(At this point of the story, we are getting ready to attempt the 4,000 yard shot. You can read Part 1 here.)
First up to attempt the record was Ray Sanchez and Frank Galli. Both came very close to the target but failed to connect. Next up were Charlie Melton and Brad Stair: once again they came very close to the target but did not get a hit. After Brad shot, I took a final measure of the wind with my 5700 Applied Ballistics Kestrel, held 397 minutes, and sent a round downrange. After waiting 10.95 seconds, I observed my round splash down about 20 feet low and left. I made a slight adjustment and sent another round down range. 10.95 seconds later I observed another splash, adjusted accordingly, and sent another round. Five rounds, five misses. Like the other shooters, I was close but failed to connect. We spent several more hours taking turns shooting at the 4000-yard target. Ray Sanchez hit about 5 inches left of the target and 6 inches in front, and I had one round miss by about three feet. All in all, we came close, but no shooters connected at 4000 yards.
We set up a LabRadar Chronograph to measure velocity strings and found that both the Nosler and PRIME ammunition had velocity spreads not conducive to the range at which we were shooting. Aside from velocity spreads, having a bullet in the air for 10.95 seconds leaves a lot of time for wind to rear its ugly head and blow the bullet off course. There appeared to be a storm front coming in, and we experienced erratic wind from several directions.
Let’s put this in context of some of my first strings. For a 4000 yard shot, my round had a maximum ordinate, or apex, of around 185 yards (555 feet). When I first fired off a round, my bullet would deal with 1/2 value wind from 2 o’clock. The bullet continued its climb until reaching a height of 185 yards above my position. At this point, the bullet peaked above the canyon walls, where it was exposed to a blast of full value wind moving at a different speed than wind on the canyon floor. The round would start its descent, once again contend with a 1/2 value wind coming from the 5 o’clock position, then dive towards a target situated in a box canyon where wind was nill. Not an impossible shot, but difficult.
Could we have made a 4000 yard shot with a factory Ritter and Stark SX-1 MTR? I believe we could have with some of Brad Stair’s custom hand loads. For the record, Brad Stair and Charlie Melton have unofficially made several 4000-yard shots with a Ritter and Stark SX-1 MTR rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum.
Frustrated by wind and the ammunition we elected to forego the record attempt and move our shoot to the 2,600-yard line for the remainder of the event.
Getting up bright and early the next morning, we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at ranch headquarters and headed back out to the range. Since Brad Stair originally calibrated our Charlie TARAC prisms for 300 Minutes, he now broke out his tools and recalibrated the units for roughly 100 minutes – it was impossible to be exact since we were in the field. Frank, Ray, Brad, and Charlie sent some rounds down range and figured out their holds for 2600 yards. I found what appeared to be an IPSC ABC zone steel target 1,960 yards away. With Ray Sanchez spotting for me, I landed 2 hits out of 3 shots on the 1,960-yard target, which I would later learn struck about 6 inches apart. Spotting trace through my scope, I was floored at how well the 388 Lapua performed at transonic range while contending with a 1/2 value, 20 mph wind. By consulting my Applied Ballistics Kestrel, I was able to extrapolate my hold for 2,600 yards.
After the group collectively figured out their holds for 2,600 yards, we loaded 5 rounds in our magazines and took turns shooting at the target. Charlie Melton was the first shooter to achieve a hit at 2,600 yards. I believe Ray Sanchez and Frank Galli connected, but I failed to get a hit at 2600 yards on the second day. A drive out to the target revealed that 3 out of the 4 bullets hit the target sideways. That was a giant clue as to what the bullets were doing in subsonic flight. At 2,600 yards the bullets were traveling around 900 fps. Some bullets maintain their gyroscopic stability deep into subsonic range, and some bullets simply do not. It appeared the bullets we were using perform well right to the transonic edge, as shown by my group at 1,960 yards, but fell apart a few hundred yards past that point.
After we adjusted my Chalie TARAC prism I shot at a small target 1,960 yards away to extrapolate data for a 2,600 yard shot. These rounds are roughly 6 inches apart.
