Ashbury International Group, Inc and Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO) are not household names, particularly among the hordes of AR aficionados, but among ultra long range, reach out and touch you professionals, the Charlottesville, Virginia company represents top tier among the small community of craftsmen dedicated to the perfection of the 21st century precision bolt-action rifle.
CEO Morris Peterson arranged for a live-fire long-range precision rifle demonstration in the lofty environs of the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Near the alluring Seneca Rocks outdoor adventure area, Allegheny Mountain rises 3,000 feet above the valley floor. The air is clear, the sun is penetrating, and the precipitous old hills are covered with trees and carpets of plush green pasture. It’s an extreme-range plunging fire paradise.
ALLEGHENY SNIPER CHALLENGE
This 800-acre farm is also the home of the infamous Allegheny Sniper Challenge competition, infamous because of its difficult terrain, weather extremes, acute shooting angles, strong winds, and the effects that density at altitude has on man and his ammunition.
Conceived and run by long-time shooters and climbers Rob Hansen, Jon Markwell, Brian Davis and Matt Pyle, this biannual three-day all-comers shoot has been testing riflemen’s mettle since 2001. The only rules are that rifles are restricted to .30 caliber or below, and ammunition velocity must not exceed 3,110 feet-per-second (fps). The shooter must carry all his gear from shooting point to shooting point and is allowed a spotter.
The most unusual aspect of the match is that the outcome relies solely on the shooter’s integrity. The shooter records and reports his score at the end of the competition. Needless to say, no one to date has attained a perfect score. The principals agreed that this experience would be extremely beneficial for military or civilian contractor snipers before deploying to countries like Afghanistan.
At the long-range precision rifle demonstration I attended, APO’s motto, “Wield a wicked stick,” was amply manifested at each shooting point, where AR 500 steel targets were whacked hard at ranges of a few hundred yards to over a mile with the exotic APO ordnance on hand. Forty-nine seasoned military, police, government agency, and civilian shooters climbed the mountain to experience these weapons and pick up shooting pointers from gun gurus like MSgt. Jim Gilliland, U.S. Army Airborne.
As a then-staff sergeant with the call sign Shadow Six, he executed the longest recorded sniper kill in Iraq at 1,367 yards, with a 7.62x51mm sniper rifle. In addition to being a highly accomplished competitor and trainer, Jim is a consummate Southern gentleman. To this particular martial gathering, he brought his charming wife Melissa, a noted up-andcoming shooter in her own right and TAC Girl calendar pin-up.
Two more firing points with medium and large calibers were spread out on the mountain. Bore diameters and chambers ranged from .223/5.56x45mm to .50 BMG. By the time the final cease fire was called, a small fortune in ammunition had been expended to familiarize participants with APO’s exquisite instruments of freedom.
Naturally, the macho macro calibers seemed to attract the most shooters. With .375 Chey Tac (CT) and .50 BMG caliber Asymmetric Warrior (ASW) and SuperSport bolt blasters, marksmen hammered a very tricky higher altitude target over a mile distant. Without suppressor, the ASW 50 with muzzle brake violently rearranged grass, weeds and people that composed the position as soon as the controlled detonation was touched off, but left the shooter unfazed. Well before surrounding debris returned to a steady state, he was tickling the trigger for a follow-up shot.
APO’S EXOTIC HARDWARE
My first stop was with Melissa, where a Remington 700 .300 Blackout (BO) in a SABER Sporter Modular rifle chassis equipped with 762 SD suppressor, along with an APO TCR 6.5 Creedmoor (CM) tactical competition rifle with Nightforce 5.5-22X56mm NXS scope on a GDI mount were positioned. Also located at this station were super-accurate .223- and .308-caliber rifle systems.
Proned out behind the .300 BO, Melissa lobbed high-precision RUAG 220-grain subsonic Whisper loads at a shaded and difficult-to-spot 200-yard steel target placed in a low-lying meadow with plunging fire.
After the first round fouled the suppressor, each launch signature was a subdued psssssssssh, without any muzzle flash or ballistic crack. Not satisfied with her prone performance, she raised the 14-pound rifle to a standing offhand stance. With a bit more pause and deliberation, she thwacked the armor plate target again and again with sustained accuracy. Needless to say, the quiet BO was one of her favorite pieces on the mountain.
Shifting to her right, she spent an equal amount of time behind the TCR 6.5mm CM. Hornady’s flat shooting, 129-grain SST Super Performance round owns a superb ballistic coefficient, and at 2,950 fps routinely slapped another metal silhouette six-plus football fields downrange.
After she’d unintentionally put some of the male SWAT shooters to shame, Melissa and I caught the four-passenger ATV that functioned as a mountaintop bus for the shooters. We passed the middle station that featured the big bores and dismounted at the medium-caliber station, where we found bench-rested .300 Winchester Magnum (WM) and .338 Lapua Magnum (LM) suppressed rifles ready to go. As we selected a weapon, the range officer and spotter Brian commented that the thinner mountain air was fostering higher-than-average velocities with the ammunition, and little elevation had to be cranked in on the scopes to connect with the 600-yard target high up on the grassy slope.
We had to be especially precise here, as sheep and the occasional sheep dog wandered back and forth over the geographical crest. RUAG .338 .250-grain and .300 WM 200-grain OTM projectiles climbed the mountainside like soupedup Russian SAM missiles—each at approximately 2,850 fps—delivering tons of kinetic energy on the 600-yard steel plate. Interestingly, the spotter would observe and call the hit before we were rewarded with a faint clang from the high-ground target.
