If there is a single type of rifle that has permanently endeared itself to American hunters, it is the bolt-action. While this may sound like elementary knowledge nowadays, it once was far from a foregone conclusion. In Europe, the lightning-quick straight-pull bolt-action is king, thanks to the popularity of driven hunts–particularly for boar. In 19th-century and early 20th-century America, the lever-action reigned supreme, thanks to its balance of speed and capacity, not to mention its efficiency with the commonly used powders and projectiles of the day. For the current century, however, bolt-actions provide the most effective combination of strength of action, speed of follow up, and capacity easily brought into line with modern hunting regulations. To see why, let’s take a closer look at bolt-action rifle anatomy.
While the modern hunter will most commonly encounter bolt-actions mounted on a traditional wood or synthetic stock, bolt-actions are versatile enough to be found on a wide variety of shooting platforms. More precision- and competition-minded folks tend to run bolt-actions mounted to highly adjustable chassis–with adjustments for everything from length of pull to drop at comb. On the other end of the spectrum, those concerned with a diminutive package and looking to shave some pounds will utilize bolt-action pistols, like the new Savage 110 PCS. How it’s mounted has little to do with the action itself, of course. I merely mention it to show how well the design has proliferated through the gamut of firearm platforms.
Dating from 1824, bolt-action anatomy remains incredibly true to its initial design, improvements mostly reflecting adaptations to changing cartridge technology, or machining processes. The first piece of note is the receiver. Generally constructed from some sort of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel, this is the overarching metal “bucket” where all the functions occur–cartridges are fed in from the magazine, peeled off the top by the bolt and slammed home into the chamber.
The action itself, then, is manipulated primarily by the bolt. For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on rotating-bolt designs, as opposed to the straight-pull mentioned in our introductory paragraph. The bolt consists of a metal tube, which houses both a firing mechanism and a locking system. The firing mechanism consists of a spring-loaded firing pin (which touches off the primer of a cartridge), while the locking mechanism is made up of a varying amount of lugs, which lock into slots in the receiver for a firm hold. Though it sounds simple, note should be made that this locking system is exactly what has given the bolt-action such an advantage with modern hunters and shooters. When the bolt is turned, locking the lugs into place, the lockup is significantly stronger than on–for example–a lever action, allowing it to handle heavier chamber pressures, and thus stronger loads. The bolt is actuated by a bolt handle, which protrudes to the side. It is lifted to unlock the lugs and pulled rearward to clear the action, then moved forward to chamber a round and pushed down to re-lock the lugs.
As the bolt locks the cartridge in place in the chamber, it is also responsible for the other processes of the action–loading, extraction, and ejection. Here we begin to see some differences between designs. The vast majority of rifles on the market are termed “push-feed.” Cheaper to produce than their counterparts, and boasting a higher accuracy potential, push-feed actions catch the next cartridge as the bolt moves forward, and push it into place in the chamber. This helps accuracy, as it allows the cartridge to center itself *slightly* better, lessening the effect of the minute disparities between cases. Where it’s less efficient, though, is in reliability. Since the cartridges are sliding into place relatively unassisted, failures to feed (FTF) and double feeds are marginally more common.
For the most reliable feeding, with a small hit to accuracy, shooters tend toward “controlled-round-feed.” These sorts of rifles are particularly prized by dangerous-game hunters. Instead of simply pushing the next round into place, controlled round feed latches onto the base of the cartridge with the extractor claw before stripping it from the magazine. This (in theory, anyway) eliminates the possibility of a double feed, and most common FTF issues.
These two types of action necessarily extract and eject differently as well. While most push feeds utilize a spring-loaded plunger on the breech (bolt) face, to spring the spent casing free as soon as it clears the ejection port, controlled round feeds use a fixed mechanical ejector attached to the receiver, to sling the spent casing free at a fixed point. This is due to the ejector gripping the round as soon as it is stripped from the magazine, rather than only when it is driven into the chamber. While there are many more intricacies between the two, this should suffice for a fundamental explanation.
Cocking and Firing
The other responsibilities of a bolt are cocking the action, and releasing the firing pin. Cocking is accomplished either upon opening or closing the bolt, when a lug actuated by the rotation of the bolt compresses the firing pin spring. Once compressed, the pin is held in place by a sear. Releasing the spring tension is accomplished by the pulling of the trigger, which actuates the sear away from the pin, allowing the firing pin to translate its potential energy into kinetic. Again, this is a bit of an oversimplification, and different varieties of the above process abound, but for basic bolt-action anatomy, it will suffice.
