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Precision Long Range 1 with Match Grade Precision

Chris Upchurch

Back in May when I took the Precision Long Range 1 class, I wrote that “it would be a good class to get to know a new long range rifle.” When I got a new rifle, I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is. I took the class a second time. Once again the class was taught by Matt Howard.

Gear

The new rifle is a Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. There were several RPRs in the May LR1 class (mostly in 6.5, though there were also guns in .243 Remmington and 6.5x47mm Lapua). I was impressed by both the rifles and what the students were able to do with the 6.5mm cartridges.

While I own a .300 Win Mag, it’s set up as more of a hunting rifle, with a pencil barrel and conventional stock. I’ve taken it out to 1000 yards, but it’s clearly straining to deliver the required angular accuracy, even with handloads, and the pencil barrel limits it to short strings of fire. My only dedicated precision gun was the .223 AR that I brought to the previous class. Given the limitations of the cartridge that maxes out at about 800 yards. There are a multitude of opportunities to train at ranges that extend beyond 1000 yards in Kansas and nearby states, so I thought a gun that could accommodate that would be a worthwhile addition to my arsenal.

The one aspect of the RPR that I don’t like is the stock it comes with out of the box. Thankfully, you can easily replace it with any standard AR stock. I swapped out the buffer tube for a rifle length one and put on a Magpul PRS stock. The PRS is pretty heavy, but this is not a light rifle to start with, so the heavy stock balances pretty well.

I also took off the RPR’s muzzle brake and replaced it with an AAC Blackout flash hider to accommodate my 762-SDN-6 suppressor. A bit of picatinny rail on the bottom of the handguard to mount my Atlas bipod rounded out the modifications to the rifle.

1mileRifleCropped.jpeg

A quality optic plays a bigger role in long-range shooting than the rifle. When I was looking for new glass to put on top of the new rifle, I seriously considered the U.S. Optics B-25 (the much bigger brother of the B-10 that I brought to the previous LR1 class). I also considered the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x and some of the Nightforce 5-25 optics. However, a friend offered me a sweet deal on a Razor HD Gen II 3-18x.

The 3-18 Razor is a bit of an odd duck. It’s the same size and almost the same weight (and price) as the 4.5-27x. You just get a bit more top end and a bit less low end. However, using the “1 power per hundred yards” rule of thumb, it still offers more than enough magnification to reach out beyond the supersonic range of the 6.5 Creedmoor. It probably wouldn’t have been the optic that I’d choose if I were paying full freight, but at the price my friend was willing to give me, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I kitted the Razor out with a Flatline Ops scope level, a killflash anti-reflection device, and AADmount flip-up lens caps. To attach it to the rifle, I used a Geissele mount.

All of my ammo for this class was handloaded. I’m running the Berger 130 grain AR Hybrid OTM bullets in Lapua brass using H4350 powder. I’ve been very impressed with this load both in terms of group size and standard deviation when I was experimenting with it. We’ll see how it does out at distance.

I came into this class with the expectation that the new rifle would help me in a couple of areas:

  • It would allow me to engage targets further than any of my existing rifles, out beyond 1000 yards.
  • It would make it easier to engage targets inside 1000 yards (by resisting the effects of wind better and being more forgiving of range estimation errors).
  • The optic would be truly optimized for long-range shooting (most of my existing magnified optics compromise their long-range capabilities to one degree or another so that they’re easier to use for quick snap shots at closer distances).

In addition to my rifle and optic, I brought my Leupold Mark 4 spotting scope with a Horus reticle.

While the point of this class was to wring out the RPR, I also brought my .223 DMR just in case my gun went down so I’d have a backup and be able to get something out of my time here.

Friday

I headed out from Wichita at about 4 pm. After a stop in Salina for dinner, I got to Spearpoint Ranch about 7:30. Unlike last class, I was the only person in the bunkhouse Friday night. After chatting with the owner a bit, I put in some work on this writeup and turned in early.

Saturday

I rolled out of bed early and made myself some oatmeal in the bunkhouse kitchen. Everyone rendezvoused for the class at 9am, and we headed up to the range.

Matt started things off with a medical brief, describing what to do if someone in the class was injured. He then moved on to talking about the course outline and what we would be covering. He rounded out the introductory material by going over the four rules of gun safety.

Everyone introduced themselves and talked a bit about their previous training experience. Matt talked a bit about his own background in the Army as an infantryman and sniper.

