Long Range Hunting in the West
By Joe Byers
The wide-open spaces of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West harbor some of Americas greatest game animals and create incredible hunting challenges and memories among those who pursue them. Long range hunting in the West isn’t a matter of choice, it’s often the only option. Along with savvy strategies, hunters need specific gear to meet the challenge of extended range, including flat shooting rifle, crystal clear scopes, and a host of shooting accessories to enhance accuracy and ethical harvests.
Cartridges that Count
(Image 7) The 30-30 and other straight wall cartridges may have won the West, but they are not preferred hunting rounds in most hunting circles. Magnum calibers such as the 7mm Remington or .300 Win Mag, .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, and the new 6.5 Creedmoor have proven to be standouts at longer range for accuracy and a quick demise.
Most hunting outfitters and cartridge manufacturers recommend a 200-yard zero for Western hunts. For example, here’s data on the 30-06 Springfield from the Hornady ballistic chart: 178-grain ELD-X Bullet
Range Drop (in) Velocity (fps) Energy(ft-lbs.)
200 0 2,496 2,462
300 -7.23 2,372 2,224
400 -20.64 2,252 2,004
This quick ballistic snippet shows that a hunter chasing elk, bear, or mule deer can still aim nearly center of the chest at 300 yards resulting in a heart shot and top-of-the-shoulder aim at 400 yards to strike the vitals with a ton of knock-down power.
Long-range hunting equates bullet strike with caliber performance. Getting the bullet into the vitals is just as important as the cartridge that got it there. Scopes for long-range hunting fall into two basic categories: traditional duplex reticles with Mil or MOA dots and ballistic compensating scopes that allow the shooter to adjust the reticle to account for distance and wind and place the reticle exactly on target.
(Image 6) Both scopes have their place in long range shooting. For the person who will most likely have a brief encounter at 500 yards or less, the traditional duplex such as the TruBrite 30 Tactical 3-9X42 Tactical works well. If a bull elk or big muley buck suddenly steps into an opening, you must determine range, aim the reticle or mil Dot to adjust for drop and windage, and fire- a process that can be done in a second. If the animal runs toward you or away, you increase or decrease hold-over.
Using a ballistic compensating scope, the shooter must determine range, dial that range by turning the rifle turret and aim dead-on. Although this sounds like a precise method, remember that it will occur at a time of great excitement. If the animal moves and you must stalk closer to take a different shot, will you remember the previous adjustments?
Know the Range
(Image 4) Distance to a target is critical to all long-range hunting and shooting without this knowledge is just guessing and unethical. Fortunately, hand-held laser rangefinders such as those from Vortex, Sig Sauer, and Nikon greatly simplify this task as well as adjusting for angle. Mountain hunters must often make steep shots up or down a mountain and these laser rangefinders compensate for that angle and provide exact shooting distances. Team them with a compact pair of binoculars like the TruBrite model and you have a dynamic duo.
Range-finding binoculars are an equally good choice and actually reduce the number of devices needed on a hunt. Generally, these models will be larger in size and significantly more expensive than a two-optic program, yet having the ability to search and range-find in a single operation has great appeal.
Steady that Aim
(Image 5) A solid rest is essential for long-range hunting. Normally, bi-pods come immediately to mind, yet only use them if you are thoroughly familiar with the product. Jim Schell, career Wyoming guide and outfitter views a bi-pod with very mixed emotions. “I have seen guy have easy shots at moderate range, only to watch the animal disappear from sight while the shooter fiddles with the bi-pod,” he says. “Don’t use them unless you practice with them.”
Since most back-country hunters usually carry a daypack, use it to steady your rifle and make that precise shot. Teamed with the prone position, this tactic can be rock solid. Shooting sticks can also be an asset and allow a hunter to fire from a sitting or standing position. In a pinch, use a tree, rock, or other immovable object to prefect the shot.
Control Excitement and Maintain Form
The principles of long-range shooting can quickly be dashed with a heart rate that doubles and the heavy breathing that comes with exertion and big game excitement. Realistic practice is paramount before and during a hunt. Locate your longest shooting range back home and practice there. In the field, pick out rocks, stumps or trees at unknown distances, range, and sight for success. When opportunity knocks for real, you will be ready to take that trophy-of-a-lifetime with the shot-of-a -lifetime.
