After making the post about rifles for long range, I noticed a few comments of interest to a wide variety I believe. The idea is to have a rifle capable of long range without a huge cost. I am going to address a few of those questions here now and this will turn into a series of articles on the subject if all goes well. But, for now, this will be more or less, an intro to what it takes get it done out to ranges most shooters won’t even bother to shoot at.
One of the first points brought up on the facebook page was a desire to know what can be used in this application that is not a boat anchor or massive BR gun. The simple truth is, that a lot of the slick gun rags, and the writers in such mags, want to sell product and they want as many people as possible to think that they have some knowledge or skill that the average reader does not. One of the ways that encourage you to live out your long range shooting fantasies vicariously through what they write is by only talking about and showing stuff so expensive you can not buy it and, by making it sound a lot harder then it really is.
One of the things I want to make clear before we get too far into all of this, is that all we are concerned with here is being able to get a hit on a man, in the field under field conditions by some one that is not a sniper or a LR shooter with years of experience an expensive rifle and 5 dollar a round match ammo to go with it. This will help what I like to call field shooting or field marksmanship. By that I mean being able to get a hit on a man, in a short amount of time , at the furthest effective distance your cartridge and rifle are capable of in field shooting positions. Not off a benchrest or the square range on a mat on a nice warm sunny day with your cool sun glasses and red bull beside you. It is not about head shots at 800 yards or camp perry. It is about getting a hit. It may be a hit in the crotch or the thigh or in center chest, but it will be a hit that will put a normal person out of a fight. ( all for informational purposes only of course)…
There are of course some things that you have to keep in mind when trying to put together a rifle for longer ranges on a budget. While a great many cartridges can be used out to 1K, not all of them are idea for it. We will explore those reasons in detail later so right now let me talk about some of the first hurtles that keep the vast majority of people from using their rifles for LR and causing them to give up
Shooters who do not jump right to buying purpose built gear for long range shooting are for the most part, stopped dead by the simple fact that they do not have a base for their optics that is made to have a cant. Almost every one of the scopes that are out there that fit in the idea of this series are not meant for even medium range shots. Say, 500 yards. They are meant to be zeroed at 100 or 200 yards and used for deer shots. They may be excellent quality as far as the clarity and durability, but the adjustment range is not built in. So, you go out and zero at 100 yards. and you know from me, or the web some where it takes 144 clicks ( for a 1/4 minute turret) to come up to 1,000 yards. Problem is, you run out at 58 clicks after you zeroed the scope at 100 yards. The scope started out close to its mechanical zero, which took up half its range, then you used up another quarter of it just getting zeroed at 100. So, when you start to go out to even 500 yards, you run out. There is no need to cry and go buy another scope though because this can be cured.
Now, the cheap terrible terrible way to do this is to shim the rear ring or base. But, do not do this because it will not work for long and its just pointless because leupold or redfield makes what they call a “long range” base for about 17 dollars. You can use the same rings that fit any of those bases with the LR base. The base, is made with a built in cant. Usually its about a 20 MOA cant. To explain it simply, it makes the rear thicker then the front and raises the rear of the scope. This has the scope pointing down a little in front instead of setting level on top of the action. Once you have one of these on your rifle. you re zero and you will almost run out of down adjustment when you get it zeroed. This will give you almost the entire range of elevation to dial in out to as far as your cartridge is capable of. Now some rounds will not shoot flat enough for even this fix. Your 54-70 ain’t gonna make it with that scope but rounds like the 308 or anything faster will be ok as long as the velocity is decent.
Now, some scopes with a 30mm tube will give you even more adjustment range because of their size, but thats beyond the point of what we are talking about here,. for right now, we are talking about taking a rifle that may have been your deer gun or varmint gun and getting it on at 1000 yards.
If you do this and still can not make it at 1000 yards, you can try a few more things. One is to go to a faster load to try to eek out a flatter trajectory. The flatter the trajectory and the faster the round, the less adjustment you need to come up. Now of course there is a caveat to this. You need to use bullet designs and weights that will work out to this range. You can not drop a 110 grain bullet in your 30-06 and get 3000 fps and expect to get on paper at 1K. The bullet will lose to much velocity, be blown around by the wind and will just be a failure all in all. For now though, lets keep it simple and get into ballistics later. But keep in mind you can no tuse just anything that strikes your fancy just because its what you have.
