Townsend Whelen On Long Range shooting and Fighting

The chapter below is from Townsend  Whelen’s book  Suggestions to Military Rifleman.  The book was written when the 1903 was still new, but most of it is still very relevant and worth reading.
Long Range
By: Townsend Whelen

“There are many good short-range men, who have simply not got the necessary brains nor education for first-rate long-range work; and there are very few officers capable of teaching it well, or who ever had half a chance to learn it.” — Tippins, in Modern Rifle-Shooting.

The above quotation, from one of the greatest English experts, applies with equal force to our own service. It is not so much that long-range firing differs from short or mid-range work, as that the laws which apply to short and mid-range apply with equal or greater force to long range, and while one or two factors may be disregarded and still not spoil a mid-range score, yet the overlooking of a single thing will play havoc at 1000 yards. It will be seen that to apply all the principles and rules so far laid down in this work requires a thorough knowledge of them, a quick and active brain, good eyesight, and a good body; and also, it might be said, a good education. These are, then, the essential qualities of a good long-range shot. Eliminate any one of these, and we will in all probability eliminate also the good scores.

Long ranges are classified as those between 600 and 1000 yards. Practically, however, there is little difference between the care necessary to make a creditable score at 600 yards and that necessary at 800 yards. The real difference comes when one retires to 1000 yards; therefore the following remarks will pertain more particularly to that range.

The rifle is the first consideration. The muzzle of the bore must be perfect to give the necessary accuracy. The bore must be smooth and free from rough places and rust, which would make it foul quickly with cupro-nickel. The barrel must be kept in perfect condition with the metal fouling solution, as directed in Chapter II.

The rifleman must do his own part perfectly. His hold must be steady and exactly the same at each shot. The same amount of tension should be placed on the gun-sling for each shot, and the elbows should lie in the same holes. The aim should be as correct as the eyes can see to make it. Canting or leaning of the sights must be carefully guarded against, as a hardly visible cant will carry one from the bull’s-eye into the “two space” on the target. And lastly, and most important, the pull must be perfect for every shot. The least little unsteadiness or jerk in the trigger-pull will cause a miss almost every time.

Every refinement must be used. The micrometer, telescope, and score-book are especially necessary. One may get an occasional good score without these aids, but his average work will be very poor indeed. By referring to the table on page 86, it will be seen that when using service ammunition and not using the micrometer the radius of the shot group will be about 35.17 inches. Of course, all the shots will not fly as wild as this, but every little while one will, and this one often is a miss, or else it causes one to think his sighting is wrong and plays the mischief with the score generally. Individuals, and organizations shooting at long range without the micrometer will find that scores of 25 to 30 out of a possible 50 is about the best they are able to average. If, however, the micrometer is used, we eliminate the error in sight-adjustment and the radius of the shot group is reduced to about 18.9 inches. The average scores of good shots at 1000 yards under these conditions will be found to run from about 35 to 42 out of a possible 50. Service ammunition made in lots of millions of rounds cannot, of course, have the special attention given to it during manufacture which makes special match ammunition so accurate. Service ammunition gives a mean vertical deviation at 1000 yards of about 8.9 inches, and the special match ammunition used by the American Bisley Team in 1908 gave a deviation of only 5.29 inches. This difference is enough to cause the best shots of the country using the latter ammunition to average 47. to 48 out of a possible 50 at 1000 yards, and with this ammunition perfect scores of 50 at 1000 yards have become very common. Therefore, at long range, to get good results, you must use a micrometer and the most perfect ammunition you can obtain.

A good telescope or powerful field-glass is also essential. Small changes in mirage drift must be watched for, quickly determined; and allowance made for them. This is especially necessary in fish-tail* winds.

*Fish-tail winds are those coming from the general direction of 6 or 12 o’clock, but which are constantly changing from 5 to 7 o’clock, or from 11 to 1 o’clock. The flag flutters from one side to the other continuously, and it only through the glass that one can gain a true estimate.

The score-book is very necessary at long range, in order that one may keep accurate records of elevations and weather conditions. These change so often, and the change amounts to so much at long range, that any attempt to keep these in the head soon results in confusion and drives everyone to the score-book.

You must have a thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer, and must use them, it is not necessary to bring them to the firing-point, but they should be read shortly before firing. A man may use an elevation of 1025 yards at the 1000yard range one day, and the next day his correct elevation may be only 900 yards. If he has no instruments and does not know how to use them, it may take him from five to fifteen shots before he gets a hit on the target. Many men’s qualifications as sharpshooters and expert riflemen are ruined from this cause.

A score previously fired at 800 yards does not always give a true indication of what the elevation will be at 1000 yards. Often one will fire and make an excellent score at 800 yards with his normal elevation, and on immediately going back to 1000 yards he may find that at that range he has to use 4 or 5 minutes of elevation above or below normal.

