The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Long-Range Shooting

Hey there fellow shooting enthusiast! My name’s Captain and I’m pumped to be your guide into the exciting world of long range shooting. I’ve been honing my skills at the range for years now, so I’m here to share everything I’ve learned to help you become a top-notch marksman.

Whether your goal is to hit targets at extreme distances or you simply want to improve your skills, this guide has got you covered. We’ll start with the basics – gear, fundamentals, and essential skills – then discuss advanced techniques to take your shooting abilities to the next level. I’ll even share some of my favorite tips and tricks along the way.

By the end of this, you’ll have all the know-how to start dominating at the range. Let’s get to it!

Gearing Up for Success

Before we get started, it’s important to have the proper gear. Having the right rifle and equipment for long range shooting will make a huge difference in your accuracy and performance. Here’s a quick rundown of the essentials:

Choosing the Right Rifle

Your rifle is arguably the most critical piece of gear for long range shooting. You’ll want one with superb accuracy, smooth action, and reliability. The best options are:

  • Bolt action rifles -Known for precision. Great for beginners and advanced shooters alike. Brands like Remington 700 or Savage 110 are excellent choices.
  • Semi-automatic rifles – Provide rapid fire capabilities. AR-10 platforms like the DPMS GII are perfect for tactical applications.
  • Rifle chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 – These versatile and highly accurate rounds are ideal for long range shooting.

Consider budget, unique needs, and shooting style when choosing a rifle. Invest in a quality optic like a variable magnification rifle scope. A sturdy bipod and rear bag rest will also help stabilize your shots.

Must-Have Shooting Gear

Here are some other essentials I always have with me at the range:

  • Sturdy spotting scope – Lets you see shot placement on targets. I recommend at least a 20-60x zoom.
  • Rangefinder – Measures distance to targets accurately. The Sig Sauer Kilo2400ABS is top-notch.
  • Shooting mat – Provides padding and keeps you clean. A basic XL mat will do just fine.
  • Ammo caddy – Holds and protects all your rounds. Makes transporting ammo to the range easy.
  • Ballistic calculator app – Helps determine holdovers and scope adjustments. Hornady and Strelok Pro are my personal favorites.

Optics and Accessories

A good scope is absolutely necessary for long range precision. Be sure to invest in a high quality optic with features like:

  • Adjustable magnification from around 4-24x
  • First focal plane reticle
  • Elevation turret with lots of adjustment range
  • Parallax adjustment for optimal image focus

Good accessories like a sunshade, flip up scope caps, and an anti-cant level will also come in handy.

I’d suggest avoiding cheap scopes that compromise image quality and adjustments. It’s worth spending more on optics that will meet your needs and last.

Mastering the Fundamentals

Now that you’ve got the right gear, let’s discuss the core skills every long range shooter needs to develop. Master these fundamentals first before moving on to more advanced techniques:

Proper Shooting Position

Having a solid, stable shooting position is absolutely critical for making accurate shots past 500 yards. Here are a few key tips:

  • Use the prone position whenever possible. This provides the most stable base.
  • Keep your elbows directly under the rifle to minimize stock wobble.
  • Place the stock in the pocket of your shoulder so it sits deep and firm.
  • Use rear bags under the stock for additional support and small adjustments.
  • Keep your knees and toes pointed naturally in a relaxed position.

Taking the time to assume a proper shooting position will give you a sturdy foundation for executing great shots downrange. Don’t rush this part of the process.

Breath Control

Controlling your breathing is vital for preventing rifle movement while you’re aimed in on a distant target. Here is a simple breathing routine:

  • Take 2-3 normal breaths to establish your natural respiratory pause.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply to oxygenate your body.
  • Exhale normally and pause slightly before inhaling about half capacity.
  • Hold your breath for 4-8 seconds during your natural respiratory pause, then gently squeeze the trigger.

This sequence minimizes chest movement, allowing for much steadier aim during your shot. With practice, breath control becomes second nature.

Trigger Squeeze

Jerking the trigger is one of the biggest mistakes new long range shooters make. It torques the rifle and ruins your precision. Instead, utilize a smooth, slow squeeze straight back on the trigger.

Here are some pointers for perfecting trigger control:

  • Use the pad of your finger, not the tip.
  • Begin applying steady pressure during your respiratory pause until the rifle fires.
  • If you need to pause, release the trigger and start over. No cheating!
  • Strive to make trigger pull surprise you each time. No flinching.

It takes time to develop proper technique. Be patient and dry fire often to build muscle memory. Proper trigger squeeze is vital for consistently accurate shots.

Follow Through

Follow through means maintaining stability and focus even after the trigger breaks and the bullet leaves the barrel. Recommended tips:

  • Keep pressing straight back on the trigger for 2-3 seconds after firing.
  • Remain in your shooting position observing mirage and calling wind.
  • Gently run the bolt to avoid shifting your upper body.
  • Use your spotting scope to identify shot placement before moving.
  • Refrain from immediately checking behind you or bolting upright.

