A continuation of my introduction to long range shooting. Hopefully I provided some insight into getting started shooting long range and you are interested in exploring this side of the sport. Today, we get into more detail on the gear that enables you to be more consistent in hitting your targets. You might not need to spend as much as you think, but there are some minimum baseline requirements.
Long range gear:
I am not a subscriber to any brand, and unless you are sponsored, you shouldn’t be either. Maybe take the blinders off and open your options a little. There is no “best”. Dont let anyone fool you.
Without getting bogged down with minutia, lets go over the basics in what will help you accomplish your goal. My intent is to make shooting and hitting at long range as enjoyable and as cost effective as it can be for the layman shooter such as myself.
First, we need to look at this subjectively. There are more opinions out there about optics that probably anything else in the shooting industry. This is for good reason. No ones eyeballs are the same. I have spent time behind a pretty good variation of what I consider extremely expensive glass. What I have learned in that time is, there is a law of diminishing returns. In most cases, your not going to be able to tell a difference between a $1500 optic and a $4000 optic when it comes to glass.
Lets concentrate on finding optics with a feature set that fits YOU. My recommendations would be the below.
At least a 30mm tube for more erector travel (elevation adjustment)
At least a 50mm objective. At high magnification a small objective can get dim and cloudy.
Exposed elevation turret at minimum. You will be making elevation changes constantly between different distances. An exposed windage turret is just there for convenience. You shouldnt be dialing for wind anyways.
A reticle with subtensions for both windage and elevation that match your turrets, i.e. mil/mil or moa/moa. Surprisingly there are lots of scopes out there with mix matched reticle/turrets; even in military use. It can be done, but takes a lot more math to make it work.
General consensus is 1x magnification for every hundred yards. I don’t really agree with this statement, but it can be done. Personally for shooting 1000 yards or beyond, I like to have at least 20-24x on the top end.
You are going to need good glass, and this is where branding comes into play. Select an optic from a reputable source. Do a little research online, try and stick with the known good optics. Be leery of new outfits that claim to be the next best thing. Spend a little money. Set yourself a budget, then add $200 to that.
Believe it or not, this is the easiest to address. With CNC precision made rifles littering every gun store, your choices are a plenty.
If you plan on doing “volume” shooting, as in, more than 10 rounds in a setting, get yourself a heavy barrel. Skinny “pencil” barrels start to walk after about 3 rounds, trust me on this.
Fluting is optional, and I consider it a gimmick. Lots of engineers at a much higher pay grade than myself all agree. Its strictly cosmetic.
Understand that EVERY single gun manufacturer has made a lemon. Its just the amount of lemons they have made that makes the difference. Just like optics, select one that commonly used for your purpose. More than likely the pecking order is going to look something like this.
and then everything else
Just know, that whichever rifle you choose, you will be customizing it in the future if you decide to stick with the sport. The Remington 700 series have the largest footprint currently in the aftermarket. This will ultimately make a difference down the road.
This was discussed in Part 1. I will expand a little on the importance of this.
B.C. (Ballistic Coefficient) is your friend. The higher, the better and that is an absolute. This is math, and as we all know there is nothing more finite than math.
Simply put, the higher the B.C., the slower your bullet is effected by gravity and wind drift. What this means to you is the higher the B.C., the larger margin of error the shooter now has. Less dialing on your elevation turret, less wind holds, and more retained velocity and energy. Elevation is easy and consistent, if you know the range, ammo and the environmentals it is just a matter of plugging them into your ballistics calculator. The calculator will get you very, very close, often, right on the money, but you still need to verify and document your actual elevation adjustments. Wind… wind is the hard one to get right, and heavy for caliber, high BC bullets get pushed around by the wind significantly less.
Don’t get a sucker for velocity. This comes as a cost. Most anything with the word “Magnum” in it will not be very nice to barrels. This is definitely a concern if you are a weekly shooter. Most, but not all “Magnum” cartridges will have a net barrel life of between 800-1500 rds. That might seem like a high number, but lets do the math.
Lets say you shoot 3 times a month and fire around 50 rounds conservatively every time. That’s 150 rounds a month.
That means your barrel will be end-of-life in 6 months. Then you are going to be out, lets say, $400 for a new barrel plus $300 for gunsmithing fees, and 3-4 months wait time from the gunsmith. So, in a nutshell, $700 and 3-4 months wait every 6 months of shooting.
Typically a 308 Winchester has a usable service life of around 5000-7000 rounds.
6.5 Creedmoor has an average barrel life of around 3000 rounds.
The latest new wizz-bang 26 Nosler, which shoots the same bullet as a 6.5 Creedmoor at a mere 300 fps faster has a barrel life of around 800 rounds. That’s one hell of a trade off for 300 fps don’t you think?
Keep this in mind when making your decision on calibers.
