Long Range Shooting School: Ballistics 101

Shooter taking aim

A while back I wrote about long range shooting schools. One of the schools I discussed, the Thompson Long Range Shooting School, recently invited me out to Utah to take the course and experience long range shooting first-hand. As an Easterner used to hunting either farmland areas where rifles are not allowed or the big woods, you could count the number of shots I've fired beyond 200 yards, whether hunting or at the range, on two hands.

The Learning Curve of Long Range Shooting

Birchwood Casey shooting target
Birchwood Casey Bulls-Eye Target

Before any hands-on began, instructor Mark Thompson sat me down for an in-class session about ballistics and related matters. I was particularly pleased that he included a section on the ethics of long range shooting. Put simply, he stresses that shooting a living animal at long range is very different from shooting a target; a point that should always be remembered.

Understanding the Firearm Shooting System

This course is really a comprehensive shooting system that includes a rifle, properly mounted special rifle scope, and customized ammunition, in addition to shooting technique, so next we set up the Weatherby rifle. The key to long range shooting is a cartridge that shoots fast and flat.

When designing the course, Mark knew he wanted a round of .30 caliber, as it's well-suited to big game hunting in the west. The widely-held standard for down range performance on North American big game is a load that delivers a minimum of 1,800 fps velocity along with 1,200 ft-lbs of energy. In other words, the point at which a particular load no longer delivers these minimums is its maximum effective range for hunting. After much research, he determined that the .30-378 Weatherby offers the best long-range performance in an over-the-counter production .30 caliber, with a maximum effective range of over 1,000 yards!

Hornady Ballistics Calculator

Your Input Variables
Ballistic Coefficient .507 Velocity (ft/s) 3,350 Weight (grains) 180
Maximum Range (yards) 1,000 Interval (yards) 100 Drag Function G1
Sight Height (inches) 1.5 Shooting Angle (degrees) 0 Zero Range (yards) 300
Wind Speed (mph) 10 Wind Angle (degrees) 90 Altitude (feet) 5,000
Pressure (hg) 29.53 Temperature (F) 59 Humidity (%) 0.78


Ballistics Results - .30-378 Weatherby


Trajectory (IN) Come Up
in MOA
Come Up
Wind Drift
Wind Drift
in MOA
Wind Drift
Muzzle 3,350 4,485 -1.5 0 0 0 0 0
100 3,181 4,043 2.6 -2.5 -0.7 0.4 0.4 0.1
200 3,018 3,640 3.2 -1.5 -0.4 1.7 0.8 0.2
300 2,862 3,273 0 0 0 3.9 1.3 0.4
400 2,711 2,936 -7.5 1.8 0.5 7.1 1.7 0.5
500 2,565 2,629 -19.6 3.8 1.1 11.4 2.2 0.6
600 2,423 2,347 -37.1 5.9 1.7 16.8 2.7 0.8
700 2,286 2,089 -60.5 8.3 2.4 23.5 3.2 0.9
800 2,153 1,853 -90.6 10.8 3.1 31.5 3.8 1.1
900 2,025 1,639 -128.2 13.6 4 41.1 4.4 1.3
1,000 1,902 1,445 -174.3 16.6 4.8 52.2 5 1.5

While many long range enthusiasts prefer high-power scopes with adjustable range-compensating turrets, Mark prefers more modest magnification and a scope with range-compensating reticles. He feels they are much quicker to use in hunting situations, and prefers the simplicity of standard windage and elevation adjustments over target turrets. His solution is a Leupold 4.5-14x rifle scope with custom fixed reticles consisting of a series of dots below the main crosshairs. Sighted in at 300, these provide holdovers from 400 to 1,000 yards.

Mark showed me how to properly mount and boresight the scope (which I will detail in a future blog), and then we moved to the reloading bench to cook up some handloads. Check back next week for my next blog detailing those tips.

Good hunting...