Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No Match For the Big Dogs

Cocked, locked, and ready to rock.

What you see above is what I used to call my "groundhog rifle." It's a .22-250 caliber Remington 700 ADL bolt action rifle with a 12 power Weaver scope and Harris bipod. (There is also a leather shoulder strap dragging the ground). I had removed the "iron" sights from the barrel because they were unnecessary for the kind of shooting I did back then. With this little hummer I could "drill nails," as they say.

On the right day, under the right conditions, and with a bit of luck, I was pretty good at hitting my target, even out to 200 to 250 yards. I could say that I was even a reasonable marksman with this rifle out to 400 yards, but I'd be stretching the truth. Shots that far out were more luck than anything else.

As any Marine sniper will tell you, putting the crosshairs on the target is a small part of achieving pinpoint accuracy. On long-distance shots, before one pulls the trigger, one needs to take into account such things as windage, elevation, and bullet weight (I used a 55 grain Remington bullet with standard factory loads) (the heavier the bullet, the more it drops).

Estimating windage (the amount of drift that occurs between the muzzle and point of impact as a direct result of air currents) comes with experience. Calculating elevation (or trajectory) doesn't have to. It's done for you. I used to carry a small sliding-scale chart that I used to figure how high I needed to aim based upon that bullet weight and the distance to the target. For example, if I was 250 yards away from the target, knowing that I had my rifle "sighted in" at 200 yards, I might calculate that I needed to aim 3 inches above the point of intended impact in order to hit that which I was aiming at. (The purist will say that barrel length makes an appreciable difference as well, and that's fine.)

All that said, I considered myself to be a pretty decent shot, in the day.

But I don't hold a candle to the big boys. The big "boys" being the men and women in the armed forces who are trained to do that which I did for fun and relaxation.

400 yards involved, for me, a whole lotta luck.

For them, it's little more than a stone's throw.

The record? In Afghanistan it stands at 2,657 yards. But we aren't talking groundhogs.

Imagine trying to hit a target a mile away - or more. How is it even possible?

I see that and I know I'm out of my league. I'll stick to throwing snowballs.

These guys rock.

* I'm told they are using .50 caliber rifles but I have no way of knowing that.