There is an ongoing debate as to whether someone should purchase a semi-automatic rifle or a bolt-action rifle for long-range precision shooting. There are a few key variances in both which make them very different, and probably contribute to the wide divergence in opinion. Typically, the bolt-action precision rifle is considered more accurate than a semi automatic. However, this depends on numerous factors with regard to both firearm and ammunition, and modern semi-automatic rifles can be exceptionally accurate when designed with long-ranging shooting in mind. Some of the factors that precision shooters take into consideration when accuracy is discussed between the two platforms are:

  • Recoil
  • Gas release
  • Moving components

Recoil

The bolt-action rifle, when fired, has only one stage of recoil, this being recoil to the rear—into the shooter’s shoulder pocket. The semi-auto precision rifle, when fired, has three stages of recoil: One being to the rear as the bullet exits the muzzle, another to the rear as the bolt slams into the buffer, and the final stage as the bolt slams forward, picking up an additional cartridge. Because the bolt-action rifle has only a single stage of recoil to the rear, some shooters find they can “drive the rifle” in a superior manner to semi-automatic rifles.

Gas release