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Thread: Long range shooting for dummies

  1. #1
    Site Supporter SecondsCount's Avatar
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    Long range shooting for dummies

    For those getting started- Ryan Kleckner writes a good book on long range shooting. Brian Litz is considered an expert on the subject, is a literal rocket scientist, and has his Applied Ballistics book which is excellent for those that want to get a little deeper.

    I think the most helpful device in shooting long range today is the ballistics calculator. They are now downloadable as apps for your phone or tablet, and some are free. Once you fill in all the blanks, they will spit out the information in MOA, Mils, inches, and metric units if you would like. I personally like Strelok and they have a free version to try out. The calculator will need you to enter things like distance to target, wind and bullet velocity, ballistic coefficients, scope height over bore, and barrel twist rate. The further out you shoot, the more this information becomes critical. Garbage in equals garbage out so try to answer the questions the absolute best you can.

    Next up is a good scope. I have shot to 1000 yards with a $200 scope but I much prefer being behind a really nice piece of glass. You will be using the scope to look at the target, measure hits and misses, and either dialing or holding to change the angle of the barrel for different distances/trajectories. I like something with at least a 16X zoom. There are many options for scopes these days, unlike when I got started where the choices were either a mildot or a duplex reticle. Now you can get reticles that look like a Christmas tree, MIL or MOA knobs and reticles, excellent zoom ratios, etc. Then comes MIL and MOA. Is Millradian better than Minutes of Angle? Each one is measuring angle, the difference is like inches are to millimeters, they each have a different scale. MIL has become more popular in recent years. The cost of the scope will translate into the quality of the product, how accurate it dials, clarity, and where it was made.

    What rifle and caliber is needed to shoot past 100 yards? In my opinion, a rifle that will consistently shoot a 5 shot group under 1 inch at 100 yards, using match ammunition, under good conditions. Many bolt action rifles will do this out of the box these days. The caliber isn't super critical but some calibers make it much easier than others. I have shot to 1000 yards using a 223 and made pretty consistent hits. 308 was once very popular for precision shooting but has been overtaken by other calibers such as 6.5 Creedmore. The more you pay for a rifle doesn't always translate into more accuracy. A higher price usually comes with a nicer stock and trigger, and a smoother action. I have seen $500 rifles hit targets at 1000 yards but their level of comfort is lacking.

    Ammunition is very critical to long range shooting. You can shoot pretty far with ball ammo but things will really start to fall apart around 600 yards. Match ammo is made with a higher quality bullet such as a Sierra Matchking, Berger VLD, Hornady ELD, etc. These bullets are built to tighter tolerances which help them fly more consistently.
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  2. #2
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    Once you have chosen a rifle, scope, and match ammo, you will need to head to the range for testing. Hopefully the ammo you chose is shooting well and you are printing nice little groups on paper. Zero your scope at a distance, I prefer 100 yards, and enter that distance in the calculator for future use.

    It would be very beneficial if you know the velocity of the ammo you are shooting. What is written on the box is usually not what you get out of your rifle. Most manufacturers test with 26" barrels and you may have a 22 or 24 in which will translate into a slower velocity. A chronograph is a helpful tool for determining this. Enter this data into the calculator along with the BC of the bullet. BC is Ballistic Coefficient which is a measurement of how well a bullet flies through the air. You can find these listed online by the bullet manufacturer. They can be in G1 or G7 format. G7 is a little more accurate as it takes into account certain features of a bullet including the boattail.

    A few more tools that are helpful is a laser rangefinder and device for measuring weather, such as a Kestrel. The Kestrel will give you data on wind, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure which all affect the bullet flight.

    To be continued...
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  3. #3
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    I agree with all above. The order I try to recommend to people is a) determine the goal. This will give you direction for b) choose the bullet and c) optic. Then d) build the rifle around the bullet and optic.

