I’ve shot a lot of rounds in my life.  I was a pretty heavy volume shooter in my teens, chewing through case after case of .223, 7.63×39 and 12ga as well as various handgun calibers.  After I joined the military my volume went up drastically easily pushing tens of thousands of rounds downrange annually.  I was well trained in carbines, handguns, shotguns and all manner of belt fed lead slingers.  My education was incomplete in it’s diversity though.  Despite being raised in Alaska hunting deer I had very little experience with precision bolt guns adorned with scoped optics suited for the task.  Sure I had a nice Leupold 3×9 on a Winchester model 70 in 30-06 but that simple duplex reticle and the thick southeast Alaskan brush kept me shooting within 200 yards.  Until very recently I felt more comfortable with a red dot or iron sight equipped carbine out to 500 yards than I did with a scoped bolt gun.  When I decided I needed to fix this inadequacy I put together a simple bolt gun package that I could upgrade easily later on once my skill level warranted the increased investment.

Having been made familiar with Ryan Cleckner through his instructive and informative youtube videos with the National Shooting Sports Foundation- comments on said videos make it clear many shooters find Ryan’s teaching style resonates with them.  He can take a pretty complex topic and explain it caveman simple without degrading the integrity of the material at hand.  When I found out he was to publish a two part book series on precision rifle shooting, I had a good feeling his teaching style would translate to the written format well.  Being a fellow Ranger (he with the 1st Bn of the 75th Ranger Regt.) has not only sent a lot of rounds downrange, he also has had a significant investment in his skill set.  First trained as a sniper, then serving as a sniper team leader, Ryan was also sent to SOTIC (Special Operations Target Interdiction Course).  SOTIC is one of the premier schools our military has to offer and is held in legendary esteem.  The education gained there is reputed to be second to none.

Ryan Cleckner makes a 1000 yd standing first round hit on the TV show, Top Shot. Image used with permission of Ryan Cleckner
Ryan Cleckner makes a 1000 yd standing first round hit on the TV show, Top Shot. Image courtesy of Ryan Cleckner

I picked up Ryan’s book and read it through in two evenings.  The first time I worked my way through pretty quick, familiarizing myself with the layout as much as the content.  Like the Bible or a textbook I wanted to be able to quickly refer to a specific section as needed.  The second pass I took my time and highlighted important passages, noting in particular the things I wanted to pass on to other shooters and the lessons I had identified that would improve my shooting.  We all have flaws in form, training methods and mental errors to correct.  How many of us can say we’ve never spent time at the range frustrated and chasing our zero all over?  I’ve seen it happen to crack marksmen.  Who among us can say we treat long range shooting as ritualistically as we can?  Some of us might not be applying that as effectively as we think.  I myself was able to quickly identify 5 pitfalls I was succumbing to, thanks to the Long Range shooting Handbook.  I’ll discuss 3 here to show you how reading an approximately 300 page book helped one shooter in particular.  I will not cover every aspect of the book though.  Ryan’s lessons and teaching style speak for themselves and deserve to be read with fresh eyes.

  1. Many deer hunters I know treat a zeroed rifle as if it were held together by a fragile and ancient shamanic magic.  “You do not mess with a zeroed rifle!”  I have heard variations on this many times.  I’m now more comfortable treating my precision rifle like what it is… a well assembled machine.  I expect I should be able to spin the turrets all the way up, all the way down and then back to my mechanical zero and have the reasonable expectation my zero will not have wildly shifted.  Adjustment turrets are meant to be adjusted.  If your scope can’t move a few clicks and then come back to where it started, you have an issue with the scope.
  2.   I was failing to define what I considered an acceptable hit for each shot based on distance and the conditions around me.  I was shooting and then deciding if the results were good enough.  Now I shoot with a purpose and I know what I expect of myself and my rifle depending on the day’s conditions and shooting style before I pull the trigger.  Call your shot, every shot.
  3.   I have learned to trust my corrections (or my spotters) and to be O.K with that correction being wrong.  I’ve seen myself and countless other shooters be guilty of this.  The shooter isn’t confident of the correction they’re making after a miss, so they dial the correction but will not hold center for the next shot.  In a “hedge your bets” mindset, the shooter will shade in the direction of the correction on the target.  If you aren’t willing to trust your corrections and to let them be wrong, you aren’t going to learn how to make better corrections.  If you made poor corrections but the “hedging your bet” led to a hit, you haven’t and will not be improving your ability to hit the target when and where you want.