What makes a perfect hunting rifle is in the eye of the beholder, but McMillan thinks it created it with the short-action Legacy and long-action Heritage rifles in the company’s Custom Collection. To hedge their bet on perfection and its perception, the Custom Collection has many options to make it more likely that McMillan’s interpretation of perfection agrees with yours. That naturally comes at a custom gun price, so McMillan “standardized” many of the Custom Collection features to create a semi-custom line of Legacy and Heritage rifles, called the Sporting Collection. It was launched at the 2017 SHOT Show.
“With this new sporting line, what we tried to do is develop a high-quality precision hunting rifle,” says Craig Beckman, Marketing and Creative Media Manager for McMillan’s parent company, Strategic Armory Corps. “A really big problem that we have experienced at McMillan over the years is that you typically have a six- to nine-month lead time on a custom rifle. When people call, they want to know two things — what’s the price, and how long is it going to take. So we’ve tried to create this Sporting line in a way that you have only so many options. It’s not a custom rifle, but it’s not your standard production gun, either. You do have some options, mostly in the stock and stock color, but at a reduced cost and reduced lead time.”
That pursuit for custom perfection in a semi-custom gun begins with the same McMillan G32 action used in the Custom Collection. It is machined from a solid billet and incorporates what McMillan calls the most significant trends in contemporary firearms engineering. “It’s machined in-house,” explains Beckman, “and has many features not previously made available in McMillan rifles.”
Related: Tips for Surveying Your Deer
One of those features is an anti-jam rail in the left bolt raceway. It prevents a round from getting stuck when single loading or loading the magazine. If you’ve ever tried to single-load in a hurry, you know some cartridges seem tailor-made to slip into the left lug raceway and hang up. The rail prevents that from happening. There is also an anti-bind in the right raceway to keep the action from binding up during rapid follow-up shots.
If those two features weren’t enough for the sake of reliability, McMillan dispensed with the redundant dual ejectors of past action designs and went all in with a single, robust plunger-type ejector and coats the bolt with NP3 for super-smooth movement. Extraction is by way of in internal hook extractor.
Anti-jams, anti-binds and NP3 coating may seem a little bit much, but the tolerances on this rifle are tight — really tight. Everything is built around a true centerline for concentricity and every perpendicular angle, including the bolt, action and barrel faces, as well as the surface-ground and pinned recoil lug are perfectly squared. A precise interface between the one-piece bolt and action is provided by bolt lug raceways cut using wire EDM where metal is removed at the molecular level.
The locking lugs are also hand-lapped for full contact with the result of all that attention to precision being a bolt that glides and closes effortlessly. You can literally feel a smooth mechanical exactness transmitted into your hand as you work the bolt. “McMillan has been around for 30 plus years,” says Beckman, “and we’re pretty well known for developing rifles that are very high quality and also very precise. A lot of the guys we have in the shop have 30 plus years of experience in building these rifles. (The Sporting Collection is) still hand-fit and finished. The quality is very comparable to what you’re going to get out of a much more expensive bolt-action rifle.”
That precision aside, McMillan made its name on stocks and with the Sporting Legacy you can currently choose between McMillan Hunter or Remington Hunter stock styles. Both are ultra-lightweight and incredibly strong. They differ mostly in that the Remington Hunter has a wider forend for shooters who like a more hand-filling shape or who may shoot from a stand or box blind that has a rest. The McMillan Hunter on the sample gun has a slight right-hand palm swell. It also has a comfortable cheekpiece that is high enough to perfectly center my eye in a 30mm Leupold LPS 2.5-10x45mm scope.
A walnut stock is under consideration and, regardless of stock, you’re assured hand pillar bedding to help increase accuracy. In addition to the pillar bedding, the action is generously glass bedded from the tang all the way to and including the recoil lug. The fit is very precise and the execution flawless clearly demonstrating those 30-plus years of gun-building experience and hand fit and finish. “I think you’re getting very similar fit, finish and quality as you would get out of a much more expensive custom rifle,” says Beckman. I think he’s right.
Further increasing accuracy is McMillan’s use of Bartlein barrels in the Sporting line. These free-floating barrels have single-point, cut-style rifling and are pre-lapped and honed for smoothness before rifling, and then further hand-lapped after rifling. The result is a smoothness that you can literally feel when pushing a tight cleaning patch down the bore. Such smoothness is a significant factor is minimizing fouling and maintaining accuracy over long shooting sessions.
While the Custom Collection uses a Jewell trigger, McMillan opted for a Triggertech unit in the Sporting Collection. “The nice thing about the Triggertech,” says Beckman, “is that it has clicks on the increments so instead of having to adjust it and [then] test it to figure out what your pull weight is, you can actually count the clicks and get a better idea of where you’re at.” Out of the box, the trigger came set at a really crisp 2½ pounds pull. The heaviest I was able to set it was 3.3 pounds and I stopped trying to lighten it at 1.1 pounds. Unfortunately, I was unable to determine an exact weight change consistency between clicks, though one click usually changed trigger pull weight about 0.1 pound.
For accuracy testing the sample .308 Win. rifle, I selected Nexus 175-grain Match ammunition because McMillan guarantees sub-MOA accuracy with it. I also selected Winchester’s Deer Season XP150-grain Extreme Point and Doubletap 165-grain Swift Scirocco II loads because this is a hunting rifle and you need to know its potential with factory hunting loads.
The Nexus loads really showed what this gun could do, averaging 0.79 inches for five five-shot groups at 100 yards. The smallest group was ½ inch, easily achieving McMillan’s accuracy guarantee. Winchester’s Deer Season XP is specifically designed for performance on typical whitetail deer. It averaged 1.03 inch and would be a great load in this gun for most whitetail hunters.
Doubletap’s load uses a much tougher Swift Scirocco II for heavier deer or bigger game, such as elk. It averaged 1.69 inches with the tightest group being 0.78 inch. Though it wasn’t the most accurate, it’s the load I chose when I took the Legacy to Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch in Bland, Missouri, for a recent hunt because the deer there are easily 250 to 300 pounds on the hoof and encountering even heavier deer there is possible.
In the field, the Legacy was a delightful rifle to carry. It’s light and responsive and its accuracy comforting when the moment of truth came for me across a clover food plot at 150 yards. Though my first shot was a little far forward, it anchored the buck where an immediate second Scirocco II closed the deal.
“[Our ideal hunter] is the domestic hunter,” Beckman tells me when describing who McMillan is targeting as their Legacy customer. “It’s the 35- to 55-year-old hunter who is looking to have a quality precision rifle that is semi-custom and really kind of focused on the quality and the precision of it.”
During our conversation, I realized Beckman was talking about a deer hunter such as me. An all-out custom rifle is simply beyond my means. While I own and am happy with several value-priced rifles, I also appreciate precision and attention to detail — especially when it comes with relative value — a rifle like the Legacy. The Sporting Collection is less expensive than McMillan’s Custom Collection for no other reason than there are fewer options available. That allows McMillan to still provide custom fit and finish while reducing lead time and cost without sacrificing quality, precision or accuracy.