After a rather mundane bit with maths and tables we now get to have some serious fun. This is the day we have been working towards – shooting out to 1000+ yds. For some of you competitive long range veterans that may seem like no big deal. For many (myself included) who have spent years shooting disciplines which require 200yds or less then 1000yds can seem a long way off. I spent many years shooting .22 rimfire for county and country. Longest range we went out to was 100yds. I remember marvelling at the fullbore guys with wonderment and envy as they made consecutive hits at long range. Don’t be worried, as long as you stay calm, methodical and kept accurate data then this will be easy and before you know it you will be cursing anything that isn’t a bull/centre mass hit!
It looks a long way!
We arrive at the range with our rifle (zeroed at 100yds) and all our kit. If you are unsure which kit or how to zero the rifle then go back to previous chapters and follow the steps described. Notice in the picture above I am set up on a ground sheet/poncho. Always keep the weather in mind. If you don’t bring wet weather gear and it rains your time will be miserable and everything will require cleaning afterwards. Bring plastic sheet to cover kit and a full waterproof suit to wear. I just leave all my gear in the car. Always there if required..
If we just set up straight away and shoot out to long distance with no changes to the scopes elevation or windage then the bullet would fall very short. No good at all.
First thing we need to do is establish which distances we are shooting at.
If you are lucky enough to be at a range that offers multiple distances then I would recommend 300, 600 and 1000yds. If you have to select one then make it 1000… That is what we are aiming for right?!
Once you are set up the only thing left to do is dial in elevation and windage. The elevation part should be fairly straight forward. Find your chosen distance on the table you produced in the last chapter. It will tell you how many MOA or Mils to dial in regarding elevation. Make sure you dial the elevation turret the right way or you may find it bottoms out and you lose your zero. That is when a physical “zero stop” feature really helps – you can only dial up!
The next part of the adjustments are not so easy. Arguably the only unpredictable variable in shooting outdoors, especially at extended range… The wind
I am not an expert in any shooting matter, I’m just a guy who likes to shoot. The wind is the subject I am the least knowledgeable on. That is because wind is never a constant. It is a variable which is ever changing. You can go and read books, watch videos and you still cant predict what the wind will do. All I can do is to let you know what I do to compensate for wind and what I have seen others do. Then it will be up to you to get loads of practice in. That is how you learn wind reading – by actively reading and adjusting for it.
We have to gauge the direction and speed of the wind along our bullets trajectory. Even with modern technology you are going to struggle to be totally accurate. The wind differs due to terrain ect so a wind of 5mph at the firing point might be stronger or lighter further down range.
I like to watch the range for a few quiet minutes. Check out the movement of flags, trees, grass. Feel the wind blowing on your face. Have a guess at its strength. Direction is fairly obvious but be aware wind can circle and flow around/over obstacles. Shooting in hilly terrain can be very hard because the wind will be harder to predict. A flat open space is the ideal but not all ranges fit that category. I imagine the wind like water. It helps me to visualise its movement down range. Once you have a guess at the average speed you may want to check it against a weather app or you might have a wind meter. When you are happy with your prediction you should plan to aim off by a set ammount or dial the windage in on your scopes turret. I like to dial it, others use the reticle markings to aim off. Both methods work well. Bear in mind the wind will be changing constantly as you do this!
To learn how much to dial in for windage is the tough bit. You can use ballistic software, buy a military style chart or even download a table from the web. These give you approximate figures to get started with. The only true method for good wind reading is years of experience. Even then it can confound the experienced veteran. Always keep notes on wind conditions and what you dialled in as compensation that given day.
Working out windage
Pulling the trigger
Make sure you get comfortable. Spend a few minutes behind the rifle before you load it. Look through the scope at your target. Dependant on conditions you may see mirage which moves. Don’t worry it can be useful for getting an idea on wind. You will see the wind increases and drops off. You can begin to get the feel of when to make a shot. When is the wind most consistent? Is it steady or gusting? Whichever moment you pick to pull the trigger you should snap shot the conditions in your mind. Then wait for the conditions to repeat themselves for shot number 2.
Your breathing should be slow and steady. Try to think “calm”. This is truly a zen moment! Avoid stimulants like caffeine before you shoot. I know from experience. Shooting after a can of Red Bull ruined my score!! The pull of the trigger should be slow and even on the pad of your finger. When the rifle fires try to stay in position and watch the target though your scope. If you get really comfy and control the recoil well then you will see your hit or bullet splash near the target..
After you fire the first shot at 1000yds you will have one of three outcomes.
1. You hit the target dead centre (least likely)
2. You hit somewhere on or around your target (most likely)
3. You don’t have a damn clue where it went (quite likely!)
If you don’t know what happened then radio the target marker (if your shooting paper) or ask fellow shooters to spot your next shot. Fire again.
The most likely outcome requires adjustment. If your aim felt good and you double checked your elevation and windage were correct then you are probably hitting very close to the target. Most modern scopes have moa or mil reticles. If you saw your bullet impact 3 mils to the left in the reticle, simply dial in 3 mils to the right to shift your point of impact to centre of target. Another good reason to practice controlling recoil and spotting your own shots.
If you are not confident about your ability in terms of basic marksmanship then you may want to fire 3-5 shots in a row before making any adjustments. This will allow you (or your spotter) to get an idea of where the centre of your group is and make adjustments based on that.
A group of shots can give a better indication when making adjustments.
Hopefully you have achieved a few centre mass hits at the 1000yd line. If you had problems then feel free to write in and share them. That is it for the beginner series of articles on long range rifle shooting. Next we are going to stick with beginners and look at reloading. I will aim (as we did here) to demystify the process and give realistic solid advice regarding loading your own ammo. It is cheaper in the long run AND it is more accurate than factory stuff….
Take care and have a great week!