Long Range Tactical Rifle
Long Range Tactical Rifle is the sport of engaging targets with precision fire from specialized bolt action or semi-auto rifles. Courses of fire can test the limits of you and your equipment by inducing time limits and complicated field positions.
Targets can be as small as a ¼” at 100 yards or less to 10” or bigger at 1000 yards or beyond. In some cases you will be given the distance to a target, in other cases you will have to range the target yourself using a variety of different methods. To make the shot you could be standing, sitting or prone. You could be shooting off a nice flat concrete pad or be sitting on a rock in a fast moving creek shooting through a 4 foot hole in an old dam. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this picture:
What do we do at Parma Rod and Gun Club in regards to LRTR?
We’re glad you asked! Long Range Tactical Rifle is a thinking game and we are constantly looking for ways to hone our skills at making first round hits on targets from 25 yards all the way to 1760 yards (or 1 mile). If you like shooting under a canopy on a nice clean, concrete slab with a sturdy bench to sit at, then this sport is not for you. We like to get out in the dirt and if it’s raining or snowing…….all the better!
Our biggest event is an off-site shoot, usually at Paddock Reservoir in South West Central Idaho. This area offers us the ability to shoot at extreme angles, across canyons, and have some fun 4 wheel driving to each firing point. We’ve had opportunities to rappel down a canyon with all our gear on and to shoot from positions where you are not comfortable at all, because you may have sharp pointy rocks, poking you where you don’t want to be poked.
At the clubs range, we have 160 acres of land to utilize and the ability to shoot over 1000 yards. There is a nice 700 yard rifle range and bench rest range with concrete pads, shooting benches and awnings, with metal gongs set up at various yardages to “sight in” your rifle. There’s also a 3 story tower available to shoot off from during events and we have lots of steel targets to test our skills against. From the Southeast corner of the range, those who would like to stretch their legs a bit can test their skill shooting at steel targets up to 990 yards away. During some sanctioned competitions we will often move out onto BLM land and shoot into the range at distances up to 2400 yards away.
When we have a LRTR event we usually close the entire range down so that we can utilize the various terrain features of the club. You’ll often find us on top of the hill located at the club, shooting down onto various targets that we’ve set up throughout the clubs property.
For the most part, LRTR shoots are about having fun and learning. We usually charge a minimal fee that covers the cost of materials. Once in a while we’ll have a sponsor come in with a “prize” event that will attract some good shooters from around the North West, but for the most part it’s all about having fun and increasing your rifle skills with like-minded people. So if you’ve always wanted to shoot in an event like this, but have hesitated because you don’t think you have the skills, then come on out. I guarantee that we’ll have you hitting targets at 1000 yards before the day is over.
There are so many good calibers on the market today for long range shooting that it is hard to recommend a caliber that is perfect for what you want to accomplish. Many factors will determine what is right for you. For example, do you reload or would you rather buy your ammunition? It used to be that a .308 Winchester was the caliber of choice, but the .308 has been surpassed by a number of other calibers that offer better ballistics and less recoil for shooting long range. If you are not a re-loader the .308 could still be a good choice for you, as there are many quality brands of ammunition out there that offer up very accurate rounds for long range precision shooting.
Today, the best calibers for long range precision rifle shooting come in 6 mm and 6.5 mm varieties. The most popular right now is the 6.5 Creedmoor. Without going into full detail, the 6.5 Creedmoor offers better ballistics, better wind resistance, and lower cost to the long range shooter. Take a look at the advantage that a 6.5 Creedmoor offers you over a .308 Winchester at 1000 yards:
As you can see the 6.5 Creedmoor offers less drop, more energy and most importantly less wind deflection at 1000 yards than the .308 Winchester. Combine this with less recoil that won’t beat you up over a 50 to 100 round course of fire and you have a great cartridge for long distance shooting.
