Send It: How to Make a 1,000 Yard Precision Rifle Shot - ITS Tactical

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Send It: How to Make a 1,000 Yard Precision Rifle Shot

By Bryan Black

Precision Rifle Shot 10

Would you think that by shooting a bullet 30 feet into the air, you could have it land on a target 1,000 yards away? If you said yes, you’re absolutely right. Today I’ll be sharing my recent experience of doing just that and what it takes to make a hit on a target from this distance.

Precision shooting is all about having the skills and knowledge to make your long distance shots go where you want them to. Learning how to make the shot takes patience, time and of course, a firearm capable of making it all happen. Let’s get into the specifics.

The Way of the Gun

I’ve been very interested in precision shooting for some time now and recently had the opportunity to learn from one of our ITS contributors, Jason Crist. While Jason will be the first to tell you that he’s not an instructor, he was willing to show me what he’s learned in the years he’s spent shooting at distance and give me a proper introduction. I’d like to pay it forward and sum up what I’ve picked up in hopes that the information will give you what you need to get started.

Even if you’re more experienced than I am, I hope that this article will be a good refresher, or provide the platform for you to share your knowledge about certain areas in the comments below.

Virginia International Raceway

We were fortunate to have a phenomenal facility to use at the Virginia International Raceway. VIR has a little know gem, which is a shooting facility and training complex that includes 7 shooting ranges with distances from 50 yards, out to 1,000 yards. There’s also a shoot house, urban sim village and more.

Precision Rifle Shot 01

Precision Rifle Shot 05

The rifle I was shooting that belonged to Jason was a solid platform. While I’ll go into the features of the rifle I used, there were also others there with us that didn’t have as much invested into their firearm and were still able to achieve a 1,000 yard shot. It’s not all about the gun, but it certainly helps to have quality components. As you’ll see further along in this article, the fundamentals are still primary and ever so important with precision shooting.

Remington 40x in .308 Built by Accurate Ordnance

Accurate Ordnance Remington 40X

Jason recently received his gun back from Accurate Ordnance, who did an amazing job on his build. I can’t say enough about the Jewell trigger, the break on it was amazing! This rifle is truly a work of art.

  • Manufacturer: Remington
  • Model: 40x
  • Blue Print: Fully Trued
  • Lug: Trued Factory: .187”
  • Trigger: Jewell
  • Scope Base: Badger 20 MOA
  • Barrel: Bartlein 20” 1:11 Twist, .308 Winchester, Varmint Countor
  • Muzzle Device: Badger Thruster
  • Stock: Precision Stock Works Rifleman
  • Bottom Metal: Badger M5
  • Coating: Cerakote Icon Grey
  • Optic: Leupold Mark 4 LR (Model #67965)

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the gun, but we’ll touch on it again when we talk about the scope in the MOA vs. MIL discussion below.

Precision Rifle Shot 04

Fundamentals are Key

With each of the areas I’m highlighting, none will benefit you if you don’t have the right fundamentals, which I’ll be discussing first. The best thing I did, at Jason’s recommendation, was to watch two videos that Rifles Only put out. The first, Precision Rifle Volume 1: Fundamentals, features Rifles Only Chief Instructor, Jacob Bynum, running through the fundamentals used to accurately drive a precision rifle.

I picked up all kinds of information on everything from how you lie down into the gun, to grip/hand position, trigger pull, supporting hand position, breathing, etc. It’s an amazing video and as great as the information was that I gleaned from Jason, I think making the 1,000 yard shot happen was largely influenced by the info I picked up from this fundamental video. If you do nothing else, purchase this video and practice everything in it at home with your own rifle. Just like dry fire with a pistol, there’s so much you can do at home without ever needing to fire a round.

The second video from Rifles Only, Precision Rifle Volume 2: Field Positions for Precision Rifle was eye opening as well and included amazing information on the positional shooting that’s required for a wide variety of field conditions. You’re not always going to be able to go prone to take a shot and learning about positions is equally important as learning the fundamentals. They go hand in hand.