Follow through confirms you executed the shot precisely and helps identify any errors so you can self-correct. It’s a critical yet often overlooked fundamental.

Developing Essential Shooting Skills

Alright, now we’re ready to level up and develop more specialized shooting abilities that will set you apart at the range. Let’s look at some of the major skills competitive long range shooters have mastered.

Reading Wind

Mastering wind reading is easily one of the most valuable skills for long distance shooting. Being able to accurately gauge wind direction and speed will allow you to calculate and hold wind correctly.

Wind indicators to watch for:

  • Mirage – The distortion you see while looking downrange. This tells you wind speed and direction.
  • Flags – Notice how range flags are blowing and swinging.
  • Vegetation – Watch how grass and bushes are moving.
  • Cloud shadows – Their directions and speed indicate wind conditions.
  • Your shot’s point of impact – Missing the target shows how you need to adjust.

It takes lot of practice, but learning to read wind will dramatically improve your hit percentage at longer distances.

Dialing Your Scope

Knowing how to quickly dial elevation and windage adjustments in your riflescope is imperative for making hits at varying ranges. Here are some pointers:

  • Understand your scope’s clicks and how to adjust. 1 click may equal 0.1 MIL or 0.25 MOA.
  • Use a ballistic calculator to determine elevation and wind holds in MIL or MOA.
  • Dial elevation changes first based on your range determinations.
  • Then dial windage based on wind reading to compensate for drift.
  • After taking the shot, record adjustment info and resulting point of impact.

Repeated practice dialing your adjustments will make you much faster. It’s a critical skill when time is limited during competitions.

Ranging Targets

Accurately determining distance to your target is absolutely essential for figuring out elevation and windage holds. Here are some effective ranging methods:

  • Know common target sizes and do mathematical range estimations.
  • Use a quality laser rangefinder to get exact distance measurements.
  • Use spotting scope reticle for MIL ranging with targets of known size.
  • Download ballistic apps that have built-in ranging calculators.

Continually practice ranging targets at unknown distances. The better you get, the more accurate your shooting adjustments will be.

Benefits of Various Shooting Positions

PositionBenefits
ProneProvides the most stable shooting platform with minimal body exposure. Ideal for precision shooting.
SittingA stable base that allows use of vertical cover like barricades when standing is not feasible.
KneelingEnables effective use of vertical cover while minimizing exposure. Provides stability.
StandingNecessary for quickly engaging targets without any support. Important skill to practice.
SupportedAllows bracing off structures for added stability and unique shooting angles.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Alright, we’ve covered a ton so far. Now I want to share some of my personal favorite tips and techniques that have really helped improve my long range shooting abilities over the years:

  • Dry fire practice – An easy and free way to hone shooting fundamentals off the range. Just be triple sure your weapon is unloaded!
  • Aim small, miss small – Focus intently on the smallest part of your target to enhance precision.
  • Spot your impacts – Keeps eyes focused downrange using binos or a spotter. Catching impacts helps identify misses.
  • Perfect your positions – Spending time to refine shooting positions pays dividends for stability and accuracy.
  • Range your targets – Being even 10 yards off on distance estimation can ruin your shot. Laser rangefinders are a game changer.
  • Log your DOPE – Record data on distance, wind, adjustments, and point of impact for each shot. Review regularly to understand performance.
  • Stick to one rifle – Mastering the intricacies of your primary rifle is better than bouncing between guns.

I hope these tips help provide valuable insight into skills that have helped elevate my shooting to the next level. Now let’s look at taking your abilities up a notch.

Advanced Shooting Techniques

So you’ve got the basics dialed in and are ready to step up your long range shooting skills even further? Great, let’s examine some advanced techniques competitive marksmen utilize to engage targets at extreme distances.

Precision Rifle Upgrades

UpgradeBenefits
Aftermarket triggerCrisp, lightweight pull enhances precision.
Improved stockOptimizes ergonomics and stability.
Match-grade barrelBoosts accuracy and consistency.
High end opticMaximizes adjustments for dialing shots.
Riflesmith blueprintingTrues action and smooths function for precision.

Shooting in Windy Conditions

As your range extends, wind becomes the biggest obstacle to accuracy. Here are tips for managing wind:

  • Carefully read mirage and vegetation to gauge full value wind.
  • Use wind flags at multiple locations to determine wind direction.
  • Dial appropriate windage adjustments based on density altitude conditions.
  • Hold off using reticle for wind rather than dialing if wind is gusting or changing.

Mastering wind management separates the experts from the average shooters. Nothing beats experience in the elements.

