What’s it like to shoot long range for the first time?
“Woah! You’re in the nosebleed section!” I heard from my spotter, Jimmy, as we shot at 500 yards. I was missing high by about 2 MRAD, which was strange since I’d been on target at 100, 200, and 300 yards. We began to check the gun, the scope, the mounts, and the loads. We called our friend and co-worker, Ryan, who is a much more experienced long-range shooter, to get his take on the situation. After a few minutes of questions and answers, we finally determined … the problem was us.
I have shot rifles for the last few years developing my skills for hunting but have never shot past 300 yards. I know my way around a rifle well enough, but certainly don’t claim to be an expert. Wanting to get some experience shooting at 500-1000 yards, Jimmy and I made plans to head to the range. Since the plan was to get out to 1000 yards, we had to make sure we were zeroed.
After a quick bore sight, and sight in at 100 yards, we began shooting in 100-yard increments. With each successive shot, we were ringing steel. It was when we hit 500 yards that things went awry. For those of you who are new to long-range shooting, or yet to even attempt shooting to 1000 yards, below are my top 3 recommendations for a successful long-range shooting trip.
1. When you miss and can’t figure out why, don’t waste your ammunition. Stop, and diagnose your issue!
- Once I started missing, we went back to 100 yards to confirm zero. After confirming zero, we started to check the gun, scope, and rings. Everything checked out. After some Q&A with Ryan, we finally realized it all came down to a lack of communication: When Jimmy told me to dial 1.3 MRAD at 300 yards, then 3.3 MRAD at 500 yards, I was adding these elevation adjustments to each other. Instead of being at 3.3 MRAD at 500 yards, I was dialed to 4.6 MRAD.
2. Communicate how corrections are to be called.
- Experienced spotters will call the adjustment for the shooter from zero. If your spotter tells you to dial 2 MRAD, you dial 2 MRAD from zero. If the spotter says to dial 3.7 MRAD on the next shot, dial to 3.7 MRAD from zero. Don’t add them up!
3. Call your shots!
Last, but definitely not least … Call your shots! Calling your shots is when the shooter communicates to the spotter exactly where the reticle is when the gun is fired. This helps the spotter know whether the point of impact was a good shot or if a correction needs to be dialed.
This is where I need work in my shooting. Had I been calling my shots, Jimmy would’ve immediately known where I was aiming when I fired and could have saved us some time diagnosing our issue.
Bonus Recommendation for all of you MOA guys: Don’t fear the MRAD! I’ve shot MOA scopes since I got my first rifle and have never used MRAD before this trip. I will tell you from firsthand experience that MRAD is even more simple than MOA. As a quick explanation: A milliradian (MRAD) is an angular measurement that is 1/1000th of any unit of measure. It is 1 yard at 1000 yards. 1 meter at 1000 meters, 1 inch at 1000 inches, or 1 mile at 1000 miles. Contrary to the common misconception, a milliradian is not actually part of the metric system. If you’re thinking of making the jump from MOA to MRAD, it will take a little adjustment, but it’s not nearly as difficult as I would’ve thought before trying to do it. For more on MOA and MRAD, check out our 10 Minute Talk "MOA vs. MRAD."
There are a ton of great resources out there if you’re interested in developing your long-range shooting skills, and not the least of those resources are the folks on the phones here at Vortex Optics! They are ready and willing to help you get into the sport of long-range shooting, answer any questions you have, and of course make recommendations for any optics you might need! Have fun getting out there and ringing that steel or punching holes in that x-ring!
If you want to know more about long-range shooting, check out our podcast series.
Colin Hornback is an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Vortex Optics.