THE SET-UP FOR LONG RANGE SHOOTING.
Before the budding Long-Range Shooter can apply the Marksmanship Principles to achieve consistent and repeatable results (shots on target) the rifle must be setup correctly for the intended use. Long Range Shooting doesn’t always require exhaustively expensive equipment; however, there are some fundamental capabilities the rifle should possess in order to allow the shooter to be comfortable, manage recoil, and maintain consistency.
Many factory rifles can outperform the shooter and there is no need to go out and buy custom rifles worth many thousands of dollars to achieve consistent results. An out of the box, sub-MOA rifle will meet the needs of most shooters; however, the rifle should be selected to suit the application for use and that means the bullet. Starting from the bullet (projectile back) the shooter can start to identify the specifications of the rifle such as barrel length, barrel taper, twist rate, weight, muzzle brake and trigger quality etc.
The rifle should be fitted with:
• A bipod with a pivot (cant) capability that can have the tension adjusted,
• An adjustable stock that allows the length of pull (not critical) and cheek weld to be customised,
• A quality scope with quality rings and bases,
• A bubble level (anti-cant device), and
• Muzzle Brake (not critical).
The bipod is used to support the rifle and should have bases/feet suitable for the environment in which they will be employed. Having an adjustable tension pivot/cant function greatly assist the Shooter to achieve natural point of aim (NPA) and prevents the Shooter from “muscling” the rifle into position.
The bipod should be of sufficient strength and quality for it to be “loaded” forward by the Shooter. For this reason, the bipod should be mounted so that the legs face forward when in the closed position. In addition to cant/pivot and tension adjustment the bipod needs to have variable height on individual sides so it can be adjusted to the Shooters position but also permit a level rifle on uneven surfaces.
STOCK / BUTT
An adjustable stock that allows the length of pull (not critical) and cheek weld to be customised to the Shooter’s body and position. Fitting an adjustable/modular stock also allows the shooter to achieve maximum comfort behind the rifle which greatly affects natural point of aim, consistency and loading of the bipod.
Having the ability to configure the cheek weld will greatly assist the Shooter in achieving correct parallax by keeping their eye in the centre line of the scope. Folding stocks are preferable as they can be moved to the side for rifle maintenance without disturbing the cheek weld but are not legal in all states and territories.
Adjustable Length of Pull is not vital when shooting from the prone position, but assists with recoil management.
SCOPE, RINGS AND BASES
The rifle scope is the Shooter’s connection between the rifle and the Target. Time invested in choosing a rifle scope with the right specifications for the intended purpose is critical. The Shooter needs to put thought into reticle choice, determine if the scope will be used at night or low light, whether they want to dial/hold/dial & hold etc. Once a quality (not necessarily expensive) scope is selected the Shooter will need to select rings and bases.
Good quality rings will make the world of difference to the fitting of the scope. They will not require lapping, are usually always concentric and torque down evenly along their axis (ZeroTech recommends 25 in lbs of torque on the ring top screws). Poor quality rings have the potential to damage the tube of the scope and can require lapping to ensure they are concentric. Whether the rings are vertically split, or horizontally split is the choice of the shooter and does not affect their performance. Weight is another factor to consider, especially if the rifle will be carried i.e. hunting.
A Muzzle brake/ compensator will greatly reduce felt recoil when fitted. Some brakes look great but do not really do a lot to reduce felt recoil. When selecting a rifle for long range shooting the Shooter should attempt to select one with a threaded barrel so that a brake of choice can be fitted after. Alternatively, the rifle can have the barrel threaded and a brake fitted by a Gunsmith.
BUBBLE LEVEL / ANTI CANT DEVICE
When shooting long range, it can be difficult for the Shooter to accommodate for all the variables that could cause a shot to miss. One of the most difficult variables is wind. A canted rifle would cause shots to miss left and right and result in the Shooter or the Spotter believing it was an inadequate wind assessment. Fitting a bubble level to the scope will greatly assist in keeping the rifle upright and preventing cant; therefore, confusion in wind calls.
The main point to note with a bubble is that it is intended to keep the reticle level with the earth (gravity) when indexed correctly. Some Shooters mount the scope slightly offset from the rifle as it assists with placement of the butt into the pocket of the shoulder. As long as the scope reticle is level with the planet and the bubble is fitted to indicate this then the rifle can be canted to suit the comfort of the Shooter.
Some scope rings have bubble levels in them which make fitting easy; however, they prevent the above setup from working as they indicate the level of the rifle not the reticle. A tube mounted bubble permits this and are generally a lot less expensive than bubbles fitted in rings/bases.