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How Canting Your Rifle Affects Long Range Accuracy

How Canting Your Rifle Affects Long Range Accuracy

By Carl Taylor

The simple textbook answer is that due to the canting of the weapon, the round will impact low and to the side that the weapon is canting. The more the cant and distance the round has to travel the more extreme the effect on the round will be. What causes this is the mechanics of the scope. The scope is set up to be used as level as possible. As you look at the scope, the elevation and wind adjustment turrets are set at a 90-degree angle apart. Now, if we introduce a less than level platform for the rifle, then the simple mechanics of the scope are going to be off. Thus, the round that you intended to hit the target at your point of aim will not quite be on target. The more distant the target and the more extreme the cant of the weapon, the more extreme the impact will be to the side of the cant and low.

How Canting Your Rifle Affects Long Range Accuracy
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Just imagine that you are shooting a .308 and your MOA adjustment on the scope for elevation is 12. More often than not, this is elevation dope for 500 yards. Lets say that you have a bit of wind deflection to contend with, so you have dialed on 2 MOA to the right. You're ready to take the shot, but you have canted the weapon without picking it up. In fact, the weapon is canted about 10 to 15 degrees to the left. Without getting out a slide rule and taking the measurements I can’t tell you just exactly how far the round will be off, but it will be out of the coveted MOA or less area that we intended to hit.

If you continued to cant the weapon over to a 90-degree angle with the dope that was put on the weapon above, you now have 12 MOA of left wind and 2 MOA of elevation. You are ready to engage a target out to 200 yards with 12 MOA of left wind on the weapon. The elevation (what used to be wind) will be fairly close, but the impact of the round will be 24 inches to the left (what used to be elevation) of the target.

While this is true, one thing is missing from the equation… the human element. Canting of the weapon system while firing takes on many effects of improper placement of the bullet. Not only will the bullet not impact the intended target, but even before the trigger is engaged, the process of the round not hitting the target has begun.

How Canting Your Rifle Affects Long Range Accuracy
Courtesy of Scopelevel.com

If the weapon is not lined up correctly, then it is fair to say that your body is not in the proper position either. This may have been the cause of the cant to begin with. If your body is not lined up correctly, then it is safe to say that there is improper placement or inconsistent placement of your trigger finger on the trigger itself. Not only the trigger finger, but also all points of contact to the weapon. Not only your body but also shooting rests (if you are using them) or contact points of the sling if you are employing one. Once the trigger is pulled, and the internal ballistics begins to take place, the rifle is going to act according to the foundation that you the shooter have prepared for it.
The rifle is going to recoil. The best we can hope to do is control how the rifle reacts once the recoil process has begun. Remember, as riflemen we are always compensating for one constant element: gravity! If the weapon is canted we have lost positive control of it, and the angle of jump that the rifle takes is less than desirable. The weight of the optics and the way that the weapon is canted will have a direct effect on what happens to the round as it leaves the barrel, due to the angle of jump and gravity. Not to mention the mechanics of the scope.

Like most everything else in this world, the angle of jump is going to take the path of least resistance. Ideally, the weapon, once fired, should come back into the shooter's shoulder and slightly up off the target, and then settle back on target once the shot is over. That is if the shooter employs proper follow through. When done properly, the shooter should be able to see the impact of his round on the target. The rifle being canted will not only throw the shot off course due to the way the optics are engineered, but also because the angle of jump has now come into play and affected the external ballistics of the round due to the cant of the entire weapon system and your body position. This will directly affect your ability to see the instant the round impacts the target (once again assuming that proper follow through was used) due to the weapon's angle of jump.

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