A Wretched Reminder on the Perils of Long-Range Shooting
The smallest errors in sighting or point of impact can lead to catastrophic problems way downrange
Those of you who have shot at Mid Range (300- to 600-yard) or Long Range (800 to 1,200) events know that a true, full-time, never-fail zero is wishful thinking. About the best you can hope for is a setting that puts you within 6 inches of the X-ring most of the time. Very often, you’re a lot farther away than that.
I got a particularly frightful example of how far off you can be while shooting for practice this past week. At 500 yards, my first sighter shot was something like 2 feet low. I checked the settings on the scope dials. They were right where they should have been.
Then it dawned on me that I had gotten my zero when it was 80 degrees, and that the last time I’d shot the rifle it was probably close to 90 degrees, and right now it was in the mid-30s. So, there were a couple of factors at work: First, the powder (Reloder 15) could have been burning at a different rate, and, second, cold air is denser than hot air, and that could have been affecting the flight of the bullet.
In any event I was way off. On a range, where you can clearly see where your slugs are hitting, this is not a big deal. If you’re shooting at game, it’s a very big deal, because you probably won’t have a clue where you’ve hit on the first shot. You may see dust splash underneath the animal, but that’s not going to help much. And, while you crank frantically at your various knobs, whatever you’re shooting at will be getting ready to leave the immediate vicinity.
Errors in sighting and point of impact that would not make much difference at 300 yards and under, make catastrophic differences at 500 and up. About the only way to avoid this is to check your rifle at the longest range you plan to shoot, where and when you plan to shoot it. And even then…
Or you can get a ballistics calculator that will factor in all 15 variables involved in hitting something and gives you a firing solution. If you want to shoot at wrecked cars, or rocks in the desert, this is fine, but I don’t see what connection it has with fair chase.
The more I learn about shooting at long range, the less I think it’s a good idea for hunting.