Whether you just got your first rifle, grew tired of handguns at the range, or want to be a serious marksman, being able to shoot down-range takes a different skill set. Luckily, there are a few pointers that may help you take on the challenge of long-distance shooting.
Long-Range shooting tips to help you become a better shooter below!
Choose Your Rifle Optic Carefully
After the rifle, your biggest decision to make when it comes to long-range shooting is which optic to use. Some factors to consider are magnification, lens clarity, and parallax adjustment,
Whatever your decision, make sure to choose the best long-range optic for you. When you mount it on your scope, be sure to give yourself enough eye relief for the recoil.
Divide By Zero
Once you’ve picked your optic and mounted it properly, it’s important to zero your scope for the distance you’ll be shooting at. Hitting a long-distance target comes down to inches, so accuracy is key.
Zeroing your rifle at 300 yards will help you once drop and weather that affects the shot more heavily at distances of 500 yards.
Zeroing your optic will give you that accuracy and allow you to hit what you aim at consistently. A good range to zero for is 300 yards in the beginning, because it gives a better ground for long-distance situations without being affected by the drop and weather that 500 yards causes.
Check Your Posture and Breathe Easy
Your shooting stance can impact your shooting ability significantly, whether you fire prone or kneeling. One effective position was used by American snipers in Vietnam, in which you sit on the ground with one knee up and the other leg tucked underneath.
Every shooter has a stance that works for them, so find one that you’re most comfortable with. Remember to keep the stock of your rifle tucked tightly into the meat of your shoulder.
Also keep in mind that there’s a main vein where your stock is, so controlled breathing is essential. For long shots, exhale, wait for your heart rate to slow, and remain still before squeezing the trigger.
Consistency In Shooting Is key
One of the biggest separations between shooters is commitment to a routine. Especially in the beginning, the transition to long-range shooting is hard work.
When shooting long distances, consistent practice is key, which helps to build muscle memory.
Mental toughness means practicing often and shooting in tight groups frequently. Muscle memory can help with breathing habits, trigger tension, and reloading.
One important aspect for long-distance shooting is your routine afterward. After you clean your weapon, what do you do?
You might need to wipe off the lenses of your scope and place the lens caps, but taking care of your rifle makes a difference. Dust or dirt can affect accuracy and rifling, so you should invest in a gun safe to keep your weapon clean and protected between shoots.
It is interesting that one of the most mystical elements of rifle-shooting (after buying a rifle scope) is getting a scope sight mounted correctly and, when done, finding out if the rifle will shoot straight after zeroing.
So, if you are not a pro on mounting a rifle scope, check out this guide below.
What You’ll Need
When mounting a rifle scope, the tools you’ll need can be as simple as a correctly sized screwdriver, and sometimes a small open-end wrench. (This all depends on the type of mounts being used, however, and yes, there are differences by the dozens).
A bench-rest system is a great way to install a scope. In some cases, an Allen wrench is also advised, or even required, to lock down ring screws. (However, in other situations, the full array of gunsmith tools are required when receiver bases and ring systems need installing).
A bench rest is a helpful tool to keep everything you’ll need close by while mounting your rifle scope.
When going to work on a rifle scope mounting job, it is nice to have a clean, clear space to do the work. Even the use of a gun vise or mount is a great idea, and can save both time and effort in the event parts fall away from the scope or rifle.
If you’re worried about mounting a scope being a difficult task, let me put your mind at ease; I mount scopes while watching my favorite hockey game at the same time!
There are some jobs that require tapping new screw holes, and advanced mounts that require more parts then the scope contains. However, in general, most mounts are field dirt simple to work with and figure out for yourself.
Time needed: 15 minutes.
Step-by-step rifle scope mounting
Set scope in place
Currently, modern rifle scopes are making more use of the Weaver-style bases that carry a rail with notches cut into the upper surface. The rings are set up with matching cuts and all you need to do is drop the scope into the rail.
Be sure both rings are aligned with the correct notches, and set in place solidly. Once you have the rings in place, simply draw down the primary (large) compression bolt or nut.
