When I started the “Budget Precision .223” project- I had high hopes. Hopes that I’d like a bolt action rifle in .223, hopes that I’d find a great load, hopes that everything would work together (including the LEE Deluxe Challenger Press Kit), and most of all that I’d have fun. Well, all of those things came to reality, and I even had some unexpected discoveries along the way! In this post, I’ll officially wrap up the series, and share some of the results and things I’ve learned in the process.
Quick Links: Budget Precision .223
For reference: here are all of the installments in this series: (see these posts for product page links)
- Budget Precision .223: Project Kick-Off and TC Compass Setup
- Budget Precision .223: LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit Unboxing and Setup
- Budget Precision .223: Case Prep and Sizing
- Buget Precision .223: Priming, Charging, Seating
- Budget Precision .223: Results and Conclusion (you are here)
As noted in the video, I may share additional supplements based on future experiences with this setup, but formally I’ll consider this series “done”.
The goal with this project was to come in under $600. for the rifle + optic + core reloading gear setup. So how did we do? Here’s an updated list of gear with prices:
|TC Compass Rifle (.223)||$208.00||*With rebate (10/2017), reported via YouTube by bongojim420|
|CenterPoint 4-16 Scope||$69.99||*Amazon prime, free shipping|
|LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit||$189.95||*On sale at Midsouth Shooters Supply 08/2017|
|LEE Ultimate Rifle Die Set||$42.51||*On sale at Midsouth Shooters Supply 08/2017|
That leaves almost $75.00 worth of additional “room” for other accessories or components (rifle sling, bipod, …). I say “mission accomplished”!
The TC Compass is listed as a “sub-MOA” rifle, and when I started this project I wanted to see “just how small” I could get my groups. With factory ammunition (PMC Gold 55 grain FMJ) I was seeing right around 1″ groups at 100 yards (about 1 MOA). I had a feeling this rifle could do better! And with my first loads using starline brass (loaded progressively) I saw a less-than-5/8″ group:
“Wow” I thought- that’s already way better than the 1 MOA guarantee, and during fire-forming no less! I proceeded to work through various loads with H-335, Varget, and Benchmark, and found that my original load performed the best, especially when loaded with the Breechlock Deluxe Challenger Press Kit:
That’s right! 5 shots into 1/3″. As you can see in the photo above, for this load my scope was not perfectly zeroed, but of course that has no bearing on rifle precision testing and results. I am confident that with further load development and testing that this rifle could produce groups in the 1/4″ range. However, I don’t feel the need to improve on this group- it’s under the 1/2 MOA goal I had set for myself, and I’m really happy with this accomplishment, especially with the budget constraints.
Here’s the load data for the “winning formula” (actually H-335 did better contrary to Varget being mentioned in video):
- Cartridge: .223 Remington
- Brass: Starline .223, new
- Bullet: Hornady .224 53 grain HPBT Match
- Primer: Federal Small Rifle
- Powder: Hodgdon H-335 ball powder, 21.5 grains
Use load data at your own risk. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors in load data on this website. Always cross-reference load data with manufacturer’s published data.
LEE Deluxe Challenger Press Kit
This kit is awesome! For under $200. street price (when you find a good deal), I don’t think you can beat this kit for an entry-level precision reloading setup. All you need to add is components and dies and you’re ready to roll. The press features the LEE Breech Lock quick-change die setup, and also enables priming on the press when you need to do so. Priming off the press is simple and straightforward with the included LEE Auto Bench Prime (special shellholders included), trimming is simple with the LEE quick trim (trim die for your cartridge not included), the LEE Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure is great, and the “Modern Reloading” manual is a must-have in my book.
This kit includes all of the fundamentals you’ll need to load precision rifle, and there are several pieces of gear (safety scale for example) that are great to have on-hand even if you upgrade (to an electronic scale for example). This setup includes everything you need to get started, and nothing you don’t need!
After spending more time with the TC Compass (see my story on the .308 version as a complement to this .223 series) I’m really liking this rifle. For the price (as little as the low-$200.’s) it’s hard to beat. With its 5-R rifling precision barrel (including threaded muzzle), pillar bedded synthetic stock, adjustable trigger, and 1 MOA guarantee, the TC Compass over-delivers at its price-point!
The CenterPoint 4-16 power scope delivers a solid value! At $69. delivered with rings it’s hard to believe how good the sight picture on this scope looks. One complaint for this rifle is how high the rings are- it would benefit from “low” rings for this particular rifle application. That being said, the package held zero well, and I was able to deal with the somewhat-difficult ergonomics.
In .223, the TC Compass really shines. The Compass’ light-weight construction is well suited for the mild recoil of .223, and I found the rifle to handle well. It’s a bonus that you can shoot 5.56 ammunition in this rifle (with its higher pressure requirements) – so you can pretty much shoot any .223/5.56 ammunition found in stores or loaded on your bench. If you’re looking for a good inexpensive varmint rifle, a plinking rifle, or a youth-friendly rifle package, the TC Compass is worth looking at!
I had a lot of fun with this content series! I’m looking forward to shooting this rifle with my kids, and I’ll continue to spend time behind the trigger for sure. I’m also thinking about future projects as an extension of this one, and have a ton of ideas.
Are you shooting a .223 bolt rifle? Do you have a TC Compass you’ve loaded precision ammunition for? I’d love to hear your experiences, please leave a comment!