Introduction to Practical Long Range Matches

Long range shooting seems to be getting more popular these days and many manufacturers now offer quality rifles at very attractive prices. Two of the most recent notable examples are the Tikka T3 CTR and the Ruger Precision Rifle. Both come with detachable magazines and come in several calibers.

The Tikka is known for a smooth bolt throw and outstanding accuracy. In fact, on both the old Sniper’s Hide site and the new Sniper’s Hide site, Tikka T3s have held the top spot in the 100 yard marksmanship challenges, besting many custom rifles. On the old site, the Tikka T3 was a completely factory Sporter chambered in .260 Remington. On the new site, the top Tikka T3 has an aftermarket barrel chambered in 6.5×47 Lapua. It’s important to note that the shooter is the most important part of the equation and not the rifle or ammunition, but I do feel that the Tikka T3 performing so well does say a lot about the potential accuracy of these rifles. However, spare magazines are expensive as the CTR shares magazines with the Sako TRG. These 10 round magazines may cost $170 or more new. In order to use the relatively cheaper AICS-pattern magazines, many people have found themselves upgrading the CTR to a chassis system and selling the magazine, stock, and detachable bottom metal the CTR comes with.

The Ruger Precision Rifle on the other hand comes with a chassis and is loaded with features typically found on much more expensive rifles. The chassis allows for plenty of user adjustment to allow for the best fit and maximum comfort. The price of the entire Ruger rifle is around the price of some chassis by themselves, which still need a barreled action and trigger to be complete. The chassis on the Ruger folds, which allows for easier cleaning and better portability. The Ruger also accepts many different types of magazines, which is unusual in a good way, as chassis usually only accept AICS-pattern magazines. This is a nice touch since 10rd AICS magazines can cost anywhere from $40 for a Magpul to $75 for a factory AI magazine whereas a Magpul PMAG LR/SR for AR10s might only cost $18. If you don’t need the slightly longer cartridge overall length the AICS magazine provides (factory Hornady 140gr A-Max and factory .308 will fit in the LR/SR PMAGs), you can save quite a bit of money on magazines with the Ruger rifle, especially if you have an AR10 or plan on getting one. The Ruger also comes with a built-in 20 moa rail saving the owner the expense of purchasing one separately.

With many great options at relatively affordable price points now, there is more accessibility than ever to get into long range shooting. Competent long range rifles don’t need to cost thousands of dollars anymore. A great way to enjoy these rifles is to shoot practical rifle matches! Many of us don’t have venues to regularly shoot long distances so shooting matches is the best opportunity to do so. With the aid of a chronograph and a ballistics calculator on your smartphone (such as Shooter or Applied Ballistics on Android or Ballistics on iOS) or on the internet (such as JBM Ballistics), it’s possible to get very close or even hit far away targets with only a 100y zero. With smartphone apps you can later enter the elevation correction you actually needed to hit a target at a certain distance vs. the correction the app initially gave you, and the program will adjust the trajectory accordingly to give you better corrections in the future.

Practical rifle matches differ from F-Class, NRA Long Range, Benchrest, Long Range Varmint Silhouette, and other types of long range shooting mostly in the course of fire and equipment used. Practical rifle matches typically require a lot more movement, faster shooting, targets at a greater variety of distances and positions, and rifles that more closely resemble sniper rifles. They may even include some pistol shooting and moving targets. However, the biggest difference is that practical rifle matches require shooting from field-expedient positions. There will be obstacles and you must use shooting bags, backpacks, shooting sticks, or whatever else you carry with you to find the best support you can for a shot. You might shoot from inside or on top of vehicles, off of ported barricades, simulated rooftops, simulated boats, logs, angled 2×4’s, or whatever else the match director can come up with. You might also shoot standing, kneeling, or sitting, with or without a sling, so you really do have to practice many types of unstable positions. Match directors really try to get competitors out of their comfort zone with difficult shooting positions and added stress from time constraints, pistol shooting, and movement. All of this is on top of the usual worry about wind calls and shooting fundamentals.

Another key difference in practical rifle matches is that locating your targets may be difficult. On some stages the targets might be directly in front of you and very straight forward. On other stages you might have to pan across a wide field picking out steel targets hidden in the brush. Sometimes targets will be deliberately obscured from certain shooting positions so you have to be mindful that you’ll be able to see all the targets from the shooting positions you choose. Finding targets efficiently is a key part of practical match shooting since there are almost always time constraints. One strategy for finding and engaging targets quickly is to use lower magnification to find the targets and then higher magnification to shoot them. That is a big reason why you might see throw levers on competition shooters’ scopes. They let you change the magnification level quickly and easily.

It might sound intimidating if you’re new to competition but it’s more manageable than you think. The more you do it the better you’ll get at it. If you don’t have all the gear, you should be able to borrow something from the club you’re shooting at or from fellow competitors. Don’t be afraid to ask the match director or other people for help! At one practical rifle match a competitor lent me his binoculars because we didn’t have any and at another match a different competitor lent me his very expensive spotting scope setup since my wife was using ours. At a High Power match, my rifle malfunctioned and someone lent me his backup rifle to finish out the match. Shooters are some of the nicest people you’ll meet and they’ll help you out if they can. The Nor Cal Practical Precision Rifle Club ( near Sacramento, CA will also let you borrow a rifle for a match if you pay for the ammunition.

My wife and I are definitely not high-level competitors. We don’t finish near the top but we’ve been shooting this type of rifle match for a few years now and it’s always a good time. You don’t have to be really serious about it to enjoy it. We don’t travel far to matches and just fit them in when we can. But even on the most frustrating days it’s still fun and there is plenty to take away. It really is a great learning experience. If you can afford the time and money and want to learn more about long range, shooting matches is a fantastic way to do it.

Vincent shooting from a simulated boat at the 2014 Woody’s Precision Rifle Series Match. It is a plywood platform supported by chains and had plenty of sideways movement.

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