I can’t stress the fundamentals more. Even if you already feel comfortable with fundamentals, what’s required with precision shooting felt to me like a whole different set to learn, even though they’re using the same core fundamentals of marksmanship (sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, follow through.)

Scope Mounting

Precision Rifle Shot 06

A critical area when it comes to precision shooting is mounting your scope. The first thing to do is to start with a good cheek weld on your rifle and determine where your scope will sit to provide proper eye relief. Ensuring a stable, level rifle and in turn a level scope base is necessary to properly mount your scope. I watched as Jason went through this process with not only his rifle, but with another guy’s rifle that was shooting with us as well. It’s a time consuming process, but very important in the overall scheme of things. If your scope isn’t locked down or comes loose while you’re getting DOPE (see below,) it could require you to go back and zero your rifle again.

The tools we used for this included a Wheeler Scope Leveling Tool and Wheeler Gunsmithing Torque Wrench, both of which were integral to ensuring both that the gun and scope were level, as well as that proper torque was applied to the scope rings after mounting. Additionally, going over your rifle with proper torque on every bolt is critical to ensuring success.

Zeroing

Precision Rifle Shot 03

Just like with an AR or another rifle, zeroing is important. It’s what gives you the platform that all your other data is based on. Without a proper zero and confirmation that what you’re seeing in your scope is what’s happening on your target down range, your shot will fall apart when backing up in distance. We zeroed at 100 yards before backing up to 200, 300, etc. to confirm and get DOPE.

D.O.P.E.

Precision Rifle Shot 02

Shooting and logging shots from multiple distances and conditions to confirm that the bullet is behaving like you want it to, is what’s referred to as DOPE, or data on previous engagements. The idea is to log what your rifle is doing in every condition you can. The data aggregation in a DOPE book is never finished and includes everything from the type of bullet used, to environmental conditions. There’s plenty of apps out there that were designed to input these variables and calculate the adjustment needed to your scope based on your distance and holds for wind. It’s always a good idea to “trust but verify” with these apps.

I was using the Knight’s Armament Bullet Flight App and found it to be a bit off from what I was experiencing in the conditions I was in. This isn’t to say the app didn’t function correctly, this is just to say I noticed some differences based on my conditions. The DOPE I obtained while working back to 1,000 yards included a scope adjustment calculation for each distance we shot from. This was 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 800 and 1,000 yards. Proper range estimation is also an essential part of gathering DOPE and without it, your DOPE is worthless.

Meaning that if you have DOPE obtained in a certain distance and that distance wound up to not be accurate you could be looking a huge miss. To put this into perspective, 1 MIL is 3.6” at 100 yards and 36” at 1,000 yards. You’d be looking at a huge miss if you’re off by a MIL. To put that into MOA numbers, 1 MOA is 1.047 at 100 yards and 10.47” at 1,000 yards.

Before we go any further, I’d like to try to explain MOAs and MILs.

MOA and MIL

US Optics Academy

The best explanation of MOA and MIL that I’ve come across was mentioned in a recent article on the US Optics Shooting Academy from contributor Matt Sharp and is provided here to try and clarify the comparison.

MOA, or “Minute Of Angle,” is an angular unit of measure describing a standard portion of a degree. There are 60 Minutes of Angle per degree and 360 degrees in a circle. This makes for 21,600 minutes of angle per circle. With a circle of 100 yards, one true Minute of Angle (tMOA) equals 1.047 inches. For simplicity, this is usually rounded down to 1” at 100 yards, 2” at 200 yards, 4” at 400 yards and so forth.

There are several types of scopes capable of a variety of adjustments of Minute of Angle, from 1 MOA adjustments down to 1/8 MOA adjustments. The most common type of MOA adjustment for most tactical/precision shooting is ¼ MOA, meaning each click of adjustment is equal to .25” at 100 yards. There are also a few other measurement types, IPHY (Inches Per Hundred Yards) and SMOA (Shooter Minutes of Angle).

