What You Need in a Long Range Rifle

A long-range rifle needs to do two things: deliver a bullet on target at your chosen distance and deliver it with enough energy to do its job when it arrives.

You’ll need the right gear to do that.

Plenty of specialty companies will sell you a long-range rifle along with a matching scope and even a matching laser rangefinder and ammunition, but get ready to shell out close to $10,000!

There are less expensive options.

Ron Spomer
Ron Spomer

The bald truth is that your standard deer hunting rifle can shoot to 1,000 yards. All it needs is accuracy and the right bullet. Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy is good enough. A rifle that consistently groups bullets in a 1-inch circle at 100 yards should put them in an 11-inch circle at 1,000 yards. That’s like a large dinner plate. You wouldn’t mind hitting a dinner plate at 1,000 yards, would you?

So, if you’re ready to shoot long and spend less, here’s the money-saving way to go about it.

  1. Identify your bullet. This is the best place to start. Not even a .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. will shoot effectively to 1,000 yards with a blunt, low Ballistic Coefficient (B.C.) bullet. You want long, sleek, pointy, boat-tailed bullets. Think Barnes LRX, Nosler Long Range AccuBond, Berger VLD, and Hornady A-Max. Note the B.C. ratings and compare. The higher the B.C. number, the farther they’ll fly. Effective B.C. for long-range range from roughly .580 to .740 in calibers .264 through .300. Find those high B.C. bullets!
  2. Choose your recoil. You can make any caliber shoot long by stretching the bullet until its B.C. climbs to super efficiency. But in the larger diameters, that means more weight and more recoil. To match the B.C. of a 140-grain, 6.5mm bullet in a 30-caliber, you’ll likely need a 200-grain bullet. The heavier the bullet, the harder the kick.
  3. Choose your velocity. You don’t need super speed, but it helps. But, again, the heavier your dose of powder, the higher the recoil. This is why extreme range target shooters mostly shoot 6mm, 6.5mm and 7mm bullets. Effective, common cartridges include .243 Win., .240 Wby. Mag., .257 Wby. Mag., 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Rem., 6.5-284 Norma, 7mm-08 Rem., .280 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag. You really don’t need to endure anything with more recoil than these.
  4. Get a fast twist barrel. Super long, high B.C. bullets need faster than normal rifling twist rates to stabilize. This is the biggest shortcoming in standard hunting rifles. You’ll have to shop carefully to find one or have a gunsmith rebarrel your current rifle. That’ll cost about $300- to $500.
  5. Lengthen that barrel. As long as you’re getting a new rifle or barrel, look for one with a longer than normal barrel, like a 24-inch instead of 22 or even 28-inch. Length will add about 25 fps per inch. Every little bit helps. But longer barrels can be less accurate if they’re not also thicker (more barrel whip.)
  6. If you don’t want to spend any money, just find the highest B.C. bullets/ammo for your current rifle and start shooting far. It’ll easily reach 600 yards, and that’s farther than most of us have range space to shoot.
  7. If you want to pull out all the stops, shop for a heavy bench/target/varmint-style rifle with a 24- to 30-inch, heavy contour barrel in the calibers above. Look for a stiff, handlaid synthetic stock, laminated wood or walnut reinforced with aluminum bedding block or epoxy.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a great selection of Rifles!

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One Response to “What You Need in a Long Range Rifle”

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    Thomas F. Valent

    Your article on long range rifles and ammo was excellent. I’ve been using a Remington .243 rifle with .243 Win ammo for over 40 years. Long range shots at 600 yards are commonplace in the mountains of Pennsylvania and the great expanses of lower Alabama.

    Reply