Outside of this, the bolt-action looks incredibly similar to other rifle designs. The magazine (most commonly a detachable-box or hinged-floorplate unit) feeds rounds into the action, which moves them to the chamber. From the chamber, bullets are propelled down the barrel, and are spun to stability by the rifling within it. The action can be made safe by an either two- or three-position safety, which can do everything from disengaging the trigger, to blocking the sear, to blocking the firing pin, to locking the entire bolt, depending on model.
Bolt-action anatomy, while representing only a small fraction of firearm design, is nonetheless a broad topic in and of itself. With the information above, you will hopefully have a firmer understanding of what’s going on inside your rifle, next time you rack that bolt and pull the trigger.
If you are considering hunting, one of the most important, if not THE most important thing to learn is proficiency with a firearm. The last thing you want, is to to put in all the hard work, locate the animal you are hunting, only to miss your shot, or worse yet, wound an animal without recovering it.
Our team recently had the opportunity to host a long range school event for our friends at Benelli, along with a handful of industry writers from some of the most popular publications. This event was to put the new Benelli Lupo to the test.
Below is an article from Andy Massimilian with American Hunter Magazine. We hope you enjoy it!
Making The Shot: Outdoor Solutions’ Long Range School
“They will get you hitting at 1,000 yards before lunch on day 1”, explained Greg Duncan from Blue Heron when pitching a story to me on Outdoor Solutions Corp’s Long Range Shooting School. Greg is a straight-up guy who’s not prone to exaggerate, but I was incredulous that success at 1,000 yards was as achievable, seemingly easily achievable, as he described. As it turned out, he was correct, but on a 3:00 p.m. timetable rather than noon.
The Long Range School is produced by Texas-based Outdoor Solutions Corp, which also arranges big-game hunting and fishing expeditions. I took the Level 1 course designed to help prepare big-game hunters for success on what is typically an expensive and possibly once-in-a-lifetime hunt where a longer-distance shot may be the only shot available. Taking a 1,000-yard shot on an animal is not encouraged, but learning how to connect with targets at that range and at distances beyond your comfort zone coming into the class helps with the more realistic, ethical shots you’ll potentially take on a hunt.
The LRS is a 2+ day experience set in Texas, Utah or Michigan using field conditions for most of the shooting exercises, not a square range. You can bring your own rifle, but the class is conducted using a factory-spec Benelli Lupo rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and equipped with an Advanced Armament Corp Jaeger suppressor and a Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24X 50 mm scope. The ammo supplied is the Barnes BT Match Burner BT Match 140-grain load. Each of up to 13 participants is assigned their own rifle for the duration. There are three instructors plus support staff. My total round count was about 130.
Your Issue Rifle: the Benelli Lupo
The Lupo is Benelli’s first bolt-action rifle, and it debuted in 2020. Available in six calibers suitable for taking any North American big-game animal, this rifle is built to deliver greater accuracy than most competitive rifles of similar weight and price point, and Benelli backs up that promise with a three-shot sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. In 6.5 Creedmoor, the 6.9-lb. Lupo holds 5+1 rounds in a detachable magazine and sports a medium weight barrel that is 24” long to wring out most of this cartridge’s potential velocity.
The action is slick, relatively quiet, and has a 60-degree bolt throw for more rapid cycling. I found the stock contours make the rifle comfortable to shoulder and carry afield, but they’re not ideal by any means for the benchrest shooting that we did at the onset and conclusion of the course; Not surprising, given its intended use. Like most Benelli shotgun barrels, the Lupo’s barrel is cryogenically treated, which can improve accuracy and is free-floated. The trigger can be set between 2.2 to 4.4 lbs., and mine broke cleanly and consistently at a weight that seemed just under 4 lbs.
It Starts In The Classroom
A threshold requirement to long-range shooting is speaking and conceptualizing the language of milliradian (MILS) or minute of angle (m.o.a.). The LRS uses the latter system, and lead instructor Erik Lund took care to explain more the night we arrived at the lodge. Lund explained what m.o.a. meant and how to work the Zeiss Conquest 6-24X scope, which is calibrated in m.o.a. on its turrets and its ZBi reticle.
