Recently, I was on a forum where long range shooting of game was being discussed, and a hunter-shooter asked a simple question that ended in piling on him with sarcasm, inuendo and down-right brow beating! He was even called a troll and “invited” to come up with “proof” of his “theories” because he used terms and words like foot-pounds (ft-lbs), ballistic coefficient (BC), sectional density (SD), etc.
What he wanted, in his question/request, was: What would it take to extend an effective shooting range on big game (like elk) beyond 400 yards to about 600 yards? He was comfortable to 400 yards, but didn’t like a lot of recoil so was making plans to extend the effective range of his 270 Win in using one of the extra-long, high BC .277 bullets, the 165gr with a .6 BC from a new barrel with a 1 in 8″ twist rate. Man alive! Had he attempted to tear down a hornets nest with his bare hands he wouldn’t have gotten stung more!
He was told in no uncertain terms that he was a “theorist” and not knowledgeable, despite a lifetime of hunting and evidencing both experience and knowledge of his game!
In addition to being told he didn’t know what he was talking about, he was informed that basic physics had little or nothing to do about anything, except he needed a good scope that had dials, an accurate barrel and practice, practice and more practice…. till he became expert in hitting targets at 600+ yards. And plus all that he must learn to dope the wind which demanded a lot more experience, so he should talk with guys who had a lot of experience in doping the wind! Never mind the charts or computer programs that give trajectory and wind drift at 600, as all that was only theory anyway!<This was a real load (handload) from my Ruger No.1H in .458 Win. I wanted to have an idea of it’s effectiveness to about 300 yards under “normal” conditions for my hunting areas. That was from a 405gr Remington that I’d had good experience with on bears. I was confident it could be effectively used on bear and deer to 300 – 350 yards, with that trajectory if needed. But according to some “modern day” wonders who shoot “long range”, all that’s a waste because it’s “theory”! BTW, I still have some of those loaded in a .458 ammo box.
Apart from some advise that was helpful and worthy, there had to be an endurance test in derogatory name calling and an attack mode. Then photos of “successes” at extreme ranges were posted by those who were congratulating themselves as “experts” in all of this.
The poor “guy” – no, that’s not right – the mature man and hunter with knowledge and experience simply was asking for some pointers for extending his “normal” max range of ~400 yards to ~600, and instead he was treated like a 6-year old kid who needed his knuckles whacked! “Typical of forums no matter the subject”, so I’ve been told by a professional on Internet applications. There are some exceptions, of course, but I’ve experienced that same kind of uncalled for drama!
The Bible advises me to stay away from people who use bad language, are always right and looking for an argument to proove themselves right and you wrong! (check this out: Proverbs 3: vs 30, “Don’t make accusations against someone who hasn’t wronged you”. And: Proverbs 4: vrs 23 to 27, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” – Book of Proverbs by King Solomon. (New Living Bible)
Keep in mind that the subject being discussed was particular bullets from certain cartridges that would adequately expand on “elk” at ~600 yards or more. Among other suggestions, a 6mm that would expand at that range was said to be sufficient. As I’ve checked 6mm bullets that might be adequate for elk, there’s a 100gr Partition (.243″) with a BC of .384 and SD of .242. It’s claimed by Nosler that 1800 fps will insure “some” expansion. 888 ft-lbs at 2000 fps from a 240 Wby Mag (or similar) at 600 might kill an elk if hit in the right place (spine, heart or head). But at 600 + yards several factors enter the equation for pin-point accuracy, not the least being the shooter’s familiarity with his/her equipment and the physical conditions. Atmospheric turbulance can become the “experts” nemesis.
Even at our range, the limit of which is 300 yards, swirling wind is a challenge to the best who shoot competitively. Walking back from the 200 yard berm with my sixty-plus year-old son a couple of weeks past, he spoke of the small orange flags that had been placed every 25 yards or so. They’d been placed there by a competitive shooter while we were walking out to check (and change) some targets. Some were pointing west, others east, and still others were headed south. That’s not uncommon at that range as it’s surrounded by hills east and west, and a built up “berm” behind the 300 yard plywood panels that hold the targets. That “berm” had to meet Federal regulations as there’s a farm beyond the ~ 75 ft-high wall of mud, sand and gravel. Any wind at all affects down range accuracy, even at 100. If there’s a 15 km wind, when shooting my .22 RF at 200 yards, I have to shoot several to account for up to a foot “drift” in either direction. A .22 RF is relatively slow in velocity compared to a 6.5 shooting a 140gr at more than 2x the velocity of my .22 (at 1400 fps), but at 600 yards+, is the wind going to be from one direction only? Competitive shooters of .223, 6mm, 6.5mm and .308 at our range put out the flags in a 15 km wind (less than 10 mph), no matter it’s direction, because experience has taught them that the wind’s direction at our range is as stable as a neurotic person on drugs driving an ATV!