Hunting Hogs with a Red Dot Sight
by Brad Fitzpatrick
Texas has a pig problem. The state has been plagued for decades with an ever-increasing feral hog population (now estimated at over two million animals) and biologists claim that to stabilize the population sixty-six percent of the feral hog population in Texas would have to be harvested. Each year the damage to crops and property inflicted by pigs in the Lone Star state runs in the millions of dollars.
Think if you don’t live in Texas you’re safe from this creeping tide of invasive hogs? Think again. There are feral hog populations in 39 states and the national population estimate is around six million animals. If there aren’t pigs in your back yard today then you might want to check again tomorrow.
There aren’t a lot of silver linings in the pig population explosion, but if you are a hunter then there are great opportunities to hunt pigs in places like Texas or elsewhere where wild hog populations are growing and causing conflicts with humans and native wildlife. Pig hunts are usually very inexpensive and bag limits and season date restrictions are quite liberal. Plus, they provide great lean meat and you can fill your freezer quickly on a single successful hunt.
More and more hunting products are being designed with hog hunters in mind, and optics are a key consideration when designing your perfect pig hunting rig. Sure, you can hunt pigs with your favorite scoped deer rifle, but high magnification is not always the best option when hunting feral hogs. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself in the midst of a sounder (group) or pigs at relatively close range, and with multiple shot opportunities you’ll need an optic that offers a wide field of view, a clear aiming point and is designed to allow you to take running shots if needed. I’ve hunted pigs in rice fields, in dense semi-arid thorn country, and in driven situations in forests—all very different habitats. But one type of optic works perfectly in all these situations—a robust red dot sight.
One of the best options in this category is TRUGLO’s TRU-TEC 20mm Red Dot sight. For starters, it offers a 20mm objective lens and a 2mm dot, a great setup for hunting with ARs, bolt guns, shotguns, and a variety of other weapons. With unlimited eye relief and a wide field of view you get a clear sight picture for rapid both-eyes-open shooting. In situations where you are taking multiple shots in a hurry this is a great benefit because you can transition from target to target more quickly, maximizing every opportunity that arises to take multiple hogs from a single sounder. Pigs are frequently taken at close range; I’d guess that of all the hogs I’ve taken while still hunting or in stands roughly three-quarters of the shots I’ve taken were at close range in dense cover with multiple shot opportunities. In those situations, the TRU-TEC’s bright red dot allows for maximum awareness and rapid target transition.
The TRUGLO optic’s design is very versatile, and while it lends itself perfectly to those close-quarters shots that are so common you can also stretch your range out effectively to a hundred yards or more. Having a 2 MOA dot gives the TRU-TEC a major advantage because the dot is large enough for rapid shots at running hogs up close but it is also small enough for more precise long-range shooting as well. With the TRU-TEC’s red dot design you also have a huge advantage when hunting at last light since you won’t lose a blackened reticle. Smart old boars have learned that it’s much safer to forage at dawn, dusk, or during the night, and since you can hunt pigs legally around the clock in many areas there are fewer restrictions on shooting hours (although, of course, you must always make absolutely certain of your target). On hunts in both Texas and Oklahoma I had really large boars appear just on the edge of darkness, and a dark reticle can become lost on a dark pig in low light, especially if the shot is rather long. Not so with a red dot. The type of versatility that the TRU-TEC 20mm offers hunters is a big reason that this is an ideal hog hunting optics. If the pigs are close and there are several animals you have a non-magnified optic with a clear aiming point for making multiple shots and there are few better options when you are shooting at a running target. But if that big boar hog slips out at longer range on the edge of darkness you’ve still got an optic that’s up to the task. Having that level of flexibility is vital in a hog hunting optic.
The TRU-TEC’s robust and user-friendly design is also of great benefit when pursuing feral pigs.