Working the ballistic app and other foundational material is also covered and the worthwhile presentation is emailed to each student for future reference. We would soon learn the practical application of m.o.a. because wind holds, scope adjustments and target size are all communicated in that language.
The next morning, it’s off to the range for a day of known distance (KD) bench rest shooting at 100-yard paper, then square 3-m.o.a. wide steel targets set at successive 100-yard increments up the mountainside all the way out to 1,000 yards. The steel targets are painted with a specific design that helps the spotter call the correct adjustment in m.o.a. by seeing where a round impacts the steel.
Benchrest shooting techniques are explained, but the most important takeaway for me was learning to use the trigger where your firing hand thumb does not wrap around the stock. This method is unnatural and doesn’t fit the ergonomics of the Lupo’s hunting intended grip, but it’s worth some experimentation. For others, this was the first time behind a suppressed rifle, an experience Lund correctly said would make them never want to go back after seeing how much this accessory makes shooting more pleasant by taming recoil and lessening the harshness of a rifle’s report on the ears.
Day 2 is field work starting with convoying in 4x4s up steep hills into the mountains on narrow paths to an elevation 2,500’+ higher than the KD range. At the summit, you’ll shoot from 12 stations across four locations. Target presentations at each station vary with shots taken on the level, uphill, downhill, and across ravines and draws. Targets are placed in the open from 149 to 700 yards with most at 400 to 500 yards.
Ranging is done with a Zeiss Victory RF binocular. At some stations, the shooter chooses the firing position with a Sand Sock bag rest and your backpack, while at others, you are instructed to get familiar with using a BOG tripod or shooting sticks to help build a stable firing position. One of the more helpful tutorials in this respect was instructor Eric Suarez’s imaginative use of both the shooting sticks and a bag rest to achieve a rock-solid sitting position on uneven ground.
Building stable positions is a skill easily mastered, but accurately reading the wind only comes with lots of field experience and luck because wind conditions can be very deceptive. Case in point was a 470-yard shot from one ridge to another where a near full value cross wind hit the shooter hard. What was the wind correction we needed to make? As it turned out, nothing. The wind was only blowing where the shooter stood and about 25 yards forward and had no noticeable impact on trajectory. I would have never thought that to be true, and there were no visual wind indicators except at the shooter and the target.
Coming down from the mountains, a final hour on the KD range allowed us to validate our skills on easier targets to conclude the class. This session also gave us a chance to work with the instructors on how to call wind corrections.
A Practical, Field Based Focus
The LRS is not intended for the F-Class shooter or the ballistic nerd; don’t expect to hear esoterica like the Coriolis effect, spin drift, effects of cant, or the reason uphill/downhill shooting is different than firing over level ground. Those matters and much more ballistic knowledge in an interesting read can be learned on your own with Brian Litz’s seminal book, Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting.
Taught instead are the necessities needed for reliably hitting steel over two days of live fire. A large part of that knowledge is how to use the GEO Ballistics ARC calculator, which accounts for several environmental factors that impact a bullet’s flight like humidity, temperature, air density and wind. The ARC calculator is key to making it all much simpler than in the past because it tells you the precise minute-of-angle (m.o.a.) adjustments in elevation, and if you use the wind function, windage. Though the steel targets were 3-m.o.a. wide, what was learned certainly applies to smaller targets.
Reading The Wind
For distant shots, wind reading is by far the most challenging aspect of putting a bullet where you want it. You can do everything correctly–perfect shooting position, trigger control and accurate ballistic calculator inputs—and still be robbed of a hit on target because of the wind. The LRS covers several aspects of wind detection but without using a Kestrel meter or similar device.
Instead, shooters are instructed to sharpen their powers of observation to detect direction of mirage, vegetation movement, bullet strike dust and spotting trace. In what I thought was the most impressive demonstration of wind calling of the class, instructor Ryan Pettis read mirage at two places downrange to give me a dead on accurate 1.5-m.o.a. correction on an 800-yard target. Looking through the spotting scope after two near perfect shots, I can only say that his well-trained Marine Scout Sniper eyes discerned subtle mirage where I couldn’t see any.
Students at Outdoor Solutions’ long-range shooting class use Benelli Lupos in 6.5 Creedmoor topped with Zeiss glass. Brian McCombie
During the two-plus days I spent at the class, a fair amount of my attention was focused on answering the question: How effective would the Lupo be for taking deer and other big-game animals out to 400 yards?
