First Time Shooting a Mile
As the prelim to this blog post, I just finished reading an article that Todd Hodnett of Accuracy 1st Development Group posted with Guns & Ammo Magazine. I’ll post the link at the bottom. He discusses the errors that are most commonly associated with shooting in general but specifically shows how much these issues matter at distance. After reading his article, it reminded me of the first time I was able to experience the complexity of applying these principles when attempting my first shot at 1,600 meters with my service rifle, the M110 SASS, running government issued M118LR. Just so happens that my first opportunity was at Todd's precision rifle course in Texas back in 2012. Sure I had shot at this distance beforehand, but utilizing the Barrett M107 LRSR (50 Cal) shooting at area sized tank and artillery hulls. It was a completely different ballgame when I was up against a 12" plate hanging over an 18" gong with a .308 cartridge. At that distance, the target size is just over a minute of angle making the slightest of errors significantly affect the hit probability of my rounds.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't have a firm understanding of what all went into making shots at this distance count. Looking back at the time, I hadn't taken into account things like aerodynamic jump (when truing), muzzle velocity temperature tables, bad ballistic coefficient, or accounted for the exact direction of fire. Coupling all these errors on top of some bad wind calls, made for a very humbling experience at the range that day. It took me and my spotter around 25 rounds to ring that steel gong. Even once I was on, repeating that shot, at the time, was beyond my ability to do with any amount of consistently. Given the distance and the fact that it was the first time either of us had attempted to push ourselves and our guns that far, I didn’t feel too condemned. However, I used that experience as a learning tool. It gave me many lessons that I hadn’t perceived prior.
The biggest shock to me was that pushing a .308 at that great of a distance wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. I had seen others before make impacts with a significantly greater hit probability than what I experienced. Contrary to what I had been taught in Sniper School and growing up through my military career. It was always said that our weapons (M24, M110) had a maximum effective range of 800 meters. It wasn’t until now that I was beginning to understand that this “max range” was mostly due to shooter ability. Although the M110 itself has limitations, I was beginning to see that the majority of these limits were self-imposed. With a better understanding of external ballistics and the factors that effect a projectile in flight, I could greatly increase my hit probability with any weapon system.
Throughout my time as a shooter, there has never been a moment when I’ve felt that I had reached the pinnacle. I am constantly reminded of just how much I don’t know. Experiences like this set to keep me humble and actively seeking ways to improve my shooting abilities. Fortunately, enough for me, I have had the opportunity to train with some of the community’s top shooters whom have given me a wealth of knowledge and kept me striving to become better. Hope you enjoyed this blog post, check out Todd’s article below. Stay humble.
Pictured: My rifle and gear setup while in Texas. (M110, MK6 w/ H58, Horus Kestrel, Tremble Recon PDA w/ ATRAG)