By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“With a motivated sniper behind the trigger, the rifle delivers death
from afar, and is among the deadliest small arms in use today…
the TAC-50 has more than squared itself away as a legend.
It is death from beyond incarnate.”
— Elwood Shelton, for Gun Digest, August 19, 2021
The Beast TAC 501 is “one of the most-accurate, reliable,
and comfortable-shooting, .50-BMG rifles available.”
— Dillon Rifle Company website, 2023
The Dillon Rifle Company (directly associated with Dillon Aero and Dillion Precision) of Scottsdale, Arizona, has released its first complete firearm, the Dillon Beast TAC 501 bolt-action, magazine-fed, long-range, precision rifle in .50 BMG chambering. The Beast is an upgraded and improved version of the famous McMillan (or “Big Mac”) TAC-50 sniper rifle, which currently holds the world’s record for the longest-range, combat sniper kill in history, an astounding 3,871 yards (2.2 miles!) against an ISIS terrorist fighter in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2017, by a Canadian JTF 2 elite, commando sniper, using Hornady A-MAX (Accuracy-Maximum) Match ammunition.
In fact, since 2002, the original TAC-50 holds first, fifth, and sixth places among the top six sniper kills in history, all by Canadian snipers in Afghanistan or Iraq. Built by McMillan Firearms of Phoenix, Arizona, and in military service since 2000 as the U.S. Navy’s Mk. 15 Mod. 1 rifle or the Canadian Army’s C15A1 Long-Range, Sniper Weapon (LRSW), the bolt-action TAC-50 sports an adjustable, fiberglass stock and a custom, free-floating, fluted, match-grade, 29-inch, stainless-steel barrel by Lilja Precision Rifle Barrels of Plains, Montana.
A five-round, detachable box magazine is standard. The Canadian rifles have previously been fitted with the Leupold Mark 4 16x40mm LR/T M1 Riflescope, and more recently with the Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56mm PMII (Police Marksman II) scope, costing $4,330 (U.S. dollars) each.
In March 2002, Master Corporal Arron Perry of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, set a world-record sniper kill at 2,526 yards in Afghanistan with his C15 rifle, but only days later, Corporal Rob Furlong of the same unit made a confirmed kill at 2,657 yards, also with a C15/TAC-50 rifle. These amazing records were broken, however, in 2009 and 2012 by British and Australian snipers in Afghanistan.
Then, after the incredible JTF 2 sniper kill in May 2017, The Washington Post reported that, “For the soldier to hit his target at 3,540 meters (3,871 yards), he would need to account for every atmospheric factor available. Wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, the bullet’s yaw, and the rotation of the Earth would all need to be considered before pulling the trigger.
“These variables, once harnessed from devices such as a handheld (Kestrel-series) weather meter and potentially range-finding equipment (Leica Vector laser-ranging binoculars) …would then be processed through a ballistic calculator (Canadian-made, ApexO Firing System, or AFS) that would let the shooter make necessary adjustments on the rifle’s scope.” Master Corporal Jody Mitic, a former Canadian sniper serving as an Ottawa city counsellor, quite accurately described this noteworthy, even historical incident as “a hell of a shot.”
Charlie Cutshaw wrote for Tactical Life magazine on January 4, 2015, that, “The (TAC-50’s) aggressive muzzle brake…counters recoil by essentially pulling the rifle forward as the bullet leaves the muzzle…(but) there is quite a bit of blast to the side and slightly to the rear. One doesn’t want to be alongside this rifle when the shooter touches off a round.” (This author agrees. I’ve stood just behind and beside a Navy SEAL who was firing a .50-caliber rifle, and the side-blast was truly memorable.)
“Shooting the TAC-50 was a real pleasure…The aggressive muzzle brake combined with the rifle’s weight reduces the .50 BMG’s felt recoil to approximately 12-gauge level. The TAC-50’s single-stage trigger broke at three pounds, and had absolutely no creep or backlash. (It) was extremely accurate, and delivered MOA (accuracy) from the very first shots fired. The TAC-50 is rugged, well-made, well-finished, and accurate…(It) continues the McMillan tradition of high quality and rock-solid reliability…(and) clearly meets the highest military requirements for accuracy and reliability…it doesn’t get any better,” Cutshaw continued.
In addition to the Canadian Army and U.S. Navy SEALs, the TAC-50 rifle serves with French Navy commandos, the Georgian Army and Special Forces, Israeli Special Forces, Jordanian SRR-61 Special Reconnaissance Regiment, South African Police Service Special Task Force, Turkish Special Forces Command, and the Ukrainian Army, where it’s undoubtedly gaining more combat experience every day.
Moving forward to 2023, the Dillon Rifle Company (DRC) now offers their Dillon Beast TAC 501 rifle as a modern upgrade to the TAC-50 series, while retaining the combat-proven TAC-50 action. The older, fiberglass stock is replaced by a brand-new, modified, one-piece, Grayboe Ridgeback carbon-fiber stock, available in either Basic Black, Deep Blue, or DRC Green, for improved strength and durability.
Interestingly enough, Grayboe Custom Rifle Stocks is run by Ryan McMillan, the grandson of Gale McMillan, of McMillan Firearms, who invented the fiberglass stock in the late 1960s, so there’s a very clear family connection between the McMillan TAC-50 and the new TAC 501 with Grayboe stock. A Limbsaver AirTech recoil pad absorbs up to 70 percent of felt recoil, which is a huge advantage in a rifle like this one. The new stock has an adjustable cheekpiece, and comes with a heavy-duty, B&T (Swiss) Atlas bipod mounted to the forend.
The Beast’s hefty barrel is also a custom, free-floating, match-grade, 416 stainless-steel Lilja model, but it’s not fluted, and it’s an inch and a half shorter, at 27.5 inches, with a highly effective muzzle brake, just like the TAC-50’s, to tame some of the fierce recoil. The barrel can be finished in either Black Cerakote or natural stainless finish, with a clear coat and nickel finish for resistance to wear and tear. The barrel is also threaded, to accept a variety of suppressor options.
There’s a proprietary, nickel-plated, spiral-fluted bolt with large, teardrop knob for smoother bolt manipulation, and a Remington-700-style, Timney Elite Hunter 4.5-pound trigger for a clean break, short re-set, and smooth follow-through. Like the TAC-50, a five-round magazine is standard equipment.
Overall, the new Dillon Beast TAC 501 rifle is two inches shorter and two pounds heavier than the original TAC-50 rifle. The combination of extra weight, rearward-raked, muzzle brake, and Limbsaver recoil pad effectively reduces felt recoil below TAC-50 level, and the shorter length helps to make it more portable when climbing into and out of tactical vehicles or helicopters. It’s factory-guaranteed to provide sub-MOA accuracy with match-grade ammunition under ideal conditions. All of this high-tech engineering comes at the steep retail price of $10,500, however, which is still cheaper than the $11,570 MSRP for the current TAC-50C chassis rifle, with folding stock. But perhaps that’s a small price to pay for the rifle design that holds the world record for a 2.2-mile, sniper kill!
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his website at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com