Distance Marksmanship is About Math and Wind

Jun 14, 2013

This past week, I was one of Jay’s students and after some intensive one on one instruction, learned some things I never knew about rifle shooting and also was reminded of some of the basics of rifle shooting that I had forgotten.

My goal was to get to know my new Ruger M77 Hawkeye in the hot new 300 RCM caliber. My friend noted outdoor writer, wildlife biologist and TV show host Larry Weishuhn had been singing the praises of this new rifle/caliber to me for some time and I was anxious to put mine to work. Topped with a quality Zeiss Conquest scope (3.5 to 10 power), I felt my shooting rig would be up to the task of some precision shooting. I have long been a huge fan of Hornady ammunition and brought several boxes of the 165 grain SST Interlock bullets. Hornady prints on each box the muzzle velocity and the bullet drop when zeroed at 200 yards. Jay used his chronograph to test a round before we began shooting. The factory number was 3,186 fps. Jay’s chronograph read 3,175. With that consistency in ammo combined with the reputation of Ruger rifles and Zeiss scopes, my confidence was high when I settled into the prone position for my first string of 3 shots. We needed a group from which to zero the rifle. After bore sighting, we were shooting a few inches low and to the right. A few clicks of the Zeiss scope and the Ruger was printing a nice, tight little group that measured 1.25 inches above the bull’s eye.

Ruby has developed a process through the years that allows his shooters to quickly get the most out of their rifles. He went into great detail in regard to shooting basics such as placing the body in line with the rifle when shooting from the prone position. He also discussed proper trigger pull and how pressure on the fore stock or barrel can greatly affect where the rifle shoots. I shoot from my left shoulder and was taught to grip the sandbag supporting the back of the stock with my right hand. When engaging the target, slight vertical adjustments of the crosshairs can be accomplished by simply squeezing the sandbag which moves the crosshairs up or down. Ruby takes the time to teach subtle little tricks such as this that might seem insignificant at first but prove to great benefit when engaging those long range targets.

My goal was to become proficient with my new rifle out to 400 yards. Ruby and his students regularly shoot targets at 750, 1,000 yards and, yes ONE MILE! On the box of Hornady ammo, the label states that sighted in with a zero at 200 yards, the bullet will drop 6.8 inches at 300 yards and 17 inches at 400, the drop at 500 yards is 34.4 inches.

The targets were 12 inches square and when holding at the top center of the 300 yard target, my group averaged about 7 inches low, extremely close to where it should have been. Ruby pointed out that there were two ways to go about hitting the long distance targets. We could adjust the scope’s crosshairs up vertically or I could simply aim high , employing the known bullet drop. Since I planned to use my rig hunting, I felt the hold over method would be best on the extended distances. From point blank out to 300 yards, no correction is necessary in a hunting situation.

When shooting distances past 300 yards, the margin for error obviously goes up exponentially. A bullet placed 2 inches off the bull’s eye at 100 yards will be completely off the target at 400 yards and beyond. When asked to shoot the 400 yard target, which required a ‘hold over’ of 17 inches, I was a bit dubious but with the solid rest of the prone position, my group fell nicely into the target which was beginning to look very small, even when viewed through the 10 power Zeiss.

The sun was beginning to bear down by the time I was asked to shoot the 500 yard target, (excuses, excuses). I took one shot at what seemed a tiny speck through the scope. The bullet hit the stake at the base of the target, actually about 14 inches low. Remember the 500 yard target requires almost a 3 foot hold over with a rifle zeroed at 200 yards.

At the completion of my instruction, I was pleased to know that my shooting rig and, skills were ample for my upcoming hog hunt on the Clay Hill Ranch down in Freestone County. I see some fresh pork on the smoker in my near future. This should be an easy hunt. I plan to set up on a hillside with good visibility into a deep creek bottom where the hogs are usually thick during the last few minutes of daylight!

This was the first formal rifle shooting instructions I’ve received since my training in the Marines 40 years ago. I must say the patient, methodical instructions from my most recent shooting coach was far different from that I remember in my youth at Edson Range at Camp Pendleton, California back in the late sixties.

If you desire to become a better shooter, this is a great way to learn.  Who knows, you might want to become a competitive long range shooter. That will require one of the 15 pound 260 caliber rifles or possibly a 308 topped with a target scope almost as long as the rifle’s barrel! From my experience, keep your shots inside 500 yards and your basic deer rifle will suffice if you have a quality scope!

More information about Josh Ruby is online at: northtexasrifleprecision.com, or you can call  972-824-8832.