I was recently lucky enough to attend the Applied Ballistics seminar in North Carolina. When I say “lucky” I mean it because I live in the U.K. That is a pretty long trip and not cheap. My company sent me in order to expand my ballistics knowledge and I am very thankful as it proved to be a great experience. It was also my first time visiting the U.S.A so I hope some of my experiences might amuse some of my American friends.
For those of you who are wondering what “Applied Ballistics” is I shall explain. Bryan Litz is the chief Ballistician for Berger bullets. He has written several excellent books aimed at the long range rifle shooter with specific focus on how projectiles (bullets) perform between the end of your barrel and the target. He has challenged a somewhat stale industry and many long held myths and backed his theories up with hard data and well thought out experiments. Bryan and his team created software which many long range shooters use and can be found in range finders, Kestrel anenometers and of course the Applied Ballistics apps and computer software. In short AB has become the industry gold standard when it comes to reliable ballistic data – something we all need to make those first round hits..
After waking up at 2am UK time I drove a couple of hours to the airport. 3 hours after arriving I was on the plane and headed for Raleigh NC.
I have to say I was pretty excited! On arrival I was blown away by the difference in weather. I had left the UK around 8c wearing winter clothes and arrived to bright sun and a balmy 18c! Bonus.. The first thing I did was to enjoy a cigarette outside. I sat rolling one and noticed I got a few strange looks. Maybe it was my winter clothing..
I collected the hire car and set the satnav for Sophia NC. Both my hotel and the conference were being held their. Driving was a little scary at first. The highways are huge compared to the UK as were the many big trucks. I kept staring at things and thinking “wow this is just like the movies” and then quickly realising I should concentrate on driving! Intersections and left turns required extreme concentration as we have roundabouts in the UK. I am sure American tourists find them equally terrifying!
After another daunting ride in the early morning darkness I arrived at Caraway Mtn. Conference Centre. What a stunning place. I spotted two large female deer as I drove in. Probably not a sensible move on their part given that the place was about to be filled with keen hunters!
We were greeted with the complete library of Bryans books worth around $230, an AB metal coffee mug and a thick folder full of info along with a branded tote bag to put it all in. We also recieved a copy of applied ballistics AB Analytics software before the course valued at $200. Considering the seminar only costs $500 to attend I would say that represents excellent value for money.
Bryan took the stage and it became clear we would be getting ALOT of valuable info over the next two days. Bryan was wielding a broadsword as he spoke which he explained helped him to think. You can see him holding onto it in the shameless selfy I took.
The topics during the morning were fairly math heavy. Bryan wanted to get the tough info out there while we were all still lively and caffeinated! He spoke about drag and stability and the numerous variables which have an effect on your bullets trajectory. The first big realisation came which was that most of us are not spinning our projectiles fast enough to achieve proper stability. The instability causes drag and therefore we do not use the full potential of many of our standard projectiles. The 175gn in .308 was an example which was given multiple times as this is a popular choice with hunters, target shooters and militaries. It appears that barrel twist rates have been superceded by modern projectiles which require a tighter twist than is commonly available. In 308 Bryan discussed twists around 1-8 which is almost unheard of from the major gun manufacturers.
At lunchtime we all went down to the canteen where a huge array of great food was available. This was all included in the seminar price. In the UK there is no way you would get a deal like this. I ate heartily and chatted to fellow shooters. They proved to be a great bunch and I made fast friends. I happened to sit next to a chap from Scotland and we got on very well. He told me all about his stalking and target shooting and I shared info about my job as a Ballistician. Politics seemed to be a key theme as the seminar took place in the week prior to Election. Plenty of pro Trump/2A guys which I thought was great! A lot better than the dreadful Clinton lady anyway..
After Dinner Bryan continued with some less math intense ballistics after which Emil Praslick took the stand. Emil is the head coach for the US Palma rifle team and ex head coach at the Army marksmanship unit. He gave an enlightening talk especially regarding wind calls. He suggested that it is better to make a call which is too agressive as opposed to not enough. I reguarly make half assed wind calls so this will prompt me to be a little more progressive. I tested the idea this week and shot several MOA sized 5 shot groups in gusting 40mph winds at 500m so I would say his advice paid off big time.
After a short break Nick Vitalbo schooled us on lazer range finders. Nick wrote the AB Analytics software and has been involved in developing devices for range finding and more recently wind calculation. It came as no suprise that the most expensive range finders were the most reliable although the Sig Sauer Kilo 2400 performed very well in the more affordable category.
After the main Seminar we were able to join in the many break out group discussions. I headed outside and listened to Nick Vitalbo as some of his info was very relevant to my work back in the UK. I noticed John Mcquay of 8541 tactical fame listening in as well and made a mental note to get a selfy with him later on!
I headed back to the Mexican for beer. I was befriended by self proclaimed Rednecks at the bar who loved my accent and my pro Trump politics. They were great guys to drink with and proudly showed me their pistols and expanding rounds in order to get a Ballisticians opinion on them. In return for beer of course!!
Another full day of info. The speakers were Bryan followed by a young intern named Mitch Fitzpatrick. Mitch is not only a great shooter but also a gunsmith. He designed a rifle in a wildcat caliber (338 Lethal Magnum) which he used to win the King of Two Miles comp. His info on extended range shooting was gold dust to me as that is my favourite discipline and probably the one with the most myths and BS surrounding it.
After dinner Nick V and Doc Beech drilled us in the use of Applied Ballistics Analytics software. I use this at work and find it invaluable. The software allows the shooter to assess which variables have the most notable effects on hit percentage. It is eye opening and can save you both time and money if used correctly and honestly.
A guest Speaker from Vortex optics came next and taught us all about optics. I finally know how scopes work!! For my working role this info allows me to callibrate our optics and ensure they are not providing erroneous data when trueing MV or BC.
Bryan finished the afternoon with some lighter ballistics info which was followed by more breakout sessions. I got my shameless selfys with Bryan and John and then headed out to a nearby bar.
I had a splendid evening at the local bar where the locals made me feel at home. The trip had been a wonderful experience and I look forward to getting back to NC for a longer stay next time.
Before leaving for Charlotte airport I set off with my new Scottish chum to visit some gun stores. We went to Greensboro and visited Gander Mtn and Field and Stream.
I was in heaven! These were supermarket sized stores dedicated to all things outdoor. I could have spent many more hours in each. The Christmas displays in Field and Stream were awesome, featuring stuffed animals of all types.Not something I would see in the UK..
After that the long flight home back to 2c and winter clothes. I miss the U.S.A already!
I thoroughly recommend the Applied Ballistics Seminars to any shooter. It is tremendous value and packed full of golden info. I hope to go back next year.