Gun World - - Contents - By Chuck Tay­lor

Tac­ti­cal pre­ci­sion ri­fle shoot­ing can seem in­tim­i­dat­ing to get into, but it needn’t be as dif­fi­cult as most would be­lieve—if you make the right choices.

In­ter­est in long-range tac­ti­cal pre­ci­sion ri­fle shoot­ing now stands at an all-time high. Yet, the vast ma­jor­ity of prospec­tive afi­ciona­dos with whom I speak all say the same thing: They’d love to get in­volved in it but haven’t any idea how to go about it.

“It’s too hard; I’m not a good enough shot, and I don’t know how to get started,” is per­haps the most com­mon re­sponse. But is it that dif­fi­cult? Is long-range pre­ci­sion shoot­ing so tough that only a few ex­pert marks­men can han­dle it?


The an­swer is sim­ple: No, it isn’t too tough for the av­er­age shooter. With proper equip­ment se­lec­tion, setup, load de­vel­op­ment and prac­tice, long-range pre­ci­sion riflery isn’t nearly as dif­fi­cult as most be­lieve. The prob­lem is that they don’t know very many fun­da­men­tal things that crit­i­cally in­flu­ence per­for­mance, thus fos­ter­ing the idea that it’s too tough for the av­er­age shooter.

For the last 20 years, I’ve been in­volved in this kind of shoot­ing al­most full time. Along the way, I’ve dis­cov­ered how to achieve the kind of results we all dream of, and I think I’ve bro­ken some new ground, as well. Like any other kind of shoot­ing en­deavor, long-range work first in­volves a care­ful anal­y­sis—that is, defin­ing the ques­tions be­fore seek­ing an­swers, if you will.


Of­ten, this isn’t as easy or sim­ple as you might think. For ex­am­ple, what is “long range”? Four hun­dred me­ters, 500

me­ters? 750 me­ters? A thou­sand, per­haps? As inane as this might at first seem, the ques­tion must be an­swered be­fore you can pro­ceed ef­fi­ciently.

The ques­tion means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent shoot­ers. Thus, a bet­ter way of phras­ing it might be, “What is lon­grange pre­ci­sion shoot­ing to you?”

If your needs dic­tate a max­i­mum en­gage­ment range of no more than 500 me­ters, you can in­clude some of the smaller car­tridges in your list of pos­si­bil­i­ties. For this kind of work, the .223 (5.56x45mm NATO), .22-250 Rem­ing­ton, .243 Winch­ester, 6mm Rem­ing­ton and .257 Roberts are ca­pa­ble of ex­cel­lent per­for­mance.

If you re­quire longer-range ca­pa­bil­ity—say, out to 700 me­ters— the .308 Winch­ester (7.62x51mm NATO) and 7mm-08 are good choices. Both are ca­pa­ble of ex­cel­lent ac­cu­racy and pos­sess sat­is­fac­tory ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tic ca­pa­bil­ity out to this dis­tance.

Ranges past 700 me­ters re­quire a flat­ter tra­jec­tory than most car­tridges can pro­duce, so car­tridges such as the .257 Weatherby, .270 Winch­ester, .270 Weatherby, 7mm STW, .30-06, .30-338, .300 Winch­ester and .300 Weatherby are bet­ter op­tions.

Yes, I know that some great shots at these dis­tances have oc­ca­sion­ally been made with lesser car­tridges. Nev­er­the­less, from my per­spec­tive, ac­cu­racy by it­self isn’t enough, es­pe­cially against liv­ing (ei­ther an­i­mal or hu­man) tar­gets.

This is a sim­ple mat­ter, if prop­erly de­fined, but this is where most would-be long-range pre­ci­sion ri­fle­men get into trou­ble: They don’t de­fine their needs be­fore seek­ing solutions.

I’ve found that once this is accomplished, ef­fi­cient long-range shoot­ing is eas­ier to un­der­stand and pur­sue. In fact, it then be­comes sur­pris­ingly sim­ple, as long as you fol­low this sim­ple for­mula:

Se­lect the proper ri­fle type, cal­iber, sights and an­cil­lary equip­ment.

Set it up prop­erly.

Train with it, both on the range and in the field, to as­cer­tain that it is, in fact, set up prop­erly.

Con­tinue to train un­der real-world con­di­tions.