With the preliminaries out of the way, he talked about the basics of accurate shooting, dividing things up into the preparatory phase, before firing phase, the firing phase, and the after firing phase. For the preparatory phase, he placed quite a bit of emphasis on building a proper firing position. He’s a big fan of getting in line behind the gun and mounting it as close to the centerline of the body as possible. This helps ensure it recoils straight back, making it easier to spot your own shots and to take quick follow-up shots.

Once you’ve got your position built, he talked about the natural point of aim and making sure you’re not muscling the gun on target. When the time comes to press the shot, remember to “breathe, relax, aim, squeeze.” After the shot breaks, get back on target and spot your impact. Cycle the bolt without coming off the gun.

He spent a good bit of time talking about shooter-spotter communication. He talked about his preferred verbiage (“shooter up, spotter up, shooter ready, send it) and the responsibilities of the shooter and spotter. There was a big emphasis on teamwork. As part of that he highlighted the importance of the shooter calling if he’s made a bad shot, so the spotter doesn’t make a correction based on that.

Matt also covered how to use a dope book (every student got one as part of their packet). The spotter should document each shot and adjustment so the shooter can look back later and see what he did and what effect that had on target.

The wind had started blowing a bit by this point, so Matt did a short wind lecture. This is covered in much more depth in the LR2 class, but for this class, he talked about estimating wind speed based on vegetation movement and how variations in the terrain effects the way the wind moves over it. The shooting position is up on the crest of a hill, which drops down to a draw around 500 yards out. There’s a small ridge around 800 yards which drops into another draw at 1000 yards (there’s actually a gap cut through this ridge to provide visibility on the 900 and 1000 yard targets). Beyond 1000, the range climbs up a tall hillside to 1400 yards (there are even more distant targets off to the left, out to 2000 yards). These undulations have a significant effect on how the wind flows across the range.

We started out with some dry fire on the 100-yard paper targets. We used this to help get used to building our positions and managing the trigger press. Matt encouraged us to play around with the parallax adjustment on our optics, not just on the 100-yard targets, but swinging over to the more distant ones as well and seeing how the effect differed there.

Live fire started on those 100-yard paper targets, giving everyone a chance to fine-tune their zero. Matt uses 3/4” squares to zero on, but for what we’re doing 3/4”, even the center of a 3/4” target isn’t fine enough. He had us pick a corner of the 3/4 inch square and try to put the round directly on that corner. I made a couple of small adjustments to the zero on my rifle and called it good.

Another student was shooting some new factory ammo through his gun, so Matt loaned him a Magnetospeed chronograph to get a muzzle velocity.

Every hour throughout the day Matt pulled out his Kestrel wind meter and wrote the temperature and density altitude up on the board so we could adjust the data in our ballistic calculators.

We moved over to shooting the steel targets out at distance, starting at 300 yards. At these distances, it was pretty straightforward. We got hits and recorded our dope for 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards in fairly short order.

At this point lunch arrived, provided by Match Grade Precision (some lovely enchiladas and corn with brownies for dessert).

After lunch, we headed back out, shooting at 700 and 800. My shooting partner was running a rifle with just a bare crown, no muzzle device. He was having some trouble keeping it on target so he could call his own shots. He worked on his position a bit, getting more in-line with the gun and loading up the bipod to help keep the rifle from jumping off-target. Matt also gave him a chance to try a .308 with a brake on it to appreciate the difference that makes.

Moving on to 900 and 1000, things started getting more difficult. This was not just because of the greater distance. The wind was picking up and was very “switchy.” Overall it was blowing towards us, but rather than blowing straight in it was often blowing slightly left to right or right to left. Sometimes it was doing both at the same time! Right to left at the closer distances left to right further out. It was a challenge to figure out what sort of wind hold this all netted out to. It started taking several rounds to get on target at these distances.

We pushed out even further, to 1100 and 1200 yards. Here, in addition to the wind, I had to start playing around with my dialed elevation to get on target. I found I was needing a bit less elevation than the ballistic software predicted to get on target (probably an issue with my muzzle velocity).

At these distances and in these wind conditions I was spending 8-10 rounds for 1-2 hits. We called it a day.

I headed back to the bunkhouse and cleaned my rifle to prepare for the clean/cold bore exercise tomorrow. Once that was done, I headed into town for some pizza.

After dinner, I had a nice, relaxing evening in the bunkhouse and turned in early to rest up for tomorrow.

Sunday

We all met up at the range at 9 o’clock. Matt had us start with some dry work to get all the kinks out.

After everyone was warmed up, we got started on the cold bore/clean bore exercise. We shot on paper at 100 yards to see how much our zeroes had changed after we’d cleaned our rifles.

