1,000 Yards with a Stock .308 AR-15 Style M&P Model 10?

Send to Kindle
Will this stock Smith & Wesson M&P 10 .308 shoot consistently at 1,000 yards?

Will this stock Smith & Wesson M&P 10 .308 shoot consistently at 1,000 yards?

Smith & Wesson M&P 10: http://www.smith-wesson.com/M&P 10

Buy one at GunsAmerica: /Smith-Wesson-Rifles.htm

Can You Shoot 1,000 Yards with a .308 caliber AR-15 style rifle? Well, can you? Conventional wisdom says no. After all, AR’s are semi-automatic designs, with hot burning gas of doom smothering all the important parts like gravy over Cracker Barrel’s Chicken Fried Chicken. Heck, the upper and lower receivers are stuck together with simple push pins. AR-type rifles can’t be all that accurate, can they?

To find out, the folks from Smith & Wesson, NRA Outdoors, Sub-MOA Firearms, Hornady, Huskemaw Optics, Magpul, Blackhawk!, Battenfeld, Champion, SportEar, and Brownells put together a long range shooting school. The rifle of choice? Smith & Wesson’s M&P 10 LE .308. The baker’s dozen of identical guns present were off-the-rack models with no customization other than the addition of a Magpul PRS Precision Adjustable Stock. These were added just so each shooter could customize the length of pull and comb height. AFor optics, all rifles were equipped with Huskemaw Optics 3-12×42 with RFBC Custom Turrets. If you send specific data on the load, rifle, actual velocity and average atmospheric conditions for your area, they’ll print a custom turret with yardages and wind holds marked.

See that shrub out there? That's the 1,000 yard target berm.

See that shrub out there? That’s the 1,000 yard target berm.

A Smith & Wesson M&P 10 LE Model facing targets at 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 targets down range.

A Smith & Wesson M&P 10 LE Model facing targets at 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 targets down range.

Even the Smith & Wesson folks didn’t quite know what to expect from this outing. Sure, they’ve tested the M&P 10 at ranges appropriate for the intended use. It would be hard to imagine the LE model being used in the field for shots over 200 yards. Of course, these rifles have been tested for accuracy at 100, 200 and 300-yard ranges. They were fairly confident we’d be able to reach out to 800 yards with some success, considering the design of the rifle and ballistic profile of the 168 grain .308 round, but even that wasn’t a sure thing.

Over two days, our instructors taught theory, technique, position and lots of math, which enabled us to nail consistently targets at long distance. On day one, we started shooting in a structured environment – the SubMOA Firearms range. It’s got a beautiful shoot house on a mountain peak, equipped with benches, Caldwell Flite Control Front Rests and a passel of Swarovski spotting scopes.

Smith & Wesson designed their own flash hider for the M&P 10 LE. It's intended to suppress both primary and secondary flash. It's also got ports that provide muzzle brake function.

Smith & Wesson designed their own flash hider for the M&P 10 LE. It’s intended to suppress both primary and secondary flash. It’s also got ports that provide muzzle brake function.

A high-quality spotting scope makes all the difference. When you need to read wind 1,000 yards out, it helps to be able to clearly see blades of grass. This Swarovski model fit the bill.

A high-quality spotting scope makes all the difference. When you need to read wind 1,000 yards out, it helps to be able to clearly see blades of grass. This Swarovski model fit the bill.

 

The SubMOA range stretches 1,000 yards towards 9,000-foot high natural backstops. None the less, some insurance genius made them install 12-foot high berms at each target area. Based on the volume of continuous gunfire, the neighbors have taken to calling this area Little Beirut. Once the shooting started, I completely understood that.

On day one, we used the stable shooting positions and predictable ranges to develop dope books for our individual rifles and the Hornady .308 168 grain A-Max load. Starting at 400 yards, which was easy, we quickly stretched out to 500, 600, 700 and then 800 yards to capture exact elevation adjustments required to get on target given the current atmospheric conditions.

On day two, we moved to more scenic and natural environments. These two targets were 650 and 775 yards away.

On day two, we moved to more scenic and natural environments. These two targets were 650 and 775 yards away.