It occasionally happens that elevations worked out according to all the rules are not correct. It is here that the experience of the old and seasoned long-range shot comes in. He seems to know by instinct which way to move to get a hit. About the best way to become proficient at long range is to get such a man for a coach.

In some localities scores at long range will be found to average quite high despite the absence of all refinements. This will be found to be the case where weather conditions vary but little during the shooting season. Thus, in certain parts of the Philippine Islands and in California, and at certain seasons of the year and time of day, the thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer will be found to have almost the same readings day after day. Here the inexperienced shots are able to do very good work at long range. They find the correct elevation, and as long as they keep their rifles clean, and use the same ammunition, they can stick to that elevation during their whole season’s practice. On the majority of ranges in our country, however, during the shooting season, we are liable to have changes in temperature of 30 degrees, changes in barometer of 3/4 of an inch, and changes in hygrometer of 40 per cent; and these may make differences in elevation at 1000 yards of 150 yards, or 10 to 15 minutes.

“Unaccountables” are shots which either miss the target or else hit it in a quite different spot from what was expected, and their deviation from the rest of the shot group cannot be accounted for. A true “unaccountable” is usually due to a faulty cartridge, but one has to be a very good shot indeed before he can truly blame a bad shot on the ammunition. Very often unaccountably bad shots are more liable to be small errors in pull-off, small changes in mirage, wind, or light, etc., which have escaped the rifleman’s notice. With ammunition giving a large vertical deviation “unaccountables” are more liable to occur than with the more recent accurate loads. One may, for instance, aim a little high without noticing it, and then pull off a little high, and the shot may be one of those striking at the top of the shot group, in which case the shot may go over the top of the target, and lead one to think he has had an “unaccountable” shot when such is really not the case. With the recent great improvement in ammunition and the almost universal use of the micrometer, the word “unaccountable” has almost disappeared from the vocabulary of the really expert shot.

It is of little use attempting to get accurate results at long range when the targets are marked with the big old-fashioned marking disk. One must know exactly where his shot hits the target. The alternative method of marking, with shot marks or “spotters,”* as prescribed in the latter part of Paragraph 103, Small-Arms Firing Regulations 1906, should be used exclusively.

*Spotters are small .30-caliber pegs or nails with a round head of card-board or tin. The spotter is inserted in the bullet-hole of the last shot fired and the card-board head is seen by the rifleman when the target is raised after being marked. Black card-board is used to mark shots which hit in the white of the target, and white cardboard for the bull’s-eyes. The card-board should be about 6 inches in diameter for long range and 3 inches for mid range. Field-glasses are needed to see them. This system of marking is used exclusively in the National Matches, and at Camp Perry and Sea Girt.

To sum up, the following precautions should always be used in long-range firing:

1. Keep your barrel in perfect condition.
2. Use a micrometer and the best ammunition you can get.
3. Read the thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer before starting your score, and figure out your elevation.
4. Watch the flags and mirage closely before each shot.
5. Remember that a perfect pull-off only will hit the target.


Trijicon ACOGs as used by the US Military.

I am a big fan of the ACOG.  Trijicon’s prism powered fixed 4X scope is hard to beat.  I love ACOGs and it has been a hobby of mine to buy them cheap and later sell them for a profit.  Just Wednesday, I picked up a M150 ACOG, which got me thinking about models of ACOGs used by out military.

The military has experimented with some various models of ACOGs, but these are the main models it has fielded.

TA01NSN  The “4X DOS” Day Optical Scope is a fixed four power scope with a bullet drop reticle calibrated for the M855 round in the M4 out to 600 meters.  This model is still very popular in and out of the military.  The 01NSN has a more traditional crosshair with amber tritium illumination and has the very noticeable back up iron sights on top of the optic.

A TA01NSN with its rear sight replaced with a Docter mini-red dot and the mount replaced with a Larue QD mount.

TA31F  Adopted by the U.S.M.C. as the ACO.  The TA31 has additonal fiber optic illumination to add to the tritium in the optic.  The bullet drop reticle features a bright red chevron and goes out to 800 meters.  The BDC is averaged to work on both the M4 and the M16.  The ACO was replaced with the RCO model in the U.S.M.C., but ACO’s were still in use as long as they were serviceable.  One of the Motor T Marine I knew was issued a TA31F in 2006.

A TA31F, showing the lack of back up iron sights, and the prominent fiber optic tube.

TA31RCO  Replacing the TA31F “ACO”, the U.S.M.C. adopted the “Rifle Combat Optic.  Two models were purchased, a TA31RCO-M4 and a TA31RCO-A4 for the M4 and M16A4 respectively.  The RCO model is a TA31F calibrated for a carbine or rifle firing M855 and additional 10 mil lines were added to aid Marines in adjusting indirect fire.  I used a RCO-A4 while I was in Iraq.  Externally the TA31F and the RCO ACOGs are the same.  Adopted in 2003, the U.S.M.C. bought over 100,000 of these.

