We encourage those who want to push the limits, we only ask for accountability and data. The more we understand the conditions along with the data used to make the shot, the better off the sport will be moving forward.
The Quest for ELR Success
Shooting precision rifles at extended long ranges are growing increasingly popular. ELR shooting is often defined as distances beyond 1000 yards, some many argue, beyond 1200 to 1500 yards. Where ever the answer lies for you, more and people are shooting out to ELR distances, and claiming various levels of success.
As part of Sniper’s Hide, I have been involved in ELR shooting for many years now. I enjoy it so much; I am also working with a group of like-minded shooters to standardize what constitutes a World Record Shot. Alongside the likes of companies such as Applied Ballistics, McMillan Stocks, Cutting Edge Bullets and Warner Tool, as well as with individuals, including David Tubb, standards are on the horizon.
Too often we see videos of guys launching a single round at an incredible distance only to find out; they expended 15, 25, 50, even 190+ shots to get a single hit on steel.
Cue the cheers, stand up and drop the mic.
Not so fast, the goal is to promote precision and accuracy, launching anything more five rounds at a time without a hit is neither accurate or precise. Let’s face it; if you shoot enough shots at the target, odds are you will eventually hit something. There is no skill involved in getting lucky with a cone of lead.
In their defense, shooting a target 2500+ yards away is as close to a drug habit you can get without the side effects. When you see that round land just a few feet from the target, it’s incredibly hard to control the urge not to fire another round followed up by more. The next thing you know, 5 turns into 10, which turns into 20 as the shooter mumbles, “one more time” to themselves. More familiar with drugs is the cost of shooting at ELR distances. This sport can be extremely costly.
The rifle is the heart of the equation. Depending on how far your intended goal is, most are seeing some version of success with a 375CT Variant. This caliber is not only large, but it’s also costly to shoot. Guys can spend close to $8 a shot attempting to squeeze every bit of speed and accuracy out of the caliber.
XL Actions are needed, as well barrels that may grow to be over 32″ in length. Tying that extremely hefty barreled action together is the stock. McMillan calls their ELR stock “The Beast” because it needs to hold all that in place. A well-constructed ELR Rig is going to run the shooter more than $5000, and that is being generous.
You can certainly do this by definition inside 2000 yards with smaller caliber rifles. Heavy .30 caliber rounds like the 300Norma Mag have proven very successful. I have accurately shot my 300NM to 2500 yards. The caliber performs exceptionally well. I am pushing a 230gr Berger Bullet to 2997fps with a 25″ Barrel. It’s not nearly as big and bulky as your typical ELR Rifle.
338s are also very popular, and they can be equally successful out to 2500 yards. The key with the 338 is getting the muzzle velocity up over 2850fps with a 300gr bullet.
As a sidetrack, I want to talk Left Hand Gain Twist Barrels. Everyone focuses on the latest scopes or the newest bullet, but many miss out when it comes to barrel upgrades.
I am using several Left Hand Gain Twist barrels from Bartlein Barrels. They create some of the best barrels on the market, and the left-hand gain twist barrels are working. It’s not like it used to be, it’s much more subtle as well as very accurate. It helps when shooting a variety of bullet weights, not to mention the recoil pulse supports the shooters vs. working against them.
If you are building a new rifle for ELR Shooter and you live in the Northern Hemisphere, consider a Left-Hand Gain Twist barrel, you can thank me later.
Optics are the next consideration in the overall package. You need to consider several factors:
Construction and Reliability
Notice I did not mention magnification. ELR shooting is not about magnification; it’s about clarity and resolution. Considering the conditions one might encounter, mirage can completely obscure a target if you are trying to put too much magnification on it.
The more power you use, the more you magnify the negative elements in the air. Consider backing the power down you find it cleans up the picture that much better.
Nightforce is one of the most common options on the ELR line, followed by Schmidt & Bender, and Vortex Gen 2 Razors. These scopes have a lot of elevation and are known to hold up to the recoil of the rifle.
Second focal plane scopes can be an advantage in this case. If you have noticed the tall, angled bases used on some ELR Rifles, that is to get the most elevation out of the scope. With a Second Focal Plane Scope, you can cut the power in 1/2 and then use the reticle as it will double the value of the sub-tensions. A 10 Mil / MOA reticle will instantly adjust 20 Mils / MOA when placed at 1/2 Power.
Today the better option is the Charlie Tarac Unit sold by TacomHQ. John Baker there has created a prism device that attaches to the rifle or scope to instantly increase the elevation. I used this device to shoot a factory 338LM Rifle with factory ammo to 4000 yards. The “Taco Unit” as we call it, can give the end user as much as 150 Mils of additional adjustment. In Minutes the prism can be preloaded with 300 MOA of internal movement. Then you fine-tune your dope using the scope.
From a 100 yard zero, using your best cheek weld and prone position, the Taco Unit can be adjusted for any number of elevation offset. 20 Mils, 50 Mils, etc., it’s an ELR Game Changer. Remove the device; you are right back to your 100 yard zero.
After you have assembled your rifle, the most significant element is, of course, the bullet.
Picking the right bullet is more than just a weight question. You need speed combined with a high BC. That might mean going a bit lighter. Years ago we did a very detailed bullet test at Gunsite and found with a 338LM the 285gr bullet was a better performer than the 300gr bullet. The difference was speed. You need muzzle velocity to get the advertised results. Focus on that speed; you’ll need. Sure you float the bullet into the subsonic zone, and many will work. But you kill your predictability. Speed wins.
If you genuinely want to be successful shooting at ELR Distances consider solid bullets. They have a higher ballistic coefficient, and they can be lighter giving you more speed. The best part is, you can push them harder, meaning not just more velocity but increased spin stability. Jacketed bullets do not hold up the same, and they can deform under similar conditions killing performance.
Cutting Edge, Warner Tool, while more expensive will pay you back in results. A fast load with a small, single-digit standard deviation is critical. It’s all about the bullet more so than the delivery device.
The 3 x 3 Standard
So where is the standard going? We are using a 36″ Square target from 1500 yards out. We want a size that is practical and can be replicated anywhere in the world.
From a cold rifle, the shooter must put all three shots on target for it to be considered a record. A shooter may only make two attempts a day, and these must be the only shots of the day. Have I mentioned you need a 4-hour window between attempts?
This basic standard is reducing the record ranges but making those records much more meaningful. At this past SHOT SHOW, we had a World Record Attempt with the guys from ELR Central and ELRHQ. Only three shooters out of 27 managed to hit three out of three on command. One of those shooters with John Armstrong. He was using a 7mm Hunting Rifle with a Super Sniper Scope. He demonstrated what can be done when the shooter focuses on the shot more so than his equipment. Gear matters, but the old saying goes, Fear the man with one rifle, he may know how to use it.
Good Shooting and No Wind