SCAR-H Review & Long Range Test

Since the SCAR-L and SCAR-H came on the scene and touted as the next best thing  I was skeptical to say the least.  Even now after using them both enough to get to know them, I find the 556  SCAR  neato, but  nothing about it justifies the hype that preceded it.  The H on the other hand I think has some real potential.  Recently we finally got around to testing one out in a manner that I felt gave me something  to say about it.

The SCARH has seemingly taken on the role of battle carbine and as a “sniper support “rifle and after a lot of shooting I think this is its most useful role.  We fired it for group and at longer ranges to see how it would do.   And I was well pleased with what it showed me.

Normally I would put my usual 18x leupold target optic on it for long range testing and firing for group but the owner assured me the Elcan 6x optic pictured on the gun would be enough.  For long range shooting on man sized steel gongs it certainly is.  For group shooting it limited me to 100 yards.  I could have shot further but I feel trying to small groups with smaller power can be rough when eyes get tired  and the strings stretch on and on. With that in mind I didn’t feel it fair to the gun to shoot 200-300 yard groups with the 6x.   And I am not going to lie., the thing has a reputation for  narfing up optics. Or so I am told, so it did not take much to convince me to stick to the Elcan.  With all that in mind  lets take a looky-poo at what it did.

 

Above is the typical average group for the day.  Fired with 168 grain Federal Gold Medal Match ammo which I was told the Elcan was calibrated for .  Group was a 10 round string with the flyer being the first round fired. This is a common flyer for a lot of semi auto guns due to the difference between the bolt closing and locking up under recoil as opposed to by hand with less force.  Certainly only the most hardened keyboard marksman would complain about it too much in this case, but the first round flyer on a hand chambered round always was a little off from the main group. I do feel this group is representative over all  so I am not going to post all of them up.

After some general drills and plinking I moved it off to long range.  I used my usual man sized steel gong  roughly shaped like a small man from belt to head.  The wind was blowing like a democrat running for president and combined with the 168 grain ammo NOT being 175 or heavier, I chose to put the target out to only 750 yards.

 

No real reason that I didn’t set it at 800 other than the simple reason I couldn’t find a flat enough spot to set the target.  750-800 yards is what I consider the far end of what a 168 grain 308 round can do from a  barrel length around that of a SCAR especially. Really  its a pretty good rule of thumb in my opinion that making hits past 800 with the 168s starts to become problematic with anything less than a 26 inch barrel.

 

With a little wind reading, the elcan 6x put the hits right on the steel using the BDC stadia for the appropriate range.  Very few rounds missed and that was due to 35 to 45 mph winds moving full value to 3/4 value all day.  One thing we noticed was the light profile barrel did not to seem to have any problems with POI shift as it heated up a bit.  The PWS muzzle device made fast follow up shots very easy. The grass muted any chance for a dust signature in this case so i can’t speak to that.  I was very impressed with the ease of making hits with the Elcan though  it is was a little crowded for my personal tastes.  That’s not a gripe. I spent most of my life, and 99 percent of my long range shooting life during the time of the mildot being the most complicated thing out there.

Towards the end of the long range shooting,  with  the strong wing I attempted to hit the steel rapid fire 20 out of 20 without waiting for lulls in the wind. I managed 19 out of 20  on target in about 35 seconds. That is a very good run in  high wind using  a short barrel and the 168 grain round I have so little taste for use in  serious long range shooting .  I was especially pleased with its performance considering the size of the target. I am barely 5’9  and as you can see the gong is not really as big as a normal man.

 

I would very much like to  test for myself how the SCAR H does with 175gr match ammo or something else more tuned for longer ranges.  The rest of the time at this range was spent hitting the gong as if it was no further away than 200 yards  once the wind stayed blowing in a  steady direction.   .  At 750 the H shot about as good as the 901  with the 901 grouping better when accuracy tested. One caveat being the 901 did have the 18x though so keep that in mind.  I do have a gut feeling the 901 will have the advantage at the extreme long range since it has a barrel free floated and not piston operated.

