How to Improve Long-Distance Shooting at the Rifle Range
We all love a good sniper story—a lone individual, roughing it in the environment, maintaining the mental self-discipline to stay sharp and alert in the face of enemy threats. It combines every type of conflict—man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. self—all into one.
But you don’t need to be a hardened military sniper to become a pro at long-range shooting.
With diligent practice, attention to detail, and an understanding of how to operate your gear, you too can hit the rifle range or the deer blind with the confidence of a master marksman. Here are some tips to help guide you as you improve your long-range accuracy.
Making Better Use of Your Scope
The first step in learning how to shoot well at long distances is familiarizing yourself with all the ins and outs of using your scope. It’s not as simple as just going to a rifle range, looking through a tube, and pulling the trigger—modern scopes are fine-tuned pieces of equipment with adjustment options that are crucial for you to learn to operate so you can take more precise aim at your target.
First of all, make sure your scope is properly mounted. Scopes need to be sighted just like iron sights, and if a scope isn’t attached horizontally it may not be giving you an accurate idea of your impact point.
You should also know whether your ranging reticle is a first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP) scope. You can check this by seeing if the reticle size adjusts along with the magnification when you adjust it. If it does, the reticle is in the FFP, and if it doesn’t then it’s in the SFP. FFP is good for ranging targets at all magnifications, whereas SFP works only at the highest magnification.
Next, consider the eyepiece’s diopter. This is the measure of the scope’s focal length to the eye. Good scopes have the capability to adjust this setting, allowing you to bring the reticle into crisp focus and improving your ability to better place your shot. Some scopes require you to lock the scope in place after adjustments, while others allow you to simply rotate diopter rings.
Simply look at a plain light-colored background and make quarter-turns at a time, looking away in between turns so that your eye’s natural focusing doesn’t interfere with your ability to see when the reticle is in focus.
Parallax is another thing to keep in mind. This is when the reticle seems to waver and move inside the scope. It occurs when the objective and reticle aren’t on the same focal plane, and typically becomes a problem at magnifications above 10x, so those who’ve only used traditional hunting scopes before may not have encountered this before. Parallax adjustable scopes allow you to adjust the parallax for each distance the same way you adjust focus, so simply make the adjustment until the reticle no longer moves.
Shooting Technique and Positioning
Now onto the actual shooting. There are a number of guidelines to remember while at the rifle range or while out hunting which will help you hit your mark more reliably.
First you need to ensure that the way you position the rifle and your body is optimized for consistent firing. Take time to adjust the bipod, rest, or other supports for your rifle. You want to be able to instantly and easily get the same pull length and cheek rest every time, giving you a comfortable and consistent weld to the gun.
You’ll also want to position your body squared off behind the rifle more rather than off to the side. This allows your body to better absorb recoil and keep the muzzle straight, making it easier for you to stay honed on your target to follow up with additional shots or even just see where your bullet hits. So keep your spine parallel to the axis of the rifle bore and, if you’re shooting from prone, keep your feet apart for stabilization.
When you shoot, fire at the bottom of your breath. That moment of stillness at the end of your exhale before you inhale is the time when your breath is least disruptive to your aim. However, don’t force it or hold your breath. You’ll only quicken your heart rate, which gives your hands more tremors. In fact, professional snipers time their shots to be both at the bottom of a breath and between heart beats. This takes a lot of practice to get the hang of, but in the meantime you should at least make your shot at the bottom of a natural breath.
When pulling the trigger, squeeze as part of a process, not as one action—meaning, pull back at a steady rate and then keep it held a moment after the discharge for a good follow-through.
To see how your body should interact with your rifle all together, this video from the National Shooting Sports Foundation provides an easy-to-understand demonstration.
And, of course, if you’re at an outdoor rifle range, you need to watch the wind. It’ll affect your bullet’s trajectory, especially with longer shots. What you need to remember is that the wind near the target may be different from the wind near you, so you need to observe flags or plants close to the target to plan your shot. According to one U.S. sniper, the most important spot to consider is what the wind is like two-thirds of the way to the target.
Good Practice Habits at the Rifle Range
Of course, the best way to improve how you perform at the rifle range, is to actually get out on the rifle range and get some practice. But it can’t just be practicing the same things over and over. Doing something poorly repeatedly, without striving to improve how you do it, won’t help you. It’ll only solidify bad habits. What you need is to actively work to break those bad habits and build good ones.
Go to the rifle range and practice what you’re bad at. Shoot in new, unfamiliar shooting positions. Work on the distances and shots that you struggle with most. Develop a deep familiarity with your rifle, but experiment with different loads in addition to your standard load.
Like any skill, good marksmanship takes a lot of time and effort. Luckily though, this also means you get to spend a whole lot of time at the rifle range enjoying yourself. If you’re in search of a place to hone your skills, pack your range bag and come visit Second Amendment Sports. Our state-of-the-art, heated, ventilated, indoor rifle range in McHenry, IL provides a comfortable and stable environment for you to shoot your rifle, study your performance, and trade valuable advice with your fellow firearm experts.
So stop on by, or give us a call at (815) 385-5522. We think you won’t regret it—not by a long shot.
Second Amendment Sports
3705 W Elm St
McHenry, IL 60050