To reasonable shooting distances, at ranges up to 600 yards, a temperature/muzzle velocity change is the most important factor to be considered. Slight changes in elevation, humidity, and barometric pressure have very little effect on the bullets flight to 600 yds. with magnum velocities. With consistent and determined practice one can become quite proficient on game animals to 600 yds. Beyond that, it takes tremendous skill and experience combined with a little luck to make consistent hits at 800-900 and 1000 yds.
If you doubt this, take 12 inch squares of cardboard and attach them to a wooden stake. Have your hunting partner place them at different yardages (600-1000 yds.) and different angles to the shooter. Range and calculate the MOA correction for drop and drift and fire away. It should be a humbling experience. This 12x12 inch square represents the kill zone of a deer or antelope.
This simple test will allow you to assess your proficiency and determine your range limitation. Set aside your ego and be honest with your capabilities. If you can consistently keep ALL of your shots in the 12x12 inch square at 600 yards, but hit 2 out of 5 at 700 yards, your range limitation under ideal conditions should be 600 yards. On the other hand, if 450 yards is the extreme range at which you can keep all your shots on the target, stand tall. You are ahead of 95 percent of the shooters out there given the same test. As true sportsmen we need a moral compass to guide us in our long range shooting pursuits; this test can help us obtain that virtue.
Chronograph your ammunition at different temperatures. 100 degrees for summer antelope, 70 degrees for normal conditions and put several cartridges in the freezer overnight and keep them on ice with a thermometer at 20-30 degrees. Note and record the muzzle velocities with these temperature changes. Create data cards for each muzzle velocity.
The best powders for extreme temperature changes are the Hogdon series of EXTREME powders. They include the following: H-4895, Varget H-4350, H-4831, H-1000, Retumbo- Benchmark and H50BMG. These powders will provide the most consistent velocities in a wide range of temperatures. It is the responsibility of the serious hunter/shooter to check his or her ammunition for velocity changes when gunning at long range.
Above all, practice!!! One can never get enough practice. Do so under realistic outdoor conditions and be honest with your evaluation. Competence comes with perfect practice. No one packages or bottles it! Keep good records of your shooting, note temperature, wind, barometric pressure, humidity and the MOA correction needed to make a center hit under the above conditions. You will see some interesting comparisons when reviewing these notes.
Don’t be a fair weather shooter! We see a majority of shooters who, when the wind is up, or it is raining, simply punch the alarm, roll over and catch a few more ZZZ’s. Hmmm, they are missing a golden opportunity to see the effects of rain, temperature, humidity and B/P on their shot. Do we stay in the tent when it is raining or snowing? When the weather conspires against you, don your foul weather gear and get some experience. It can make the difference between success and failure in the future.
Wounding an animal is a heavy burden to carry and rightfully so. Know your limitations and never allow someone to push you beyond your comfort zone. Surgical one shot kills are what we are after. “Just get a bullet in ‘em” should be removed from our vocabulary! If in doubt, stalk and get closer, there is no shame in a 450 yard shot.
Until next time, shoot straight and be safe in the great outdoors.
Darrell Holland is a Custom Riflesmith and designer of Advanced Reticle Technology in Leupold, Schmidt & Bender and NIGHTFORCE rifle scopes. Darrell offers an intense 4 day shooting school that is ideal for long range hunters and tactical enthusiasts.
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