Spotter On

Shooter Ready

[Wind Call]

Send it…

Recently, Historian and I, a fellow AP contributor, who writes about radios and rifle training with .22 LR’s, have been visiting a “local” range that has full size steel silhouettes, 8 inch steel zero targets, and 20 inch wind check circular steel targets from 300-1100 Yards. The venue hosts an “open” range day that requires a registration, check in, and a good old fashioned safety brief. The range offers morning and afternoon blocks at medium and long range. Allowing one to shoot in the morning (with all the AM environmental effects) and shooting in the afternoon (with all the afternoon environmental effects). It is absolutely challenging and is widely considered one of the hardest ranges to shoot in the area due to the terrain, range design, and constant wind.

Shooting at this venue is a breeze and a blast. [Chuckles internally]

Thus far we have done a morning and an afternoon shoot. The morning shoot had incredible wind from 5-15 MPH with a few brief 20 MPH gusts and an increasing temperature from about 50-70 degrees. The afternoon shoot had a steady 90 degree temp, full sun, a mirage that did not make spotting the trace or splash difficult but did require a higher attention to detail to track, and the wind was a constant from 5-10 MPH but stayed in the 5+/- MPH range. I admit, I lost a few of the splashes in mirage at 1,000 towards 16:00 but it wasn’t detrimental to our efforts.

The solution to the mirage problem is to simply extend your tripod for your spotting scope and stand up above the mirage in line with your shooter.

The range is a full 90 degrees wide, so you must shift your wind calls depending on your shooting position. Wind values range from zero to full depending on your shooting position and there are gaps in the trees, changes in terrain, and even a small body of water. So gaging wind is as much a wild educated guess as it is a fixed rule of science. The range is popular with hunters, precision enthusiasts, Federal and State agencies, and various military guys from all backgrounds. It’s a great experience, and the price keeps the riff-raff far away, but is affordable. It is a very professional, but relaxed gentlemen’s range. I even ran into some NG Scout/Snipers who are currently serving in my old unit.

Small world.

Historian and I began the shoot sessions with some greetings, small talk, setting up our position, taking some wind measurements, scouting our targets while working up a plan of engagement, and inspecting our equipment.

An unofficially official notional coin toss determines who shoots first and who spots first.

Make no mistakes about Long Range Shooting; Spotting the trace and the splash with a good wind call is just as important as the shooting. The 4 fundamentals never change whether you are shooting near or far.

It’s a team effort too.

Historian and I, working in tandem, have made some pretty wild shots. I made a 6th round impact at 1,000 yards using an M1a with an Aimpoint RDS(zero magnification), thanks to Historian spotting for me. and I spotted for Historian allowing him to make a 1st round impact, perfectly centered, with iron sights at 1,000 yards using a CMP Korean era M1 Garand. Both shots were on steel silhouettes. We were using standard, plain old mil-spec M80 ball ammo

Our efforts at 600 before shooting 1,000 have been typical as well. Some of the groups were pleasantly small. Without some warmups and a little practice at the medium range targets, the long range shots would have been about as wild and wonderful as West Virginia itself.

Our attempts with bolt weapons have also proved to be extremely fruitful. I believe my base model Remington 700 is a 1 MOA gun using 168 HPBT ammo that is a foreign clone of the Federal Gold Medal Match 168’s. I will certainly consider purchasing more of that ammo(PPU brand), but Historian recommends I try the 175’s because very clearly my efforts at 600 meters were easy once I dialed my windage and elevation in correctly compared to 1,000 yards. The 168’s do not handle the transonic transition well at all. The ammo was stunningly accurate inside of 800. I was smacking 8 inch steel at 600 meters to the point of boredom. But past 800 the 168’s are all over the map.

And by map, I mean they were landing basically anywhere within my scope’s field of view at 1,000. Which is nothing short of 1/4 a football field (quite literally)

Historian, using a previously owned Fudd hunting rifle he seemingly rescued from Elmer himself, noted to me that Fudd himself claimed he couldn’t hit the broad side of Godzilla at 300. Historian, using some knowledge and elbow grease, remedied that with some bedding magic, handloads, and proper hardware. The rifle, contrary to Fudd lore, is shooting 1 MOA with fire formed brass. AKA, brass that is fire formed to the chamber of the rifle and reloaded. Providing as much as 1/2 MOA off the margin.

What did we learn?