    In my experience hand loading or buying high quality ammo and good optics are the keys to long range precision. I took a $200 Savage Axis and got it to shoot .75 in 5-shot groups at 100 m by hand loading match bullets specific to that rifle/ barrel. The guy sorta mentoring me in LR shooting taught me the axiom: spend the money on the optic. You can get a crappy rifle to shoot well with a little work but you can never make a sh1tty scope work better.
    Last edited by TOTS; 12-09-2020 at 06:27 PM.

  4. #4
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    After spending some time testing loads, zeroing your rifle, and entering the data into your ballistics calculator, you should be ready to reach out a little further.

    Hopefully you have a nearby shooting range with some steel targets setup beyond 100 yards. For me, shooting at paper all day is pretty dull. Steel gives you instant feed back when the bullet strikes it, and when painted white, will allow you to see your hits through your scope. Having someone watching the target with a spotting scope is very helpful. Not only will they spot your hits, but are especially helpful in telling you when you miss and by how much. This enables you to make adjustments for the next shot.

    While you and your rifle may be capable of sub minute accuracy at 100 yards, things get quite a bit more complicated the further you reach out. The three biggest things that affect your bullet when it leaves the barrel is drag, gravity, and wind. Drag and gravity are pretty consistent but wind can be your nemesis. If you can learn to read wind, you will be an excellent long range shooter.

    Let's take an 800 yard shot on a 10x16" target for example. You take your precision rifle and put a 175 grain match 308 loaded round into it. If your rifle shoots what is printed on the box- 2600 FPS, you will enter 800 yards into your ballistics calculator, and it will return an elevation angle of 26.0 MOA or 7.6 Mils above a 100 yard zero.

    That's the easy part.

    Let's throw a little wind into the shot, 3 MPH at 90 degrees from the left. Doesn't seem like much until you see that it pushes the bullet 18 inches to the right of center, or a variance of 6 inches for every 1 MPH, and wind is never constant.

    How about an example using a 140 grain bullet out of a 6.5 Creedmoor at 800 yards. The calculator says 3 MPH of wind will cause 11 inches of drift. Substantially less drift which is one of the reasons 6.5C has become so popular.
    Last edited by SecondsCount; 12-09-2020 at 11:47 PM.
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  5. #5
    Donít stop now.

  6. #6
    Keep going.

    I've been shooting long range 22LR. I regularly shoot out to 350 yards. I still have a lot to learn. I usually shoot off a bench with a bi-pod and rear bag. I might try some NRL22 next year.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BN View Post
    Keep going.

    I've been shooting long range 22LR. I regularly shoot out to 350 yards. I still have a lot to learn. I usually shoot off a bench with a bi-pod and rear bag. I might try some NRL22 next year.
    I really enjoy shooting my precision 22's. Most of the time I shoot at a 100 yard range and a lot of people ask me why I don't bring the big guns. They're okay but 22's make it more interesting.

    I am friends with a guy who does NRL matches and we practice together once in a while. He has a KYL target that goes from 1 inch down to .25 inches. Even at 25 yards, that .25 can get tricky
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  8. #8
    Any of you guys have one really good/expensive optic that you move between rifles?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by theJanitor View Post
    Any of you guys have one really good/expensive optic that you move between rifles?
    I leave my expensive optic (Nightforce) on one gun but I have a friend that I shoot with that has a switch barrel rifle. The scope stays fixed to the action and he swaps barrels. He has a notebook with the differences in zero between the barrels and just dials in the difference after a barrel swap.

    With quality QD rings and pic rails being pretty repeatable, you may be able to swap the scope and rings between rifles, then dial in the difference.

    On my lower cost rifles, I have some lower cost scopes that perform well for what they are. There is a Chinese made 5-25X Cabelas Covenant 5 on my 223 that I paid $250 for on sale. It doesn't have near the glass the Nightforce does but it dials pretty accurately and the reticle is a nice Christmas tree design which I typically use to hold rather than dial. I have shot to 1100 yards with it on an AC reduced silhouette target.
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  10. #10
    How important are Horus type reticles for you competition guys? What about for NLR22 type events?

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