Shooting At Unknown Ranges

Being able to quickly determine range and make hits on targets at unmarked distances is hugely valuable. Try these techniques:

  • Look for visual references that provide scale to estimate target distance.
  • Use tangent of angle and target measurements for calculated ranging.
  • Dial elevations bracketing suspected distance and observe impact points.
  • Hold over using reticle for elevation and gain feedback on distance based on impact.

With sufficient practice, you can accurately range unknown distances within a few shots.

Shooting Moving Targets

Engaging moving targets at long range requires understanding lead and weapon manipulation. Helpful tips include:

  • Determine target speed and direction. Faster lateral movement requires more lead.
  • Anticipate where the target will be using hold over or windage lead.
  • Develop rapid bolt manipulation for fast follow up shots.
  • Use semi-automatic rifle platforms for quicker engagement.

Moving targets at distance present an exciting challenge. Well worth developing this useful skillset!

Let’s shift gears now and talk about choosing the right ammunition for your needs.

Selecting Ammunition for Precision

When it comes to ammo, using quality match grade loads tailored for long range shooting is recommended. However, factory match ammunition can get pricey. Here are great options to consider:

Factory Match Ammo

Match ammo is manufactured to extremely tight tolerances for added precision. Popular factory loads include:

  • Hornady Precision Hunter – Proven extreme range performance with ELD-X bullets.
  • Federal Gold Medal Berger – Top choice of many competitive shooters due to consistency.
  • Nosler Custom Competition – Loaded with their premium RDF and AccuBond Long Range bullets.

While expensive, factory match ammo delivers impressive performance you can rely on.

Reloading Your Own Ammunition

Reloading your own ammunition allows you to craft customized cartridges tailored specifically to your rifle and shooting needs. One of the major benefits of reloading is cost savings, as you can reuse spent brass casings multiple times. This adds up to significant savings compared to buying factory ammo, especially when shooting frequently at the range.

Reloading also enables you to maximize the inherent accuracy of your rifle by fine tuning loads. You can experiment with different bullets, powder charges, seating depths, and other components to determine the optimal load that your particular rifle prefers. Once you identify an accurate load, you can replicate it consistently.

Another advantage of reloading is the ability to tune bullet jump – the distance a seated bullet travels before engaging the rifling when fired. Reducing jump can enhance precision in some rifles. Reloading allows you to control this.

You also have complete flexibility when it comes to customizing seating pressures and powder charges. You can develop low pressure plinking loads or maximum performance match grades loads using the same brass. This level of control is only possible through reloading your own cartridges.

While there is an initial investment in equipment like presses, dies, etc., if you shoot often it is well worth it. Reloading enables you to produce both high-end precision match ammo and cheaper bulk range rounds at a fraction of factory costs. For dedicated long range shooters, reloading your own is definitely the way to go.

Things to Consider

Here are a few quick tips for selecting ammunition:

  • Match your bullet weight to your rifle’s twist rate for best stability.
  • Compare similar loads across manufacturers to find what shoots best in your rifle.
  • Heavier bullets will buck wind better while lighter rounds offer more velocity.
  • Test ammunition thoroughly at distance to confirm repeatable precision.

Take the time to properly develop loads your rifle prefers for best accuracy.

Helpful Equipment to Improve Your Shooting

Upgrading your shooting equipment can really help take your marksmanship to the next level. Here’s a look at some of my favorite accessories:

Quality Bipod

A sturdy bipod is vital for keeping your rifle steady shot after shot. Features to look for include:

  • Robust lockable height adjustments
  • Swiveling capability
  • Soft shoulder pads that conform to uneven surfaces
  • Spike feet that grip the shooting surface

Brands like Atlas, Harris, and Magpul all make excellent bipods well worth the investment.

Rear Rifle Bags

Rear bags provide enhanced stability and allow for minute adjustments to your shooting position. Consider:

  • Bags that can be filled with rice, beads, etc. to mold as needed
  • Covered in durable suede or synthetics
  • With hook/loop fasteners to keep them securely in place
  • Attached cord loops for easy transport

I recommend trying out a few different rear bag styles and fill materials to find what works best for your shooting style.

Kestrel Ballistic Weather Meter

This handheld device provides extremely accurate measurements of environmental factors that affect your shot. Features:

  • Wind speed and direction
  • Altitude/air density
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Inclinometer
  • Integrates with ballistic apps

Hardcore long range competitors swear by these meters. They provide ballistic solutions in real time.

Spotting Scope

A good spotting scope is absolutely essential for seeing shot placement at distance. Look for:

  • Excellent magnification – 25-60x is ideal
  • Large objective lens for maximum light transmission
  • Smooth zoom adjustment
  • Sturdy tripod with fluid pan/tilt head

Spotting your own impacts downrange is hugely beneficial. It enables immediate shot corrections.

