I have been practicing long range shooting for about ten years. When I bought my first scoped rifle, initially, for deer and wild boar hunting, I began to research and study material about rifle marksmanship, ballistics, and handloading. My intent was to be able to deliver the most accurate and effective shots possible at typical hunting distances (up to ~300yds). I soon discovered that with rifles just like mine, ordinary civilians were shooting at 1000yds, and beyond. I found those subjects fascinating, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. With this series of articles, I want to share what I’ve discovered in my research (and range experience).
Let’s start with these questions: what is long range shooting and what does it take to make a shot at long range?
Long Range Shooting
For these articles, we can speak of long range shooting as ranges of 500-600yds, and beyond. Shooting at such distances makes seemingly small factors, such as your heart rate, breathing, physics, and the effects weather, more significant. This adds to the challenge, which, for me, is part of the beauty of this discipline.
What does it take to make a long range shot?
Some of you may recognize this quote from the movie Shooter (2007):
“You know what it takes to make a shot at that range? Everything comes into play that far. Humidity elevation, temp, winds, spin drift. There’s a 6-10 second flight time, so you have to shoot it where the target’s going to be. Even the coriolis effect, the spin of the earth, comes into play.”
They were talking about a shot beyond one mile; however, these elements are still relevant for long distance shooting at closer ranges. There is a bit more involved, including some physics, a little trigonometry, and a few formulas to use for long distance shooting. This math stuff may sound nasty for some of you, but rest assured that’s nothing of too difficult, once you get familiar with it. I’m not a fan of mathematics, so I’ll try to keep it simple. The only other things you need are a willingness to learn, the discipline (and practice) to apply it. Oh, and a rifle, of course!
Speaking of rifles, you may think you need a super-precision-laser rifle, with an astronomical telescope mounted on it chambered in a powerful caliber to shoot long range… You don’t. There are budget solutions, and ways to set up your existing rifle to get started in this beautiful discipline. The same principles can be used effectively with a .22LR rifle with a $200 scope (although, you won’t get the same kind of range as with larger calibers).
What’s most important are solid rifle marksmanship fundamentals. We must endeavor to eliminate, or at least minimize, human error. If your marksmanship skills are flawed, you can go crazy trying to compensate for errors derived not by external variables, but by your hand. In the course of this series, I’ll give you some tips to improve your accuracy. I’ll divide the material into three sections:
We will examine the physics behind the behaviour of a projectile (bullet) in flight. It is essential to understand this to be able to predict the bullet’s trajectory in order adjust our sights and hit the target at varying distances and conditions.
I will discuss the setup of a typical long range weapons system (i.e., rifle, optics, etc.). I’ll also cover how to maximize the accuracy and consistency of your rifle, how to choose the right optic, and how to select the right ammunition.
This will be a sort of “how to” section where I’ll take you step by step through long range shooting techniques, starting from zeroing your rifle and building your own ballistic table, and finishing with the observation of the bullet going downrange.
If you have studied and practiced well, you will see your bullet hitting your target, like in this example from Shooter.
Featured images are stills from Antoine Fuqua’s 2007 film, Shooter.