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Become a Better Rifle Shooter Without Touching a Gun

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Spending excessive time on a range, burning up ammo and burning through your barrel life isn't necessary to become a better rifle shooter. These tips will cumulatively help you become a more proficient long and mid-range rifle shooter.


Just the mention of ballistics can be intimidating. Yes, there's math involved. Yes, there are countless resources, some contradicting each other. And yes, you can find yourself in an endless rabbit hole of information that doesn't end up benefiting you.

  1. Decide on the caliber you plan to shoot
  2. Select the ammunition (which ultimately be based on what shoots well out of your rifle)
  3. Download a ballistic engine that will expedite your learning curve

Picking your caliber is important because it's difficult to memorize data for different rounds. When selecting ammo, the projectile will have its own ballistic coefficient. Don't let that term scare you. A ballistic coefficient (BC) is a number assigned to a projectile that assists in letting you know how environmental conditions will affect that round. Meaning, if the BC is higher, the less that bullet will be affected by wind pushing it around. For now, just know that the term BC is important in predicting where your round will ultimately end up.

There are several options for ballistic engines. Most top-level competitors use a Kestrel Meter because the algorithms are accurate (as accurate as the data you have inputted) and the Kestrel can be set to automatically update for environmental conditions. Another option, that is great when you're starting out is an app for your phone. The Shooter Application is available for about $10. It has several options that not only help you understand your bullet's trajectory, but also has the option for comparing different projectiles. For example, if we were trying to hypothetically figure out if shooting a Berger 105gr VLD would be better than a Berger 140gr VLD, the comparative graph visually sums up what to expect (this is assuming that the muzzle velocity would be the same, for this comparison, we keep all the variables the same except for the projectile).

Comparing Rounds

Once you have downloaded a ballistic engine, input all of your gun information and your selected ammunition. From here, you can adjust target range and wind to get a better understanding of what your holds should be. Just messing around in a ballistic engine can be very educational.

For this example, shooting a 6XC, the hold for 800 yards would be up 5.3 mils and for a 10mph wind from the 3 o'clock, the adjustment would be right 1.6 mils.

For this example, shooting a 6XC, the hold for 800 yards would be up 5.3 mils and for a 10mph wind from the 3 o'clock, the adjustment would be right 1.6 mils.


Once you have a basic understanding of how your round should be affected by wind at varying distances, the next step is to understand how to read wind. Having a Kestrel Meter for this is extremely helpful because it will display exactly what the wind is at your position. Comparing the wind at your position with how the wind looks at where you want your bullet to impact will give a better understanding of how the wind affects the bullet along its path. Wind estimation is a skill that is easily lost and must be practiced on a regular basis to stay sharp. If you're by yourself, an easy way to do this is by playing the wind game: guess what the wind feels and looks like, then pull out the kestrel it will give you an accurate reading, the closer you are- the better.


If you don't have a kestrel, you can estimate wind by how it feels, looks downrange as mirage, and how much it moves foliage. Here's a quick down and dirty explanation about wind estimation when you're not using a wind meter.


Playing the range game will help you better estimate the distance of targets in scenarios where you can't get to your rangefinder fast enough or if using one is forbidden during a competition. To play the range game, identify any object and guess how far away it is. Then, range the object with your rangefinder. Just like the wind game, this is a skill you can continue to practice and improve on.

ranging with sig kiloranging


spotters up

Volunteering at matches to help call hits or just spotting for your friend while they shoot will give you a greater understanding of long range shooting, as a whole. When you're the shooter, you should be having an internal dialogue with yourself about the environmental conditions you see and the elevation and wind adjustments you need in order to get first round hits. As as spotter, the same dialogue happens, even if you're not actively telling the shooter how to adjust from their last shot. For example, if you're spotting and you guess the wind appears to be coming 5mph right to left, but the projectile is still pushed off the target on the left side, ask the shooter what they were holding. If they were holding the same wind adjustment you guessed, but both of you were wrong, there could be an environmental condition neither of you see. From this, you can learn how to make better guesstimates for wind. Another advantage of spotting is the ability to more easily see trace. When you're the shooter, sometimes getting back behind the scope quick enough to visualize your impact is difficult. Whereas, as a spotter, you can usually see the bullets path to the target.

Training without a firearm, doesn't cost a dime, and can be practiced almost anywhere. Still, it is rarely discussed. But, this type of training is advantageous for improving your long range game when you can't get to the range.

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