While it looks close through the Swarovski spotting scope, these targets are 400 yards down range.

While it looks close through the Swarovski spotting scope, these targets are 400 yards down range.

 

The wind was fairly calm in the morning but got interesting in the afternoon. At times, it was blowing 15 to 17 in our face. That was broken up by occasional left to right and right to left shifts. The 90-degree wind vector rarely exceeded five mph, so it was a good day to test the capabilities of the rifles. Even with the relatively light crosswinds, it quickly became apparent that the biggest variable in long range success is accurate reading and doping for the wind.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 10 at 1,000 Yards

Once we got the hang of shooting the 800-yard target from the bench, we decided to stretch things all the way out to 1,000 yards. The 168 grain .308 is not the ideal 1,000-yard cartridge, but with a consistent load and accurate gun, it’s completely doable.

Just to put things in perspective at what happened to our Hornady 168 grain A-Max bullets, consider this. At 1,000 yards, the bullet drop is a whopping 353 inches. That’s 5.19117 Ryan Seacrest’s stacked on top of each other, but we can just round down to five since he’s not easily divisible. Flight time was 1.77 seconds. That was more than enough time to recover from recoil, leisurely require the target, and still wait to watch the impact. That’s pretty darn cool.

Once we got the wind figured out results were surprisingly repeatable. Initially, we shot from a solid shooting bench with a front rest and a rear sand bag supporting the stock. As expected, this was a solid position, and we were able to knock the 15-inch square steel plate with ease. The only reason for misses was bad wind calls. See what I did there? I just blamed my spotter!

Here's our 1,000 yard target. My shooter/spotter partner and I plugged this 15-inch square target pretty good from 1,000 yards. I'm claiming the one in the center.

Here’s our 1,000 yard target. My shooter/spotter partner and I plugged this 15-inch square target pretty good from 1,000 yards. I’m claiming the one in the center.

We did a lot of prone position shooting using this Blackhawk! Pro-Shooters Mat. It made all the difference on rocky terrain.

We did a lot of prone position shooting using this Blackhawk! Pro-Shooters Mat. It made all the difference on rocky terrain.

Next, we moved to prone and sitting positions, still working the 1,000 yard, 15-inch steel plates. For prone, we attached Caldwell AR Bipods to the front Magpul rail, dropped into position on a Blackhawk! Pro Shooters Mat and got busy. Even applying lots of forward pressure on the bipods for stability, we experienced the same accuracy as from the bench. Keep in mind that the hand guard on this rifle is not free floated, so we thought we might find significant point of impact variance. While we didn’t do scientific group testing to identify a small point of impact shift, we were still hitting that small plate at 1,000 yards with the same dope. If there was any point of impact change, it wasn’t significant.

Next, we moved to a sitting position using Double Crossed Shooting Sticks. Like regular sticks, there are only two points of contact with the ground, but they are split, so there is support at the front and rear of the rifle. Your body serves as an additional ground contact point. Once I got settled, I hit three in a row from a sitting position using the sticks. Yes, shooting sticks. Our NRA Outdoor instruction team knew their long range shooting techniques and taught me an incredibly stable way to use these supports. I know you professional snipers out there can do this with one leg tied behind your back, but for a regular shooter guy like me, I was blown away at this kind of result.

Note the Double Crossed shooting sticks being used by my shooter/spotter partner. He's got an incredibly stable hold from a field sitting position. That's our instructor Dusty on the spotting scope.

Note the Double Crossed shooting sticks being used by my shooter/spotter partner. He’s got an incredibly stable hold from a field sitting position. That’s our instructor Dusty on the spotting scope.

Just a few of the rifles used. They're all stock models, with the exception of the Magpul PRS Precision-Adjustable Stocks.

Just a few of the rifles used. They’re all stock models, with the exception of the Magpul PRS Precision-Adjustable Stocks.

