By Ryan Cleckner
(This is an excerpt from Ryan’s book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, 25% of the sales of which will benefit military charities.)
If you’re not careful, you can easily get carried away with accessories. I love gadgets and gear as much as the next guy but please make sure that both your rifle and optic are of enough quality that allow you to shoot long range effectively before you purchase the latest top-of-the-line laser rangefinder. For example, if your laser rangefinder costs more than your scope, you might be doing it wrong. Sure, you’ll know exactly how far away that 912.3 yard target is, but you’re not going to be able to hit it. Remember that quote from the beginning of this section, “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.” Some of the best shooters I know can use a rifle with a sling and iron sights to out-shoot most others with a rifle with bipod legs and a scope . . .
6.1 Shooting Bag
I firmly believe that a shooting bag is a crucial part of the precision rifle system. Where my rifle goes, my pack follows. My shooting bag serves as a platform for my rifle and it carries things for both the rifle and me.
A shooting bag is the best all-around platform for shooting your rifle. The beauty of a shooting bag as a platform is its consistency. As discussed above, bipods can react inconsistently depending on the surface they are on. A rifle rested on a shooting bag, however, reacts the same whether the shooting bag is on grass or concrete.
In addition to serving as an accurate and stable platform for shooting, a shooting bag does something else – it carries things. If I am going to carry around equipment with me, it must be for a purpose. For example, I carry extra ammunition in case I need more than I have on my person or in my rifle, I carry my DOPE book so that I can add and reference information, I carry a calculator and rangefinder to help with range estimation, and I carry water and food in case I am thirsty or hungry.
By using my shooting bag as a shooting platform, I’m able to access each of these things directly in front of me. Instead of breaking my position to go searching for a bag laying on the ground behind me, I can reach in my bag for a snack while staying on my rifle and looking at the target. If I need to get up and move quickly, I can simply grab my rifle in one hand, my bag in the other, and go.
I encourage you to employ a practice we used in the military – only have one thing out of your bag at a time. If you do this, you won’t have gear strewn about you on the ground making it hard to pack up in a hurry and easy to lose. Having your gear scattered everywhere is often called a “gypsy camp” or a “yard sale.” Don’t do it.
Here is a list of things, at a minimum, that I keep in my shooting bag:
- DOPE Book
- Sand Sock
- Mil-dot Master
- Rain Jacket
- Jacket for warmth
Ryan Cleckner was a special operations sniper team leader in the US Army’s 1st Ranger Bn (75th) with multiple combat deployments and a sniper instructor. He has a series of basic online instructional videos (more to come shortly) and his book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, is available at Amazon.