Benelli Lupo to 400 Yards
The bolt-action, magazine-fed Lupo, I concluded, was quite capable of making first-shot, one-shot kills to 400-plus yards on big game. It was very accurate, the bolt-action locked up solidly, and the five-round magazine tucked up into the receiver nicely and out of the way. The Lupo is also threaded for a suppressor, and Benelli’s Progressive Comfort System built into the stock effectively reduces recoil.
One caveat, though: Benelli placed the Lupo’s trigger system in the stock’s wrist at a strange angle. In some shooting positions, that angle required me to twist my hand and wrist in a way that made it difficult to shoot, especially when firing from a level platform like a shooting bench. Not that much hunting is done off a bench. Still, it will take a hunter some practice and adjustment to get used to that different trigger angle and trigger-guard placement.
Taking the Benelli Lupo to 1,000 Yards
The class was held near Coalville, Utah, this past June, and was attended by 15 people, including myself. Three instructors, all with impressive military and civilian shooting credentials, took us through two days of intensive shooting, starting with 3 MOA steel targets ranging out to 1,000 yards. https://8daa68bf4c1bf6391da2e109e3f52182.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Then, on the second day, we traveled up into the nearby mountains and shot from positions we might encounter while hunting, like off large rocks and tree stumps, from shooting sticks, and lying prone on rocky hill tops.
Obviously, the course was designed to make us better long-range shooters. But the purpose of that was for us to find out just how far we could ethically take a shot at a big game animal. Most of the participants I talked with hadn’t shot a game animal at much over 125 yards, and they wanted to gain the skill and knowledge to know how and when to take a shot at 300 yards or more.
We zeroed our rifles on paper at 100 yards, then shot more paper at 200 yards, taking turns shooting and spotting with a partner. Then we stretched to 3 MOA steel targets at 300 yards, and more steel at every 100-yard interval out to 1,000 yards.
Our day-two shooting was really a much better test of the Lupo as a longer-range hunter and the rifle did really well. My first shot hits included:
Within six inches of the target’s middle, at 650 yards shooting off a log with my backpack under my chest, and a wind of 10 mph wind moving right to left
Dead center twice in a row, prone at 480 yards, pack under my chest and small range bag under my shooting elbow, with the target posted upslope from me
Two out of three shots easily within an area equal to an elk’s vital area at 610 yards, rifle resting on top of a short, scrubby tree, with me holding off 2.5 MOA to the right to compensate for wind
And, 710 yards, my butt on the ground and rifle on short shooting sticks, two shots in a row, and my spotter put them a half foot apart and straddling the center bullseye.
A longer-range hunter? With that kind of accuracy, the answer should be, “Hell, yes!” And yet…
Those dead-on shots from positions much less stable than day one’s shooting table got me asking myself: How come I’m drilling damn near everything when shooting off logs and brush, first shot in all but one case, yet I had so much trouble the day before hitting a bullseye at a measly 100 yards?
Which is when I began paying attention to my trigger hand’s placement on these day-two shots and realized all my shooting was being done uphill or downhill. And with the rifle tilted at these angles, my hand and wrist were fairly comfortable.
I also remembered that during day one my accuracy improved as the shooting stretched out to 500 to 1,000 yards. At the time, I assumed I was getting used to the rifle as the day wore on and so my accuracy improved. But it occurred to me that maybe the improved shooting was because those targets were placed up slope from my shooting table and I had to place the Lupo at a definite angle to make those shots.https://8daa68bf4c1bf6391da2e109e3f52182.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The 100- and 200-yard targets I had so much trouble with were essentially straight ahead and level with me and the shooting bench. At that position, my hand was forced back and this twisted my wrist at an awkward angle relative to my forearm and shoulder; getting stable with my hand and wrist in this position was very hard.
The Lupo’s trigger system looks a lot like that found on Benelli’s Super Vinci, but the Lupo’s is pushed up and back into the stock’s wrist or grip at an even more extreme angle.
The trigger itself snapped off a very crisp 2 pounds 4 ounces according to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. The bolt worked easily and smoothly, even with the dust and dirt blown into the action during two windy days in a very dry Utah landscape. Recoil in this caliber was minimal.
But the design of the trigger placement, in my shooter’s opinion, is off. I hope Benelli can adjust that in future models, maybe a Lupo II? That’s a rifle I’d gladly take on a hunt where I could expect a shot on a deer or elk of 400-plus yards.
