1) Saskatchewan: Upon my return from Wild Basin I packed up and flew off to lovely Regina, Saskatchewan for several days of shooting with Board Member Ian McMurchy. Ian is in the elite ranks of outdoor writer/photographers, and is wrapping up a new book on Long Range shooting. We, Ian and I, have been wanting to get together for a shoot for quite some time. A window of opportunity opened up and so I wedged this outing in.
In part, my presence was to act as a photo “subject” for the book. Ian needed an experienced shooter for that, as well as to do a final run-through with someone as-yet unexposed to the training approach Ian has developed for shooting way out there. As many of you know, Ian was for many years responsible for the official culling of large animals in his Province. Having a background as a champion marksman, he was naturally the primary shooter in this program as well. Because of the unique requirements of the program a great deal of the culling was from long range. The program used a team, consisting of a shooter (Ian) and a spotter, deployed all the equipment of a well-turned-out sniper team, and for all intents and purposes functioned as a professional sniper team would. Ian knows his stuff on long range shooting, and has the observation and communication skills to teach what he knows. His techniques reflect many decades of experience. I can shoot far, and have successfully done so when necessary. Ian has made a career of it, and so I arrived on his turf ready to pay attention.
Ian had told me it wasn’t necessary for me to bring a rifle. That he had that covered. Well, he was right. The man possesses a plentiful supply of extremely accurate rifles, all equipped with very impressive tactical scopes. We selected a quiver of them and headed out for his remote and very private Range. After setting our target array, Ian began to introduce me to his system.
Ian’s methods as regards the shooter are indeed a bit “different” from what I’ll call conventional. The man is a very smart, and meticulous, observer of the elements involved in the shooting process. So let’s go thru what I learned that might be new to you colleagues:
—Position: (This is from prone, THE position for long shooting.) Ian recommends the shooter lie in-line with the rifle bore. No angle at all. This will keep your shooting position “locked in” better for second shots than if you’re canted to the side; the recoil has to move your whole body instead of just your shoulder. In addition, Ian recommends a completely flat chest—you are not “supporting” any part of your body, or the rifle, with musculature, which can certainly affect the shot at serious ranges. Use both a front and a rear rest to support the rifle. (Ian introduced me to some really clever little rear rests. I’ll be making some ultralight versions of my own soon.) Trigger should be in the middle of the last finger digit, and the pull-back should be just with that finger, NOTHING else. (Happily, that is precisely the way I’ve been pulling triggers for as long as I can remember, and so I completely agree with this instruction.)
—Breathing: I’ve been letting out that final half breath and holding since forever; Ian instructed me along these lines: Breath normally. There’s a natural pause between exhales and inhales wherein the body is most relaxed. Two or three seconds. Let the shot go during that pause. It works, guys, and works real well. Makes sense too.
—Vision: There’s a limit to how long we can stare at a target with utmost acuity. That time shrinks as we age too. If you find your target acquisition lessening look to the side for a moment and then re-aquire the target. Of course you’ll want to regulate this with breathing so that both factors, indeed all factors are optimum when the shot departs.
There’s a lot to coordinate. It’s a challenge, especially in the hundred degree F heat and biting flies we were assaulted with while I was up there shooting with Ian. But it works. There’s more though. We covered in some depth optics, wind, lighting and mirage…all important elements in shooting way out there. How far? Ian pegs 700 yards as the threshold for “really far”.
—Optics: I was introduced to turret-adjustable scopes. As a hunter, I’ve used “hold” many, many times with perfectly satisfactory results. But I’ve never done it at 700 yards, in the wind, either. My experience with Ian informed me of the incredible usefulness of ‘dialing in” a far-off target with a hundred yard zero and precise, educated turret clicks on a high quality sniper scope. One then holds right on target and let’s the shot go. Getting there with the turret adjustments is an exacting science. It takes into account distance, of course, but also wind, lighting, and mirage. I witnessed all this. Ian, acting as my “spotter” gave me the adjustments; the resulting hits spoke for themselves. Ian had many huge tactical scopes, which we used. But such behemoths are not really necessary for hits. The last evening we deployed a 2 ½-8 power Luepold tactical, with an illuminated reticle. Hit after hit after predictable hit resulted. Come dark, I switched on the illumination at very low power, so I could still just make out the white steel target. Center hits kept on coming…the “clangs” coming back to us in the gloom many seconds later. I’ll let Ian’s book, due out in the spring under the Stoeger Publishing banner, tell the details of lighting, mirage, and the science of using those turrets. Suffice to say it all works, because I experienced it first-hand. Ian says the tentative title is “Long Range Hunting & Advanced Field Marksmanship”. The objective of the book, according to Ian, is to enable the shooter to use the full potential of his rifle. Where does Long Range begin, by the way? It starts at 400 yards, according to the Maestro. Sounds about right to me.
One day we took a spin down to Plentywood, Montana to shoot a Barrett .50 Cal., my first time behind one of these really big rifles. I am happy to report that I survived just fine, and had a grand time too. Thanks Ian. For everything.
These images are from Ian’s camera, and except for one, taken by him; I was too busy lying in a puddle of sweat with a riflestock glued to my cheek, whilst being chewed on by little flying critters. But then focus—no matter the distractions– is the name of the game in long range shooting.
I flew back home, packed up, and headed off for the lush mountains for Washington to sojourn with my bushwhacking pals that comprise the crew of the Northwest Rendezvous.
1)Getting ready. We put up my 16 man tipi for sun and wind (and a bit of rain) protection. Shooting was done from inside, out the open door.
2. Did a little fooling around with a stand-up tripod.
3. View of the range. One can shoot very far indeed there
4. Ian takes a turn in the dark
5. Smiling about that .50!
6. Closing the bolt on 700 grains of goodness
7. Very long range accuracy on a “reactive” target.
One of Ian’s way out there targets for determining actual bullet drops. Often used for muzzle loaders too!