 

Now comes the part with  the down sides.  That Elcan 6x while very clear and very useful is VERY heavy.  It makes a fairly light handy 762 battle carbine into a very fat chick.  With the gun loaded and with other mission required additions such as a light or PEQ etc, this thing turns into a brute. I am not afraid of rifles that have some weight if the weight has a good reason, but the optic on this one really makes it tough to say I would every really buy one myself for constant use.

Speaking of the optic, the charging handle.  Or as I think of it, the SCAR H knuckle skinner.   When the charging handle is on the left side, which is the best side for righties, you do not have much choice of places to mount any optics if it sticks out over the side of the rifles top rail any at all.  Hand position is critical as well since you can stop the gun or take a knock from the handle as it operates. Same thing if the CH touches anything around you when in use. I am not a fan of it nor will I ever be. I have read and heard all the reasons why it was given this feature, but I still think it just sucks.

I had some problems with the factory safeties. I could not use the right side of the ambi safety in any way that was useful and I struggled to quickly and smoothly use the left handed full sized lever.  This is something easily fixed now a days and its a good thing.  If I was to buy a SCAR H I would have to order a replacement ambi safety before I even got home with it.

The trigger was the superb Super SCAR Trigger ’nuff said.  It did not have the factory trigger in it so I can’t really give any opinion on that.  I would highly recommend that super scar trigger though to anyone buying one of these guns.

As hideous as some find the butt stock and as much fun as it is to joke about it,  there was no trouble from it.  The stock was comfortable and  easy enough to adjust.  For average guy in the US use I don’t see it being any real issue though I do understand it has had some problems in the past in combat.

I heard so much hyperbole over how the PWS muzzle device was so loud that it would cause dead bodies to rise from the bottom of lakes and make  instant rain storms.  It wasn’t that loud and it wasn’t that blasty in my opinion.  It did however work great. Same as the L model. But it’s much appreciated on the 762 model.  Rapid fire off hand, prone  or any strange position I tried was like shooting a 556 gun. Maybe even less.  I do find  I would like to see how it feels without it. The Colt 901 has very pleasant recoil with no recoil dampening muzzle brake at all but the HK417 has  recoil I find to be way too much considering what it is. So I would like to see how the piston SCAR feels with no brake compared to the piston 417. I stood beside it and over it while some one shot it prone and walked all around it during firing with nothing more than foam plugs in. It’s not that bad at all. Or I am well on my way to deafness.  Other shooter remarked it was not as bad as it has been made out to be.   Unrelated, the SCAR H and the L  vents a hell of a lot of gas out onto the barrel in front of the gas block and even onto the brake.  I would like to see what kind of flash is produced at night when the gun is suppressed and from a position directly in front of it.

Unlike the HK 417/Mr762 which I loathe, the SCARH never failed us during use. I found it shot more accurate and  was much more pleasant to shoot recoil wise.   I know I have brought it up many times but that HK 417 really surprised me by how much recoil it has.  In the review of the HK you can even see the bruising it caused another shooter from its recoil. The SCARH and Colt 901 are as pleasant to shoot as a 556 gun to me. Not so for that HK417.   The SCAR was as reliable as the 901 though I did not shoot quite as much through the SCARH as I did the Colt 901s.

One last complaint about the H is the rail space. There is not a lot of it on the gun for positioning extras you may have much need for or just simply  want.  There are of course fixes for that and other models with longer rails but the SCARH tested was the configuration it first came out as and is a product of the time period it was designed.

I was impressed  with the guns accuracy and performance.  I would certainly own one  and set it up in the sniper support role.  Oddly there are as many things I don’t like about it as there are things I do like. But I feel it has a couple of roles that it excels best at.  As a combat carbine, I think in its stock form it leaves a lot to be desired and the 762  pattern ARs are superior in most ways. If I wanted to use a 762 carbine like  I would a 556 carbine, I would hands down go with something like the Colt 901 ( which is my first pick) the KAC EMC carbine or whatever they call it this month, or even the LMT MWS god forbid.  If I wanted a piston operated 762 DMR or sniper support rifle/carbine., I would absolutely use the SCAR H especially when it is dressed with its longer rail and the current upgrades.

