When 200 and 300 yards just isn’t enough, it’s time to become a member of the Long-Range Club. Here are a few tips to get you started…
by Mike Disario for ShootingDaily; promoted by Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.
As with most fine tools, the performance of a quality rifle, precision magnified optic, or consistent ammunition often exceed shooter skills. At least at first. This reality becomes particularly exaggerated once you begin at shooting longer distances. In other words, whether you are working with a bedded custom-barreled and blueprinted action topped with expensive glass and shooting match-grade ammunition or have an out-of-the-box centerfire with a mid-grade variable scope and off-the-shelf ammo, the accuracy limitations to both equipment setups fall heavily on the shooter. This is why we practice—to minimize the human variable in our pursuit for accuracy at all distances.
As firearm, optic, and ammunition manufacturers deliver better-performing long-range gear at increasingly blue-collar prices, more shooters are transitioning from “occasional plinking” status to a more serious long-range game. For those looking to get into long-range shooting, the question becomes how to bridge the gap between the “human” and the “mechanical” in order to extract the greatest accuracy potential from both sides of the equation.
The following are our initial recommendations for setting up for long-range shooting. We say “initial” because whether you begin with a bone-stock rifle and off-the-shelf ammo or jump right in with a hot rod centerfire and hand loads, you will inevitably tweak your equipment and ammunition in pursuit of the X-ring. What won’t necessarily change is the kind of gear seen here that you need in order to link the “human” to the “mechanical.”
Long-distance shooting will always be frustrating unless you properly mount your scope. That goes for short- or long-distance shooting.
There is more to installing a rifle scope than clamping it between the scope rings and heading to the range. A scope must be level and aligned with the rifle bore to prevent “windage creep.”
Even beginning long-range shooters are familiar with the concept of bullet trajectory and the need to compensate for bullet rise and drop along the trajectory arc. If your rifle is zeroed at 200 meters and your target is 400 meters away, you know that you need to compensate for the bullet’s drop past 200 meters (or bullet rise at less than 200 meters). But not everyone understands what happens at distances less than or greater than a rifle’s zero’ed distance when the scope is not perfectly level with the rifle and aligned with the bore. The elevation may be zero’ed at a specific distance, but as you shoot longer or shorter distances, windage will change, or “drift” across the target. This is due to the scope not being perfectly level with the rifle, and why you should never “eyeball” a scope installation.
The easy solution is a scope mounting kit, such as the Ultra Scope Mounting Kit from Wheeler Engineering. This kit comes with two levels—one that attaches to the barrel to achieve vertical rifle orientation and a smaller level to orient the scope level with the rifle. Another thing we like about this kit is that it includes an inch-pound torque wrench that helps you secure your scope attaching hardware to the factory recommended torque specifications. The kit also comes with a laser bore sighter to get you on paper quickly.
A Stable Platform
We’ve never been to a public or private range where you could pick a bench that fits your body size and profile just right. Also, long-range shooting is often done on remote private properly where there are not shooting benches. Either way, a portable, user-adjustable shooting platform allows you to set up so that the bench conforms to you, not the other way around. If you can’t get a comfortable and natural rest, shooting form and ultimately accuracy will suffer. This is part of the human factor we mentioned that is so important for the long-range shooter.
A good example of an individual shooting bench that easily customizes to your physical needs and the conditions you are shooting in is the Stable Table by Caldwell Shooting Supplies. There are several features that make this a choice long-range shooting platform aside from its portability.
First, as its name implies, the table is stable due largely to the solid steel frame construction and reduced number of joints (when compared to folding-style benches). Second, you can make the table level on almost any terrain thanks to an adjustable leg. This system uses a large knobbed screw to allow for precise adjustment (other style shooting tables we’ve had use fixed detent holes that prevent getting an exact adjustment). Finally, the padded seat has 16 inches of vertical adjustment travel, which is great for achieving a proper mount on your rifle.
A Stable Platform, Part 2
Second are shooting bags, which we recommend not only for skill development, but also accuracy, as some firearm designs and barrel harmonics/load combos simply are more accurate when there is less resistance to the recoil.