An RCO-A4 with kill flash in a Larue RCO QD mount sitting next to a rifle.

TA01ECOS  SU237/PVS  SOCOM adopted a newer model to replace the TA01NSN.  The ECOS ACOG was a TA01NSN that was tan, and had a reticle that included a BDC from 700-1000m for the M249.  The back up sights were mounted offset, allowing for a piggyback Docter sight to be mounted.  Around the time this was adopted, SOCOM also adopted the Elcan Specter DR, which has kept this model from being seen in use much.  One picture shows that some of these had the Docter and offset irons removed and the TA01NSN irons installed when issued to servicemen training to be SEALs.  The 1/3 MOA adjustments of the standard ACOGs were replaced with a capped 1/2 MOA turret that also increased the water resistance of this model over standard ACOGs.

A TA01ECOS showing the piggyback tan Docter sight, offset back up front sight, kill flash, and the ARMS mount.

M150  The Army’s answer to the Marines RCO is the M150.  The M150 uses a BDC that should work with the M4, M16A4, and the M249.  It comes with a kill flash and a laser filter(laser filter not included in the civilian model).  The parallax is set for 300m instead of the normal 100 for other 4x ACOGs.  The M150 also has the red chevron 800m BDC reticle like the TA31F and RCO models.  Mine is new enough that I haven’t taken photos of it yet.

TA11SDO  Reletivly new compared to the others, the Squad automatic weapon Day Optic (SDO) is a 3.5 power ACOG based off the TA11 series.  Adopted by the U.S.M.C. in 2010 for use on the M249 and the M27 IAR, this ACOG has longer eye relief, a horseshoe reticle , piggyback RMR mini-red dot, and Larue mount.

Some of the 6x ACOGs have been fielded for use on the medium and heavy machine guns, but rarely are those discussed.

EXCALIBUR !! ( at least my modular version)

A while ago I posted up the details on my person work horse carbine. it was called “A boy and his AR15” and I had used the setup in the article for a long time.   But, being human, there is always something else I wished I could tweak and that was the color. And of course a few new products came along.  When Colt Defense started selling carbines with anodizing other then Milspec black, I became interested. When I saw they offered the 6920 I really paid attention. After the FDE anodized 6940 was offered,I immediately lusted for it.  I like black fine but lets be honest, it stands out like..well,, black.  Fashion sense aside, black stands out like a sore thumb and the other earthy colors blend in better over all and especially when being carried by some one in camo, trying to keep a low profile.

So, I got one and immediately started switching all my user preferences over to the FDE carbine once its reliability was confirmed to my satisfaction.


Now of course, there have been a few changes since my original article and not just the finish of the gun. A few very, very worth having products came out. I tried them and decided with no hesitation , that they are worth upgrades that do enhance your performance.  So, as a updating on the original break down on my hard use carbine, I will detail my current set up.


Starting with this picture you can see I swapped the Tango Down battle grip out for the BCM gunfighter MOD ) grip.  The new almost straight angle is all the rage these days and to be honest, it really is worth it.  It is not a must have, but it does give a more straight rear ward pull for the trigger and it is more comfortable.  It also offers a lot more storage space inside  over the TD and you can get it in a couple different versions.  Also new is the Tactical Link sling mount just behind the castle nut and it bolts onto the receiver extension. It is plastic, but it has stainless bushing that every thing screws into. It is solid and easy to use. It gives a nice QD sling point with no alteration of the factory parts. That is something I like a lot. I feel no need to screw with certain parts of a factory carbine. I am of the strong opinion that Colt knows more about how to make a AR15 then I do.  You can read y review of it else where on the website.   The other new tactical Link part is the EBAL.  Which is a Battery assist lever. To make a long story ( that you can read the full story else where on the site)  it is what the magpul BAD lever wishes it could be.  It is a superior product to the BAD lever in every way.  And you can get it in other colors then black if that matters to you.

The charging handle is no longer the medium  BCM Gunfighter. It is  now the smallest model they offer.  I still found the extended version a little too big for me and had it catch and drag on too much of my gear.  The smallest is indeed the sweet spot I was looking for.


Above the charging handle is the Knights armament micro BUIS.  Howard and I have a definite preference for the KAC sights, and a lot of other KAC products.  There is zero chance I will ever use a BUIS not made by KAC.  The mag release is the Norgon ambi catch and I use the geissele ssa trigger.  I use this trigger in two carbines now.  It is nice to have, but make sure you master your gun and the basics before you worry about lighter match type triggers. They do not make the gun or you more accurate.


