So, you are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about and attending your first long range shooting rifle match? That’s excellent! First off, pat yourself on the back. Competition can be a little nerve racking but it’s also a ton of fun and nothing will advance you as a long range shooter faster than a competitive environment. You will quickly discover what gear works, what gear doesn’t, and where you do and don’t need practice with regard to your long range shooting skills.
Long Range Shooting Gear – Less is More
Now, this being your first long range shooting match, you might not be sure what you need to bring with you. My experience has been much like that of a high school senior observing a new group of freshman walking around with giant backpacks carrying every book and notepad they need for the whole week to every class. In short, newer shooters tend to bring way more crap with them to matches than they really need. There are some things you need, and some things that are nice to have, and some stuff you can just leave at home altogether.
Here is a list of the basics needed for a long range shooting match, it’s meant to give you an idea what to bring and I’ve tried to incorporate indicators as to whether its a necessity or just nice to have. I’ll follow that up with pictures and an explanation of the gear I bring to a match for a better visual aid.
- Rifle and Scope (Must Have) – Preferably capable of 1 MOA accuracy with adjustable target turrets that match the reticle
- Sling (Must Have) – You need to be able to safely carry the rifle, many matches require a sling
- Ammunition (Must Have) – Kinda obvious, bring extra so you can check your zero beforehand if possible
- Rangefinder (Depends) – Some matches will give you the ranges and some won’t but it’s always nice to have your own
- Kestrel (Must Have) – Not because you can’t shoot without it, but because it will help you learn faster and easier than without it
- Pack (Must Have) – You need something to put gear, water, food, ammunition into and it also doubles as a rest
- Wrist Coach (Nice to Have) – Not required but makes things a lot easier, you can substitute a small pad or notebook
- Elbow/Knee Pads (Depends) – You probably need it more in a field match than on a square range
- Water/Snacks (Must Have) – Your performance will suffer from low blood sugar and dehydration, trust me
- Rear Bag (Must Have) – You need some sort of rest for the buttstock for adjustments
Long Range Shooting Gear – The Critical Stuff
That’s a brief list of the basics for long range shooting. The reason I suggest you buy a Kestrel is so you can start to calibrate what the wind ‘feels like’ as you are out at the long range shooting match. It’s easy to stand on a ridge overlooking targets and say, “Man the wind is really whipping,” but without a Kestrel it’s very difficult for a beginner to quantify that feeling. Much better if you can flip the Kestrel open and say, “Okay, this is what a 10mph wind feels like.” That’s how you get started with reading the wind and making your calls. The Rangefinder is really dependent on the course of fire the match director has laid out. T3 in Colorado give you range cards with the distances to the targets from the firing positions before you leave the assembly area, I believe the Whittington Center in Raton does the same. In those cases you don’t need a rangefinder but I like to bring mine anyway.
I’ve never really been a fan of pads but I’ve torn up my elbows a couple times now at long range shooting matches so I toss a set in my bag in case I wind up shooting off a rocky surface. The last item I’ll touch on is the wrist coach. It’s not a necessity but it really makes life easier to be able to look down at your forearm and see what adjustments you need to make to your scope to hit a target at a given range during a long range shooting match. It’s also a nice place to have the target ranges written down. I particularly like the Sunrise Tactical model since you can write on the face of it with a grease pencil, that works in wet weather where pads don’t, and is easily erasable for a clean slate for the next stage. You can lose a lot of time fumbling with pads and pencils looking for where you wrote down the target ranges and adjustments before the stage of a long range shooting match. Or you move to the next firing position or stage and realize you left your pad at the last position or stage, now what? Put it on your arm, its simple and you can’t forget it.
Long Range Shooting Gear – The Stuff I Bring!
- 1 – Rifle with scope and bipod capable of 1MOA accuracy or better
- 2 – Hearing protection, I like electronic stuff so I can use plugs and muffs together
- 3 – Sunrise Tactical Wrist Coach with grease pencil for easy access to dope and range card
- 4 – Applied Ballistics Kestrel 4500NV for live calculations of ballistic solutions
- 5 – Str8 Laced Gun Gear Rear bag for supporting the buttstock
- 6 – Elbow Pads for protecting my elbows on rough surfaces
- 7 – TAB Gear Silent Ammo Carrier for my ammunition
- 8 – TAD Gear Pouch with Borka Tool Kit and miscellaneous tools
- 9 – Vectronix Terrapin Laser Rangefinder
- 10 – Condor backpack for carrying gear, water, and snacks
- 11 – Battle Belt for items needed to shoot only, lets me dump the pack before starting
- 12 – TAB Gear Mag Pouch with a 20 round mag
- 13 – TAB Gear Mag Pouch with a 10 round mag
- 14 – 5.11 Pistol Mag Pouch for competitions where pistol is included
- 15 – Multi Purpose pouch, I usually just toss brass in there after a stage
- 16 – Safariland clip for a detachable pistol holster
- 17 – Triad Tactical Kestrel Pouch
The battle belt isn’t a necessity, I just like using a belt and a pack together. This way I can dump heavier items nearby that I don’t need for the stage but want to carry with me for the day, like tools and water for example. Having the belt on I still have extra mags, the Kestrel, a Pistol if needed, etc. that I need to actually complete the stage. There aren’t any pouches on the belt around the back so the pack sits flat on my back when walking between stages. You can carry your ammunition in a box but I find something like TAB Gear’s Silent Ammo Carrier to work better because its almost like a sand bag that will conform to the space you grant it in your pack. A plastic ammo box has to have room for it’s dimensions, it doesn’t mold itself to available space.