We all have our definitions of what constitutes âlong range shooting,â and we all have our personal range limits as well. For me, I think long range starts when you have to abandon a dead-on hold with your center crosshair and start to figure either the holdover or the alternative aiming point. At this point thereâs really no mystery and no magic; you have to figure out the shooting solution, and now itâs just a matter of magnitude. In that regard itâs a bit like artillery fire. The longer the range, the more complex the solution. Fortunately, even the most rabid long-range riflemen arenât quite yet to the point where the rotation of the Earth has to be factored into the shot.
A big difference between long-range field shooting and artillery is that âalmostâ doesnât quite cut it. A near-miss doesnât do you any good at all. There is, however, another similarity in that, at extreme range, the target may not know exactly whatâs going on, so itâs occasionally possible to âadjust fireâ and walk a bullet into the target. This is exactly the way artillery is brought on target, as in âright 50, add 100, fire for effect.â
This is just one of the problems I have with the concept of extreme-range shots at game animals. Although we are definitely trying to kill a specific animal, we arenât at war with the critters. Near misses do us no good. So when a range is reached when there is no longer a very high probability of a first-round vital hit, we are actually out of range. Obviously this varies tremendously with the conditions. With my .300 Weatherby set up as it was, a 300-yard shot, just three inches of holdover, shouldnât be an issue. But add a 30-mph crosswind, and maybe even 300 yards is a bit too far.
In my day military snipers were almost a dirty secret. The terrible way we treated Carlos Hathcock is a prime example. Therefore I think the way we admire, almost revere, our modern-day snipers is wonderful. They deserve the respect they currently receive. On the other hand, I think itâs extremely inappropriate to transfer what they do in combat to what we as hunters do in the field. Oh, sure, the âhold âem and squeeze âemâ part is great. But in most cases the sniper doesnât have to achieve a clean kill in order to accomplish his mission. In fact, it could be argued that a wounding shot is even better than a killing shot; the guy thatâs hit is out of action, as are the guys who have to take care of him.
It could be argued further that the sniper doesnât necessarily have to hit his target to accomplish his mission. Doctrinally, an important part of the sniperâs role is to demoralize the enemy and break up troop formations. This can be done by taking out leaders and crew-served weaponsâŠbut it can also be accomplished by near misses. In hunting this doesnât work.
This article is an expanded excerpt from Boddingtonâs âThe Shooting Solutionâ article, which will appear in the September/October issue of RifleShooter magazine.
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