We got consistent results until the barrel heated up. But come on! The Smith & Wesson M&P 10 LE is a pencil barrel rifle, so that’s gonna happen. While I didn’t do scientific testing, it appeared that accuracy stayed consistent for somewhere between 10 and 20 shots in close proximity. Then, if shooting at extreme distance, you’d want to let it cool down for a few minutes. At shorter ranges of less than 400 yards, this overheating would be largely irrelevant. That’s absolutely consistent with the original design goals of this rifle.

Over ¾ of a Mile?

After hitting 1,000 targets with regularity using the Smith & Wesson M&P 10 LE, we got bored and decided to stretch things out a bit more. Just for kicks, we took aim at some large rocks in a sand pit 1,400 yards down range. That’s .8 miles. The sand pit made it easier to spot impacts while we got the range dialed in.

Note the fully ambidextrous controls on the M&P 10 LE.

Note the fully ambidextrous controls on the M&P 10 LE.

I lost count after 57 billion rounds of Hornady .308 ammo sent down range.

I lost count after 57 billion rounds of Hornady .308 ammo sent down range.

The first challenge to overcome was that the trajectory of the .308 round at that distance exceeded the scopes ability to adjust, even using full elevation adjustment and adding holdover with the reticle. Fortunately, a number of the rifles were equipped with some new RAMP mounts from Warne. These have a 20 minute of angle adjustment built in, so the scopes we were using could be adjusted a full 60 minutes of angle in elevation. When using an angled mount, you adjust the scope’s zero much higher in the scopes vertical adjustment range, allowing more elevation adjustment. Our reticle had vertical hash marks at 2, 4, 8 and 10 minutes of angle, so we had wiggle room around our estimated requirement of 65 minutes of angle elevation required. Yep, we had to use all available scope adjustment, plus holdover to get on target.

The barrel on the Smith M&P 10 LE is not free-floated, yet applying lots of pressure to the bipod didn't seem to matter.

The barrel on the Smith M&P 10 LE is not free-floated, yet applying lots of pressure to the bipod didn’t seem to matter.

A new trial for me was the Huskemaw Optics. We used 3-12x42, and that was plenty of magnification to reach 1,000 yards.

A new trial for me was the Huskemaw Optics. We used 3-12×42, and that was plenty of magnification to reach 1,000 yards.

65 minutes at 1,400 yards is one heckuva drop. That’s about 946.4 inches, or 14.339 Ryan Seacrest’s. Put another way, the vertical drop is nearly 2 ½ of those scary high dives your childhood friends dared you to jump from. While falling from the high dive might have seemed an eternity, the flight time of the Hornady 168 grain .308 projectile was even longer. We calculated that the bullet was in the air for 2.54 seconds, give or take. While I didn’t time it, I figured it took about a week for the sound of a hit to travel back to the firing line.

While I wouldn’t want to trust my life to a first shot hit in this scenario at 1,400 yards, we managed to get on target and could reliably put bullets in the vicinity of a few feet. I did notice that Hornady Marketing head Neal Emery dipped into his secret stash of 175-grain rounds and was having even better success at the 1,400-yard game. It pays to have connections, right?

One of the upgrades on the M&P 10 LE model is the Magpul hand guard.

One of the upgrades on the M&P 10 LE model is the Magpul hand guard.

The Magpul PRS Precision-Adjustable Stock allows adjustment of length of pull and comb height.

The Magpul PRS Precision-Adjustable Stock allows adjustment of length of pull and comb height.

Shocked Face

Consider me shocked. I wouldn’t have expected to be able to make consistent and repeatable hits from 1,000 yards with a stock .308 AR. Certainly, those results stem from a combination of quality gun, great ammo, and most importantly excellent long range shooting instruction. If you’re interested in learning long range shooting techniques, keep an eye on the NRA Outdoors website. While the current classes are out west, they’re opening up additional ones on the east coast, so matter where you live, classes will be within range. See what I did there?

{ 50 comments… add one }
  • Andy January 2, 2017, 7:45 pm

    I have put some money into my m&p10 between my 13.8″ Troy rail and my nikon m-308 and its an awesome shooter. My best group to date is .68″ at 100 yards. I know it will do even better, but im pretty much maxed out as a shooter, for now.