This review with some time with the SCARH is late enough that it’s not changing anyone’s mind about buying one at this point,  but I would suggest making sure you know exactly what you want out of  it and what you may need to change on the H if you are thinking about getting one. I certainly would get one if I had use for it even in its standard  guise.

 

 

Musings on Sniper ARs.

 

I heard that H&K won the Army compact semi-auto sniper competition.  That surprised me as I thought Knights Armament Corp. would be a sure win.  It will be interesting to see how the HK rifle turns out and how many actually get purchased.

I find it interesting that the Army moved away from a 20 inch barreled .308 to having a 16 inch barreled .308 carbine.  That got me thinking about the other Sniper type ARs that have been used recently in our military.  You see that the 18inch barreled MK12 rifles mostly phased out of service.  There also is no mention about other sniper M16 variants in the military being currently used (like the SAM-R, or the SDM-R).

 

I know the Army and Marines have both field the MK12 sniper rifle.  I also hear that very few are still in use.  One main thing said is that no replacement parts or service was set aside for them, so when they were shot out, there was no replacement.

 

The USMC adopted a 16.5 inch barreled 5.56 HK carbine for use as an Automatic Rifle.  When it was adopted I wondered if the USMC just really wanted a heavy barreled carbine but didn’t want to buy M4A1 Carbines.  Almost immediately after fielding the USMC made claims that these carbines were very accurate and that they would fill the Corps requirements for a Designated Marksman rifle.

 

There is plenty out there saying that the USMC likes the idea of the M27 IAR as a DMR rifle, for example this article from Marines.mil.

 

The Corps seems feel that a 3.5X scope on a 16.5 inch automatic rifle barrel firing M855 meets their needs as a DMR.  So this makes for an interesting question.  Is it that the USMC doesn’t need a match rifle firing match ammo with higher magnification, or is it that the individual Marines in combat situations cannot make better use of a more precision rifle?

 

Most likely it is that Marine Infantry would not effectively use a sniper rifle.  When people think about snipers they often think about the shooting skills and then next the stalking and hiding skills.  What isn’t often though about is the different in mentality, and the much greater training in spotting targets and observation fields of fire.

 

The Marine Corps Times isn’t a very reliable source of information, a little less so than National Enquirer, but they had an article with an interesting comment:

“You’d be shocked at how bad Marines are at guessing, like 700 meters for a target that was at 275 meters,” she said. “Range estimation comes into everything we do, whether it’s call for fire, small-arms marksmanship or setting a cordon for an [improvised explosive device]; it can be taught, but it’s a very perishable skill.”

The 5.56MM Service Cartridge

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Ever  since the  5.56 service round was adopted over 50 years ago, its reputation has had its ups and downs.  We have went from the 55 grain M193 FMJ round to now having what seems to be a confusing amount of bullet weights and designs and with every different bullet we get a different purpose for its use.  Over last 15 years especially  it has become the general purpose all around work horse for most of us. Yet while most shooters will pay lip service to that fact, few  seem to actually use it to its full potential.

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As the market does what it does best, we get more and more rifle rounds. We get some rounds with a lot of possible uses to some that have very limited uses. With so many choices it was natural for shooters to start thinking up, and having made, guns to fill certain specialized roles. Sure it’s fun to lay awake in bed at nigh  while your mind specs out some “idea” rifle for some such purpose or another. Of course that new beauty has to have just the right round for it. Something new  that on paper has the ability hit at range and deliver impressive terminal ballistics for when the _____ happens, said person will have the best tool.

That is all a lot of fun and everyone has or will do it at some time or another even if its just a day dream.  The reality is that most of us ( and I am mainly addressing people who train fairly seriously) use the 556 in a variety of carbines or rifles, for the bulk of our rifle  training.