There’s an integrated Weaver/Picatinny-style mounting rail included that allows you to quickly and securely affix the optic to your rifle (or switch between rifles, if you choose) and since TRUGLO offers both a low and high mount option with each TRU-TEC sight purchased you can be guaranteed proper eye alignment. A host of other user-friendly features also make this an appealing hog hunting optic. Digital push-button controls with multiple brightness settings allow you to quickly configure the optic as needed for the ambient light conditions, and the auto-on/auto-off feature helps preserve battery life. Speaking of batteries, the TRU-TEC runs on one included 3V-CR2032 battery that has a long life. And if you eventually run that battery down over time it’s easy and affordable to replace. Simple-to-use click windage and elevation adjustments are precise and they allow you to zero your rifle quickly and maintain a constant zero. In addition, the parallax-free design means your eye doesn’t have to be perfectly aligned with the optic for maximum accuracy.
Hogs prefer the safety of very rough cover (especially during daylight hours) so you must choose an optic that is robust and built to stand up to some very harsh elements. The TRU-TEC’s design is waterproof and shockproof and is shock resistant to 1000g. Odds are you won’t need that type of protection against the elements, but it’s certainly nice to know that the optic you are running on your hog gun is durable enough to stand up to the worst conditions. Dense brush can also take a toll on larger optics, and they add unnecessary weight to your rifle. The lightweight, compact TRU-TEC slips through dense cover and doesn’t add a lot of bulk. And with an MSRP of $221 the TRU-TEC 20mm is also one of the most affordable optics that offers this level of performance.
Hog numbers are rising and it’s time for hunters to step in and help control populations. To do so, you’ll need the right weapon with the right optic, and the TRU-TEC from TRUGLO is a versatile, functional, affordable choice. Setting up a hog gun with this sight allows you to extend your hunting season and increase your odds of success. Just make sure that you have plenty of room in the freezer. www.truglo.com
Pheasant Hunting with the Fat•Bead
by Brad Fenson
One of the best things I ever did to improve my wing shooting ability was to take a lesson from OSP Shooting School gurus, Gil and Vicki Ash. The experience turned me from an average shooter into one that pheasants fear.
Keep your head up, both eyes open, watch the target, and know where the end of your shotgun is as you swing it, and keep swinging it. One of the biggest mistakes we make as shotgun enthusiasts is trying to aim a shotgun when it needs to be pointed. The end of your shotgun and bead are a guide but aren’t meant to be your focus point. There are lots of things you can do to help keep the bead in your peripheral vision, as we all know we need to be watching the target.
A larger bead is easy to keep track of and the brighter it is, the more likely you’ll see it under varying light conditions. A TRUGLO Fat Bead could be the difference in you bringing home a limit of birds, or carting a shooting vest full of empty hulls.
A Fat Bead or Fat Bead Universal come in different models to attach to your shotgun. There are distinct size mounting screws to accommodate most shotguns. The large diameter bead has a fiber optic that is .100 inches and stands out like a colorful rooster. The fiber used in the bead is 0.5 inches long, meaning it can gather and emit lots of light and brightness. The fat, bright sight makes your shotgun easier to track while you’re watching birds fly.
Pheasants can be tricky fowl to hit on the wing. They usually rocket straight up out of cover, level off for a brief second, then jet away at breakneck speed. If you can catch them on the momentary pause between leveling off and heading for safer ground, you can usually collect more birds.
Pheasants are masters at using the wind and they often flush into the breeze, turn quickly, and use the Jetstream to carry them away as quick as possible. A crossing shot, on a fast target in the wind, is hard to hit. You need to concentrate on the speed of the bird and keep your gun barrel swinging at the same speed. The old saying, “back, belly, beak—bang!” often describes the swift swing of a trusty smoothbore to anchor your target.
If you have any vision issues or suffer from eyes that are aging, the Fat Bead just might be the quick fix to make you look like an all-star again. It is ideal for a replacement, or a repair, to existing shotgun bead. Whether you enjoy shooting clay targets, upland game birds, or waterfowl, a more visible shotgun bead could help you out. The fiber optics come in green or red and are available in several sizes and diameters. The Fat Bead can only be installed on a shotgun barrel with a ventilated, or solid rib design.