Looking to stretch out your effective shooting range? Here’s how.
By Hilary Dyer
September 01, 2020
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Don’t worry — this isn’t going to be an article that preaches to you about how long range hunting game is unethical. It also isn’t going to be an article that encourages you to take shots beyond either your capabilities or the bounds of ethics.
The bottom line of hunting at any range is that each hunter needs to do some self-reflection and be honest with themselves about their equipment, their skill and their environment, and determine the distances at which they can deliver a clean, precise shot. If you’ve determined your maximum distance already and you’re comfortable with it — great. But if you’d like to be able to stretch out a little farther, it’s time to start flexing those long-range muscles at the shooting range first.
First, what is “long-range hunting” exactly? Most of the coyotes hunted in North America are shot inside of 120 yards. In places like the North Woods and the thick hardwood forests of the Northeast, even seeing 100 yards through the trees might be an impossibility, and most predators are shot at much closer distances, often as spur-of-the-moment shots while the hunter is pursuing something else (usually deer). But in the green fields of the South, the vast openness of the prairie or the wide-open spaces of the West, it’s not at all uncommon to be able to spot coyotes 300, 500 or 1,000 yards out.
Now, I’m certainly not going to tell you to shoot any game animal at 1,000 yards, for reasons I’m about to highlight. But if you’d like to extend your shooting range even a little, learning to shoot 1,000 yards at the shooting range is a great idea.
“If you can successfully shoot targets at 1,000 yards, the confidence to make a 400-yard shot on an animal is there,” says Erik Lund, lead instructor at Outdoor Solutions Long-Range School. “The skill and the technique and the knowledge we try to communicate, that breeds confidence in your abilities and hopefully allows you to expand your range where you comfortably feel safe or ethical engaging the target.”Related: Summer Predator Gear You Can’t Miss
So how do you get to 1,000 yards at the range? Quality optics, from binocular to riflescope and rangefinder, makes a difference with long-distance shooting.
The Math and Equipment
First, long range hunting is all about math. Fortunately for those of us who have forgotten every bit of high school trigonometry, a variety of ballistics apps are available on your smartphone that will do all the math for you. Ballistic math is calculated in either milliradians (mils) or minutes of angle (MOA). Because MOA tends to work with the American measurement system a little better, we’ll use MOA in this article. Your rifle probably came with a “1 MOA guarantee” or something similar. What does that mean? One MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards. A rifle with a 1 MOA guarantee should be able to put every shot within a 1-inch circle at 100 yards — assuming accurate ammo and a shooter who does their part correctly. One MOA at 200 yards is 2.094 inches; one MOA at 300 yards is 3.141 inches, and so on.
If you’re going to shoot at 1,000 yards and your rifle is capable of 1 MOA accuracy, it should put every shot within a 10.47-inch circle. Incidentally, that’s a good bit larger bigger than the kill zone on a coyote, not to mention a fox or a bobcat. For this reason alone, you’re wise to seek a gun that shoots better than 1 MOA for long-range use. A gun that’s capable of ½-MOA accuracy should put its rounds inside a 5-inch circle at 1,000 yards, again, assuming ideal conditions.
Once you have a rifle that can shoot at least 1 MOA, you need a scope intended for long-range shooting. That means its elevation turret will have fine adjustments (.25-MOA adjustments are typical), and its reticle will have horizontal hash marks (some shooters prefer vertical as well) that you can use to measure MOAs. Your scope also needs the ability to set zero stop, so you can sight the gun in, set the stop at zero and always be able to return to zero for accurate dialing from there.Related: Shining New Light on the Blackout
When you’ve got your rifle and your scope and some accurate ammo in an appropriate caliber, you’ll need a ballistics app to do the calculations for you. I use the Zeiss Hunting app, which is simple to use and can set up multiple profiles for different guns and/or loads. It also syncs to the Zeiss Victory RF rangefinding binoculars, so the binos will give you your holdover without having to look at your phone. It’s not an inexpensive system, but it’s a helpful one.
Your rifle, ammo, scope and app are ready to go. Now it’s time to do your part.
First, long-range shooting requires a rock-steady rest, both on the forend of the gun and under the buttstock. At the range, this is done on a bench or from a prone position. In the field, you’ll have to create a steady rest using shooting sticks, a bipod, your backpack, the ground, a wadded-up jacket or a combination of other factors.
