Shooting The M4 To 1,000 Yards

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A few weeks ago I took a standard Colt A2 rifle with government  20 inch profile barrel with iron sights and  a mix of issue and match ammo out to 1,000 yards to see show what it would do.   This time, I  did the same thing again with a M4. Technically , it s a M4A1 upper made by Colt with the heavier SOCOM profile barrel 14.5 inches long.   Everything about the carbine other than the  semi auto  only FCG is issue.  I used iron sights again in keeping with my theme of  marksmanship skill with a rifle and basic knowledge everyone should have.  I did however, also take a carbine with a Aimpoint T-1 on it for long range use. More on that later.

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Because the weeds and grass has grown so high I was not able to lie prone with the carbine. Add to that I had no real way to mount a sling in the proper position for traditional shooting with a sling though I doubt anyone would care enough to hold it against me.  Since the carbine sight radius is shorter then the rifle and not being able to use a sling to steady the carbine, I used sand bags and shot from the bed and over the roof of my Dad’s truck.  This got me up high enough to see over the grass and better spot my shots while confirming zero and getting ready for my  shots “on the record”.

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On request, I brought with me the 55 grain ball  M193 ammo to test. Facebook readers posted that they wanted to know what it would do being they considered it the most common round in use with the majority of AR15 users.  The ammo used was M193 lake city.  I also brought Lake city M855 62 grain ammo from the same lot as the test done with the 20 inch rifle and of course the MK 262  77 grain OTM ammo I handload to mimic the Black Hills load.

The day was just about perfect. The tempo was just over 80 degree with little humidity. The wind did blow from right to left as it always does on top of the mountain , but was only about 3-5 MPH.  The problem was the clouds.  Few people know that at long range the position of the sun and how much shade is over the target has a huge impact on your zero and POI.  The light on target from clouds and the sun as it moves through the sky is a real PITA.  Not only do the clouds move fast, but while stopping to let the barrel cool or taking a drink will be enough time for the light to change on you after you had just got everything set up.   I had to a hard time getting settles do to rapid cloud movement casting shade on target.

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In the picture above you can see the shadow of passing clouds moving down range.  No, I did not attend the University of South Vietnam School of Warfare, that would be Dad.

I set the steel gong up to conform zero and shot on it to fine tune my zero, then moved onto the paper.  This time I used the cardboard competition targets instead of the black military target.

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I shot the 55 grain M193 first because I know a lot of people wanted to know what it would do.  To give it all the chance I could, I started it off with a cleaner cool barrel and while my eye sight was still fresh and not strained.  I got on the steel after a hit.  I fired 30 rounds at the target and was able to make to hits on paper.

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Both holes where slightly out of round showing the lack of stability due to lack of velocity among other things. They did not keyhole exactly and I was surprised they cut a clean hole. I did not expect to get on target at all with a 14.5 inch carbine barrel. It did take a lot of adjustment on the front sight and rear to get them that far. It’s not even practical so I am not going to bother with the fine details on it.   I feel shooting the 55 grain this far really is a waste of time.  I was very lucky to get these two hits on paper and while I would not want hit by the round at that distance, its pointless.  Unlike the M855.

The M855 and its ability surprised me once again.  For a much maligned round, it continues to surprises me.  Despite what it did in the rifle, I did not even guess I would get out of it what I got this time.   After my zeroing procedure on the steel gong, I lined up on the paper and fired off 20 rounds.

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The wind and lack of velocity of a full length rifle carried the shots to the left side of the target.  But man did it group well!!  If I had been able to call the wind better, I think I could have gotten almost 90 percent into the center of the target!  I have said before the M4 is the more accurate of the M16 series and this a good example.  The heavier SOCOM barrel helps as well. I chose it because of the shorter stiffer and heavier barrel. this keep the barrel from shifting POI from heat and helped with vibration. The SOCOM barrel is a choice for a lot of people using suppressors to keep their zero from shifting from having the can on and taking it off.  It benefited me for the same reasons.   The bullets again did not cut a perfect hole, but it was very slight. The  slightly better profile of the bullet helped the SS109 projectile over the older M193.    To say I was shocked to not only have gotten on target at 1,000 yards with the carbine, but to out perform the rifle was surreal.  But, It is important to remember this time I had multiple sandbags and the trigger was a SSA trigger of 3 pounds.  It is not issue like the rifle, but the carbine is such a challenge I wanted to give my self all the help I could to keep from firing 500 rounds and not having anything to show for it.