The 15-plus pound Asymmetric Warrior .338 LM (ASW 338 LM) is a ten-round removable magazine-fed repeater that is mounted without bedding in an advanced SABER-FORSST modular chassis and paired with a super-slick Surgeon XL-II bolt-action receiver.
Fire control is derived from a smooth 3.5-pound two-stage trigger. Accuracy is realized via a sub-MOA 20- or 27-inch Rock Creek or Bartlein 1:9.4 twist, five grooves, stainless steel Pinnacle Series barrel, tipped with an AAC muzzle brake/flash hider that is suppressor ready. For ease of travel and storage, the ASW features a fully adjustable pushbutton folding shoulder stock.
Our rifle was quieted with an AAC Titan QD titanium can and equipped with a Schmidt & Bender 5-25x56mm PM-II day optic. Overall weight was increased to approximately 19 pounds. Great things were expected and received from this rifle, since the .338 LM currently holds the world record for the longest recorded sniper shot.
The middle station hosted the big boys. This time the steel target was over a mile away up a slope that looked like it doubles as a ski jump in the winter. Trying to see it with the naked eye was a challenge. I wondered which one of the Allegheny Sniper Challenge boys humped it up the mountain.
Both the ASW 50 and the .375 CT SuperSport XLR attracted the most male attention. For a number of guys, this was the first time they had fired anything over thirty caliber. Members of various three-letter agencies in attendance also focused on these ultra-long-range pieces. Jim Gilliland and Matt Peterson spent hours coaching and spotting for the shooters.
It was also fun to watch inexperienced heavy-caliber riflemen approach each weapon with a bit of trepidation only to see them break out in broad smiles when they were neither bruised nor busted up by the anticipated, but remarkably absent, massive recoil.
Weight, excellent ergonomics, and muzzle brakes made these big bang sticks tolerable enough to shoot multiple- round strings. All ASW rifles—regardless of caliber—have similar profiles, but of course differing dimensions. With frequent public exposure in news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, the popular and highly respected .50-caliber bolt or semi-auto rifle has become sort of ho-hum, but the .375 Chey Tac has not.
.375 CT SUPERSPORT XLR
Originally developed by Jamison International from a necked-down .408 CT cartridge and in current collaboration with APO, the .375 Chey Tac will throw a 350-grain Sierra Match King downrange with a muzzle velocity of 3,100+ fps. While not employed as frequently as the .338 LM in current combat zones, the .375 CT has successfully engaged targets well beyond 3,000 yards and, under the right conditions, could potentially snatch the .338 LM’s sniper record.
The newest rifle in the APO inventory, the 18-pound clean and 21.5-pound rifle with day optics, bipod and sevenround detachable box magazine enjoys a 2/3 component interchangeability with small- and medium-caliber barrelled actions.
Six pounds lighter than APO’s big fifty, it will easily compete with the 12.7x99mm at extended ranges. Roughly the equivalent in weight of the M249 SAW but only ¾-inch longer with stock folded, it is readily deployable with troops on the move and yet will give the infantry platoon tremendous direct-fire reach. Its strength and lightness are directly attributable to its aerospace aluminum and carbon reinforced composite construction.
A triumph of engineering, the .375 CT Super Sport XLR has found the intricate balance between weight and mobility. Rifles of this genre are highly valued by the troops, because with them, snipers can provide direct overwatch support for ultra-extended distances— often well beyond the limits of normal visual reconnaissance.
Its action features a new Saber VX bolt repeater with the concept rifle built on a re-engineered L8000 and Barker Overwatch receivers. This action is married to a 1:10.5 twist, 28-inch 416 stainless steel, fluted Pinnacle, hand-lapped, 11-degree crowned match-grade barrel. It’s completed by a proprietary Arclight muzzle brake or optional EliteIron sound moderator. A tactical two-stage Huber 3.5-pound trigger rounds out the fire control system.
All this is cradled in the SABER– FORSST SVX-A1 MOD 1 SuperSport Modular chassis with heat-dissipating Quattro Alloy Series SuperSport ergonomic and enclosed free-floating and accessory flexible forend. The forend’s rail system and integrated rigid bolt-action center-chassis section have many mechanical features that the sniper can recruit to customize the weapon to his individual requirements.
For transport, storage or airborne operations, the .375 CT SuperSport XLR’s fully adjustable stock folds at the push of a button. The stock also has an adjustable monopod and Limbsaver Custom recoil pad. A plethora of other features are part of the system. Multiple colors are available with Cerakote finish.
At this juncture, only the .338 LM and .50 caliber of the big three have armorpiercing capability, but with a properly designed penetrator bullet, the .375 would make light armored and armored assault vehicle personnel very, very uncomfortable, especially if no other supporting arms were available.
Space precludes examining every APO Wicked Stick that was on the mountain, though they might be subjects of future articles. What I wanted to convey was APO’s willingness to expose their weaponry to the judgement of critical end users not for just a magazine’s worth of shooting, but for an extended period of time under challenging target conditions.
In addition, even the most casual reader will realize that APO has spared no expense in incorporating the finest and most advanced materials into their specialized ordnance. Lastly, I wanted to introduce you to some of the country’s finest patriots, who continue their efforts to protect America and preserve what liberty we still have.