Things Needed to Hit Your Target at 1,000 Yards

Having approached the 1,000 yard line many times in the past year each time with more confidence I have learned the hard way what does not work, which is just as critical as knowing what does. This will be a list of what I believe has led to both success and failures at the highly revered 1,000 yard mark.  I am not speaking to you as a know it all expert, but as a shooter who is fresh out of the newbie shooting long-range bubble. I have been there just as you have and I want you to know what things I feel are important to know and perhaps some things you might be worrying about pre-maturely. Lets dig into the specific pieces of equipment that will bring confidence to your day at the range, then I will give a few opinions on what should be taken into consideration and what can be left at home with whatever item you happened to forget this trip.

Mandatory Equipment

I suppose this will rank as the number one piece of equipment needed for a long-range shot, it isn’t necessary the moment of, but is an absolute must know value for this to even get close. A chronograph will be the first piece of the puzzle for which the rest will be built from. Like starting a real puzzle with an edge piece a chronograph will be the key piece of information to start the formula of knowing where this bullet will be ending up, which we hope is dead center of the target.

The second item you will need in this system is a precise rifle. Now I have chosen my words carefully here, precision is being able to repeat a result. Accuracy is hitting your intended target. Precision means when you miss, not if, you can make the correction and the rifle will respond in a desirable way. If the rifle is able to precisely and consistently send a bullet where you want then that will ultimately lead to an accurate shot hitting the target.

Atop your rifle is where you will find the connection between yourself and the rifle. Coming in at number three on my list is a dependable optic. You can use holdovers for this shot as long as you are able to make the adjustments correctly. If you choose to follow my method for shooting which is dialing in the elevation to your scope it is critical that the turrets put the crosshairs exactly where they should be, meaning the scope better track correctly otherwise the shooter rifle connection is bad and you will not end up on target, especially not the first round down range.

At number four knowing the exact distance you intend to send that little copper seed of freedom is very important for the next step of the recipe. Notice I didn’t say range finder, although that is a great solution to this problem. I have switched to using a GPS guided app on my phone which I set a point of reference, travel to my firing position and get an accurate measurement in a straight line from my first point to my current location. Obviously this only works for targets and on a hunt the range finder is my go to choice. A word of advice though, my range finder is rated for 1,300 yards and realistically starts to struggle getting readings much beyond 700 in my environment so definitely get as much range finder as you can afford when you finally commit to one.

To finish this list in a reasonable amount of items I will say this is the final part needed for any long-range shot. We have our bullet speed but what do we do with that information? We feed the ballistic calculator with it. A good ballistic calculator is what will get you on target, most are excellent as long as your information you have given it is excellent. Admittedly this is where I have struggled most for my shots. I have stuck with using the free site JBM ballistics to get my solutions. I have given it terrible info before and gotten terrible charts back, it’s a no BS relationship I suppose. Where I have struggled is giving it real-time data of the shot for my chart. Because I don’t use an app on my phone I make them in advance which is usually an educated guess of what the conditions should be. This is not a good plan and I highly suggest getting an app to give you real-time information to feed your calculator with. Beyond bullet speed you will need to know the  ballistic coefficient, weight of the projectile, diameter of the bullet, scope height over bore and barometric pressure to get a decent chart.

Setting up for the shot

For most people getting access to a 1,000 yard range is the real challenge but for the few of us that do have access here are my tips for getting things right before you break the trigger. If you’re going to a public range with targets already set up, fantastic! Much of the burden of the shoot has been taken care of for you. I set up my own targets on a range that I very carefully choose. For those of you finding your own place to shoot here is what I’ve found to work best. It is best to find a large back stop for a few reasons. Number one is safety, you don’t want missed shots flying way down range. Bullets bounce off the ground and can skyrocket in any direction at that point which is extremely dangerous. Now try to find a dry spot on that back stop, this will make spotting bullet splash on missed shots much easier and is truly the key to making corrections. I shoot in a desert so this proves quite easy for me, I am always amazed at the people who can spot shots into a lush green field, it’s a real talent. Now make sure there are no potential dangers along the range, livestock are a common issue for me and people riding ATVs around is another problem I have dealt with so try to find a dead-end trail or hike the target to position where there are no footpaths other people may be on.

