Getting started in long range shooting (long post)


August 18, 2004, 12:03 AM
Hello all,

I'd like to get started in long range shooting and would like to get some advice from you guys. First, I'll tell you a bit about myself: I'm a 20 year old college student working at Wal Mart. I started off as most young boys with a BB gun, that's where I developed most of my skills, honestly. I have a Marlin .22 bolt action that I've shot quite a bit and have become a decent shot with it. I've shot several other guns and I like to think that I'm a decent shot. ALL of my shooting has been with open sights, I've only fired a rifle with a scope once.

With that said, let me tell you what I want to do. As I said before, I want to get started in long range shooting (to me that's 500-1000yds). Now, it's time for the questions Where can I get started, where should I look/go to first? Books, websites, ect. I am a lefty, how important is it that a lefty have a left handed bolt gun. Would shooting a right handed bolt gun affect my shooting at all? What rifle and scope would you recommend I start out with? I'd prefer to spend around $600 for a the setup, but could probably go up to $800. I was looking around in the sporting goods dpt. at Wal Mart today and saw a synthetic Remington 700 ADL and Winchester 70 for under $400, I believe the Winchester came with a scope too. I also saw a Weatherby Vanguard for around $430-470 too. Would any of these make a good starter? I really don't want something that I'm going to want to put in the closet once I get good, I'd like something that can grow along with me.

How important is a good scope when shooting long range? Is it more important than the rifle itself or less? Any scope recommendations?

How about caliber? Initially, I wanted to go with .223, but I was told that once you get to about 600yds and beyond, that caliber is marginal at best. I expect that most will say .308 and that is fine. But I really wanted something a bit smaller for the sake of comfort and cost. But if .308 is what I need, .308 is what I will get. And I don't really plan on reloading. The learning curve seems a bit high and the cost of admission is up there too.

Well, it looks like I've run out of questions for now, but I'm sure I'll think of more soon enough

Thanks to all who respond,


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Steve Smith
August 18, 2004, 01:04 AM
Step one, decide to compete. You'll advance faster and farther.

Step two, decided on a particular disciplene. I'll get back with you later...busy now. Dont' buy anything till you've decided on a particular genre of shooting competition.

Steve Smith
August 18, 2004, 10:30 AM
Ok, I'm back. Hopefully you have decided to go with my two suggestions so far.

Now, how would you feel about shooting at those distances with iron sights? The reason I ask is that there are many more iron sight matches from 200 to 1000 yards than there are for scopes, all things considered.

Don't listen to what they say about the poor little .223. It is winning at 1000 (over the .308 anyway) because it is better. :eek: That said, it is the BEST who are doing that with it. Most others won't see the advantages.

Now, for starting out playing this game, I have some (biased) opinions. I think someone who aspires to shoot well at 1000 should start with NRA Highpower across-the-course. You'll shoot at 200, 300, and 600 yards with iron sights. Once you get a few years in doing that, I think you'd have a much better grasp on what to do. Then you can switch to Palma/Long Range and step out to 1000.

FWIW, you can do this pretty cheaply if you take suggestions from veterans.

Sound like a plan?

August 18, 2004, 10:45 AM
I'd suggest registering at SnipersHide ( and asking that same question, or doing a search for others who have already asked it. There are a bunch of good guys over there who will go out of their way to help you. There's a ton of knowledge about long range shooting there, too. They tend to emphasize practical shooting- bipods and field rests- over benchrest shooting, but there are 1000 yard benchresters and f-class (belly benchrest) shooters there as well.

August 18, 2004, 11:11 AM
Steve is right. Try finding out if there are any NRA High-power rifle matches in your area. Go to the matches. You will learn a lot. Shooters are always willing to help new people. Someone will probably loan you a rifle to use or there will be club rifles available. High power matches will teach you skills to be a real rifleman versus someone who plinks.

Jon Coppenbarger
August 18, 2004, 12:43 PM
I have the name of the director for the range in memphis and will send it to you later when I get home. oak ridge also had a range out to 600 also.

You really need to go to a few different matches to learn what you want to spend your money on and ask some questions, I will let steve give you a link to another web sight that caters to long range match shooting alot.
we both get on there also.
before you spend ask and learn as if you plan on getting serious highpower is not cheap but long range cost even more to do it right.

nothing like shooting a perfect score with open sights at 500,600,800,900 and 1,000 yards.
alot of calibers are fine for long range but palma is 308 or 223 only then you have scope classifications and different things, big matches in raton this coming weekend and last week was both long range national at camp perry and also last week was the canadian long range matches.

if you get serious about it plan on travelling alot for long range but with regular highpower you get the chance to shoot most every weekend.

