The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Last weekend, Derek Rodgers and I had the pleasure of being invited to shoot in the Guardian Long Range Competition Shoot at Big Sandy AZ, as Team McMillan/ELRHQ. This was the first Long Range PRS event for both of us so definitely turned into a learning experience.

Derek and Mark, with Team McMillan / ELRHQ, scoping out the stages at the Guardian Long Range Competition in AZ

Supported by several major manufacturers including McMillan, the Big Sandy range, and the NRL, this match was a huge success, but more importantly, it was fun. Organized and managed by Britainy McMillan and her team of Guardian angels, the match went off flawlessly and the comradery and sportsmanship of the shooters was exemplary. The dedication and support of the RO’s who donated their time was also noteworthy.

Mark Lonsdale Guardian

Mark Lonsdale shooting one of the stages at the Guardian Long Range Competition in Arizona, Dec 2018 

Both Derek and I went in somewhat ill-prepared for this event, since this was a first. As with any form of competition, a shooter needs to actually shoot a couple of matches to gain an appreciation for the rules, format, mechanics, and unique pieces of equipment. Never the less, there is still a lot of satisfaction from the “run what you brung” attitude and no match pressure. But speaking for myself, buying factory ammo from a gun shop in Kingman, AZ, on the way to a match, is not exactly match preparation. When I was first invited by McMillan to shoot, I had committed to practicing for a couple of months before the match, unfortunately I was traveling overseas and out of state right up until the week before the match.  But it was not all doom and gloom.


6.5 Creedmoor in a McMillan A6 stock topped with a Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x56mm. Barrel is a Bartlein medium Palma profile, 1:8″ twist, cut to 24″ by Robar with Roguard finish

Things that went well:

  1. Excellent rifle: Even though I had not attended a Long Range PRS match, thinking ahead, I had put together a rifle that would be suited to this type of shooting. I went with an Atlas Tactical action with a Bartlein Medium Palma profile, 1:8” twist, cut to 24 inches with an APA brake, all loaded into a McMillan A6 adjustable stock. I selected 6.5 Creedmoor since some government agencies are going to this caliber in the near future and I wanted to collect data for future training programs. However, based on what the top shooters are using, 6mm seems more popular because of the reduced recoil, less muzzle jump, and quicker follow up shots.
  2. Good choice of scope and reticle – I decided to use this match to test a new Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56 with an H-59 tactical milling reticle. This scope turned out to be a good choice, but I ended up shooting most of the match on 13X which made it quicker to acquire targets. Night Force and Vortex also have excellent scopes for this type of shooting, particularly the NF ATACR.
  3. Good choice of factory ammunition – I had initially planned to shoot hand loads and had done quite a bit of testing with Berger 140s, Sierra 140 SMKs, and Hornady 140 ELDs. All shot extreme well, grouping 0.5” to 0.8” at 100 yards. But when the crunch came I had run out of time so grabbed several boxes of factory Hornady 140 grain ELD Match, which I knew shot 0.5” out of my rifle. This is what I used for the match.
  4. Excellent ballistics program – For the past 18 months I have been running the Applied Ballistics Analytics for ELR shooting with good success, so was confident using this for Long Range PRS. The range card that I ran the day before the match was within hundredths of a mil on range day so I had a lot of confidence in my dope. The match had eleven targets between 700 and 1,300 yards, engaged from various shooting positions, so reliable dope was essential.
  5. Excellent choice of ballistics solver – I have been running the Kestrel 5700 Elite with AB solutions for ELR so used this to confirm my range card dope on range day. In addition to capturing wind dope, with changing temperatures, density altitude, and direction of fire, the Kestrel was essential to confirming and fine tuning my firing solutions in real time.
  6. Shooting bags – I went into this match with three bags: a Wiebad mini Fortune Cookie, a Wiebad Tac-Pad, and an Armageddon Game Changer. These worked well for what they are designed, but there is definitely room to add some more bags to my inventory of options.
  7. Backpack – I had selected an Eberlestock FAC Track pack since I knew we would be moving from stage to stage all morning. This worked out to be a good choice with the correct volume to carry all my bags, ammo, water, snacks, range finder, tools, etc.
  8. Spotting Scope – A spotting scope is an important tool for LR shooting and my 30-year old Leupold Mark 4 12-40x spotting scope worked out perfectly. Apart from clear optics and a mil-dot reticle, this scope has been traveling with me for three decades and has proven to be reliable under a variety of conditions. Kowa, Vortex and Swarovski also make excellent spotting scopes.
  9. Coaching and Spotting – Since this match catered to new shooters, spotting and coaching was encouraged between shooters on each squad and by the RO’s. This was a pleasant change from other shooting sports where individuals are focused on winning and not apt to share tips that may help another shooter. Novice shooters were also encouraged to make their lack of experience known to the RO’s so that they could coach them thru the course of fire.

Backpack, Leupold spotting scope, and an assortment of bags

Things that did not go so well:

  1. Time limits – Every stage of the match had a 2-minute time limit, which meant that whether you had all your shots off or not, the ceasefire was called at 2 minutes. This meant we lost a lot of points on targets that were never engaged. 2 minutes is ample time when shooting at 100-400 yards, but when the majority of the targets are at 600 to 1300 yards, 2 minutes becomes a struggle to engage four targets with 2 rounds each from four different positions. If everything goes smoothly, 2 minutes is adequate, but any equipment issues or procedural fumbles and it becomes all too short.
  2. Position shooting – As with IPSC and IDPA, PRS shooting is practical shooting from a variety of deviously designed positions, including from barricades, t-posts, barrels, pipes, sloping roofs, hot tubes and off an air mattress. This is a far cry from shooting off a bench at your local range, or shooting prone with a bipod and rear bag. If a novice shooter was to practice two things, it would be positional shooting and economy of effort in the transitions.
  3. Bi-pod – I went into this match with a Harris 6”-9” bi-pod, and while this worked well, it was not tall enough for the targets way up on the ridgeline. So will definitely be adding taller bi-pods to my inventory.
  4. PRS bags – A shooter definitely needs a full set of bags for various options including a larger Wiebad Pump Pillow, a Game Changer, a small bag to go under the toe of the stock, such as the mini Fortune Cookie, and a smaller bag that attaches under the fore-end such as made by Cole-Tac.
  5. Scope caps – With everything else going on, including confirming the correct dope on the scope, I went into two stages with the front scope cap still closed, costing precious seconds. Just a brain fart on my part but it won’t happen again. I also observed several shooters begin shooting with the dope from a previous stage still on their elevation dial. When they missed completely on the first shot, their team mates would yell, “check dope” to get them back on target.
  6. Moving between positions – In PRS it is necessary to have the action open when moving between shooting positions but on one stage we were required to shoot only one round from each position, not two as on all the other stages. As a result I was automatically racking the bolt and reloading after the first round expecting to fire twice. This procedural error required that I stop and unload before moving to the next position, losing valuable seconds under already tight time limits. This is where mentally rehearsing the stage and visualization helps to program the brain.
  7. Shooting Slings – A shooting sling is not only for carrying the rifle but is also an aid in shooting, particularly offhand shooting. I neglected to use my sling on the 296-yard offhand stage so could have kicked myself afterwards when I saw another shooter making good use of his. Live and learn.
  8. Breaking bad habits – Sometimes it takes another shooter to point out a bad habit that you may not realize you are doing. For me it was coming off the scope when racking the bolt. Something I will work on over the next few weeks.

