Long Range 101: How to Setup a Precision Rifle

From a new in-the-box to ringing steel at 1,000 yards in a single day


Make ready. The author and his shooting partner Justin Potter on the line at Sheepdog Warrior’s Basic Long Range Course in Catskill, New York.
Make ready. The author and his shooting partner Justin Potter on the line at Sheepdog Warrior’s Basic Long Range Course in Catskill, New York.Cosmo Genova

So, you want to shoot long range? It’s cool. It’s fun. And ringing steel ten football fields away is immensely rewarding. But, how does a backyard plinker or 300-yard deer hunter take a new-in-the-box rifle, optic and ammo, and connect at 1,000+ yards?

With these six easy steps, that’s how.

Within the very first box of ammo, we walked a new Bergara B-14 in 6mm Creedmoor, with a Tract Toric UHD optic, and factory Hornady loads to 980 yards. You can, too. Here’s how.

Step 1: A PLACE TO SHOOT


The mountain at Sheepdog Warrior. A variety of targets at various distances is necessary for sharping precision shooting skills.
The mountain at Sheepdog Warrior. A variety of targets at various distances is necessary for sharping precision shooting skills.Cosmo Genova

Depending on where you live, finding a place to shoot long-range will be the easiest or hardest step in this process. If you’re at a total loss, start with NSSF’s very good https://www.wheretoshoot.org/.

A solid public range might just be an hour or two away. That’s how I found Sheepdog Warrior, a shooting facility near me that hosts matches, classes, and a variety of events across various shooting disciplines. A place with instruction, like Sheepdog, will rapidly accelerate your learning curve and is well worth the investment.

If you’re budgeting for a new precision rifle, and have $2,000 to spend, cut it back to $1,500 and put that leftover $500 into instruction. You won’t be sorry.

Step 2: RIFLE & SCOPE


The author’s Bergara B-14 HMR in 6mm Creedmoor topped with a Tract Toric UHD scope, shooting Hornady 108 gr ELD Match.
The author’s Bergara B-14 HMR in 6mm Creedmoor topped with a Tract Toric UHD scope, shooting Hornady 108 gr ELD Match.Cosmo Genova

You’ll need a sub-MOA rifle and good glass. For this project, I picked up a Bergara B-14 HMR in the super flat, low-recoiling 6mm Creedmoor. (Think of it like a .243 magnum.)

Bergara’s reputation for accuracy is unparalleled, and the real world price of $950 is attainable for most of us—and well under the $2,000 Production Division limit, should you ever want to shoot PRS or another long range event, and NOT compete against $10,000 rigs and shooters who know how to use them.

We topped the Bergara with the crystal clear Tract Toric UHD 30mm 4-20x50 FFP MRAD PRS and used Warne 214 medium fixed rings to mount the scope to the rail, ensuring everything was 100 percent level.

The spring-loaded, locking elevation turret on the Tract Toric. It got a workout in some of the drills, presented below.
The spring-loaded, locking elevation turret on the Tract Toric. It got a workout in some of the drills, presented below.Cosmo Genova

Step 2: ACCESSORIES & AMMUNITION



In order to connect at long range from prone, a few shooting accessories are needed, namely a bipod and optional mat and rear bag. We went with the classic and hard-to-beat Harris Engineering 6- to 9-inch Bipod, along with a MidwayUSA Pro Series Competition Shooting Mat, and an Armageddon Gear Game Changer Bag, which can be used for a wide variety of support positions.

On the mat. The B-14 and a waiting box of Hornady Match ammo.
On the mat. The B-14 and a waiting box of Hornady Match ammo.Cosmo Genova

For ammunition, we selected the well regarded Hornady 108 gr ELD Match loads. After we dialed in a 100 yard zero, the next five shots cut a 5/8-inch hole—and inspired much confidence. Rifle setup and sighted in, it was time to get to the real work.

Step 3: Theoretical D.O.P.E.

Depending on who you talk with, D.O.P.E. stands for “Data on Personal Equipment” or “Data Observed from Precision Engagements.” Whichever you prefer, creating a D.O.P.E. card is the first order of business when setting up a new rifle, says to Shawn Marriott, sniper instructor at Sheepdog Warrior in Catskill, New York.

A D.O.P.E. card helps determine how to adjust your scope and rifle for bullet drop at various distances, and/or for wind drift. So, if your rifle is zeroed at 100 yards, you may need to spin up the turrets on your scope, say 2 MILS or 6.75 MOA to hit at 500 yards. Your D.O.P.E. card will reflect that.

Many online or smartphone-based ballistic apps—like The Ballistic App or The Hornady Ballistic Calculator— can help compute a rough D.O.P.E. You need to input data from the rifle and load, the current weather conditions or atmosphere, and target information, including:

RIFLE & LOAD

1. Sight Height, or the distance in inches between the center of your scope to the center of the chamber bore. Measure with calipers or use an app like the Brownells Sight Height Calculator to figure out.