Deer Hunting with Shotgun Slugs
By Brad Fenson
The brisk, frigid wind bit at the exposed skin on my face, but I dare not move. I was waiting on a big whitetail buck to travel along the edge of a wetland and knew movement would mean he’d never expose himself. I’d been hunting the same buck for weeks and thought I finally had him patterned. The minutes turned to hours and just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand the cold another second a flash of brown fur caught my eye. It was a deer!
I had to keep my wits about me and not give away my location until it was time to shoot. I could see antlers dancing through tree limbs and knew it was the buck I wanted. Just as he had done several late mornings, the buck trotted out of the tree cover to take a shortcut along the wetland. I stood frozen behind a large aspen tree just 40 yards from where the deer would pass. I slowly started wiggling my mitt off my trigger hand, letting it fall to the ground as I shouldered my shotgun and sent a 12-gauge slug into the vitals of the old buck. I quickly pumped the gun and put a second shot into the deer for assurance.
There was no ground shrinkage on the deer. It was the biggest white-tailed buck I had ever taken and still stands as my largest buck to date. I was hunting an area where slug guns were the firearm of choice. I didn’t feel as though I was at a disadvantage. In fact, having a slug gun likely helped me connect at close range, while the deer was moving. All I remember is the deer turning his head to look in my direction when I dropped my mitt, and boom, it was over.
With the extra seasons and opportunities afforded to slug hunters, I’m not sure why more people haven’t embraced them? It is easy to set up an existing shotgun that is normally used for bird hunting, and prepare it to become your favorite deer slayer. TRUGLO Pro Series Slug Gun sights mount to the rib of any shotgun. There aren’t any magnets or tape, and the sights are properly secured with screws to withstand recoil and heavy hunting rigors.
All-steel construction makes the sights as durable as any shotgun, and once they are mounted, you can adjust the windage and elevation to have your shotgun punching clover leaves on paper. In TRUGLO fashion, the sights have fiber optics to make them bright and easy to see. The dovetail sight makes it easy to settle the front sight for repeatable accuracy. The front sight diameter is .029 inches, and the rear diameter is .035inches.
There are four different models to cover a wide range of shotguns. The only requirement is that your gun has a ventilated, or fixed rib to attach the sights. An Allen key tightens the screws and sights in place for sturdy reliability.
If you’re considering deer hunting with slugs, you should try a Pro Series Slug Gun sight. Chances are you might leave your favorite smoothbore set up for deer season and find a different one to cover your bird interests.
Get the Most from Your Ruger 10/22 Rifle
The little “rimfire that could” can do a lot more with these simple upgrades.
by Rob Reaser
There’s no question that Ruger’s 10/22 carbine is the most popular and acclaimed .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle in the country. And for good reason. Its simple blowback bolt design leaves little room for malfunctions; it is remarkably accurate despite its “bolt-on” barreled action and given its short stature and light weight, it is the perfect range plinker and small-game hunting rifle.
Out of the box, the 10/22 is a winner. You can easily upgrade its performance and appearance to make it even more endearing to everyone; from serious shooters to hunters and even preppers.
If you’re looking to enhance your 10/22’s performance, or simply want to customize America’s bread-and-butter rimfire rifle to suit your own tastes, here are a few ways to go about it.
Nothing unleashes the 10/22’s inherent accuracy and fun quotient like a quality optic. Which optic you choose, however, depends largely on your intended use. Dedicated bench shooters obviously favor a high-magnification scope to zero in on their 50-yard cards. Such optics, though, are a bit unwieldy and impractical for plinking and hunting. For the latter, it’s hard to beat the standard fixed 4X rifle scope. With most small-game hunting requiring shots under 50 yards (and usually only in the 20- to 30-yard range), a 4X scope such as TRUGLO’s 4×32 Compact Scope (TG8504BR) is right on target. The 4X magnification offers quick sight picture acquisition for erratically moving game animals yet provides enough “optical reach” for accurate bullet placement on small targets. This is the scope we use on our Plain Jane 10/22 for hunting squirrels or when running trap lines.
