Since the advent of the rifle, which introduced unparalleled accuracy to the world of firearms, men and women have been pushing the limits of long range shooting. From competing in sports to seeking a career in the military special forces, there are hundreds of reasons to pursue long-range shooting.
In the following article, we’ll address the basics of long-distance shooting, explain the challenges involved, and offer some helpful tips on how to approach the technique. Whether it’s your first time “going long” or you want to increase your accuracy, these long-range shooting tips are sure to be a big help.
Why Pursue Long-Range Shooting
Shooting is a skill. Whether you’re pursuing long-distance techniques as a sniper in the military, for competitive sports shooting, or just recreation, you shouldn’t need an excuse to improve it. In recent years, interest in these techniques has increased dramatically, with many people who enjoy firearms deciding to increase their skill and tackle near-impossible long-distance shots.
This growing popularity is partially due to improvements in technology as well. From the consistency of bullet manufacturing to the development of long-range scopes and sighting devices, it’s easier than ever to make shots that many gun enthusiasts would consider impossible.
However, as you’ll see, long-distance shooting requires a lot more than just some fancy equipment. For many, it takes a lot of research, endless hours on the range, and a very focused mind. Furthermore, “ringing steel” at 1000 yards presents loads of unique challenges.
The Challenges of Long-Range Shooting
Most shooters define long-range as any distance between 300 and 1200 yards. Of course, when firing a bullet this far, one can’t merely aim and expect to hit the target. You need to compensate for “bullet drop,” which is the rate at which a bullet’s trajectory changes over distance. Knowing what drop to expect requires intricate knowledge of your rifle, the ammunition, and the scope or sights you’re using.
Shooting accurately at long distances also requires expert fundamentals and a well-adjusted, perfectly-aligned sight. In many cases, shooters will use various calculations and specific long-range tools to set up the shot properly. Contrary to popular belief, long-distance shooting is not as simple as it looks in the movies.
At the end of the day, long-distance shooting is usually more about the time you put in before firing the weapon.
Long Range Shooting Tips
Now that you’re aware of the challenges involved in long-range shooting, here are some long range shooting tips that you can apply on your next trip to the range.
1. Record Data Scrupulously
Surprisingly, the most important aspect of becoming a talented long-distance shooter is the data you collect while you’re on the range. The information you want includes wind conditions, type of ammunition used, and how the rifle itself performed, mil adjustments, your position (kneeling, prone-position, etc). Cross-referencing this data is the only real way to get better over time. Shooting with a spotter can help make this process painless as well.
2. Shoot Between the Beats
Most hunters and casual shooters know that breathing is a big part of shooting accurately. As the distances increase, however, tiny variations that seemed unnoticeable before can have a dramatic impact on performance. In most cases, marksmen will fire at the end of several deep breaths, so that they can time their shot “in-between” their heartbeats.
3. Pull Through the Trigger
Just like golf and baseball, having a smooth, mechanical follow-through is essential to maintaining control at the shooting range. After the rifle fires, it’s vital to continue to squeeze the trigger before slowly releasing it. This follow-through will help you avoid “jerky” or reactionary movements.
4. Zero in Your Rifle
Put your gun in a clamp and line up your sights to a target at 100 yards. Fire and re-adjust your sight/scope until you have three consecutive shots within a 1-inch square. Eliminating the possibility of mechanical error will prove a big help when you move on to longer distances. Using a bipod may help at longer ranges, but shouldn’t be needed under ~800 years.
5. Know Your Rifle
Understanding the construction of your rifle will help you decide if it’s suitable for long-distance shooting. If you’re new to the sport, consult with your local gun club or find a group that shares your interest. If you buy new or modify your old weapon, you’ll want to know as much as you can about its design. Think about buying a precision rifle like buying a car – you wouldn’t make the decision on the spur of the moment, and you’d likely want some experience with it first. (Check out our guide on the various types of rifles.)
6. Get Serious About Bullets
Regardless of what type of rifle you’re using, you’re guaranteed to need ammunition that is powerful, accurate, and consistent. In many cases, a simple trip to the gun shop will be enlightening – other long range shooters are typically happy to give pointers. In general, avoid ballistic-tipped ammunition (standard for hunting) and look for ammo cartridges that have a high ballistic coefficient (High BC).
7. Know the Weather
Though few hunters and sports shooters think about it, the wind speed does affect the trajectory of bullets, especially over longer distances. This problem is only made worse by the fact that wind is never constant, and can blow in multiple directions. Expert snipers learn to study the wind and make adjustments, but only practice can help the rest of us.
8. Follow the Bullet
For those on active duty, the first bullet almost always has to count. Luckily, those who are pursuing long-distance shooting or fun or competition can learn from the first bullet hit and make adjustments. In many cases, this is the best way to learn what nuances affect each subsequent shot.
Long-Distance Shooting in Summary
Generally, hitting anything over 200 yards away is going to require a little bit of skill. In the case of long-distance shooting, the shooter has to take a number of factors into account in order to properly make their shot. Such factors include everything from the wind to the bullet weight to the power of the rifle, some of which can change at a moment’s notice.
In the end, repeated trips to the gun range and diligent note-taking are the keys to getting better at this sport. (Check out our picks for the best range bags.)The above tips are just some of the ways that you can get more out of your time at the range, and make faster progress as you pursue the art of long-distance shooting.