Thinking about getting into long-range shooting, either for competition, or simply to extend your practical abilities as a hunter?
Here are a few tips for success.
First, if you’re new to shooting in the first place, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start shooting at close ranges – like 100 yards – then master the fundamentals before attempting to become a long-range shooter.
Light rifles are easier to pack and carry, but they offer little to nothing in the way of stability, especially from natural tremors/trembling, or from your heartbeat and breathing.
All of these things can make a rifle bounce around like chaff in a gale (figuratively and literally, with a little hyperbole mixed in for effect), whereas a heavier rifle is naturally more steady.
Invest in Optics
Past a few hundred yards, your abilities will be as much a product of the optics you pair with your rifle as with the build and the ammo quality.
One of the most important features is variable magnification so that you can see your target clearly, but cheap scopes tend to produce a foggy, blurry sight picture on their highest settings.
You will also want a scope that offers precise windage and elevation settings, as well as a zero-stop mechanism that will allow you to return to original zero as needed
All of these features come at a premium; remember that you might have to spend as much if not more on your scope than your rifle, but if you really want to connect with those targets at long distances, it can be worth it.
Be Sensitive to Cant, Level, and Parallax
Either level your scope yourself or take it to a gunsmith to do so, and check the level again after you have tightened the scope rings (as tightening can throw off level). You might also want a scope base with a level bubble built-in so you can see when you’re shooting.
Also, get a scope with adjustable parallax settings, as fixed parallax will not work well in most long-range scenarios.
And be cognizant of that when you shoot, because a little parallax distortion at 100 yards might still put you on target, but can be a wide miss at 1000.
Keeping Steady: A Few Suggestions
Your breath, natural tremors, and heartbeat can all result in “reticle throb” when you’re shooting over an optic. This is a normal occurrence, but undesirable as it can and will result in inaccurate shooting.
If your heartbeat is making your crosshair tremble, put a jacket or pack under your chest to muffle the movement.
Breath control is also essential when it comes to long-range shooting. There are two main schools of thought here.
One is to hold your breath and shoot within 4 seconds when your vision is still sharp. This can be effective but it also requires a concerted effort from the shooter.
A more natural response is to breathe in deeply, then exhale naturally, shooting at the pause before you take your next breath. Since it’s between breaths, respiration won’t make the crosshair jump – but you still need to shoot within a second or two before your vision starts to get dim.
Shoot a Quality Ammo Like Federal Gold Medal Match
Another consideration to make is that you should match the ammo to the application. Regular FMJ ammo can be effective for long-range shooting but there are special types, like Federal’s Gold Medal Match ammo, that are made with an open-tip Sierra MatchKing bullet (hence OTM, or “open-tip match”) that results in a jacket with higher radial symmetry and therefore a better ballistic coefficient than its standard FMJ counterparts.
Just one thing: it’s not ideal for hunting. So if you’re training or competing, try a match-grade ammo like Federal Gold Medal Match – if you’re hunting stick with the soft point or ballistic tip for better energy transfer and more efficient dispatch.