by Devin Standard
I just checked on-line. A Savage Model 111 Long Range Hunter Rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag with a 26″ Barrel and equipped with an AccuTrigger, an AccuStock, and an adjustable comb, sells for $863. A Lucid L5 6x-24 50MM Rifle Scope can be found for $327. Yours Truly is no super sniper, military or law enforcement high-speed, low-drag, kind of guy, but I can consistently hit targets out to one mile with this set-up. This means you can too! And if you are a really disciplined shooter, your results should be phenomenal. This changes everything.
As of the summer of 2014, 9 men have been credited with using a sniper rifle to successfully engage their nation’s enemies from 2,000 yards or greater. Corporal Craig Harrision of the UK’s Military holds the record, having taking down Taliban from 2,707 yards away. Carlos Hatchcok and Chris Kyle are the two most famous Americans to have achieved this distinction although Sgt. Brian Kremer and Nicholas Ranstad have recently done so as well. In addition to excellent physical fitness, bottomless amounts of courage, amazing eyesight, phenomenal training, meticulous discipline and some luck, these men have all been blessed with the best sniping tools money can buy, and that the world’s best engineers can design. The Western World’s security has been buttressed by optically beautiful super long-range scopes, ultimately precise CNC machined rifles, extremely consistent, highly-toleranced CNC machined projectiles, chemically consistent propellants and priming compounds and very fine brass.
As such, the ability of a professional sniper to consistently hit targets one thousand yards away, even a mile away, has never been easier. If you have the money, the time and discipline for training, a great spotter and a place to shoot, you might be able to shoot a mile too.
A top tier scope, like the Nightforce 5-25×56 F1 B.E.A.S.T Riflescope goes for +$3,298 on-line. A top-shelf weapon system Like the Asymmetric Warrior® ASW338 Precision Tactical Rifle,chambered in .338Lapua goes for $8,500 or a Barret M82 .50BMG goes for about the same. Throw in scope rings, bases, bi-pods and ammo, and all of a sudden you are talking $12,000 or more!
This cowboy would love to shoot like the big boys, but I don’t have $12,000 lying around. It seemed that +1,000 yard shooting was going to remain on my bucket list for some time. But then I received an invitation to Lucid Optic’s Long Range Marksmanship clinic.
One mile equals 1,760 yards! I pondered 1,760 yards as I drove the 5 hours from Salt Lake City to Riverton, Wyoming in order to attend Lucid Optics’ 1st Annual Long Range Marksmanship Clinic. I was OK at 1,000 yards, I’d even once dialed in the Remington 700SPS .300WinMag I’d won at a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation dinner, at 1,200 Yards on Camp Gurnsey’s reactive target range during Neale Ashe’s Precision Rifle Workshop. With that background, my hope was to become competent at 1,500 Yards. But was I good enough to go beyond that? Where my physical skills and mental discipline sufficient? I thought breaking my 1,200 yard personal best by a hundred or two hundred yards would be acceptable. If I could ring steel at 1,500 yards, I would be satisfied, and happy the rest of my life. I was skeptical when Jason Wilson, Lucid Optics’ CEO told me that he would have me ringing steel at 1,760 yards. I was stunned when he also told me I didn’t need to bring my rifle. Wilson personally fires about 1,000 rounds a week, is a good hunter and a competent bench rest shooter, so I trusted him and cranked the cruise control higher. One mile equals 1,760 yards!
We got to the range Friday morning, received a safety briefing from the RSO, and then CEO Wilson introduced us to Lucid Optics and then to his new Lucid L5 Rifle scope, $449 MSRP. Believing that long range shooting is only possible with thousand dollar glass from the likes of Vortex, Nightforce, Zeiss and Leupold, I was quite skeptical, but I kept listening.