A shooting sled that’s ergonomic and offers fine-tune adjustment should be an essential ingredient on any long-range shooter’s equipment list. The purpose of a shooting sled is two-fold. First, it allows you to stabilize your rifle to eliminate most shooter-induced movement. Simply set the rifle in the cradle, adjust the elevation to align your crosshairs with your target, and shoot. A sled is especially welcome for initial zeroing of your rifle.
Another benefit of using a sled that accommodates weighted shot bags is to further stabilize the sled and help absorb shooter movement transmitted to the rifle. A lead-weighted sled also absorbs recoil, which is particularly welcome if you plan a long day at the range in the company of a larger-caliber rifle.
For this kind of work, the Lead Sled DFT 2 fits the bill nicely. This unit features Dual Frame Technology, which basically allows you to slide the cradle forward or backward along an independent frame to fit any length long gun. The sled also accommodates up to 100 pounds of lead shot so you can customize the recoil reduction to your rifle.
Another must-have for the long-range shooter is a precision shooting rest. By precision, we mean not only a rest that’s built with quality components, but one that also offers extremely precise adjustment for elevation and windage. A rest such as the Rock BR is what we’re talking about. At 15.5 pounds and featuring a robust 15-inch footprint, the Rock BR provides the stability and adjustability we demand in a quality bench rest. Course and fine elevation adjustment offers precise dialing. The cradle has a smooth windage adjustment, along with a clamping system to squeeze the bag snug against your rifle’s forend. The Rock BR comes with three-inch lobe bags to fit flat forends and sporter-style forends.
Ear & Eye Protection
Eye and ear protection are essential to any firearm shooting activity. Quality, high-performing ear protection, however, is even more critical in the long-range shooting arena, as many shooters gravitate toward larger calibers, such as the popular .338 Lapua. Good ear protection should be comfortable to wear, have soft ear cups to better seal out noise, and, most importantly, be worn every time you shoot.
Electronic ear muffs have become increasingly popular among shooters. They allow you to hear what’s going on around you and carry on conversations, but the noise amplification shuts off momentarily when the circuitry detects noise levels above a certain dB threshold. The E-Max Low Profile Electronic Hearing Protection muffs use stereo microphones (one in each ear cup) to detect sound direction. We like the low-profile design because it doesn’t interfere with our rifle stock.
Eyewear offers a double advantage to the long-range shooter. Not only do they protect your eyes in the event of a malfunction, most are designed with colored lenses that minimize UV scatter and improve clarity. When your shooting distance can be counted in 100-meter increments, such clarity is especially welcome. These M&P Harriers come with multiple lenses for different color filtration so you can best match the prevailing light and atmospheric conditions.
Save Your Boot Leather
Long-range shooting can be time-consuming and downright tiring, especially when you must physically check your target. Fortunately, those days are in the past thanks to WiFi technology and long-distance camera systems such as the Ballistic Precision LR Target Camera.
This system utilizes a 720p high-definition camera with night vision and a long-range transmitter that sets up next to your target and works up to a mile away. The receiver is positioned at your shooting location and connects to your phone or tablet. A free app allows you to livestream and record your videos, take photos, and calculate your group sizes. The rechargeable lithium ion battery lasts up to six hours on a single charge. If you have a home range, an external jack allows you to run the unit on an alternate power source.
While the Ballistic Precision LR Target Camera was designed primarily to meet the needs of the long-range shooter, it is also a valuable tool for shooters working at more conventional distances. Points of impact can be difficult to see even with a spotting scope, so a target camera system such as this saves boot leather and time.
Long-range shooting is a terrific sport that hones your marksmanship skills and challenges you to set new benchmarks in your equipment and yourself. Setting yourself up with the right support gear at the outset will help shorten the performance curve.
article copyright © 2017 by ShootingDaily.com; promoted by Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.
Although Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.is one of our sponsors, the views expressed in this article are those of the author. ShootingDaily.com receives compensation from Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.in various forms to help promote their products.