Anyone who does well at something practices it. This may sound like a broad statement, but I can’t think of a single endeavor that doesn’t require practice for real success. There was a time when I was a pretty decent rifle shooter but I am now an old man who shows people his medals. I still like to shoot and I’m not willing to quietly shoot Marksman or Sharpshooter scores. I may not still be able to shoot as a High Master but I’m going to hang on to Master class as long as I can.

The fact is, I still love to shoot and I’m shooting the National High Power Rifle Championships again this year. I’m in my 60s and I haven’t shot seriously in High Power since the ’90s. I can still shoot fairly well but I need practice and the nearest “High Power range” is a 25-mile drive. I’ve chosen to practice on a daily basis with a rimfire rifle. The fundamentals for small-bore shooting are the same as High Power, so I’m shooting reduced-size targets. My targets replicate the scoring of a standard across the course target and there are targets reduced for all three yard lines, from 200 yards to 600 yards. This is a viable way for High Power and other centerfire shooters to keep their skills sharp without expending expensive ammunition, having to travel to ranges, or burn up expensive rifle barrels.

All this seems pretty simple until you consider what to use as a rifle. For bolt gun shooters, this is fairly simple. Take a good small-bore rifle and configure it like your Across the Course or long-range rifle. The problem comes in when the shooter is chasing the elusive Distinguished Rifleman Badge. In this competition, you must shoot a service rifle. Many other match rifle shooters use semiauto match rifles like the AR-15-based gun Carl Bernosky used last year to clinch his 10th National High Power Championship. There are a lot of replica rimfires, but none provide the accuracy to allow realistic practice. The reduced 50-yard target that represents the 600 yard mid-range High Power target has a 10-ring the size of a dime and a quarter-inch X ring.

As I said, there is no production AR-15 replica that can produce this kind of accuracy…except the Compass Lake rimfire upper. I’ve been using the Compass Lake conversion for three years and every time I get it out in July, I am impressed once again with its level of accuracy. My testing centered around the reliability and suitability for serious accuracy training. For 3-gun or plinking there are guns that cost a lot less, have more capacity, and are capable of running with almost any ammunition. The Compass Lake Upper is designed with accuracy in mind to the exclusion of all other issues.

Off the bench, you can see the focus on accuracy has paid off. I fired 10 shots of Federal Gold Medal that produced a .312-inch group at a true 50 yards, this from a semiautomatic .22 rifle. Other ammunition didn’t do as well but this rifle is accurate enough to use as a test bed for ammunition. It has accuracy abilities similar to small-bore match rifles and shoots as well as all but the most sophisticated small-bore rifles.

The Compass Lake Rimfire Upper I tested has an 18-inch medium heavy barrel and a 15-inch round tube forend. Put it on a lower with a good trigger and it’s the ultimate rimfire practice tool for the accuracy-inclined AR-15 owner. It’s available in CMP Leg Match configuration with identical sights and configuration to an NRA Service Rifle. It’s basically a custom unit and can be ordered in a number of configurations. The beauty of the system is that it allows almost identical practice for conventional High Power or the accuracy demands of long-range tactical shooting. Since it’s an autoloader with the capability to fire 10 shots, High Power competitors can practice the rapid-fire stages including reloads. With the supplied loading tool, it can be single-loaded to allow competition in conventional NRA Smallbore competition. I talked to a local shooter who used his to win local club matches, much to the chagrin of more conventional smallbore shooters.

This isn’t a plinker, it’s a tool for the dedicated rifleman who needs a rifle accurate enough to help develop his skills in calling shots and developing precision accuracy. For it to run standard velocity in its tight match chamber, it needs a cleaning after every session. At $1,050, it costs more than most complete AR-15 rifles but if you need the ultimate rimfire practice tool, there is nothing else I know of that will do what the Compass Lake Rimfire Upper will do.

Image by Dick Jones

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