Right off the individual that is thinking about getting into long range shooting needs to fully understand that this subject is divided into several different major categories. First of all what kind of long range shooting are you considering getting involved in, and secondly what kind of budget are you able to work within? These are major questions that need to be addressed prior to even thinking about buying into a specialized long range rifle, or just as important answering the question as to what cartridge are you chambering in that new long distance shooting rifle?
Even by taking on the subject and writing about both firearms and ammunition together becomes a bit of a mess. Each subject is major, and almost requires its own time and level of consideration when put to paper.
However as a basic starter piece, I will get at the subject by limiting the extended range to 1000 yards, and the use of ammunition that fits that level of long range shooting. If the interest prevails additional subject information can be addressed later. Time. For the most part long range today covers the standard target 1000 yard course, sniper work to that previously indicated range, and hunting applications to about the mid point of that posted range, being 500 through 600 yards. In effect, long range shooting today is covering shooting to three miles down range based on current events in the field being undertaken in the USA, and I do believe Russia as well, being they seem to have some interest in pushing the bullet into the back side of the planet.
When considering the long range rifle one of the first things needing to be addressed is the brand and type. Brand because of what the firearms has to offer in terms of quality and performance, and type because long range rifles in general make use of heavier stocks in both wood, polymer, and metal, and are not to be considered as “ walking” rifle designs. Weight factors in and in general rifles of 10 pounds or more start to fit the profile recognized by riflemen. Why the extra weight? Because the barrels are in most cases heavy in both sizes and length, the receivers are taking on very specific cartridge designs that require a more massive receiver system. ( long actions, ) and specialized stock design is not at all concerned about carrying balance and general model target/hunting, or carry fighting weight. Weight in the rifle means stability, accuracy, and the ability to stay in one piece afield being hunting or military and police.
The long range rifle will require high end long range glass sights and a mounting system to match the requirements of a rifle that can hit a six inch circle at 1000 yards or more. Heavy bases and rings mean additional weight so you can see that the element of carry weight becomes a major element when designing or bringing together the rifle that will meet your needs.
As to rifle stock types in most cases, the receiver and barreled action can be set into both wood, plastic, and metal stocks. This is a shooters choice, and here at my company Ballistics Research & Development we have at least five reference long range test rifles in polymer materials, and an equal number of glass bedded wood stocks. Chassis aluminum stocks make up an additional five rifles which illustrates there is a place for each of these stock designs and type when applied to the long range shooting systems.
The chassis stocks tend to be the most favored by long range shooters today because they are a take off from bench rest high accuracy rifles used for competition. The chassis stock will not warp, twist, and keeps the total length of the rifle barrel off the for-end of the rifle. When the rifle barrel is not touching the stock it is free to develop a consistent level of harmonics. This means when fired the barrel moves (whips) the very same way each time. The movement and vibration control means accuracy, and lots of it down range.
In terms of action designs the long range rifle is almost always the bolt action rifle. While some special rifles as falling blocks and even a few autos are used upon occasion for special events the primary rifle is again the bolt gun to be sure.
I shoot a pair of chassis rifles for ranges well beyond 1000 yards, and my full one mile plus rifle is a polymer stocked heavy bolt action.
Examples of some good rifles that are currently on the market include the full line f Ruger bolt action heavy rifles in aluminum stocks, polymer and also wood. The Ruger Precision is first class rifle and a very good buy for the money. Ruger builds the Predator and in cartridge calibers that are long range effective to be sure.
T/C Thompson Center/Smith Wesson “Compass” is offered as a chassis rifle that is a class act, and is also offered in some solid 1000 yard performance cartridges. Tack on the 112 Savage Magnum Target and their chassis rifles, and your into chambering that is among some of the best in the world at long range rifle bullet delivery systems. Some of these rifles are in the ball park of $1000.00 $1400.00. However, if you want to spend the family savings you can get into some models that will run several thousand and change. For the most part, there are almost no limits to what is currently being offered to the long range shooter today in these special purpose state of the art rifle designs.
Like the rifles previously illustrated the ammunition and cartridge types are spot on as class one long range projectile sending systems. Only as few as 10 years go many of the current offerings were not at all available as finely tuned and crafted cartridge types.
As an example, the 6.5 Creedmoor 6.5 PRC, 6mm PRC, and 25 Hostler did not exist. All of these are outstanding 1000 yard cartridges and chambered for most rifles that are built to send bullets a very long way down range.