< Our range – that was my Ruger No1 in .45-70 LT. And sometimes it did get shot all the way to that 300 yard berm.
So, taking into accound the wind – it’s force and direction – there’s little doubt that physics, expressed in numbers, graphically apply. And the larger the bore, with equal MV, SD and BC, the less they’ll be affected by atmospheric turbulance – Note: I did not claim “They won’t be affected”, but “the less they’ll be affected”. Other factors are the platform, it’s weigh and stability, rest, barrel profile, inherrant accuracy and any handloaded ammo. Another very significant factor is the scope – adjustments for elevation, range and windage. Then, on scene, a waiting process until everything is just perfect…. including the hunter’s patience, nerves and breathing. The trigger is squeezed, the rifle recoils and bucks (at least “a little”) and the perfect bullet for the job is on it’s way… to 600 + yards. At yard 350 the wind drops to zero… and the “elk” switches ends and is caught half-way “there” ! (With little wind, that happened to me when a whitetail buck decided to “switch ends” at only 65 yards… and it made a difference where the 165gr Sierra hit the buck – through the gut and into the offside hind leg. It didn’t go far, and I gave it a finisher at 10 yards… But, what if?).
We get the stories of the “experts” successes at long range… with photos, but never hear of any failures. So they must be true “experts”? Or are they experts at choosing their rhetoric? How many elk, deer or bear are wounded, never retrieved or accounted for? And they post pics of their setup with huge scopes and magazines that hang well below the action… is that a rifle you’d choose for rough country or mountains?
All I know for myself is: Of the few (very few) potential very long range (for me) shots on big game, it would have been difficult to miss a BIG bull moose broadside (as that’s the ONLY condition under which I’d take such a shot at not more than 500 yards using a secure rest). And also: the weapon I chose for any such hunt left NO DOUBT as to its ability to do its part, if I did mine!
<For anyone who may not know: That was my CZ550 in .458 Win Mag over my shoulder for a bull moose hunt in the “Far North” of Ontario, my home province, 1600 kms from home! The load was “adequate” to 400 yards – or so I believed because velocity wouldn’t have dropped below 1600 fps – the velocity limit set by Barnes for expansion of that bullet. I didn’t get a chance on moose during that hunt, but later I used the same 350gr TSX on a young bear at 100 yards. The bear travelled the farthest of any I’ve ever shot – in a semi-circle of about 75 yards! Impact velocity should have been around 2500 fps/4850 ft-lbs! On further examination of entrance and exit wounds, it was evident the the 350gr TSX hadn’t expanded, though full penetration was ~ 2-feet! So, had I used it on a broadside bull moose at 400 yards it likely would have given full penetration but never have expanded at ~1600 fps. Results would likely have meant a not-so-merry chase of a wounded moose that – no doubts in my mind – would have survived and escaped the hunter, with bucket loads of questions that never would have been answered until the bear hunt a year later.
So yes, I fully agree, there’s much more to it than a simple formula. There’s the bullet itself: is it suitable for the physical context of range, elevation, atmospheric conditions AND its impact velocity? Then, in addition, there’s the shooter: Is he/she capable or wise for taking a shot at “long range” under unknowable circumstances such as unstable atmospheric conditions that may occur, and reading the mind of the animal.
I was fully confident in the choice of that 350gr TSX that was leaving the muzzle of the CZ 550 at ~2700 fps. The powder used in the handload was RL-7. However, my confidence faded when I arrived home, where the temperature had dropped at least 20*F from when the load was created with the result of a 100 fps loss! SO I switched to H4198 that worked better and proved to be consistent under changing temps. And worse still when the bullet didn’t expand on that relatively young bear though I was using a “new” powder that gave a consistently higher MV!
At our range there’s a longtime member who has been an international competitive shooter of .223s and .308s. I’ve known him for a long time. He still shows up but only competes with himself because of arthritis and shaky hands. He still brings expensive heavy-barrelled .223s and other small stuff. He likes to talk, so I mostly listen. He knows a lot about accurate rifles and shooting them, which he can no longer do to get the best from them. That’s mentioned ONLY to stress that the best equipment for precision shooting is only as good as the shooter AND the physical conditions he/she is competing in… same as for any hunter! A better shootin’ rifle doesn’t make one a better hunter! And a beautiful wood stock doesn’t make a rifle shoot MOA or better. And a tricked out small-bore rifle with a $2000 scope, with dials all over it doesn’t make it the “best” rig for shooting a 1500 lb bull moose or brown bear in Alaska… OR Cape Buff in Africa. No PH or Alaskan guide would permit those nefarious stunts, and for good reasons! Let’s bring some sanity into this! There are elk, and then there are ELK! And there are shoulder bones, and those of an elk of 400 lbs are not the same as those of 800 lbs! And a bullet isn’t just “any” bullet… It has an identity and “personality” all its own, much like humans in a sense. They all behave their “own way” in particular conditions (and… so does a hunter!).
