As a Firearm Educator for Urban Sharp Shooters (U.S.S.) I was asked several months ago by VODA to write an article for VODALogic.com. VODA requesting that I publish an article on Long Range Precision Shooting. Not being one to shy away from the topics of High Power, Long range and Precision Shooting, I caught several phases of writer’s block: The first step, “Keep It Simple Stupid” [K.I.S.S.] was the first hurdle.
I’m an Old-School Writer and tend to use more than 180 characters to get a thought on paper, and how can I be both detailed and concise on a topic that I know so well? The other wall was creating a submission on this subject that has not already been done and said, or for some not was plagiarized from a Long-Range Shooting basics handbook from the C.M.P. or copped from Wikipedia or some YouTube channel.
That said, the sources mentioned provided me with the insight to engage the topic from the perspective of the uninitiated Urbanite that has yet to shoot a long gun out to 50 yards. Mentioning being able to put well aimed rounds on targets at 200 300, 500 and 600 yards to the beginner might seem extraordinary and to do so in 100+ degree temperatures to freezing cold with the same caliber ammo purchased at the “Big W” with a well-worn AR or AK platform, with Iron sights generates this wide eye awe as if they were talking to a space wizard. Two things you need to know:
MYTHBUSTER: Shooters were doing this feat as a norm for over a century worldwide to win wars, trophies or to put meat away for the winter.
CHANGE: Lifestyles. Life got faster and shooting spaces and attention spans got shorter. Even the “gunned up” shooting enthusiast has less patience than a few decades ago.
So, what does it take to be an Urban Sharp Shooter Long Ranger?
As with all other shooting genres it takes the right frame of mind. The physical foundation of Long Range Precision Shooting in not the gun nor the ammo. In my Professional Opinion, the most important element is mental conditioning and it requires Patience.
For me, engaging a small target at an above average distance, making both mental and mechanical adjustments for wind and the elements is Zen. When compared to the “tacticool” 0-25-yard indoor stuff that’s driven by movies, games and market trends is like Tai-Chi compared to Mixed Martial Arts. The shooting fundamentals required for Long Range Precision Shooting are essentially all the same as other rifle shooting fundamentals.
Plus Long Range shooting requires not only more concentration and focus than most of the other long gun disciplines. It also requires discipline because the Long Range Precision Shooter will have to keep a detailed account (writing things down) of as many variables that occurred during shot delivery as possible in order to recreate the consistency needed to execute the precision needed for each shot every single time. Some the variables that a Long Range Precision Shooter should be considering are:
Ammunition Used (bullet type and priming compound type)
Bullet grain (weight)
Rifling mechanics (Twist rate)
In EXTREME cases chamber combustion (internal ballistics)
As one of my mentors in the shooting sports once told me, “If you shooting just to hit the black and not the “X” ring you are just a participating spectator with hopes not to come in last place”. To paraphrase a fantasy space wizard: A Long-Range Shooter must have the “deepest commitment the most serious mind”.
6 Key Terms & Concepts:
Trajectory – flight path of an object (projectile) in motion under the influence of gravitational and atmospheric forces.
Bullet Drop - Decrease of speed in relationship to gravitational
Ballistic Coefficiency - Aerodynamics or the ability of an object (projectile) to overcome resistance in the air while in motion (flight)
Coriolis Effect - Rotational speed of the earth
Reading Wind - Observing the wind where you are and not looking at the TV news weatherman for answers
Muzzle Velocity - The speed of the bullet as it exits the barrel
The above mentioned (and more) should be becoming common place in your head at some point. Now, if you are wondering as to why I state that patience is the reason so many urban gun enthusiast are not into Long Range Precision Shooting, it is because they lack the desire to get interested at this level.
I have heard from a number of my metropolitan peers over my years through teaching and coaching Urbanites: “I don’t expect to ever having the need to shoot past 50 yards”, That’s why I roll with these 40 round mags and this 60-round drum” etc. I wont even turn on the “Old Sarge” and dig into the obvious weakness this will be in a firefight.
But I will keep it simply on staying nourished. simply put, 4-legged meat is going to do its best to stay far away from you and will not give you 39 times to miss. If this is your chosen path of close combat minded Rifle Shooter “This is why you will fail” Fail and starve.
(Setting up a 200 yd Zero firing 2 shot groups)
What is Long Range Precision Shooting?
The debate of what defines Long Range Shooting can be found on various online sources. The LR benchmark by most is 300+ yards. I side with the position supported by facts and my own experience over 35 years is that Long Range Precision Shooting is caliber and target dependent.
A .338 Lapua on a 3’x5’ silhouette at 600 yards’ vs head shot on a rabbit at 150 yards with a 10 mph variable crosswind. Which one is more challenging? I say accomplish both and draw your own conclusions. An Urbanite might be lucky just to see a varmint and that’s fine, we got plenty work to do before taking game or quitting our day jobs and going into full time farmland pest control.
