What is Precision Rifle Shooting? Excellent question! Precision Rifle Shooting is a fast growing sport that focuses on accurate rifle fire directed at targets of challenging size or distance. Precision Rifle Shooting often speaks of how accurate a rifle is or how large a target is by discussing it in Minutes Of Angle (MOA). MOA refers to Minutes of Angle which is an angular measurement system that relates size to distance. 1 Minute of Angle, or 1 MOA, is considered the standard accuracy minimum that a rifle used for Precision Rifle Shooting should be capable of. What does that mean, though?
Precision Rifle Shooting Terminology
1 MOA roughly equals 1 Inch of size for every 100 yards. The real math is pretty close but this is a rule of thumb in an article designed for newer shooters so we’re going to keep it simple. A rifle used for Precision Rifle Shooting that is said to be a ‘one minute gun’ is being touted as capable of producing a group of shots equal to 1 MOA. That means if the rifle is fired at a target 100 yards away we can expect the group size to be 1 inch in spread from the center of one shot to the center of the shot farthest from the group. This system is linear so at 500 yards we would expect to see a group from the same rifle measure 5 inches in size.
You will hear the term MOA thrown around a lot in Precision Rifle Shooting. For example the term is often used to describe the size of targets. If I was to tell you, “The steel target at 600 yards is 2 MOA in size,” I just communicated to you in Precision Rifle Shooting terms that the target is 12 inches wide. 1 MOA at 600 yards would be 6 inches, and 2 MOA would be 12 inches. Simple right? Sometimes. The target might be taller or shorter than the 2 MOA I just told you about. There’s an important reason for that!
In Precision Rifle Shooting a shooter is primarily concerned with the width of the target. The reason being that most ‘square ranges’ meaning those that have set systematic distances like 100yds, 200yds, 300yds, etc. the range to the target is well known to the shooter. Dialing in corrections on a scope for the fall of gravity is usually fairly easy on a square range because gravity is a constant. The pull of gravity is always the same and if you know for sure what the distance to your target is, determining the proper scope adjustment to hit it is pretty easy to do.
The reason the width of the target is so important is because differences in horizontal impact are largely due to the effects of wind. The wind is the principle challenge that a shooter faces in Precision Rifle Shooting. The reason is because the wind is anything but constant. It can change speed and direction without warning. Since it lacks consistency so does the adjustment needed for lateral impact of the bullet. Whereas with elevation, if I know the distance to the target, I know what I need for a vertical correction. With horizontal corrections, what you need may change from one second to the next.
This is why a shooter’s ability to ‘read the wind’ and thus determine the amount of horizontal correction needed to hit a target at a given range is highly prized in Precision Rifle Shooting. There are many tools, gadgets, and gear devoted to assisting the shooter to determine what kind of wind correction he needs. While elevation corrections are easier, there is a lot to understand and account for with regard to environmental conditions as well. The temperature and density of the air can effect how easily the bullet traverses the distance and can then require more or less elevation correction, at the same distance, if the weather is different.
Obviously, there is a lot that goes into all this. This is merely an opener post meant to give somebody that is new to Precision Rifle Shooting or is interested in getting involved an idea of what to expect and what the sport is all about. I’ve talked a little bit about what goes into making a shot with regard to wind and weather conditions and what different target sizes and accuracy expectations are using Precision Rifle Shooting lingo. Now I’d like to explain a little bit about why this sport is so fun and addictive.
Why is Precision Rifle Shooting so fun?
In the simplest explanation, it’s fun to shoot stuff that’s hard to even see with the naked eye. The attractive aspect of Precision Rifle Shooting is the ability to hit targets at great distance. It becomes even more amazing and impressive as you begin to learn about ballistics and just what the corrections you make on a scope to hit a target at a specific distance translate to in real world terms. The Gold Standard ammunition for the 308 Caliber in Precision Rifle Shooting is Federal Gold Medal Match 175gr. That ammunition will fire a 175 grain bullet at around 2650 feet per second from a typical 308 rifle.
Let’s get back to the distance thing and shooting stuff far away! To hit a target at 1000 yards with a 308 and the Federal Ammunition, you need scope corrections of roughly 9.6 Mils of vertical adjustment and 2.5 Mils of horizontal adjustment for a 10mph wind coming from 90 degrees to your left. Mils are another system of angular measurement, like MOA, and I will get into that in another post. It’s just another way of saying that to hit that 1000 yard target, you need 351 inches of elevation adjustment, and 91 inches of windage to make that shot.
That is why Precision Rifle Shooting is awesome. Think about those numbers. To hit a target at 1000 yards you are aiming at a point in space almost 30 feet above the target to account for the effects of gravity on the bullet between you and the target. You are aiming more than 7.5 feet to the side of the target because the wind will push the bullet sideways that far during the flight time of the bullet. You are firing at a spot in space nowhere near the target. The science of Precision Rifle Shooting allows you to accurately predict that because of that offset the bullet will fall 30 feet through space and drift to the side more than 7 feet and then HIT the target you are aiming at!
I will tell you right now it’s an experience you will never forget. When you shoot at that kind of distance for the first time, and you hear the clang when the bullet hits a steel target at 1000 yards, you will be pumped up like you’ve never experienced. It’s just an awesome feeling. If you execute the fundamentals of marksmanship properly then you will actually see the bullet explode on impact a full 1.5 seconds before the sound of the impact travels back to the firing line. How cool is that? You are actually shooting at targets far enough away that you can see what happens before you hear it!!