Mirage: It Makes Air Visible--and Targets Move!

Mirage: It Makes Air Visible--and Targets Move!
A .22-250, fired prone from 500 yards, yielded these five consecutive hits. Wayne watched the mirage and shaded into it, pausing during boils.

On a warm, sunny day, you'll see heat waves, or mirage, shimmying off the ground. Mirage is especially pronounced on flat, hard surfaces that collect heat, such as pavement and steel rails. Fire your rifle repeatedly, and mirage from the heated barrel will distort your sight picture.

Watch distant mirage through your spotting scope or high-powered rifle-scope, and you'll see it "run" or "boil." The flatter the mirage, the stronger the wind and the greater your bullet deflection. When the waves get tall and slow, deflection will be less. Boiling mirage appears to climb straight up. A boil may indicate a let-up in the wind, or a reversal. In either case, if you shoot during a boil when zeroed for a breeze, you'll miss to the leeward side. If a reversal occurs while you're squeezing the trigger, you'll miss badly.

Mirage is most useful as a wind indicator, but it can also visually displace distant targets. In heavy mirage you'll be aiming at a bullseye that's not where you see it. A zero correction may be in order, if such a condition is expected to remain during a match.

Savvy shooters focus their spotting scopes at mid-range, so they can read mirage not only at the target where the rifle-scope is focused, but halfway along the bullet's path, where conditions can be quite different. A bullet's course "bent" by wind near the muzzle does not re-align with the bore unless an opposite wind downrange nudges it back.

Recommended for You


New Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Long Range McMillan Rifles

RifleShooter Online Staff - November 07, 2018

Big game hunters in search of an accurate, long-range rifle need look no further than Browning...

Shooting Tips

The Rundown on Runout

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

A simple test shows how runout can affect the accuracy of your rounds.


Review: Performance Center-Thompson/Center LRR

Alfredo Rico - April 09, 2019

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Delta 5 - Daniel Defense's New Precision Bolt Action Rifle

Those looking to explore precision rifle shooting without going broke will be well served by Daniel Defense's new Delta 5.

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


3 Great Takedown Survival Guns

David Fortier - March 19, 2015

When I decided to review three different rifles chambered in .22 LR and geared toward survival...


Review: Wilson Combat Ultralight Hunter

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 18, 2019

Wilson Combat's new Ultralight Hunter in .300 Ham'r puts the sport back in modern sporting...


.22 Nosler vs .224 Valkyrie

Brad Fitzpatrick - May 02, 2019

For decades, things were quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, shooters were...

See More Stories

More Shooting Tips

Shooting Tips

How Hunting Conditions and Weather Affect Rifle Performance

Craig Boddington - September 27, 2013

Extreme conditions will effect on your rifle and ammunition; while you can't always do...

Shooting Tips

Tape Over a Rifle Barrel Muzzle Doesn't Affect Accuracy: Fact or Fiction?

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 26, 2014

Rumor has it tape over the firearm muzzle can prevent mud and debris from obstructing your...

Shooting Tips

The Rundown on Runout

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

A simple test shows how runout can affect the accuracy of your rounds.

See More Shooting Tips

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.