Why Should You Practice Long Distance Shooting?
The term “long distance shooting” will mean different things to each person that reads this article. To get everyone on the same page lets just say that for the purposes of this article long distance shooting means shooting supported (i.e. Shooting from a bench, shooting sticks, bipod, tripod, resting on a backpack, against a tree, etc) at 300 meters or more with an optic or shooting 1oo meters or more free standing unsupported with open sights or a low power optic. Those distances are about the point at which a shooter will have to really start applying good shooting fundamentals in order to achieve good results.
So how do we define “Good Results”? Hitting your target would be the most practical way… But most of the shooting community will say that if you can shoot “Minute Of Angle” you are doing pretty good. Minute of Angle (MOA) is roughly equivalent to being able to shoot a 1 inch group at 100 meters. A 2 inch group at 200 meters. A 3 inch group at 300 meters. A 4 inch group at 400 meters. And so on all the way out as far as you want to go… The photo to the left is a 3 shot group from 300 yards (not meters… yea yea it was close enough) and is about 2 inches in diameter, so it is a sub-MOA group.
Many preppers don’t train with their firearms at “Long Distances” and there are some pretty good reasons for that. Many shooting ranges, especially those close to urban areas are only 100 meters long or less, this is problematic. As a result many shooters have only shot their rifle from 100 meters or less. So unless they have a place that they can go shoot with an extended range or a place out in the woods with a safe backdrop, 100 meters may be it. I believe that “only” shooting at 100 Meters or less can provide a shooter a false since of security. The reason I say this is because it is entirely possible to shoot sub-MOA groups at 100 meters or less while the shooter is only using “mediocre” shooting fundamentals. Therefore a shooter may get the impression that they can shoot equally effective out at 300, 400, or 500 Meters or more. As you can imagine most frequently that simply isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, shooting at 100 meters or less is great for beginners, occasional practice and proficiency, etc. But a serious prepper should do there best to get some practice shooting at least once a year at long distances. Once you get out and see how quickly your nice tight sub-MOA groups start to expand out inch by inch the further you go back from 100 meters, you will understand why I am suggesting that you do some real long distance shooting.
In order to be able to consistently and accurately shoot at long distances you will have to train yourself to apply good shooting fundamentals. This is critically important for a prepper because if you believe that you will need to be able to use a firearm in a grid down or SHTF scenario then you likely also believe that the 2 most important reasons that you will need to shoot at long distances will be to defend yourself and your family or to put food in the bellies of your hungary children. Hunting and self defense both have a dramatic effect on a shooters ability to be able to apply good shooting fundamentals. Ask any hunter if they have ever had “Buck Fever”, all serious hunters will immediately know what your talking about and will likely admit they have experienced it at one time or another. Then take a look at any police or combat shooting statistics and look at how quickly the hit ratio plummets when the person you are shooting at is firing back at you… Also don’t forget that the wind can have an increased effect on the bullet the further the target is and in many cases your target could also be moving!
So it is important to actually learn good long distance shooting fundamentals because when when you add the terrible effects of stress, dehydration, hunger, pain, adrenaline, fear and panic to already “mediocre” shooting skills — things can and will go south fast!
I have mentioned shooting fundamentals a couple of times in this article, if your not familiar with the basics of shooting fundamentals take a look at these two Unites States Marines Corps Training videos on basic shooting fundamentals. Although the videos are a little dated, the information is still solid and accurate. Although the video focuses on the use of open sights on an M-16 A2, these shooting fundamentals can be applied to all aspects of rifle marksmanship and especially transferred to all of the AR platforms of today, as well as standard rifles with optics.