On my first hunt in Africa back in the 1970s, my pro­fes­sional hunter re­marked that he could eas­ily spot an Amer­i­can hunter, be­cause he car­ried a thou­sand-dol­lar ri­fle with a hun­dred­dol­lar tele­scopic sight on it. Be­cause he was an ex­pa­tri­ate Brit, at first, I thought the com­ment was just part of his dry wit, but sub­se­quent ob­ser­va­tions of other hunters in the field showed that there was sub­stan­tial ba­sis for his claim. Such is also of­ten the case with pre­ci­sion long-range shoot­ers.

Although many would-be long-range pre­ci­sion shoot­ers don’t re­al­ize it, scope se­lec­tion is fully as crit­i­cal as ri­fle se­lec­tion. The scope must pro­vide the right mag­ni­fi­ca­tion for the user’s needs, pos­sess good light-gath­er­ing and am­pli­fi­ca­tion




ca­pa­bil­ity, and be as clear as pos­si­ble—yet not be too heavy or bulky. It must also have fi­nite, yet pos­i­tive, el­e­va­tion and windage-ad­just­ment ca­pa­bil­ity.

Scope bases should be one piece for best rigid­ity and zero re­ten­tion, with the Pi­catinny rail be­com­ing ever more pop­u­lar. Thus, the Le­upold Mark 4 base is quite pro­lific, and for those need­ing more el­e­va­tion, Pre­ci­sion Re­flex, Inc. pro­duces a base that’s higher in the rear, pro­vid­ing an ad­di­tional 15 MOA.

I’ve also had ex­cel­lent results with Le­upold’s STD one-piece base, even though some opine that their two large windage screws “shoot loose” and cause zero loss af­ter a while. Be­cause I use LocTite on all screws in my guns when set­ting them up, I’ve had no prob­lems what­so­ever with them. As a re­sult, I see lit­tle va­lid­ity to this claim.

Rings, too, are im­por­tant. And again, Le­upold leads the way with its STD se­ries. With five dif­fer­ent heights avail­able, they sat­isfy nearly any tele­scope con­fig­u­ra­tion. For the Pi­catinny rail-type base, Mark 4 rings are also of­fered.

For­tu­nately for those who opt for a pre­ci­sion AR15, a Pi­catinny rail is in­te­gral to any so-called “flat-top” up­per re­ceiver, thus elim­i­nat­ing any need for a base. One needs only to clamp the ap­pro­pri­ate rings on it and mount the scope.


Some type of matte fin­ish is also ap­pro­pri­ate for ei­ther tac­ti­cal or hunt­ing use, be­cause both peo­ple and an­i­mals can eas­ily spot “shine” at ranges past 1,000 me­ters on a sunny day.

The weight and bulk of the fin­ished ri­fle must be bal­anced. A ri­fle that’s too heavy will shoot quite well but can­not re­al­is­ti­cally be car­ried in the field. On the other hand, if it’s too light— es­pe­cially if cham­bered for one of the more po­tent car­tridges— it will be highly por­ta­ble but in­ca­pable of the re­quired ac­cu­racy. It will also re­coil ex­ces­sively, thus pre­vent­ing you from shoot­ing it suf­fi­ciently well to reach its full po­ten­tial.

What is the best bal­ance? Well, it de­pends on you: your phys­i­cal build and ca­pa­bil­ity, as well as your tol­er­ance for re­coil. In my case, some­where be­tween 10 and 13 pounds works best. I pre­fer 26-inch, tar­get-crowned bar­rels be­tween .85 to 1 inch in di­am­e­ter for the high­est ve­loc­ity pos­si­ble with­out caus­ing the piece to be­come too un­wieldy.


Next, load de­vel­op­ment should be accomplished. My cri­te­ria in­clude not only ac­cu­racy, the flat­test-pos­si­ble tra­jec­tory and ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tics, but pen­e­tra­tion, as well. Re­gard­less of whether you’re try­ing to reach the vi­tals of a tro­phy game an­i­mal from any an­gle or pen­e­trate light cover (veg­e­ta­tion or glass, for in­stance) to reach a hu­man ad­ver­sary, pen­e­tra­tion can oc­ca­sion­ally be­come crit­i­cal.

And, with car­tridges pro­duc­ing truly high ve­loc­i­ties, it gets even worse: Most con­ven­tional bul­lets of­ten dis­in­te­grate upon im­pact and fail to pen­e­trate. For varmint hunt­ing, this presents no spe­cial prob­lem, be­cause de­struc­tion is, in fact, the whole point. But for tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions or big-game hunt­ing, we need more—that bul­let sim­ply must make it to vi­tal or­gans to be ef­fec­tive. If the car­tridge/load pro­duces more than 3,000 fps, things can get down­right tacky if you’re not care­ful with your bul­let se­lec­tion.