Hot tube, roof line, and t-post were just some of the positions


Advice to new shooters, and even more experienced veterans – Take the time to self-analyze your performance after each match and make a list of what went well and what needs improvement. This will give you a training plan and a road map towards improvement. Both Derek and I have our work cut out for us preparing for the next Long Range PRS match, but we look forward to supporting the next Guardian shoot in Arizona.


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Consistency & Concentration in Shooting

The Importance of the Mental Game 

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Any individuals involved in competitive or precision shooting know the importance of consistency in form and technique to produce repeatable accuracy, but do they appreciate the equally important role of concentration?

In any high performance sport, and especially at the elite levels of precision sports such as shooting, archery, or even darts, the mental component of the sport is absolutely critical. It is part of the 3M training and competition triad: Mechanics – Mental – Matches. Mechanics being your fundamentals of marksmanship; mental being the confidence and stress management; and matches being real-world experience under match conditions.

If you study any precision shooting sport, championships are won or lost on one point or even one X. There are disciplines where all the top shooters can shoot perfect scores in practice, but on game day it comes down to the X count to crown a new champion (especially when the wind is not beating everyone up).

2018 Nationals Team McMillan

Winning Team McMillan F-TR shooters at the 2018 Nationals where it often comes down to X counts 

So when we talk about the mental component in sports, we are embracing several aspects of sports psychology focused on championship mental preparation. The first is to overcome the fear of being beaten, especially in contact sports such as judo or boxing. Then there is just the fear of performing in front of a large crowd – also known as stage fright. Self confidence is another important part of mental preparation, and this usually develops with time, from performing well in practice and previous competitions.

Equating this to ELR shooting, the shooter who knows he has the best equipment for the job, has produced hand loads with excellent accuracy and low SDs, may feel well prepared for an ELR match. But real confidence comes from extensive experience shooting at distances from 1,500 yards to 3,500 yards under a variety of conditions. However, the greatest confidence is derived from shooting well in competitions under actual match conditions. There is not substitute for match experience in any sport. But there is another component to the mental game, and that is the topic of this paper – concentration.

Ko2M 2018 Lonsdale

Ensuring the correct dope dialed onto the scope for the next target at the 2018 Ko2M

In contact sports such as boxing and judo, a laps in concentration will get you hit or thrown, or at best, it will cause a missed opportunity to score a winning point. But that’s human nature – people become distracted and they have accidents. So the goal of the elite athlete or aspiring shooting champion is absolute concentration, which is also referred to as focus or being in the moment.

When we apply this to shooting, we are talking about the ability to self-analyze your shooting position, manage your breathing, focus on the sights or reticle, and then break the trigger cleanly every time. When the shooter has practiced for hours, days, weeks, and months on these fundamentals of marksmanship, the mechanics will become second nature, but only if the shooter is focused and in the moment when shooting. If the goal on a particular day is to shoot a tight group, and one shot goes wild, the shooter must be able to self-analyze to understand why that shot was off. In many cases it may come down to what is often termed a “brain fart” – a momentary lapse in concentration. The trick is not to beat yourself up – we all do it from time to time – just refocus and shoot again.

So what role does concentration play in self-analysis?  We all talk about the importance of a natural body position behind the rifle – a position where muscles are not straining to hold the sights on target, but rather a relaxed but solid human platform for the rifle. But to do this, the shooter must be aware of every contact point with the rifle. First, for example, is the shooter comfortable or straining in the prone position? Many shooters simply cannot get comfortable in the prone because of body type, old injuries, or just age. However, for those who have chosen a shooting discipline where prone is the standard, and there are many, then the first goal is to find that comfortable position.


Next comes the contact points with the rifle. Is the rifle light into the shoulder or firm? Is the cheek pushing down or laterally on the cheek rest? Is the cheek rest the right height to match the scope? Is the eye-relief on the scope causing the shooter to strain his or her neck? Is the shooting hand pulling back into the shoulder or torqueing the grip? Does the trigger finger lay naturally on the trigger or is the trigger too short or too long?  Is the supporting hand pushing or pulling the stock to align the sights, or is it just a relaxed support? Is the bipod front loaded or sitting neutral? And then, with all these contact points, is the pressure uniform, consistent, and repeatable?

In all honesty, a consistent shooting position for competitions that require a high degree of precision is not something that just happens overnight. It requires practice, experimentation, and often coaching from a more experienced shooter. Sometimes a shooter may have had serious problems with his or her position for years, until they take a class or get some coaching. So when it comes time to practice or game day, the shooter must have total concentration and focus for self-analysis and the task at hand.

To develop and refine this concentration or mind-set, many competitors will have a pre-match routine. This ritual begins days before the match with equipment checks, ammunition prep, and final zero and adjustments. There is then another routine on match day that begins hours before the match, which includes adequate sleep, up early for breakfast, ensuring everything is loaded into the car, and then equipment checks after registration and shooter brief. All of these little building blocks are part of the focus and mental discipline of the elite shooter. But even for the individual who is just shooting for fun and an opportunity to hang out with friends, it is more fun if you shoot well and that requires concentration and attention to details.

Ko2M-2018-Mark Lonsdale

There is no substitute for detailed preparation, structured training, and actual match experience to reduce stress and gain confidence in competitive shooting 

So now you are on the line and it is time to shoot. There should be a ritual and routine on how you go to the line, prepare your shooting position, place your ammo, timer, etc., and prepare to shoot. At this point your total focus is on the task at hand – ensuring the correct dope on the scope, watching the wind, and listening to your spotter or wind coach if you have one. This is not the time to be thinking about work, problems at home, what you plan to have for lunch, or if everyone else thinks your new rifle looks cool. It is the time for body position, contact with the rifle, consistency in shooting position, reading the wind, and time management.

Whether is it benchrest, PRS, long range, F-class F-TR, or ELR, one lapse in concentration will result in a missed shot that could blow the whole match.

Derek Rodgers 2017

World F-TR champion Derek Rodgers demonstrates tremendous concentration and consistency when shooting

Just like any other skill, concentration can be learned and developed with practice. For some people it comes easily but for others it is a challenge. Just look at the child who can read a book or play with blocks, while blocking out all distractions, as opposed to the kid who is hyper active and bouncing off the walls. One of the most beneficial activities for young children is well structured martial arts such as judo, since self-discipline, focus, and concentration are foundational to the sport.

For the adult shooter, concentration can be learned on the range with well structured, disciplined practice. By this I mean, not speed shooting on big gongs at medium range, but real effort and focus on precision shooting at small targets or at long range. If your ELR rifle is expensive to shoot and practice with on a regular basis, get an accurate 22LR, .223 or .308 for low cost practice. Another usefully way to work on concentration is playing a game like darts at home. It takes total concentration and a lot of practice to throw consistent bulls or treble 20s – and while it may not help your shooting position, it will definitely hone your focus on body mechanics.

Precision reloading is another aspect of competitive shooting that requires concentration – both for accuracy and your personal safety.  Many serious accidents can be attributed to not paying attention, being distracted, and then double charging or using the wrong powder. Precision reloading requires a distraction free environment and a system that prevents mistakes. Yes, you can lube and size cases while watching a ball game, but seating primers, loading powder charges, and seating bullets requires focus and concentration.

To wrap this up, when you get behind the rifle, put on your hearing protection, take a deep breath, then, as you exhale, block out the rest of the world and focus on your shooting. At the elite levels of any sport, it is the mental game that separates the champions from the rest of the pack. It will also help eliminate some of those annoying fliers or forgetting to dial in the correct dope on your scope.