Helpful Accessories to Enhance Your Shooting Experience

Here are some additional accessories that can really take your range sessions up a notch:

Shooting Rests

Rifle rests help provide a super steady, customizable shooting platform:

  • Lead sleds – Absorb recoil allowing you to spot impacts. Great for sighting in scopes.
  • Portable shooting bench – Provides a table and rest in one convenient setup.
  • Tripods – Quickly convert spotting scopes, binos or cameras into a stable shooting rest.

Rests reduce fatigue, assist new shooters, and promote consistency. Well worth the investment!

Rangefinders

Having an accurate rangefinder is a game changer for determining the exact distance to targets. Features to look for:

  • Angle compensation critical for sloped shots
  • First target priority to ignore closer objects
  • Advanced digital processing for precision
  • Scan mode to range moving targets

Leupold, Sig Sauer, and Vortex make excellent tactical rangefinders.

Ballistic Weather Meters

Ballistic weather meters provide detailed atmospheric measurements to calculate elevation and wind:

  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure
  • Wind speed/direction
  • Humidity
  • Inclinometer

Input this data into ballistic apps for super precise shot solutions. The Kestrel 5700 Ballistics Weather Meter is top notch.

Hearing Protection

Preserving your hearing is seriously important. Look for ear protection with:

  • High noise reduction rating (NRR)
  • Comfort for prolonged wear
  • Enhanced sound clarity
  • Electronic muffling for natural amplification

Brands like Walker’s and Peltor make fantastic electronic muffs perfect for the range. Don’t risk your hearing.

Helpful Tips for New Long Range Shooters

If you’re just getting started with long range shooting, here are some helpful pointers to set you up for success:

  • Start close and work your way out. Begin practicing at 100 yards, then gradually increase distance as your skills improve.
  • Prioritize trigger control. Work on developing a smooth trigger press that doesn’t disturb your aim.
  • Use quality ammunition matched to your rifle’s twist rate. Accuracy depends heavily on consistent, precision ammo.
  • Dial in your scope. Take the time to properly sight-in and zero your optic at your anticipated shooting distances.
  • Range targets frequently. Estimating distance is difficult but critical for knowing bullet drops. Use a rangefinder.
  • Read the wind. Even light winds will push your bullet off target at longer distances. Watch for mirages and flags.
  • Keep a detailed shooting journal. Record DOPE (data of previous engagements) for every shot to track performance over time.
  • Invest in solid optics. A quality scope with excellent clarity and adjustment range is imperative.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Tack driver groups take lots of patience and practice. Strive for consistency.
  • Don’t forget follow through. Stay in position observing conditions for 2-3 seconds after every shot.

Stick with it and you’ll be tagging distant steel in no time! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Take a Course

If you’re new to long range shooting, I highly recommend taking a course from a professional marksman or experienced instructor. Here are some of the major benefits:

  • You’ll learn proper fundamentals and shooting techniques hands-on under expert supervision. It’s easy to develop bad habits on your own as a beginner.
  • Instructors can analyze your shooting and correct any issues with your stance, grip, trigger control, etc.
  • You gain exposure to quality gear and accessories you may not have used before.
  • Course exercises are designed to methodically improve specific skills like ranging, wind reading, unsupported shooting positions, etc.
  • You can ask questions and get feedback throughout the course from the instructor.
  • It’s a fast track to enhancing your skills and understanding compared to trying to teach yourself.
  • You’ll often make connections with other participants that lead to ongoing learning.

I took a 3-day precision rifle course when I was first starting out and it rapidly accelerated my shooting abilities. The hands-on training and one-on-one coaching was invaluable. I highly recommend investing in professional instruction as one of the first things new long range shooters pursue. It will provide a solid foundation upon which you can continue building your skills over time.

Conclusion

And there you have it – a complete beginner’s guide to long range shooting! We covered a lot of ground in this article, looking at everything from choosing the right rifle and gear to developing solid shooting fundamentals like proper position, breath control, and trigger squeeze.

We discussed essential skills for long range marksmen such as reading wind, ranging targets, and dialing your scope, as well as advanced techniques to really take your shooting abilities to the next level. Guidance was provided on selecting the best precision ammunition for your needs and upgrading equipment to enhance performance.

Tips were also shared for new shooters looking to set themselves up for success. The key takeaways are to be patient, start close and gradually increase distance as your skills improve, and consider getting professional instruction, which can greatly accelerate the learning curve.

But above all, embrace the journey! Much of the reward is in the continuous striving for precision. Long range shooting provides exhilarating, ever-evolving challenges.

With the knowledge provided in this guide, you now have a comprehensive foundation upon which to build your expertise in this exciting sport. Just remember to always emphasize safety and practice the fundamentals.

Now get out there, do the work, and show what you can do behind that rifle! Wishing you tight groups and solid hits – shoot straight!

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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