In the universe of consumer goods there exists what can be called “benchmark” products. Items that are used as a reference when comparing competing products. You know what I mean, things like the Ford F-150, BMW GS, Schmidt Bender PM II and Porsche 911. These items are well established and other companies follow their trends and try to introduce lines that target them. In the world of the tactical precision rifle, one name has been in that spot for some time now; Accuracy International. The history of the company and their pedigree is worth checking out, when you can. Today, though, I am most interested in their latest rifle, the AX Multicaliber rifle.
The rifle has been out for about three years now. Plenty of time to see how it performs and what it can do. To be strictly accurate, the AXMC refers to the multicaliber rifles chambered in magnum rounds like the .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum, while the AX308 refers to the short action version of the same rifle. In conversation, I refer to that rifle as the AX308 multical. To visually distinguish between the AX308 multical and its older sister, the fixed-caliber AX, just look at the buttstock. If it is skeletonized, it is the multicaliber AX. Another fine detail to note is the multicaliber version has a 4mm hex screw on the right side of the action near the recoil lug that is the primary (and only) action required to change out the barrel on the rifle. For this outing, I had the AX308 Multical with a 24” 6.5 Creedmoor barrel fitted, but more on that later.
The heart of the rifle is of course, the action. Making a rifle that is benchrest-level accurate while still being able to function well when things get messy is quite a challenge. Through some clever engineering and high quality materials, they were able to have a match grade action that has flutes and cuts in it and the bolt so that any dirt, sand or other debris is swiftly removed from the workings. At a shooting school high in the California Mountains, I had a customized Remington 700. Shot great…until constant 25mph winds blew sand and dust all over everything, including my action. I could feel it get gritty as the day went on and it actually became a concern for the function of the rifle. Another student there had an AI, I noticed, and I asked to try his rifle’s cycling. Smooth as silk. Any debris was either shoved out during bolt cycling or it never made it in. It is also a very safe action. In the rare event of catastrophic failure of the ammo, any rearward force is directed out of channels in the bolt and action away from the shooter.
So…multicaliber. Why would you go with one? What sort of tradeoffs are there? What are the benefits? It is not a surprise that the AI rifles are quite expensive relative to most precision rifles on the market. However, once you pay for the rifle, and ONE good scope, all you need to do is change (at most) the barrel, bolt body and mag adapter. Those three items plus an appropriate mag would be about $1800 or so. While that isn’t exactly “cheap”, it sure beats $8,000 plus for a new rifle THEN another $2500+ or so for a good scope and rings. Also because the barrel unscrews like a traditional barrel, and doesn’t use a barrel extension like most other multical rifles, many options are available in terms of bore, lengths, twist and the like from aftermarket barrel makers if the exact spec desired is not offered by AI. Just be sure you have a good smith to chamber it if you order a barrel blank. The barrel change is quick and easy, and requires only a 4mm hex key that is stored in the rifle’s cheek rest. Loosen the screw on the right side of the action by the recoil lug, one turn should do, then unscrew the barrel by hand, screw new one until it hits a hard stop then retighten the screw. AI spec is 49 in/lbs for that.
The three-position safety can be set to pew, no pew, and no pew + bolt lock. With a 60 degree throw and a generously sized bolt knob and handle, sending multiple shots in a short period without disturbing your position is fairly easy.
Like a tailored suit, a rifle must also be set up for the individual marksman for best results. Everything on the AX’s buttstock can be altered. The length of pull, the comb height, and the butt pad itself can be fitted without tools. The buttpad can be raised, lowered and rotated to fit in that pocket in your shoulder best, also without tools. The bottom of the stock has a polymer component that is made to be the contact point for a rear bag, but you can also remove it and expose a picatinny rail for use of monopods or the AI factory butt spike as shown in the rifle pictured.
Trigger Warning…the trigger is impeccable. I’ve always been a fan of two stage triggers and this one is great. The trigger itself rides along a little dovetail so you can move it fore and aft for that perfect placement on your booger hook. The weight is a combined 3.3 - 4.4 lbs, with each stage being about half of that. It is great way of having a very crisp trigger that is safe enough to use on a field rifle, where sometimes the user will be wearing gloves as well.
So it is without a doubt a very well-engineered rifle, but how is it to actually shoot? You get a sense that every component is working perfectly with every other on the rifle. It is solid. Since the forend sits close to the barrel, when you mount a bipod on it, especially a Long Range Accuracy as pictured, the rifle feels like it is slung between the legs of it, rather than it sitting on top of the bipod like an elephant perched atop a beach ball.
Thanks, in part, to a Bartlein barrel, accuracy is the same or better than any custom rifle. 1 MOA shooting has been fairly common for some time and it seems ½ moa is becoming the norm too with the high end precision rifles like this. When I shot it, my first 5 shots (cold bore plus 4), resulted in a group of .23” at 100 yards. That’s sub-quarter MOA! All Accuracy International I have shot have been sub-half MOA with ease but this was impressive. That said, it helped that I had a Tangent Theta scope on it so that helped tremendously. The 5-25x56 with the Gen 2XR reticle is bliss.
Speaking of Tangent Theta, it's worth spending a bit more time on who they are. One of the lesser known top end scopes out there, the brand deserves more attention. Born around 2014 at the hands of Armament Technology (the same company that makes Elcan scopes and Tenebraex covers), the TT offers glass that is as good or better than anything else out there I have seen, and the turrets are big, chunky, and have the best click feel of any scope I have ever handled.
On another note, the turrets have a tool-less rezero feature. The top part of the turret can be unscrewed by hand and the turret can be re-indexed to zero easily then locked back down. Handy at the range or in the field when tiny little Allen keys are a pain to deal with and easily lost. In an ERA-TAC adjustable mount, Long Range Accuracy bipod and my Silencerco Hybrid suppressor on it, the whole rifle was a pretty good example of the best technology available right now. If you are looking to get the best precision rifle you system available. Look no further.
Rifle (before barrel swap): Accuracy International AX308 Black
Butt Spike: Black Butt Spike for AI AXMC
Optic: Tangent Theta 5-25x56 Gen2XR Riflescope
Bipod: Long Range Accuracy Light Tactical Bipod - Long Legs
Scope Mount: ERA-TAC 34mm Adjustable Inclination Mount - 37mm/1.46"
Suppressor: SilencerCo Hybrid Silencer