Then there are MILs, or Milliradians, which are a unit of measurement dividing radians in a circle. A radian is equal to 57.3 degrees, with 6.283 radians in a circle. There are 1000 milliradians in 1 radian and therefore 6,283 milliradians (or Mils) in a circle. Thus, 1 Mil at 100 yards is equal to 3.6” inches (or 10 centimeters). Milliradian scopes are adjustable by either 1/10th Mil or 2/10th Mil increments (1 or 2 cm adjustments, respectively). Furthermore, 3.438 MOA is equal to 1 Mil at any distance or rounded down for simplification, .3 Mils = 1 MOA at any distance. To convert Mils to MOA, you can use this formula:

Mils x 3.438 = MOA

To convert MOA to Mils, this is the formula:

MOA / 3.438 = Mils

Why would you ever want to do this? Well, if you’re shooting with a spotter and one of you has a Milliradian scope while the other has a MOA scope, converting between the two can be crucial to making proper adjustments. It also comes in handy when using off the shelf ammunition that may have data on your ammo’s drop (at given yardage), in a unit of measurement your scope isn’t setup for.

Spotting

Precision Rifle Spotting

As you move back in distance, a spotter with a good spotting scope is crucial. While I was controlling recoil well, given the conditions, it was often hard to see whether I’d hit the steel we were shooting at. Not only is a spotter needed for this use, but for corrections on the fly for any fliers (misses) and another set of eyes for wind conditions. Often the mirage you see in the scope can be an indicator for wind, but reading the wind is a skill in itself and one I need more practice with. This can be where the MOA/MIL difference can get complicated. If your spotter is using a spotting scope in MIL and your scope is set up in MOA, you’d have to manually make the calculations or do your best to estimate the difference, which is never a good scenario.

We had this scenario and worked through it as best we could. We were using a Bushnell Tactical Elite LMSS Spotting Scope that read in MIL and the Leupold Mark 4 LR I was looking through was in MOA.

Ammunition

Precision Rifle Shot 09

I touched on ammo a bit earlier, but ammunition matters. As you move back in distance your small mistakes get magnified considerably and using good ammo is just one way of mitigating mistakes. I was shooting Federal Gold Medal Match – .308 WIN. (7.62 x 51MM) 175 grain Sierra MatchKing, which is considered by many to be the gold standard for precision rifle ammunition.

The “best” ammo is relative and consistency is a large part in any decision, so whatever you use, make sure it’s consistent in your gun. Purchasing ammo that uses higher grade components and precise manufacturing costs more, but that’s to be expected with ammo manufactured at that level of precision. Just remember to match your ammo selection to your own situation.

The Shot

Precision Rifle Shot 08

There’s so much more that goes into making a shot at 1,000 yards, but I feel that what I’ve covered are the essentials that I took on board that helped me achieve it. That and solid advice from Jason, who’s competed in events like the Mammoth Sniper Challenge. It’s an amazing feeling to achieve a shot at this distance with a .308 round and eye opening that the 35 MOA adjustment in my scope to make it happen, calculated to just under 30 feet of elevation. That’s some bullet drop!

I consider myself to be fairly anal retentive (some would argue the “fairly” part) and there’s a certain amount of that required to make a 1,000 yard shot. Precision rifle is just that, precision. So many calculations and movements go into putting a bullet where you want to at distance. I’ve really gotten into the geeky side of Precision Rifle and can’t wait to start building my own gun and take a course with quality instruction, like one of the offerings from Rifles Only.

Working to master these different disciplines is a lifelong goal and the more you practice, the better you become. Just think, Carlos Hathcock, the famous Vietnam-era USMC Sniper with 93 confirmed kills, didn’t have a laser range finder, Kestrel Weather Meter, or many of the fancy electronic gadgets that precision rifle shooters depend on these days. Gadgets are great, but the basics never run out of batteries.

ITS Article Resources

Additionally, check out this well done and comprehensive article from Precision Rifle Blog.

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Discussion

  • Matthew N Sharp

    Love it, brother! Congratulations on increasing that kill radius!

