Re: Beyond the Envelope -or- How I was humbled!
My most humbling experience with long range shooting is actually pretty close range compared with yours, but I guess it makes the point that "everything's relative" and "know your limitations."
I spotted a nice whitetail buck making his way down from the hills back down to the riverbottom. He hesitated for a little while, sniffing the ground and such, but I knew he wasn't going to hang around very long. It was now or never.
He was a long ways away, but I had set myself up on top of a haystack and built a little "benchrest" out of haybales so I thought I could make the shot. I estimated the range at "around 450." I had the trajectory for my load memorized and knew how much to hold over (or so I thought). I placed the crosshairs accordingly and squeezed the trigger. He went down.
But then he got back up--on only three legs. I had broken one of his front legs above the knee. As the thought "damn he must be out there" went through my mind, I made the correction with my next shot and nailed him through the chest. He went down for good.
I counted 524 paces as I walked out to him. Oops. Even though I had gotten my deer, I didn't feel good about it. In fact, I felt pretty lousy. Lesson learned. I have yet to attempt such a long shot since. I was not equiped to be shooting at that range and I knew it.
This was more than 10 years ago, when compact, affordable laser rangefinders hadn't even been thought of yet. The only ones on the market that the average guy could afford were optical ones. I thought about buying one of those, but their stated accuracy was so lousy at longer ranges (where it matters the most) that I figured it wasn't worth the money. Even with a flat shooting rifle, at those ranges the bullet is dropping so fast you need to know exactly how far it is.
I know that's a pretty lousy story (in fact I think this is the first time I've told it in public) but I think it illustrates some good points:
Although I can't blame my poor judgement on lack of equipment, if I had a laser rangefinder I would have known he was out of my range. The load I was shooting wasn't accurate enough to be shooting past 500 yards.
Also, things can change. When I hit the field in 2002, with a rangefinder, more accurate load, alot more knowledge and a bunch of practice under my belt, what was too far then probably won't be now. That's why I hate it when people generalize by saying "X distance is farther than anybody should be shooting." Every person/equipment combination is going to have different capabilities.
The key is to know what your limitations are and stay within them. That's what I plan to do, wherever they end up.