Once you’ve mastered your shooting basics and undertaken your share of successful hunts, you might be feeling confident enough to step up your game a notch and take on the thrills and challenges of long range shooting, which is generally defined as targets being at a 300-1200 yard distance. It’s no surprise that long range shooting involves many more variables to consider than close range, and can be daunting for a first timer. But with the right preparation, judgement and equipment, every shooter can find themselves adept at long range shooting, whether you’re playing the competitive field or a backcountry hunter relying on your shot to get you through difficult terrain.
In this article, we outline the basics to tick off on every long range shooter’s list, to get you started and ready your existing skill set for distance hunting and shooting.
1. Selecting the Correct Equipment
For a good distance hunt, it’s recommended you select a rifle capable of 1 MOA or less at 100 yards to test out. But when it comes to long range shooting, the performance of the riflescope must be prioritized over the selection of your rifle itself, as a good quality scope is what will help you achieve target selection at such long distances. As covered in our previous article, a scope with a first focal plane (FFP) reticle is generally preferred for long range shooting, as the crosshairs will increase or decrease in size with magnification relative to the target and make it easier to locate.
Keeping these challenges in mind for the long range shooter, the TRACE ADVANCED riflescope from the ZeroTech riflescopes range has been developed specifically to meet these high speed and precision optics requirements. The RMG FFP reticle allows shooters to apply elevation and windage without having to adjust turrets, and allows you to compensate for wind conditions on the fly.
For harsher conditions with more natural variables in play, you may also consider investing in a windmeter or rangefinder to more accurately determine the direction of the bullet drop.
2. Alignment and Eye Relief
Though this may sound like the most basic of steps, it’s absolutely essential to have your relief covered from the beginning to get every subsequent shot right. Set your rifle down on an even surface to ensure you are naturally aligned with your target, before going behind your rifle to make further checks. This is where you check your eye relief; you don’t want any scope shadow obscuring your view of the target. Make adjustments based on your equipment, whether you’re using scope mounts or rings till you no longer see a shadow and you have a more comfortable time shooting.
3. Correct Breathing Technique
A common misconception among shooters is that you need to take a deep breath and hold it before taking a shot at long range, but in reality this might throw you off your target from the expansion and sudden contraction of your chest. Instead, it is recommended to follow your natural breathing rhythm; take a few deep breaths to relax your heart rate, while keeping your aim steady and hand on the trigger. As you ease your movement and feel your lungs empty as you exhale, fire the shot. With your heartbeat steady, your body will not tense up and mess up the consistency of your shots.
4. Correct Reticle Focus
This brings up a second common shooting misconception, which is to focus on your target rather than your reticle when looking through the scope. However, the human eye can only focus on one plane at a time, and even if the target is moving, focusing on the crosshairs helps you keep the target in line better as you prepare to take your shot. Practicing with dummy targets beforehand helps to perfect the art of seeing the crosshairs in focus and the target slightly out of focus, so your reticle is always where you want it to be. This is especially essential when using an FFP scope, which is designed specifically to keep the reticle in focus.
5. Pulling the Trigger
Most good long range rifles are designed to have minimal recoil, so you do not need to grip the rifle too hard and make your trigger hold awkward. A good hold would be to use the last joint of your index finger, so you can feel the trigger against the bone while executing a neat even pull towards the rear. You do not necessarily need to go for a slow pull, especially in situations where timing is key. But keeping the pressure of the trigger pull constant, rather than merely slapping the trigger, will help you maintain consistency between straight shots.
Long range shooting can be an intimidating and challenging exercise, so it’s always ideal to brush up on your skills in practice before executing them in the field. Securing yourself the proper equipment is key, especially your riflescope that helps you identify those distanced targets, and the high quality, precision-tested optics of ZeroTech riflescopes are a great starting point. With time and practice, any shooter can warm themselves up to long range, even in harsher environments and competitive courses.