What gun and caliber should I use for Long Range Shooting?
Is one of the most often asked questions I am asked both online and on the range by the Urbanite. My counter: Whatever you have.
(A Indian Isaphore Enfield variant chambered in 7.62 NATO with iron sights can get the job done)
I don’t know of any high-power center-fire lacks the capability to reach out past 200 yards so I will never idea sell a novice on a “must have” rifle or caliber. The biggest myth in Long Range Precision Shooting is that one must spent loads of money on a “Sniper in a box” precision rifle, with a boutique priced scope mounted on top.
(This is not a retail rig but a sporterized custom build using a post WW2 Mauser action. Contact Zulu Alpha Tactical to learn more on how to keep a old war horse in the modern day gun game)
The weekend I was asked to write this article, I helped an Urban Sharp Shooter (U.S.S.) club member to bore sight a blister packed scope, mounted to a bargain prices department store bolt action firing bottom shelf 55 gr .223 rem. I got it sighted in and dead on less than 10 rounds, and the sister Shooter kept all shots in the black at 200 yards that day. It's not rocket science. FYI: The national match course has legs at the 200, 300 and 600 yard lines with rifles that been around from 1903 to present, firing 30-06, .308 win / 7.62 NATO, .223 rem / 5.56 NATO and Shooters hit their marks.
(My son at age 14 of the time of photo putting in work with a sporterized 1950's M14S frame on a 100 degree day. )
“Do I need a long barrel?”
This is usually the follow up question. Factual answer is No. A 16” carbine length is 300+yd capable but leaves it to the Shooter to compensate more than if using a 20” or 24” barrel. If you getting keyhole groups at 25 yards at your indoor range make you feel like you got it made, go play outside in March then let's see. When placing a round out past 200 yards, muzzle velocities, bullet drop and wind speed start to show you their effects.
What should I use to help?
If anything, I will say are “must haves” is the supporting equipment to enjoy a day shooting at a distance where you cannot see your shot holes with the naked eye:
Spotting scope/binoculars: Seeing where you shot groups look like is key in making adjustments and asking to borrow your neighbors gear is worse than bumming for that cup of sugar or a cigarette because they have to set it back up each time other people use it. Just get your own and the world will be a better place when you have all your own range stuff.
Shooting mat: (if planning to shoot prone or sitting). For obvious reasons to some, but the reason most city slickers don’t LR is because they don’t want to get their clothes dirty. (yes, I had been told this!) The other is for support and insulation. I would not not suggest laying on 120 or 30-degree asphalt for a few hours without one.
Short magazines: (for semi autos) your rifle needs clearance. The first thing I see with range Shooters trying to shoot supported is that they are not able to get in a shooting position and posture because they are running a standard 30 rounder or longer magazine. Those 10-20 round mags that the COD generation tend scoff at were made for this purpose. Don’t get into the bad habit of using your magazines as artificial support.
Sling: They have more uses than just shoulder carry and tactical CQB posing. A bag or bi-pod, are the best choices but if in the field trekking, or shooting from a sitting, kneeling or even standing position, you should incorporate the sling as a means of support.
Better than bottom shelf ammo: I hear the word “cheap” from many Shooters more than I hear from baby chicks at the Amish market. Yes, that 55 grain can punch a hole in paper and dispatch a critter at a distance, and no, bumping up to the 62-grain green tip is not splurging. Try some 69 to 75 grain “Match” loads for a change and you will see that your measly .223 military clone rifle can be quite effective past the 100-yard line. I normally 75 grain hand loads and play with 80 grains out to 600 yards through a AR set up for competition. How you know it’s a match load? It will say it on the box.
So now you got the gear but still don’t have the range to stretch your legs. Adapt and train with what you have to work with. As a native of the Nation's Capitol I am more than aware of travel time to areas where one can open up anything above a .308 win rifle. I cut my teeth on a 30-06 in the bush of Southern Maryland on farm land in the early 80's now that area is host to a cul-de-sac community. If the most you have is a 50-yard indoor or 100 yrd outdoor range in your area that’s ok, just train with the smallest targets you can get in your sights. You know those nickel sized pasties that get tossed in the range garbage? They are targets too. For 100- 200-yard tune ups I use 3 inch targets or playing cards.
(Grouping is important to test both skill and ammunition)
If you can place your shots on a small target area in a intermediate distance, you will at least be on paper on a large area 3 to 5 times that distance. This is where I drop you off cold like a Uber driver on your own. Too much information or instructions may give the reader the impression one can do it before taking the first shot so I will stop here to leave some for the reader. The rest is really up to you. Research, ask questions and network with those that have the experience level you are interest in achieving. Do not let your Urban sprawl become a hindrance. "Dare to be different".
See you on the firing line