The AR15 chambered in 556 has become the general purpose rifle for the vast majority of people. It is just a fact if  no other reason than that is what most of them  are made in.  Of  course it is not as simple as that though, but it will do as a starting point

With all that in mind there are a few other things to consider. Things that may help strip away all the zombie fantasy and late night tinfoil hat delirium. The 556 is the service rifle cartridge. It is what the US military uses and will continue to use for the far future despite the hopes of DC lobbyist.    This gives us huge advantages for the round. The military does not use anything they do not test, study and develop and continue to at least consider improving through out its service life.  We saw this with the 7.62 NATO round and still are.  Same with the 556.  We have went from 55gr ball. to things like the SOST, AA53 and now the dubious M855A1.  The spin off effect of military adoption is civilian use and interest.  Not only do we have access to all but a few military rounds, but we have use of even more and better variants and  specialized loads.

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This seemingly endless variety makes the AR15 rifle or carbine extremely useful. We have now been seeing that in practice for a few years now. From military use we have seen the rise of the DMR concept AR. Something that in the past many thought had to be a M14 type weapon until that gross misconception was finally put to rest. We also have the MK12 MOD 0 the MOD 1 and now MOD H. All of which are essentially sniper rifles. The USMC has been using the HK IAR for a while now  as the automatic rifle  and now  it is starting to get the role of the DMR.  Of course the 556 service round has been used in the M249 SAW and all its versions, and of course the service rifle and carbine.

The round’s versatility really shines in the non-military world. At one point it was thought of as little more than something to shoot a ground hog with. And most varmint shooters probably would have stuck to the .222 Remington for that.

Things have certainly changed.  A huge wake up call for most serious competitive shooters was the year the US Army Marksmanship Unit took their AMU M16A2s to the National Matches and trounced the USMC’s   NM M14s in 7.62. The civilians shooters had already started to use the 556 for service rifle etc, but the AMU dumping the M14 and the 762 was a real wake up call for a lot of other people. Here was a round that before was not even thought about for such things now taking over.

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Back then, few of the serious shooters I knew would  have imagined the round going from the jungle  spray and pray to belted machine gun ammo, to being used in some of the worlds best precision sniper rifles. Never mind  the idea of people in the south and west using the round for easily taking down 300 pound wild hogs.  The service cartridge is seeing improvement continuously  and yearly we get new new loading with ever improving bullet designs and higher quality.

lets think about the service round in more  practical terms for defensive and military use. In the past competitive shooting was a way to help train citizens in the use of the service rifle and cartridge. It was a way to have fun mastering the rifle in preparation for the day those citizens would have to  use those rifles to defend the nation.  Boy Scouts practiced , college and high school shooting teams and the NRA all had events to help get people ready for that potential. Other countries of the world had and still do have a tradition of using their respective  service rifle  in  regular events to keep skills up with the weapons they would be handed if war was to ever break out.   Ostensibly, we carry this on in service rifle matches but it has strayed from its original intent.  The closest we see to this tradition is the various “carbine classes”  the more serious and dedicated among us go to and pay for privately and the Appleseed training that is put on by volunteers that starts  out from basic marksmanship with a large does of other things that are marginally useful.

It used to be in the years past. All of this was done with the service rifle and cartridge and that is a huge strength and advantage from the purpose of this post.  Everyone wants to have something unique to them to set them apart or to conform to their own tastes. And that is fine  as Pat Rogers says,”on a warm day  where huge puffy white clouds slowly float through and impossibly blue summer sky” but in the vent of a major world changing event to our country  where everyone  who can fire a gun if needed, it is much better if everyone capable person is already very familiar with the service round and rifle.

It have always noticed the amount of shooters who are willing to spend a lot of time and money training with their 556 carbine in training classes or locally in some form or another and if something happened, would use their carbine if they can possibly get to it. They may train and practice to a max of 200 yards but beyond  is the end of the known universe for them.

Many of them have a special beloved sniper rifle or long range precision rifle in some very specialized high performance round.  Few of them ever consider practicing with the same gun they would run to if they had to be in a gun fight.  The US military does not get to  decide to use a 6.5-284 or a 300BLK .  They use the 5.56. service round and they should be able to use it to its full ability and have confidence in it.

Even now the exploits of famous military marksman are told and re told into legend and it is a real shame so few really aspire to have enough skill to be just as proficient with their  rifles as those guys from the past.   SGT York used just his service rifle and cartridge just like the Marines of WW1.   Of course there are feats of  skilled men with  astonishing marksmanship and hellishly long shots from recent years, but mostly they are sniper who are expected to be the ones to pull it off with their special tools.   I’m sure there are stories of some soldier or Making a impressive shot at long range with an A4 or M4, but most of us don’t hear about it.

