When learning to shoot at long ranges, there are many factors to consider. How well does the shooter know his firearm? What about his choice of rifle, recoil, the size of the barrel, velocity, optics, caliber of bullet? Also conditions. Is it a windy day or is it still? What about elevation? Long range could be anywhere from 100 yards all the way to 1100 yards. Remember, despite having certain knowledge of ballistics and purchasing the latest and greatest equipment, nothing replaces good old-fashioned practice. Where to start? Let’s look a couple of ways to begin mastering your marksmanship.
· Firearm: You’ll need to take your time and research through friends, online discussions, hunting and shooting clubs and taking a variety of guns out to fire yourself. Don’t worry, once you mention you’re in the market to purchase a new gun, you’ll hear no less than a million different pieces of advice, as it seems everyone has their own opinion about which firearm works best. Most importantly, be prepared to shell out the big bucks. Don’t forget over time, you’ll need to look at this investment cost in long range terms yourself. It should not come to any shock that at the end of the day, the total costs of owning your firearm might exceed your new car budget. But over the lifetime of your weapon, you may shoot over 8,000 bullets, especially if you’re looking to increase your accuracy. So choose wisely.
· The basics of ballistics: You know what they say about opinions; everyone’s got one and this would directly apply to sighting in your rifle. However, let’s break down ballistics into laymen’s terms. Ballistics is the science of how a projectile responds once leaving the gun, making adjustments for gravity, drag and possibly weather conditions. Think of when you and some buddy’s threw the football around, to make that football spin, you adjusted your throwing mechanisms to create the spiral for speed and accuracy (or rifling for a bullet). For those longer distances your arm needed to be angled at such a degree that the ball would fall over the intended line of sight twice (once as the ball began its climb over the line of sight and then right before the ball fell back towards earth and into the receiver’s hands). Some marksmen like to sight in their rifles ‘old school’ this means bore sighting and adjusting the windage and inch or so higher when shooting at a target (start at about 25 yards to see where your bullets are hitting and then make adjustments) while others insist upon using their scopes and calculate accurate measurements based upon minutes of angle, (on your scope it is demarcated in degrees, 360 ° where one ‘mil’ or degree is 3.6” per 100 yards—think 100 yards is 3,600”). Of course being outside in the elements is much different that the controlled environment of an indoor shooting range, which of course means another set of calculations; namely wind. At 10 mph, cross winds will move a .308 bullet about 6” at 300 yards. No one said shooting and accuracy was going to be easy, for those who might look at hunters with a bit of disdain, this might dispel some of those preconceived notions; ballistics is a science of physics, optics and lots and lots of practice.
· Positions: This is also critical piece of the equation for a long range shooter; above all you need a stable, firm platform to shoot off of. Some people like to use bi-pods or to use the natural settings available. Before you are out in the field, practice each shooting position; prone, one knee and sitting. Remember, if you are hunting, you may not always have the perfect environment; you may need to improvise and use the natural settings to your advantage. Holding your rifle against a smooth-faced boulder may be the necessary solution for keeping yourself hidden from your quarry. You’ll be glad you practiced, when you see that elk fall at 700 yards.
At the end of the day, long range shooting is an acquired skill. It comes from dedication, perseverance and above all; practice. But long range shooters are more than just lucky shots. They know that if you cannot make a quick, clean kill at 1,000 yards you have to rely upon your moral composition to wait for a better shot, even if that means you head home from the day, empty-handed. Those who know they could technically make that shot, but wait for a safer and better target define the term, ‘ethical hunter’. And isn’t that what we all should strive to be?
Travis Brenson is an avid hunter and marksman who enjoys the big Texas outdoors and appreciates a good venison steak. When he’s not in his deer stand he’s working for Scopesnmore.com, home of the best deals on scopes.