Suggested equipment for scoring a first round hit

There is a lot that goes into a long distance shot. When shooting at extended ranges beyond 200 meters. In order to make these long distance shots, there are a few basic pieces of equipment required.

Data at hand:

Bullet information:

In order to use and update your DOPE Card and DOPE Book, you need to know information about the bullet that you are shooting. Critical to know is the BC of the bullet, the bullet weight, the diameter of the bullet and the muzzle velocity.

DOPE Book:

A notebook is a very helpful tool to make long range shots. The more you shoot and record, the better you would be equipped to make your next cold bore first time hit. Collecting data about every time you shoot, will systematically build up a reference library that can be consulted on how your rifle performs under various conditions. Referencing this data and selecting data which matches your current conditions, would ultimately increase your chances of scoring a first time hit. This DOPE (Data of Previous Engagements) book should always be with you to reference  before every shot, and updated after the shot.

DOPE card:

How your bullet performs at certain distances are critical to know. There are several online ballistics calculators that you can use to calculate your bullet performance at various ranges. You plug a few pieces of data in the calculator, like the BC, bullet weight, caliber, muzzle velocity etc. and it produces a bullet drop chart. It might also produce the amount of clicks, MOA or Mils, that you would need to dope on your scope to shoot at a predetermined distance. It is always wise to test out this card at the provided ranges and update the tables according to how your bullet performs. Some cellphone based ballistics calculators can create your dope card for you based on the parameters loaded into it.


Data Collection:

Anemometer:

Although a lot of science and maths goes into bullet drop over an extended range, it does not account for wind drift. Using a ballistics calculator can make things much easier, but it is only as good as the data being fed into it. 

In order to input the wind speed and direction, a good wind meter is required (Wind Part 1). A wind meter would assist in dialing in the wind from your firing position, the atmospheric pressure as well as the current temperature (all of which will influence where the bullet will  hit at range) . Having good data will allow your ballistic calculator to more accurately predict your point of impact.

Handheld Laser Thermometer:

The temperature of your cartridge can affect your point of impact. Powder running hotter  can result in a faster bullet and a colder powder can result in a slower bullet. In order to be able to measure these differences in the temperature of your cartridge, it is always handy to have a handheld laser thermometer and updating your DOPE book after every shot. On a hot summer's day, shooting a hot cartridge can even result in an over pressure scenario.

Rangefinder:

In order to hit a target at range, it is first and foremost required to know what that range is. If you have a mil-dot scope and you know the size of your target, it is an easy mathematical equation to calculate the distance to your target (when time allows it). Luckily today, the use of rangefinders have made this task much easier. By the press of a button, it is easy to range the distance to the target you intend to engage. 

Optics:

Spotting Scope:

Spotting scopes sometimes have higher magnification than rifle scopes. This makes it easier to see where your bullet hit the target. This lessens you having to walk up and down the range to inspect the target after every shot not required. This also helps regulate heart rates and breathing; as walking to your target and back will surely elevate your heart rate and breathing.

If you have a buddy who knows how to use it at the range, your job becomes even easier. The spotter can observe wind and even bullet flight and call out DOPEs for the shooter to make adjustments immediately after the shot, should the first shot not be on target.

Spotting scopes are also very useful to determine wind down range (Wind Part 2). Using a spotting scope to interpret the mirage down range successfully, will allow you to determine the wind speed and direction on your way or at your intended target.


Rifle Scope:

One of the most important pieces of equipment for engaging targets at extended ranges would be your rifle scope. Aim small, miss small. At range, it would even be beneficial to firstly see the target, doesn’t matter how big or small. Therefore having a rifle scope with sufficient magnification for the target you intend to hit is vital. Next is the dials on the scope, the turrets on the scope should allow for quick and easy adjustments to either windage or drop is critical. A zero stop is also very handy for resetting to where the scope was last Zeroed. Next comes how it dials; One needs to decide whether it should be calibrated in Minute of Angle (MOA) or MIL (milliradian). Whatever your decision is here, both are fine as long as you know how to successfully use it. Lastly, you need to decide on whether the rifle scope will be in the First Focal Plane (FFP) or Second Focal Plane (SFP). The focal plane of a rifle scope indicates where the reticle is placed. 

Second Focal Plane:

The reticle is placed in SFP when the reticle does not adjust (increase or decrease) when you are engaging your scope’s zoom, but always stays the same. You will also note on the scope that there would be an indication of which zoom level should be switched to, to use the scope for either hold-over (where one measurement = 1 MOA or 10 MIL) or ranging targets.

First Focal Plane:

For engaging targets at various distances, this would be your likely goto. Increasing or decreasing magnification would also make your reticle go larger or smaller. The benefit to this is, that the measurements on your reticle remains the same. If your calculation indicates that you would need 6 MOA of holdover to hit your target, it doesn’t matter if your scope is on its smallest, somewhere in the middle, or largest magnification. Holding 6 MOA on any magnification will get you there.

Scope Level:

Shooting at 100m, with a 3° cant of your scope might might not be a lot to worry about, as you will still hit the target. Extending this range to 200m will move your point of impact by 30mm. Trying to hit a target at 550m with a cant of 3° will move your point of impact with approximately 178mm (that is almost 18cm). On a small target, 18cm is a complete miss and engaging a living target (out hunting) would translate to a complete miss of the vitals.


Rests:

For any long range shot, it is required to have a stable shooting position and a stable rifle.

Bipods:

Fold-up bipods provides a good front rest for your rifle. It attaches directly to the rifle and can be folded up while walking and stalking. When you are ready to engage the target, they can be easily folded down to provide a stable front rest.

Bags:

Small sandbags can also be used to provide a front and/or back rest to stabilise your rifle. They ensure a good stable platform to fire from. Although there are several companies that makes bags that can be taken on the hunt, in the veld, they might become cumbersome to carry and deploy.

Calculators:

Ballistics Calculator:

A ballistics calculator can be valuable in order to assimilate all the information you have at hand or have collected before your shot. Plugging in all the relevant data (distance to target, muzzle velocity, wind etc.) will have it quickly spit out the relevant Elevation and Windage dope to engage the target. There are quite a few good ballistic calculators that can be downloaded to your phone. A ballistics calculator is still just a tool in making long range shots and therefore it is always advised to consult your DOPE book, as well as update your DOPE book after the shot.

Scientific Calculator:

There is also the old scientific calculator. This will require a thorough knowledge of all the calculations required and it is therefore suggested to get a good ballistics calculator instead.