  • Heath November 13, 2016, 9:57 pm

    I seriously would like to shake the hand of the man who wrote this article. Informative and had me dying laughing. You sir have a talent.

  • Glen Pollard November 4, 2015, 6:49 pm

    I bought the M@p 10. The lightest 308 that Ive had. As well as very accurate. Love it.

  • Dana October 19, 2015, 3:46 pm

    I was really wanting to see group shots at various distances with stock barrel. While reading that it is able to hit 1000yds is great!

  • John Whyte August 31, 2015, 1:08 am

    I am eagerly waiting to P/U my M&P10. My sons M&P15 out of the box shot better than my Colt AR15 with free float barrel. He won\’t let me free float his. I just shoots nice, we trade and same results. I have mine now shouting like it should, but it took a lot of dollars, and work. I will start with it stock and move from there. I have a feeling the M&P barrels benefit from non Chrome and the coating they use improves, More Soon!

  • Dave July 30, 2015, 7:01 am

    What are all the ad on parts for the gun. Like tripod,forearm grip,scope and whatever else you added to gun.

  • Robert June 25, 2015, 10:13 am

    Well, guess I will have to keep my M&P 10 now after reading this. Thanks for the great article, great writing and great shooting!

    PS, loved the “Ryan Seacrest Bullet Drop” system, I recently heard unconfirmed rumors that all F Class shooters were moving to this type of measurement. Can you confirm?

    • Tom McHale June 27, 2015, 8:45 pm

      I’m hearing that due to the end of American Idol’s run, bullet drop will now be measured in units of Kardashian Butts, but that is still unconfirmed 🙂

  • Kyler June 23, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Seacrest comment was very entertaining. Keep up the good work.

  • rv June 18, 2015, 4:37 pm

    Great Article… I’m just glad that we can still read high-quality, informative “Technical Gun-Related” articles on the Internet. Maybe by this time next year, not so much…

    We need to fight for our 1st Amendment Rights folks or they will soon be gone!
    -r

    • James trek January 5, 2017, 12:37 am

      Lol its the Second Amendment lol get back to class

  • 5WarVeteran June 16, 2015, 2:44 pm

    Nice rig! Mine is nice too! AR-10 20 inch 1/11 twist well used. . . . And yes 1000 yards

  • Todd June 16, 2015, 12:15 pm

    You are either an Olympic shooter or a great story teller. Comes across like a sales pitch.

    • Martin June 16, 2015, 3:58 pm

      No just a grunt Marine at the rifle range for qualification. Never thought of it as anything special. Most of us did that.

      • Tim November 20, 2016, 3:08 pm

        Great response grunt. Some people crack me up. Great article, good read keep up the nice work. Semper Fi

  • Martin June 16, 2015, 4:23 am

    Not bad shooting . . but I remember shooting 1000 yards at echo targets with the M14 and M16 from the prone with iron sights no bipod just a shooting jacket. I recall more bullseyes than maggie’s drawers.

  • Robert S. June 15, 2015, 10:39 pm

    That’s another great article. The ignorance of others is sad they make respectable Gun owners look bad. Suck it Armalite.

  • Dale June 15, 2015, 4:04 pm

    There is an article out there on the internet where a guy took a hacksaw and cut down a bolt guns barrel to 20″ or less and found a bunch of accuracy in 308 caliber. Don’t know exactly why, might have been something to with barrel harmonics, but it worked well. Now if your shooting extreme distances and losing too much muzzle velocity that could be detrimental for optimal ballistics.If interested I’ll see if I can find the article, it is a few years old.

  • Mike June 15, 2015, 2:27 pm

    Did you have 20 moa elevated mounts for the scope?

    • Tom McHale June 15, 2015, 9:42 pm

      Exactly – they were new Warne RAMP models with 20 MOA elevation built into the mount, allowing a 200 yard scope zero much closer to the “top” of the scopes adjustment range, so we had a lot more elevation room to work with.

  • james evans June 15, 2015, 1:29 pm

    Hmmmm! With all the measuring references sounds like you have the HOTS for Ryan Seacrest. I prefer gun writers who aren’t so cutesy.

