Long Range ShootingPrecision RiflesSniper Rifles

Bolt Action Rifle Upgrades

A great deal of attention is dedicated to making our rifles more accurate. Shooters agonize over the best barrels, the stiffest actions, and the most rigid chassis. But for some reason, all too often they ignore the second largest part of the equation—making the user accurate. 

There are several upgrades that can make your bolt action rifle more accurate and shrink your groups, all of them talked about at length. But what gets ignored are the little parts and accessories that can make shooting easier, faster, and more fun. 

Below, we’ve curated a list of the best quality-of-life upgrades you can make to your bolt action precision rifle. 


There’s a lot of talk about how upgrading your rifle’s stock or chassis can improve your accuracy—taking some flex out of the system, free-floating the barrel, and generally improving consistency in bedding and fitment. What often gets ignored is how much upgrading to a more adjustable and customizable stock can improve your comfort with the rifle. 

Unless you specifically bought a premium bolt-action designed for long-range or target shooting, your rifle probably came with a fairly basic rifle stock installed. If you’re lucky, maybe it offers spacers to adjust the length of pull. 

Switching that out for a high-quality purpose-designed stock or chassis can make a world of difference in how your rifle feels in your hands. Not only can a good stock adjust for length of pull, but often also cheek riser height. Many offer customizable or replaceable grips, bag riders or hooks built into the stock to help you stabilize and pull the rifle into your shoulder pocket, even little creature comforts like thumb rests. Additional MLOK slots and sling attachment points further allow you to fine-tune your rifle’s ergonomics. 

All of these things work in concert to help you fit the rifle to your body, rather than try to fit yourself around the rifle. The result is greater stability, less muscle fatigue, and ultimately, just an easier time shooting. 

This won’t necessarily shrink your groups—especially if you were already proficient with your rifle as is—but it will make the process of getting those tiny groups easier, and often faster. With your stock or chassis properly configured, you’ll find the rifle settles into a stable, comfortable position much quicker. 


There’s not much worse than a great rifle with a bad trigger. It’s deeply frustrating to know that your rifle is mechanically accurate, but be unable to translate that accuracy to your actual group size or hit percentage. You watch your rifle print stellar groups from a bench rest, only to deliver a subpar performance at your next PRS match. 

Often, the cause is found in the trigger. While technically, the trigger does not affect raw mechanical accuracy, it’s the primary interface through which you engage with your rifle, and it has a huge impact on your ability to engage targets accurately, especially from field conditions. 

While a substandard trigger can generally be overcome through diligent training, a proper match-grade trigger is such a joy to use by comparison that we generally find it to be well worth the upgrade. Rather than fighting your trigger to get a clean break while remaining stable and on target, a good match trigger works with you, delivering a predictable moment of ignition with minimal travel and no grit or slop. 

A high-quality match trigger should offer a perfectly consistent pull time after time, with a predictable pre-travel, wall, and over-travel. This allows you to better learn and anticipate the pull in order to perfect your press and minimize rifle motion. Trigger weight is largely a matter of preference, but in general, match triggers are lighter than most factory triggers. All stages of the trigger should be smooth, with no grit or hang-ups. Of course, your trigger should in no way compromise the safety of your rifle to achieve these goals.  

Muzzle Devices 

Similarly, muzzle devices are one of those parts that don’t technically have much effect on how accurate the rifle itself is, but play a big part in how accurate the shooter can be. 

The big advantage of muzzle devices is, obviously, recoil reduction. Muzzle brakes, in particular, are efficient at redirecting expanding hot gasses generated by firing a bullet and using them to counteract the recoil, reducing the amount of recoil felt by the user. This can range from a slight decrease to a substantial one, and can often be the difference between losing the target after the shot and tracking it. 

Technically, of course, your ability to track the target during recoil has no effect on where the shot you just fired will impact. But, it can have a significant effect on your next shot. Tracking the target effectively allows you to gather information about the shot you just fired—spotting the impact or lack thereof, or sometimes even watching the trace of your bullet as it flies. 

Additionally, the recoil reduction can be particularly helpful for new shooters who are still working through eliminating their flinch, or those who are still sensitive to recoil. If you’re steeling against the pain of your rifle kicking against your shoulder before every shot, you’re not going to perform at your best or have a good time. Experienced marksmen don’t generally have this problem, but every experienced marksman started as a beginner at some point. 

Arca Rails 

Although common in photography, these are a relatively recent addition to the shooting world compared to most of the upgrades on this list. Arca rails offer flexibility and adjustability in a few key areas. 

Before Arca rails (and their various similar competitors) hit the scene, most accessories were attached to rifles via Picatinny rails or MLOK segments. Both of these technologies are effective, but neither was particularly agile. 

MLOK is low-profile but requires tools to change the location of an accessory. Picatinny accessories can often be had with quick-disconnect (QD) mounts that allow them to be removed and reinstalled without tools, but offer a finite amount of placement options. Picatinny also feels like a cheese grater in the hand, particularly if you are shooting without gloves. 

Arca rails solve the above problems by providing a surface that is easy to clamp to and offers infinite adjustability. Functioning much like an oversized dovetail, an Arca rail allows compatible accessories to be clamped anywhere along its length and their position changed by merely flipping a lever or turning a knob and sliding them to the desired location. 