For something a little on the uncommon side that also amps up the fun factor, consider a reflex sight. We recently modified one of our 10/22s with an M4-type fluted barrel and an old-school military style wood stock. Keeping the sighting system tracking with the tactical theme, we wanted a fast-action optic. The solution—the TRUGLO Multi-Reticle/Dual Color Open Red•Dot. Mount the rifle to your shoulder and you get a clear sight picture without losing your situational awareness (such as what can occur when sighting down an optic tube). Aside from the broad vision offered by this sight, we like the fact that it comes with four different reticle designs (to better match our target), red or green illumination (to accommodate the environment), and illumination level adjustment (to match the ambient light).
Fiber Optic Sights
Of course, one of the charms of a light carbine rifle such as the 10/22 is shooting with open sights—particularly when it comes to plinking. Open sights offer a challenge that is mitigated when using precision optics. To get the most out of open-sight shooting when lighting and environmental conditions are less than ideal, fiber optic sights are the solution.
TRUGLO offers a front and rear fiber optic sight set that is compatible with the 10/22 (with the exception of the Ruger Takedown® model). The Rimfire Rifle Fiber-Optic Sight Set includes CNC-machined front and rear sight bases with a 0.060-inch diameter front red fiber optic element and two 0.035-inch diameter green fiber optic elements. They’re ideal for low light or bright light shooting conditions, and easily replace the existing factory sights.
Let’s face it…most 10/22 OE stocks are about as exciting as a Model T at a Ferrari convention. Not only do they lack in the aesthetics department, their one-size-fits-all profile doesn’t necessarily provide the ergonomics needed to maximize the rifle’s accuracy potential.
There are many companies making aftermarket stocks for the 10/22. Choose your flavor, but try to make sure the stock actually fits you. Length-of-pull (the distance between the flat of the trigger hook and the back of the buttstock) is the most critical element. Too short or too long and you will always be adjusting your head position for the proper eye relief, and that’s a recipe for poor shooting form. Ditto for the drop-of-comb (the distance between the line-of-sight and the stock’s comb, where your cheek rests).
Our best stock upgrade was a laminated hardwood stock with a skeletonized buttstock (for light weight), pistol grip (for straighter trigger pull), and a free-float forend (to eliminate barrel torque). Whichever way you go, however, just make sure that the stock fits you.
One of the most accurizing elements of any firearm modification is a performance trigger. No matter how good your optic, how precise your barreled action machining, or the consistency of your ammunition, a rough, unrefined trigger can send everything south in a hurry.
Fortunately, trigger swaps are super simple in a 10/22, and if you’re not comfortable doing it, any qualified gunsmith can perform the work in no time flat. The downside to aftermarket trigger systems is that they cost almost as much as the rifle itself. For most plinking or hunting applications, a high-performance trigger is not necessary. Competitive shooters, on the other hand, should consider a trigger upgrade a must-have.
The 10/22’s factory barrel is good. A precision-manufactured aftermarket barrel is even better—especially if competitive shooting is in your plans.
One of the things that’s so great about the 10/22 is that swapping out the stock barrel could not be more simple. After removing the stock and barrel band (easy), removing the trigger assembly (pop out three retaining pins and you’re done), and removing the bolt and charging handle (also easy), you’ll see that the barrel is secured to the receiver by two screws and a V-block. Remove the screws and V-block and the barrel can be pulled apart from the receiver. Installing a new barrel is just the reverse of the removal process.
The Ruger 10/22 carbine is a favorite among shooters and small game hunters for several reasons—accuracy, weight, and reliability are key among them. What the 10/22 offers that so many rifles in its class do not is the ability to easily customize it to fit your specific needs and shooting style. So, if your 10/22 has been gathering dust, maybe it’s time to pull it out, shake it off, and treat it to some of the modifications we just mentioned. Who knows…you may rediscover the excitement and low-cost fun of rimfire shooting!
Sighting-In for 3-Gun
By Rob Reaser
The country’s hottest practical shooting competition continues to grow. If you are looking to get in on the fun, TRUGLO® offers one-stop shopping for all your pistol, shotgun, and AR sighting needs.
If you do it, you already know. If you don’t, you’ll find out as soon as try it…3-gun competitions are a blast. Not only do 3-gun matches scratch that itch we all have to get out on the range, but participation in this popular and ever-growing sport has real-world benefits the likes of which you just can’t get from static range shooting. The practice of engaging multiple courses of fire with your three primary defensive weapons—pistol, shotgun, and semi-automatic rifle—allows you to hone your self-defense skills. What’s more, the trio of weapons you may use on a 3-gun course can be the same ones you employ for your daily personal and home defense.