2. Zero Distance, in this case 100 yards.

3. Bullet weight, found on your ammo box.

4. Ballistic Coefficient, also on the box or manufacture’s website.

5. Twist Rate, which is marked on some barrels or in your rifle’s owner’s manual.

6. Muzzle Velocity, which is printed on most factory ammo boxes, BUT if you have a chronograph, use it. That’s much better data.

ATMOSPHERE

1. Temperature, when you zeroed the rifle.

2. Barometric Pressure, when you zeroed the rifle.

3. Humidity, when you zeroed the rifle.

4. Altitude, when you zeroed the rifle.

5. Current temperature, on the firing line.

6. Current barometric pressure.

7. Current humidity.

8. Current altitude.

TARGET DATA

1. Wind speed.

2. Wind direction.

3. Target distance.

4. Target angle, or the angle the rifle is canted if shooting up or down hill.

Rifle and load data is easy enough to find and figure by reading ammo boxes, your rifle’s owner’s manual, or searching online. This info will only change if you use different ammunition or change out your scope rings. Atmospheric conditions are more challenging to acquire, though many ballistic apps will GPS your location and sync it with current weather data.

Many will also talk with handheld weather and wind meters such as Kestrels. A completed chart will look like this, as made in The Ballistic App:

But keep in mind: at this point, these holdovers and corrections are just theoretical.

Dope Chart
Dope ChartMichael R. Shea


Step 4: REAL-WORLD D.O.P.E., BODY POSITION & DRILLS


With the rifle and optic setup and the D.O.P.E. computed, the author gets to the line to confirm The Ballistic App calculations.
With the rifle and optic setup and the D.O.P.E. computed, the author gets to the line to confirm The Ballistic App calculations.Cosmo Genova

Time to shoot or, rather, build a real-world D.O.P.E. card.

With a spotter or shooting partner watching your targets, confirm your 100 yard zero. When that’s solid, move to 200 yards and adjust elevation turret, according to your theoretical D.O.P.E. By the above example, that would be 0.36 MILLS up, or 3 or 4 clicks up on a 0.10 MRAD turret.

After the shot, discuss placement with your spotter and tweak the clicks up or down until it’s actually hitting dead nuts at 200. Note the new come-ups for that distance, write it down, then proceed the same way to 300 and 400 yards.

Again, if the shots are less than dead center, click up or down until your spotter’s happy, reshoot, then note the new D.O.P.E. for that distance—recording the actual or real-world D.O.P.E. in a separate notebook.

Communicate with your spotter. If you have a bad squeeze, or feel you pulled the shot in anyway, shoot it again.

When 100 to 400 yards is solid, instructor Marriot suggests all shooters run a simple eight shot drill. Engage targets at 100 yards for two shoots, then fast as possible spin up and engage targets at 400 yards for two shots, then spin down and put two rounds at 200, then send the last two shots out to 300 yards.

“Very quickly you’ll know whether that D.O.P.E. is correct, while testing the tracking in the scope, and identifying any flaws in you, the shooter,” he says.


Shooting instructor and SWAT sniper Shawn Marriot calls the shots.
Shooting instructor and SWAT sniper Shawn Marriot calls the shots.Cosmo Genova

If you don’t have an extreme-long range spot to shoot, this drill is a great way to make the most out of middle distance practice. Have the spotter call random distances, and try to hit them. See if you can connect at three or four distances with 10 shots in a minute or two.

Step 5: GOING LONG

Confirming D.O.P.E. out to 1,000 yards and beyond works the same as inside 400 yards. Using the theoretical guide, plus any known corrections for the closer distances, you shoot and adjust your elevation turret based on your spotter or shooting partner’s call. But as distances stretch, funny things happen to bullets, like spin drift, and the compound effect of time in flight + wind.

All rifle barrels have twist—most production guns twist right— and the bullet spins down this twist and out the barrel on ignition, so the bullet in flight is spinning rapidly to the right, or left with the rarer left-hand twist barrels.

Over time, that spinning nudges the bullet in the direction it spins. This is spin drift. “As a general rule,” Marriott told us, “you should consider spin drift at 600 yards when trying to hit a 10-inch kill zone.” In NO WIND, most modern rifle calibers will drift ½ to 1-inch due to barrel twist, but a ballistic calculator can correct this and compute specifics.

Moral: when shooting to 600 or beyond, consider spin drift.

Calling wind is less clear cut. Calling wind is a skill developed over years of experience, but new shooters can make some gains on the line by picking out grass, trees, leaves, smoke, dust, and other environmental factors downrange, as well as through atmospheric electronics, like Kestrel handheld weather and wind-speed meters.