If you’d rather follow the beat of a different drum, there are plenty of other calibers out there. Calibers such as the 243 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5x47 Lapua, 260 Remington, 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm WSM, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 WSM, .338 Lapua Magnum and .338 Edge are viable options. With the bigger calibers listed, you will get the benefit of longer range, but the disadvantage of recoil and in most cases shorter barrel life. You may not be allowed to shoot some of the larger calibers in some competitions too, because they are too hard on the steel targets. The big 300’s, 338’s and 375’s are great for 1 mile competitions, however.
For the most part caliber selection should come down to first the bullet’s Ballistic Coefficient (BC), which is a measurement of how easily the bullet passes through the air. The higher the BC is the better. Secondly muzzle velocity. The faster the bullet is going, the better.
You’re not going to do well with your grandpa’s hunting rifle in this sport. Most precision rifles come with “bull” barrels, fiberglass stocks and scopes that in some cases cost more than the rifle. These rifles have also had their actions “trued” and “bedded” for better accuracy. But don’t get discouraged by this. Several companies make great “out of the box” rifles for this fun sport that are very affordable. Companies like Ruger, Remington, Savage, FN, and Tikka offer rifles that won’t break your bank account. For those who are really serious, rifles from Accuracy International, SAKO and custom built rifles from G.A. Precision, Defensive Edge, Tac-Ops and others will make you cry once, but their accuracy and quality are outstanding and you’ll have a quality rifle for the rest of your life. There are also many great local gunsmiths who can create a rifle to your specifications. Check with local shooters and shops to find out who in the area might be able to build you a great rifle.
Before choosing your rifle, there are a few things you need to think about. 1) Accuracy, 2) controls and 3) ergonomics. Rifles that will shoot 1 minute of angle (MOA) or better are the most desirable. You can think of 1 MOA as 1” at 100 yards. This means that with a 1 MOA rifle, you should be able to hit within a 10” circle at 1000 yards. Certainly a rifle that will shoot better than 1 MOA will allow the shooter a better margin of error. Good barrels are paramount to good accuracy. Most factory barrels are not as good as a custom barrel from Bartlein, Hart, Rock, Obermeyer, Lothar Walther, etc. Most factory rifles will easily shoot 1 MOA. The custom made rifles will shoot ½ MOA or better.
There are two main controls to a bolt action rifle, the trigger and the bolt. The trigger can be either a single-stage or two-stage, depending on the shooters preference and should be set to break at 2 to 4 lbs. The bolt should operate smoothly and prevent the shooter from having to move from his/her shooting position. Meaning the sight picture should be retained when cycling the bolt. You will also want to have the safety switch within reach and easy to operate. A bipod may also be used, but should be of the type that is easy to stow and deploy. A Harris S-type is an excellent choice.
You’ll want a rifle that fits you personally. Stock setup and scope positioning are critical for proper eye relief and full field of view through the scope. You’ll also want to make sure your stock is set up for proper length of pull from the butt-stock to the trigger. The best way to do this is to get an adjustable stock, but you can special order a stock set to your specifications. Some excellent stocks used in LRTR are the McMillan A series, Accuracy International AICS, Manner’s stocks. There are also an abundant of chassis stocks on the market today. Some of these stocks offer the ability to just “drop in” your barreled action, torque the screws down and away you go. No bedding of the action to the stock is required. These chassis stocks usually offer a ton of adjustability also. So you can get that perfect fit for your body size and shape.
Any more a detachable box magazine system is mandatory. DBM’s from Badger Ordnance, H.S. Precision, Manners, and others offer the shooter the ability to load and unload their rifle quickly and easily when under pressure. Most chassis stocks already come with DBM capability. One of the most popular magazines available is the Accuracy International AICS magazine. There are also great magazines from Magpul, Accurate and others.
The Remington 700 action is probably the king when it comes to components and gunsmiths that understand how to turn it into an accurate rifle. More than likely the reason for this is because both the Marines and the Army use sniper rifles based off the Remington 700, and have been using this same action for over 50 years. If you think you’ll want to upgrade your rifle in the future, the Remington 700 would be a great choice or better yet an action with the Remington 700 “footprint”, like Defiant Deviant, GA Precisions Tempest, and Surgeon should be seriously looked at.
