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Inside Darrell Holland's Long Range Shooting School

Inside Darrell Holland's Long Range Shooting School

By Ernie Bishop

Like many, I had no mentor in the arena of long range shooting. I have learned what I know from this source or that source, and much through experiences and of course failure. One must be willing to fail, to succeed. Many are afraid to fail; hence they never try something new, and therefore do not learn. Since long range shooting from field positions is a niche sport, those who are equipped to mentor or teach newcomers to the sport are few and far between. Add to that equation the small amount of time these mentors have to share their knowledge, and we can see why many struggle when it comes to long range shooting.

Long Range Shooting School
Photo taken by Steve Lovejoy

Because of the death of a long time friend who had helped Darrell Holland in all of his long range shooting schools, there was a void which needed to be filled. Darrell and I first ďmetĒ via phone, email, and the web when I was in the process of getting my center-grip 7mm Dakota XP-100 built by Kirby Allen. Kirby had recommended Hollandís Quick Discharge for this specialty pistol. After that first phone call a friendship began to materialize. It was not until several years later that we would actually meet in April of 2009, in Powers, Oregon. Yes, I was in Oregon for the first time in my life to be an assistant teacher for Hollandís Long Range Shooting School. Note: I am one of several assistants that help Darrell with the school.

Many of you know that I do not own a centerfire rifle, and that I use handguns (primarily specialty handguns) for almost all of my shooting or hunting. You may be wondering how a specialty pistol shooter can be of any benefit to rifle shooters. Honestly, there is not as much difference, as one may think. The biggest difference is the use of the rear bag on the pistol grip versus the bottom of the stock and the lack of a cheek weld. The mechanics of good shooting form, understanding and/or teaching about wind, ballistics, bullet selection, parallax adjustment, etc., is the same. Let me add here that I was a little apprehensive about helping students shoot a rifle better when I had not used one much in the last 20 years. What was comforting was that I can still shoot a rifle well, when I use one. Yes, I shot several rifles (Darrellís and studentsí) at long range and they even took pictures for proof! I can also attest that I learned some important things about shooting a rifle that I did not know before my trip to Oregon.

Long Range Shooting School
Photo taken by Steve Lovejoy

Having been a part of several long range shooting schools for specialty pistols, I was very impressed with the amount of information shared and the time shooting that could be accomplished in four days. The thing that stood out the most to me was the focus on building a good foundation. I have realized over the years, there are more hunters than one could imagine that do not know how to zero their scope or clean and maintain their rifle adequately. Add to that the pride men tend to have when it comes to being taught things, such as proper shooting technique in the field. Since many have been pulling the trigger before they could talk, or have hunted around the world successfully, it takes some time to change bad habits that show up quickly at longer distances. While I was there, one of the students shot a rifle for the first time in their life. It caused me to truly appreciate the systems approach to accuracy in the field with an emphasis on the basics.

There is a combination of class time and field shooting each day. Every student is given a three-ring class notebook that is professionally done, and is full of useful information. Basically, it allows the student to have Darrellís PowerPoint presentation for their future use, once they go home. Both the notebook and the PowerPoint presentation are upgraded each year. Reading assignments and homework are given each night (100 proper bolt manipulations each night as an example), so donít assume you will have time to rent a DVD. The load for each rifle is chronographed and zeroed at 100 yards. A customized drop chart for each student is made from Hollandís Ballistic Gold Card software for their rifle.

Long Range Shooting School
Photo taken by Steve Lovejoy

The shooting environment for the field shooting is beautiful to the eye. The lay of the land allows for up and down drafts, and every type of wind condition you can imagine, depending on the wind at the moment. Once guns are zeroed and drop charts made, each student begins to stretch things out distance-wise. The way the steel range is set up the student can proceed at their level and not be held back or pushed forward by other students. All shooting is done from the prone position. There is a portable shooting bench that can be used if there is a problem that does not allow the student to shoot from the prone position. A covered area is just behind the shooting area, where students have access to water, and is also the place where the guns are cleaned.

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