The Lucid L5 scope features 1/8MOA windage and elevation adjustments on lockable and re-zeroable tactical style turrets. It also has side parallax adjustment combined with an ocular diopter adjustment to provide a crisp target image over the entire magnification range. The most important point for me was learning that the L5 Reticle is a precise MOA measuring devise with 2MOA increments below the rifle’s zero, and has easy and meaningful windage values built in the reticle. All I had to do was to learn to apply the reticle to my specific bullet’s ballistics, and–theoretically–I should be able to make very long shots, even in windy conditions, or on moving targets. I would have to hold the cross-hairs in the required position, execute proper body position, cheek weld, grip, breath control, trigger squeeze and follow through, and the projectile should go precisely where I aimed, at least within the limits of the cartridge.
Theory is fine; the proof is measured by the bullet’s impact. On the range, we chronographed our rounds and fed speed plus current atmospheric data into the STRELOK ballistic calculator program on an iPhone. Based on a 100 yard zero, the program indicated where I needed to hold if I wanted to hit a target at 400, 600 or whatever distance; theoretically. I entered the data, and the little yellow mark popped up where my point of aim should be inside a picture resembling my view through the Lucid L5 Scope. There are always inconsistencies in the manufacturing tolerances of the cartridges, primers, powders, bullets, as well as in the temperature or cleanliness of the firearm and so on, so you have to shoot and make fine course correction. I aimed the Savage LR Hunter .300WinMag I had been assigned at a paper target 100 yards away and shot an adequate 3 round group. Jason showed me how to dial up 2MOA and left 1MOA, and then I was spot-on at 100, on paper, as well as on the 10 inch gong at 110. So far, so good; but nice groups at 100 yards isn’t worth 10 hours of driving.
On to 400. The Strelok program showed a picture of exactly where I needed to hold, in the scope, to hit at 400 yards. I aimed at the center of the 10×12 white steel target, squeezed, and was rewarded with an audible smack. It was an edge hit though, not center. Was it me, or the wind? I worked the bolt on the Savage LR Hunter and locked another .300WM round in the chamber. I squeezed and dented another primer; ping. Dead center, so it had been me. I repeated the pleasurable process once, twice, three times and then smiled. Even though the wind flags were switching direction every few seconds. The round was heavy enough to still nicely hit that 10×12 at 400 yards.
Confidence in the Savage, topped with Lucid L5 glass, established at 400, I moved on to 600 yards. At 600 there were two 10×12’s side by side, like two little Taliban down range. The wind was a little trickier at 600 yards. The blaze orange wind flags would blow left at attention, then straight in, then straight out. My confidence diminished slightly as that flag danced, then died, then did an about face, but I was there to shoot. The Strelok ballistic program showed me the correct holdover; yet I had to figure out the wind better after 2 misses. It turned out that I had to hold on the left edge of the target and it would hit dead center when the wind was blowing full value. Dead center yielded dead center when the wind flag dropped limp. Once I figured out the wind read and the wind hold, I was able to project my will at 600 yards again and again. I was having a good morning ringing steel!
I traded guns with one of the other students and now shooting a 6.5×284 Norma F Class rifle also topped with a Lucid L5 6x-24x 50mm Rifle Scope. I had a good feel for how to use the reticle, the Strelok program and for the wind. I had also established a good working rapport with my spotter, and in long-range shooting, spotters are key! Sight alignment, body position, cheek weld, breathe control and trigger management were all established with the new gun. I was quickly rewarded with ring of steel at 800 and 1000 and many calls of “HIT” from my spotter. I had a serious permagrin on my face. I was getting comfortable using the Lucid L5 reticle, and was now dialed in so that I could nail any target I wanted to between 100 and 1000 yards, with authority, with consistency, and without fiddling with the elevation turret.