  • ITS Tactical

    Thanks Matt! Feels good to join the #1000yardclub 🙂 ~ Bryan

  • Richard Nemo

    Next stop, 1 Mile Club 😉

  • Lee Garner

    loveeee ittttt

  • sacRyan

    Gotta plug another resource here. If you are into the high order math and physics of ithttps://youtu.be/pwG-D0HjCBQ
    This guy based a darn good series on long range precision and doing the calculations to get that first round hit. And it is free. 😉 over 40 hours of content and I recommend taking notes on what video number and time stamp he says something interesting to you on it. I am rewatching a bunch of it now because I didn’t take good notes.
    Great writeup! When you building your own long range boom stick?
    Savage 10 pc in .308 with S&B PM II on top and handloaded 168SMKs.

    • sacRyan Thanks for the resource Ryan. I’ve definitely got the bug to build something now 🙂

  • PistoleroJesse

    You should do some cross blog colaboration with the preciscion rifle blog if you really want to geek out on data.

    • PistoleroJesse They’ve got some great info over there for sure!

  • Kurt Schneider

    Congrats! Excellent writeup. I took a 40 hour precision rifle course last summer, with pretty much all the same info. Heck, I used 300+ rounds of the same ammo. Huge kudos to Jason Crist for setting that up.
    #1000YardClub

  • JustStartingOut

    I’m very new to long range shooting so this is an honest question. Why wouldn’t you get an optic with matching reticle and adjustment? In other words wouldn’t it be easier if you were using a mill dot reticle to have adjustment knobs that went by mil? That way you eliminate the MOA to mil conversion, if my you are off 2 mil and your adjustments are 1/2 mil per click you’d know immediately to go 4 clicks. Thanks for the article I really enjoyed it!

    • JustStartingOut Just to clarify, the scope was MOA with MOA adjustments. The confusion was coming from the MIL spotting scope we were using. It was mentioned to highlight what would happen if the shooter and spotter weren’t using the same thing. Hope that helps and thanks for the question.

  • randypb

    The tech is a far cry from the Vietnam era when we tried for an 800 yard target with an M-16! Informative as usual from ITS.

  • Vincent Redford

    Ok.I’ve read two articles from you guys now with the same mistake and nobody seems to want to call it out.One mil isn’t 10 cm at 100yrds guys.You guys are sayin on one hand you both articles ive read that being precise is key the farther you go and than writing error in from the start when using yards as a break down between mil and moa which is a mind screw anyway on math.1000 yards is 914.4 meters.So telling folks alittle something wrong like that does make a difference. Especially when theyre turrets don’t speak English with what theyre looking through.

  • Don Lehman

    Nice platform to have off your back deck to check your reloads.

  • saf

  • RussR2

    “I was using the https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/bullet-flight-m/id300903039?mt=8&uo=6&at=11lKSG”… yaaa…. dont do that… get Shooter or Ballistic AE… the KAC app is the last 1 i would every sugest

  • Joe Tartaglia

    I offer a heartfelt “Thank you” to the wonderful folks who put this outstanding article together. It’s clear, concise, & packed with FUNDAMENTALS!!  Utilizing the basic formula (Ala Carlos Hathcock) is paramount to mission success in rifle marksmanship. Note: The only gadget I have come to love (Not depend on) is the laser rangefinder. IMO, it allows me surgical precision on estimating the range. My skill level on estimating distances is intermediate at best, but I’m constantly practicing and honing the edge to become the best I can be. 
    Keep your head on a swivel and watch your six, 
    Joe T

  • LeovinceAdle

    This is a great info for novice to account for.

  • Philip Cox

    Quote: “Thus, 1 Mil at 100 yards is equal to 3.6” inches (or 10 centimeters).”
    1 mil is pretty close to 10 cm @ 100 METERS (actually 9.999 cm; 1/10 mil = 0.9999 cm @ 100M). 
    1 mil is NOT 10 cm @ 100 YARDS, at 100 yards 1 mil is 9.144 cm.

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