What is Long Shooting and Hunting?
by Brent Martell
The popularity of long range shooting has grown substantially over the past several years and not just with rifles, guys are pushing the limits of range with archery equipment and muzzle loaders as well. So what is it? What is involved? Who is doing it? Why?
These are all legitimate questions and I think should be addressed from two different positions, target shooting and hunting.
To begin with I would like reset our minds into a relaxed and open state so we are not putting up false barriers to new ideas. What that means is that Long Range (LR) is not for everyone, but it is acceptable for some. Just because one person does not possess the skill to shoot LR it does not mean that others don’t have that skill as well. In other words, do not place false restrictions on others due to our own lack of skill or knowledge.
Long shooting is simply the practice of putting a projectile on target over a distance considered beyond normal. Let’s assume 0 to 300 yards is normal for rifle, 0 to 35 yards is normal for archery, and 0 to 100 yards is normal for muzzle loader. Arguable perhaps, but it gives us a base to compare against. The reason we create a reference base is to see the changes required to hit our target and what is involved to do consistently. LR rifle shooting could be simply stated that anything under 300 yards requires minimal adjustments to achieve consistent hits on 12” targets. Beyond 300 yards will require changes in the sight hold point/aim point, considerations for changes in atmosphere (elevation, temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity), spin drift, wind direction and speed, and slope angle to the target. In more extreme ranges Coriolis effect, the rotation of the earth, has to be calculated in as well. As you can see the more the range to the target increases the more opportunity there is for the projectile to be pushed off the path to the target. This holds true for all weapons including throwing rocks at your neighbor for not returning your tools on time. The further he runs away the more you have to increase the angle of the rock as you throw it.
So what does it take to be a LR shooter? It takes the right tools in the right hands to be accomplished at LR shooting. Opinions differ on this topic but my opinion is that in order to be accomplished you are engaging and hitting your targets consistently on the first round. Hard targets are not too picky about this but if you are engaging soft targets (animals) you need to be proficient and walking rounds in, is not acceptable. Shooting is a depreciating skill. Trigger time is essential and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Consistency in form such as hold control, trigger control, breath control, and sight control are paramount. Once you have the skills to shoot well and consistently then you have to add in the tools to adjust for the extended ranges. For rifle long range shooting tools such as range finders, angle cosine indicators, compasses, ballistic computers, wind and atmosphere meters, and turret adjustable scopes are necessary. If a person is willing to invest the time, the money, and the training long range shooting is viable for many people. The key is proper training, proper tools, and practice.
Ok, so why do it? Why shoot long range? Many choose to shoot long range as it forces them to improve their shooting skills, it requires dedication and Practice! Practice is the only way to hone skills and build muscle memory. Repetition develops auto responses that help in stressful situations. There really is no replacement for getting out there and practicing, What LR does is exaggerate shooter errors where “good enough” before may not be acceptable now. Take an archer for example who practices at 20 yards. He shoots fine, decent groups of 3 arrows in an 8” zone, and hits the vitals consistently on target. Now take that archer to 50 yards, which is 2.5 times the distance. His accuracy zone is now 20”. If that archer practices at 50 yards and gets his group consistently to 8” then his 20 yard shot opportunity is easy. Shooting LR for practice is helpful because it provides vital feedback regarding errors and trains the shooter to focus on proper technique shot after shot. Get lazy or make a mistake and it shows up in a shot that is not acceptable. I know many archers who practice out to 100 yards to hone their skills, but none of them hunt animals at that distance. Do you have to shoot LR to be good at closer range? NO, not at all. It is just a way to have fun, practice, and increase your abilities. It is also a great way to discover your own personal limitations.
So how does this all tie into long range hunting? There is a significant amount of controversy in the industry regarding long range hunting. Whether for or against it we must contain our thoughts that just because we don’t or can’t do it, does not mean that another person is incapable. Animal rights people think all hunting should be banned, some rifle hunters think archery should be banned. There is always an argument and a judgment for whichever position you choose. I have done both LR rifle and archery shooting and the most important lesson I have learned so far is regarding my limitations and process to decide to shoot or not. Through thousands of rounds of down range and hundreds of hours in the field I have been humbled greatly by the effects on a bullet in mountain terrain. I have found that more often than not my LR shot opportunity is reduced to half of what I might be normally capable of. If I am proficient at 1000 yards in general mountain terrain and conditions there is a very good chance I will need to be in the 500-600 yard range during any other given hunting scenario simply due to mother nature, stress, or an awkward and uncomfortable shooting platform. With the proper training, equipment, and the ability to walk away when the situation calls for it LR hunting is acceptable. Knowing your limits is key.
If you choose to get into LR shooting I suggest looking into a reputable trainer and budget for the tools. Most schools are 2-3 days and work on shooting fundamentals and build upon that foundation as the course progresses. Once you get through the course and are on your own it is important to schedule practice time. LR shooting is fun and a great way to practice but long range hunting is serious business and I challenge people to either be all in or all out. It takes skill to be an accomplished long range shooter. Let’s take a second and discuss what is needed to be LR rifle shooter: “accurate” rifle, adjustable quality turret scope, range finder, ballistics app on a smart phone or ipod, wind/atmosphere meter device, or range finder with custom programmable ballistics profile. With most smart phones you get a compass and with most ballistics aps you get a slope angle indicator. With a decent wind meter you can get an altimeter, barometer, temperature sensor, and air density conversion. Kestrel and Weatherflow are a couple worth looking into. With certain range finders you also get a slope indicator and barometer. There are also a few sources for a range finder with built in ballistics computers such as Gunwerks G7 and Sig Kilo 2400. In reality some devices have multiple tools built in which makes it better for not having to carry a lot gadgets. In my pack I have my phone with Shooter App, Kestrel 2500 wind meter, and Gunwerks G7 range finder.
Good luck, practice, and be safe.