Second, long-range shooting requires that the shooter put as little movement into the gun as possible. On the bench, this means keeping your non-shooting hand off the gun and keeping your shooting-hand thumb pointing forward rather than wrapped over the top of the gun; this keeps you from squeezing and torqueing the rifle. You should execute the shot itself at your natural respiratory break — in between breaths. Every movement of your body affects the shot at 1,000 yards.
“Being able to read wind is what separates good shooters from great shooters,” says Lund. Wind that might not be a factor at 100 yards will throw your shot wildly off target at 1,000 yards. Reading the wind — at the muzzle, at the target and at various points in between the two, which is the really tricky part — is an entire article unto itself, but it’s something that comes with practice.
Range time is the only way to really get good at this. In long-range shooting, we generally dial for elevation (using the holdover your app told you to use) and hold for windage, because windage changes frequently. You will use your reticle’s hash marks to hold left or right based on what the wind is doing. It’s important to remember how many MOA each hashmark represents, especially if you are working with a spotter on the bench who is calling the wind for you.
How Far is too Far?
Once you’ve honed your skills at the 1,000-yard range, you’ll be better prepared to take longer shots at predators than you have in the past. If you’re looking for me to put a number on it, you’re going to be disappointed — but what I will do is give you some considerations to think about when you’re determining how far you can or should ethically shoot at game.
First, remember that 1 MOA is 10.47 inches at 1,000 yards, and that’s larger than the size of the kill zone on a coyote. With a gun that’s capable of 1/2 MOA accuracy, if the shooter is perfect and the ammo is perfect and the conditions and wind are perfect, you should be able to hit the kill zone reliably. But when are all of those things ever going to be perfect, much less at the same time? One tiny misjudgment in wind or a minuscule tweak of the trigger finger can send the bullet off course.
Second, even if you could ensure that the conditions were perfect (no wind) and your shot would be perfect, the other factor you have no control over is the animal’s behavior. Depending on the caliber and projectile you’re using, it can take between 1 and 2 seconds for the projectile to travel to the target — and a lot can happen in a single second. If that animal takes a step, shifts its weight or rotates its body as you’re pulling the trigger, the shot isn’t going where you thought it would. Speaking of projectiles, they lose a considerable amount of velocity at distance, so it’s important to shoot ammo that’s specifically designed for long-range hunting to ensure proper performance once the bullet finally gets to the animal.
I’m not going to tell you not to shoot at game at 1,000 yards, but the above are all reasons to consider limiting yourself to a distance where the risk of wounding or not recovering an animal are lower. The old advice “if you can get closer, you should” is still sound.
The difference between 1,000 yards and, say, 500 yards is massive. Wind becomes less of a factor. The Coriolis effect (the curvature and rotation of the earth) becomes much less of a factor, and the math gets simpler. The bullet gets to the target faster and therefore leaves less time for the animal to do something unpredictable. And 1 MOA at 500 yards is 5 inches, so there’s more margin for error in the shot itself.
Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That might be great advice in hockey, but it doesn’t apply to hunting. Hone your shooting skills on the bench and take what you’ve learned into the field to stretch your shots out farther than you have before — but temper your newfound confidence with plenty of sound judgment and respect for the animal.
Guns and Optics
Most of today’s off-the-shelf hunting rifles are capable of 1 MOA accuracy or better. If you’re going to get into serious long-range shooting as a hobby, you might consider investing in a purpose-built long-range gun.
Remington’s legendary 700 action gets a number of long-range-specific upgrades in the Magpul Enhanced model, including a 20-inch, carbon steel, heavy barrel, an M-Lok bipod mount with folding bipod (helpful for getting a steady rest), and a crisp X-Mark Pro trigger. It feeds from a Magpul magazine (10-round mag included) and comes with a suppressor-ready threaded muzzle. Cheek risers and buttstock spacers are included so the shooter can adjust the stock to his or her preferences. MSRP on the Magpul Enhanced starts at $1,249
Optics are arguably more important than the gun in long-range shooting, and now is not the time to cheap out. You need quality glass with specific long-range features, but some of the price points in this category are jaw-dropping. With a street price of around $1,100, the Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24×50 offers considerable value for a surprisingly affordable price in the long-range market.
