Longe Range Shooting Tips

with Jim See

Where does long range shooting start?

This is a good question. If we are going to discuss long-range shooting it would be a good idea to define it in modern terms. In regards to today's standard equipment, of modern centerfire rifles, high BC bullets, and advanced optics. I like to define long-range shooting like this:

"Long range shooting would be target engagements at any distance, where we need to compensate our elevation hold or adjustments based on a clear unit of measure, to reliably hit    the target with every shot."

So, to present examples; a naturally talented hunter could hold Kentucky windage and elevation out to 350 yards and hit a mule deer reliably using a standard duplex reticle. To me, that is not the intent of long range. On the same token, a hunter going after prairie dogs may make a sight adjustment or reticle hold over in conjunction with ballistic data to hit his target at 350 yards. Due to the target size and a calculated correction, I consider that long range.    

How do I get started in long range shooting?

Equipment: A good place to start is having a rifle with a bottleneck cartridge shooting relatively high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets; the major consideration is the high BC bullets. Almost any modern bottleneck cartridge over the last 100 years is capable of shooting long range as long as there are suitable high BC bullets available.

Next, we need an optic on the rifle with suitable magnification to identify our target at distance with either an advanced etched reticule with some type of hold over references, or an optic with exposed adjustable turrets. Today, there are many optics companies catering to this market in many quality and price levels.

Third, we should equip our rifles with a bipod and a rear bag so we have a solid stable platform to shoot from, regardless if we are prone on the ground or shooting off a bench. 

Now let's consider the ammunition we put through our rifles. Today, there is a wide selection of factory loads for cartridges like the 308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 300 Win Mag and more, which are very capable and consistent enough to engage long range targets with reliability. In general, most long range shooters hand load ammunition. The volume of fire required in gaining the proper fundamentals and experience and shooting in different environmental conditions necessitates a level of experience which we only gain by doing it. By handloading, the ammunition the shooter can develop a load specific to his firearm that will be both accurate and consistent enough to maintain proper elevation at distance from shot to shot, all while saving a little money in loading it himself and reusing the brass cases.  

Your ammunition should include a relatively high BC bullet, so it maintains energy and velocity as it travels down range. Your ammunition should be accurate and have a low-velocity variance from shot to shot for consistency down range. This variance is what we refer to as Velocity spread or Standard Deviation (SD).

Pictured is a very capable load fired at 100 yards on a Caldwell® Orange Peel® Sight-In. This load would be acceptable for long range shooting; the following picture, with chronograph data, assures us that this 308 ammunition is consistent.

Finally, we need a program to calculate our rifle and bullets exterior ballistics. Years ago before ballistic calculators, this was referred to as, Data of Previous Engagements (DOPE).  DOPE was collected by actually shooting your rifle in the field at various distances and in differing environmental conditions and recording the sight adjustments in a book. This book was then referred to as your DOPE and consulted for any future engagements.

Today, we use computer programs that we input certain information like; Bullet BC, Velocity at the muzzle, scope height above the bore, temperature and elevation. Once the program has our inputs it can calculate our trajectory and wind drift very accurately. If you are not familiar with ballistic programs you can play with a very good one at JBM Ballistics. http://www.jbmballistics.com

Although brief, this article should ignite your research into your long-range quest. Stay tuned for more articles in our Longe Range Shooting Series.