Photo Credit: Thanks to the guys at Tactaholics for their great images and support of the shooting sports

IMG_3448-X3 Dylan


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Practice with a Purpose

How developing a training program will improve your shooting

By Mark V. Lonsdale

As much as we would like to believe that there are “naturals” in any sport, and we hope that we may have at least some natural ability, in reality, improvement is a long slow process of many small steps. As the old expression goes, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” But after that, you have to keep stepping and staying on the track.

So the goal of a stepped training plan is to get from “A” to “B” with as fewer mis-steps as possible. “A” being where you are now, and “B” being placing at a club match, state match, or national level event. “C” could be actually winning at the national level or making the Olympic team. In other words, the goal is to keep moving forward while not straying off the path to success or being distracted by the inconsequential.

At the risk of contradicting myself, in the early days of many sports, individuals did emerge with natural athletic ability, coordination, or aptitude. This is not to say they were a “natural” at a particular sport, but because of genetics or physique, they had developed to a point where their athletic ability could be put to good use on the sports field. But if you studied these same individuals, you would find that they still required training and coaching, while suffering their share of set-backs, injuries and failures. Remember, failure is the fuel for success.


Applying this to shooting sports, we now have the opportunity to learn from the champions who went before us and to learn from their successes and failures. The failures in particular, since when we win, we often chalk one up for the team but don’t take the time to analyze why we won. We may even put it down to “having a good day” or just “being on my game.” But when we lose, we invariably give it a lot of thought, vex over it, and analyze what went wrong, so that we do not make the same mistakes. However, just knowing what went wrong is not enough – we must get back to the range to validate our findings and correct those errors. Post event training is almost more important than pre-event training for the aspiring shooter.


Christie Tubb-Stallter competing in the inaugural ELR Central World Record attempts  

On occasions the problem may be in our equipment so we will invest in a better rifle, a new barrel, better optics, or adjust our load. But in long range shooting, most competitive shooters go into the game with tried and proven equipment, if not by them then by other top shooters. When aspiring shooters ask me what rifle or scope they should get for a particular discipline, I will generally steer then towards what the champions are using and winning with. For me personally, my preferences usually run two deep, in that I am always working with two different but proven systems. For example, I will often build two rifles for the same disciple but one will be on a Stiller action and the other on a Kelbly; one will have a Bartlein barrel and the other a Krieger, but of the same profile, length and twist rate. Both may have McMillan stocks but one an A5 and the other an XiT or A6. For optics, any shooter would be happy with a Nightforce ATACR or a Leupold Mark 5HD – both of superb quality.

375CT Lonsdale-Mark

ELR 375 CheyTac built on a Stiller TAC-408 action, McMillan A5 Super Magnum stock, topped with a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm with a Tremor3 reticle. Running Cutting Edge 400 Lazers and Peterson brass.

By staying with quality hardware, the shooter is eliminating any excuses associated with his or her equipment and gaining confidence by buying the best. Then it comes down to practice and training. The shooter that not only practices more, but practices smarter will eventually draw ahead in any competition. Granted, it may take a year or two, but the training and dedication will eventually pay dividends. The athlete who practices more, and thinks he is practicing harder, may not improve as fast as the athlete who practices a little less, but is on a structured training regime that is broken into multiple attainable goals. Another expression you will hear in the gym, “Train smart not hard”

Nate Shooting 1.21.18

Nate Stallter winning the 2018 ELR-C World Record attempt going 3 for 3 at 2,011 yards – January 2018

This step process is built around training with a purpose. Each training session should be planned out so that the shooter has specific goals or identified weaknesses that need work. In a shooting sport that requires both speed and accuracy, the shooter must have a balanced training program that develops both of these simultaneously. This can be done by shooting as accurately as possible, and then increasing speed until the accuracy begins to suffer.  For example, if a PRS shooters must be able to engage multiple 12” steel gongs at 600 yards, they can begin by  first hitting each gong slow fire from a barricade. Once they have a high level of confidence that they can hit every time, then they can use a timer to begin shooting faster and faster until they miss. That will give them a base line of how fast they can shoot and still hit 12” at 600 yards. This can then be repeated from the various shooting positions used, and at varying ranges, replicating actual match formats.

For other shooting sports such as extreme long range shooting (ELR), a training progression may begin with load testing and chronographing, and then advance into prone shooting for accuracy at increasing distances. It takes time to break in a new rifle, getting the stock adjusted just right, possibly changing muzzle brakes, playing around with bipods and bags, developing loads, and just developing a general comfort and confidence behind the rifle. This could take several trips to the range over weeks or even months.


Derek Rodgers and Paul Phillips preparing for the 2018 King of 2 Mile in Raton, New Mexico

Once the rifle is dialed in, the next goal will be to validate ballistic data out passed 1,500 yards to 2,000 or 2,500, depending on range availability. After that, it is important to practice the exact match format, such as King of 2 Miles, where there are tight time limits to shoot the required number of shots and then transition to the next target, dial in the dope, find and engage, all the time adjusting for misses or wind.

The overarching goal being to not waist time and ammunition with unstructured practice. Each practice session should be planned in advance with very specific goals and standards. Trust me when I tell you, structured step-plan training programs work for almost every sport, so it will definitely help you reach your future shooting goals.

“Without Effort, there is no Progress”

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”



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ELR Trigger Time & Ballistic Solvers

By Mark V Lonsdale

In the past year I’ve made a couple of observations about ELR shooting that readers may find helpful, particularly shooters new to ELR:

  1. Shooters don’t shoot their ELR rifles enough because of lack of opportunity or cost of ammunition
  2. Many own ballistics solvers, such as the Kestrel Elite with AB Ballistics, but have not taken the time to really understand all the required functions and inputs to get a reliable solution

So let’s start with the first issue – trigger time. In almost every other shooting discipline, such as NRA or IPSC pistol shooting, PPC, smallbore, high powered rifle, F-Class or F-TR shooting, competitive shooters shoot a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean hundreds, if not thousands of rounds per month. As an IPSC shooter I was shooting 40-50,000 rounds per year, and in the various rifle disciplines that I was shooting hundreds per month. But for many involved in ELR shooting, that number drops off dramatically.

CE352 PetersonBrass

Shooters preparing for an ELR match (1,500 yards+) may shoot less than 50-100 rounds total because of the cost of ammunition. A hundred rounds of handloads with top of the line bullets and brass, such as Cutting Edge bullets and Peterson brass, will run the shooter approximately $700, but less once he or she begins reloading the brass. But even so, $700 could buy several thousand rounds of ammunition for a smaller caliber such as 9mm, .45, .223 or .308. This is one good reason for ELR rifle shooters to keep an accurate .223 Rem or .308 Win in their arsenal for more economical practice.


375 CheyTac with a Stiller TAC-408 action, McMillan A5 Super Magnum stock, and Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope. Ammunition is Cutting Edge 400 Lazers loaded into Peterson brass. Applied Ballistics comes from a Kestrel 5700 Elite with a Garmin 701 Foretrex to confirm range and target locations     

But on that note, training with a .308 is not the same as training with a .375 CheyTac or .416 Barrett. Granted, the fundamental marksmanship skills are similar, but just because you shoot well with your 6mm Dasher F-Class rifle off a rest, does not mean you will shoot equally well with a .375 CT off a bipod. From personal experience, and after talking to Derek Rodgers and Paul Phillips, I changed my style of prone shooting to better suit my .375 and saw immediate improvements.