They are second focal plane scopes, and the ZBR-1 reticle offers plenty of options for holding for windage and elevation if the situation calls for it. With 24X magnification and adjustable parallax, as well as a substantial elevation and windage adjustment range and a multi-turn elevation turret with Ballistic Stop, this scope has everything you’ll need to get into the long-range game. Two reticles are available — The ZMOA-1 is less cluttered and thus probably faster to use, while the ZBR-1 gives you more options with many more hash marks on the vertical axis. Both reticles are available in illuminated or non-illuminated.
A ballistics app is a must. None of the available apps are exactly “simple,” because this is complicated math with a lot of variables, but I found the Zeiss Hunting app easy for a newbie to navigate and set up. Once you input the characteristics and data of your ammo (choose a factory load already in the app, or add data on your handloads), the app will use your phone’s location to update atmospheric conditions and spit out precise tables that give you the elevation you need to dial your scope to at any range, along with all sorts of useful data on velocity and energy at various distances.
Outdoor Solutions Long Range Shooting School
I’ve barely glossed over the basics in this article, but there’s no better way to build long-range skills than by attending an intensive shooting class for a few days. Outdoor Solutions offers a great option, and I took a long-range class at their Utah school in June 2019. Greg Ray founded Outdoor Solutions in 2004 as a booking service for hunting trips and has expanded it over the years to include long-range shooting schools held at some of the same lodges where he books hunting clients.
“Our mission is to show people that they can use good quality factory gear, factory ammunition, and still be successful,” Greg says. “We want to hit the mainstream, not just the people who can afford a $9,000 custom setup. We wanted to be able to hit the average everyday hunter and use good quality equipment that doesn’t break the bank.”
A class at Outdoor Solutions includes lodging and meals, two days of range time, small class size, high instructor-to-student ratio, and all the training and one-on-one instructing you’ll need. You’ll spend the first day on the range working your way out to 1,000 yards, and you’ll be learning spotter skills as well as shooting skills. You’ll also be figuring your ballistic data via an app — which is an incredibly helpful step toward shooting independence.
On the final day of class, you’ll be in the field all day, shooting in realistic hunting scenarios from field positions, utilizing shooting sticks, backpacks, or other improvised situations to get a solid rest. This field day is one of the major things that sets Outdoor Solutions apart from other long-range schools, and it allows you to discover all the little things that change from the bench to the field — the kinds of things you don’t want to encounter for the first time when you’re hunting.
Outdoor Solutions holds classes in Texas, Utah and Michigan. They’ll provide the gun, optics, and ammo, or you can bring your own if you prefer, as long as it meets specific course standards. No experience is necessary — our class included a bowhunter who hadn’t fired more than a dozen shots from a rifle in his life, and he was ringing steel at 1,000 yards in a matter of hours.
With some of the top instructors in the country and a genuine focus on helping you learn to hunt — not just shoot — at long range, an Outdoor Solutions course is an excellent option if you’re looking to expand your skills.
Before taking to the field, there is alot for a hunter to consider. Between shooting fundamentals, actual fieldcraft, and the packing and processing which occurs after a successful shot, hunting requires a wide range of skills, many of which must be executed in concert. As the mantra goes however, fundamentals are key, and very little on the list above even matters without a firearm capable of hitting its target. So how does one go about getting a gun from out of the box to on target? Step one in the process is boresighting, or in layman’s terms, the process of aligning one’s sights with the direction of the barrel.
Tools of the Trade
There are quite a few ways to go about this, however most involve gear to get the job done. Laser boresights are one of the most ubiquitous options, as they are fairly affordable, easy to store, easy to power and easy to use. What most of them entail (though design does vary) is a small “cartridge” with a laser pointer inside. It is turned on, loaded into the chamber like a regular bullet, then aimed (in a safe direction) at a target of one’s desired distance. A laser is projected at that point, and the sights can be adjusted laterally and longitudinally until they meet the point of the laser–boresight achieved.
One downside can be accuracy, however. On cheaper models, the laser can actually be off-center in the “cartridge,” which can lead to a boresight that is farther off from accurate than desired. Models that mount to the end of the barrel can alleviate this issue, but are often more expensive. Further still, prior to the advent of these helpful little devices, there were a number of different tools that rose and fell in popularity (and do still exist), including contraptions that mount to the end of the barrel and provide a makeshift target that is perfectly aligned with the bore.
