stubbornly. I was in luck however, as my first series of loads ran smoothly without any problems. With a muzzle velocity of 3,500 fps these would be hard-hitting missiles out on the open prairie.
When chambering the Super Shorts as once-fired handloads in a rifle that is not dead-on perfect in terms of its chamber reaming, the WSSM can hang up, or simply not feed. In some rifles I had to rotate the chambered case by hand to find the original position at which the case had been previously fired. But as a testament to, well, the precision of H.S. Precision this rifle fed and functioned perfectly with handload or factory rolled ammo, including the 110-grain Accu-Point from Winchester.
Not a single element of chamber problems was found. Accuracy H.S. Precision rifles are 10 X cut-rifled. That’s old school my friends, and what it means is that using WWII-era methods of rifling a barrel to insure the lands and grooves are sharp edged and don’t tend to build up bullet jacket material. This helps maintain accuracy. These rifles shoot straight. I am basing that on this test rifle as well as the several others I have reviewed over the past several years. In terms of barrel length the buyer has a choice that ranges from 22, 24 or a 26-inches.
Action bedding is reinforced block style, but in the case of the H.S. rifle stock this is a full-length operation and not just pillar bedded at the magazine well. When ordering a rifle the buyer has a choice in opting for 16 different stock colors and patterns. From camo to bright blue the choice is yours. For those that desire it a muzzle break can be installed at the factory for a small fee.
On the first day on the range I was able to shoot moa groups at 100 yards via my home-rolled Speer-capped fodder. This shooting was done off a very simple light plastic portable bench and rest by Case-Gard. With a move to a Big Shooter heavy prairie dog shooting bench that was truck mounted for mobile field use things improved to the point that this lightweight field rifle was shooting like a bench-rest rifle.
H.S. Precision indicates that all their rifles are test fired in house, and a paper group is sent with the finished rifle. These rifles are expected to shoot sub 1/ 2 moa or better. If it does not the rifle is rejected for commercial sale. The following are accuracy results as produced with handloads and factory ammunition.
Note the consistent accuracy produced by a pencil-pipe rifle barrel that measures just .554 inches at the muzzle, and 1.180, or at the receiver ring.
I should also mention that this barrel has deep flutes to dissipate heat buildup when shooting multiple rounds. Without question the light contour of the barrel would suggest a hunter’s tool, versus a “bang-and-reload” high-volume prairie dog shooter.
For the most part coyotes, big game, and even large rodents (woodchucks) are single-round targets anyway. The new H.S. Precision rifle fits the task at hand regarding both game and varmints. Trigger function as applied to the Pro Series 2000 is outstanding right out of the box. There is only a sharp crisp hand-made single-stage trigger with let off that is easy to master after only a few rounds sent down range.
Hunters should understand that these rifles are about as close to a hand-built custom at an over-the-counter price as you’re going to see. All the rifle parts are built at H.S. Precision from raw steel stock.
No foreign parts, and even the H.S stocks on these rifles, totally hand-made in-house, have become world renowned for their ability to deliver accuracy and years of dependability.
With a basic action design much like the Winchester Model 70 in terms of the safety function (three-position) which is never a bad thing, the turn bolt H.S. Precision tends to move cartridges as smoothly as a ball bearing that is rolling on glass.
With the safety engaged the bolt is locked. This makes the rifle saddle ready and safe when packing into rough country. However, with the half safe position engaged, the bolt is functional.
With the button-type extractor and a double forward lug locking system the bolt design tends to take on a Remington Model 700 appearance. When checking the lug contact points for any excess slop or misalignment I found none.
These rifles have been blue printed with care. All metal fit is very exact, and it shows when accuracy is taken into account. This flat-surface Teflon-coated action is available in both long and short versions. Action length, of course, would depend on the choice of cartridge.
Because the Sporter Lightweight model an ultra light carry rifle I would suggest that some thought be given over to the choice in cartridge. The short action is without question the preferred style in my opinion, and in some ways the Pro Series 2000 in the Sporter Lightweight owes this action length in terms of a very good fit for the overall rifle design.
To mash a long action on the Sporter Lightweight seems to me to be counter-productive in a way. Why not just shoot a larger rifle when long-action rounds are getting the call?
Field carry of this rifle was nothing short of a dream. I hunted the northern Black Hills for lion during my review period. This area offers very rugged slopes, and requires a light rifle with other well designed pack gear. I found the Series 2000 Sporter Lightweight to be a pure joy to haul around.
Balance is outstanding for fast offhand shooting, and because the action is dependable and smooth, the short fat 25 WSSM rounds fed with ease each and every time. This has not always been the case regarding the WSSM family of cartridges as applied to different bands of rifles being both custom built and factory offerings.
With the American hunting population getting older every day I know for a fact that many hunters are searching for that single rifle that can just about do it all and carry like a 22 rimfire when going afield. The H.S. Precision Pro Series 2000 Sporter Lightweight is the answer.
This article appeared in the August 2, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.