Paul and Derek shooting at the 2018 King of 2 miles. Emil on the spotting scope with    Team AB

As in any championship sport, and in particular prone rifle shooting, it is necessary to develop the required neuro-muscle memory and body mechanics to be able to adopt the same shooting position repeatedly. This is no different to the repeatable swing needed for golf, the arrow release in archery, or even throwing darts and being able to hit triple 20s. It all comes down to repetition.

Once a shooter has found his or her natural shooting position, with little to no muscle strain to hold the rifle on target, he or she must be able to repeat that position consistently. And we all know that consistency is the goal of every shooter. This is not the ability to shoot a tight group or hit the 1500-yard gong on one day, only to completely blow it the next. But to be able to take to the mound and shoot consistent good scores commensurate with one’s experience and equipment.

So while most structured shooting practice is beneficial, immaterial of the rifle or discipline, it is not the same as time behind a particular rifle. ELR rifles are bigger, heavier (23–50 pounds), and recoil differently to the more controllable calibers. ELR shooting also requires the ability to adapt your prone shooting position to targets at distances from one to two miles, under tight time limits, and at various up- or downhill angles. This requires time, ammo and practice to become consistent.

The next issue is having the opportunity to shoot at extreme distances. Many shooters only have access to 100-300 yard ranges, and are limited to shooting .223 to .308 Win calibers on many 600 yard and 1,000 yard NRA ranges. It takes time and money to travel to open country or desert where you can shoot out to 2,500 yards and to validate dope at 250 yard increments.

The result being, many shooters find themselves turning up at matches with only 50-100 rounds practice, shooting against sponsored shooters who may have shot several hundred rounds and attended multiple ELR matches. The new shooter has also not had the opportunity to validate his or her dope at all the distances being shot in the match, keeping in mind that the ballistics solutions developed at sea level on a 75 F day may not translate well to Raton, NM, with a density altitude of 9,000+ feet and 93 F for the King of 2 Miles. And even then, shooters can be eliminated after just 6 rounds if they fail to score at 1,550 yards.

Team McMillan

Team McMillan at the King of 2 Miles. The targets are not the 1,000 yard targets visible on the right, but up in the hills to the left between 1,550 and 3,525 yards

Ballistic Solvers

I will use the Kestrel with AB Ballistics as the example, since these are the most prevalent at ELR matches and sniper competitions. On several occasions in the past year I have been asked by individuals on the range to help set up their Kestrels. Many had just taken it out of the box and not taken the time to read the instructions or watch the how-to videos on the Kestrel Ballistics site. Others have assured me that they had inputted all the required data and just needed me to show them how to add multiple targets, as an example.  But on close review I would find that they had not kept the firmware updated and the most basic inputs were way off, even gun data, BCs and muzzle velocities.

A6 Medium Kestrel

My Kestrel is like my credit card – don’t leave home without it (plus my laser range finder). This is a 6.5 Creedmor in a McMillan A6 stock, and even with a top of the line Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x scope, it is not suited to ELR shooting. While good on steel to 1,500 yards, the small bullets lose what is needed for effective ELR shooting. 

There are basically two areas that require data input in a Kestrel – gun data and environmentals. If the gun data is off, for example incorrect BC, caliber, muzzle velocity (MV), or twist direction, then all firing solutions will be off to some degree proportionate to the degree of error with the inputs. When you are setting up your Gun files, ensure that all the data is correct – don’t just guess and don’t use the MV or BC off a factory box of ammo. As long as you stay with the same rifle, the only thing that will change is the bullet info and muzzle velocity. And even if you stay with the same bullet and load, the MV will still change as the barrel wears or as you change elevations (altitude) and temperatures. Your MVs on hot summer days will be higher than cold winter months, so chronograph your ammo just prior to a match or hunting trip, and if possible, do it on site. (see previous article on muzzle velocities)

Now, for the hunter or individual shooting at less than 600 yards, there are functions that are not critical to getting on target. But as the range extends beyond 1,000 and particular beyond 1,500 yards, every input becomes critical. For example, shooters who do not have a lot of experience with long range shooting have little understanding of Spin Drift and Coriolis, and at less than 600 yards, depending on caliber, we may be talking only a couple of inches. But out past 800 yards Spin Drift is carrying that bullet to the right (out of a right twist barrel) to the point where at some given range it will be off the target. Coriolis is also adding a right drift shooting north or south; low shooting west; and high shooting east. So if your ballistic solver is not activated for Spin and Coriolis your solutions will be completely off at longer ranges. With Coriolis, the shooter also needs to input the latitude and direction of fire (which requires calibrating the internal compass), but many shooters new to the Kestrel have no experience with those functions.

Kestrel_Elite Wind Vane

Kestrel 5700 Elite with Applied Ballistics, mounted on the weather vane, also available from Kestrel. This can then send live time updates to your smart phone by Bluetooth Link

One shooter asked why the Kestrel was telling him to put in Left Wind in no wind conditions. He had the wind set at 0 mph. This was because he was shooting north and the Spin Drift and Coriolis were carrying the bullet to the right. Since these functions were turned on, the Kestrel was giving him a Left Wind to compensate for the right drift. You could even have a light wind from the right (3 o’clock) but not enough to counter the Spin and Coriolis, so you would still have to put in left wind instead of right wind.

Many environment functions can be turned on or off, just as environmentals can be set to Live or Lock, but unfortunately many Kestrel owners have not taken the time to learn these functions. Even though there are some excellent videos on YouTube from Kestrel Ballistics, Panhandle Precision, and Snipers Hide, the best way to learn these functions is to have someone actually show you and then repeat them until they are learned. Then just take the time to periodically explore all the functions in the Kestrel so that you know how to adjust each one. At extreme long range, accurate data inputs will greatly improve your probability of a first or second round hit.

Lastly, ELR shooters are some of the friendliest, most helpful individuals on the planet. They’ve all been through the same learning pains as the new shooters, so are happy to share their experience. There are also some very helpful sites on Facebook, but stay away from the ones with snarky trolls and individuals who don’t actually shoot ELR. Even a rookie can quickly sort the talkers from the serious shooters. But for Kestrel questions, start with the videos on Kestrel Ballistics or posted by Panhandle Precision on YouTube. Just search under Kestrel 5700 Elite.


Duncan Davis, Kelly McMillan, Paul Phillips, and Derek Rodgers at the 2018 King of 2 Miles. You can be sure they will all be there in 2019 and 2020

Now get out and shoot more with your ELR rifle and play around with your Kestrel until you have figured it out. Both will dramatically improve your scores and hit probability.



Feel free to post questions in the comments below, or on Global Precision Group or ELR Extreme Long Range Shooters

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Why Long Range Shooters Need to Periodically Chronograph their Rifles and Ammunition

By Mark V. Lonsdale

One of the most important data points that needs to be entered into any ballistic program or solver, such as AB Analytics, is the muzzle velocity (MV) of the selected rifle and ammunition combination. This is in conjunction with caliber, ballistic coefficient (BC), bullet length, barrel twist rate, and scope height above bore. But muzzle velocity is not something a shooter should measure just once and then assume it is always correct, even though many have made this mistake. Or even worse, they use the published muzzle velocity off the box of factory ammunition. While MV is less important for plinking or hunting under 300 yards, it is critically important for the long range shooters (600-1500 yards) and extreme long range shooters (1500+ yards).


