Here is how it usually works. You just finished watching the movie American Sniper, a film directed by Clint Eastwood showcasing Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of a famed Texan and American hero, Chris Kyle. Upon watching the movie about this American war hero, you realize you want to be a sniper. I suppose the movie Shooter would cause this reaction, too. Anyways, now you are dead set on becoming an accurate long-distance-shooting, steel-target-slaying machine. Don’t worry, it’s happened to me too.
So now you need the gear to make it happen. What might happen is we will go out and drop $4K on an expensive rifle that the internet says is the best, then maybe spend $500 on a scope and $20 on a bipod. And now we’re ready to smash targets at a mile, right? Wrong.
Necessity of Long Range Gear
Truth be told, the rifle is a necessity — but you could have spread that cash out for an all-around better package. Luckily for you we have put together a list of gear you should consider investing in if you want to shoot long distance targets. We are going to leave the rifle off this list since that’s everyone’s favorite purchase, and we will also leave off the optic as well. We’re going to focus on the support gear right now.
However, just in case you are curious, here are some rules to go with when looking for a rifle and an optic. Do some research and choose a good rifle that still leaves plenty of money for a nice optic, with some money still left over. Yes, that $4,000 rifle you saw was great, but maybe a $2,500 might serve you just as well?
Now, on to our list of five items we think you need for shooting long distance. All these items will make your life easier, save rounds and let you shoot accurately at distance.
Scope Rings for Long Range
The first thing on our list is scope rings. Often, we buy a nice rifle and maybe even a nice scope, and then we put junk scope rings to mount the two together. This will undoubtedly ruin any chance you have of shooting distance. Any bit of play that your rings have, even if it’s small, when it’s multiplied over distance at let’s say 1,000 yards, that tiny bit of movement ends up being big. You will have headache after headache with a gun that seems to shoot in the wrong place with an ever changing zero.
Grant swears by Badger Ordnance rings. They are not cheap, but they will last you a lifetime — probably longer than your scope and for sure longer than your rifle. Just remember, “buy once, cry once.”
Bubble Level: Your Secret Weapon
The second thing you need is a bubble level. Why do we feel this is important? It’s just a way for you to double-check yourself. On gun ranges, everything is usually hung nice and straight with targets that are perpendicular to the ground. But when you’re shooting distance across a hilly, curving landscape with trees that have grown crooked, it’s easy for you to not hold your reticle truly up and down.
Naturally if you’re dialing or holding to shoot those distances, this will mess you up majorly. One of the keys to distance is to fix all the problems we can at the gun because when our little screw-ups are multiplied over distance, it has bad results.
The third thing is a ballistic computer. This can be anything from a $3K military grade computer to a $50 phone app. Some of them are even built into range finders. This computer will take in your rifle and cartridge characteristics and spit back out the DOPE for that target. This is not guaranteed to be a hit, but it is the best starting place you could have.
At distance, just reading the back of the box on your ammo doesn’t cut it anymore. We don’t have any clue what barrel length and other factors the ammunition company used to test the cartridge. This is where a ballistic computer can give you more personal results, and as you shoot you will flush it out and true your data.
Impact of Weather
Our fourth item is a wind/weather station. Grant uses a couple of them, Kestrel being the most popular. Elevation can be pretty simple to account for because gravity is a constant force for which we know the exact formulas.
The wind is much harder to account for, though. One second it’s 15 mph gusts, then it’s still, and then we have a constant barrage of 5 mph winds. Wind is hard to account for, so that’s why we suggest having some way to account for it. This saves ammo, which saves money.
Our fifth item is sandbags and other support devices. Truthfully, there isn’t much you can’t do with a rear sandbag and a sturdy bipod. Distance is all about removing us from the equation and letting the rifle and bullet do its job.
The best distance shooters just put the rifle in the correct position with the correct dope and let the round fly. Having a stable platform is super important because not much else matters if you can’t hold the rifle still.
Additional Shooting Gear?
Are there more items that you need or that we skipped? Yes, there are. What we tried to do was put together a short list of things people tend to overlook. Remember, when getting started spread your budget out a bit so you can cover items more than just a super-expensive rifle. Be prepared to be frustrated at first, but in time, with practice you will be very effective at long-distance shooting.
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