After you have the basic fundamentals mastered, I suggest trying to put as much realism in your long distance shooting training as possible. Do this to simulate as closely as you can what long distance shooting in a grid down or SHTF scenario may actually resemble. Shoot at unknown distances, shoot supported and unsupported. Shoot with open sights and optics. Shoot while you are out of breath. Shoot on windy days and dead clam days. Shoot at dusk and dawn and in inclement weather. Shoot from positions of cover or concealment. Shoot kneeling, squatting, prone and any other safe way you can think of. When you get to where you can shoot well at long distances when training as indicated above, you will be surprised at how well your intermediate and shorter distance shooting improves as well. Plus you will have prepared yourself to be a more effective shooter when it will really counts! One of my favorite ways to get really good practice at long distance shooting is to go prairie dog hunting. Calling it “hunting” might be a bit of a stretch, but it is definitely excellent long distance shooting practice. Take a look at the video below to see some highlights of me and my buddies on our annual Prairie Dog “Shoot”. In this video and on our hunts we are routinely shooting from distances of 200 to 500 meters supported with optics or are walking and shooting from distances of 50 – 250 meters with .22lr and .17 HMR with open sites and optics and from supported and unsupported positions in variable winds from 5-35 MPH all at unverified distances. We do this for 2 or 3 days and usually shoot a couple thousand rounds, so it it s ton of fun and great marksmanship practice. It also doesn’t hurt that a prairie dog is just about exactly the size of the combat effective zone of an enemy troop and even smaller than the more realists target of a whitetail deer’s vitals. So they make the perfect target. Warning there are some graphic images in this video!
There are many thoughts on where a rifle should be zeroed. One of the most prevalent things I hear (WRT the AR-15) is that people prefer to zero at 50 meters and then they “know” the rifle will be on at 200 meters as well. This that true? That may be true depending on your rifle set up, but there are some variables that do effect how and where the bullet will impact. Bottom line is that you need to test it and shoot it at those distances to be sure! Lets say it is true for your rifle, do you know what the bullets trajectory is after the 250 meter point? At 400 or 500 meters? It is best to zero your rifle and then check its zero at both the near and far distances on your bullets trajectory to ensure you know for sure where it shoots based on your rifles set up. Is the 50/200 Zero the best setup? Personally I prefer to zero my rifle at 36/300 meters. For a few good graphic representations of some common bullet trajectories zeroed at different distances click on the graphic on the right or click here to visit www.AR-15.Com. The video below gives an excellent demonstration on how changing the distance you zero at changes the point of impact at long distances.
A person can certainly make a great argument that the vast majority of all “likely” self defense encounters in a grid down or SHTF scenario will likely be at 100 yards or less. Maybe much less. A person can also make a great argument that the vast majority of hunting situations will likely be at 50 yards or less. For the most part I may even agree their position is “likely”. But if that is the case then why do I suggest that should learn to shoot long distance? Simple. Shooting long distance will make you an even better shot at closer distances. So if or when those “likely” scenarios playout at close range, they will be that much easier for you to take care of without a second thought. Even more important is that if you do need to be able to shoot at long distances because me and that Facebook Tacticool Professor’s “Philosphical Arguement” didn’t turn out to be a Reality, then you have the skill and can use it when needed. My Grandpa always used to tell me “It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have!” And that is pretty much the Preppers motto and why I think any serious prepper should learn and practice shooting at long distances as often as they reasonably can.
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A good article, thank you. If you are a serious long range shooter, start with good equipment. The improvement in equipment in the last twenty years is fantastic. You cannot shoot long distances accurately withoutsome important information. You must know the velocity of the bullet you are using. Just because a reloading manual says you will be shooting “xyz” velocity by using a certain charge – it isn’t necessarily the truth. Run a few rounds over a chronograph. The next thing is you must know the ballistic coefficient (ranging quality) of the particular bullet this will help determine drop and wind drift. Determining distance becomes more important as distances increase, range finders work (you can practice with teleplone poles for rough distance- they are generally set 98 yards apart) Shooting up hill or down hill affects drop, an angle of 45 degrees cuts drop in half it doesn’t matter up hill or down hill. Wind drift depends on velocity and ballistic coefficient, the Marine Corps at one time use a spotting scope focused on the target and then backed off 3/4 a turn as the place to determine wind drift by using the Beaufort Scale (using natural phenomina such as smoke and the size of branches being moved by the wind).
Your article pointed out the most important thing-trigger time.
Great advice! I would love to get a Chrono. Just haven’t had the extra cash yet!
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Why Should You Practice Long Distance Shooting?
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