 

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I have made an effort over the  years to show what rack grade rifles will do with standard service amm0.

AR15 At 1,000 Yards (Can a rack grade AR15 and M855 make 1,000 yard hits?)

Using a rack grade M16A2 upper on a semi auto lower and M855 and the MK 262 round , I made my best case that regular equipment can shoot to 1,000 yards and make actual hits on a man. It still frustrates me that so many think of it as some great miracle or gimmick. It is not. It is doable and within the ability or anyone who is a competent rifleman.  Even shooters on the mid level with a little practice can see hits at 800 yards with the AR15 rifle, or carbine and the 556 round using the standard issue ammo. It does not require  bank busting custom rifles. It does require practice and use.

Accuracy of the Milspec AR15 Carbine barrel

I have owned and/or used a wild amount of specialized rifle rounds for short and long range shooting. Everything from the .17 Remington to the 50BMG but I come to the decision 10 years ago to focus on using the service cartridge. I wanted to get everything out of it I could. To see what it would do and to hopefully open the eyes of its detractors and people who just had no idea.   I use it in the service rifle in one form or the other.   I do use specialized version of the Ar15, but always in the 5.56 round.  the beauty of that combo is  that you are always using and getting better with the round and the gun due to the controls and ergonomics of the AR15 almost always exactly the same on every one of them.

There is a lot to be said for regular use of the 556 round not only for 50 yard carbine work, but for  long range shooting.  As i said it is the round almost all of us use as a self defense carbine round.  Being able to use it well and to hit at long range makes you better at shorter ranges. it gives you the ability to make hits at ranges maybe the other guy can not hit  you from. For those in the military, it is what you are going to be handed  so why not master it completely ?

I like the idea of all serious minded shooters being very familiar with the service round. In my fantasy idea world the country would be a nation of rifleman all competent with the service rifle and round.  All serious shooters would be able to take a rack M4 and make a hit on a man sized target at 500 yards on demand, and be able to take prone shot with an A4 and hit at 800 yards. It would be as if everyone was a designated marksman.   That would have to be a valuable resource to a military in time of need. That was the intent of leaders past. To keep a nation of rifleman.

In the event of a major emergency where the country  was in danger, or a break down of things having a population to draw from  that could be handed an old surplus M16A1 or A2 or even a new M4 would be a huge advantage.  If things happened to be bad enough, and the gov collapsed, local communities or state gov would have the ability to arm people with rifles and ammo from what used to be the federal government for protection.  Laugh if you want, but who knows anymore?  The world has taken a strange turn, black is white and up is down these day.

 

 

Besides it use usefulness for martial purposes, the service round has  a hat to wear for about anything you want to use it for. I use the 556 for pretty much everything anymore except pistol use ( and it is even used for that by some people ) or the very limited times I need a shotgun.   other than that, I use the 556 almost exclusively in rifles these days .  After years of use and pushing it to its limits, I have learned that it does everything I need from 0 to 1,000 yards with just simple changing of the Ar15 variant.  To go along with that I also use the Ar15 in one form or another for 99 percent of my rifle or carbine use from  traini9ng to competition  to small and medium game  to sniper training.   When I got a Mk12, I retired all my bolt guns from any thing other than the rare use or for friends who like to shoot them.  the Mk12 in 556 using 77 grain MK262  fill all of my long range precision needs.

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Before the Mk12 I used the Colt Accurized Rifle for long range. It played multiple roles for me but the 24 inch barrel limited it for everything I wanted. the Mk12’s 18 inch barrel is handier and the 1/7 twist gives more variety where as the CAR ‘s 1/9 twist  would not allow me to use 80 grain sierra bullets.

My friends and I used the Colt Accurized Rifle  HBAR Elite for many years for precision rifle use from its first introduction in the mid 90s.

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With both of the precision Ar15s, the ammo is essential to get the most out out of them. Even with that need  there 556 is available in the military match loading.