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As expected the MK 262 was the best performer. Not only did the rounds end up better centered, thanks to my getting a better handle on it and the obvious advantage of the match round , but they hit higher up into the targets “chest.”  At this point the clouds had stopped giving shade/sun shade/sun but the wind had almost died down.  I fired 25 rounds at the target after my zero confirmation on the steel.  As good as it did I can not decided if it really did much better than the M855 as crazy as that seems. but I fired more rounds at the target then I did the M855. They seem more centered, but the conditions became almost perfect and I had taken a long break before shooting. It still turned out great and the holes cut a prefect round circle. The 77 grain sierra bullet was made for this kind of thing so it’s not a huge surprise. It ability to retain velocity and energy while staving off the wind better showed on paper.  The load I used this time was significantly hotter then last time.  I used  Lake City primed cases with military crimped primers as the brass. I pulled the bullets and tossed it in the garbage with the powder and swapped it for the 77 and a load of Varget. My own version of “mexican match.”  The crimped primer and mil brass gave me a little more wiggle room to really crank it up.  Use caution if you try the same method. The ammo was made for another project I was doing years ago and it was made for longer range shooting but to be safe in a semi auto.  Using fresh commercial brass resulted in popped primers but it was doable in military primed brass and the bullets seated out slightly longer but still deep enough to feed through a USGI Colt 20 round magazine.  That helped the better grouping this time but the quality of the Colt SOCOM barrel is superb.  I have never seen a bad Colt barrel but this one stands head and shoulders above a lot of the others I have used. I would love to know what it would do while free floated.  And of course the SSA trigger was a huge help.

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Lastly I decided to take a 6940 with a T-1 Aimpoint and shoot it with M855. A lot of people are always asking us how far can they shoot with just a red dot.  And of course, a lot of the internet will tell you a M4 or carbine in general is a 50 yard gun, or a 200 meter gun and all the crap we all hear over and over and over.   It’s not.  Of course a lot of  people get too tied up in the idea of fragmentation range and base the guns effectiveness on that.  I often wonder why no one tells them we are not in the military and are not restricted to using ball ammo.

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I shot the T-1 to 800 yards.  I did this at 800 instead of 1,000 for a few different reasons.  The big one is  I have no idea what the holdover would be at that range. I was not going to change the zero on my social gun just to find out.  I am used to working with irons sights and changing them around for long ranges but I am not going to fool around with a red dot at that range.  the idea with the RDS is you use a specific type of zero you feel is most effective than know your hold over and under for the rest.  Shooting the T1 that far is just not practical because I can not see anyone wanting to zero their red dot for 800 or even 700. And no one is likely to use it like a sniper optic, zeroing it in for a long range shot.  This was another demonstration just to show what can be done with tools many say are way more limited than they are.    After conforming my hold over on a steel gong, I moved over and shot the paper.  Performance was better as expected since this was 800 yards instead of 1K and I was using a 16 inch barrel. This gave a hair more velocity ( and I do mean a hair. In fact I almost didn’t mention it since so many people think it makes that much difference) and the barrel is  free floated. The lower also has a SSA trigger. This was also shot from sand bags in the higher position.

