So you are finally ready to hit the range. $2,500 cold forged eighteen inch barrel bullet launcher. $1,500 etched focal plane, target turret scope. Forty Five dollar a box match grade ammo. Time for some sub-sub Minute Of Accuracy (MOA) action. Whoa there Mr. Tack Driver!!! Before you go spending your children’s inheritance and selling your middle age crisis convertible let’s get a understanding of the basics and look at what is actually needed.
As with all our discussions, we want to wrap our arms around what you need vice what you want. There is a big distinction between the two and a thorough understanding may save you some pain later on. So we’ll break the discussion down into long range shooting accuracy and then combat range accuracy with carbine and pistol.
Without a doubt most shooters who see the Accuracy International AX 700 above will probably be mistaken for somebody who just come from the dentist office there’d be so much drool on their lips!! At $1,500 alone just for the chassis and not including the barrel, bipod or scope most of us don’t have that kind of money to shell out. And…it’s much more gun then most of us will ever need.
What we want:
Well this will be a short discussion. We want what we want and don’t really want to think about the price it will actually cost. We can dream about all the big names in barrels, stocks, scopes and so on and build out our perfect shooting rifle. In the end, at least for us mere mortals it’s a dream that keeps us sound asleep at night with a smile on our face.
What we need:
This may irritate some but often the truth does. We need what our skill level can accurately shoot. There in lies the first of the problems. Can you put your weapon system into operation and get the most out of it? Yes, you can get a weapon system that can reach out to 1,500 yards accurately but can YOU accurately shoot out to 1,500 yards? There is much more involved in shooting accurately than just getting a rifle. To take accurate long range shots (and we can define long range starting around 600 yards for most of us) there are some variables that we must know how to account for with every shot some of which we will have no control over.
Working our way top to bottom we’ll start with our environment. More than anything else, the environment is the one variable that we can’t control but have to be able to read, account for and adjust for. When we talk about the environment there are more things to consider than just the temperature. Not only will extreme heat or cold affect the ballistics of your round but you also have to take into account the barometric pressure with the temperature. Extreme temperatures will also affect you the shooter. Sweat may roll into your eyes or low temperatures may cause you to have a slight shiver.
It also goes without saying that you will have to take into account the wind. Even that isn’t so simple either. You may have a right-rear quartering wind where you are, but the wind may be a ninety degree left side wind at the target! And oh by the way, the wind will probably be different along the way! As if that wasn’t enough there will be elevation changes between you and your target that you have to deal with. Shooting across a valley? Expect some major wind direction changes. Hot outside? Mirages will come into play.
As we move from the environment to the weapon system again we have a multitude of variables to deal with, but at least these we can pretty much control. Many consider the glass that you put on top of your rifle to be just as important as the barrel when it comes to accuracy. You will find quite a few who spend as much on the scope as they do on the rifle itself. Indeed, this is one place where you should not skimp and be cheap. The saying all things are not equal definitely applies here. Nightforce, Vortex, Nikon, Steiner, Burris and others all produce scopes that can do the basic job of bringing the target closer. The difference comes when you compare clarity of the scene, how sharp the image is, how much if any parallax there is and the type of turrets. Reticles…lit or unlit. Plain duplex crosshairs, MILDOT or full reticle bullet drop compensator with windage markings. The options are endless so try them out in person before you lay down your years worth of lunch money.
Finally we’ll end with the weapon itself. Nothing in the shooting world is as individual as a long range rifle platform. Barrel length and material used, crown or no crown. Rifling can even change to suit the type of round you will shoot. Stocks can be had in the very basic to the very exotic and adjustable. Length of pull, length of comb, angle of the grip and material all combine to make the weapon a fingerprint of the person firing it.
After all that we haven’t even begin to scratch the surface of long distant shooting and accuracy. The best advice: learn to shoot what you have and don’t be afraid to hold on to that beginners rifle and stretch it to its limit before buying that hotrod setup.
In Part 2 we’ll dive a little deeper and discuss more immediate concerns of accuracy.