Over the course of many years the shooting sports industry tended to favor the long range rifle shooter well enough but always kept them in the tight bracket of a 500 yards or closer shooting scenario.
While there were the 1000 yards long range military style matches, and a few clubs offering ranges that exceed a couple of hundred yards, the wide majority of the gun clubs and rifle ranges were set up as deer rifle zeroing locations, or in some cases as closer range bench rest accuracy shooting options.
I belonged to the Minnetonka Rifle Club back in the day that retained one of two 1000 yard ranges in the whole state. My current home in western South Dakota is just breaking ground on their first state operated 1000 yards range with a few others that can also hold up under this level of long range requirements. As little as five years ago there was not a word of any range being offered as a total class one shooting facility in the 1000 yards bracket.
However, with the development of both cartridges, glass sights, and rifles today, the long range game has not only stretched to this extended range limit, but because of the shooting success obtained by shooters working at this indicated distance additional target competition events are now being held at one mile or more.
However, that is a story for still another day.
Equipment, A Major Key to Success.
Years ago when I was writing as a staff writer for The Varmint Hunter, which was the leading first class predator and long range ballistics performance publication in the whole USA, we had a shooting credit element in the club that could be entered when the member of the club’s publication made a 500 yards kill on a warm target. (prairie dogs for the most part.)
Based on the equipment that was available at the time, and I was shooting some of the best of the day, hitting a soda bottle size target (6X21/2 inches) at 500 yards was no easy task at all.
Today based on current load, sight, and rifle development, that previous distance is just a warm up for some real shooting.
It was the early designing of the first chassis rifles for competition target shooting that started to move the performance marker within the long range shooting industry. Chassis rifles had one thing that was different from standard sporting or target grade rifles, and that was the barrel was not just floated away from the end of the rifle, but it was totally free standing all the way to the receiver ring on the chamber end of the rifle.
With nothing even coming close to touching the barrel it would work off its own harmonics and accuracy levels depending on the type of rifling and bullet/cartridge being applied. Where that rifle shot would be the benchmark for its accuracy across the board. End of story, and the beginning of a whole new world of accuracy development in high power rifles.
The best thing I can do in this case is using my own experience as an example in terms of selecting the correct rifle for ultra long range shooting, and in this case a starter system for 1000 yards work. I Say 1000 yards as a starter system because when you start hitting at 100 yards you are going to want to move that range out further. You can trust me on that end of this story because I have been there and done all that.
Because I am not made of money, and some of the dubbed high-grade long range rifles during those start up years were very expensive, and trying to budge one loose from a company for a story or testing was about impossible, I want to Savage Arms for help as well as Remington, Ruger, Montana Rifles, and Armalite rifles.
These folks were not into cheap rifles at all, but what they had at a price range from $2000.00 through $24.000 and change, they were willing to let me shoot. All of the rifles I was writing and shooting were from 300 Win Mag, all the way to the monster super magnum in 338 Lapua.
I stayed with the military variants because the ammo was easier to get, and there was a pile of data out there when it came to mapping distance (DOPE) for my shots down range. Also of interest was the fact that at the time I was on a SAT phone directly with snipers in the sand box re the Australian army who were shooting the 338 Lapua, and also doing some work with the 300 Win Mag. Hard nosed real time information was a total gold standard for my educational research on long range shooting development.
Based on this background here are my suggestions in terms of rifles for this type of target work. First of all, none of them are cheap, and that is because times have changed in terms of offerings today, and everything costs more nowadays to be sure. In the mid range priced group of rifles the chassis rifle in a Savage Arms rifle is a good bet every time.
The basic 110 action as now being built by a new owner of the company is a solid accurate piece of rifle plumbing. These rifles when found are not always built for looks, but they shoot straight and when chambered in the right cartridge will do a very good job at 1000 yards, and far more when asked to do the deed.
As to current times again, the rifles in chassis styles built by Ruger are an outstanding buy as well as dead on accurate as well. I shoot three different Ruger Precision rifles that are chambered from 338 Lapua, 300 Win Mag, through the very new 300 PRC currently. Yes, Ruger backed me and my research for all three of my long range books, and I have stayed with them tightly for the past decade because of those early years in long range shooting support.
Back in those days I always try to keep in mind that my editors and friends in the business of shooting were telling me that I was wasting my time with long range writing material. Shows what they know in the long run to be sure.
Ruger’s as long range rifles run the Russian five groove rifling system (R-5) have a totally unique and individual designed action with a full free floating barrel on the metal stock that is a fold up model when the shooter on the move. The Remington’s 2010 I as to a reference sniper rifle for the military was built very much like the Ruger Precision, and carried about $20.000 more in terms of cost at the time.
