How to perfect your long range shooting technique. Whether shooting for hunting practise, to hone your marksmanship skills, or for competition follow these top tips and set yourself up for success.
When long range shooting, it is essential that your position is solid to ensure the rifle you are shooting remains completely steady. Most long range shooting is conducted in a prone position. Therefore, your body must be well grounded, with both elbows and the supporting forearm on the ground.
To protect your shoulder from the recoil of the rifle when shooting big calibres over long distances your weaker hand should support the rifle butt in the shoulder and be grounded.
Don’t try and force your position. Successful long range shooting requires patience and finesse. Make sure you are comfortable and relaxed, that the rifle is pointing naturally at your target, requiring just fine adjustments to move the crosshairs onto your chosen point of aim.
If you need to realign the rifle, do this by moving your whole body starting with the legs, rather than just twisting your torso. You may also need to lift and replace the rifle/bipod.
The Perfect View
The view through your riflescope must be perfect with no shadows and with a full crisp picture. Any shadows or tunnel effect will induce parallax error and throw the shot off target. This is especially true for long range shooting. Use all of the adjustments at your disposal to align your eyes with the centre of the ocular bell, making sure there is sufficient eye relief for your calibre. Read our handy riflescope guide here.
Be certain the front (objective) lens and the rear (ocular) lens are in perfect alignment. Find out more about the parts of a riflescope here. This can be achieved by moving your eye slightly closer to the ocular bell to create two circles, with the rear lens just exceeding the diameter of the front lens. This process of “lining up the circles” is just as important with a telescopic sight as it is with aperture sights on target rifles. Once you are in alignment, slowly return your head to its neutral position ready for the shot.
Squeezing the Trigger
The trigger on your rifle should be squeezed with the centre of the pad of your index finger and your fingernail parallel to the trigger guard, so the motion is straight back. Squeeze the trigger whilst maintaining a fixed gaze through the scope at the moment of report. Grip is a critical part of this process when long range shooting. Some experienced marksman suggest applying opposing pressure through the thumb to offset the pressure applied to the trigger, maintaining a neutral contact through the cycle.
Focus on the Crosshairs
Commit to memory where your crosshairs are when the shot breaks. You should then refocus on the moment the bullet hits the target or lands nearby. Long range shooting requires a calm focus, ignoring the sometimes-violent recoil produced by magnum calibres. Resist the opportunity to flinch by focussing entirely on the target and maintaining a clear post-shot sight picture. Both sets of information are vital to the placement of your next shot. Find out more about reticle aim points from Hawke here.
Holding the Rifle
Hold the rifle firmly, but not in a death grip, in order to control recoil. A relaxed, but firm grip from a stable position allows your entire body to dissipate recoil comfortably without pulling the rifle off line during the shot cycle.
When looking through the sight, your cheek should firmly engage the stock with the head held reasonably upright and not at an angle. Good ‘cheek weld’ is vital for effective long range shooting. Keep a firm hold of the pistol grip with your thumb curled around it for safety. Leaving your thumb behind the bolt or alongside the safety catch can become a painful habit if you progress to large calibre rifles with heavy recoil.
Build from the Ground Up
Your ability to shoot consistently at short range is the first element of long range shooting success. Practice at closer ranges and develop good habits. Only when you’ve perfected your routine, corrected bad habits and you’re confident in your ability and equipment should you think about shooting longer distances. Long range shooting requires both skill and confidence. As you become adept at closer ranges and understand the effect that small changes can have to your performance, you can use this information to internally calculate the appropriate adjustments over longer distances.
Study the effect of wind and gravity on bullets
It may seem obvious to state, but the further the distances over which you are shooting, the more vital that overcoming the external variables become to your success. Invest in a wind metre, a laser range finder and an appropriate ballistic solution for your rifle. Long range shooting is as much a science as it is an art form. Time spent developing the best loads and ammunition combinations for your rifle is a highly worthwhile investment. Understanding the impact of wind and environmental conditions on your chosen round will revolutionise your experience.
Once the points above have been fully addressed, long range shooting becomes about the science of measuring the actual distance from rifle to target, calculating wind speed and direction and having proven ballistic data to work with. Hawke’s reticles are designed with ballistics in mind, find out more.
Knowing only the wind speed and direction at the firing point may not be enough. The topography, trees, mirage, multiple wind values en route to the target and updrafts and downdrafts can all affect the flight of the bullet. When long range shooting, be sure to use all of the environmental markers to your advantage – both near and far. Recognise the direction of the wind along the bullets trajectory by looking at the way in which the grass is blowing, or trees are leaning. Is there a valley in between that could cause errant air currents? Only the experience of many rounds fired and spotted can provide the marksmanship skills necessary to hit the target. Watch the Hawke Endurance scope on the range at 400 yards, with explosives!
Set yourself up for Success.
Although the process of developing long range shooting skills is hugely rewarding, it is being able to make the shot when it counts that really matters. For many rifle shots, this might mean shooting at live game within a few hundred yards or less if the conditions are complex. The situational differences must be taken into consideration, but by honing your marksmanship skills you will be able to follow your shooting routine almost unconsciously, leaving your focus on your fieldcraft and your quarry. Watch the Hawke team at a long range shooting range before a hunt.
Don’t confuse long range shooting with real hunting
If your target has a pulse, show respect and get close enough to deliver the first shot with absolute certainty. Watch the Vantage on a .22 out to 300 yards. Before addressing live quarry, recognise your responsibility to the animal and as a proponent of ethical shooting practice. Make sure you have developed the requisite marksmanship skills to give you the very best chance of success resulting in a humane despatch. Always assume that you will need to make a follow-up shot (even if you don’t) so that you are ready to remedy any unfortunate situations. There is no doubt that the development of long range shooting skills will enhance your success in the field, but they should never be used to make up for a lack of fieldcraft.
Learn more about Hawke Life | Like Hawke on Facebook | Follow Hawke on Twitter | Follow Hawke on Instagram