August 18, 2004, 12:48 PM
I would agree with the recommendation to cut your teeth on across-the-course matches. You'll learn how to use iron sights, a sling, read the wind, and build a good position. You'll also be able to get a worthy rifle for the $800 you're looking to spend. If you want, you can use the same rifle (at some disadvantage) to shoot long range.

Should you decide to go the "long range tactical rifle" route, for $800 you'll probably be able to afford a scope and mount with enough elevation adjustment to shoot at 1000yds and have $50 leftover for the rifle, bipod and other goodies.

Finally, if there isn't a 1000yd range nearby, this may weigh into your decision.


August 18, 2004, 05:08 PM
This is the stock advice I usually give to newbies who wanna get into long-range on a "limited" budget, or those who don't want to reload--think about .22LR in a scoped Ruger 10/22. There are plenty of them in the used market for cheap. Once you've practiced enough, you can sell the rifle in the used market for damn near what you've got in it. It doesn't really matter how accurate the used 10/22 is, because you can still shoot it to its' potential and learn how to control human error and read the wind, lighting, mirage, etc.

I'd stay away from the .223 for long range for the reason Steve cited---the BEST can take it to advantage over the .30 cal, and by default, those folks have LOTS of experience. I must say, my impression was that great .223 performances are done with custom rigs and reloading equipment, not an $800 OEM rifle/scope setup and factory ammo.

The 10/22 (or any .22LR) offer several big advantages for the uninitiated, which I list in no particular order:

minimal recoil---nothing influences the shot placement to a novice more than the unexpectedly "heavy" recoil of a .30 caliber gun.

CHEEP ammo, even the match grade stuff--I'd bet it's no more than 10 cents a round for match grade, and regular plinking ammo is 2 cents a round (retail including tax). This factor, coupled with the light recoil, adds up to LOTS of shooting during one session, without fatigue setting in. More practice can be had for less cost, and the learning curve can be generally smoother because of the opportunity provided by longer sessions.

One can shoot at a very short distance and see/learn the effects of wind--at 25, 50, 75 and 100yd (and learn to use a scope well and proficiently at the same time). If your access to long-distance ranges is limited by circumstance or commute time, this can be a factor.

Most people I advise in this manner pooh-pooh my idea, I'm think mostly because the .22LR isn't the "manly" cartridge they had their heart set on. However, store-bought ammo at internet prices is bound to cost you some long green--typically, Black Hills and Federal GM (both are the match standard) will run you $13 a box, and at 65 cents a shot, it gets expensive to learn trigger control, breathing, cheek weld, parallax, hard-holding, etc., and we're not even talking about the target yet. (God forbid you're paying retail sporting goods store prices--they're at ~$20 a box now. That's $1 a shot.) Couple just the cost of ammo with the wrong rifle purchase, and you'll lose more than the cost of a 10/22 trying to sell the rifle to acquire the correct one for your desired game.

Whatever rifle you choose, I'd suggest one with a heavy barrel (specifically one for "target" work, not hunting) that will cool faster(theoretically), heat up slower, recoil less, and shoot straighter. As to the scope, there's an old axiom---spend more on the scope than the cost of the rifle. You can't shoot what you can't see, and that goes double for long range work.

I agree with the rest of the guys on their main point--visit some longrange events and talk to the folks that seem experienced and friendly enough to share. If you've got the eyesight for naked eye shooting, more power to you....there's no reason for a scope unless your eyes require it to see the target. Good groups is good groups---obviously, they'll be tighter and more easily acquired with the aid of a scope, but there's nothing that says an iron-sight group is "too" big because it was shot with only iron sights.

Jon Coppenbarger
August 18, 2004, 05:37 PM
I have a palma rifle in 308 but have not shot it and bought it a year ago.
Have not shot palma or 800 plus matches since the ca. long range championships back in 89. (sounds kinda like a war story , sorry!).

Steve hows this I put in a order for a neiska in 6mm and plan on also a nighforce scope also by spring. getting a deal so I should be in it right at around $3,400 for the rifle, scope and sights. This way I can shoot all of the events at perry from the trophy matches and nra matches with my ar's to long range with the neiska to palma with my winchester model 70.

Still cheaper than a tubb 2000 and with sights and scope.
you see you can run into large amounts to compete long range.

A scope at 600 is nice and so it is at longer ranges also. one thing it allows you to do is see mirage and changes right the whole time and you do not get caught up in let offs and pickups in the wind as much. also it allows you if the changes are slight to hold off left or right to compensate for those changes with out clicking knobs.
Nothing like shooting your whole 22 shot string in 6 minutes or so. or your palma string in under 4 minutes alot less wind changes you have to adjust to or the conditions you are exposed to and the fresher the shots are.
I do see very good shooters do it close to that with open sights but they are shooting good calibers like 6.5 x284 and others and they are not bothered by the 1/2 moa changes as they are still in the 10 ring.

