Medium-Range Shooting Adventures

500 yards is that little, blurry white speck right in the middle…

Recently, I’ve taken up mid-range shooting. Some would call it long-range, but when I did that, I was promptly corrected by the owner of the range where I shoot. He said, “500-600 yards isn’t long range. That’s medium range. Long-range starts at 1,000 yards…” So there you go.

Anyhoo, for someone who has previously only shot out to about 125 yards, 300 seemed like a stretch. Until I took my latest creation to the range last night and stretched her legs. The gun in question (I’ll do a full write-up once it’s all painted up nice and pretty) is chambered in .223 Wylde, which means it is a bit more accurate than a standard .223, but can also handle 5.56mm. The barrel is a 20” heavy contour with an Odin Works Atlas muzzle break.

I spent a few hours a couple of weeks ago breaking in the barrel, which is another new procedure for me. When I fired the first group, it was all over the place. After a few hours of firing and cleaning, firing and cleaning, firing and cleaning…the groups started to tighten up. I was using cheap 55 gr. 5.56mm because I have a bunch of it lying around, and all I was doing was breaking in the barrel.

After a thorough cleaning and copper fouling removal, I took it back out last night with some Freedom Munitions .223 ammo loaded with Sierra MatchKing 69 gr. OTBT bullets. I re-checked my zero at 100 yards, and was immediately shooting 1 MOA groups or less.

So, I did a quick ballistics calc and moved to 200. Again, it shot a really nice group on a 1/2 sized steel torso. Out to 300 yards. The 1/2 sized steel torso was again no issue. I banged away at that with a full magazine (10 rounds in this case) with all hits high center.

The guy next to me was breaking in his new Bergara B-14 HMR in 6.5mm Creedmore at 500 yards. He was taking a break, so I figured what the heck.

Our range has a huge steel plate at 500 yards with a 12×12 piece right in the middle. Again, I checked my ballistics calc and it called for 3.2 mils of elevation. Turns out, I was using the wrong BC for the bullet, and that messed up my holds. After a few shots to figure out the hold, I was right in the middle of the 12×12. To the right, we have a rack of decreasing sizes of swingers. While I’m not 100% sure, I believe they are 12”, 8”, 6”, 4” and 2”.

As this was the first time shooting at 500 yards, I lined up on the 12” plate. BANG…THWACK. Right in the center. Cool! Let’s try 8”. BANG…THWACK. A little left, but I hit it. 6”? That’s got to be pushing it, right? BANG…THWACK. It wasn’t until I stepped down to the 4” that I missed. Caught it on the second shot. Turns out, when shooting at a 4” circle at 500 yards, my heartbeat moves the scope off target. I hit the 4” a few more times before moving on to the 2”. I tried that one a few times, and just grazed it once. We’ll work up to that.

Geeks and Guns

It was a great night (and I got to shoot the Bergara…that’s on my list now), and I thought it would be fun to do some math. Here’s what is going on.

I’m shooting a .224” bullet 1500 feet. It’s leaves the barrel at 2750 feet per second (I ran a few across the chronograph, so I know). That puts flight time at about .545 seconds. The speed of sound is 1144 at our elevation, so the sound of the bullet hitting steel takes about 1.31 seconds to get back to me. That’s a total bang to thwack time of 1.85 seconds. So if you count One One Thousand, Two One Thousa that’s about the time I heard the impact. Pretty cool.

At 500 yards, the bullet has dropped 44.1 inches, or 2.5 mils (well there’s your problem). It’s still traveling at 1,532 feet per second. One minute-of-angle—what most people consider a pretty decent group for a rifle—is roughly 5” at 500 yards. In my case, this gun should be able to shoot a little better than that, especially once I work up some hand loads. Even a “good” group is bigger than the 4” plate I was trying to hit. And remember, my heartbeat was moving the crosshairs completely off the plate. Crazy.

Interestingly, going out to 600 yards, the same bullet will drop 85 inches. And as soon as I take the 600/1,200 yard certification course, I’m going to give it a try. Because why not.

That’s my short story on medium range shooting. I have to say, every time I saw that 4” plate swing after I shot I laughed. It was a whole lot of fun doing that. Even more fun than I thought I would be. Which is good because I just totaled up all the receipts for that gun and it was more expensive than I thought it was… More long-range adventures to come!

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