Getting into 3-gun shooting is simple. All you need is a pistol in 9mm or larger chamber, a pump or semi-auto shotgun in .20- or .12-gauge, and, for most divisions, a .223 chamber semi-auto rifle, the most popular of which is the AR-15 platform. From there, it’s a matter of refining your weapons to suit your needs while staying within the rules for the division in which you want to participate. If you have questions, there are many resources to help you get started, including your local participating gun range or shooting club. The 3-gun fraternity is a friendly lot, and experienced shooters enjoy every opportunity to help new shooters get involved in the sport.
Although 3-gun equipment rules are in place, they are fairly simple—especially when compared to some competitive shooting associations. One area where the rules are fairly straightforward involves sights and optics; depending on the division in which you chose to participate, no magnified optics are allowed or one magnified optic is allowed in your 3-gun set.
For those of you who are ready to give 3-gun competition a try, these three products will get your gear ready for the buzzer.
TFX™ Pro Pistol Sights
If you’ve done any serious pistol shooting, you know that your original equipment front and rear sights do not provide an ideal sight picture in all lighting conditions. The TRUGLO TFX™ Pro tritium/fiber optic day/night sights, however, work in all lighting conditions, such as you
will often find on a 3-gun course. The advantage the TFX™ Pro sights have over conventional open sights, fiber optic-only sights, or tritium-only sights is that they combine Swiss tritium and fiber optics with a contrasting color front sight ring. This combination provides optimal sight picture acquisition whether you’re shooting with a high-noon sun overhead or you are on a woodland course darkened by storm clouds. What’s more, the tritium/fiber optic elements are encased in almost indestructible, hermetically sealed capsules that won’t be compromised by oils and cleaning solvents. Another advantage these sights have for the 3-gun shooter is their radiused, snag-proof design, which allows you to draw and holster your pistol smoothly and quickly.
TRU•BEAD Turkey Universal Sights
You’re probably thinking, “A turkey sight for a tactical shotgun?” Well, listen up. Three-gun courses are increasingly diversifying their courses of fire, and this includes the shotgun courses. In a shotgun course, you may encounter everything from close-quarter target “hosing” with #6s or 75-yard slug targets. As a result, you need an equally diverse sighting system. An ideal middle-ground sight is the TRUGLO TRU•BEAD™ Turkey Universal. You can use the orange fiber optic front sight to focus on your close-range targets. When it’s time to send a chunk of lead far downrange, the contrasting color rear sights will give you precise targeting. Of course, the rear sights are adjustable for elevation and windage, so you’ll know the steel is in trouble as soon as you hit the stage.
To Magnify or Not to Magnify
That is the question you must answer before deciding in which division you want to shoot. The Limited division, which is popular for those just entering the 3-gun world, does not allow any magnified optics. If this is your chosen path, you’ll want to consider using a fast-acquisition red dot, such as the TRUGLO TRU•TEC™ 30mm Red Dot. This sight provides a wide field of view and unlimited eye relief for the fast-paced 3-gun environment while the 2 MOA reticle ensures precise targeting for those way-out-there shots.
If you want to jump right into the highly competitive Tactical division, you will be allowed one magnifying optic in your arsenal. This, naturally, would be best served on your rifle. While some competitors combine canted open sights with a higher power scope to cover both short and long distance targets, fixed power or variable power scopes (1-4X and 1-6X) are commonly used for both. The scope is set at its low setting for engaging close targets, then the shooter cranks up the magnification to engage the 200- and 300-yard plus targets. For this, the TRUGLO TRU•BRITE™ 30 Series is your huckleberry. The TRU•BRITE™ 30 Series can be purchased with either 1-4X or 1-6X magnification and includes two pre-calibrated BDC turrets (one for .223 caliber/55grain and one for .308 caliber/168 grain) so you can be confident of your shot placement. Another feature that makes this scope optimal for 3-gun shooting is the ergonomic magnification adjustment ring, which minimizes fumbling and grip slip when you need to quickly transition between magnification settings.