Independent bases are a bit more work in that each is set on the pilot holes in the receiver, one at a time and with two screws In most cases, they are set in place and tightened down. The bases are always paired with a specific scope ring type. Be sure the rings and bases match. If you buy them as a set, this should not be an issue.
IMPORTANT: At times the base sets are not exactly the same height. Check each with care. In most cases (but not all), the higher base is forward, and the lower base is toward the rear. That is because the height of the receiver section is different. If bases were the same, you would have an issue there.
A suggestion here is to get new combination rings and base systems, often called cantilever bases and rings. All you do is this:
Using a Weaver-style (Picatinny-style) mounting rail, drop the whole system into place on the grooves, split the ring half sections, then set your scope onto the lower half of the ring group. (If you can’t do that, it is advised that you not shoot a gun either!)
Now, with the rings installed as above, it’s time to align the scope within the rings. Keep in mind that the crosshairs require leveling, so leave the rings with the installed screws loose enough to allow you to rotate the scope as required.
Also, be sure to check eye relief at this point. You’re may regret having leveled the scope, then tightened it down, and found that you’re stretching a mile to see through your scope.
Why do I know this?
Because it has happened to me more times then I should admit here.
When leveling the scope’s crosshairs, see the horizontal line and set the scope in a solid rest position.
Now look through the scope, again with the rings not turned very tight against the scope tube in order to allow that horizontal line to run level with an object that is of a known correct level. This can be the edge of a building, or some other related structure.
When I align my scope, I use a bubble-mounted system that long-range shooters use, or at times, I just wing it and go with my gut feeling as to a correct level. When I recheck my level after mounting, I am almost always right on the money. I guess that comes with experience, as there are some weeks when I mount five or six rifle scopes in as many days.
One thing is for sure, you don’t want to count on the person at the gun counter for all the help.
I have friends who who do work in gun shops and sure as heck know their stuff. However, some of the “help” needs a tune-up and could well take a course on scope-mounting and parts sales to be sure. So, don’t assume everything is correct because the person at the gun counter says so.
I have heard about hunters and shooters who went on “exclusive” and costly trips with a gun that was never checked beyond the gun counter. Not a good idea, as some have found out when a once-in-a-lifetime trophy walks out in front of them at 100 yards and they miss the shot because the scope is heading south when the shooter is looking west. (An exaggeration, but hopefully you get the point).
So if you’re deer hunting for example and your scope isn’t dialed in exactly right, you’re going to have an errant shot. Arguments about what caliber is best don’t really matter if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at!
Shoot for final zero
Remember, just because a salesman at a gun shop “bore-sights” your scope for you, that is only a starter adjustment in terms of locating the correct zero for the rifle and scope.
Bore sighting means getting a bullet some place on paper, with luck. After the rifle is bore-sighted, additional adjustments are necessary. In other words, shoot the rifle before ever counting on the correct sight adjustments on your new scope sight.
As a final note, always shoot a group of at least three rounds for a quick double-check in terms of your bullet’s impact accuracy. Also, don’t be alarmed if someone shooting your rifle hits a different zero point. We all shoot a bit differently, even with textbook training. What is your zero belongs to you.
A word about lapping the scope rings. Lapping means taking any possible variation in roundness off the inside of the rings, so that you have as much contact between rings and scope as possible. Lapping the rings is a good idea if you’re shooting bench-rest or super accuracy group development.
I do not lap my rings because my good rifles and ammunition all shoot sub-½ MOA, and that is all anyone not shooting bench-style events needs. (Bench-rest is shooting for the smallest hole possible in the target. One hole groups win in many cases.)
Once you have properly mounted and sighted in your rifle, that doesn’t mean you never check it again.
Screws and bases need to be tight and checked often, as even general transport can cause vibration and lead to a loosening of parts. Bumping your scope when pulling your gun up to a tree stand is another thing that might cause you to need to check the accuracy of your rifle scope.
No worse feeling exists in the sport of waterfowl hunting than pulling up to dust a flock of mallards and then… your gun misfires.
I’ve been in that frustrating situation before and I don’t want you to experience the pain I did.