Chronograph with the Labradar 

There are a number of reasons handloaded ammunition can change in muzzle velocity, to include, increasing the powder charge by as little as 0.1 grains, changing type or weight of projectiles, changing primer brand, and changing neck tension or crimp on the bullet. Any changes to the loading components or procedure demands a trip to the range to chronograph the ammo.

Factory ammunition can also exhibit wide changes in muzzle velocities. First, when you purchase different lot numbers of factory ammo, there will usually be a change in muzzle velocity. This is often more noticeable with plinking or hunting ammo and less with match grade ammo, but even match grade ammo could have a shift of 10-40 fps.

Between lot numbers, the factory may have changed to a different powder, a different primer, or a different lot number of projectiles. Then there are environmental effects. Changes in the season, ambient temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and elevation above sea level will all affect muzzle velocity and the resultant point of impact (POI). This will be proportionate to the extent of the swing in temperature, gain in elevation, or drop in barometric pressure.

A6 Medium Kestrel

6.5 Creedmoor used for testing. Atlas Tactical action, 24″ Bartlein 1:8″ barrel in a McMillan A6 stock and topped with the Leuopld Mark 5HD 5-25x scope   

Additional changes in muzzle velocity will occur as a new barrel breaks in, wears, or if the shooter adds a muzzle brake or suppressor.  As an example, the following MVs were pulled from one of the 6.5 Creedmoor rifles I am testing. All the test ammunition is factory ammunition from the same lot numbers. The first column was from a new 24” Bartlein barrel with a 1:8” twist.

Factory Ammo                            Jan 2018            July 2018                         August 2018

                                                          New barrel      added muzzle brake    200 rounds

Federal Berger 130 Hybrid      2,830 fps           2,866 fps                         2,892 fps

Hornady Match 140 ELD          2,726 fps           2,746 fps                         2,780 fps

Hornady Match 147 ELD          2,670 fps           2,721 fps                         not tested

The above example shows a  51 – 62 fps increase in velocity from a new barrel, to 100 rounds and the addition of a Piercision muzzle brake, and then at 200 rounds with the brake. If I was still using the original MV, this would result in a significant error in predictive POI at 1,000+ yards.

6.5CM Ammo

Factory ammunition used in 6.5 CM testing

Whichever ammunition a shooter selects, to get accurate ballistic data or firing solution, the shooter should chronograph the ammunition periodically to track wear or changes in the barrel; if there is a big shift in ambient temperature, as in 85 F summer to 32 F winter months; or a significant shift in elevation, as in sea level to 6,000+ feet. Keep in mind that 6,000’ on a hot day could result in a density altitude of 9,000+ feet, as we found this summer during the King of 2 Miles at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico.


The second 6.5 Creedmoor being used for testing. Rem 700 action, 24″ Krieger Heavy Palma barrel, 1:8″ twist; McMillan A6 stock; Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x scope 

Finally, the shooter should know that not all chronographs are equal. A cheap chronograph that may have a 40-50 fps error from actual MV, will result in a significant error in data input and all resultant firing solutions. This goes back to the computer adage of, “garbage in, garbage out” and that a computer is only as good as the data inputted.

Chrono 10.15.17

Early two screen type chronographs are sensitive to light condition and placement. 

Conclusion – accuracy, diligence, and consistency is critical in all aspects of reloading and long range precision shooting, and an accurate MV is a critical part of that process.


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Extreme Long Range (ELR) Shooting and the Practical Value

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Testing your skills at long range shooting is neither expensive nor overly difficult. Anyone with a modicum of rifle shooting skills, a good 300 Win Mag, 7mm Mag, or even 6.5 Creedmoor, and a box of match grade ammo, can sling lead at 1,000-1,500 yards and score five out of ten hits on a 36” gong. But when you make the decision that you not only want to compete, you want a high probability of winning, then the cost and time commitment increase considerably. You just went from the $1,500 rife to the $5,000-$8,000 rig (rifle, scope, mounts, rings, bipod, etc.); with top of the line scopes, alone, running $2,000-$4,000 plus mounts. There is also the investment in precision reloading equipment, ballistics solvers, and a significant time commitment.  Part of that time commitment is traveling to locations where you can actually shoot 1,500 to 3,500 yards.


Tools of the trade – 375 CheyTac built on a Stiller TAC-408 action in a McMillan A5 SuperMagnum stock. The Kestrel 5700 Elite and Garmin 701, both with AB Ballistics solvers, are essential to ELR shooting

Now, when you decide to try your hand at extreme long range shooting, out passed 1,500 or 2,000 yards, then the investment in equipment and time go up exponentially. Even small improvements come at high costs along with considerable time and effort. ELR shooting is not a game for just “run what you brung” hunting rifles with factory hunting ammo.

Never the less, there is significant growing interest in ELR shooting from both recreational shooters and the military. But in both cases, the name of the game is increasing hit probability at 1,500 – 3,500 yards; and even more challenging, first round hit probability out passed 2,000 yards.

One of the best examples of this was the Applied Ballistics ELR World Record attempts shot in January just prior to the 2018 Shot Show. I had the privilege of being invited to be one of the Rangemasters for this event, so had a front row seat to observe some of the best ELR shooters put their skills on the line.

David Tubb and Christie Tubb competing in the ELR Central World Record Attempt in Pahrump, NV, 2018

Sponsored by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC, and organized by Paul Phillips of Team AB and the US Rifle Team, the match was hosted on the Wilcox range at Front Sight, in Pahrump, NV. Shooters were challenged by five 36”x36” steel targets positioned every 250 yards from 1,500 yards out to 2,500 yards. What made this match different from many others was no opportunity to practice on the range, no opportunity for sighter shots, and the need to place three out of three shots on steel to score. The shooter could choose what distance he or she felt comfortable at shooting.


Kelly McMillan and Paul Phillips being interviewed at the ELR Central World Record attempts in Pahrump, NV, January 2018. Paul was the first to go 3 for 3 at 1,500 yards using a 375 CT in a McMillan Beast stock. 

With some of the top ELR shooters in the country, including US Rifle Team and Team AB shooters, only three shooters were able to go three for three after two attempts (4 hours apart). Keep in mind that many of these shooters had $6,000+ invested in their rifles, practiced regularly, and were shooting hand loaded ammunition that ran about $7.00 per shot.

Listening to the competitors prior to the match, many felt confident in their abilities and high dollar thunder sticks. Most were serious shooters with close ties to the shooting industry, who had all scored hits on extreme long range steel targets at other locations. But doing it cold on an unfamiliar range was a whole new challenge, especially calculating for wind, spin drift, and Coriolis with no sighter shots.

So why did this match make the rule of “three for three” with no sighters? First, because it is “practical” both for the long range hunter and the military sniper. As the Training Director for the Specialized Tactical Training Unit my interest, and passion, is for the long range cold bore shot. This is a motivation shared by Eduardo who manages the King of 2 Miles shoot, since he is also a sniper instructor in his home country. The US military is also exploring the lessons learned from ELR shooting, and in particular the various ballistic solvers now available. Devices such as the Kestrel 5700 Elite, and the SIG and Wilcox rangefinders, loaded with the AB Ballistics solvers, have made great strides towards quantifying and minimizing the variables of long range ballistics.