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The service round is our most useful cartridge. With practice it will give you much more than what you may only be seeing at “carbine class “ranges. It is capable of some very impressive results.  With regular use shooting at long range, hunting, urban sniping for LE and general training and hunting  you will grown in skill and confidence with it and see just how valuable the 556 is and become better ready for the possible future day when you have to use to for much more serious purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Range Data Made Easy

When I and my friends first started our long range shooting career we learned to have handy little cheats with us for faster hits.  This is certainly nothing new and it continues to this day in a different form.   Before there was hand held computers and all manner of technology to help  make the long range hits, there was writing stuff down.  We had an assortment of little charts and such with each rifle with data for each one.   Over time  my ideas and views on effective field marksmanship at long range changed.    I came to think of effective  long range hits in the way I do now i.e.  a man’s chest or from belt buckle to crown.

With that in mind and the fact that   308 Winchester loads with a 24-26 inch rifle using 175 and 168 HPBT  are very close to a certain point , and  77 grain  5.56 match ammo in a 20 inch barrel is  very , very close to the 175gr  308 load, it was easy to work with all three and keep the info in my head.

Early on my partner and I developed a chart for the 175 grain HPBT match load. seen below.

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The chat starts with a 100 yard zero and goes out to 1,000 yards in 25 yard increments using 1/4 MOA value adjustments.  The chart was made using  a 26 inch barrel.  The thing that is so useful with this chart and the reason we still use it to this day is that it can also be used to get you on to a man sized target using the 175gr and 168 gr 308 load and the 5.56mm with 20 inch barrel using 77 grain match.   It is not perfect with the other loads and will not be perfect. But you will get on target very quickly using this chart.   It is also useful for  556 loads using 75 grain and 69 grain match loads  . Now you have to use come common sense here when using it in some cases. For instance , if you are using  77 grain match ammo, the chart will not match up to you 16inch carbine barrel. But, it will be close and, very close within the shorter range  DOPE.    You can tweak it as you see fit to match your gun and load. Or you can use it like we do and leave it as is and after using it you will know how your rifle/optic works with it.  I feel in this way it is the most useful but if you can use this as a “get you on target ” starting point, then refine it, all the better.   As I said above. with a 26 inch barreled 308 with 175 grain ammo, you can use this chart to get on a man sized target  from 100 to 1.000.

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The next chart shown above may or may not be well known to you  by now if you are a long range shooter and  have used the Mil-dot  optics that are  very common.   I will be honest and tell you up front I never bothered, nor had any desire to learn  the  formula and all that stuff to use the mildots for ranging.  I found this chart to be a lot faster and handier and it did not require me to use the dreaded math.  The most work my Mildots do ( yes I do still use them) is for hold off/hold over points.   I was always reasonably good at judging range by eye or smart enough to bring a dedicated range finder.  This chart however, is very handy if you still want to use them the way they were intended but without all that brain work.  I would advise printing this out and laminating it and keeping it with your data book regardless of how much you intend to use it.

Another  chart not unique to me or the buys, but handy anyway.  The M118 data is not as handy as it once was. The M118 load was not all that great even in its day. But the charts still have use if you have a supply you use or they match a load you may be using.

The moving target lead  leads are particularly useful help when learning.

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The next chart  was made to convert yards and meters.  We had some WW2 range finders that read in meters but we always think and work in yards.  It made things a bit easier for us.

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This illustration for judging wind is a photocopy from Maj. John Plaster’s  excellent  long range and sniping manual “The Ultimate Sniper”.  It is just as handy now as it has ever been  if you do not have all the tech to figure it out for you or want to learn it the old traditional way like we did.

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And last another chart for  Lake City  M118 match loads in MOA  and 1/4 MOA value adjustments.  It is pretty much ancient info by now.  But it does illustrate for you how useful the first chart made by us for our use that  I posted. You can see how close the data matches.

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This info is very useful if you are learning to shoot longer ranges.  Especially if you do not have the money to start buying up the mini computers that are becoming standard now a days.  The come up charts WILL get you on target and depending on your gun and load, it may put you on a near dead zero.  Not accounting for reading wind, the first chart always will produce a first round hit for us and it has been shown to and given to many new budding LR shooters to help them get on target at ranges beyond 600 yards when they had no idea  how to get on target otherwise.