For out of the box accuracy, there are several choices to make. The Ruger Precision Rifle, Tikka T3x, and Savage models 10 and 12, are great for beginner and experienced shooters. They all offer detachable magazine systems, excellent accuracy, and a variety of calibers that work well for long range precision rifle shooting.
Rifle built for you:
Having a rifle specifically built for you will bring you years of shooting enjoyment and satisfaction. You have the ability to specify exactly what you want on your rifle when you have one built, so that the rifle fits you both ergonomically and your style. You can have the rifle painted in the colors of your Area of Operation (AO) or if you want a wild pink and purple rifle, you can have that too! Here are a few suggestions to consider when you build a rifle:
1) Use a Remington 700 action or an action that is based off of the Remington 700 action. There are other actions out there that are based off the 700 action, but have upgraded features, like built in scope rail, side bolt release button, etc. The 700 action is the most popular action in existence and you will find more accessories, especially stocks, for it than any other action. You will also find more gunsmiths who know what it takes to make this action accurate.
2) Use a 1913 Picatinny 20 MOA scope rail. Rails from Badger Ordnance, Nightforce, and Near Manufacturing are all good choices. The 20 MOA cant in the rail will enable you to have more “come-up” in your scope for those long range shots.
3) Get a quality barrel from Bartleing, Obermeyer, Hart, Rock, Lothar-Walther, etc. The barrel is the most important part of your rifle for accuracy. You may talk to your gunsmith about what he has worked with in the past, but these barrels will give you the best accuracy possible.
4) You’ll want a stock that will stand up to the weather. McMillan, H-S Precision, Mannors and others make high quality fiberglass stocks that won’t warp or become disfigured in various weather conditions. A wood stock has a tendency to absorb moisture and swell, causing it to press against the barrel. This can be bad from an accuracy standpoint. Also, you don’t want a flimsy plastic stock that can warp in hotter weather. If you can afford it, get a fully adjustable stock. Both length of pull and a cheek riser. Some people like having the adjustments, others don’t. Make sure that you get a cheek piece riser that won’t come undone from the recoil of the gun. Talk with your gunsmith about the various types and maybe ask fellow shooters who have these systems what they like and don’t like about them. A chassis system like those from Accuracy International, XLR, KRG and many others, offer you great options and adjustments to fit your body shape.
5) You might consider a tactical bolt knob. These bolt knobs help the shooter to cycle the bolt easier and faster.
6) You’ll also want a set of sturdy scope rings. Rings from Badger Ordnance, Nightforce, Leupold, and Seekins are great choices.
A good scope could very well be the most important part of your rifle. A scope with good optical clarity will allow you to see your target much better in less than ideal lighting conditions. Some of this light gathering capability is determined by the size of the objective lens, the magnification and the lens quality.
On adjustable magnification scopes, brightness will increase when the magnification is decreased. This is a good reason for having an adjustable magnification scope.
A larger objective lens will also be brighter because it can gather more light from the target area. Thus, a scope with an 80mm objective will gather 4x more light than a 40mm objective, however the downside to this is the bigger the objective, there will be more weight and you will need higher scope mounts to clear the objective bell over the barrel of the rifle, thus needing an adjustable cheek piece on your stock.
Lastly, the lens and lens coatings are critical to image brightness. The higher the quality of lenses and lens coatings, the more light will be gathered through the scope.
Parallax is the error in apparent POA (point of aim) vs. actual POA due to misalignment of the shooter’s eye vs. the scope’s axis. Scopes come with either a fixed parallax or adjustable parallax. Fixed parallax means the factory has set the distance at which there is no error to 100 or 200 yards. Most tactical scopes have an adjustable parallax in which the user can adjust the parallax on the fly to whatever the target’s distance is.