A short while ago in these blogs I published part of a statement emailed to me from the father of a hunting family. They’ed been using this “new wave” of small bore accurate and fast cartridges up to and beyong 600 yards on deer and hogs with both successes AND failures. The hogs were tough and big – to 400 lbs and more. Many of the bullets (no matter the brand) weren’t up to the task even with good hits. They switched one of the rifles to a .35 Whelen with 250gr Partitions, that they didn’t shoot as far, but up to ~400 yards on ~400 lb hogs without a single failure. One shot on each was more than plenty! Some of the details I didn’t reveal to protect his identy.
I’d much rather shoot a “big” hog at 400 yards with certainty in using an adequate cartridge-caliber -bullet than attempting a precision shot from a small-bore “target rifle” to proove “Ya don’t need a cannon to kill big game … and certainly not at extreme ranges. Any small-bore that shoots 100grs with precision is adequate!”
As to dedicated moose and bear hunters of Ontario, I’ve yet to meet even one that swears by a .243 Winchester. I recommended a .243 Win to our son “out west” in Canada for coyote, when his choices were a .223 and .243, because one day he might decide to hunt deer. Under the “right conditions” a .243 is adequate for some of the big western bucks, and most of it’s “open country” except the far northern regions. So if a deer runs for a half-mile after the shot it probably could still be retrieved. Most hunters, under “normal” conditions, who are not handloaders who shoot thousands of rounds per annum, can’t reliably hit a deer in the vitals beyond about 100 yards with the animal absolute still and broadside!
All media, regardless of type, hypes any event worth notice to a particular interest group, in order to be “first” in doing so… nonetheless true of the shooting/hunting sports. Increased attention and business for all concerned (including themselves) is the obvious goal.
Today, it seems that “everyone” wants to get in on this “new wave” of ultra-long range shooting of big game… some recommending 6mm (.243) cartridges. Incrementally, from that, one can go all the way to Big Bores. For me: “hunting” means hunting, not sniping to prove it can be done – sometimes with weapons (including bows and BP) that are borderline at best, both for the game, physical conditions and the hunter! I choose NOT to go there to prove I can do it as well as the next guy. But how many times must I fail before “proving it”? 99% of hunters are not shooting live game (any size, any where, any conditions) at 600+ yards!!
I’ve never been a guy who makes “fashion statements”. Firstly, I’ve rarely been able to afford it, but also I’m too pragmatic to buy overly expensive clothes and vehicles, especially to impress others. I’ve owned a few suites for decorum’s sake as pastor, but the tie came off as soon as I left the stage. I was always more comfortable dressing casual. Same with rifles. I don’t buy rifles as art. To me they’re tools for the job. The bigger the “job”, the bigger the tool! The smallest caliber/cartridge I’ve ever purchased for a mix of varmint, small game and deer was a Winchester M70 in .25-06, and I loved the cartridge but not the rifle – it was too “bulky” and heavy for that cartridge, so it went down the road after a couple of years when I’d typically tried nearly “all bullets” in .257-cal. It particularly liked the 117gr Hornady SP at 3175 fps.
< A clan get together in Central New Brunswick; fashion satements were not the order of the day. Each one did their own “statement”. It was a happening about 1/4 century ago for those of us who rarely saw one another. The lady in the middle with the blue shirt was the organiser who lived somewhere in the USA. She was a “pastor” and a 1st cousin, later deceased from cancer. Most of the others were cousins, whom I’d not seen for many years. I was on the far left with Dave, my oldest brother (in his sixties) at my left elbow (His wife peaking over his shoulder). He was a former captain and part owner of a 68′ fishing trawler on the East Coast. I was a pastor in Ontario in my mid to late 50’s, and he was the Maritime Rep for a gospel ministry among fishermen. He deceased in his seventies from diabetes – he’d lost both legs. None of us were trying to impress anyone else despite having not seen one another for several years. That was our heritage. The appreciation was a get-together where we could finally re-engage in sharing news and wishing each one God’ best and promising to pray for one another. Those are the very best of friendships!
There were good enough reasons (in my experience and thinking) in my choice of magnums and larger bores that throw heavier projectiles – yes, even to the so-called “premium” types. One of those several good reasons being: I didn’t have to buy another rifle to “PROVE SOMETHING” that family, friends and aquaintences would yawn over! “So dad, you got yerself another rifle… in 6mm? But that’s not you!”
I’d get a headache trying to explain that… and I don’t need any more aches or pains!
Till next time…