Grandpa’s hunting rifle (Or his CMP Garand…) is probably a 1,000 yard gun with the right ammo and a good spotter. Especially if the spotter and shooter are practiced and can effectively communicate what is occurring downrange. Sometimes, the spotter and shooter disagree, but splitting the difference works better than you would think.

Not too long ago, during the era of our fathers and grandfathers, iron sights were king and our predecessors debated open notch, aperture, and peep sights to the same degree of exhaustion that we discuss LPVO’s, Prisms, High Powered HD Scopes of the First and Second Focal Plane, and ACOGs.

Mil-Dots, BDC’s, or custom Reticles?  Our fathers and grandfathers fought well with iron sighted weapons, but times have changed, and modern weapons are significantly more effective.

The enemies of the U.S., both foreign and domestic, will have highly trained and experienced Long Range(LR) shooters. It would behoove us to test our equipment to the extreme. Testing your zero, and dialing your weapons in at long range is important. It’s far better to have your weapon dialed in just right for long range, than to assume you can and will fight inside of 300 meters.

I have heard a million times that 168’s are only good to 800 (the edge of the transonic transition between Supersonic and Subsonic). But I had to prove it to myself. And 80 rounds later, I am certainly convinced. But damn are they accurate inside of 800. One of the many questions that can be answered on a proper range.

Some other questions are listed below.

Do you know how many rounds you can fire before your rifle barrel heats up and your groups shift?

For me I use bull barrels, so there is little noticeable shift, but it does shift and I will miss.

For pencil barrels the shift is obvious, even to the spotter, and can be rather significant.

How many enemy could you effectively engage before you need to break contact because of the limitations of your barrel’s thermal capacity? Maybe 10 shots? Perhaps only 5 shots in full sun on 90 degree day?

How far away can you knowingly and reliably engage a target? Making a first round or second round hit.

How long does it take for your barrel to cool down in the sun? How long in the shade?

These are questions that can ONLY be answered one way. There are no tricks or tips that can teach this. There are other considerations too.

Despite what you may think, those iron sights on the AK that read “800” or “1,000” meters work. And they work just fine. What you need to learn is how the wind effects your rounds at that distance. Which is significant and no small task. But it’s not hard and it is predictable, measurable, and repeatable. Start near and work your way out to distance. Recording the data of your efforts so that you don’t have to memorize it.

If you can measure twice and cut once, you can shoot long range. Believe me.

If you can shoot a penny at 25 meters consistently, You have the proper rifleman’s fundamentals to shoot to 1,000 meters/yards with some knowledge, practice, training, and that $400 dollar hunting rifle.

You need a spotter too. It’s a team effort.

Now imagine 10 men with AKs who know what they are doing at 1,000. Would you want to be standing there? Would you want to be hiding in a house, car, or a “bunker”?

You do not need a $5,000-$10,000 gun to shoot long range. That’s a marking gimmick meant to make you feel inadequate, insecure, and to empty your pockets. When you should be training, working with a spotter and as a spotter, and recording some data. Start by gathering up all the data you can find on the internet from reliable sources concerning wind and bullet drop. I bet your round is close enough to use that as a base, even if you can’t find the exact round, velocity, and barrel length. You’ll have a nice blueprint to use as a template for building your own tables and charts.

The same is true for the AK as is the iron sights on the M-16 family of rifles and all the NATO spec battle rifles. As long as you have the proper rear sights installed and the correct ammo for the job, you can make it happen. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the limitations of your weapon, optics, and ammo. It’s even more important to practice communicating as a spotter with your shooter, and vice versa. Don’t expect first round impacts. But 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 is absolutely doable.

Get out and train. 9mm might be expensive, but the premium ammo and battle rifle mil-spec ammo hasn’t changed price much. Historian has proved to me many times that an old hunting rifle from the 1950’s and 1960’s is a 1,000 yard gun.

The question is: Are you and your friend a 1,000 yard team?

I embedded a link to an excellent article on calling wind and understanding it. That data might be specific for a few rounds, but the principle is the same for most rounds with only a few factors that change. Namely, are you using a Boat-tail(BT) round or not.

Get out, train, have fun, and swing by the Forum to brag about your Long Range exploits.

And if you aren’t shooting during a nasty, hot, windy day. Are your even trying to learn?

Shooting at long range will teach you a lot about your fundamentals as well. And don’t be afraid to pull out that red dot and try it at max range. You’ll be surprised if you pay attention and work with your spotter.

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