However, all this modern technology does not take the burden off of the shooter. The shooter must still develop reliable data to input into these devices, such as muzzle velocity, projectile BC, and zero. It also requires a rifle/ammunition combination capable of sub-MOA accuracy, and a scope that has sufficient elevation to reach out passed 2,000 yards. This often requires running a base with more than 20 MOA of slant to optimize the elevation in the scope. For example, with a 40 MOA base on my 375 CheyTac, I can only dial out to 2,400 yards, then I have to use hold-over on the reticle; but with a 60 MOA base I can reach out to 3,500 yards. The other alternative is to go with a TACOMHQ Charlie Tarac, but that’s an article for another day.


TACOMHQ Charlie TARAC mount on a Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 scope with Tremor3 reticle

Another issue in ELR shooting is knowing at what distance your bullet will go transonic and potentially lose stability. How well the bullet carries energy and velocity is a combination of caliber, muzzle velocity, bullet weight, bullet design, and ballistic coefficient. Again, we are not looking for that lucky hit on a huge steel plate, but consistent first round hits and follow-up shots. Taking 20 to 30 shots to hit an 4-foot gong at 4,000 yards may be fun, but it is more luck than skill. This is not to detract from the individuals who spend several thousand dollars in the effort, or the hours of hand loading ammo, but the true practical value is in first or second round hits and then consistent follow-up hits. As commonly said, “there is little value in havig a rifle that shoots quarter-inch groups at 100 yards if you can’t read wind at 1,000 yards.” While changes in elevation, temperature, and direction of fire (DoF) can be plugged into a ballistic solver, even the best wind meter such as the Kestrel only gives you the wind at the firing point, not 1,500 to 3,500 yards down range.  Wind reading is still the foundational skill and art to successful long range shooting.

MK36 600 plus.jpg

There are no wind flags or artificial wind indicators in ELR shooting. Shooters and spotters must learn to read the mirage or dust kicked up by previous impacts in the dirt.

But for those shooters willing to commit the time and expense to ELR shooting, it can be an immensely satisfying endeavor. It can also be immensely frustrating, especially when you travel a thousand miles to shoot an ELR match, but are eliminated after only 6 rounds, but there are dedicated individuals who are wiling to keep trying and keep coming back.

Team McMillan.jpg

King of 2 Miles event at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM. The ELR targets are not the 1,000 yard targets seen to the right, but up in the hills to the left, from 1,550 to 3,520 yards

For the shooter who is new to ELR, or just considering stepping up from a 300 Win Mag to a 375 CheyTac, you will not find a more open, friendly, or helpful group of shooters than ELR shooters. They are all willing to share the “secrets” of their rifles, optics, and ammunition, knowing that when it comes down to competition day, it is more about solid shooting fundamentals and reading the wind than having the best or most expensive rifle.

See you on the range!


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Why Run a Charlie TARAC?

Why Run a Charlie TARAC?

By Mark V. Lonsdale

The short answer is to be able to shoot longer distances than the internal scope elevation adjustments will allow. Most of the high-end scopes are running about 30 MILS or 100 MOA of elevation, but with a .375 CheyTac, pushing a Cutting Edge 352 grain MTAC at 3,000 fps, it takes 62.5 MILS or 214.7 MOA to reach 3,500 yards without using holdover.


Mounting ring with four powerful magnets


Charlie TARAC mounted to a NF ATACR 7-35×56 FFP

So what is a TACOMHQ Charlie TARAC (Target Acquisition)? It is basically a compact periscope that shifts the scope’s zero optically to whatever the TARAC is calibrated for. For example, a 30 MIL unit (103 MOA) jumps my 100 yard zero directly to 2,500 yards with the above load. That leaves all the internal elevation adjustment in my scope to dial up to 3,400 yards. I then need to use 4 MILS of holdover to reach 3,500 yards. These units are also quite ruggedly built for military applications.


Charlie TARAC mounting ring attached to Nightforce scope on my .375 CheyTac built on a Stiller TAC-408 action in a McMillan A5 Super Magnum stock

So with the 2018 Ko2M just 5 weeks away, I made the decision to go with the Charlie.

Here are the steps for mounting and shooting:

  1. Ensure that the rifle scope is dead level on the rifle. Verify this on a tall target with a plumbed vertical line.
  2. Ensure that the Charlie mounting ring is attached dead level to the front of the scope. It screws on in place of the shade and then locks down with a cross bolt.
  3. On the range, ensure that you have a solid 100 yard zero with your rifle/ammunition combination, and re-zero the scope turrets.
  4. Now mount the Charlie which attaches by very strong magnets, backed up with two Allen bolts on the sides. You have just moved your point of impact up by whatever the Charlie is calibrated to – in my case 30 MILS or 103 MOA.

Left: scope level. Top right: Charlie level. Bottom right: Scope level

So how do you verify the new point of impact?

It is like running a tall target test with a scope. 30 MILS is 108 inches at 100 yards, but I didn’t have a 9-foot target so ran the test at 50 yards. This only required a 6-foot target since the point of impact should be 54 inches above the point of aim and on the plumbed line.

True to specification, aiming at the base of the target resulted in a group on the line 54 inches above my point of aim. Obviously this will need to be validated at longer distances, but based on the first rudimentary test, I am feeling very confident that I now have a combination of rifle, ammunition, scope, and Charlie to reach 3,500 yards for the Ko2M – if I even make the finals.

For additional information you can check out the TACOMHQ website, and the units are available through ELRHQ.com in Phoenix, AZ



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Interview with a Champion


FTR World Champion / 2017 Ko2M Champion   

 By Mark V. Lonsdale

With the 2018 King of 2 Miles (Ko2M) only 5 weeks away, those selected to compete in July 2018 are all  focused on load development and preparations for the king of ELR shooting events. And be assured, Derek Rodgers will be there to defend his title.

Last October I had the opportunity to interview Derek about his experience

Team Derek Rodgers ko2m17001

Derek with team mate and spotter Paul Phillips 

What made you decide to get into ELR shooting?

  • Derek: I was interested in shooting ELR distances after learning the King of 2 Miles event was held in Raton, NM. I have competed in 1000 yard competitions for 15 years, so shooting beyond those distances was a natural evolution.  Also being a resident of New Mexico and having open terrain gives me a lot of opportunity to shoot far.  I get enjoyment out of proving something will work, and I have always had a way of making loads perform.  Working through these challenges and pushing the envelope with cartridges made me want to explore this discipline of shooting.

What is the Ko2M?

  • Derek: The Ko2M stands for King of 2 Miles. It is an Extreme Long Range (ELR) event ranging from 1550 yards to 2 miles.  This match is held in Raton, New Mexico and shooters are given 5 shots to hit the first target.  They are rewarded with 5x the distance in points for a 1st round impact, 4x for the 2nd shot, 3x for 3rd, 2x for the 4th, and 1x for a 5th shot hit.  After each distance the shooter acquires the next target and fires 3 shots at the target.  The targets are located at varying distances along a mountainside.  Any single hit will allow the shooter to advance to the next distance.  The top 10 shooters scores advance to a “finals” division where they will be challenged to shoot at 1.5, 1.75, and 2 miles.  The same rules apply, but are given 15 shots total to shoot these 3 targets.  Verifying hits was done with cameras and 2 verifiers that can see the bullet strike the steel target and make it swing.  This match is what gave me enough of a push to enter the ELR game.

Team AB ko2m1710

Team AB at the 2017 Ko2M

Did any of your team mates on Team Applied Ballistics talk you into it?

