With a little practice, anyone can put shots on a target at the 100 to 300-yard range. A decent rifle setup that doesn’t break the bank can likely get those same people shooting targets between 300 and 500 yards away.
But once you get to targets at the 1,000-yard mark and beyond, it’s a whole different ball game.
True long-range shooting is what separates the decent marksmen from the snipers. When you’re aiming at something 10 football fields away, you can’t just line up your sites and fire a few rounds. Every shot is a precise calculation requiring you to account for several different variables.
Considering the difficulty involved, a frequent question long-range shooters get is why focus on long-range shooting and hunting?
You reap many benefits when you commit to learning how to shoot at long range. There’s obviously no better way to improve your shooting accuracy. Long-range practice forces you to build perfect shooting habits, because at that distance, any flaws will have you missing the target entirely.
Long-range shooting practice makes you more patient and helps with focus. If you’re a hunter, improving your accuracy is an important part of ethical hunting. You need to be comfortable in your ability to fire a kill shot to avoid any unnecessary suffering on the animal’s part.
And you know how everyone talks about yoga being great for learning breath control? That may be so, but nothing matches long-range shooting in that regard.
If you want to take the leap into long-range shooting and are looking for a scope, a few of the top choices are listed further below. But first, let’s consider what kind of setup you’ll need for accuracy at 1,000 yards and farther.
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Choosing an Effective Long-Range Rifle
As important as the scope is, it can’t do much if it’s not attached to a rifle.
What rifle you should choose and what caliber will work best for long-range shooting doesn’t have a single answer. You could ask 10 different shooters and get 10 different recommendations.
To decide which rifle and caliber are right for your needs as a shooter, you’ll first need to figure out just what kind of shooting you plan to do. You obviously want to shoot targets at 1,000 yards away and farther, but will these be paper and steel targets, or are you hunting game? If it’s the latter, an accurate rifle setup isn’t enough, because you also need one that’s powerful enough to take down whatever you’re hunting.
One of the most popular cartridges for long-range shooting is the 6.5mm Creedmoor. Even though it’s not the heaviest round, it retains its velocity very well, which helps in minimizing the effect any wind has on it. Perhaps the best part about 6.5mm Creedmoor is the recoil, which is light to mild. This makes it easier to keep control of the muzzle throughout the shot, and at long range, any extra bit of muzzle control helps.
Another popular option is .338 Lapua Magnum. This cartridge is excellent for targets over 1,000 yards away, and it packs a punch. It’s ideal for hunters because of its power, and it’s even capable of taking down an elephant. As you’d expect, the amount of power it generates also means it causes considerable recoil. You may want to work your way up to using this type of round.
What about the rifle itself?
If you want the longest range you can get out of a rifle, then you want the HAMR, which is accurate to 2,500 yards. The Verdict is another excellent option, and it has a functional range of 1,760 yards.
What Should You Look for in a Long-Range Scope?
You can manage with iron sights when you’re shooting at short to medium range, and it’s a good idea to learn how to use those in case you ever need to. But with long-range shooting, you need the right scope.
There are several different qualities that a long-range scope should have.
Beginner shooters often wonder what makes a scope that costs thousands worth so much more than a scope that costs $300. The glass is one of the key components that separates the decent scopes from the great scopes. When the glass is better quality, it will be clearer, which makes it easier to see your target.
This is especially important for judging mirage, which is the wind at your target. At long range, the wind could be blowing a different direction at your target than it is at your location. You’ll need to be able to see how it’s blowing at your target’s location so that you can adjust for it.
Milling Reticles on the Horizontal Axis and the Vertical Axis
There are several different reticle styles available with long eye relief scopes. The problem is that many don’t have milling reticles, or only have them on the vertical axis. You want a reticle with either the Mildot or the Nightforce MOAR style if you’re going to be shooting at long ranges.
Here’s why – when you’re shooting at long range, standard procedure is dialing for elevation and holding for wind. When you dial for elevation, you adjust the turrets on the top of your scope for the amount that the cartridge will drop over the distance it’s traveling. This adjusts where the crosshairs are, which means you can aim your crosshairs directly at the target instead of above it.
Use the turret to dial your scope in for elevation and wind conditions.
It doesn’t make sense to dial for wind because the wind can change at a moment’s notice. Instead, you aim the crosshairs in the direction the wind is coming from to account for the wind blowing the cartridge slightly off course. Horizontal marks on the axis allow you to be more precise when you do this.
A scope with adjustable magnification is better because you can use it for targets at any range. For long-range shooting, you also want a scope with sufficient magnification. A magnification of at least 18x is good for shooting at 1,000 yards and beyond.
The Best Long-Range Scopes for Beginners
1. Nightforce 5-25×56 ATACR F1 MOAR Zstop DigIllum
If you’re the type of person who likes to buy products that last the rest of your life, then this Nightforce scope is the one for you. It’s not cheap, but when you use it for the first time, you’ll know right away that it’s worth every penny.
With magnification that you can adjust from 5x to 25x, you can use this scope for targets at any range. The glass is crystal clear, enabling you to get the best view of your target. Large objective lenses let in more light, and the 56mm objective is plenty big enough to make your targets appear bright and clear.
2. Vortex Razor HD Gen II Scope 4.5-27 x 56 FFP EBR-2C MOA
Vortex is known for making high-quality scopes, and this may be their best ever. It has a wide range of magnification options, the tube is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and to top it off, this scope is backed by Vortex’s unconditional lifetime warranty. It’s doubtful anything would ever go wrong with a scope this well-made, but no matter what, you can get it fixed through Vortex.
3. Swarovski Optik X5i 5-25X56 1/4 MOA L-4 WX-I+Illuminated
Swarovski has a reputation for amazing glass, and this scope is no exception. Besides its 5x to 25x magnification range, this scope also has what Swarovski refers to as a SUBZERO function, which you can use if you need to aim at something below the sight-in distance.
If you like to go shooting in dusk or at night, you’ll appreciate the illumination on this scope, which helps you aim in conditions with little light.
Deciding on a Scope
Those three scopes listed above are just a few of the very best options currently on the market, and with all their features, they make beginners more likely to put shots on target.
If those options are a bit above your ideal budget, there are also great scopes available for less that can still have you shooting accurately at over 1,000 yards. Keep in mind though that long-range shooting is one hobby where you typically get what you pay for.
This isn’t like other industries, where a brand name alone increases the price of the product. The scopes that cost the most tend to also be the ones that are the highest quality. It’s wise to invest more in a scope the first time around, instead of trying to save money, and then needing to replace your scope after a year because it doesn’t really fit your needs.
Whether you just need a scope, or you’re getting a new rifle, purchasing your long-range setup is a bit like long-range shooting. It’s better to be patient so that when you pull the trigger, you know you’re making the right decision.