  • Patroit63 June 15, 2015, 12:59 pm

    Thanks for that article! Enjoyed reading it very much and appreciated all of the attentions to details that you provided throughout the read.! Your articles are one reason that I keep my email subscription “active” and will continue to receive the send!

  • Oakland Tactical June 15, 2015, 12:21 pm

    I’m not surprised that a 16″ 308 AR can get to 1000 or more, reading the wind is more critical with 168s the 178 Hornady BTHP works really well if you hand load.

  • kendall June 15, 2015, 12:15 pm

    Nice article highlighting the capabilities of the AR (can I say that?) platform. I found your comments on the non floated barrel interesting given that nowadays we think an AR (there I go again, sorry Armalite) without a floated barrel is about as accurate as a Chicom AK. Your article lead in had some prattle about AR’s being held together by pins, rampant gases, blah, blah, blah, (obviously to get people to scroll down to the article, so I will forgive that), but we all know (right?) that the lower of an AR (oops!) has about zero bearing on it’s accuracy. Can we all say together now “the inherent accuracy of the AR (damn!) is because of its direct ipingement system”.? Rattle between upper and lower is a good thing, Shok Buffs-bad!

  • Todd June 15, 2015, 11:38 am

    Henefer, Utah …..got it!

  • Keith M Ryea Sr June 15, 2015, 10:17 am

    Where’s video for your shoot would love to see.

  • Larry Koehn June 15, 2015, 10:00 am

    I love what is left out of articles like this. I have never heard or read anything about that scope. How much does it cost? I can’t see any AR platform shooting at long range without a trigger improvement. What model was this AR and did it have an improved trigger? What was the cost of the rifle, the scope and the stock? What about the cost of the rests and the spotting scopes and mats and anything else used for testing altitude, humidity, barometric pressure, and wind direction? The implication of articles like this is that the rifle is super duper and all Bubba needs is to buy one and shoot deer at 1000 yards and that is not going to happen but I’d bet you get a bump in sales of S&W M&P AR-10 rifles.

    • Tom McHale June 15, 2015, 10:27 am

      Well if you actually read the article and captions, you will find that the rifle is exactly identified and includes a link to the specific model used on the Smith & Wesson website. There is no mention of a trigger upgrade because the article clearly states that it’s a stock model except for the Magpul butt stock. The scope is also exactly identified. The ammo is exactly identified. Heck, even the shooting mats, spotting scopes and sticks are identified. I also mention the wind conditions and the fact that we had to establish exact elevation adjustments at all shorter ranges given the exact barometric conditions. Oh, let’s not forget the rings and scope mount, which are also clearly identified as the Warne with 20 MOA elevation built in. And the mention of how the reticle is calibrated. I did not share the barometric pressure as that it only applicable to our shooting, at that location, on those days, and not transferrable to anyone reading this article. While I appreciate the comments, nearly all the information you gripe about as “missing” is actually in the article.

      Premature commenting affects nearly 3 out of 10 readers, ask your doctor about medications that can help 🙂

      • Frank Bob June 15, 2015, 11:06 am

        Tom don’t let readers like Larry bother you one iota. I thought your article was superb, and going out to do that level of shooting at various ranges takes a lot of work and effort. Some internet goobers like him don’t possess the common courtesy to even appreciate that, but I sure do! Job well done, and I agree that meds may help him..haha!!

        • Tom McHale June 15, 2015, 12:14 pm

          Oh, no worries, I enjoy those sorts of comments. Besides, I was looking for an excuse to use this line 🙂

          “Premature commenting affects nearly 3 out of 10 readers, ask your doctor about medications that can help”

          • Steve Hudson October 1, 2016, 11:17 pm

            That takes me back to a tee shirt that Southern Four wheel drive association sold as a fund raiser…..” 9 out of 10 trout prefer off roaders to trout fishermen”. I like both!

    • Mikelasnicov June 29, 2015, 9:35 pm

      A trigger job does not actually make a rifle more accurate, it makes it easier to shoot more accurately. You could have the roughest , longest, grittiest 12 pound trigger ever, and if you have the skill to pull it without jerking the gun then it will shoot just as accurate as one with a perfect 3 LB trigger.

