Have you considered giving long range shooting at try? But you are apprehensive? Not sure that you have the right equipment? You have never shot past 100 or 200 yards? Don’t worry! We have all been there at the beginning. When I first started the only rifles I had were an 11.5 inch AR and a CZ .308 hunting rifle with a duplex reticle. I realized that I needed to make an investment in equipment if I was going to become proficient at long range shooting.
If you would like to try but don’t want to spend a lot of money right away. I recommend that you find a friend that has the right equipment and take a few shots with their rifle. Make sure the shots are at 300 – 500 yards. This will give you a sense of what shooting at distance is like, but it is not so far you miss easily and get discouraged. We also recommend you stop by a local long range shooting match and just watch. This will give you an understanding of how the matches are ran and what is expected of you as a competitor/shooter.
So if you have decided this sport is something you are interested in, you now have to acquire the right equipment. If you follow this simple advice you will save money in the long run, BUY ONCE, CRY ONCE. This means buy the best quality gear that you can afford without burdening yourself with debt. Everyone wants the $4,000 rifle and the $3,000 scope, but not everyone can afford it when they are starting out. If you can afford a $7,000 rifle and optic purchase then by all means go ahead and get what you want. It will make you happy and the gear will last a lifetime.
For those of you that have a more modest budget, like myself, there are opportunities out there for a quality set up that isn’t going to have you filing for bankruptcy. I started with a stock Remington 700 SPS tactical with a fixed 10 power SWFA Super Sniper scope mounted on it. I paid $700 for the rifle, scope, rings and 20 MOA scope base. I added a Harris bi-pod and took it to the range with any factory ammo I could find. My range at the time was limited to 200 yards off of a bench. Not the most ideal conditions but I practiced with that rifle every weekend. I would shoot five rounds groups on paper to see how well I could do. I still have several of those targets sitting on top of my safe. One of which is pictured here. This proves that you can get good results with a factory rifle and ammo.
As a good starting point I recommend that you purchase a Remington 700 SPS AAC-SD rifle or one of the Remington 5R rifles. While Savage makes great rifles, there is more aftermarket support for the Remington 700 action. While most people will push a new shooter towards the .308 cartridge for numerous reasons, that is not the only solution. You are no longer limited to match .308 ammo; you can now find factory match ammo from Hornady, Federal or Southwest Ammunition. Cartridges such as 260 and 6.5 Creedmoor offer better ballistics and less recoil than .308.
Once you have the rifle you will need a quality rifle scope. I highly recommend getting the best scope that you can afford. It is better to have a $500 rifle with a $1,500 scope mounted on it, than an expensive rifle with cheap glass mounted to it. There are plenty of options from $600 and higher in good quality scopes. Don’t worry if your budget is under $600 there are a few options that will accommodate you well. For $700 one of the better scopes available is the SWFA 3-15X scope.
It is important to buy a scope that has a reticle with graduated markings in, Minute of Angle or Milliradian (commonly called mil-dot, MIL or MRAD) measurements. A hunting scope with a regular crosshair or duplex will not work well in this application. You need a usable reticle and target turrets that match your reticle. There are scopes that have Mil-dot reticles and MOA turrets, avoid them if you can. It will make your learning curve easier. A scope with 10x maximum magnification is the lowest I would go, 15 power is even better. Most shooters will settle on a scope with 20x or 25x max magnification.
Once you settle on a rifle and scope combo, do not forget the accessories that you will need. A good quality bipod such as the Harris 6-9 inch notched leg model is essential. You will also need rings to match the diameter of your scope tube, typically 30mm or 34mm. You will need a 20 MOA scope base to act as the mounting point for your rings. You need some form of rear support for under the stock of the rifle. I started with a Crown Royal bag full of plastic BB’s for a rear bag. There are numerous choices in a range of $20 – $50 for rear bags. A rifle drag bag is also needed in order to get your gear to the range.
If you are wondering why I only recommended a bolt action rifle for your first rifle there are several reasons. One is that a semi-auto capable of sub-MOA groups is going to be considerably more expensive than a bolt gun. Semi autos are also more difficult to shoot well in precision applications (they have a slower lock time vs. bolt rifle). A bolt gun produces a single recoil impulse that is easily controlled straight back into the shoulder. On a Semi you must contend with three recoil impulses, straight back at the shot, the bolt carrier group slamming back into the spring and the Bolt Carrier Group pushing the next round into the chamber. You have to control all of those impulses thru the shot making follow through vital. You also need to have trigger discipline so that you only send one round downrange per squeeze. Semi guns are also more sensitive to factory ammo if that ammo runs hot. You will see pressure signs and get popped primers faster with a semi than a bolt gun.
Just like any other shooting discipline, practice will make you better. A new shooter should seek training as soon as they can. Whether you attend a formal course or just find shooting partners that are experienced, it will improve your skills. We also encourage shooters to get involved with local shooting sports. Participating in different shooting sports not only will speed up your learning curve, but you will meet a lot of good people. I have made many friends through shooting sports and that alone is well worth it!