I recently shot a suppressed Savage precision rifle out to 1000 yards. It was a deeply satisfying experience. The sound of the gun’s report, the delay, the spotter’s call (HIT!) and the clank of the 6.5 Creedmoor bullet hitting metal. The NRA Outdoors instructors at the T Diamond ranch gave me three simple tips for newbies aiming to stretch their ballistic legs.
When you squeeze the trigger of a precision rifle, the recoil can make it difficult to see your target. If you’re watching the shot from the spotting scope you can (usually) see exactly where the bullet hits, as it hits.
You can then call out the changes that the shooter must make to get his or her round on target. By doing so, you’re learning about mission critical variables, including the shooter’s skills, the rifle/bullet combination and, most importantly, wind.
All this without having to concentrate on the shooting variables: positioning, breathing and trigger press. And ego.
2. Be consistent
“Variables are the enemy,” the NRA Outdoors instructors told me. Copy that. The less variables you have when shooting long-range — gun, scope, ammo, trigger, environmentals, etc. — the greater the probability of hitting the target.
And here’s the thing: even if you’re doing something “wrong,” keep doing it! In other words, don’t get too hung-up on technique. Don’t constantly modify your equipment or technique. Above all, more than anything else, be consistent.
3. Get great instruction and practice!
To use the British expression, start as you mean to finish. As with most things ballistic, it’s a lot easier to learn good habits from the start than it is to modify bad habits.
The NRA Outdoors course in Hamlin, Texas (where I shot) costs $2,300 plus transportation. If you want to shoot long range, whether for ringing steel or ethical hunting, it’s worth every penny.
The NRA instructors were patient and understanding and excellent communicators. More than that, they taught a range of shooting positions on a variety of guns at a range specifically designed for long-range plinking and hunting. And not just sitting at a shooting bench.
One more thing: listen! I know that sounds obvious, but plenty of shooters show up to a long-range shooting class and assume they already know it all. Or prefer to use their time in a class schmoozing and telling stories. Don’t be that guy or gal.
Once you gain the right skills needed to shoot long range, practice. Again, I shouldn’t have to tell you that. But there are distance shooters and hunters who fail to realize that long range shooting is a frangible skill. Persistence — patience over time — is the key to success.