While these sorts of things work, you can actually boresight just fine (if not better) with no aids at all. All you need is a proper shooting rest (sandbags will work) and a good target. Set the target at 100 yards (or less if needed–remember, this will not be your final zero), and place the rifle into your rest. Once the rifle is secure, remove any caps your scope may have over its adjustment turrets. While this step may seem out of position, it will become clear why in a moment. Remove the bolt and stare directly down the bore of the rifle. Pick an easily identifiable shape on the target, and put it as close to the center of the bore as possible. Now comes the tricky part. Without bumping your rifle, move up and look through the scope. This is why removing your turrets first is important, as unscrewing them will almost always upset the gun, necessitating you to restart the process. Adjust your elevation until it is in parallel with your intended target, then bring your windage in until the crosshairs are directly over your target.
Double check through your bore one more time that your rifle has not moved, and make any adjustments necessary if it has. From here, you are boresighted and ready to move on to actual zeroing.
Once upon a time, hunters and long range shooters had little overlap. Long range shooting guys tended to spend their time behind heavy guns, discussing the intricacies of ballistics and the art of wind-reading, while hunters worried about scent control, and ensuring their rifle was “minute of paper plate.” Those days, however, are long gone. Now, with hunters hiking further into the backcountry to fill ever-more sought-after tags, with ever-more expensive gear, the limits of ethical shooting have been pushed further than your grandad’s iron-sight .30-30 could ever have dreamed. As such, it’s become increasingly wise for hunters to consider the merits of learning a little more about long range shooting; after all, missing a tag that takes 15 years to pull hurts a little worse than missing a doe on the farm, and ensuring every shot has an ethical chance of being lethal should always be the paramount consideration for a responsible hunter.
Long Range Shooting: How Necessary is it Really?
While I can hardly speak for everyone, particularly in this more modern age, when I started hunting I knew two things: that my rifle could knock out an eye at 100 yards (I went a little beyond “minute of paper plate”), and that if there was a stiff wind, I should aim a bit into the breeze. Imagine my shock when my first chance at a deer stepped out at 405 yards, and I had never even considered that drop.
As it turns out, the story has a happy ending. My hunting mentor handed me his rifle, which he knew like the back of his hand, and gave me an estimate of the drop in inches. I squeezed the trigger, and my first doe was down. What I mostly gleaned from that hunt, however, was how little I actually knew, and how much I had overlooked in my preparation. While I had been shooting on the family range for my entire youth, all my targets were static, and my distances pre-figured. In the field, the environment was dynamic and the shot situation fluid. This sort of shooting would require a whole new know-how.
The Benefits of Long Range Shooting Training
This know-how, of course, is precisely what long-range training instills in students. To start with, students are not just given an in-depth familiarity with a rifle and scope system, but are taught how to achieve that familiarity with their own rifle, or any system they use in the future. The common ways to measure shot elevation–MOA and MRAD–are discussed, alongside the various reticles and turret options that allow a shooter to figure said drop, and the methods and tools which help a shooter ascertain target distance.
And that is just the beginning. When you step out onto the range, it becomes patently clear why all these inputs matter—important as they are, they are only the groundwork. Even once you have your mechanics dialed in and your dope card set, the environmental conditions step up to throw a wrench in things. Wind, of course, is a huge factor, and how to both read and deal with it is discussed and taught. Shot angle, often overlooked by the layman shooter, can easily cause a miss, and must be taken into account. Even such small details as elevation and humidity can cause hiccups, though those won’t come seriously into play unless you’re really pushing the distance. Then, of course, comes my favorite part. You often aren’t shooting prone, or off a bench in the field. Can you still shoot when you’re not in the perfect position?
Finding the Right Long Range Shooting School
Frankly, I could go on for another several pages about the intricacies and hunting benefits of long-range training, but as I haven’t nearly enough room to cover everything this entails, let me close with one final consideration. Finding a long-range shooting school appropriate to your interests is of prime importance. As mentioned, there are several popular styles of long-range shooting far removed from the sorts of practical skills hunting requires, and while you will certainly learn and benefit from a class with benchresters, the positives will not be nearly as great as from a class designed with long-range hunting in mind. Several schools have popped up around the country offering just this specialized blend of training, prime among them being Outdoor Solutions, which prides itself on tailoring its programs specifically to what hunters need to know. Wherever you decide to go, however, make sure you get some training behind the trigger before you pull it in the field. Your freezer will thank you.