Knowing the wind speed and direction will help make good calls. For new shooters, Marriott suggest holding the edge of the steel target on the leading side of the wind. For example, if the grass and trees tell you the wind is blow left to right at 900 yards, hold on the left-hand side of the plate and send it.

That will give you and your spotters a good first sense of what that wind is doing to the bullet. Then you can adjust.

Many apps, like Ballistic, let you input wind calls, and then show you how many MILS or MOA you need to hold left or right depending on wind speed and target distance. Generally speak, you DO NOT want to use the windage turret to adjust for wind. Instead, use the hashmarks in your scopes reticle.

Spending time in an app with a wind function off the firing line, running different wind scenarios through the program will help you develop a sense of what your setup does in certain speed winds. Running various scenarios in an app before bed beats the hell out of watching bad T.V., in this writer’s opinion.

“Experience is the best teacher,” Marriott says. Chase experience and shoot as often as possible.

If you’re looking to connect at 1,000 yards with a brand-new rig, picking the right day without too much wind is smart, too. My shooting partner and I did just that, and in a light wind and few hours after mounting scope to rifle and shooting to 400 with Marriott, we jumped out to the longer distances, then heard that tell-tale sound from 980 yards away—ding, that sweet sound of bullet hitting steel.



SPECS:

The Bergara B-14 HMR Rifle
The Bergara B-14 HMR Rifle.Bergara


  • Weight: 9.6 lbs.
  • Overall Length: 47.5-inch
  • Barrel Length: 24-inch
  • Magazine: AICS style detachable
  • Mag Capacity: 5 round mag provided
  • Barrel Taper: No. 6
  • Muzzle: Precision threaded 5/8-24-inch with knurled thread protector
  • Stock: Bergara HMR Molded with mini-chassis
  • Scope Mount: Fits Remington 700 bases
  • Sling: Integrated QD flush cup sling mounts and swivel mounts
  • Rear buttstock: Adjustable cheek piece, and length-of-pull
  • Chassis: Full-length Integrated mini-chassis for repeatable bedding and supports fully free-floated barrel
  • Caliber/Twist: 6MM Creedmoor/1:8

Guaranteed to produce groups of 1.0 MOA or less at 100 yards with quality factory match grade ammunition.

Bergara also has a detailed spec list online comparing the HMR to the stainless HMR Pro.

MSRP: $1,150

Editor’s Note: Bergara discontinued the B-14 HMR in 6mm Creedmoor for 2020, but it’s available in 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, and a host of other calibers. The B-14 HMR Pro is still available in 6mm Creedmoor.

Hornady 6mm Creedmoor 108 gr ELD Match ammunition.
Hornady 6mm Creedmoor 108 gr ELD Match ammunition.Hornady


  • Bullet: 108 gr ELD Matcg
  • Sectional Density: .261
  • Ballistic Coefficient: .536 (G1), .270 (G7)
  • Velocity (muzzle): 2,960 fps
  • Energy (muzzle): 2,101 ft/lbs
The Toric UHD 30MM 4-20X50 FFP MRAD PRS Long Range Rifle Scope.
The Toric UHD 30MM 4-20X50 FFP MRAD PRS Long Range Rifle Scope.Toric Optics
  • Magnification: 4-20X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Eye Relief (inches): 3.9 - 3.9
  • Exit Pupil: 12.5 / 2.5
  • Field of View (@1,000 yards): 341 feet
  • Field of View (Low Power/High Power in feet @ 100 yards): 24.5 - 4.9′
  • Relative Brightness: 17.6
  • Twilight Factor: 20.5
  • Diopter Range: +2/-3
  • Length (inches): 13.7
  • Weight (ounces): 34
  • Elevation Adjustment Range (MRAD): 20
  • Click Value (MRAD): 0.1
  • Turret Lock: Yes
  • Turret Zero Stop: Yes / Multi Rotational
  • Tube: 30mm (one piece)
  • Reticle Type: Glass Etched MRAD
  • Coatings: Fully Multi-coated
  • Custom Turret Compatible: No
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes
  • Illuminated Reticle Battery Type: CR2032
  • Illumination Battery Life: 360 Hours at Medium Intensity
  • Recoil Shock Endurance: 1,000g
  • Operating Temperature Range: 158°F to -1.4°F
  • Internal Charge: Argon Gas
  • Parallax Setting: 25 yards to Infinity
  • Finish: Graphite
  • Color: graphite
  • Reticle Focal Plane: 1st
  • Eyepiece Outside Diameter: 1.69 inches
  • Objective Outside Diameter: 2.28 inches
  • Objective Diameter (millimeters): 50
  • Mount Space: 5.875″
  • Sunshade Included: Yes / 3 Inch Sunshade
  • Waterproof Depth (meters): 3
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • MSRP: $1,294