If I wanted maximum hits from Google’s search engine, I should have named this post, “Best 800-yard Elk Gun,” but that would be a lie. This is actually my latest rant against the phalanx of Neanderthals that believe 800-yard elk shootin’ is something to write home to Mom about. I know what she would say. “If Johnny jumped off a bridge would you?” (An earlier rant can be found here.)
In the case of an 800-yard elk gun many have thought they had jumped with Johnny, but few know where the water is or if they have the ability to hit it.
Let’s do some Math. Ya' know, some old school ‘rithmetic and learning and addin’ and dividin’ and such.
This is like one a them ole’ story problems from 3rd grade.
“Johnny? You have an elk at 100 yards. What is the top to bottom dimension of an elk’s chest cavity?”
“Well, it’s got ta be about 24 inches.”
“That is right, Johnny. If we change that figure into minutes-of-angle, it becomes close to 24 minutes-of-angle. Class, ya all know that a minute-of-angle is actually 1.047 inches, but for ease of use we will round it to 1 inch,” said the teacher.
“Now Johnny, how well can your uncle hold his rifle at 100 yards, in a hunting’ situation—not offin' his bench?” asked the teacher.
Johnny replies, “On a good day, he can hold about 2 inches, ya know within him holdin’ his smoke pole in his hands.”
“Right. So, the entire top-to-bottom height of an elk is about 24 minutes-of-angle, and your uncle, who shoots better than most in the hollow, can hit a two-inch target at 100 yards. With that in mind, it seems simple for your uncle to hit an elk at 100 yards. Keep in mind class, that the kill zone is much smaller than the 24 minutes of angle,” the teacher said.
The teacher smoothed her hair and said, “OK, Sally. If the elk is 200 yards away, can Johnny’s uncle still hit it?”
“Umm, well, the elk is now 12 minutes-of-angle, and Johnny’s uncle’s best group is now about 4 inches. As long as Johnny’s uncle hits the center third of the 12 minutes-of-angle, he will hit the elk,” Sally said.
“That’s correct. Mark, if the elk is 400 yards away, can Johnny’s uncle still hit it?”
“I don’t think so,” said Mark.
Mark wrinkled his face and said, “Well, at 400 yards the elk is only 6 minutes-of-angle and Johnny’s uncle’s best groupin’ has opened up to 8 inches. He might hit it, but then he might not.”
“That’s right, Mark. The entire top-to-bottom dimensions of an elk are less than the best group Johnny’s uncle can shoot. Since the kill area of an elk is only about 1/3 as large as the entire top-to-bottom dimensions of an elk, Johnny’s uncle must shoot his 8 inch group into a target that is 2 minutes-of-angle,” added the teacher.
“If we take this exercise to 800 yards, the results are even less positive for Johnny’s uncle. The elk has shrunk to 3 minutes-of-angle and the uncle’s best group is now over 16 inches. Actually the kill zone on the elk has diminished to about one minute-of-angle.”
This is one of the few third grade story problems that has made sense to me, but in more than 35 years of huntin’, guidin’ and outfittin’ I’ve only taken one hunter who I had confidence in to shoot at an elk 800 yards away. That was gunsmith, highpower shooter and silhouette shooter Albert Turner. On the one occasion we had a long-range chance, we both decided to get closer. The bull was smarter than we were and left before we crossed the coulee.
The question isn’t what is a good long-range rifle; it’s who is a good long-range rifleman?
“Can YA’ shoot that thar thing?” (Emphasis on YOU!)