How to ring steel at 1000 yards? It’s a journey a lot of long range people want to embark upon. There’s some lore and legend mixed with a bit of Hollywood sillyness that have made this a rifle shooter’s bucket list item. I’ll say this much, it is an experience you won’t soon forget. There’s something magical about shooting at a target that’s barely visible with the naked eye without the aid of magnified optics. Actually hitting the damn target is an even bigger kick! I remember getting a buddy of mine on target at 600 yards and he had a grin from ear to ear. 1000 yard hits just have a way of making you feel like a badass. It’s why the good Lord gave Man the rifle, or one of the reasons anyway! So let’s get into talking about how to do it!
Ringing Steel at a Grand
So how do you even get this done? There’s a couple of components that are critical to solving the 1000 yard target equation. First off, there’s you, the shooter. You really need a decent grasp of the fundamentals of marksmanship in order to do this consistently. We’re going to tell you how to do it, but if you want to do it often and with consistency, you need to work on the basics. Next up, you need the right gear! There are plenty of rifles that will get you to 1000 yards, the question really is more of quality ammunition than caliber or manufacturer. You can do it with a bone stock Savage or Remington in 308, but if you’re shooting Core Lokt or some kind of Wallyworld ammunition it’s going to be extremely difficult to get on target. You need consistent ammunition so you either need to roll your own handloads, or you have to spend the coin on some quality factory offerings.
Ammunition and Caliber
We wrote an earlier article about what an excellent caliber 6.5 Creedmoor has become. Specifically, how 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent caliber for beginners! As it gains popularity and more manufacturers jump on board, it will be easier to get going with the Creed. It’s also an excellent choice because you can buy cases of quality, factory produced, Hornady ammunition. It fits the match grade bill nicely. You can still get the job done with a 308, I’m not saying you can’t. I’m just trying to give the guys that want to do this a good jumping off point. If you have a 308 in the stable, invest in a case of Federal Gold Medal Match 175gr ammunition. Black Hills 175gr offerings are also excellent. You can do Hornady 178gr if need be, or go with a smaller ammunition producer like Copper Creek Cartridge Company if the normal lines of supply are a bit dry.
Consistent, match grade ammunition, is absolutely critical if you want to ring steel at 1000 yards. With inconsistent ammunition you are setting yourself up for a frustrating experience. The problem is with the flight time. At a 1000 yards the bullet is in flight long enough that even some fairly mild inconsistencies in the velocity of your ammunition become significant. A 20fps-50fps variation in speed might not sound like much in the grand scheme of projectiles moving at 2600+ fps. I assure you, at 1000 yards it becomes very significant. Those speed variations will result in higher or lower trajectories at the target large enough to miss the target completely. That’s even when you’ve done everything else right! Don’t skimp on ammunition if ringing steel at 1000 yards is the goal, you’ve been warned!
Optics for the 1000 Yard Line
You knew this was coming. You need a decent scope if you want to ring steel at 1000 yards. Specifically, you need a scope that has target turrets. What I mean by that is an externally adjustable turret that allows the shooter to dial on elevation and windage which will move the point of impact from the rifle’s zero to the extent necessary that the zero becomes that of the target’s distance. If you have a capped windage hunting scope, you can still do it, but you’re in for an uphill battle again. You can get your hands on SWFA’s line of SS 10x Power, fixed magnification scopes, for as little as $300 dollars. I’ve seen the junk guys have plunked down two or three times as much on at Cabelas and Basspro. Buy a quality scope, if you aren’t sure what to go with, ask! You need a scope that has externally adjustable turrets, preferably with around 100 MOA worth of internal adjustment.
Again, you can get away with less, you can use canted scope bases to alleviate travel deficiencies but this article is meant to help people be successful. I’m not saying “It can’t be done” with what you have. I’m just trying to point you towards the gear, ammunition, and skillsets that will make it likely and less of a hassle to accomplish. I want you to have fun and enjoy the experience, not walk away frustrated and pissed off!
DOPE for 1000 Yards
You’re going to need an idea of how much elevation to dial onto that scope of yours to get those bullets out there. I highly recommend the use of JBM Ballistics! It’s a free online ballistics computer/calculator and you can plug in all the variables to get a drop chart that’s good enough to get you close. If you aren’t sure how to go about it, we also did an article on how to generate a drop chart! I recommend you run the chart with a 10mph wind at 90 degrees or 9 O’Clock for the angle. We’ll go into DOPING the wind in another article. That will give you a reasonable starting point for the higher end of the wind scale you are likely to encounter. When you have the drop chart, use that to dial the elevation needed to get the bullet out to the 1000 yard line and fire a round. If you don’t have a solid grasp of the fundamentals, having a spotter with you may help so they can help you adjust!
Rounds on Target
You’re firing rounds at 1000 yards. Now watch for the miss or the impact. It really is probably helpful the first time you try this to have someone spot for you in case you miss where the shot goes during the recoil impulse. If you are having trouble spotting your impacts or misses, review the fundamentals, and check out our article on inconsistencies that lead to poor grouping! The idea at this point in the game is to make your best guess on getting the rounds out there, and then walk the shots in. You need to have an idea where they’re going to do that, so either spotting the misses yourself or having somebody else observe where the shots land is critical. Once you have that information, adjust your point of aim to move the bullet impact into the target. This is referred to as a hold off, or Kentucky Windage. As luck would have it, we wrote an article on this technique also!
My last suggestion for those embarking upon the 1000 yard quest has to do with target size. Guys, be realistic about your expectations and your goals. You want to have fun, and you want to ring steel at 1000 yards. If you plan to bring the hunting rifle with Walmart ammunition and you shoot at an MOA sized target at a grand, you’re stacking the deck against yourself. There’s a lot that is possible and much that can be accomplished on small targets at great distance, but that requires some really dialed in skills and high dollar equipment. If you want to have a good time, use a big target! The full size IPSC targets are about 18 inches across, the Military E Silhouette targets are about 20 inches across. We’re talking 2 MOA targets at 1000 yards, that’s reasonable, it’s doable, and it’s still got a basis in reality.
If you hang an 8 inch target up at 1000 yards on your first attempt, I wish you all the luck in the world! Everybody thought it was cool as hell when they shot 1000 yards on TOP SHOT and hit it on the first try. They were using a 30 inch diameter target! See what I’m saying? You can refine your skills and shoot small targets to impress good looking women later after you’ve got a good handle on all this. My goal with this article is to help you just get it done the first couple times. I’m planning articles on wind reading that will help with getting on target with less rounds and shooting stuff at great distance with first round hits. For now though, just have a good time and make it happen! If you have any questions or thoughts on the subject, drop them in the comments below!