Try It Out!
Three-gun competition is great fun, and it is a terrific opportunity for developing real-world defensive shooting skills. There are firearms clubs and associations around the country which host three-gun matches throughout the year. The National Shooting Sports Foundation maintains a listing of shooting ranges in the U.S., many of which host 3-gun competitions. Contact your local ranges for more info. You can also check out 3-Gun Nation for additional shooting opportunities in your area. In the meantime, check out this NSSF introductory video to 3-gun competition.
Tune Up for Long-Range Shooting
By Rob Reaser
“Long-distance” is a relative term in the hunting world, but whether 50 yards or 500 yards is stretching it out for you, here are some tips that will help extend your lethal zone.
Ask ten hunters what they consider to be a long-distance shot on a game animal and you’ll probably get as many different answers. The correct answer is measured not in distance, but in shooter skill and equipment. A long-distance, pushing-the-envelope shot for me is around 250 yards. When shooting in a hunting situation, that’s about as far as I can confidently make a kill shot. I simply cannot keep my rifle still enough to shoot any farther than that and know that the kill will be ethically quick. For other hunters, 300 yards may be their maximum ethical shooting distance, or perhaps 400 yards. Go much beyond that, unless you are shooting a highly specialized rifle and scope combination and have years of practice doping wind and calculating bullet drop, and most shooters are dancing in the “pull-and-pray” zone.
So, maximum shooting distances for ethically hunting game is relative to the skill and confidence level of the hunter. The thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you want to make clean shots at game animals that are 50 yards or 300 yards away, the principles of shooting accuracy are all the same. If you follow these shooting fundamentals, you’ll learn your maximum shooting distance, be confident that the shot you take will be true, and possibly push your personal “long-distance shot” a bit farther than you thought possible.
Is one rifle setup better than another? No question about it. That said, we all are going to shoot what we like and the best we can afford…be that a particular brand, model, chamber, cartridge, optic, or accessory. The important thing is that your equipment fit your body and shooting style, that everything is properly set up, and that you find the load that shoots best from your particular barrel and stick with it.
A common problem many hunters have that can adversely affect accuracy is not having a comfortable fit when they shoulder their rifle. The length of pull may be too long or too short, which can force you to shoot in an unnatural position, or the scope may be mounted too far forward or backward to achieve proper eye relief, which can also cause you to shoot in an unnatural position. Remember when you were a kid and wanted a particular pair of sneakers but the store didn’t have the right size? You convinced yourself and your parents that the ill-fitting shoes would be fine because, darn it, you wanted those shoes! Later, of course, you paid the price. Don’t be that kid again! If your rifle needs to be adjusted, there are aftermarket solution, such as installing a longer butt pad or getting a gunsmith to trim some stock length. The point is to make sure your rifle fits and the scope is properly set up, because failing to do so will only frustrate your efforts to maximize your shooting distance.
Speaking of scopes, there are so many on the market today that picking the right one can be an exercise in frustration. I’ve seen people drop a month’s worth of wages on a high-power, multi-function, BDC reticle scope designed for 600-yard-plus shots knowing full well that it will never be used for more than dropping a whitetail at 100 yards max. I’ve also seen people try to use their 3X fixed scope for western hunting and expect to drop a mule deer at 300 yards. Not that it couldn’t be done, but it couldn’t be done by these hunters. The point is, you need a scope that fits your likely hunting conditions.
If your primary tactic is hunting whitetail in woods and fields where 50- to 100-yard shots are the norm, a scope such as TRUGLO’s new TRU•BRITE™ 30 Hunter is ideal. With a 1-4X magnification, wide-view 24mm objective, and fully coated lenses for optimal light transmission, this scope works great for rapid target acquisition in tight quarters, yet will easily deliver the kill shot out to the average maximum 200-yard range of most hunters.
For those whose long-range endeavors including dropping western game at ranges up to and beyond 300 yards, a scope such as the TRU•BRITE™ Extreme IR Rifle scope is a good candidate. This scope offers several features favored by those who have developed the skill and confidence to make those outside shots, including illuminated Dual•Color Bullet Drop Compensating or standard duplex reticles in red, green, and black, large 44mm or 50mm objective lenses for a wide field-of-view and brightness in low-light conditions, and magnification options covering 3-9X, 3-12X, and 4-16X.