This allows users to customize the position of accessories like bipods, bags, and barricade mounts on the fly. PRS and other long-range competitors discovered the value of the ARCA rail years ago, but even for casual shooters, they can be awfully convenient, particularly if you shoot from multiple positions. 

That said, if you shoot solely from a bench, their utility is largely moot; you probably won’t ever need to move any of your accessories. Try taking your bench rifle to a tank trap or a VTAC barricade, though, and you’ll quickly see the value in being able to adjust on the fly to fit your environment. 

Additionally, an ARCA rail can be a godsend if you frequently shoot from a tripod. Rather than work with unstable saddles or be stuck with a single point of attachment, an ACRA rail and compatible head let you fine-tune the balance of your rifle on the tripod. 

Typically, tripods are attached to the rifle at the balance point for maximum stablity and panning range when firing with only the tripod for support. But, you can achieve maximum stability by clamping to the front of the rail and utilizing a rear support such as a sandbag, similar to how you would use a bipod.. Then, if the elk you were lining up a shot on suddenly starts moving, you can also throw a lever and move your clamping position rearward to allow for easier panning, all in the span of a few seconds. The flexibility and security of the ACRA rail system are unmatched. 

Bolt Knobs 

If you do any of your shooting under a time constraint, an oversized bolt knob is an upgrade worth considering. There’s nothing wrong with any of the standard bolt knobs that come on most bolt-action rifles, but they do tend to get small and slippery when you’re sweating under the sun and trying to break your PR on a stage. 

Upgrading a larger, aggressively knurled knob takes just a bit of the stress out of cycling your rifle under a timer. They’re easier to grab and harder to slip off of, which makes it easier to run the bolt hard and avoid short-stroking. 

As with many things, an oversized bolt knob is far from a necessity, but if you’re still using the stock knob from your basic Remington 700 or Ruger American, you’ll almost certainly find it convenient. 

Anti-Cant Devices 

An anti-cant device of some variety is one of our most highly recommended upgrades to take some of the guesswork and frustration out of long-range shooting. 

There are a few different models of anti-cant devices on the market, ranging from simple spirit levels to electronic solutions like the Send iT level from MDT. Regardless of which model you prefer, the function is essentially the same; they provide instant, precise feedback about the cant of your rifle, allowing you to quickly and easily correct it. 

At shorter distances, cant is essentially a non-factor, but the farther your target is, the more important it will be that your rifle is not tilted to one side or the other. At a thousand yards or more, even just a slight cant to your rifle can turn a good shot into a miss. 

While careful positioning can minimize or sometimes eliminate cant, it’s much faster and easier to just glance at the level and adjust your rifle appropriately. 

Tilt Meters / Angle Cosine Indicators 

If the bulk of your shooting is done on a flat range, you can go ahead and skip this section. If, on the other hand, you live or shoot in mountainous territory where steeply angled shots are the rule rather than the exception, a tilt meter is well worth your consideration. 

Similar to anti-cant devices, tilt meters and ACIs provide immediate, precise feedback on the degree of angle of your rifle. Unlike anti-cant devices, you don’t use this information to correct the angle—if your rifle is pointed at the target, you’re at the correct angle, regardless of how steep it may be. Instead, you can use the angle measurement to true your ballistic calculator and firing solution. 

Angle can have a significant effect on your ballistic drop profile, and as with cant, can mean the difference between a hit or a miss at extended ranges. Equipping your rifle with a tilt meter takes the guesswork out of adjusting your ballistic calculator. 


If you’ve ever tried to fire a front-heavy rifle offhand, then you’re familiar with just how important weight distribution can be. A 12-pound rifle with the bulk of its weight in a hefty bull-barrel is going to be a lot harder to hold steady than a 12-pound bullpup with most of its mass behind your firing hand. In fact, even a heavier rifle may be easier to stabilize offhand if it has superior weight distribution. 

Many precision rifles feature long, thick barrels in order to maximize velocity and rigidity. This can, unfortunately, leave them rather front-heavy. Adding weight to the rifle is often the simplest and cheapest solution. 

This can be done with a weight kit, if one is available for your stock or chassis, or by simply adding heavy materials such as lead or tungsten shot for a more custom option. By adding weight to the rear of the rifle, you can shift its center of balance rearward. The inverse is also possible, for the rare rifle that is rear-heavy. 

Increasing the total weight of your rifle also has the secondary benefit of reducing felt recoil overall. Adding weight to the front of your rifle tends to be the most effective at countering muzzle rise, but any weight increase will increase inertia and result in a slight, but often noticeable reduction in felt recoil. 


When we upgrade our rifles, we tend to put most of our money into making them as accurate as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that—an inaccurate rifle isn’t very useful or fun to shoot. But, that can also mean simple quality-of-life upgrades go by the wayside. 

A more comfortable stock, smoother trigger, or reduced recoil from a muzzle brake or weight kit may not immediately shrink your groups the way a custom barrel can, but by making your regular practice easier and more pleasant, can help build your skills as a shooter and make the most of the accuracy of your rifle. 

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