This past weekend, I attended a long range shooting class that was put on by 406 Precision and hosted by Elmore Stock Ranch at NiceShotShooting range in Laura, Illinois. While I neither a formal editor nor typically provide formal reviews, I thought it would be very advantageous to share my experience with the rest of the forum members as I would imagine many of you share the same passion in long range shooting and hunting as I do. I would also like to mention that I have NO affiliation with 406 Precision, Snowy Mountain Rifles, Elmore Stock Outfitters, or NiceShotShootingRange. The class I attended was put on by the two owners of 406 Precision – Jordan Harmon and Jason George who lives and typically hosts their class in Montana in conjunction with Royal Tine Outfitters. This is actually my second time through the class as I had attended the class at Royal Tine in Montana. However, 406 Precision had a desire to take the class to the Midwest and try their luck with a traveling class… and I had close friends that wanted to go to Montana but couldn’t make the trip due to scheduling conflicts. While 406 typically focuses their efforts in the western part of the United States, there was a strong demand and need for long range instruction in the central Midwest – so this class pulled students from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. (9 students) The Accommodations – Elmore Stock Outfitters & Lodge Since 406 Precisions typically hosts their classes in Montana, they secured lodging arrangements through Elmore Stock Outfitters (Elmore Stock Farm Outfitters - Illinois Hunting, Lodging, Retreats & Reunions) to provide lodging and a classroom location for the instruction. While I was able to get an idea of what the accommodations would be through viewing their website, I would say that both the lodge and the newly remodeled barn setting for class far exceeded my expectations… along with the rest of the group. The lodge had 14 beds and the ability to sleep 19 students comfortably. I found the lodge to be extremely clean with fresh sheets, towels, full kitchen and powered with Wi-Fi. While that may sound silly, please note that Laura Illinois is positioned in the most rural parts of Illinois thus allowing me to stay in touch with my business partners when necessary. From a classroom perspective, the barn was fabulous and had the perfect rustic touches to have a comfortable learning environment. This is where Jordan and Jason taught the essential principles of long range shooting. I would rate accommodations at an “A+”. The Range – NiceShotShootingRange, Jim Tallyn Since I personally live in the Midwest, I am constantly looking for places to stretch out my rifles all across the state of IL. The longest private range I have found is at the Aurora Sportsman’s Club –which supports a 600-yard range. I was shocked to show up and have the ability to stretch my rifles out to 1280 yards out of the gates. With that being said, Illinois is still in our corn-growing season and once we are through our harvest season, NiceShot will have shot capabilities out to 1700 yards. That is nearly three times farther than anywhere around me in the surrounding areas I have been able to find. Furthermore, the gentleman that runs the shooting range on a daily basis was extremely accommodating and provided top of the line steel of various sizes rated to shoot up to a .50 cal. Aside from standard steel plates, the class even provided three life-sized coyotes to shoot at along with a prairie dog. Since many of us here in the Midwest have an overwhelming coyote nuisance population – it was awesome to be able to practice on these life sized steel targets at extended distances. Furthermore, the setup of the range was awesome! The long-range course was equipped with a brand new shooting deck overlooking the course with the ability to shoot at extended distances…while there was a separate shooting location to “sight in” and chrono your loads at 100 yards. This allows shooting students to shoot at 100 yards simultaneously as the students engage targets at the long-range portion of the course. If you haven’t checked this place out and you are in the Midwest – you are definitely missing out. The range is open to the public and there is a $25/hr. fee to shoot at these extended distances. I would rate the range at an “A+” as well. That said, if you really want to go LR, I would recommend looking up this range during the early spring or late fall during harvest if you want to extend your distances past 940 yards. The Instruction – 406 Precision, Jordan Harmon & Jason George So I booked this class to help perfect my long range shooting skills and give my hunting buddies a solid understanding of the core principles of long range shooting and hunting. I have been looking to book an elk hunt in the near future so I want to be able to feel confident in taking an ethical shot on an animal at extra long range distances (if necessary) In short, I want to put myself and my friends in the best position possible to have success in the field. With that being said, the class curriculum included how to properly setup up my rifle for LR, proper shooting mechanics, trigger control, gathering envrionmentals in the field, wind reading/angle shooting, creation of custom drop charts/customization of my kestrel, terminal ballistics and ultimately perfecting my long range shot for ethical hunting. When it comes to the instructors, these guys are the best in the business. Both Jordan and Jason have a background in education and teaching with a combined shooting/reloading experience of 50 years. I think this is critical as they were able to provide the shooting education in a practical manner that is digestible to the average shooter versus taking a LE or Military approach, which may be intimidating to some students. Equipment – Greg Isenbarger, Sales Manager of Snowy Mountain Rifles 406 Precision also has an affiliation with Snowy Mountain Rifles. With that being said, our class had a total of eight various Snowy Mountain Rifles so guys had the ability to try a variety of setups and calibers ranging from a .260/6.5mm to .338 Lapua. Greg from SMR was invaluable to have on site and at our disposal. He was able to not only help assist Jordan and Jason with part of the classroom instruction but also help fit all of the students to the appropriate rifle and answer any questions about setups or what caliber would suit each individuals shooting style/purpose. I would also like to note that a lot of guys brought their own rifles and that didn’t matter either. Greg was the most non-aggressive sales guy I have ever met. At no point, did he ever push the