We have all had that niggling thought: ‘Can I hit that target?’ The desire to stretch your rifle to the limit, to exceed your boundaries. If you have this compulsion, then the answer is precision long-range shooting, one of the fastest-growing shooting sports in the world. Targets are steel gongs at 100 m to over 1 km. Depending on the format, ranges can be supplied – but can also be left for the shooter to calculate in the field. What’s more, shooting positions are set to challenge your comfort zone, making you improvise and adapt. As if that is not enough, you are almost always shooting against the clock. Far from the stuffy confines of the pens at your local range, this exciting sport challenges your marksmanship to the extreme in the field.
YOUR RIFLE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
It goes without saying that your most important piece of equipment is a rifle, and therefore this should be the best that you can afford. If you are just testing the waters, you need not buy a whole new rig – as long as your current rifle shoots less than one MOA, and can be cycled relatively quickly (five-round magazines are almost essential, while ten rounders are even better). You also need a good scope and the most accurate target ammunition you can afford, or you will need to reload your own. Starting out, you need to be able to hit a soda can at 200 m as a matter of routine. If this is beyond you, you are going to waste ammunition and become frustrated. As your capability grows, you will learn to estimate ranges, read the wind, compute the ballistic co-efficient of your bullets depending on conditions, and eventually find yourself arguing with your mates about the accuracy of slow- or fast-burning powders. Importantly, if you are a good shooter now, you are about to get a whole lot better! When entering a precision shoot, it is important to ensure full readiness by practicing with your rifle as much as possible. It is better to know your trigger/ rifle/scope and ammunition combination well than to keep on chopping and changing. Consistency is key! Before you even start sending rounds downrange, dry fire your rifle until you become one with your trigger.
|Truvelo CMS 12.7 x 99mm|
Consult ballistics calculators and get to the range to create a Dope chart (Data On Previous Engagements) for your rifle at different ranges (understating your bullet drop and wind deflection is key). Begin watching the wind and weather. Wherever you are, read the wind. How fast is it, and which direction? Imagine how your bullet would fly to an imaginary target. Wherever possible, check your estimates with a wind meter, or consult a weather report. In terms of consistency, consider buying a stock adapter (or build your own) to elevate your comb so that your eyes line up with your scope. Most importantly, work on different body positions, and ensure you can remain consistent. Almost all the top shooters internationally choose either 6 mm or 6.5 mm calibre rifles. The most popular is 6.5 mm Creedmoor, with .308 also incredibly popular. The 6 mm and 6.5 mm are favoured due to their inherent long-range accuracy. Larger calibres such as .308 are fine, but you get more recoil for similar ballistic properties (a suppressor and/or muzzle brake reduces this). Top international competitors use a range of scopes from a variety of manufacturers. Magnification ranges vary from 4x-odd on the low side to 27x plus on the high end. Nearly all of them use a wide objective lens of 50 mm plus to allow for maximum resolution in poor lighting conditions.
Mossberg’s Light Chassis Rifle in 6.5 mm Creedmoor combines the company’s MVP bolt action rifle with a lightweight aluminium target
chassis and Magpul stock. It has a 22” threaded barrel, adjustable trigger system, oversized bolt handle,
Picatinny rail system and adjustable bipod.
WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
However, work with what you have. It is better to know your rifle/scope well than to buy a super-duper scope the day before you shoot and hope it will help. Practically all of the top shooters use some version of a graduated reticule in mil dots or milliradians. This is key to estimating range, and for rapid holdovers when under time pressure. The best way to ensure consistent results is to reload your own ammunition (it is also cheaper; hence you can afford to practice more). Ideally, fire-form your brass. Then work up powder charges that give you the fastest, safest muzzle velocity for your rifle. Muzzle velocity is key to improving bullet ballistics at extended ranges of over 600 m. Several brands offer match-grade bullets. Look for the highest ballistic co-efficient possible (these are published extensively online). Typically, 6 mm calibres have a sweet spot for 105 gr to 115 gr projectiles (140 gr to 150 gr for 6.5 mm). If you are shooting larger calibres, such as a .308 or .300 Win Mag, then 180 gr to 220 gr bullets are preferable. Most importantly, you need to cook up a recipe that is most accurate and consistent for your rifle from 100 m all the way out to 1 000 m and beyond. Consider fitting a bipod and acquiring a wind meter. Take a couple of shooting bags along as well. Chronographs help to check muzzle velocity – which, in turn, will improve your ballistics calculations. If you are going to get serious about this sport, also consider making some small changes to your lifestyle. If you can, cut back on caffeine. Incorporate more stretching exercises so you become supple in terms of the various shooting positions. Do push ups, sit ups, and plank exercises to strengthen your core. Aerobic fitness will give you the ability to regain control and steady your breathing quickly, which is important.
Chassis rifles are increasingly popular – if the bug’s bitten consider one of these: Mossberg’s MVP – LC Light Chassis Rifle (available in .223, 6.5mm Creedmoor and .308 Win). Ruger Precision Rifle (available in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5mm Creedmoor and .308). Howa’s HCR Chassis Rifle (available in .223, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor & .308 Win.)
|A very useful forum on the local long range precision shooting scene can be found at http://www.gunsite.co.za/forums/forumdisplay.php?271-Precision-Rifle-Series|