Saturday, May 15, 2010

I want to get into long range shooting.......................

That is how the post usually starts. Then it goes something like this:

"I want to get a Remington in .338LM because that's what the SEAL's use. My sister's boyfriend has a Counter Sniper scope on his SKS and it looks really cool. I think I am going to get one of those too. Does this sound like a good idea? I have shot some cans with my friend's AK before, but I haven't really shot rifles before."

The thread will usually progress to guys recommending a basic .308 bolt gun setup to get the kid started, but he just really wants some whiz-bang shit to impress the other guys at the range. Rarely do these kids seem interested in learning the "Art" of long range shooting. They are the same guys you will see banging away at 50 yards with a .300WM.

Now I have NOTHING against anyone wanting to own a certain firearm "just because". Lord knows I have several "just because" guns in my inventory. They are usually something that I got a crazy deal on or that hold some sentimental or intellectual value. They may get taken to the range on a rare occasion, but their main purpose is to fill the need to "own" that many of us overgrown kids have.

My concern is that once in a great while there are kids that truly do want to learn the art, but because they see all the other kids at the range with no idea how to use the pile of parts they loosely refer to as a rifle, they think they need to sink a boatload of cash into crap to keep up.

May of these guys did not have the advantage of growing up in the country or having parents who were shooters. Sometime in my youth my father gave me one of the greatest material gifts a man can ever give to a boy. He gave me a Remington bolt action .22LR. It was a "youth" rifle (Remington 581 with a short stock). He converted it to single shot and put the magazine away. I shot cans, junk, targets and the occasional trash bird and rabbit with it. I loved that rifle as much as a boy can love anything before he discovers girls. It was my ONLY rifle until I left for Parris Island and that world of the United States Marine Corps.

In short, don't get sucked into the equipment race. It won't get you to where you want to be.

My suggestion to the new shooter is to purchase a good .22LR bolt action rifle. A Savage or Reminton is a great start. Install some mid level glass ($200 is NOT mid level), a good bipod, a sling, and a couple bricks of match ammo (Wolf Match Target is my favorite). Start at 25 yards and learn how to punch holes wherever you want them. If you are one of those Alpha Males who has to have the BEST of everything, then get a custom Remington 40x in a McMillan Stock and slap a S&B Scope on it. You will drop several thousand dollars into that, but still have a TRAINER than will challenge your skill.

Once 25 yards gets boring, push it back to 50 yards. Then 100 Yards. At 100 with sub-sonic match .22LR loads you will begin to notice that if you don't pay attention to the wind you will start to miss. At 200 yards the wind will be playing with your little, slow moving .22LR the same as it would at 1000 yards for a 175gr .308 (about 9.9 MOA for a 10pmh full value). You will need to be just as exacting with your wind calls, but you will be spending FAR less than the $1.50 a shot that match ammo for a .308 typically runs.

Add into this the fact that 1000 yard ranges are a bit hard to come by in some areas of the US. There are scores of ranges where you can get to 200 yards and all I have seen will allow the .22LR.

With the.22LR you avoid the ammo costs, the recoil and the muzzle blast of the .308.

After a year of hard shooting with the .22LR you will develop some good skills with the rifle.

Sure you may go to the range and see other kids snicker when you break out your "little" .22. If you look closely though you will see some old guys with a gleam in their eye. You can walk away from the line at the end of the day snickering when they can't figure out why their pile of parts "won't shoot" and you were cleaning targets at 200 yards with the wind blowing.

If your ego tries to block you from getting a "little" .22LR, just remember that before a Marine Sniper gets behind a M40 at the Basic School he has to spend some time on the Remington .22 trainers.


  1. Ever since I found this post I come back and read it as a sharp kick in the balls reminding me what I want to do with my rifles. I don't need to have the coolest gizmo or other "high-speed" accessory, I need something that shoots POI/POA and I need to use it.

    I can get the whizbang shit after I get my bases covered with "serious" rifles.

  2. Great write up! Thanks for the info as it's greatly appreciated on an area that I would like to get into. I've grown up shooting my entire life, mainly shotgun and pistol though I have plinked with a .22 for a long enough period of time in my life to be able to ring 12x12" steel plate @ 100 yards on nearly every trigger pull.

    I have a question pertaining to optics for a .22 trainer. You say not to get a mid level optic ($200 is not mid-level). It's hard to justify spending $250 on a savage Mk II then another $600 for a bipod, optic, base / rings, and sling to complete the outfitting. So, considering that, what should be the primary focus of an optic for a 22 trainer? Should it have target knobs and a mil-dot reticle to be able to learn how to dial windage and elevation? Or, should the primary focus at first be on trigger time and learning holds?

    The problem is, I don't have the budget to put big money into a .22 when I'd like to step up to a .308 a little bit further into the future, after properly learning the techniques on the .22. Thanks.

  3. If you really can't afford to go whole hog on optics for a .22LR trainer then take a look at the Vortex Crossfire line of scopes. SWFA sells an "exclusive" 6-24x50mm Crossfire with a 1" tube. It's got a mildot reticle and capped 1/4 MOA target knobs. It's a Second Focal Plane scope so that means the reticle is only correct at one power setting. It is not ideal, but it's only $99. It had excellent glass for that price range and the turrets work. If you put it on a 20 MOA base you can easily get to 200 yards with it and .22LR Match ammo.

    Now if you can afford to bump up the ladder a little, look for a First Focal Plane scope with a Mil reticle and Mil turrets. Those are going to put you well over the $100 price range.

    As to your question about the primary focus. That should be the "fundamentals". Breathing, Position, sight alignment and trigger squeeze. Fancy scopes won't help a bit if the fundamentals are not in line.

    I have a Crossfire on my 40XB and a Center Point on my Savage MkII. You can do just fine with cheap optics, but you can do better with mid grade optics. The reason I suggest the mid grade scopes is that they have a much lower failure rate than the bottom of the barrel. You need to be able to concentrate on training not on equipment issues.

  4. I just wanted to say thank you for opening my eyes to this. I read this article when you first put it up, and put much thought into it. I ended up trading into a savage MkII FVT with the williams target sights on it, and worked with that for a bit, but then on a recent trip to Anniston lucked into a Kimber 82G. It has taught me more than I care to admit about just how lousy of a shot I really am. I have no plans to scope it yet. I started at 25yds, got fairly confident there, and moved to 50 recently. I still have some work to do there before I move to 100. I am hoping that by learning the micrometer sights if I can ever get out to 200 that when I put optics on it I will finally be able to come out to play with the big boys. Once again thank you for opening my eys to using a quality .22 as a training opportunity, nit just a fun afternoon of plinking. By the way if anyone is in the market for a great .22 take a look at the Kimbers from the CMP. If you are going ot order one I would go for the $600 one as all I looked at were excelent, but if you are able to go hand pick yours out, the $400 "rusty" ones have some very fine rifles in the lot, I just don't know if I would trust my luck having someone else pick it out for me as some were pretty nasty.