Tuesday, April 7, 2009

That One Was Low, Lob Another One, Floyd

Are we hunting or hoping?

The internet has a range of forums devoted to hunters and shooters. Hunters write questions and, then the “experts” answer them. Many of the questions revolve around the “perfect rifle” for game ‘x.’ Or, what is the best rifle for situation ‘y.’

Some of the hunters and many of the experts don’t seem to know what they are talking about.
Here is one recent question. “I need a rifle that will shoot an elk at 600-800 yards. I am favoring the .338 Mag, but some of my friends say the 7mm is best. What is really best?”

Answers were like goose shit—all over the place. It is probably not correct for the expert to answer the question with a more appropriate question to the hunter, “Can YOU shoot and HIT an elk at 600-800 yards?,” but they should.

Let’s question the question in three parts:

  • What is the average range of an elk kill?
    Most elk are taken within 200 yards. Most hunters have difficulty hitting an elk beyond that range. If you hunt in timber, you can’t see 200 yards.


How accurate is the rifle you are buying/using?


  • The cone of fire from most factor rifles is marginal at 600-800 yards.


What is your ability as a marksman?


  • Even experience marksman will have a tough time engaging a target at 600-800 yards with the first shot.

Thousand-yard iron sight team match. Roumanian Cup, Camp Perry, Ohio, August 1994. Can you see the targets?

Master-class highpower shooters usually score 197-198 at 600 yards. That means that 17-18 of 20 shots have landed within the 10 ½ inch 10-ring and two shots landed in the 15 inch 9-ring. A person might say, “Great that will kill an elk!”

But that isn’t the whole story. Highpower shooters are shooting an accurized rifle; usually one that has low recoil and have had two sighter shots before moving to record fire. Few of my first sighters are in the ten ring and occasionally, depending on weather conditions, some may be sixes or sevens. The six ring is 46.5 inches at 600 yards and the seven is 34.5 inches.

Additionally, highpower shooters are shooting from a sling-supported prone position, shooting at a KNOWN range, and have been observing wind and weather conditions and possibly how other shooter’s bullets have behaved in them.

Assuming a person’s training is great, they estimate range EXACTLY, have an accurate rifle and FEEL A NEED to lob a bullet at a living BULL ELK more than half-a-mile away, how will their .338 or 7mm perform?

Fine. A .338 loaded with a 250 grain bullet will have about 1900-2000 foot pounds of energy at 600 yards. A 7mm Mag loaded with a 170 (spitzer-type) will have about 1300-1400 foot pounds at that range.

But it brings another problem. If either rifle is zeroed at 300 yards, they will each drop an additional 60 inches (read five feet) at 600 yards. So, the shooter must hold his wobble area five feet over the center of his target.

Thousand-yard any sight match, Fort Lewis, Washington, 1995.

Just for grins, the bullet drop is 287 inches (23 feet) and 242 inches (20 feet) at 1000 yards, respectively. And in both cases energy has dropped off to the point it shouldn’t be used on small deer.


Finally, a ten mile per hour wind from 90 degrees will drift either bullet about two feet at 600 yards. Can you say “Oh, my scope must be off?”


Few people have the bullet, load, rifle, experience, conditions and NEED to shoot at a living animal at 600 yards. I will jump in here and say that I have seen too many elk, deer, bear and others wounded at 200 yards.


Why wound more just to lob lead?

Let's start hunting and quit hoping.

5 comments:

hodgeman said...

Great post Dennis. I'm so sick of hearing about long range shots at game. I also think some of these hunting tales involve 'gunwriter' yards which are only about 16" long...

Blessed said...

Excellent and informative post! I've never personally shot at anything that was over 100 yards away, I can't imagine trying to shoot a living creature that is 600 yards away. I would simply pass on the shot!

Anonymous said...

I hunt deer in Pennsylvania and we encounter that philosophy a lot here. How far can I shoot? My question is how close can I get? Most guys sit on their duff all year, get that rifle out, dust it off and expect to be able to shoot anything they see out to 300 yards. Guess what, it isn't happening. Personally, I want to be a hunter not just a shooter. Get me close and I'll feel successful before I even pull the trigger.

Jamie said...

Dennis, my husband got a kick out of your post. I just drew my first rifle bull elk tag and my husband was already saying I won't be taking a shot over 15o yards. Thanks for the info.

Dennis A Carroll said...

Thank you all for the comments.