As hunters shooting a rifle is something we all should take very seriously. It’s the means we use to kill the prey we hunt. Over the years I’ve had a solid track record as a rifle hunter. Most of that comes from taking shots at 300 yards or less and having a quality firearm built for distances of over 1000 yards. Having a rifle with those capabilities makes the short shots easy and with practice I feel comfortable out to 600 yards on almost any animal in good conditions and with a solid rest. Almost all of that confidence is built entirely off my own experience and teaching. That said they’re sure must be some flaws and is why I’ve limited my range and not pushed it out further. And lets be real, ethics is what limits us, not our equipment. That said when Nick Costas from TACTIC Shooting School approached me about coming and shooting their Long Range Rifle School I was ready to make it happen. No matter how good you may think you are there is always room for improvement, and I knew this class was going to give me great foundational skills and renewed confidence as we headed into a new hunting season. I invited a few close friends who are avid hunters and would benefit from the course as well. We linked up with the guys over at their classroom at 9am and got things started.
Sam breaks down the more advanced elements of bullet flight
The class started with Rob and Sam going through much of the foundational knowledge and skills we would need to apply to our shooting when we hit the range in the afternoon. Both are ex-military and extremely knowledgeable on all things firearms. To top it off they’re both cool dudes and were always kind and positive at every step of the process. The great thing about the courses they offer is that they can tailor each course to your specific needs. Their mission is to empower you and in doing so try to understand what it is you want to learn most and how they can teach you the skills to do so. Our course would be a mix between their Long Range course and their Practical Rifle. Classroom work started with us going through gun safety and making sure we knew all the parts of the rifle and the corresponding names. Being able to stay safe and communicate quickly between shooter and teacher/spotter on the range would be key in taking advantage of our time together.
Rob going through rifle components
From there we learned more about projectiles AKA bullets. Learning about different bullet designs, how they work with different twist rates and velocities as well as how the ballistic coefficient of each bullet affects its flight was great. Then we talked about internal ballistics which included learning about what happened within the rifle when a round is fired. Understanding shell case lengths, shapes, primer and powder combinations as well as barrel twists and lands helped us learn more about how all these effect the bullet as it travels down the barrel and exits towards the target.
Taking notes on areas to be applied in the field
From there we went into external ballistics. External ballistics are all the elements that effect the bullet once it has left the barrel of the gun. Being able to understand these elements is helpful for all shooters but even more so for hunters headed to the mountains or prairies where conditions are constantly shifting and being able to judge these is key between a quick kill and a miss or wounded animal. External ballistics included wind, elevation, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, Coriolis Effect, and spin drift. I can say both for myself and the group that we learned a lot of new and very valuable information as Sam and Rob took us through each of these areas of shooting.
From there we went into shooting positions. Over the years I’d developed a position that I’d basically established just from seeing others shoot and finding a comfortable position when I shot. Typically my torso and spine would be aligned diagonally back from the butt of the rifle. I learned that this was incorrect and that I wanted my spine to be inline with my rifle barrel. This would put me in a solid shooting position and help keep the barrel inline and on target after a shot rather than shifting left or right off target. Other key areas were head position as well as how we grip the rifle and pull the trigger.
Working on shooting form
We took a short lunch break and then took the trucks and drove up to the range. First things first we adjusted our scopes to minimize parallax. Then we verified our zeros at 100 yards and made sure everyone’s rifle was shooting a 1″ group or less.
.300 WSM ready to send some HSM Trophy Gold Down Range
After confirming our zero we setup the chronograph on each rifle so we could collect muzzle velocities. That information would be key to input into our ballistic calculators for shooting long ranges. I personally had the Shooter app on my phone for years but without accurate inputs the app was worthless to me. Rob and Sam helped me setup and “true” my app so that when I input environmental conditions and my distance I was given accurate adjustments to be made in order to get a first shot hit on target.
Calculating muzzle velocity
From there we took aim at our first target setup at 535 yards and slowly worked through a handful of rounds working on maintaining good form and ensuring quality shots. Everyone was shooting well and it wasn’t long until we started stretching out the distances.
Brett making easy work of the 900 yard target
After making hits at targets out to 900 yards we decided to run a drill to simulate a hunting scenario. Two shooters would run to the 100 yard target and then back to their rifle. From there each shooter would have to range a plate the size of a deer’s vitals, get setup on their gun, control their breathing, and take a shot within 30 seconds. From there we continued to shoot and work with both Rob and Sam to shoot different targets, adjust for wind and continue to work on proper form. Being able to work in a 1-on-1 scenario with an instructor was huge in quickly picking up the skills taught earlier in the day. After a few hours there we decided to push things back even further. After re-positioning on the range we were able to extend our range out to 1250 yards.
Brandon sending lead at the 1250 target
Snowy Mountain Rifle + HSM Ammo proving a deadly combo.
1250 yard first shot hits deserve pounds from the boys
1250 is a long, long ways. A LOT further than I’d ever shoot at an elk or deer but a great test to see if my rifle/bullet combo as well as scope could handle the distance. After double checking the range I entered my yardage into my ballistics calculator and double checked my environmental variables. I then calculated my drop and adjusted my scope accordingly. After getting a good position behind the rifle, I eased into the trigger and the shot broke crisply. The rifle jumped slightly but returned to the target so I could see the metal gong sway confirming a hit. The second shot found it’s mark confirming the data I’d used to adjust my scope. Going from 100 to 1250 in the matter of a few hours only added to the confidence I’d built into my firearm over the years.
No lack of firepower or optics here
If you’re a serious hunter or even an avid shooter I’d highly encourage you to talk with Nick about one of the courses that TACTIC offers. You can sign up for a pre-existing course or have them tailor something just for your specific needs. You can visit their website at > www.tacticmt.com
I’d like to thank Rob, Sam and Nick for their time and graciously hosting and teaching us how to be more proficient with our rifles. A special thanks to the fine folks at HSM Ammo for providing exceptional ammo that proved to be well suited to long range shooting and has performed flawlessly over the years in all hunting scenarios we’ve tested it in. Their Trophy Gold lineup is definitely worth a look if your in the market for a new hunting round.
Written by Zack Boughton