  • Derek: Paul Phillips knew I had interest in shooting the further distances. He and I have been teammates for 10 years.  These teams were Team Sinclair and Team USA – FTR.  Paul talked to Bryan Litz and told him I may be someone they should look at as becoming an AB Team member.  Bryan reached out to me and asked if I would be interested.  I was, and told Bryan that I was interested in helping prove the science of shooting at these distances and so the journey began.

Why did you select 375 CheyTac?

  • Derek: I chose the 375 CheyTac because it simply made sense. Most of the other Team AB shooters were using another 375 cartridge with a bit more performance.  However, brass was harder to get and I am not a big fan of belted cases if a non-belted version can be had with similar results.  The 375 CT has been out for quite some time and the availability of components was a lot easier to come by.  I felt it was hard enough to pioneer a road that few have successfully gone down and sticking to a known cartridge had some positive benefits for my shooting program.  I was trying to minimize variables that could have ultimately caused obstacles of success.

Derek's ammo 400 lazer cut

How long did it take to have the rifle built after making the decision?

  • Derek: It took around 6 months to go from scratching out a plan to having a finished build. I was able to secure an action for the project.  At the time, McMillan Stocks were working on a new stock purpose built for ELR shooting.  This stock was called the “ELR Beast” and is suited to handle the larger scale actions that are needed for the task.  Once I had a barrel and had it fitted, I had the barreled action sent to McMillan for custom stock inletting.  They did a superb job in cutting the inletting for my particular set up.

DR 375-CT Bench

Derek’s 375 CheyTac in the McMillan ELR Beast 

Were you happy with the selected barrel twist?

  • Derek: I chose a 7.75 twist Bartlein barrel and was quite happy with it. However, I also saw shooters using 7, 8, and 9 twists with success in 375 caliber.  I believe the 7.75” is enough to easily stabilize a 400+ grain bullet even at a lower elevation.  We were shooting in Raton at above 6,400’ elevation.  This elevation allows for more forgiveness in bullet stability.  My bullets were predictable and the impact on steel at 2 miles was round proving the bullets were still stable at the 3,600 yard mark.

Was the action bedded into the stock? What was used for bedding?

  • Derek: I used a Barnard P-Chey Action. This action is unique in that it has a smooth hole located at the bottom of the action.  Smaller sized Barnard’s like the Model P also have a hole but are threaded where a bottom-belly recoil lug can be utilized easily.  The Chey-P is different.  Mac Tilton is an old friend of mine and even though he does not sell Barnard actions anymore, I called him and asked for his advice.  I had already chambered and fit the barrel without a barrel recoil lug.  He told me I could substitute a V-Block and pin my action where it was a slip fit into the V-Block.  I took his advice and the action and rifle went together like Fort Knox.  This served as my recoil lug and my bedding system.  That really is a testament to how rigid the McMillan ELR Beast stock is.  It can accommodate V-Blocks and non-normal bedding applications.  Although pillar bedding is probably the best solution in most cases.  I had Alex Sitman at Masterclass Stocks bed it.  I am not sure what his exact formula is on bedding compound, but it is extremely robust.

How many different loads did you test to settle on the load you used?

  • Derek: I tried a variety of loads before settling on one. I actually tried a range of bullets from 352 grains to 409.  I focused my attention to the solid projectiles that Cutting Edge offers.  I first tried Retumbo powder and was sorely disappointed as it created a massive pressure spike and accuracy was not acceptable for my set-up.  I switched to the much slower burn rate of H50BMG.  This slower burn rate gave me very reliable velocities and the accuracy was around 1/3 MOA at 1000 yards.

Did you do the initial testing at 100 yards?

  • Derek: I do the majority of my testing at 325 yards and 600 yards. I find 325 yards to be a truthful test for me.  At this distance I can weed out good loads from great ones.  I have also found that if I can get a group to form consistently at 325 yards, it will be checked at 600.  If it passes this test, it will likely work just fine further out.  In the case of my 375CT, I wanted to shoot it at 1000 yards with a couple small changes in reloading to see if I could get something better.

What muzzle velocity were you looking for?

  • Derek: I wasn’t looking for any specific muzzle velocity. In fact, I was having trouble finding any data that had merit, so I developed my load that worked for me and my rifle.  I have learned from many thousands of rounds of loading and development of other cartridges, more velocity is not always the answer.  I was cautious of this and focused on producing consistently small groups while maintaining a stout load.  Our summer time temperatures in New Mexico can wreck a good load if you push a cartridge too far.  As it turns out I was able to reach near 3,000 fps with accuracy that was more than acceptable.

What was the best group?

  • Derek: After I had a working load, I spoke to Dan Smitchko from Cutting Edge Bullets on how to tighten it further. He gave me tips and I then tried to further vet a final load at 1000 yards.  Fortunately I was able to find a load that shot under 3” of vertical at 1000 yards and settled on it being what I would push forward with in practice and the Ko2M event.

How many rounds did you fire before settling on a load?

  • Derek: I shot just over 100 rounds before I settled. However, I did choose the Cutting Edge 400 grain Lazer bullet because the rest of Team AB was already using it.  I felt it would help simplify the ballistic math if we all used the same projectile.  It is easier to see a pattern while testing our rifles with the same bullet profile.  I’m sure I would have found a load with any of the projectiles tested as they all showed promise.

Did you have the opportunity to practice at long range?

  • Derek: I did a small amount of testing at 1000 yards, but it was a mad scramble to get a rifle together and shooting well enough before we practiced as a team. A few weeks prior to the Ko2M, we all did some practicing on a separate range at the New Mexico’s Whittington Center’s “back-country”—where the staff at the WC have targets arranged from several hundred yards away to 2 miles.  This proved to be an extremely crucial breakthrough in our ELR development.  We were able to test our individual guns, as well as, compare with each other.  I don’t get many opportunities to shoot with my peers being I am located in New Mexico and the majority of Team Applied Ballistics is located in Michigan.  It is refreshing to compared notes with similar rifles with my peers at the same time versus shooting all alone.

ko2m Kelly

Were your Ko2M come-ups based on the ballistics program or on actual shooting data?

  • Derek: We used ballistic programs to gather our initial come-ups and they were all very close—if not correct. However, we did modify some of our data to match the actual drop of the bullets used for each rifle.  My come-ups were derived from a hybrid solution of ballistic and actual firing data.

Did you select the come-ups for each distance or was it a Team effort?

  • Derek: Each shooter was responsible for determining their rifles trajectory. However, we would also vet the come-up solutions with two other shooters and devices.  If there were differences, we averaged them to come up with a sensible ballistic solution.

What was the most significant value of having Team Support?

  • Derek: The most significant value of a team is having the support network in place to help raise your ability to another level. When you can combine years’ worth of competitive, reloading, shooting and internal and external ballistic knowledge it can make for a synergy that is unmatched in comparison.

Garmin Foretrex 701.jpg

Did you dial in adjustments after a miss or just aim off? Kentucky windage?

  • Derek: We did both. Our primary goal of getting on target was identifying how far off the shots were missed by and making a change to the scope.  I prefer to make a scope adjustment rather than holding off.  I am always more certain of my scope hold this way, as 2nd and 3rd shot holds become exponentially more difficult as impacts change.   In other words, it would be very difficult for spotters to know what the proper hold is if they are uncertain of my scope hold.  I personally suffer from nerve issues in my face and the inability to blink my shooting eye.  It has affected the razor sharp clarity of my vision.  It makes it easier to “hold center.”  We decided as a team that if the shooter sees the impact, the shooter could hold that offset and take another shot.  I actually performed this at 2 miles.  However, in theory it would work, I would prefer to utilize my team and spotters to give me a calculated adjustment to get me as close as possible to the center of the target.

