The Rock

27 July 2001
By Mike Miller

Fate has strange ways of introducing common people to extraordinary ones. Two years ago I answered a for-sale ad for a .50 BMG rifle on the Emporium and, to make a long story short, I found a great rifle smith. His name is George Gardiner.

A while back, George and I were shooting the... you know what... and generally designing in our minds the best all-around sniper rifle. George asked what I thought, and I replied that it had to be light enough for a fat old guy to haul around, shoot 1/2moa, and be "Rock Tough." I also required it launch factory loaded 175 grain ammunition to a velocity that matched the BDC of the M40 knobs by US Optics or the 30-06 BDC wheel for the Leupold MK4 M3 scope. It had to be capable of first-round hits to eight-hundred yards under field conditions, and one-thousand yard 1moa groups on a range. I wanted it all.

The list grew rapidly from there:

  1. 308 Winchester

  2. 22", 1x12 5R twist bbl from Mike Rock or Cooper Precision. Fluted. Velocity with Sierra 175's from either Black Hills (my favorite) or Federal over 2625fps in all seven lots tested. The taper ends at about .90" at the muzzle.
  3. Weight under 14lbs complete with stock, bipod, and fixed ten-power scope
  4. Badger floor plate
  5. Badger scope rings
  6. Badger scope base
  7. McMillan General Purpose Hunting stock, also known as the M40A1 stock
  8. US Optics Tactical Ten scope with either 1/4moa or M40 BDC Knobs
  9. Speed Bolt handle for fast follow-up shots

That was a tall order, but one George filled very well within two months. I had George ship the rifle to Wayne's Gunshop in Dublin, Ca., and I filled out the countless forms required by California Law. Wayne and Gary are the owners of the store and friends of all gun owners. If you are nearby, stop in and meet them.

I went straight to the range with a Tactical Ten scope from US Optics. This is a no-frills, drop-in-the-mud scope with better optics than any other scope I have used. The scope was designed after conversations similar to the ones I had with George, only they took place with the owner of US Optics, John Williams. US Optics lists the scope as the ST10 with the adjustable 44mm objective option. Later I was to test this rifle with the same basic scope equipped with M40 style BDC knobs that track the 175's at 2650fps perfectly.

The rifle is a work of art. The finish is a perfect greenish-gray baked-on coating - dull but still pleasing to the eye. The trigger guard looks like you could roll a tank over it; far bigger than a normal guard, but not so big as to cry out "clunky." To quote a fairy tale, "Just Right"!

The scope bases and rings are as good as you can get. Using the Badger combo, I have never lapped a ring and find the scope mount perfectly aligned every time. The rings are bored two at a time and are serial numbered to match. They are as straight as you can get from a factory.

The barrel is a Cooper Precision (which has since gone out of business) with 1x12 twist and 5R-type lands and groves. But in all reality, it is a Mike Rock barrel since it is made to the same specifications on the same equipment as Mike used prior to shutting his doors a few years ago. He is back in business making barrels today, though, and his barrels are considered by many to be the best. If Mike had been back in business at the time I ordered the rifle, it would have been made with one of his barrels, not just one made to his specifications.

I took the rifle to the range and shot many five-shot groups with it. None went over 3/4 moa, and the best was under 1/4 moa. It was a 1/2 moa average rifle.

With the Tactical Ten (with M40-style BDC Knobs) mounted on the rifle and zeroed at 100 yards, I took a trip to Camp Pendleton Ca. I was lucky enough to shoot it a few times on the Unknown Distance Course with a class of soon-to-be USMC Scout Snipers. Quickly, all eyes turned to the rifle and me. I let one of the instructors, and then others, shoot the combination. The question of the day was, "Where do I get one of those?" You may ask why, and the answer is simple: none of us could miss. The rifle just pounded round after round into one hole. The scope tracked the round as if it were laser guided. I shoot 100 percent with the rifle/scope combination.

Since then, I have shot the rifle package to 1000 yards many times with no problems. The groups at 1000 yards using Black Hills 175 grain ammunition average about 3/4 - 1moa. That is fantastic. This rifle has quickly become one of my all-time favorites.

You are probably asking if the rifle made the weight limit. The answer is yes. With a MK4 M3 scope, it weighs approximately 12.5 pounds; and with the US Optics M40 Knob scope, it is approximately 13 pounds. The rifle met all my requirements.

George and I were talking and he asked what he should call the package. I asked if an item is the sum of its parts. If so, this item is rock tuff so it has to be called "The Rock." The Rock is a super weapon.

I almost forgot to add... I have since sent several of my bolt action rifles to George to have the Speed Bolt Handle option added. It makes it far easier to reload under stress and cuts down the time between shots. The handle is also easier to grasp with sweat soaked hands.

For further information, contact George Gardner at GA Precision 816-221-1844

More photos

Shooting the Rock in the field

Rock out in the field with US Optics scope mounted

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