How Do I Know What To Buy?
Adjustable turrets for long range hunting and target for better precision.
As my need for affordable optics grew, I discovered that Tasco was not going to get me where I wanted to be. They may offer target scopes, but I can assure you that even under the recoil of a .308 Winchester they come apart. I did many searches and a lot of discussion with hunters, law enforcement snipers, and military snipers, narrowing it down to a few scopes. I settled on a Nikon Buckmaster 4.5-14x40. This scope is more than capable of yardages up to and beyond 1000 yards with the proper set up. With my .308, Low Burris XTR rings, 20 MOA base, I could dial in almost 1100 yards. It has approximate 45 MOA of vertical elevation. There are other good scopes that I have used and also would suggest. Some of these are the Vortex Viper series, Nikon Monarch, Nikon Buckmaster series, Bushnell 3200 Elite Tactical, 4200 Elite Tactical, and there are others that are a little more expensive. I will say the only drawback to the Buckmaster 4.5-14x40 is sighting small critters. At 1000 yards the reticle would bury a groundhog, making it hard to make a well placed shot. I have since upgraded to a Buckmaster 6-18x40 with target turrets (knobs to adjust elevation and windage) and a 1/8 MOA target dot. This has proven to be a very good move.
The more expensive options are the more prominent scopes specifically designed for the applications that long range shooters desire: clarity of glass, quality of clicks within the adjustment of the turret, and choice of reticle. These can be found in higher end scopes such as US Optics, Schmidt and Bender, Nightforce, IOR, and Leupold. These scopes in these configurations can start at $1000 and go as high as $4500 dollars. Are they worth the money? You bet your butt in a firefight they are. More U.S. soldiers have trusted a Leupold Tactical model and Nightforce than any other optic on the market. In the UK, Schmidt and Bender is the preferred optic for their snipers in theater. Benchrest shooters will tell you that they could have never won the match had it not been for one of the above scopes giving them the clarity needed to slide that last 10x in. I can not begin to tell you how many times I have read somebody writing, “Sure, buy the SPS, or the Savage 12FV, and that will give you more money for purchasing GOOD GLASS!”
This is the second most important question when deciding on a new weapons system. Is this a daily shooter? Is it a weekend plinker? Is it a once a month gotta get away from the wife and kids affair? Or is it going to be Old Bessy sitting in the closet coming out once a year to fill the freezer? The less you plan on shooting, the less you want to spend.
In answering these questions we turn to the decision of caliber. The application of caliber can be time consuming, confusing and downright frustrating. One guy will tell you bigger is better. Another guy will tell you that a smaller caliber will suffice. This is an important decision because it will determine how far you can effectively harvest game or accurately hit a target in competition.
Here are some suggestions that I have come to on my own through research and a lot of questions. If you are going to use the rifle for target applications and small game, i.e. crows, rabbits, ground hogs and squirrels, smaller calibers are the ticket. These calibers such as 17 to 6mm/.243 calibers are quite capable of getting you out to 600 yards and further. The further you go with a small caliber, the more specific you have to be in the purchasing of equipment. A .224 caliber rifle with a heavy bullet will require you to have a tighter twist barrel, and is capable of harvesting coyote size game well out to 800 yards. I know that in my family we have harvested numerous deer in Pennsylvania woods using .222 Remington, and a Ruger 22-250. These however were generally very well placed vital shots within 100 yards or mainly head shots. My grandfather is a master of his .222 Remington.
If you know you are going to be hunting in heavy brush, it is important that you use a caliber capable of busting through brush with as little deflection as possible. My family has been using 270 Winchesters and 150 grain round nose with proficient results. My uncle shot through a 2 ˝ inch sapling with a .308 Winchester, killing the doe on the other side. He said that was not his intention, but it happened. Other calibers that are popular for busting brush are 30-30 Winchesters, and heavy calibers such as 300 Winchester Magnum, 338-06, 30-06, 8mm Remington Magnum, 325 Winchester Short Magnums, 300 Winchester Short Magnum and many others that are not mentioned. These calibers offer a wide variety of heavier bullets necessary for busting through the brush.
When hunting open plains and open wooded areas, other calibers come into their own. The 6mm/.243, .257, 6.5mm/.264, .277, 7mm/284 offer some splendid bullets to get you out there. I hesitated to put in the .277 caliber because it is hard to find bullets that offer a high enough ballistic coefficient or BC (the ability for a bullet to maintain stability in flight and retain its energy for a specified amount of distance) for long shots. I have found that speed sometimes will trump the ballistic coefficient, allowing it to really reach out. I think the .277 caliber is also a very underrated caliber. These are prime calibers for knocking over whitetail, blacktail, mule deer, and antelope at ranges of 400 to 800 yards. The 6.5mm/.264, and 7mm/.284 are very capable of taking like sized game to 1000 yards.
A .308 Winchester would also be a good caliber for training and use in this type of hunting as well. These calibers also see a lot of use in benchrest competitions. Because of the speeds they are capable of, selection of target style bullet, and lesser recoil, they are ideal for long range target shooting. In fact, from what I have read, the 6.5x284 is tearing up championships worldwide. I will caution that shots at these ranges should only be done by those who have spent time behind the trigger, and are very competent at reading wind values and placing well placed shots in the vital organs of the animal. If you really want to know more about ballistics, Brian Litz’s book, Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting, will provide better understanding about bullet behavior and capabilities.
When going that extra mile literally, you need the big guns. These are miniature Howitzers on bi-pods. These calibers are .308 calibers and not limited to .338 calibers. The Remington Ultra Magnums and wildcat calibers by Shawn Carlock and Kirby Allen are designed with the intention of knocking down elk size game at distance from 1000 yards to in excess of 1700 or 1800 yards. There are some on this site that have pushed the limits and have either made the shot or witnessed shots of over 2000 yards harvesting game. These are extraordinary circumstances and should not, I repeat, SHOULD NOT be attempted with any run-of-the-mill caliber. These rifles are specially built and designed for these applications. I know that Kirby Allen of Allen Magnums also offers calibers of .375 and .416 (sorry, Shawn, don’t know what you build in calibers). These calibers are not for the faint of heart. They require that you are able to reload, and demand to be shot on a regular basis so that you are familiar enough with your system to attempt these shots.
So you can see there are many things to consider when choosing to enter into long range hunting and shooting. This sport requires dedication to practice regularly to achieve the goal of shooting 10x’s or harvesting game waaaaaay out there. I hope that I have been able to offer some insight on the basics and a glimpse into why some guys decide to build expensive custom rifles and others settle on an out of the box package. Just remember these questions when trying to make a decision:
1. Budget: what can I afford?
2. Application: Target rifle, Hunting rifle or both? You can put together a rifle system to serve both applications. F/TR class rifles are a perfect example.
3. Optics: Do I really need the big fancy knobs, or am I just going to be sitting in the woods?
4. Distance: Short and sweet, or am I going to shoot well beyond 500+ yards?
Answering these questions will get you well on your way. Shoot straight and keep your eye on the target.
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