What constitutes a good long range cartridge design? While staying with 1000 yard shooting in this review I will be eliminating a number of very effective cartridges that are super ultra long distance shooters. The 1000 yard cartridge needs to be able to hold an accurate group to the indicated range limits, and it will do that using several design factors.
Designing a bullet meaning only the part of the system that actually leaves the gun barrel requires a projectile that cuts down drag forces at the tail end of the bullet. Drag slows down a bullet, and if designed poorly for long range this decrease in velocity will take place in a rapid manor.
Long range bullets carry a very long sharp nose section (ogive,) a balanced center shaft, and in most cases the use of a boat tail bullet base design. There is so much that goes into a long range bullet today in terms of design that even some are actually hand turned on a lath one at a time to perfection regarding exact measurements. Of late companies like Hornady Manufacturing have designed very special bulk offered bullets that address all the issues involved in getting a bullet to fly accurately over very long distances. In this case the bullets are called ELD’s and the whole process does not stop with Hornady as companies like Norma, Federal, Winchester, Barnes, Speer, and a host of others are all getting into the long range bullet/cartridge design business today.
I was once advised as a ballistics review outfit and gun writer to stay way from “that long range business” I was told there was no future in it at all. Well, how many ways can you spell the word “wrong”. Long range is the fastest growing firearms activity in progress today. Why? I believe that it is because of the many years of war in the middle east for the most part., In that conflict snipers were king of the battle field, and tactics changed from the days of old resulting in snipers requested better firearms that could send the mail much further down range.
In America where the military goes so does the civilian market and with returning sharpshooters and other GI’s interested the long range game took a grip on the whole shooting fraternity. I have explained this element to the story because it is illustrated in just how much the whole shooting sports industry has taken up the cause of the long range shooter today. Those bullet demand massive amounts of research and development as do the weapons themselves. If there was no future in all of this nothing would have ever change to a major degree. Bullets developed for long range shooting today are at the apex of development. The next thing down the line is lasers and energy weapons leaving the bullet behind.
For my part and also money, I like the MATCH bullets (large box capacity) for hand loading offered by Hornady in the LED line. I shoot the 6.5 Creedmoor and 300 Win Mag a great deal to 1000 yards or a bit further at times. Say what you want but the old tried and true 300 Win Mag round is still king of the battle field among many sniper units, and for sure top dog out here in the middle of the American wild west, with shots as far as the eye can see at times. Bullets in the lighter fast 6.5 Creedmoor are almost always from 140 grain to 142 grain, and the 300 Win Mag bullet is 200 grains up.
Other very good bullets are being loaded around the very new cartridges as in the 6.5 PRC and 300 PRC which are in the ball park of the previous two cartridges with the exception of generating more velocity and running further down range in one piece. I say one piece because a bullet first goes at supersonic velocities, but transitions into trans-sonic velocity, meaning it slows to the point that it is about to lose super sonic speeds. After leaving supersonic speed the bullet moves to subsonic velocity and at that point, all hell breaks loose at times.
The best example of this today is the 308 Winchester ( 7.62×51 NATO 0 round. This is a wonderful cartridge and bullet paired combination but it seems to get into trouble at about 800 yards when shot at sea level. Trouble means t starts to go a bit nuts inflight, then loses accuracy quickly. Snipers wanted to fix this and requested 175 grain bullets being move up form the 168 grain bullet. This small amount of added bullet weight was able to fight off sub sonic effects to 1000 yards. After that however it was because the work of the 300 Win Mag and others in theater.
Cartridges and bullets are available for rifle shooting, and even the narrow groove associated with long range are massive. Hundreds of bullets will work at all different bore sizes.
I suggest the new shooters stay with the standards. Using the 308 Winchester as a starter or the Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor is not a bad idea at all. These two cartridges will push 1000 yards with ease using the correct bullets/cartridges.
The proceeding has been nothing short of a very basic primary overview of rifles and cartridges associated with the long range shooting event. Like fine wine the whole subject gets better with age. Shooting to very long distances involves optics knowledge, some math associated with ballistics performance in bullets, match the correct rifle to the equally correct cartridge, and after finding a place to shoot that far start to train like you own the place.
Want more info on the subject? Go to Amazon.com and check under “Long Range Shooting” L.P.Brezny
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