So, how exactly can you keep this from happening?
Well, it begins with the firearm you select. I’m not here to push one brand over another, but rather to help you find the gun and gauge that best fits you so you can go with it.
What exactly is shotgun “fit?” Scroll down and watch the video near the end of the article to find out!
Does price matter?
I’ve hunted with guys who bought the latest and greatest shotgun on the market only to watch them miss every duck that decoyed. I’ve also hunted with guys who were shooting a “pawn shop special” and they absolutely slaughtered every duck within a mile radius.
So, what was the difference?
At the end of the hunt, you want a shotgun that has performed as expected, hopefully resulting in a successful harvest.
Well, one group of guys thought the expensive gun would make them a good shot. The other group knew they needed a gun that they were extremely comfortable shooting in several different conditions.
Simply put, the best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable using.
There are three main types of shotguns. The most popular is the semi-auto, followed by the pump-action, and the over-under. They all come in different gauges and all are solid choices when it comes to waterfowl hunting. I have personally hunted with all three for at least one season each. As I hunted with each, I found there are pros and cons to all.
I prefer to hunt with a 12-gauge shotgun, regardless of the type of shotgun I am shooting. But, enough about me, let’s look at three critical factors in determining the best shotgun for ducks and waterfowl.
As far as dependability goes, an over-under is going to fire every time the trigger is pulled. A pump-action is going to fire basically every time, as well. The weather conditions are not prone to affect the firing capabilities of an over-under or pump-action.
The semi-automatic shotgun is a different story.
Part of having a dependable gun is knowing it won’t jam or misfire.
As long as they are clean and lightly oiled in warm conditions, a semi-automatic works great! However, in my experience, when the cold weather hits, semi-auto shotguns tend to become finicky.
So, if you’ve ever wondered “how long do ducks live?” Well, a lot longer than you’d like, if your gun won’t fire dependably in the cold weather!
So, when I need a gun that is dependable, I hunt with a pump-action or an over-under.
Ruggedness, once again, goes to an over-under or a pump-action. The over-under has so few moving parts that make it such a rugged gun. Now, this does not apply if your over-under is a gun that only comes out of the gun safe to get oiled and then gently placed back in its place.
Shotgun types come in different gauges… my personal favorite is the 12-gauge.
The over-under I used was as basic as they are made, perfect for the tough conditions I hunt. A pump-action has a few more moving parts, but in my experience hunting with one, they are just as rugged as an over-under.
The semi-auto shotguns I hunted with were not as rugged as I had hoped they would be, but in recent years semi-auto shotguns have made tremendous strides in ruggedness.
Yes, many times by the third shot, the birds are out of range. However, when the ducks are back-flapping in your face, that third shot is a huge advantage. Every hunt I am on, I will consistently shoot all three shells in a single volley. When I hunted with my over-under, I desperately missed having that third shot.
And, the best shotgun type is…
As I mentioned above, all three shotgun types have their pros and cons. However the one that stands out the most is the 12 gauge pump-action shotgun.
The pump-action shotgun is a workhorse. It is not anything fancy but it consistently gets the job done. Time after time, adding birds to the limit. No matter the weather conditions, a pump-action shotgun will deliver what it promises… three shells.
The reasons I choose to hunt with a pump-action shotgun over the other two styles are because a pump-action is typically more dependable than a semi-auto, it is extremely rugged, and I shoot more birds with a pump-action than an over-under.
I admit I am extremely tough on my gear. So, I need a firearm that will hold up to the abuse, enduring throughout the season.
A pump-action shotgun does this for me more consistently than the other two styles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t bring my other guns on a shoot or two during the season.
I love shooting my semi-auto when the weather permits and my over-under has become my turkey hunting shotgun.
Whether you are just getting into duck hunting or waterfowl hunting has been a lifestyle for a while now, a pump-action shotgun is a tool that won’t let you down.
Before purchasing any firearm, do your research. I would recommend not only reading the online reviews, but also getting your hands on the gun you intend to buy prior to buying it. This ensures that it fits you well and you are more than comfortable handling it.