KO2M plates

Hanging ELR targets for the Ko2M in Raton, NM

Any significant lessons learned?

  • Derek: Putting together a large scale rifle is different from smaller size rifles. Resources can be limited.  Being part of a group of other ELR shooters will help in making proper decisions on what to get and where it can be obtained.  We also learned how to work together as a team.  This was crucial to success.  We had processes we thought would work and soon realized as a team we had failures.  We were able to modify and come up with new job roles as individuals on the 3 man team and then began to progress with hitting targets at a quicker pace.

To conclude, I would like to thank Derek for taking the time to answer my questions. His willingness to share his experience is the mark of a true sportsman and champion.

Pauls 416 Barrett

Paul Phillips 2018 Ko2M rifle – a 416 Barrett in a McMillan ELR Beast stock

Go to Tactical Rifle Shooters facebook page for links to video of the 2017 Ko2M narrated by Paul Phillips

Whittington 2017.jpg


Photo credits to Team AB, Ko2M, and various photographers

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New Stock from McMillan – the A6

A6 Atlas1

McMillan A6 stock with Graphite shell and molded in Woodland Carbon Ambush camo, adjustable cheek rest, and spacer system to adjust length of pull (LOP). Atlas Tactical action; 6.5 Creedmoor Bartlein medium Palma barrel cut to 24″; Badger M5 bottom metal; Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope 

The A6, which has been rolled out in time for Shot Show 2018, is similar to the iconic A5 in many respects, however, the fore-end has a squarer profile making it ideally suited for PRS/NRL type barricade shooting.

Squared fore-end on the A6 stock

A6 Atlas-Bartlein

You can see in this image how the flat fore-end affords the A6 added stability on any flat surface or barricade

Since this is my first 6.5 Creedmoor (no jokes please), I have been chronographing a variety of factory loads. With a Bartlein medium Palma profile, 1:8″ twist cut to 24 inches, on a 50F degree morning at sea level, factory ammunition results were: Hornady Match 147 ELD averaged 2,670 fps; Hornady Match 140 ELD averaged 2,726 fps; and Federal Berger 130 Hybrids came in at 2,829 fps. The 140s seemed to group the best, but still early days and more testing to come. Will also be working up some hand loads  with the Berger Long Range 140 grain BT Target in Peterson brass, when I get back from Shot Show.

6.5CM Ammo


More to follow



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The Importance of Measuring Cartridge Headspace – Part 2

By Mark V. Lonsdale

As a continuation to the series of reloading fundamentals for rookies, we will take a look at the importance of measuring headspace and accurately bumping the shoulder on your brass. But keep in mind that this article is a “why to” not a “how to.” The how to will come in the instructions with whichever measuring system you decide to go with, plus a reputable reloading manual.

The tool to measure the headspace or shoulder position markets under a number of names – shoulder bump gauge, precision mic, or cartridge comparator – but each does basically the same thing. They give a measurement from the base of the cartridge to a predetermined spot on the shoulder. So, why do you need to know that?

A comparator allows the shooter or reloader to do a number of things:

  1. Measure the headspace of factory or reloaded ammunition to ensure it is within spec for safe and reliable use. If the case is too long it simply will not chamber, and if it is too short, it will not headspace correctly, may not fire, or may result in a case separation.
  2. Quantifies the chamber headspace in a particular rifle by measuring the headspace of fired cases from that chamber. After firing, a cartridge fire-forms to the size of the chamber.
  3. It will ensure that you are getting the minimal shoulder set-back when setting up your reloading dies.

This last one is probably the most important for the reloader. By minimizing the set-back of the shoulder, you are limiting the expansion or stretching of the case during firing, improving consistency and accuracy, and extending the life of the brass. So the cartridge comparator also serves as a diagnostic tool to ensure the rifle chamber is within specifications, and to gauge if the sizing die is set-up correctly.

As an example, if you measure the shoulder on once-fired brass from a rifle chamber that is reamed to spec, you will find that the headspace will measure “0” on an RCBS Precision Mic gauge. This is because the case has fire-formed to the length of the chamber.

New factory match ammunition may read minus three on the same gauge. In other words, the shoulder is three thousandths (0.003”) shorter than the spec chamber. This is so that it will chamber correctly. After firing, that case will be fire-formed to the chamber so should have moved the shoulder forward to match the actual size of the chamber.

Now, after you have run a fired piece of brass through your sizing die you may find that you have pushed the shoulder back ten to twenty thousandths (0.010” to 0.020”). This is too much. So now you can adjust the sizing die up to bump the shoulder back just enough to chamber in that particular rifle without any issues. Once you are getting the required amount of bump on your bump gauge, you can lock the die.

Whidden Shoulder BumpWhidden shoulder bump gauge inserted into dial calibers 

So for optimum accuracy and case life, the goal is to set the shoulder back the minimal amount while still enjoying reliable feeding. But if you own several rifles of the same caliber, and you want your reloads to function flawlessly in all your rifles, then you will need to set the shoulder back from the shortest chamber. This way it will cycle in all rifles.


Hornady collet system

There are a number of options for measuring headspace and shoulder set-back.

  1. One of the more common methods, and least expensive is a collet or bump gauge that fits in a standard set of dial or digital calibers. Hornady and Sinclair are popular and the collets are quite affordable. The most expensive part is an accurate set of calipers, which every conscientious reloader should own.
  2. Another option is the RCBC Precision Mic set specific to each common caliber. These are very handy but a little slower than using calipers. Cost is around $50 depending on caliber.
  3. The top shelf option is a Cartridge Comparator from Dave Manson Precision Reamers. This system consists of an indicator stand with a base, datum blocks, and plunger-type dial indicator. Once set-up it is very accurate and efficient to use. Check out http://www.mansonreamers.com

RCBS Precision Mic system

Dave Manson Cartridge Comparator dial indicator stand 

These three systems are not only used to measure headspace and shoulder set-back, they are also be used to measure overall length and seating depth for bullets. For more consistent accuracy, you will generally want to load your bullets longer and closer to the lands than most factory ammunition. You will often hear shooters talking about 0.015” off the lands or a jump of twenty thou – meaning that the ogive of the bullet is 0.020” back from the lands. However, if you are feeding rounds from the magazine for hunting or competition, then you will be limited to an overall length (OAL) that still fits in the magazine.

Finally, as you get into reloading, and in particular reloading for precision rifle shooting, the more you need to quantify actual measurements and tolerances. Don’t think of this as a painful chore. Once you really understand the advantages of reloading, and see the proof on the target in your scores and the tight groups, you will find precision reloading to be as enjoyable as the shooting (well, almost). There is something very satisfying about producing high quality rifle ammunition.

For additional reading, study the introductory chapters in the reloading manuals from Berger, Sierra, Hornady or Speer. There are also some excellent books such as Handloading for Competition; Extreme Rifle Accuracy; or Prone and Long Range Rifle Shooting.

308 375 CT

On left, 308 Win with the Berger 185 grain Juggernaut loaded long. On the right, 375 CheyTac using the Cutting Edge 352 grain bullet. Both loaded into Peterson match grade brass 


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