SMR rifles down our throats (which he could have easily done given the SMR performances) but he was happy to help out if you had a question or wanted to get into a new rifle. For me personally, I had a minor equipment failure on another competitors rifle, and he actually helped fix the problem without even throwing his competitor under the bus. Needless to say though, all of the SMR rifles performed exceptionally printing groups at a quarter inch at 800 and 1000 yards. It goes without saying that Greg let their Snowy Mountain Rifles do all of the talking. Day 1 – Showing Up to Class (1/2 day) Day 1 started off with class introductions and the basic review of safety protocol. No matter any skill level, this is critical to start any firearm instruction class off with. It also gave me and the other student’s piece of mind that Jason was a certified EMT instructor. After the basic kickoff of the class concluded, we were placed into shooter/spotter teams and students started getting shuttled down to the 100-yard range to validate “rifle zeros” and gather velocities for our customized drop charts. While groups were shuttled down to the 100-yard range to collect and validate this data, Jordan hosted the remainder of the class and went over shooting positions and trigger control. After this initial data was collected for all of the class rifles, both Jordan and Jason were able to go through the core principles of shooting and developing drop charts for all of our rifles along with all of the other class curriculum. This encompassed a majority of the class instruction during the first day. Day 2 – Initial Rifle Walkout to Steel After the first day of travel, a ton of classroom instruction and information, everyone was extremely eager to put their knowledge to the test. We got into our shooter/spotter teams and began walking our equipment out on steel starting at 450 yards out to 780 yards. I was shocked to see almost every student’s ability to engage the targets successfully all the way out to 800 yards. While this may seem fairly simplistic, two of the students (and friends) that were in our class had never even fired a centerfire rifle past 50 yards and very few of the remaining students have shot over 150 yards. Every student was extremely excited to start seeing hits on steel at extended distances and putting all of the classroom instruction to use. After all of the shooter/spotter teams were able to make hits on steel and validate DOPE, we were allowed to have a free shoot and engage any of the targets on the range to 800 yards. Everyone was having a blast. As I mentioned, some of my friends were successfully placing consecutive hits on steel at 800 yards in windy conditions. Everyone had huge grins from ear-to-ear after the conclusion of day 2. Day 3 – Shooting Challenges & Free Shoot The final day of our shooting class was full of both individual and team challenges followed by another free shoot. Our first challenge was the “cold bore” challenge, which is very applicable to any hunting scenario. All of the students took note of the environment and consulted their dope. As guys started individually engaging the life sized coyote, I was amazed to see hits start showing up on steel. Watching my father-in-law and other business partner hit a coyote reactive vital at 500 yards on a cold bore shot was priceless. Neither had shot a centerfire rifle at any distance and watching class principles pay off was incredible. Our next challenge involved talking a non-conventional shot at a coyote by using a log or tree (not laying prone). I think it was very important to include this type of shot as its probably one of the most prevalent types of shots in the field – especially here in the Midwest. It was really neat that 406 was able to come to IL to adapt to our shooting environment and modify the curriculum to fit our territory. After this challenge – we were running short on time so the class voted on doing another challenge or having another free shoot. As you can imagine, guys wanted to start putting hits on steel on their own without any instruction. I watched 3 students take successful cold bore shots at 1280 yards on a 1moa target. “Did you see that – I just drained that 1280 yard shot!” That was pretty darn incredible for first time shooters and quite frankly incredible for any shooter at that distance with Illinois environmentals. As you can imagine, guys were ecstatic and emotionally blown away at their performance after going through instruction with 406. Every shooter by the end of the day was making hits on steel out to 1000 yards including guys being able to hit a very small prairie dog target at 800 yards. Conclusion & Final Grade In conclusion, I would say that this class was a “once in a lifetime” type of opportunity and I would like to give 406 Precision the HIGHEST marks possible (A+++++). I don’t only think that I am speaking for myself, as I have received a full page email from every student I invited to attend …saying that is was one of the best experiences in their life. The instruction was spot on and once again very practical and digestible for any beginning or intermediate shooter/hunter. 406 Precision was able to take shooters from my group that had very wide range of shooting capabilities and cater to each one of them. I did a lot of due diligence before selecting 406 Precision and I would say that if you are like me and in the market of attending an LR class or putting one together, you should really do yourself a favor and give these guys a call. I think another differentiator is the fact that not only are they available “prior to class” and “during class”…they will be there for help during your entire long range shooting journey. Since class, they have answered a number of shooting questions once guys have returned home. At the end of the day, I went home not only with the essential tools and knowledge of what it takes to make an ethical long range shot on big game but also molded a lifelong friendship with the 406 Precision team and Snowy Mountain Rifles. While I realize this is a fairly long-winded review of my personal accounts, I don’t feel like I scratched the surface of what I brought home. Please private message me and I would be happy to have a phone conversation with any of you that are in the market of attending a long-range class. I ended up speaking to a few other forum members and settled on the 406 Precision class through personal references of other students that have been through the class. I consider my past weekend of experiences to be invaluable! Good luck to all through your hunting experiences in 2014 and beyond – shoot straight. Thanks for reading!!