Everyone likes to push the limits of shooting range, from movie writers to plinkers to serious 1000 yard shooters with bench rifles. It’s an obsession I share on a hunting level. My self-imposed shooting limit for hunting is 400 yards. At this distance I can blow up a milk jug full of water with consistency. Why a milk jug? Because it is fun and I can see the results instantly when I pull the trigger. Target shooting is much more instructive on what you are doing right or wrong. I target shoot to make sure the gun is putting bullets on the bull’s eye and then fun shoot to make sure I can hit what may need hitting. Accordingly in the off season I like to try to splash mud puddles at an extreme downhill angle, shooting offhand at 250-300 yards. Although I wouldn’t shoot at a deer off hand at this angle and distance, the puddle splashes every time! This fun shooting is always done from field positions. I practice the longest shots from prone with a carefully placed jacket or pack. If I get nervous or the cross hairs aren’t settling down, I don’t shoot. Likewise when hunting, if the deer or the crosshair isn’t absolutely still, I won’t pull the trigger. When I do pull the trigger, things tend to explode.
I have friends that stretch shooting distance farther than I do with solid success. They also spend more time loading and shooting each year. Just be certain that when hunting, you are shooting shots that you can make, and when practicing you are taking some that stretch your abilities.
The basics of stretching your shooting ability are simple. If a gun capable of accurate shooting at 500 yards is within an inch at 100 yards, all you have to do is elevate the sight picture the required distance mentioned on the ballistics chart and hold the crosshairs totally without movement. Use a bigger target at longer ranges to make sure your first shots register and adjust accordingly. Then shoot, shoot, shoot until your comfort level extends past the bench and sandbags and into field conditions.
Modern rifles give us many options. Serious shooters often have several long range guns and try new rifles as often as possible. I would break it down into a continuum, starting with the center fire .22 caliber pea shooters that have fast speed and great accuracy at mid distances and up to the oh so serious .50 cal bench rifles that spend a lot of time at ranges of 1000 yards and beyond. The mid range rifles I consider hunting rifles starting at .243 for deer and .270 for elk have great accuracy potential within field shooting conditions. Many companies, notably Savage, that used to make hunting grade guns have started to add target grade features to new rifles. The farther out you get, the more every detail matters. Trigger pull for long range guns is key because the trigger pull is the only necessary movement that can take the gun off target once everything else has settled in.
Shooting in the field
The last deer I shot at a long range was 355 yards. I watched the 2 deer in the brush for well over an hour before I took the shot I wanted. At first I was prone, laying over a log and although I was solid, the crosshairs wouldn’t quite settle in. I moved a few feet and wrapped my prone position around a 4’ diameter stump resting on my jacket. When the deer finally stood broadside, my crosshairs were completely still. I could see about 5 milk jugs worth of kill shot and elevated my crosshair just under the top of the deer. The deer had no idea it was being pursued and dropped like a rock.