There is no doubt that factory triggers have come a long ways in the last 10 years. Some are now externally adjustable, some internally, and most are excellent. This is where I will say is going to be rifle dependent, but in the end, you will be replacing it with an aftermarket version. This is another subjective area and is going to be about how it feels to YOU. I personally like Jewel HVR triggers. Timneys are a go-to on most aftermarket builds, and recently I have shot a Huber trigger. The Huber is a hand made roller bearing trigger designed exactly as the customer requests. This comes at a price, as does everything custom.
Get yourself a muzzle brake and or a suppressor
It will make all the difference in the world. Your going to need a threaded barrel for this, so make sure you check that off the list when purchasing your rifle.
APA, Alamo 4 star, Impact Precision, JEC, Tubb, JP, are all good brakes. No, they arent cheap, but they are most definitely, without a doubt, one of the most beneficial things you can do in order to mitigate recoil and muzzle jump. Suppressors make a huge difference in recoil management and if you are shooting at a private range where there aren’t “uncivilized” shooters you can often times shoot without any ear protection. Being able to shoot with others and carry on a normal conversation is so nice to experience. Both a brake and a suppressor will allow you to much more easily spot your own shots by keeping the target in the sight picture due to less muzzle jump.
Ebay chinese knock off bipods are not going to work here. Get started with at least a Harris BR-M in the shortest version available. You need a solid bipod with tilt feature for uneven terrain.
After that, you can experiment with others like Atlas or whoever is the new hot ticket in bipods at the moment.
This is an absolute must, and an inexpensive one at that. Get yourself several of different shapes and sizes. Experiment with them. You can use them in more ways that just a rear bag. They can also be used as barricade rests, forend rests, a pillow on road trips, etc.
You will need one in order to place your bullets where you want them to go. I have yet to find a range that has targets placed at exact labeled distances. This might not make a huge difference at 100 yards, but at 500 on a 1 MOA target, a 5 yard error is going to mean the difference between a hit or a miss.
Purchase the best that you can afford. Also understand that you are going to need to use a tripod in order to range out past 800 or so yards, so make sure it has a tripod mount. Also, dont count on the “max range” as labeled on the rangefinder. Always give yourself leeway in that area. For example, a rangefinder labeled with an 800 yard range will probably not be able to actually range that far in anything other than ideal circumstances with a highly reflective target.
Again, pick one from a reputable manufacturer and try and do some research online from other users and their experience. Understand too, that there is a difference between ranging a 12 inch steel plate at 800 yards and ranging a water tower from your back yard.
Handloading is where its at for precision, long range shooting. It is not as hard as you might think, although there is a considerable cash outlay to get started which is why most new shooters choose to shoot factory loads.
The benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to handloading. Once you get the initial purchase of components out of the way, the results will pay for themselves lickety-split.
When you handload a cartridge, you have complete control over every single aspect of it. Let me lay it out for you.
You can re-use your brass multiple times.
You can determine where your shoulder is on your brass.
You can use benchrest quality primers.
You can use a powder of your choosing and experiment with charge weights.
You can use any bullet that you please
You can adjust the bullets seating depth to engage the rifling at different distances i.e. freebore
You can load reduced power loads for smaller shooters.
You will save lots and lots of money, especially if you are a high volume shooter.
As a caveat, there is some factory loaded ammunition that will get you to where you need to go, just at a price. You need to figure around $1.50 at minimum per loaded round for “match grade” factory ammunition. To put this into perspective, a handloader can build custom loads, tailor made to his rifle, using better components for half that cost. Hint.
“Let’s custom everything”
If you have the means, and the skill, there is nothing that will trump a full custom built rifle wearing nice glass, and using custom, handloaded ammunition.
When I say the word “means” what I am alluding to is a cash outlay of around SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS on the low side, just for the rifle and optics. Let me part it out and show you what I am talking about.
Surgeon bare action $1400
Bartelin barrel $450
Chassis or stock of your choice $1200
Jewel Trigger $250
Vortex Razor Gen 2 $2500
20 MOA scope base $75
Seekins Scope Rings $150
APA Muzzle Brake $175
Harris BR-M Bipod $100
Gunsmith fees to chamber, headspace, thread bbl and true action plus assemble $1000 minimum.
$7300 total, give or take
Those are not necessarily the components that I would chose to build a rifle, but something I just came up with on the fly. Sure, the dollar amount can change drastically depending on what components that you choose, but its still not going to be cheap no matter how you look at it.
The good news is, once you have your first custom rifle built, your only going to be buying barrels, so your looking at $600 to $800 for a rebarrel or caliber change.
Shooting long range is fun, and can be done on a reasonable budget. You CAN be an effective long range marksman if that is your goal. The best piece of advice that I can provide to you is, DO NOT let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. You will be amazed at all of the supposedly “impossible” things I have seen people do with boring regularity.