by Ralph Hicks
Reaching precision and accuracy in long range shooting takes years of accumulated knowledge, firing thousands of rounds during practice, a clear state of mind, and an understanding of all the environmental conditions that may impact your shot. Choosing the right caliber is determined by whether you are a hunter, competitor, or a recreational shooter. If you want a caliber that performs extremely well across all forms of shooting then chose either a 6.5×47 Lapua or 6.5 Creedmoor. They are flat shooting cartridges, very fast muzzle velocities, longer barrel life and minimal felt recoil.As a starting point is the selecting the rifle itself, for long distance shooting starts with a precision rifle. Your rifle should have a crisp trigger set to a light poundage 1-3 pounds if target shooting and for hunting a higher poundage of 4 pounds plus to prevent accidental discharge. The barrel should be of very high quality and typically heavier than most factory barrels and made of stainless steel. The stock should be fully adjustable. The stock should be adjustable for Length of Pull (LOP); and a an adjustable check weld and recoil pad. These three adjustments points allow the stock to conform to your body type. The recoil pad should form a solid weld to your shoulder, the LOP places the arm and trigger hand in the right position for your trigger press, and the check wield aligns your eye to the scope/target picture.
A bolt-action rifle for years the only action that produced sub-MOA performance was a bolt action. We changed that equation when we when developed our semi-autos they produce sub-MOA out of the box.
The very first choice you have to make in long range shooting is the caliber size of your rifle that is dependent on your purpose: hunting or target shooting. The common caliber for hunting is 300 Win.Mag and for target shooting is the family of 6.5mm cartridges. There are so many calibers to choose from it can be at times overwhelming. You should consider if the round is for a single purpose or will it serve multiple roles such as hunting different size game or just target shooting. If it serves more than one purpose, compromises will have to be made, this starts with the caliber you select. The length of time it takes a round to remain supersonic and its retained energy on impact are two of the many considerations. Speed of the round is expressed by velocity; it is expressed in feet per second (fps). Many think that the faster the bullet the more precise it will hit the target, but this is not always the case. A 300 Win.Mag in a 220-grain bullet will fly a lot slower than a 168-grain bullet; but over longer distances the 220-grain bullet will stay supersonic for a greater length of time and help defy the impacts of wind. Oddly the 6.5 mm rounds achieve the same trajectory as a300 Win.Mag. There are many rounds that will stay supersonic out to 1,000 yards; past that distance many calibers become subsonic. The most common cartridges are the family of 6 mm from Lapua and Creedmoor.
Safety is a major consideration in long range shooting; the kinetic energy of the bullet has to drop below the point of injury and well past the range of your target. This means that the energy per foot-pounds needs to drop below its terminal velocity. For example a .308 round carries approximately 566 ft.lbs at 1,000 yards. Compared with the average 9mm round of 240 ft.lbs at 100 yards. In order to ensure you will not injure someone beyond your target’s range make sure you create a safety zone several hundred yards past your target, and with ultra long range, safety is measured in miles.
The 6.5 round also has a very flat trajectory and has significantly more retained energy then more common calibers. Today, more and more competitors , hunters, and recreational riflemen are moving towards the 6.5mm rounds because they have very little felt recoil and they produce very flat trajectory. Few cartridges stay supersonic past 1,000 yards, however, the .308 Winchester only drops below supersonic at 1,150 yards while the 6.5 remains supersonic to past 1,400 yards.
Long range shooting requires cartridges that can withstand long distances and maintain velocity while having minimal deflection from the wind impacts. There are many capable cartridges that meet these requirements, however price, recoil, and ease of reloading becomes a major consideration in cartridge selection. Generally speaking the cartridge that has the highest muzzle velocity with a high ballistic coefficient produces a flatter trajectory.
Barrel life I key as well a good barrel installed can cost $1,500 to $2000. Many 6mm rounds and other smaller and fast cartridges can only endure 1,000 rounds. Creedmoor and Lapua 6.5’s can endure 3,000 or more rounds down the barrel before precision starts to fall off.
In sum, chose a rifle carefully and except to spend a lot of money. But it is an investment over a lifetime. Why buy three or four rifles only to find they do not meet your needs. Buy once and buy high quality.
Read more at rthfirearms.com
Ralph Troy Hicks is the author of Fundamentals of Long Distance Shooting and Fundamentals of Long Distance Shooting II. He is a competitive shooter who set out to design and manufacture the finest semi-auto in the world—a rifle that could hit a dime at 100 yards and reach out to 1,400 yards with minimal felt recoil. It took over three years to develop this firearm. His goal was to take the precision of a bolt-action rifle and the speed of a semi-auto and marry them together in a stunningly beautiful firearm platform. It has the power, speed and precision to make any shooter into a champion.