After several hours of shooting at the 2,600-yard target, Nathan Grove of Ritter and Stark took the writers up to the 1,300-yard range to shoot the short action SLX rifle. The 1,300-yard range at the Felix Canyon Ranch is gorgeous and equipped with dozens of steel targets from 100 yards all the way out to 1,300 yards. Ritter and Stark provided us with SLX rifles chambered in .308 Winchester. For testing, we used 175 Grain Nosler Match Ammunition. Proning out behind the SLX rifle, I was delighted to see a Horus H58 reticle in my sight picture. The Horus reticle is an old friend, and I had found myself longing for the grids of Horus H59 during the last two days of shooting. Loading into the Accu-Tac SR-5 bipod, I found a steel target at 100 yards and achieved a solid center mass hit. Point of aim point of impact. Rifle is zeroed, let’s rock!
With a Sig 2400 ABS rangefinder, I ranged 9 targets from 100 to 1300 yards. With the remaining 9 rounds in my magazine, I successfully engaged every single one. I loaded another magazine and went 10 for 10. Too much fun. The ergonomics of the SLX are fantastic: the comb height and butt pad are adjustable, the trigger was excellent, and the rifle paired with a Thunder Beast Arms suppressor was very accurate and a pleasure to shoot. With the light fading, we packed up and headed back to ranch headquarters.
Day 3 of the event was very different than the preceding days – the wind and density altitude gods looked down and took pity. Around 10 pm, the wind slowed and became non-existent, and density altitude went from around 4,550 to around 6,500. We knew the gods felt merciful when Ray Sanchez, with Frank Galli spotting, was able to get several hits in a row on the 2,600-yard target. If I remember correctly, Frank then jumped on the rifle and made several hits. Charlie Melton, looking cool as hell sitting in a lawn chair, with his rifle in a CruxOrd tripod, wad of tobacco in his lip, fired his rifle several times and had multiple hits. Frank and Ray told me to get on their rifle and get a hit, which is exactly what I did. I fired four shots and connected twice. The other writers in attendance achieved hits as well. We drove down to the target, and I was amazed to note that none of the rounds hit sideways but had impacted normally. It is incredible how a decrease in wind and humidity and an increase in density altitude and temperature will impact a bullet’s performance.
The SLX and the SX-1 MTR are fantastic rifles. The MSRP of the SLX is $3,635, and the SX1-MTR is $4,444 to $6,555 depending on caliber configuration. This price point may seem high at first, but when you compare it to other rifles with similar features and European origin, the price tag is pretty reasonable. The SLX, chambered in .308 Winchester was very accurate and a joy to shoot. I shot the SX-1 MTR over the course of several days and, even though it was chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, I did not find myself fatigued or bothered by the recoil. Suppressors provided by Thunder Beast Arms performed superbly and, if you are looking to purchase a suppressor for your precision rifle, I highly recommend Thunder Beast Arms.
The Felix Canyon Ranch is a world-class facility for long range shooting. If you want to book a hunt, contact the Santa Fe Guiding Company. If you simply want to stay at the Felix Canyon Ranch, hit them up on Facebook and schedule a few days to enjoy the Ranch.
Over the course of 3 days, attendees shot over 1000 rounds of ammunition. I shot scores of .338 Lapua Magnum and learned a great deal about extreme long range shooting. The furthest shot I had taken prior to the event was 2,000 yards on a 24-inch steel target at my ranch in central New Mexico, with a semi-custom Howa 1500 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. During the Ritter Stark event, I made several hits at 2,600 yards and pushed back my personal record by 600 yards. I am an expert in the field of long-range shooting, but spending hours behind the spotting scope spotting for Brad Stair, Charlie Melton, Frank Galli, and Ray Sanchez was invaluable. At the ranges we shot, watching trace, configuring a ballistic calculator, observing hits, and reading wind became significantly harder. These tasks required a greater attention to detail than when calculating for a shorter range. In regard to ballistic calculation, we needed an entirely new set of data. Ultimately I walked away from the event with an appreciation for Ritter and Stark, some lifelong friends, and as a better long-range shooter. I don’t think you can go wrong with a Ritter and Stark rifle.
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