There are many names that stand out in the extremely competitive precision rifle market. One of those big names is Surgeon Rifles. Once a fairly small custom shop, it has grown to become a very well-known manufacturer and supplier of civilian precision rifles and sniper rifles. I had seen and handled many different Surgeon actions and custom rifles over the years, but I’d never had my own until today.
Unboxing the Surgeon Scalpel
I eagerly opened the Pelican case when it arrived, knowing what was inside. It was the Surgeon Rifles Scalpel .300 Winchester Magnum in the Cadex Dual Strike chassis. The OD green and black rifle immediately commanded my attention as I lifted it from the foam-lined case. My very first thought as I looked it over was the incredible amount of structural detail on the Cadex chassis. Many fasteners and interlocking pieces make up this rigid structure.
The impressive weight of the rifle was also immediately perceivable. The 26-inch heavy-profile barrel is responsible for much of that. But the chassis itself is also no insignificant thing. I shouldered the firearm to run the bolt and feel what kind of rifle this would be. My support hand was opened wide to accommodate the large forearm of the gun, and I pulled the bolt to the rear to inspect the chamber. I ran the bolt a few times, impressed with the feel so much I had to confirm it several more times.
The Cadex chassis features a rubberized pistol-grip, also of a large size to fill the palm of your hand. The soft exterior of the grip is necessary to firmly grasp and control a rifle this long and heavy. The rifle is available with a Trigger Tech or Jewell trigger. This one came with the Jewell trigger, something I wanted to get a feel for right after running the smooth bolt. The trigger broke as clean as one could ask for, with no perceivable movement at all.
The Cadex Dual Strike chassis is a folding model, with a small lever on the right side that allows the buttstock to be folded over the bolt side of the rifle. This folding motion protects the bolt and significantly shortens the length of the rifle for more compact transportation. It also locks in the folded position, preventing unwanted opening of the rifle when manipulating it.
After familiarizing myself with the adjustments of the Cadex chassis, I put the rifle back into its case as I impatiently waited for a chance to shoot it.
Prepping for the Range
As soon as I got the rifle to my bench, I started preparations to get it on the firing line. I mounted up a Kahles 318i rifle scope on top of the 20-MOA scope rail. The Scalpel incorporates the Cadex scope mounting rail to its own scope rail, increasing rigidity.
With my scope firmly mounted and torqued into position, I turned my attention to the trigger. The Jewell trigger is adjustable, so I wanted to tweak it to a pull weight more along my taste. Some of the Jewell triggers can be adjusted to as little as 1.5 ounces, but I was going nowhere near that light. Once I was happy with the weight of the trigger pull, which was extremely simple to set and required no disassembly, I decided to add a few accessories to the rifle that I thought I would use.
I first added an Area 419 Arcalock rail to the forearm of the chassis. The rifle came with a Harris bipod, and it worked fine, but I wanted to be able to use something a bit more robust with this heavy-hitting rifle. Installing the Arcalock rail would allow me to use a variety of bipod and tripod mounting solutions that are quickly interchanged.
Five magazines came with the rifle and an assortment of Cadex Pic rail sections of various lengths. This is almost a requirement, as the Cadex chassis does not use M-lok slots. While many may find this to be an issue, it was a small one to me, especially since the chassis came with a good selection of accessories that are easily installed and moved on the chassis forearm.
QD sling attachments were also included with the chassis and can be moved around to fit the shooters needs. All that was left was ammunition procurement and a quick and dirty bore-sight job. Then I would be ready to hit the range and see what this beast of a rifle could do.
On the Firing Line
My first chance to shoot the Scalpel was a brief one. With paper targets set up at 100 yards, I loaded a few of the magazines to get the rifle zeroed. My initial impressions were very positive. The muzzle brake that came with the rifle is very effective at reducing recoil. Though the shooters to my sides would like a word with the engineers of it. The solid feel of the rifle made it very pleasant to shoot, watching bullets impact at 400 and 800 yards was easy.
For my second outing, I decided to install a suppressor to the rifle to see how it shot. With Barnes Bullets 190-grain long-range ammunition, the rifle was shooting predictable 1-inch five-shot groups. The easy cycling of rounds from the magazines into the chamber was very effective. I noticed that the rifle had come with both bolt-stopping magazines as well as traditional ones. With the bolt-stop magazines, your bolt locks to the rear when the mag goes empty, which could come in handy in a high-volume shooting scenario. Mag changes were easily accomplished by pushing the release with my trigger finger and swapping mags with my left hand.
Additional testing of other ammunition provided superior accuracy performance. Hornady 195-grain Match loads rendered half-MOA groups and could easily print groups with sub-half MOA after a little tuning.
Pros vs. Cons
Obviously, one must look at this rifle from the perspective of the professional shooter. It was not made for the deer hunter or the average weekend plinking enthusiast. So let’s keep this in mind as we go over the pros and cons.
First of all, this rifle is a tank. Depending on the professional application, this could be good or bad. If you are a sniper that must pack this thing to the top of an office tower stairwell, that might be a little bit of a hindrance. But once you are in position, I consider the mass of this rifle to be a strong asset. The powerful .300 Winchester cartridge has both impressive range and recoil, and the Scalpel/Cadex platform is an outstandingly stable platform to launch it from.
My tastes in rifles lean towards the shorter lengths, so it should come as no surprise that I found the Scalpel to be a bit longer than I would have liked. With a suppressor installed, it felt like carrying around a boat oar made from steel. This, again, may not be an issue if your job is overwatching a valley from a static position and vehicle transport. The folding feature of the chassis does help in combating this issue. The .300 cartridge does see better performance from long barrels like this 26-incher, so the above-mentioned scenario makes it a perfect choice.
The Cadex chassis did increase the height of the optic over the bore, which is not a deal-breaker by any means, but it is something that needs to be accounted for. That’s all I can think of as far as negative marks for this rifle, so let’s get to what I like about it.
The heart of this rifle is the Surgeon action. It is incredibly smooth and functions like a Swiss watch. Running the straight bolt handle feels therapeutic to me. In conjunction with the Cadex chassis, it feeds rounds from the magazines with ease and finesse. The supplied Jewell trigger has its own well-known reputation that gives the shooter perfect control of the shot and placement. The adjustments of the Cadex chassis make it easy to fit to a particular shooter, regardless of the clothing or protective gear being worn. The various adjustments are quickly and easily done without tools.
The folding mechanism on the chassis is very robust and introduces effectively zero play in the rifle’s function while allowing the shooter to reduce the carry size of the rifle. The chassis attachment points would benefit from adding M-Lok, but they are still very customizable.
Overall, I would give the Surgeon Scalpel all high marks. It is exactly what it has been marketed as, a high-quality professional-grade precision rifle. I think anyone who would purchase such a rifle would be very happy with its performance. It brings sledgehammer-like power and the precision of a custom-built rifle.