Long Range Shooting!
This past year when a member left our hunt club, I ended up with one of his former stand locations. Lucky me!
I promptly put my new Real Bark stand in this spot and tilled up a nice area about 200 yards long in front of the stand. The way I have this stand set up now I can see about 200 yards in front of me, looking down the food plot. When looking to the right, I can see an open area about 80 yards deep, while the long shot is to my left, where I can see down a road that is about 1,200 yards long with an open area about 600 yards away.
Now 1,200 yards is a pretty long shot for me, and of the rifles I have at hand my longest is a .300 Win Mag that is dialed in to 600 yards with a Hornady 180-grain bullet that leaves the barrel at 2,970 fps.
After checking my ballistics calculator, I found that this bullet will drop 490 inches at 1,200 yards. With only a 10 mph crosswind the bullet will drift 127 inches. Ouch! That equates to just about 40 feet of holder at 1,200 yards. I am in trouble!
I know I do not want to just fling a bullet out there and hope it hits a deer, but I do want to be able to shoot something – even at this distance. So what am I going to do?
The first thing for me to do was to check ballistics on a .338 Lapua Mag. Based on shooting a 250-grain bullet at about 2,950 fps, I could reduce the drop by about 90 inches and the wind drift by about 30 inches.
A .50 BMG – which would have less drift – is just too heavy, so this caliber was out. So, my next step was to start a pretty intense internet search for a rifle in .338 Lapua, as well as available ammo and loading stuff. After about a month (and many hours), I decided on a Savage Model 112 target rifle.
I decided on the Savage because over many years I have had great success with their rifles being extremely accurate when using both factory and my hand loaded ammo. You know what came next. Out came the Visa card, and within a few days my new long range rifle, some factory ammo and plenty of stuff to load my own bullets arrived at the house. The Savage 112 target rifle is very heavy, and by the time I mounted a Night Force scope, it topped out right at 14 pounds. This made it way too heavy to lug very far, but I made a nice garage under this stand so I can drive right up to the stand, off load my rifle and pack and then park right underneath.
The only grunting I will be doing is carrying the rifle up the ladder to the stand. And, because this is the only stand where I have a shot longer than 200 yards, I will probably only hunt this stand when using the heavy hitter.
Even though I purchased dies, brass and bullets, I wanted to give the factory ammo a try before I loaded a pile of hand loads. The scope is a Night Force SHV 4-14x56 with the MOAR reticle. I had a Weaver-style, steel scope rail on hand that the package stated would fit a Savage Model 112, but it did not fit.
The screws were not the correct width or length. For a minute I thought I might strip out the holes in the rail and just try to find larger screws, but after thinking about it for a few moments, I decided to call Savage and ask them.
The tech guy at Savage told me to call Evolution Gun Works, Inc. (www.egwguns.com) at (215) 538-1012 and talk to Cody Peters. After a short conversation with Cody, my new scope rail (which actually fit this rifle) was on the way.
Evolution Gun Works offers rails that are from 0 MOA to more than I thought I would need. The 0 MOA will allow me to mount the scope flat on the receiver, and, for only out to 1,200 yards, the scope would handle this hold over. Now if I wanted to shoot farther (say 2,000 yards), Evolution Gun Works also makes rails to handle that.
After everything showed up and the scope was mounted, I headed to the range, where I was able to enjoy this extremely fine-shooting, very accurate rifle. I had read as much as I could find on the internet about the Savage Target .338, so I was pretty sure I had the ammo that would shoot accurately. I also brought some Bengay to treat my shoulder after sitting over this rifle for a day of shooting.
The first thing I wanted to do was set up the chronograph, as I would need to know the speed in fps the bullets left the barrel. This is important for calculating a long-range shot and determining the wind drift at long distances. After sighting in the scope at 25 yards, I shot 5 rounds of each of the factory loads to record the velocity of each. I then went to the 100-yard range to further sight in the rifle.
Some of the stuff I read online about the .338 Lapua said it does not come into its own until you stretch the shots out past 200 yards, so I did not place a lot of faith in the results of the 100-yard groups, even though the Hornady 250-grain BTHP shot groups of almost one hole.
After I recorded all of the 100-yard shots, I moved to the 200 and shot four, 3-shot groups of each of the factory loads. At both the 100- and 200-yard distances, the ammo that shined was Hornady’s Match 250-grain BTHP #8230.
I did not get any 300-grain ammo, as I was trying to get the load that would shoot the flattest. The next most accurate factory load was Sellier and Bellot 250-grain hollow points. The other 3 flavors did not shoot well at either distances, so they did not make it to the long range shooting.
A few days later – after a fresh supply of the two best factory ammos showed up – I was off to the 600-yard range. On both the first day and this day, the wind was about 5 mph into my face, so I did not get to see how this caliber acted with a crosswind.
At the 600-yard range, these two factory loads shot remarkably well and almost equally as accurate. I was getting groups of 2.3 inches from the Hornady and 3.2 inches from the Sellier and Bellot. Darn! This is an accurate rifle – 2.3 inches is less than 1/2 MOA. With accuracy like this, I should be able to hit a 4.5-inch group at 1,200 yards. With the bullet delivering 1,200 foot pounds of energy at 1,200 yards, I should have no problem making a quick, clean kill if given the opportunity.
Even though the Hornady factory loads shot remarkably well, I intend to load some with a few different styles of bullets, because, well, I just have to. Heck, I spent a pile of money on dies, bullets and brass, so I might as well shoot some.
The first day at the range with this rifle, I also brought my Steyr .300 Win Mag, my Savage Hog Hunter in .308 Winchester and my .50 caliber muzzleloader. I brought the Steyr because I put on a new scope and had to dial it in, the muzzleloader needed to be shot, and the .308 for a felt recoil comparison. The Savage .338 generates less felt recoil than either the .308 or the .300 Win Mag, and here is why. It weighs 12 pounds before glass and has a giant muzzle break.
In my research, I had read this, but really did not believe it. However, I found it is true. When I slowly pulled the trigger on this big gun, and it went bang, the recoil was almost like my Sharps .45-70 – just a push.
This rifle comes with an adjustable target trigger that comes factory set to around 2.5 pounds, but is user adjustable all the way down to 6 ounces. I left it at the factory setting and thought the pull weight was just right for hunting.
It comes with a 26-inch heavy barrel, and the action is pillar bedded into a grey laminate stock. The for end is flat, so it rests nicely on the shooting rest in my stand. The bolt handle is oversized for easy manipulation. The bolt is smooth and locks up tight with no play.
The rifle is a single shot, but how many of us would be able to quickly get off a follow-up shot with a .338? Besides, when you have spent in excess of $5 every time you pull the trigger, who wants to be spraying $5 dollar bills in the woods.
I hunt a lot with single shots, so for me one shot is just fine. Most people will make the shot count if they only have one round. If you think you want more than one shot, Savage offers two other .338’s with magazines.
This rifle retails for about $1,200, but I did not get the “friends and family” deal, and got mine for much less than that amount. This is a keeper.
By the way, I never used the Bengay. Maybe I will give it to Alex, who is always complaining about recoil. He hunts with a .308 that has a soft, spongy recoil pad and recently had his wife sew foam into his hunting shirts for extra recoil reduction!
If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings. Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe!
Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”