    • Texasnate April 13, 2017, 6:06 am

      Learn to read. Literally every single thing you commented on as not being in the article is in fact clearly stated in the article.

  • Pugugly June 15, 2015, 9:55 am

    Just to be sure you know: Armalite has asked that the AR10 designation be used only on Armalites .308 weapons. They do offer to sue anyone not following their request as they have that term copyrighted.

    • Frank Bob June 15, 2015, 10:57 am

      Oh who cares? Like Armalite really cares enough to sue the thousands of people that refer to a .308 semiauto as an AR10. Give us a break dude, like they would waste all of their time on attorneys suing umpteen thousand shooters that call a non-Armalite an AR10! And what are they going to sue people for, their massive life savings? I’d never buy an Armalite anyway. I’d buy a POF 308 or SR 25.

      • Administrator June 15, 2015, 11:04 am

        They do care and we have tried to police it among the writers but some always get through.

      • fnbrowning June 15, 2015, 1:23 pm

        Frank Bob; Please calm down.
        Pugugly is correct, and for darn good reason. Back before the turn of this century, in the dark days of the ‘salt weapons ban, Mark Westrom underwent considerable financial risk to purchase the Armalite brand name and rampant lion logo. He worked to build a reliable & AFFORDABLE rifle based on the concepts of Eugene Stoner, when the only other choice in 7.62mm was a Springfield (meh!) M-14 or the expen$ive Knights Armament gas gun.
        Mark Westrom deserves the respect for his business acumen, and for providing a accurate, reliable and affordable rifle with excellent customer support.
        I disclose I have one of those pre-year 2000 rifles, and Armalite has provided continuous improvement support for all their rifles, and I have sent mine back for upgrade packages that maintains or improves it’s reliability to this day.
        You can buy and enjoy any other AR-style rifle you like, but please, AR stands for Armalite.

        • Mick Dodge June 16, 2015, 8:10 am

          Nope, millions of AR 10 and 15 owners lovingly refer to them as AR’s, the copyright gods be dammed.

  • USPatriotOne June 15, 2015, 9:24 am

    I was able to hit a 16″ inch target at 600 yards with no problem ( was not and AR10) with a Century C308 .308 Rifle 18″ inch barrel. The range I was at did not have the ability to reach a 1,000 yards, and I am sure it would be pure luck if I could reach a 16″ inch target at that distance. The C308 is a Solid Rifle.

  • Jay June 15, 2015, 8:20 am

    Another fun day at the range! It was tested many years ago and therefore the reason for the 308 carbines barrel length that it wears. The 18 inch barrel length was the most accurate length for the most common ammunition and with the right shooter who knows whats possible! I know even with my stigmatism the 308 is and always will be my favorite rifle caliber! It’s put a lot of meat on the table from all over the country!

    • Tom McHale June 15, 2015, 9:20 am

      I’m with you on that. ..308 is an incredibly versatile caliber! And I think versatile is the key word. While there are better ones for frequent long range shooting, it does a whole lot of things pretty darn well and recoil is perfectly manageable for most folks.

  • Bustedknee June 15, 2015, 7:37 am

    What the hell are you talking about? 5.19117 Ryan Seacreasts?

    English! Write in English! Save the flowery BS for your romance novel. I’m interested in the gun

    • Tom McHale June 15, 2015, 9:17 am

      I sincerely apologize! After reading your comment, I double checked my math and found that it’s actually 5.34848484848485 Ryan Seacrest’s. I won’t let that kind of egregious error happen again 🙂

      • Chris June 15, 2015, 10:14 am

        Good answer! 🙂

  • Joe June 15, 2015, 6:49 am

    I read this story to my Palmetto state P-10 carbine but it just laughed at me.

  • frank noce June 15, 2015, 5:48 am

    Which is more accurate the S&W ar10 ,or the colt ar10

  • frank noce June 15, 2015, 5:47 am

    Which is more accurate the S&W ar10 ,or the colt ar10

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend