Now that we’ve touched on selecting paired rifle and cartridges, how do we make the best of the limited practice available in today’s world?
A) Use one of the reticles that have graduated tick marks corresponding to bullet drop at specified ranges. Especially useful are those that also have 10 mph wind bars corresponding with the drops. The next most convenient is likely a mil-dot reticle. Other reticles will work too, but may not be as easy to use because they don’t offer as many references or are overly complex for easy use. The choices are yours. The key is get one that you feel comfortable with for the kind of shooting you plan to do.
B) Use a laser rangefinder to help estimate Kentucky Windage and Tennessee Elevation. Yup, this might be seen as cheating by some, but most of us today don’t get the trigger time to do everything instinctively.
C) Use aids for visualizing sight pictures at a variety of ranges and wind conditions. Easy to reach resources include the companion COMPUTE SIGHT PICTURES. and QUICKPIX. on the ShootersNotes.com website. A variety of reticles, magnification powers, and targets are there for you to see how the sight picture changes with range. QUICKPIX also lets you see how wind strength will affect your sight-picture.
D) Shoot whenever possible – preferably in the field and using typical hunting positions and ranges. Supplement the shooting with dry-fire practice, especially with the rifle with the longer bolt. Practice operating the action with the cheek welded to the stock. This will help keep the rifle on target and speed up any necessary follow-up shots. The whole point of this note is that you can get much of that needed experience using a rifle that has much less recoil, noise, and ammunition expense. Using that less powerful rifle for your long range shooting may give you a wider choice of places to shoot also.
E) Remember that shooting success is almost independent of bullet choice — bullet placement is all-important. Think about the care exercised by hunters using muzzle-loaders, single-shot rifles and bows in getting good shot placement. These folks have added incentive since a quick follow up shot is all but impossible when the target jumps and runs.
F) “Practice, practice, and more practice” is absolutely necessary. Work the rifle position and shooting holds at home with an unloaded rifle. Work at understanding the trajectory of your rifle both visually and by the numbers. Be attentive to the wind drift and visualize the Kentucky windage. Get out and varmint shoot with that lighter rifle during the off season. Remember that the most competitive shooters will put more rounds downrange in a single month than most of the rest of us will expend in a lifetime of shooting. All that practice makes them good shots. So get out there with your easy to shoot rifle and practice in a variety of hunting conditions, ranges, and so on. Complement the practice with the light kicker by getting in at least a few rounds with your heavy rifle so that you have the utmost confidence that it sends the bullet to the same place.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Steve Hunter, an accomplished competitive shooter and hunter, including the odd African experiences, for his constructive criticism and to Terry Overly of pioneeroutfitters.com, an experienced guide and outfitter for his insight into large game hunting and how most guided hunters function.
About the Author: Joseph Smith is an avid shooter and reloader who has competed in the NRA 2700 matches (.22, .38, & .45 bullseye shooting) as well as international style air pistol. He is a Vietnam Veteran and an NRA Life Member and has helped instruct rifle and shotgun for the Boy Scouts of America shooting sports. He recently retired from the University of California after more than thirty years dedicated to research and development of a wide variety of weapons.
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