For­tu­nately, Barnes now of­fers its solid-cop­per Tipped Triple Shock, which pen­e­trates ex­tremely well while demon­strat­ing ex­cel­lent ex­pan­sion at the same time. And its solid-cop­per con­struc­tion al­lows us to re-think the bul­let weight/ pen­e­tra­tion/ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tics/tra­jec­tory/re­coil equa­tion.

We can se­lect a lighter bul­let than is pos­si­ble with tra­di­tional con­struc­tion, pro­duc­ing lower re­coil, higher ve­loc­i­ties and, there­fore, a flat­ter tra­jec­tory and greater max­i­mum ef­fec­tive range with­out sac­ri­fic­ing ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tics in the process.

At ve­loc­i­ties fewer than 3,000 fps, pre­ma­ture up­set isn’t an is­sue, so tra­di­tional bul­let con­struc­tion re­mains a valid op­tion. Thus, bul­let choices re­main quite flex­i­ble.

Once you’ve found the load that best sat­is­fies your re­quire­ments, first bore-sight the ri­fle at 25 me­ters, and then zero it. For best use of the weapon’s in­her­ent tra­jec­tory, it’s been my ex­pe­ri­ence that a 200-me­ter zero is gen­er­ally best with car­tridges pro­duc­ing fewer than 3,000 fps and 250 me­ters for those pro­duc­ing more.

How­ever, if your needs dic­tate (e.g., for use only in an ur­ban area, where the range will never ex­ceed 200 me­ters), 100-me­ter zero is also ac­cept­able.

Once you’ve “ze­roed out” the tur­rets (that is, loos­en­ing the lock screws and turn­ing the grad­u­ated tur­ret to zero, then retight­en­ing), cal­i­brate the el­e­va­tion click set­tings re­quired to hold dead-on in 25-me­ter range in­cre­ments out to what you con­sider to be “max­i­mum ef­fec­tive range.”

Many have found that with lower scope rings and/or with lower-ve­loc­ity car­tridges such as the .308 Winch­ester, the scope of­ten lacks suf­fi­cient el­e­va­tion ad­just­ment ca­pa­bil­ity to reach “max ef­fec­tive.” This is where a scope base with an extra 15 or 20 MOA (men­tioned ear­lier) comes in very handy. As this is accomplished, record your el­e­va­tion click set­tings at each range in your note­book for later tran­scrip­tion to a soft plas­tic-lam­i­nated range card.

Once this process is com­plete, re­turn to “zero range” and cal­i­brate in­ward in those same 25-me­ter range in­cre­ments un­til you’ve reached the clos­est range at which you ex­pect to use the weapon. Clicks will be “mi­nus,” rather than “plus.” The ze­ro­ing/cal­i­bra­tion process is now com­plete.

Now, go out and field-check your weapon and scope set­tings to make cer­tain they co­in­cide with those ob­tained on the range. You might well find that a click here or there is needed to tweak the set­tings to fi­nal per­fec­tion.

Once field-check­ing is com­plete, tran­scribe the fi­nal click data for each range via your com­puter or type­writer, re­duce it ap­pro­pri­ately in size and have it lam­i­nated in soft plas­tic. Then, place one copy of the re­sult­ing range card in a Zi­ploc bag you carry in your note­book; tape an­other to the side of the ri­fle’s butt­stock held to­ward your body, al­low­ing quick scope ad­just­ment in the field.


Although they are use­ful back­ups for the sys­tem I’ve just de­scribed, re­li­able laser rangefind­ers have made the con­cept es­sen­tially ob­so­lete. For range-find­ing, they’re not es­pe­cially pre­cise, be­cause they de­pend on too many as­sump­tions—for ex­am­ple, that a tar­get is a given height.

Such is only rarely the case, mak­ing truly pre­cise shots very, very dif­fi­cult, be­cause the shooter must use holdover shoot­ing based on im­pre­cise data. More­over, the math­e­mat­ics of mak­ing mil-dots suf­fi­ciently ef­fi­cient is, in my opin­ion, more trou­ble than it’s worth, in com­par­i­son to newer meth­ods.

Few po­lice SWAT teams still use them, be­cause from any per­spec­tive—tac­ti­cal, crim­i­nal or civil—the laser con­cept makes more sense. The mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to use them, be­cause it has many ri­fles equipped with scopes with that type of ret­i­cle. Nev­er­the­less, the mil­i­tary is also rapidly adapt­ing its meth­ods to the laser.



