I recently completed the Nortrack Precision long range hunter course. While I have been handling firearms for a long time. I am a novice at long range shooting, only having shot out to 500m in the past (at least with rifles). The course took two days and was conducted on a hill country farm south-east of Dannevirke in the Manawatu. We were lucky to have clear weather and while the wind was quite strong it had minimal value.
The following subjects are covered and the course moves at an easy pace.
- Pre-fire checks
- Marksmanship Principles
- Position Fundamentals
- Ballistic Fundamentals
- Ranging and target identification fundamentals
- Synchronised shooting
- Confirm ballistic data out to 600m and beyond
- High angle shooting
The instructors Neil and Dave both have extensive military backgrounds in long range shooting. Neil also has a lot of experience hunting in both Canada and NZ. Not only are they highly experienced but they have the ability to teach as well which is fundamental on a course like this.
Neil in Northern Alberta with a moose taken with a Ruger No1 in 303 British.
There were seven students including myself. Our backgrounds and experience levels were pretty varied, one student was a competitive long range shooter others were more like me and just getting into long range shooting. As you would expect there was a variety of rifles used from top end long range rigs to hunting rifles, all were equipped with MRAD scopes. With an instructor/ student ratio of 2/7 everyone got as much personal attention as they needed.
We started off a safety brief before moving onto the theory side of things and discussed the various formulas used. Everyone was using MRAD scopes so that simplified the math needed a lot. Although Neil and Dave are just as capable of working in MOA should anyone need them too.
After going through the principles of marksmanship we worked on building a good shooting position. All shooting was done from the prone. One dry fire drill we did was the coin drill. This is a simple drill that has an assistant place a coin near the muzzle of the rifle, once the shooter is in position. The shooter then fires the rifle as though at a target. The aim is to keep the coin in place, if it falls then you are doing something wrong. I had no problems doing this but my partner's coin kept dropping. Neil was able to quickly identify that his trigger technique was the cause. Instead of pulling the trigger straight to the rear he was torqueing it slightly. At long range it would be enough to cause a miss. That experience alone would have been worth the cost of the course. These types of mistakes are incredibly hard to spot on your own or even with a friend (I never picked up on it). You could easily fire hundreds of dollars in ammo and not get any better.
There's nothing earth shattering in shooting out to a 1km. It's all about mastering the basics. Small mistakes that go unnoticed at 100m will cause huge misses at distance if not corrected. It seems to me it's all about mastering your marksmanship principles, range estimation and wind calls. Once you have done that then you need to understand what your bullet is doing at that distance and adjust for it. Of course all that is a lot easier said than done.
I was using a Bergara HMR in .308 with vortex diamondback tactical 6-26 MRAD scope, Warne QR rings and a cheap Harris type bipod, shooting gorilla ammo 175grn sierra match kings. This combo worked well enough out to 750m but I just couldn't get hits on the 950m gong. This target was set up on grass and the spotter couldn't see where my rounds were impacting. This was where the ammo started letting me down, while classed as match grade the best I could get through my rifle at 100m was 1.5 MOA. So by the time it gets to 1000m that 1.5 inches is more than 15 inches, on a 12in gong that's significant.
Accommodation for the duration was in shearers quarters but most people camped. A fridge, oven, freezer and shower were all available for use. Students provided their own food and there was plenty of time in the evening to head out to the shops if you forgot something. The accommodation was basic but for anyone interested in hunting more than adequate, it was a lot better than most huts I've stayed in.
All in all I thought the course was good value. Even though I didn't learn anything new, it was a chance to apply that knowledge to a much greater distance than I had previously. I think the furthest target was at 1100m, most ranges I have been too you are lucky to get out to 200m. We used to cover the theory of high angle shooting in maritime security all the time but this was the first time I got to do it for real. I had also made a novice mistake setting up my scope and Dave was able to get me back on track. The biggest advantage of a course like this is the experience of shooting out to long range. Once all the course material was covered the range was opened so that students could shoot in their own time at whichever targets they wanted using the data they had collected on the first day. This was an invaluable experience. One student who was on the course for the second time, was able to drop a hare at 1000m, which is pretty impressive to say the least.
Promo shot of Fitzy from Warfighter Athletic.
One of the other students was Fitzy from Warfighter Athletic. It was pretty cool to meet him and talk about his business. He is doing a great job of bringing premium quality outdoors and athletic gear to NZ. Warfighter Athletic is top end kit designed specifically for NZ conditions and extensively tested by Fitzy and his team. With a background in the NZ Commandos and a passion for the outdoors he knows what works. Check them out at warfighterathletic.co.nz
The Bergara HMR rifle in .308 worked well on the course it fed reliably from both magpul and MDT 10rd AICS mags. The only issue I encountered was due to the ammo Neil gave me 5 rds of a different type and I was able to shoot a sub MOA group at 100m without any problems. I’m a big fan of .308 but I have to admit there are better calibres for shooting at distance.
Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-26 MRAD. The glass in the Vortex scope was more than adequate for the task and I like the reticule layout a lot. The graduations in the centre are in ½ mills with sections on the edge broken into 1/10ths. This allows you to mill smaller targets without cluttering up the centre of the scope. 1 click equals 0.1 MRAD so it's very easy to dial for range or corrections.
I’m not sure what was wrong with the ammo but for whatever reason it didn't work very well in this rifle. I haven't tried it in any other rifles so can't comment on its overall effectiveness.
Ive been using the Minox 10x42 binos for years now. They work very well for compact binos and Ive had no problems spotting animals or targets with them. They are a very handy size and fit in wide range pouches.
Not surprisingly I used a lot of Helikon Tex kit.
I've had the windrunner windshirt for years, long before we started BushLife NZ. It's great at blocking out the wind and is very lightweight; it easily fits in a pocket. The wind on the first day was 10-15kph which was no problem for the windrunner.
The CPU bush hat did a great job of keeping the sun off and was comfortable to wear under ear pro.
I used the Training Mini Rig as an organiser, laid on the ground next to me. I had to stretch the ammo pouch a little for the MDT mag but the Magpul one worked straight away. I kept my Minox 10x42 binos in the centre pocket. There are plenty of pockets and pouches on the rig for all my tools and gear. It kept a notebook and pens, leatherman, allen key tool, torx wrench, loctite, chamber flag and spare batteries close to hand.
In my opinion the Bail Out Bag makes an excellent shooting pack. The rigid sides help protect the contents and provide a stable platform to shoot off. It also opens right out so it can be used as an improvised shooting mat. The PALS webbing and mesh pockets are great for organizing all my gear.