Next, it was on to the LR1 qualification. Each student would fire on targets at 400, 500, 600, 700, and 800 yards, three rounds per target. You could fire as many shots as you need at each distance to get things dialed in and get a feel for the wind before calling Matt over and shooting your rounds for score. I’d gone 12 for 15 on this exercise with my .223 the first time I took LR1, and my goal was to better that performance.

The wind was stronger and a lot more switchy and inconsistent than it was at the same time on Saturday. Despite this, the shooting was still pretty simple at 400 and 500, but as we got out to the further distances, it had a more significant effect. I spent a fair bit of time and ammo at each distance trying to get a feel for the wind, but it was changing so quickly I don’t know how much that helped. In the end, I was able to hit on all of my scored shots at each distance going 15 for 15. I’m pretty proud of that, but I know that good wind calls from my spotter and the wind resistant qualities of the 6.5 Creedmoor had a lot to do with it.

After finishing the qual, we picked up where we left off the day before, starting with the 1300 yard target. My hits on this steel represented a new personal record for me (my previous best was 1240 yards shooting Billy Stojack’s .338 Lapua at John Chambers’ last DMR class down in Coleman, Texas a couple of years ago).

At 1400 yards I actually managed a first round hit! Of course, then the wind picked up, and it took me several more rounds to get back on target a second time. Still felt pretty good though.

1400 yards is really pushing the maximum effective range of this rifle and round. Beyond that, this load is starting to slow down to transonic speeds, where increased aerodynamic forces mean the bullet does some weird stuff. However, it is possible to shoot out beyond the distance where the bullet goes subsonic, if much more difficult. While I didn’t have a lot of confidence, Matt persuaded me that I might as well try for a mile (1740 yards).

My dope called for 25.9 mils of elevation at one mile, but the Razor maxes out at 24.9 mils of adjustment. I dialed in 24 mils and held an additional 1.9 mils (the mil windage lines below the main crosshairs came in very handy for this). The mirage out at 1 mile was really blowing, and Matt initially called it as a 16 mph full value wind. When I held for this (about six mils of windage) my bullet impacted way off target. The mirage was deceiving, and Matt’s correction had me holding about half of what I’d held initially.

After a few shots, it became clear that I needed to hold some more elevation too. This isn’t too surprising. As a bullet decelerates through the sound barrier aerodynamic forces can cause it to wobble, which increases drag above the idealized model that ballistics software uses. I ended up holding another 1.5 mils of elevation beyond what my dope called for (27.4 mils total).

The 1-mile target has an impact detection system on it that lights up when the target is hit. When those red lights went off, it was a hell of a great feeling knowing that I’d managed a hit at a mile.

After everyone had a chance to try for the 1-mile target, we wrapped things up. Matt handed out the certificates, and everyone packed up to head home.

Conclusion

This was a great class. The material was just as good the second time around, and I picked up some things that I hadn’t gotten the first time through the class. It was a good opportunity to gather dope on my new rifle and to get to know the rifle and optic. All the hits I got during the qual really helped build my confidence in this gun. Getting a hit out at a mile was the icing on the cake.

With my handloads, the RPR is a real tack driver. If I do my part, it’s probably a half-MOA rifle. For the price, it exceeds my expectations by quite a bit. It’ll definitely do out to the maximum effective range of the 6.5 Creedmoor.

I’m liking the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge quite a bit as well. Thus far most of my precision/long range shooting has been done with either a .223 or a .300 Win Mag. The 6.5mm sits nicely between these, offering a much longer reach and bucking the wind better without the disadvantages of the Win Mag in terms of recoil.

One thing I really noticed was the difference that this cartridge (and the rifle) made in my ability to spot my own hits. My .300 Win Mag is a fairly light hunting rifle. The recoil of the big magnum cartridge means you basically have to rebuild your position after each shot. There’s really no way to self-spot with it. On the flip side, while my DMR hardly moves at all spotting the .223 at any substantial distance (especially through a 10x scope) can be difficult. The RPR is heavy enough that the gun stays on target very well and the 6.5mm bullet is much easier to spot than the .223. I could actually see the dark spot appear on the target when the round impacted.

I’m pretty happy with the Vortex scope. It’s good glass the adjustments are precise and repeatable, and with the mount I have it in, there’s plenty of travel for anything in reasonable range of the rifle. I’d still like to get a bit more experience using the “Christmas tree” reticle (I was mostly dialing in this class).

I’d recommend Precision Long Range 1 to anyone looking to learn the fundamentals of long range shooting or to wring out a new rifle or optic.