Will O’Meara’s long-awaited Proof Research rifle review

After a year-long wait, Will O’Meara finally takes delivery of his new Proof Research rifle. But how does it shoot?

It’s like when you are studying for an exam: right when you are getting into a good routine and knuckling down to it, something pops up on the radar and totally distracts you.

In my case, the study took the form of setting up my .270 Win hunting rig for Precision Rifle style competitions.

I was knee deep in new triggers, muzzle brakes, pump pillows, prototype bipods, ballistic coefficients, aerodynamic jump and such like. The phone beeped – John Lambert (owner of JL Firearms) had sent me a message saying ‘Teaser pic’. Next came a sliver of photo that showed a matt silver action wrapped in grey snakeskin carbon…

John was his usual dead pan on the phone. “The eagle has landed.”

“Lad… what’s it like?” I asked. 

“What’s what like?”

“Oh, come on. I’m on the way round.”

“She’s a beauty, lad.”

“On the way!”

Some of you will remember my article from this time last year titled Researching the Proof. The article outlined my considerations when choosing the configuration of the rifle that Proof Research had offered to build me.

I quickly decided that the calibre would have more reach than my trusty custom .270, and some sleepless nights followed in the research of what calibre to choose.

Worth the wait? You bet it was

It came down to the 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag or the .30-06; I went with the 7. The decision was based on the fine balance between recoil, terminal ballistics and ammunition availability. There were lots of other decisions to make and those were now embodied in that rifle patiently sitting in a JL Firearms shop in Camolin, County Wexford. 

So this month I am rudely interrupting the scheduled article on Precision Rifle Shooting to bring you my first impressions of the Proof Research 7mm Rem Mag. The history of the 7mm Rem Mag calibre itself is an interesting one (well, maybe only for us rifle nerds).

Les Bowman was an outfitter, firearm writer and aircraft designer who hunted extensively in the high country of Wyoming. In this harsh and unforgiving terrain, the elk and wild sheep lived at altitude, where the air is thin and cover is scarce.

Les was looking for a calibre that had good terminal energy out to 500 yards and had manageable recoil; what he developed was a .338 Win Mag necked down to .284. This wildcat proved effective for him, and his aim was to launch a 160-grain projectile at 3150fps.

Dual ejectors get spent brass out efficiently

He used the wildcat extensively, as did his clients, one of whom one was his friend Mike Walker of Remington Arms. Walker was so impressed with the cartridge that he pushed it into production in 1962, and so the 7mm Remington Magnum was born. This cartridge is now one of the most popular in production and I am looking forward to seeing how it performs for me.

Let’s have a look at the Proof Research rifle itself. It is actually a hybrid – it has the action of their Terminus model and the stock of their TAC II model. The design, detail and finish is impeccable – it is truly a thing of beauty.

The first thing I did when I got the rifle in my hand was to check the chamber (force of habit) – this meant cycling the action, which immediately struck me as super smooth. The spiral-fluted bolt seems to glide along the rails of the one-piece action with a feeling and sound of total precision.

The modest bolt knob is so ideal that I hardly even noticed it. Removing the bolt from the action, I spotted the long extractor and the fact that the bolt face houses dual ejectors. 

Time to set this rifle up. I chose a set of medium Warne rings from John’s selection. I like the minimalist design and I also admire the smooth profile that should facilitate comfortable carriage when the rifle is slung across my back for many mountain miles.

An integral rail means true reliability

These rings will hold my Premier Reticles Tactical Scope, mostly because it’s what I’ve got but also because the first focal plane, 15x magnification and mil/mil configuration will suit the rig. 

Before mounting the optic, I stripped the barrelled action from the stock to get a closer look. On stripping the rifle it became obvious that the beauty of this rifle is not just skin deep. Both the action and the bolt are machined from one piece.

The action thus has an integral recoil lug and picatinny rail. I love the reliability of this. In fact I recently witnessed a rifle that had lost its zero and repeatability because the screws holding the factory fitted rail to the action had failed!

The one-piece design of Proof’s actions surely adds additional expense, but it is reflective of their pursuit of perfection and simple reliability in every component and product. The bedding of the stock also jumped out at me. The alloy pillars and carbon fibre bedding will always be hidden from view but they are as well finished as the exterior of the rifle.

