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Precision Shooting 1-Part 3: Marksmanship: Just The Basics

Precision Shooting 1-Part 3: Marksmanship: Just The Basics

By Ward Brien

Addressing this subject logically, one of the important fundamentals of setting up on your target and being able to hit it begins with a solid shooting platform. About a decade ago I was with a very good and long time friend, glassing on a hillside. The area had been ranged and the target reference points established. Back then, laser rangefinders were not an option and we did not carry the Swiss made optical range finder; so we used our mil-dot reticles to accomplish the task. One of our target reference points was an intersection of two dirt roads. Figuring the tire tracks were 10 inches wide, we used that as our constant. (.36 yards X 1000 =360; 360 / .4 mils = 900 yards). Then we calculated the cosine number of the angle in which we were holding at to obtain our corrected for gravity distance, (900 yards X .87 = 783 yards). This was our best guestimate, however when the quarry walked into the box, the trigger was pulled and the round hit, but off center and to the left approximately 4 inches. We were lucky to be able to utilize the prone firing position as it provided great stability for the shot.

The following story is true and written by Ian McMurchy:

This hunting season some friends and I had an opportunity to participate in a Chronic Wasting Disease cull for mule deer. The control area was on both shores of a rugged river valley that wound its way through a mixture of crop-land and pastures. By the time we began hunting the deer were very spooky, so long-shooting was necessary for over half of the opportunities presented.

I had recently introduced some buddies to long-range shooting. We had been practicing regularly on steel plates that we set up from seven hundred out to one-thousand yards. My hope was that becoming as proficient and confident as possible at the longer distances would make hunting out to six hundred yards doable. The cull was an excellent opportunity to test our skills and equipment since we could do a lot of shooting since tags were free and almost unlimited.

Fortunately I made the acquaintance of a landowner with two important assets – he enjoyed hunting and he had a serious problem with too many deer on his property. Plus our new friend was intrigued with the idea of shooting deer at long range. Glen knew the habits of the deer very well and he guiding us to some excellent shooting opportunities. During the initial hunting he was quite content to shoot distances with the laser range-finders and simply watch the deer hitting the ground “way out there”.

With a little encouragement we got him to shoot our rifles and he became more and more intrigued with the idea of getting into the long-range shooting game. One day he asked me to help him round up the necessary equipment. I found a new Winchester M-70 Stealth in .308 Winchester in a shop near his town and also ordered in a great Nikon Tactical scope. After purchasing the rifle, scope and Badger mounts and a Harris bipod, Glen brought the rifle to my home so that we could work-over the trigger and bedding. The following week we had another hunting trip planned. I wanted to get the new rifle broke-in and zeroed so that he could participate.

My partner and I drove the two and one-half hours over to Glen’s farm and immediately set up my cleaning rack and gear in his heated workshop. The temperature was about minus thirty outside. We intended to do the “shoot-clean” barrel break-in ritual, and then zero the rifle with my favorite long-range ammo – Black Hills 175 grain match hollow-point boat-tails.

We quickly settled into a somewhat strange barrel breaking-in routine. My buddy Wayne would take the new rifle a couple of steps out the side-door and fire a shot into the frozen ground beside the shop. Then he would hustle the M-70 inside where I would put it into my cleaning cradle and give it a good barrel cleaning. After I dried the bore Wayne would go outside and blast another shot into the ground and the process was repeated. We did this for ten singles, five pairs and a set of five shots. The procedure did not take long as we got a nice rhythm going. Being able to shoot without bothering anyone was great since there were no neighbors nearby.

After twenty-five shots we took the new rifle over to a 100-yard target and zeroed the Nikon scope. After slipping the turrets we pronounced the shiny new Stealth ready for the field! With only a couple of hours of sunlight left we had to hustle to ready for a late afternoon hunt. We gathered necessary gear such as warm clothing and boots, lasers, binocs and knives and jumped into Glen’s old four by four. Within minutes of leaving the farm we started glassing a huge valley that wound its way several miles out from the central river.

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