After lunch we played search and destroy, blowing up some Tannerite filled jars which had been hidden down range. Then we started what was to become my favorite game. We four students sat at the benches with our rifles. I was assigned a 7mm Mag also topped with the Lucid L5 6X-24X 50mm. Jason Wilson explained the rules to us. We were to put 2 rounds on the 400, 600, 800 and 1000 yard targets, and then work back down two 400, finishing with one round on the 100 yard gong. I realized, after completing this exercise in under a minute, and winning a Lucid M7 Micro Red Dot Sight, that Wilson used this game to force us to learn how to quickly use the L5 reticle’s ranging elements. In fact, all 4 shooters completed the exercise in less than one minute, without dialing. This is a testament to the quality of the various Savage Firearms, the Lucid L5 Scope and the instructors from Lucid Optics, and even more remarkable when you consider the fact that one of the successful 1000 yard students had never even fired a rifle before.
On to a mile!
I got back on the bench with the Savage LR Hunter in .300WinMag that I really had a good feel for. The Strelok program said I was going to have to hold 2/3 of the way down on the fat line at the bottom of the reticle. I could barely see the target, a 48×48 in piece of steel with a 4 inch black square in the middle. The wind was my biggest concern as the flags were moving in a wide variety of directions at the various intermediate distances. Whether I could hit this, and repeatedly, would determine whether my 10 hour drive was to be worth it.
Bipod down and preloaded, correct grip, body position and cheek weld. I called “shooter ready” to my spotter, received “shoot” in response, and did so. Miss 5 feet right, 10 feet short he called a few seconds afterwards. Was it me, the 25-30mph wind, or both? Squeeze again same hold; same miss; must be me. OK, I made a slight adjustment to my hold over, squeezed the trigger, dented the primer and concentrated on shot follow through as I had learned at Appleseed. “HIT” my spotter called out 3 seconds later. I repeated the shot: “HIT.” I could barely hear the pings. I rang that 48 square inch of white metal 4 more times. One of my bucket list items had just been checked off. I had made 5 good shots, in a row, on a target 1 mile away. Remnants of the smile are still on my face.
The day wasn’t finished. I got to ring steel at 350, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and then 1 mile away, using the Savage 111 LR Hunter .338 Lapua topped with the Lucid L5 6x-24x 50MM as well. Same process, same use of the reticle to hold for wind, and for range. Same use of the Strelok ballistic program for positioning within the scope, combined with a high quality shooting tool and proper application of the fundamentals of marksmanship delivered the same result; HITS and more HITS! The Lucid L5 6X-24X 50mm and the Savage LR Hunter is an amazing combination. All 4 of the students in the class were successful at 1 Mile on one of the first days of summer 2014. I never would have believed this was possible without the $10,000-$12,000 setup I described earlier. My mind was blown.
A Savage Model 111 Long Range Hunter Rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag with a 26″ Barrel and equipped with an AccuTrigger, an AccuStock, and an adjustable comb sells for $863. A Lucid L5 6x-24 50MM Rifle Scope sells for $327. For this kind of performance, that seems hard to believe.
We are blessed to be living in the true Golden Age of firearms and optics! In the early summer of 2014 brilliant young firearms industry entrepreneurs like Jason Wilson and Gun Companies like Savage have mastered computer design, computer controlled machining, 6 Sigma quality control and aggressive cost controls so well that they can put a stock rifle and scope in your hands that give you the ability to consistently ring steel One Mile Away, and do so for less than $1,200. $1,200 is 1/10 of $12,000 which is the price of the top-shelf rifle and optic combination I thought was required for this type of shooting. Just give up the Starbucks and we can all manage that cost of entry! I plan to rearrange my firearm collection a wee bit and personally spend my hard earned dollars to buy this Savage .300Win and Lucid L5 6x-24x 50MM “Mile-Maker” set-up. A public “Thank You” to Jason Wilson and the team from Lucid Optics for putting on an amazing 1st Annual Lucid Optics Long Range Marksmanship Clinic, you helped make one of my dreams come true! Another public thank you goes out to the men of the US Military who do this work for real, with targets shooting back at them. I greatly appreciate the challenge of what you do, and the conditions under which you do it. Stay Safe.