So, there you have it: long-range pre­ci­sion shoot­ing made sim­ple. You’ll find that you’ve elim­i­nated nearly all the prob­lems that make peo­ple think long-range pre­ci­sion riflery is a mix­ture of voodoo and alchemy. You’ll also find you’ve en­tered a won­der­fully re­ward­ing and rel­e­vant kind of shoot­ing—some­thing that will give you many hours of not only sat­is­fy­ing, but rel­e­vant, shoot­ing.

In fact, it has only one draw­back: You will have elim­i­nated all your ex­cuses for miss­ing! If you miss, you, as a marksman, blew it.

To pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing, I use an im­proved ver­sion of the leg­endary U.S. Ma­rine sniper Car­los Hath­cock‘s pre­ci­sion shoot­ing pro­to­col:

Com­fort­able body align­ment

Nat­u­ral point of aim on tar­get

Firm hand­shake grip on weapon with fir­ing hand

Ob­tain proper eye re­lief—no shad­ows in scope

Fo­cus on crosshairs, not the tar­get

Nor­mal res­pi­ra­tory pause

Slow, steady pres­sure on trig­ger

Fol­low through (press trig­ger all the way to the rear; do not re­lease too quickly)

Try it. I think you’ll agree. GW

While author Tay­lor prefers 26-inch heavy bar­rels, the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor is the op­er­a­tor’s mis­sion re­quire­ments. For ex­am­ple, even an 18- or 20-inch bar­rel is a good choice if mis­sion cri­te­ria war­rant it. Re­gard­less of bar­rel length or type, free float­ing pro­vides the best ac­cu­racy un­der the widest spec­trum of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. Syn­thetic stocks such

as these from H-S Pre­ci­sion (above) and Ac­cu­racy In­ter­na­tional (be­low) greatly en­hance per­for­mance and are,

there­fore, a must.

The author’s pre­ferred scopes: Le­upold Mk4

10x40mm LR/T M1 (left); Le­upold Vari-X 3i 6½-20x40mm (be­low); and U.S. Op­tics SN-3 5-25x53mm T-Pal

(right). Many ri­fles fea­ture a solid butt plate, but ven­ti­lated or solid rub­ber butt plates are a bet­ter idea, es­pe­cially if the ri­fle is cham­bered for a car­tridge that pro­duces no­tice­able re­coil.

Re­gard­less of stock type or man­u­fac­ture, the abil­ity to uti­lize quick-de­tach­able sling swivels is also a must.

If your in­tended use calls for it, a scope fea­tur­ing an il­lu­mi­nated ret­i­cle for low-light con­di­tions makes sense.

The scope should have pos­i­tive ¼ MOA click­ad­justable el­e­va­tion and windage ca­pa­bil­ity for the most pre­cise ze­ro­ing and rang­ing cal­i­bra­tion. Author Tay­lor also prefers those with tur­rets pro­tected by screw-on caps.

A laser rangefinder that gives good read­ings out to a full 1,000 me­ters or more in sun­light is crit­i­cally im­por­tant. As such, it should be con­sid­ered an in­dis­pens­able piece of equip­ment for your TPR kit. Two crit­i­cal ac­ces­sories. Above: an anti-cant de­vice (ACD). Be­low: an an­gle in­di­ca­tor de­vice (AID). Both have sub­stan­tial ef­fect on your shoot­ing un­der field con­di­tions and are musthave items for max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency. Above: Con­ven­tional bul­lets don’t ex­pand re­li­ably at longer ranges and of­ten dis­in­te­grate upon im­pact at high ve­loc­i­ties. Barnes

Tipped Triple Shock pen­e­trates and ex­pands ex­cep­tion­ally well, while the Barnes LRX is spe­cially de­signed for long-range per­for­mance. Left: Typ­i­cal and pop­u­lar TPR car­tridges (left to right): .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .270 Win., .270 Weatherby, 7mm Rem. Mag, .308 Win., .30-06 Spring­field, .30-338 Mag and .300 Weatherby Mag.


Once you’ve pre­pared your TPR, be cer­tain to get good, re­al­is­tic train­ing from a real-world-ori­ented trainer. Be­low, stu­dents en­gage mul­ti­ple par­tially con­cealed tar­gets at 300 me­ters un­der time pres­sure dur­ing one of author Tay­lor’s Tac­ti­cal Pre­ci­sion Ri­fle cour­ses in Ari­zona.

Here is a five-shot group mea­sur­ing only 1 inch shot from 500 me­ters with prop­erly pre­pared Winch­ester

M70 .308 Win. and cus­tom-loaded ammo.

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