Now lets talk about the firing position. The area you will be shooting from should have a nice flat piece of ground with enough of a vantage point to see above whatever shrubbery you might encounter. I have shot at many places with sage brush which can complicate that, I solved this by laying in the bed of my truck but I am aware this may not be an option for everyone. Personally I use a shooters mat, it helps keep me less dirty for my drive home and has a bit of padding to make lying across dirt, rocks, sticks and thorns more comfortable. I was given the advice that when you’re behind the rifle you should be able to feel as if you could lay there all day, when you feel that comfortable you are in a position you should be in.

I was recently given some advice which inspired me to completely change my prone position. I started out shooting with a slight angle from me to the rifle and my left elbow would sit further forward than my right. I was told you will want the rifle to come straight into your shoulder, to square up, spread your legs wide, keep your ankles to the ground and I started shooting the best groups I have ever shot. It took a bit for me to get used to the new position but it made a difference down range. When setting up your mat put it in a straight line toward your target, this will help get everything else lined up for the shot and get the rifle to a natural resting position.

Now we have most things figured out, it has finally come time to get behind the rifle. Setting up the rifle is a very important part of the shoot. I have always made my far shots off a bipod and a rear bag rest. Now you may use a mechanical front rest or you might have a finely tunable rear bag base both of which will work fine but I do not have experience with either. I have been able to get many hits beyond 1,000 as far as 1,780 with the proper use of a bipod and rice filled rear bag. First thing I do is try to get the scope on target then check where the rifle needs to sit vertically. If I can not get my stock is hitting the ground and my target is above my crosshairs the bipod needs to be raised. If I find that I have excess space under the stock between my rear bag I will drop the bipod a few notches to where the rifle can sit on targeted still be in my shoulder pocket. If the stock is too low or high it will beat you up faster and start causing flinching. If you have never shot with a rear rest definitely go try it. It stabilizes the rifle so mush more than just holding the stock into your shoulder. I was amazed the first time I tried it. When you have the height set also try to get the rifle as level as possible especially the scope crosshairs, that is where your scope will adjust to so be sure it is straight up and down to make calls and holds correctly.

At long last we are ready to send it! Load the bipod slightly, which means having slight forward pressure on the legs. Pull the stock into your shoulder with a few pounds of pressure, enough to be snug but not so much your crosshairs are wiggling. Keep your body low with as much contact to the ground as possible, don’t sit up on your elbows, lie low and get your forearms on the ground. Be sure your ankles are on the ground and that you’re not pushing forward with your toes. Begin the trigger press, you should have a good idea when the rifle will go off but creep up to that point. Don’t pull the trigger but be ready for when it goes off. Once the bullet has left and the recoil has started stay focused, keep your eye in the scope and get back on target to see the projectile arrive. Now slowly release the trigger and enjoy the few seconds of anxiety before the steel report comes back, or begin measuring a hold for the correction for the follow-up shot.


Things you don’t need to worry about

Things I hear the most questions about are often grossly over thought. A very common idea is that you will need a 24x scope or more to shoot 1,000 yards. This is not true at all. In fact I have used my 12x scope for shots out to 1,500 yards and hitting sub MOA targets with regularity at 1,200. I even prefer the 12x over my 20x scope out to 1,500 yards shooting at small targets. So if you have a fixed 10x or even a 4-16x you will be in great shape and should have no problems seeing details like dust trace or your targets at distance.

A bit more technical comment I often see is that you must have low single digit standard deviations in muzzle velocity to hit at long-range, this will make your rifle more consistent but if you only have factory ammo available you will definitely be able to have success at 1,000. I shot a factory hunting line of ammunition 1,000 yards out of my .243 Win with SDs in the 20s and still got impacts on steel. It will give you a bit more vertical spread but probably less than you might think.

By far your greatest enemy shooting long-range is wind. Wind will make or break you with every shot. It’s a continuously changing fluid object thats sole objective is to push you off target. I drive more than 50 miles to my shooting location so when I get there wind or no wind I will be getting behind the gun. I often get comments from people amazed that I made an impact in whatever wind I had going on that day. Ultimately the bullet has to land somewhere, the wind will deviate it off course but it will be brought down like all other bullets and find its way into the first object in its path. Wind can be accounted for and is not a dark sorcery of which can only be interpreted by witches. Watch where the bullet impacts and make the correction. Observe mirage along the range and see which direction its moving to get an idea which side and how far to hold and I promise you that bullet will find its way back to the earth, possibly on target if you call it correctly.

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