Long-Range Shooting by Phillip Hayes

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Long-Range Shooting by Phillip Hayes: Where to start?

Currently, long-range shooting is the topic in shooting circles, and rifles to satisfy this demand are selling like the proverbial hotcakes. I invested in just such a rifle, but soon realized that if you want to successfully ring steel gongs at ranges of 1 000m and longer with your first shot, it takes more than just a good rifle and scope to attain success.

I spent thousands of Rands on reloading, then burned it all away on the range without improving my consistency, and soon realised that if I cannot see where I’m hitting, or in most instances, by how much I’m missing, I’ll never be able to improve my hit rate as I do not know what to correct. The whole process left me rather frustrated. Of course a spotter would help, but I prefer to shoot alone when I can.

Then I was invited to attend an introductory shooting course with Long Range Shooting SA near Broederstroom. The one-day course began with a morning filled with theory, and then we spent the afternoon on the range, putting theory into practice.

The course, with its highly experienced instructor Sean Pirie, tackled topics such as the rifle, what to choose in terms of a stock, action, trigger, barrel, scope, bases and rings, and how to handle scope shadow and its effect on shot placement. He discussed other equipment you need for long-range shooting, like a wind-meter, range-finder, spotting scope, bipod and chronograph, but you do not need these items to complete the course.

Much emphasis was placed on your custom long-range load. Here, consistency is the key to success, as erratic velocities will have a seriously adverse effect at ranges in excess of 1km. According to the manual provided, a 1-grain error in your powder charge can result in a velocity difference of up to 70fps (in my rifle this will result in a 49-inch difference in point of impact at 1 000 yards). A 1-grain difference in case weight can result in an 8fps discrepancy. However, a 1-grain difference in bullet weight will cause minimum deviation. According to Sean, only ammunition with a mean spread of 35fps or less is acceptable for long-range shooting. The smaller this number, the better, and some successful long-range shooters deem an extreme spread of just 12fps as maximum.    

Sean also discussed basic long-range ballistics: how elevation, barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, velocity, ballistic coefficient, Coriolis Effect and gyroscopic spin drift all affect the bullet’s trajectory.

Read the full article in the June 2018 issue of Magnum.

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