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Shooting to 500 to 600 yards is not a difficult task with a RDS. The magnifier is not a must have to do this either.  You are not sniping, you are just trying to hit a man sized target or close enough to the target to scare it or whatever  you need to do.  That is pretty good for a 1x red dot.  What zero you choose for your red dot makes a huge difference with what you can achieve with it.  Below is a link to Travis Haley who made and  excellent video on the different zeros and their trajectories and ranges.  I highly suggest everyone watch it if you are not familiar with the different zeros. It may make you re think the zero  you have used for years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nzv8unkmJo

Like the article o shooting the standard A2 at 1,000 yards, I hope this will be as informative and help people understand what the basic carbine will do and what a person can do when they have a good handle on proper marksmanship fundamentals.  The M4 is not a 50 yard or 200 yard guns as is often said.  the M4 is a very accurate weapon and can be used to good effect even at ranges that truly are beyond the practical range of most of its users. I don’t know if practicing these skills are use full or if practicable for everyone, But I think it is a confidence builder if nothing else. See what your carbine can do, even if you can’t exactly do it, still give people confidence in their weapon.   I can not recommend everyone to go  out and practice this stuff because it is infinitely better to use ammo and training time for training set more in reality. But, if you do have the time and ammo and range to give it a try, it will help you refine your pure marksmanship skills and it is a heck of a confidence builder. If you can master longer range shooting, you should feel a lot better about your skill at shorter ranges if you ever need to take a precise shot.

If you decide to try it, don’t get too frustrated if it  takes a while. I had near perfect conditions for this test and trying to repeat some of it the next day for another friend led to me not making  even 5 percent of the hits I made the day before.  Though  you can not be lucky unless you do everything right, luck does help and conditions need to be just right if you really want to see the kind of performance seen above.  Years of shooting long range and great gear sometimes  can not make up for nature and your own body if it all does not come together to cooperate.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Shawn. I like the Haley video that you referenced and had seen it in the past. I tried to watch it again at the link that you provided and the link is dead as a result of a copyright infringement claim.

    • yea, this article is a repost from 2012, I been taking a semi vacation this week and posting stuff from the “groove yard of forgotten favorites” as Rush would say. May do the same next week too.

  2. Good shooting.

    In my view, long range shooting is an essential skill, and you can’t call yourself a marksman if you don’t do it.

    I always practise with my handguns at 50 yards and longer, because the trigger control, stance, grip etc necessary to shoot well at that distance on a square range will stand me in good stead at 15 yards when somebody is shooting back at me. Same with my long guns.

    You get the fight you’re given, not the one you want. Being expert at dumping mags at 20 yards won’t be a useful skill if you’re being engaged from 300 yards.

    Of course, developing the skills required for long range shooting, be it with rifle handgun, takes actual work like regular dry firing, and that’s nearly as much fun as emptying a magazine in a couple of seconds.

    I’m not the grinch who stole Christmas, and I like a mad minute as much as the next man, but that shouldn’t be the whole show.

    I really like these long range articles Shawn, and I’d be happy to see more. Perhaps something on terminal effects on different materials (gel, pine lumber, sandbags etc) at long range.

    Your dedication to long range shooting is commendable, and one of the reasons I like coming here.

    Cheers from Australia.

    • I need to do more, I been reposting articles from years ago all week. I been on a semi vacation this week. Now that the summer is coming I will start some more long range stuff again soon. I will see what we can come up with. I did that M4 at 1000 yards back in 2012 or there abouts and my eye sight has no improved any now that I’m in my mid 40s. SO I dont know how much more iron sight long range shooting I can do these days

      • I turn 59 in a few months, so I know what you mean about the eyesight. I’m just getting a new prescription made up because my iron sights were getting fuzzier.

        One thing that’s occurred to me as possibly interesting is a comparison of real world trajectories versus calculators. I mean, shoot targets at 100m, 200m….out to whatever and see how well the actual trajectories match what the computer says they should be. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some noticeable discrepancies.

        Anyway, whatever you get up to, have fun, keep shooting and keep writing about it.

  3. I really love this post and the previous post regarding the 1,000 yard hits with a 20 inch rifle. For me personally, it really puts things in perspective when I feel overwhelmed by a massive industry trying to convince me I need to spend thousands more on the latest LPVO, match barrel, free float rail, etc. Are those things nice? Of course! But I think we as gun enthusiasts throw the word ‘need’ around too much. Well done Shawn.

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