Western Rifle Shooters Association

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Scoped Hunting Rifles as Long-Range Rifles

From someone who knows his a** from his elbow, and more:

In case folks haven't figured it out by now I'm pretty interested in long range shooting. I'm just not all that interested in playing rifle platoon games with active duty rifle platoons. I think it's something that just kind of happens when you're a combat veteran and 40 years old. You just want to stay the hell away from all that drama.

Here's a technique that folks might find of use -- nothing I invented but on the other hand something that isn't taught much anymore. Just the simple use of scope zeroing to get you out past the effective range of the average troops ability to hit well with his rifle. The best part about it is almost any decent hunting rifle/scope combo will have you getting pretty effective hits out to 600 yards.

This technique has it's roots way back when sniping with optics and smokeless powder cartridges was in it's infancy, probably sometime during WWI since Herbert McBride mentions long range zeros in "A Rifleman Went To War". It was allot more important in those days than now though, they didn't have the very nice LR optics that we are blessed with, sporting repeatable external knobs side focus etc. The scopes were low powered, dark, fragile and lacked any kind of repeatable means for compensating for elevation (some early attempts were fielded but scope technology wasn't up to the task yet), let alone windage.

Yet even those things being true, the rifleman of the day jumped right on the early optics and did a bang up job. There is probably a lesson here somewhere. It shouldn't be lost on folks that knowledgeable rifleman, in the days long range iron sight shooting was taught, could see the benefit of optics even when they sucked. Simo Hayha killed over 500 Russians, mostly during the harsh Finnish Winter. Lyudmila Pavlichenko (Russian college chick) killed over 300 Germans with her SVT40. Mathias Hetzenauer was awarded the First Class Iron Cross for his efforts whittling down Russians. These folks averaged several hundred kills each and certainly there was a host of "unknowns" doing the same thing.

While there was an eclectic variety of rifles used everything from sporters to the latest in semi-autos, to include the first forward mounted telescope to see issue, they all had one thing in common. Not many of them had as good an optic or a rifle that was any more accurate that the average off the shelf hunting rifle that we take for granted now. I've had opportunity to mess with several vintage sniping rifles, M1D's, Springfield 1903-A4s, Enfields, Mosin Nagants, Mausers including the Swede and German rifles. None of them had anything over a generic Remington ADL and a Leupold 3X9 VXII. The reason these rifleman (and chicks) did so well in combat had to do with what they had between their ears and not in their hands.

Something else you come to realize when you start studying the subject is that most sniper casualties are inflicted from 300 to 500 yards, shorter distances being the exception in MOUT operations and of course the proverbial 1ooo-yard shots in the desert wars. The fact remains that under practical conditions (that includes current efforts) the shots are in the 300 to 500 yard slot. The reason being is simple - it's not that the rifles lack precision or the rifleman lack the skill. It's simply the fact that folks don't make themselves easy targets in combat theaters.

I could keep going, as this is a pet subject, but I'm going to stop and hope I've made a case for the "why". Now to the meat of things with the "how". Pretty simple really: just jock the rifle's zero to take advantage of the distances shot the most With a 500 yard zero you can use simple on target hold offs to compensate for the range and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I have included a picture of a chart from a vintage training manual.

The hardest part about the whole deal is getting the good 500 yard zero. What I do is zero the scope at 500 yards and them mark the adjustment turret under the cap and then return the zero to a more manageable 200 yard zero for hunting. Any decent hunting scope is repeatable enough to make this work, I haven't had any problems even with "friction" adjustments on an old Leupold. Then of course you need to practice and tune things up for you.

Folks that have followed the "Mil-dots vs. Ballistic-Plex" will recognize right off the bat how useful the bargain priced Ballistic-Plex reticle could be if you needed to draft your hunting rifle into active duty.

Food for thought....


Blogger Andrew's M1 said...

Just as a point, when talking about Simo Hayha, it seems like you're saying he used the primitive telescopes of the day.
In fact, he did not; he used iron sights for his sniping.
Just a point of interest and clarification.

January 3, 2008 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger Cabinboy said...

Understood, and I know the author would agree. makes his work all the more impressive, IMHO.

January 3, 2008 at 3:42 AM  
Blogger Andrew's M1 said...

It certainly does; I couldn't come close to matching that skill, at least not yet.

January 3, 2008 at 6:24 PM  

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