Had a question from a reader regarding the guest posts by Historian covering using the 22 as a trainer for long range work. I think it was a great one, as is Historian’s reply. – NCS


Good afternoon,
I have been enjoying your articles on Long range 22 matches. We have a group of us that are wanting to put a match together. Your lat post on 1 Dec 19, mentioned the close target size but nothing out at the longer distances.  Could you give me some sizes from 50-400 yards that you would recommend.  Thank you for your time.
Dear NCS:

Here are my responses to the question posed by your reader:

At close ranges, I’d go with small targets, say 3/4″ to 1″ at 50 to 100, then bump up to 2″ out to say 150 or so, then 3″ to 4″  out to 200+.   At 250 to 300 yards, I’d go with 4″ to 6″  then 8″ to 12″ out past that.  Maybe an 18″ or two at 400.  This last match, we went out to 515 yards, IIRC, and that target was a square 24″ x 24″ plate.  Target size depends on your shooter’s skills, too.  You want to provide enough of a challenge to be fun, but not so much that nobody can get hits.  A lot depends as well on what sort of match this is.  If you are shooting F-class style(any rifle, any sights, prone with supports- bags, bipods, etc.) then targets probably ought to be as stated above.  If you are shooting positions with a sling and no bags or bipods, I’d make the targets about twice that size.
You can mix target sizes up a bit at the different ranges, but I like the idea of keeping inside 2 MOA for the  under 200 yard targets, and not much less than 1 MOA.  Much smaller than 1 MOA, and you are talking high end rifles and expensive ammo in order to compete; a good shot with middle of the road equipment has little chance to do well.  Much bigger than 2 MOA for the close targets, and the match is too easy.   Keeping in the 1-2 MOA range for close targets, and up to 4 MOA for the distant targets, makes anyone with a decent .22, midprice ammo and a very good scope able to compete on skill.

Keep in mind that the point of .22 long range is to help you become able to hit 18-20″ wide targets with your centerfire rifle in the wind.  500 yards is the “rifleman’s quarter mile” and that takes being able to deliver the shot within 4 MOA in the wind. Long range precision shooting is about being able to hit the same sized targets out to 1000+ yards, and to hit 6″ targets out to 500+ yards.  Hitting a 20″ target at a thousand yards means shooting inside 2 MOA in the wind, and hitting a 6″ target at 500 is shooting inside ~1 MOA in the wind. Long range shooting is about ranging and dealing with wind, and .22 LR long range will help immensely with that, without the need for 500 or 1000 yard ranges.

The small close targets really test your basic ability to hold tight groups, as well as to judge and hold for wind.  As stated in my December article, 100 yards with a .22 is roughly equivalent to shooting at 500 yards with a centerfire rifle, and 200 yards with a .22 is roughly equivalent to shooting 1000 yards with a centerfire rifle.  If you can hit a 3″ target at 200 yards on the first shot, consistently, then you have the skills to hit a 20″ target at 1000 yards with a good centerfire rifle.

The larger longer range targets test your ability to range as well as judging the wind;  at those distances, SD and ES of the ammo becomes an increasing factor, and if you want to moderate the costs for equipment and ammo, I think it makes sense to make the more distant targets a bit bigger.   An 18″ target at ~400 yards, which is about 4 1/2 MOA is surprisingly hard to hit with a .22 especially with any wind, due in part to ammo variance.  Brian Litz’s books cover this ground in great detail.

A few other thoughts-

I would vary the ranges on each stage significantly, as well as varying the azimuth of each target in each stage significantly too.  Ideally, your targets would cover a 90 degree azimuth or more from left to right, (45 degrees each way) and range from <100 yards to >300 yards on each stage.  If you can get significant target elevation shifts safely, so much the better.  All of the matches I’ve shot offer these challenges to some extent and really add to the enjoyment, as well as the effectiveness of the experience, but that may not be possible.

Moving targets would be cool, too.  A moving 4 MOA target at 100 yards would be an eye-opener, putting a time limit on top of everything else.

The thing I would do differently from the .22 matches I have shot in so far would be give the target SIZE but NOT the range. Let each shooter figure out the range on his own, with a laser or collimating optical rangefinder or with their scope reticle.  In the real world, one usually knows the target sizes, but ranges can vary widely.  Accurate ranging is essential for hitting with precision rifle fire, especially with a .22, and it is well to have more than one method available, especially in a day when IR laser detectors are cheap and readily available. Getting too dependent on laser rangefinders, good as they are now, may not be a good idea down the road.

One last suggestion is that I would provide ( if anyone has one available,)  a LabRadar or good chronograph unit to get accurate muzzle velocities.  You need not do this the day of the match, but having good MV is much more important for long range .22 than it is for LR centerfire.  You can have the best ballistics program out there, but without good MV data you’re in trouble.

So there you have my thoughts on organizing a rimfire LR match, NCS.  Maybe a follow-up post?

Warm regards for the New Year, friend,