There are two types of parallax adjustment. One in which the objective bell rotates and the other is done via a rotating knob, usually on the left side of the scope, opposite the windage knob. Some are marked for range so that the shooter can dial it in based on the target distance. Other’s are not marked and require the shooter to determine visually if the image is in focus and parallax-free.
To determine if parallax exists, aim at an object at a predetermined distance, then move your head slightly from side to side and up and down, without moving the rifle. If the reticle stays on the object, then it is parallax-free. If the reticle moves with regard to the object, then some parallax error is present.
First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane:
When using a variable powered scope, a first focal plane (FFP) reticle will adjust with the power setting, so no matter what the magnification is set at, 1 MOA with be 1 MOA and 1 MIL will be 1 MIL. If your reticle is on the second focal plane (SFP) than the reticle will be off when the magnification is changed. Usually the highest power setting is where the reticle should be used. (Consult your manual to be sure). So if you have a variable power scope that tops out at 20x then this is where you should use your reticle for range determination, and true 1 MOA = 1MOA and 1 MIL = 1 MIL. When you dial the power down to 10x then the reticle will be roughly ½ MOA or ½ MIL. Make sure you verify this with some range sessions before you go to a competition.
The FFP has an advantage when dialing down the power it will widen the field of view and improve ones target to target transition times. One can also determine the range of a target easier with out having to dial the scope to a specific magnification setting. Miss-spotting and reticle based holdover can also be done at any power setting to produce accurate results.
There are a few disadvantages to FFP. As magnification is increased, the width of the lines of the reticle also increase and will obscure more of the target than the fine lines of a SFP reticle. The reticle also “shrinks” in size along with the target image and may become difficult to see.
Most “tactical” scopes have the option of an illuminated reticle. An illuminated reticle will have a huge advantage in low-light conditions and should be seriously considered if you are going to shoot at night. Many “tactical” competitions will include a “Night Stage”, which could prove very hard to shoot if you can’t see your reticle.
Elevation and Windage Knobs:
Elevation and windage knobs on most “tactical” scopes are over-sized and knurled, when compared to your average “hunting” scope. This is a good thing! You’ll want a scope with positive “clicks” when adjusting, this means that you should be able to hear and feel the clicks as you make the adjustments. The elevation and windage will be changed by the amount of “clicks”, which are typically ¼ MOA, ½ MOA, 1 MOA, or 0.1 MIL.
Scopes come with what is called maximum elevation travel, which is usually described as 60 MOA, 80 MOA, 100 MOA, etc. This is the total amount of travel that the erector assembly inside the scope can travel from top to bottom. So, if you mount a 60 MOA scope and the elevation knob is at the bottom of its elevation or at “0” after zeroing, then you would have 60 MOA of up elevation, however, if you mount the same scope and after zeroing your at the half-way point or “30”, then you only have 30 MOA of elevation. This could pose a problem when shooting at extended ranges. For example if your shooting a .308 round that needs 32.5 MOA elevation for 1000 yards, then you will not have enough elevation adjustment in your scope. When your elevation tops out at 60 MOA, you will still be 2.5 MOA short! So make sure you get a scope that will fit your shooting needs.
Rifle Packages Compared:
Below are listed some rifle packages for price comparison. Often you can find a used rifles/packages for much less or you could go with cheaper products than what is suggested, but listed below are excellent products that will take abuse:
Budget minded package:
Ruger Precision Rifle or Tikka T3x
Warne 30mm scope rings
Vortex Viper PST 4-16x50
Remington, Howa or similar receiver
Action “trued” by gunsmith
Barrel, 1-8” twist 6.5mm
Chambered by gunsmith
EGW 20MOA scope rail
Burris xtreme tactical rings
Burris XTR 3-15x50mm
Full Custom Built:
GA Precision “Crusader”
Badger Ordnance Rings
Bushnell Elite Tactical ERS 3.5-21x50
High end factory built:
Accuracy International AX
Spuhr IMIS mount
Vortex Razor HD 4.5-27x56