First I want to state up front that this post is based on personal choice and experience. If you were to ask ten people to give rifle advice, you would probably get ten different suggestions. So all I am trying to do here is point the new guy in a direction that will save him some money and headache.
New guy, don't spend any money on a new rifle. Go to your rifle safe and pick out the centre fire rifle that is the cheapest to shoot. Find a gunsmith that you want to work with and take that rifle in, get the action bedded, trigger adjusted, recoil lugs lapped, barrel floated, and get it totally cleaned. While you are there, get the rifle fitted. No matter what rifle you would have bought, this is work you would get done anyway.
When I got into long range shooting I thought I needed a new rifle and scope. I went out and bought a Savage 10fp in a 308 winchester, and mounted my Tasco target/varmint scope in a cheap set of walmart rings (at this point I didn't have any money left in my budget). I then went to the range and started to work up a load. The rifle shot great right out of the box, averaging under moa at 100 yards, but I wanted better. So I saved some more and bought a SS 10 power scope and mounted it in Burris signature rings. This didn't improve accuracy any but gave me the ability to dial windage and elevation. The down side is I had to rezero my rifle. Then I decided I could improve my groups with better reloading techniques, so I bought some new reloading equipment. I put extra effort into my reloading and went back to the range. Still not much of an improvement, but I did get rid of some flyers. So next I looked at me, could I improve my groups with better shooting technique. I hit the internet, bought books and videos, and hit the range a few more times trying this and that. Groups didn't shrink but I got rid of all my flyers, and learned a whole lot. So finally I scraped some more money together and bought a new Bell and Carlson stock for my rifle, and hit the range again. At this time things started pulling together, I shrunk my groups almost in half, finally a rifle accurate enough for long range shooting. So what is the point of this story? Through all this adjusting and buying new gear I never once got to shoot out past 100 yards, and I spend about $600 extra dollars on a practice rifle, plus the original cost.
You need to get out there and shoot to learn where you actually want to get. I learned that long range shooting takes a total package, rifle, scope, good bases and rings, then you need extra gear like range finders, weather stations, and great reloads if you want to get serious. There is a whole lot of learning you can do with old Bettsy and save your money to get out there and shoot. You will then learn what you finally really want and how serious you will actually become. I started by thinking that I would be popping elk off at 1000 yards within a couple years with a new custom rig. Now I am thinking I will probably buy myself an off the shelf rifle in a caliber something like a 300 win. mag. Have it accurized by my smith. I will have a carry rifle that I will be able to reach out to 600 yards or so on elk. By the way do you actually know how far 1000 yards is, get out there with a range finder and see what you think, for me when I figured it out I said WOW!!! I thought back to my 30 or so years of elk hunting and realized I never had the opportunity to shoot over 450 yards. Dropping down to that 600 yards is going to save me a whole lot of money!
Good post for the average guy. In my opinion I think a guy needs a good shooting light carry rifle and a specialized long range rig. If only one then get a light carry rifle that will easily get you to 800 yards on elk sized game. I am very fortunate to know many good hunting spots and what rifles work there. I have long range rigs built for areas where I know I could be shooting beyond a thousand yards with no possible way of getting closer and can carry the weight. For most of my hunting I use a rifle similar to what you describe.
Long range is great when performed by people who know what they are doing and have the money to build and shoot a specialized rig for specialized hunting situations.
Predictions are difficult, especially when they involve the future
I think your last comment is the key that the newbie needs to realize. Long range shooting is a skill that takes time and specialized equipment. It is a total package. I think most hunters get caught up in that magic 1000 yard range, but in most cases you will get your cross hairs on more game if you can reach out to say 500-600 yards. Like you say, get that carry rifle first. Get it accurized a bit. Learn to reload, and shoot a lot. Aim at that 500-600 yard mark (no pun intended). You will learn what it takes to reach out there, and how long range fits into your hunting area.
What I have come to realize is that where I hunt, 600 yards is all I will ever need. It is kind of funny that a lot of people who are starting into long range shooting can't find anywhere to practice that far. How many places in your hunting area can you see 1000 yards. Where I hunt, it is hard to find a spot to recheck zero out to 100 yards once we get to camp. I know of about a handful of places where I have seen game over 450 yards and not one of those places is over 600.
I practice out to 1000 yards for the fun but to be honest I don't have the equipment or the skill yet to hunt that far. If I limit my hunting to 500 yards for elk and a bit more for deer I don't need to spend anymore money and I will not be giving up any opportunities. Now if you have unlimited funds and don't mind carrying a 15lbs rifle all day, this post is kind of mute.
Yep you guys are right, there is alot to learn when shooting. I just started shooting 200 300 400 yards and I learned so much with reloading for accuracy, holding the gun an the rest that it sits on, how to squeeze the trigger an follow through .When i first started shooting 6 months ago I was lucky to keep my shots on the 18x24 inch paper at 400yds, now with all the fellow shooters giving me pointers and helping me, I am able to hit an apple at 400 yds every time. Hopefully I will be able to shoot the ten ring everytime next year from what I have learned this year...
Back in the '70s I had a Rem 788 in 6mm. It was cheap, plain and not really attractive. It killed deer at 250+ yds like a lightning bolt. It smacked chucks with authority at 350+. It would vaporize sage rats out to 300. At the range it stacked alot of bullets atop one another, right in the 200yd bull. It had an old, heavy Weaver k6 on it.
When I went in to get more scope for it, to extend it's reach, I heard those fateful words:
Yer puttin' a $50.00 saddle on a $10.00 horse. This here .270 will kill bigger animals at longer range and the ammo is way more common,....
And besides, them ol' cheapie Remingtons look like they ought ta be holdin' up a tomato plant
Just because it's cheap and ugly doesn't mean it won't shoot!
I would damn near kill to have that rifle back.
And every time I find one to replace it, the price is 4 times what I sold that one for!! Apparently I was the only one that didn't know the true value of the 788Rem in light calibers!
hello guy, you know a person can get in trouble for downplaying whats required to do this.
but fact is you and all the others are right on with your comments.
there is one thing to remember though. many of the store bought rifles today will shoot as well or better than some of the custom guns did 30 years ago.
thats a big plus for those starting out. also even the cheaper scopes will do the job pretty well.
as you know, we have bigger equiptment, but frankly rarly use it. many days the conditions wont allow us too.
keep it simple and close if you like venison.