Even currently I am shooting a brand new variant of the Precision that can’t be photographed, or even discussed yet as so much of it is brand new to the long range world of shooting.
Regardless of brand you are going to have to spend money for performance and that is the start and the end of that less right here and now.
Assuming you now have selected a good quality chassis, or even conventional stocked rifle from my list or some other, the next problem is selecting the correct cartridge chambering. Long range shooting demands a cartridge that can carry the mail, being velocity, energy, and accuracy to a far distant target.
What happens with the wrong cartridge is the projectile can go transonic before reaching the target. This means the accuracy characteristics of the bullet will die in mid flight, the bullet will wobble, drift, and otherwise not be very satisfactory at all. Check on ballistics data before you decide what cartridge to buy. That means a cartridge that will shoot a bullet and keep it supersonic to the target. (10.000 f.p.s or more.)
An example of a good cartridge that falls a bit short at 1000 yards is the 308 Winchester, or military 7.62X51 NATO. This round in the 168 grain and shot at sea level will at times do strange stuff down range after 800 yards. This is why the US Army made the move to the 300Win Mag and started chamberlain all the old bolt action sniper rifles from 308 to 300 Win a few years ago.
In effect there area pile of good cartridges that can take on the 1000 yard targets. Starting with the old gold standard 30-06 there is no question as to its effectiveness. Some think because of developments like the 6.5 Creed moor, 6.5 PRC, 6mm PRC, and 25 Nosier that everything else just got up and went away. While the previously named cartridges are indeed outstanding to 1000 yards the old home guards like the 25-06 Remington, 257 Weatherby (My favorite ) 7MM Remington Magnum, and the solid as a rock 300 Win Mag can hold their own any day of the week down range.
Without getting into a pile of detail I will just tell you that again money buys quality, and quality scope allows bullets to hit targets even out to 1000 yards or more. Here you want a scope that has high power (magnification) and etched sub tension in the reticle glass. Uses marked graduations in the reticle that match the turret settings and use some systems like the Horus Vision style Christmas tree, or other graduated elevation and windage correction systems. Turrets must be open style, set high, and carry a lot of clicks for elevating heavy bullets when required.
In terms of brand selection that is the shooter’s choice, but I have stayed with Leupold scopes for many advanced sighting systems and Bushnell in terms of their most advanced tactical target long range scopes. Zeiss, Steiner, and Tract, make up the rest of my selected battery of test rifle and hunting rifle long range glass sight systems.
When you get that rifle, scope and selected cartridge all together you still will need a cell phone or hand held computer, long range spotting scope, shooting mats, and bench rest bags or bi ponds to name a few.
A set of general purpose gunsmith tools at the bench is always handy, and both steel and paper target if you are working from your fabricated range. Speaking of ranges, you are going to need someplace that is a 1000 yards long to do the shooting. Not so easy in many parts of this rock we live on today.
Ballistics data will require the hand held computer or even a main frame desk top unit that will Google Hornady Ammunition or some other company that offers firing solution development in real time. You’re going to need the Data from Previous Engagements called DOPE, or firing solutions based on the weather, altitude, bullet type and weight, velocity, and air temperature on the day of actual shooting.
This system will generate a computer selection of the advanced or basic solutions regarding sight hold over in clicks being MRADS, or MOA clicks to the 1000 yards target. This game is not just point and shoot. In some cases, the bullet will drop the equivalent distance of a one story building when the correct trajectory has been computed for the shot.
You are going to have to learn wind drift, mirage over the sight, and target fade at times with the correct lighting. Elements of excess drop or climb if the shooting position is above or below the target, and when you get all that material and information stacked up, get down and dirty and learn to shoot like a real marksmen. How do I learn what you are saying? Time on task is the answer. Shooting is not a ride the bike type of skill. The skill requires regular practice and rust forms on those eye balls and trigger finger nerve endings very quickly I am here to say.
L.P Brezny has been writing and reviewing product as well as how to projects for the past 50 years. He has authored four books on shooting with three on long range, and one covering shotgunning. With 26 years on a metro police department as a street officer and the rank of SGT / training L.P. has covered all the bases regarding weapons and street survival.
During the early years in non-toxic shotshell ammunition development L.P. designed the first successful measurement system for recording the speed of shot shell payloads down range. He was responsible for getting actual shotshell velocities printed on factory load boxes. Over the years he has developed and markets MetroGun System TM, and sells his designed ammunition for subsonic sound suppressed shotgun shooting.
Current L.P. resides in the South Dakota Black Hills and spends a good deal of time working through many types of ammunition both in the field on warm targets. With ultra long range being a current specialty L.P. shots for test and accuracy at ranges as great as one or more miles on the wide open Dakota grasslands.