The recoil-taming brake is effective, but don’t forget your hearing protection!

While the barrelled action was out, we adjusted, tested and measured the Arnold Jewel trigger and settled on a crisp 1.5lb. As I reassembled the rifle, I torqued each bolt with my Fix-it-Sticks torque limiting tool. While pronouncing the name correctly may be bothersome, the tool itself is the opposite: simple and effective. 

When mounting the scope, I set up my cheek weld with the adjustable comb. The attention to detail continued here with a neat, stainless, finely knurled thumb screw and stainless slotted pillars with c-clips to allow the height to be set. As I removed and refitted the adjustable cheekpiece, I was again stuck by the precision fit of each component. 

I have ordered a Hausken Magnum moderator from John, but in the interim I will shoot it using the muzzle brake. The brake itself is finished the same as the action and bottom metal and is well thought out with a simple lock nut that allows it to be indexed or aligned. The ports are to the side, which proves to keep the muzzle flip and debris blast to a minimum.

The whole package weighs in just under 10lb

Removing and refitting the brake shows off the quality of the threading and crowning of the carbon fibre-wrapped barrel. The name Proof Research is probably more synonymous with carbon barrels than full build rifles; my 24in, 1-in-9 twist barrel is all you would expect from the company whose claim is, “We didn’t invent carbon fibre-wrapped barrels. We just perfected them.”

The next essential component of this carbon collective is the Spartan Precision Equipment 300 bipod, which I fitted to one of the two sling swivel studs on the low-rider forend using the universal adapter and suppled bolt, which I cut down owing to the shallow depth of the TAC II forend. 

Having gathered a selection of ammunition, it was time to follow Proof’s break-in procedure. The principle I follow here is: Don’t overthink barrel break-in! My process is to shoot a group and clean, repeat and repeat.

Before long it emerged that the rifle favours some ammunition over others. This rifle is a hinged floor plate set-up, which means you can easily top-load and you can never misplace your mag – good news for mountain hunting.

I top-load three rounds at a time and began by shooting three-shot groups at 200 yards. I narrowed the preferred ammo down to Sako and Federal, both in polymer-tipped 150gn projectiles. I put the rifle away with the intent of the next range visit being focused on shooting a 100-yard group.

I was happy with my zero – bang on at 150 yards – and also realised that I need to source some ammo of 160 grains and heavier. I think my 1-in-9 twist rate will suit bullets in the 160-175 grain bracket. 

The adjustable cheekpiece, with clips to index and tidy thumb screw

So my first impressions of the rifle are that it is of sublime quality, and that it is slightly lighter than I predicted and will be right around the 10.5lb mark scoped, silenced and with a bipod.

But how does it shoot? At 15x mag I could see bullet strike at 100 yards – the recoil is straight back and while it was noticeably more than the .270, it was still very manageable.

The rifle is far lighter and easier to handle than its tactical appearance might suggest, and day two on the range produced some excellent three-shot groups from the Federal 150gn of less than 0.25in (measured centre to centre) – I couldn’t ask for better!

I was concerned that the belted magnum cases of the 7mm would have feeding issues, but this has not been an issue at all in the first 100 rounds. I was also apprehensive about the Tac II Stock, but those apprehensions were ill founded.

The pistol grip is sweet, slim in the hand and comfortable to manipulate in all positions. I am looking forward to running some heavier bullets through this machine and stretching out the range, truing the system and having everything dialled in for the start of the hunting season in September. 

A tidy group shot at 100 yards with Federal 150gn Ballistic Tips

Next on the to-do list is to see if I can fit a couple of Spartan adaptors in the stock. I’ll probably go with a small rail up front to accommodate the new Spartan V1 Bipod and a picatinny adapter, and I’ll countersink one Spartan gunsmith adaptor further back to accommodate the tripod or quad system.

So the Proof has been witnessed and the verdict is in. You can have a custom-grade factory rifle with all the benefits of a tactical platform in a lightweight, fast-handling package.

With good design and top-grade materials, you can run a lightweight 7mm Rem Mag and see the strike of your bullet – the best of both worlds! I’ll continue to fine tune the 7mm ‘Tactical Hunter’ over the summer months and I hope to do an in-depth follow-up piece on how she performs during the coming hunting season. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! 

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