Now, if the round you are using can not make it because of velocity or the scope still runs out of elevation, you can still use the scope reticule for hold off. That is, instead of aiming with the center of the cross hairs, maybe you use the tip of the vertical cross hair at the point it just starts to get thick on a hunting douplex type cross hair. This can give you more room to work with but it is not easy for those without the experience. It takes practice to really use this well and changes in world around you can throw it all off. And of course the hold point changes at other ranges and you would have to now the exact point on a featureless cross hair for where to hold. It can be done and I did it for years but I do not suggest you handicap your self that bad when you can avoid it fairly easy with little cost.
Another reader asked about bolt actions with sporter weight barrels. A light weight barrel contour can be just as accurate as a heavy barrel. Quality is quality. But the problem is, it will not shoot to POA/POI long once it heats up and its prone to influence easy. That is not to say it can not be worked with, but it has some pretty big hurdles for the new LR shooter to over come. One major problem with sporters are they often have shorter barrels. Shorter does not mean less accurate but, it does mean less velocity and velocity is what keeps your bullet super sonic as far as possible and the faster it shoots, the flatter it shoots and the flatter it shoots, the less adjustment you need in your optic. this does not mean it can not be done, it just means it may take a lot more vertical adjustment to get out there.
A few things to try to look for in a sporter you may want to use are if it has a solid bedding and if the barrel is free floating. If it is not FFing, thats OK. Does it have a pressure point applied properly in the forum? DO you know what that is or how to check for it? If it does not have a pressure point you can do two things, FF the barrel yourself or add the pressure point. There are kits you can buy from Brownells to help you FF the barrel and bed the action. You do not have to bed the action, but you should,because the gun will not stay zeroed long if it is not and the stock is wood or one of the cheaper “synthetic” stocks. You skill level will depend on if you can do this at home or not. The problem with a non FF barrel on a wood or cheap synthetic stocks are that they warp in the heat or rain/cold, etc. This applies pressure to the barrel that changes and just makes keeping a zero a nightmare. the level of precision you want will depend on how much of this you may want to do or have done. I am not going to go on and on about the trigger because it is just not that important. Light triggers are nice, but they can be for the spoiled. The rifleman can take a trigger and work with it and make the hit. As long as it breaks, and is constant, it can be used. One thing to keep in mind when using gear in this range is to use the gun/ammo to its realistic effective range. If the gun can make 8 hits out of 10 at 800 yards but can not hit a battle ship at 900, then you got a 800 yard gun. That is perfectly OK. That is still a lot further then the typical American shooter can get too and its 600 yards beyond what 99.9 percent of people with an AK type rifle can do with their weapon and skill level.
Now, here is what we need to look for if we are going to use a sporter and a few things that will make it more effective. A rifle with hopefully at least a 22 inch barrel in a caliber that is workable. A clear scope that the turrets are preferably finger adjustable but if not, at least adjustable and with a positive “click”. Stay away from the friction plate adjustments like on the leupold Var X-1 type scopes. There are hopeless for knowing how much you just dialed in. Magnification is not important as much as you think. Can you see the target well enough to put the cross hairs on it and its clear? Good enough. I can make 1000 yard hits with a 5x leupold VarX-III all day long. But, if you need more, get it. Just do not go above 10x-12x. We can go more on other types of rifles, but its best to stay under on the sprorter. I will go into that later. The next is the Long range base. Get the best you can afford. Picatinny would be grat, but Leupold and redfield both make a canted long range base and burris and such probably does as well. Get the rings to match. Quality ammo is a must. At the least you need to keep 2 MOA with it. If you handload, that is idea. A sling is also an important item for our field practical rifleman. Not the idiotic wide padded slings for carrying either. Get a 1906 military type sling so we can use it to shoot with. A bipod of the harris type is also a must have these days. It offers just too much benefit with no real draw backs that cancel out its huge advantages. For our purposes of the “combat sporter” I suggest the 6-9 inch BR model. Or any of the decent made Harris copies. A rifle with these vague features, properly zeroed and taken care of with good ammo in the hands of some one who has practiced with the gun and knows the come ups. for the round should easily be able to get hits on a target at 800 with no problem.
Next time I will start to go into more detail on the next steps up the ladder