Okay, we’re not actually going to cover all of the shooting basics here because most of you already have those well in hand. What we want to zero in on are a few facets of shooting basics that many hunters tend to forget…especially when they are in the field.
First is trigger pull. Precise, consistent shooting accuracy demands precise and consistent trigger pull. There are two techniques to keep in mind when pulling the trigger. One is to position your body, grip, and trigger finger so that you are pulling straight back with the pad of your index finger. This is another example of where proper gun fit comes in. If you aren’t pulling the trigger straight back with the end of your index finger, it means you are pulling the trigger to the side and running the risk of pulling it all out of alignment as the shot breaks. This condition is particularly noticeable when shooting a pistol, but it also has a detrimental effect when shooting rifles as well. Always pull straight back on the trigger in a slow, steady pull. The second technique is to follow through the trigger pull after the shot breaks. Simply put, keep pulling straight back on the trigger after the shot goes off. If you immediately let up on the trigger after the break (for example, to cycle the bolt for a follow-up shot), you risk disturbing the rifle alignment before the bullet leaves the barrel. Following up on the shot also keeps you in place to better see what is happening downrange. Did you hit or miss? Did the animal drop or is it running for cover? Stay calm, follow up the trigger pull, and observe.
Staying calm is also a key part of long-distance shooting accuracy during the shot cycle—particularly breathing control. In order to maintain a steady target lock and execute a well-placed shot when high magnification and adrenaline wreak havoc on platform stability, timing the shot with your breathing cycle is critical. Your body and sight alignment is most stable at the bottom of your breathing cycle (exhale). When you’re ready to make the shot, the goal is to lengthen the bottom of your breathing cycle (not hold your breath!) and break the shot midway through that extension. Focusing on your breathing cycle will help you calm down when things get tense.
Now that you have your equipment and shooting fundamentals in check, it’s time to put them to practice.
It’s an old saw that bears repeating, but bench performance doesn’t necessarily translate to performance in the field. You may be able to stay in the ten ring at 200 yards from the bench, but it’s tough to do that when you’re stretched across a boulder or leaning your rifle against a tree. Fortunately, practicing under realistic field conditions (or as close to them as you can get) will serve you well when that trophy is standing on the ragged edge of your comfort zone.
Once you have your rifle zeroed, you should spend your practice sessions shooting from various positions away from the bench. Bring your hunting pack to the range, throw it on the ground and practice shooting prone at various distances. Do the same while sitting, shooting freehand, shooting with sling support, and shooting while propped against a vertical support. You may be surprised that your effective maximum shooting distance changes significantly with each shooting position. The same is true if you use shooting sticks or a monopod. Until you actually practice with these supports, you’ll never know your limits or be able to improve your accuracy at longer distances.
A side benefit of practicing for long-distance shots is the improved accuracy you’ll gain when shooting at closer distances. If you are also a bowhunter, you know that when you practice regularly at 50 or 60 yards, those 20- to 30-yard shots are as easy as buttering bread. The same is true when shooting a rifle. The difference is that you must be cognizant of changes in bullet trajectory and parallax changes due to scope magnification. That is one of the advantages of having a scope with a BDC reticle, which is available with TRUGLO’s TRU•BRITE™ Extreme IR Rifle scope. You can calibrate the scope to most centerfire cartridges on the market today, giving you precise and confident shot placement out to 600 yards.
Make life easier on yourself and maximize your range time by using high-visibility targets such as the TRU•SEE Splatter targets by TRUGLO. Their bright green impact rings allow you to see your point-of-impact at long distances much better than conventional paper targets. Using TRU•SEE™ Splatter targets will significantly reduce your zeroing time, and keep you from having to wait for the “all clear” every time you need to check your target.
As you can see, a lot goes into extending your effective (ethically lethal) shooting distance. Refine your setup to suit your needs, then practice the basics both on the bench and off. Then, whether that trophy is 20 yards or 200 yards away, you can shoulder your rifle with confidence.