August 18, 2004, 08:20 PM
Well, since you don't have tons of money to spend on a rifle and a quality scope, consider service rifle matches. These are probably the easiest to get into, but the hardest to master. You could use a CMP M1, which you could get for about 500 dollars, or you could try to get a used AR-15 for around 500 dollars, both of which would be great for doing service rifle matches.

August 18, 2004, 09:37 PM
Of course I agree with those who already posted: if you want to become a serious rifle shooter, you need to compete.
If you are on a budget I also have a couple suggestions that may or may not help you.
First of all, you can do a lot of shooting with your .22 and you can really improve your marksmanship if you are serious about it. Forget about shooting beer cans and all that and start shooting paper and keeping track of your progress. There is no reason why you can't shoot "longish" ranges with you .22; and you will learn a lot by doing so. This also might be easier than finding a 1000 yard range. You will learn about bullet drop and how to adjust you sights and scope to compensate for it. No more Kentucky windage or hold over; learn how many minutes your sight adjustments move your bullet at the distance you are firing. It will also give you an appreciation for wind and how a given wind speed and direction effect your bullet.
I have not yet competed in my first Highpower match although I am going to (they are in the process of building the range at my club, the next closest range that shoots Highpower would be about a 200 mile round trip). However, I participate in another sport that involves long range rifle shooting, although it might just be a regional sport. We call it, Vintage Military Bolt Action Rifle. We shoot military surplus bolt action rifles at steel plates. Most people use surplus ammo. At our local matches we shoot out to 400 yards with the closet target usaully at 200. I stated attending a match held in Utah three times a year that goes out to 800 yards for the match and out past 1000 yards in the side matches. You use a surplus rifle in "as issued" condition including issue sights. The beauty of this sport is that almost anyone can afford to become involved. There are plenty of people shooting $100 rifles in this sport and you will be amazed at what you can do. I don't know if people are doing this anywhere besides Nevada and Utah or not. If not, they should be. We had over 40 shooters at our match last weekend. Oh, and, I won. :D

August 18, 2004, 09:47 PM for a cheap gun the winchester super shadow if very accurate in 270 wsm.

August 18, 2004, 09:59 PM
Yet another recommendation to start NRA Highpower competition.

I am in a similar boat. 20, working full-time during college breaks, part-time during college. Fortunately I have the advantage of living at home at the moment, which is a huge help in accumulating gear and such-not.

Start Highpower with an AR-15 in the Service Rifle class. You should be able to get a good one around your $800 limit. It may require digging though. No advice where on that, didn't have to do it (traded my dad out of a DCM-spec AR-15 to start with).

Don't worry about equipment to start with. Something to lay on on the ground helps and a jacket is nice to keep the sling from chewing your arm up. Mitt or glove is also a luxury item that is almost essential.

If time and space permit, learn to reload. I have bad news that I know alot of people don't want to hear: a simple, cheap LEE reloading setup is adequate to get into this game. I made my NRA Master card across-the-course loading on this machine Pro 1000 (

Should you decide to get into Highpower, check out Lots of helpful members and experienced shooters to get you started and through problems.

Hope this all helps,

August 19, 2004, 01:46 PM
Well, since you don't have tons of money to spend on a rifle and a quality scope, consider service rifle matches. These are probably the easiest to get into, but the hardest to master. You could use a CMP M1, which you could get for about 500 dollars

I've been thinking about that I and thik it sounds like a good idea. I've been looking around and trying to find out if there is CMP and service rifle shooting in my area, but I can't find anything. There's got to be something, though...

August 19, 2004, 03:30 PM
not sure I ever want to get into formal long range competition with known distance shoots.

However my reasoning behind wanting to develop my long range shooting ability has everything to do with varminting.

Sub minute of squirrel at various distances is all I care about, once the little flea bags get out beyond 400 yards or so it becomes neccesary to be on top of your game. Then all the concerns with sub-MOA performance, knowing trajectories, and making range estimations all become pretty valid concerns.

Love varminting, love the relative unknown distances that come into play, seems to be very practical means of developing long range abilities when used in conjunction with valuable range time where you develop/test loads.

If I did get into competitions it would be something along the lines of unknown distance shoots with multiple targets across a variety of landscapes, up hill, down hill, odd ball target shapes. The sniper matches seem to have a lot of this type of shooting but I would like to eliminate the whole stalking/crawling stuff.

A lot of my target shooting now has me taking my target frame out into the middle of nowhere, dropping it off on one hillside, driving back across a small valley to a random spot. Then getting out to settle in behind the mil-dot scope while doing range estimations and trying to make accurate scope adjustments as well as first round hits on the target. If I screw up the adjustment for the first round or two, after I finally zero I'll shoot a 5 or 10 shot group to drive back out and check the group I fired. After replacing the target, I head to a new spot. For now I'm using a known dimension target to make the work with the mil-dots easier and results are more accurate.

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