Keep in mind your gun and optic may run out of adjustment for these ranges given in the chart if you do not have a long range base and optic.  A standard optic for general hunting or use under 400 yards will most likely not let you come up enough to get on. So you have to start out with at the very least something like the Leupold long range canted base.

Print these out and laminate them and try them out if you have always wanted to try long range but did not really know how to start.  If you have no real interest in precision rifles and long range, print them out anyway and use them for your AR15 and use it to test your black rifle for longer ranges. With the help these provide you will most likely surprise yourself with what you can do and how easy it is. when some one else has done the work for you!

 

Point Of Impact. ( Books for the gun enthusiast )

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“I was at my best with a rifle in my hand. I always loved rifles. So I decided to live in such a way that the rifle would be all I needed. And I succeeded.”  Bob Lee Swagger.

Above is just one of many great lines from Stephen Hunter’s masterpiece “Point of Impact”, the first book about his iconic hero Bob Lee Swagger.   This is the book the dreadful movie with Marky Mark was based on.  And I use the term loosely.

Bob Lee is a disabled and retired former USMC  scout sniper and Vietnam war vet. Bob sustained a career ending wound in the hip  just before his partner was killed on a sniper mission in the later years of the war.  Bob is clearly a fictionalized version of the Ultimate Sniper Carlos Hathcock in the universe of the book.  Bob is famous after the war and is well known in the gun culture, though he is bitter and seeks no lime lights.  Because of his exploits and skill during the war, he was nicked names “Bob the Nailer”.  While he is obviously close to the real life master sniper, Carlos himself is represented in the book as the character Carl Hitchcock as a nod to the real life sniper.

As the story opens, Bob is shown to be a recluse who has had a tough life after he is medically retired from the Marines. He collects his pension and lives alone in his trailer in the mountains with no one but his dog. He spends his days shooting and reloading and avoiding people.  Ever day he shoots his rifles, handloads. workds on his guns and reads gun books.  He had trouble with booze in the years before the start of the story and had a wife that left him before he went into his voluntary solitude.

Much like the movie, he is found and set up in a plot that looks like he tries to kill the US POTUS. He goes on the run eventually meeting up with his dead spotters wife and falling in love with her and teaming up with a FBI agent who helps him through the rest of the story.

As tiresome as it is to hear it again, the book is far better than that abortion of a movie. Bob is not arrogant and cocky. He is a Vietnam vet  and much more clever than his movie counterpart.

One thing we learn in the book is that Bob is living a life of quite desperation, just waiting to die.  When he is set up and sets out on the run to clear himself, we learn that he is once again alive for the first time since the war. He is fully engage again now that he has a war to fight.     And the the climax and gun fights of the book do not disappoint.

Unlike the vast majority of writers, Stephen Hunter is a gun guy. The book is full of gun talk and details and is accurate to weapons type and ballistics.  Indeed one rifle  pretty much becomes a character in the book.  Knows as the “tenth black king” a Pre 64 Model 70 winchester target rifle 1 of 100 that is The number 1 of that special run.  It is a 300 H&H magnum with a Unertl target scope used for the kill that sets Bob up and has a long history back to the death of JFK and it is essential to driving the plot.

This great book set off the popularity of Bob Lee and his adventures that are still ongoing to this day, And even some side books about Bob’s father Earl who is even more deadly and impressive as well as heroic as Bob himself.  Earl was a WW2 vet and received the Medal Of Honor.  Earl goes on to have adventure of his own as a Arkansas state  trooper before dying on duty when Bob is still a boy.   Earl had a huge impact on his son to say the least.

The book is one anyone who loves guns needs to read, It is better than any action movie I have ever seen with plot twists and pacing that is truly masterful. It is never dull and is 100 percent entertaining.   I read it many years ago ( it first came out around 91 or 92) and I have probably read it again every two years or so. it is really that good.  Lastly, in addition to all I said, it also has some deep thoughtful things to say about life and duty and doing the right thing.   It  has never failed to entertain me.