The same could be said for the ambi safety. I use the KAC ambi safety and see little chance of me changing it out. Even the Colt model ambi safety current issue to the military offers no improvement over the Knights I see worth swapping to. The KAC safety is modular and comes with three different pieces. The scalloped right side I use, a full length right side and a piece that replaces the right side and makes it single side only. I love it and feel it is as imperative to have a ambi safety on my carbine as much as I want it on my side arms.


Moving forward. I still use the Aimpoint T-1 with the  near perfect Larue mount. But, now, I also use the IO  Tango down  T1 cover. I also use the KAC over sized battery cover/brightness setting knob on the T-1 to make it easier to adjust in all conditions.   I also use the Norgon ambi catch that can be seen on the lower as well as the  KAC QD sling point mounted to the rear of the monolithic rail.


The front of the gun has my light of course. I use a Surefire Scout light in the original mount but with the addition of the Vampire head for white light and IR light to work with my PVS-14s.  I use the remote surefire SR07 switch to operate the light. It snaps onto the a rail adn gives you a pressure switch and a clicky on/off button all built in together. This is also something I dearly love.  I use the Larue index clips to route the wire and hold it in place as well as cover all the area of the rail not being used.   I would use the KAC rail panels but they will not work on the 6940 rail without modification and they are not as customizable as the Larue clips.


Another change I recently made is the use of the Tango Down stubby VFG. I was sent one of them by TD to to write about and found I like it better then anything else I have tried. So now it is standard for me.


To work with the Vampire head for the scout light is my PVS14.  I use the PVS on the carbine or head mounted depending on what I am doing. The T-1 works perfectly with the NOD when turned to the NV setting and the vampire head acts as a flood light that only NVG can see. I use the standard rifle mount for the PVS14 so far and since I wear it on my head more then the rifle, I find it does all I need it to do.


As before, my buttstock is the Magpul CTR. There are a lot of stocks out there now, but it is still hard to beat the CTR.  For a carbine I like it the best if I am trying to keep the gun light and use a red dot.  For anything else, I will use the SOPMOD  or EMOD with a bias to the SOPMOD.   I love the CTR for carbines though and its ability to lock up is something I really like.


Not something on the gun, but something I feel strong about enough to mention. The Lancer AWM mags are the finest mags I have used, and I have used a lot.  It is hard to beat the good old Pmag, but the AWM is the next step in the evolution of mags to me, with its polymer and steel mixed to give one helluva tough mag. I could rant on how great I think these are all day, but I am too lazy and I risk being beaten by the magpul fanatics who refuse to try anything else.


As always, my sling is the Vickers Combat applications sling with QD swivels. I have switched to the padded version recently.  I like the padding, but the sling is made cheaper without the metal hardware the older models had. I find this a huge let down.  It can be fixed partly by using the metal triglides from a issue sling, but the tri glide that allows you to yank on it to lengthen the ling is no longer metal and can not be replaced.  Big let down to me.

Thats it. My tastes stay close to the same and I use what works best for me. I rarely change from something I find works great and is absolutely dependable. It has to really impress me before I will change over to something newer. But sometimes obvious upgrades do come along and I am not afraid to try new things.  The 6940 is a standard Colt except for the FDE anodizing and it is anodizing not duracote or paint.   Everything is the same Colt quality with a Monolithic upper with rail and milspec barrel with 1/7 twist.  Everything is the same on the 6940 other then the finish.  I am hoping we get the FDE anodized LE901 soon.  My plan is to have the FDE 901 and the FDE 6940 as a set to be used together with the adapter block and  have the 901 lower SBR’ed to use a variety of barrel lengths.  But until then I just have to wait.


Wilcox Aimpoint mount

Wilcox Aimpoint PRO


I purchased a Wilcox Aimpoint mount from TNVC.  The Wilcox mount is smaller, lighter, and slightly taller then the stock Aimpoint PRO mount(shown below).

Aimpoint PRO


The Wilcox Aimpoint mount is similar to the PRI mounts, but it is skeletonized reducing weight.

Installing the optic in the mount was pretty easy.  The battery cover had to be removed, and the top and the bottom of the mount are attached by 4 Allen head screws.

One thing I really like about the Wilcox mount is that while it is the highest Aimpoint mount I have used, you can still easilly use your iron sights in the lower third of the optic.  I find the Colt 901 sights have a nice lower 1/3 co-witness.  (Pictured is a friend of mine firing the 901 with an Aimpoint PRO in Wilcox mount.)

Colt 901 AImpoint PRO Wilcox

The Wilcox Aimpoint mount is a good solid piece of kit popularized by its used on the MK18MOD0.  However for most of us, it would not be a significant improvement over the stock Aimpoint mounts.  Personally, if you have the stock Aimpoint mount with a torque limiting knob, I think it is not worth spending the extra money on the Wilcox mount.  If you are going to spend money on an Aimpoint mount, I would recommend spending a little more and getting a Larue quick detach mount.