I suppose my first article should be for those readers unfamiliar with what Precision Rifle (PR) is.
The discipline first started around 2012 in the USA with the Precision Rifle Series, or PRS for short. What originally started with 189 shooters in it’s first year is now in the thousands of registered competitors.
But it took until 2019 for it to grow arms and legs in the UK with the start of Tiff Dew’s Precision Rifle League (PRL).
The concept is simple, matches are run throughout the country, each PRL match day is usually 100 rounds and is broken up into several stages (usually a dozen or so). In it’s most basic form a stage is a problem to be solved, you are given a number of rounds to be fired, normally around 10, a position or barricade to shoot from, one or multiple targets to shoot at (most if not all will be steel) from 25m all the way to 1000m and a time to do it in; most will give you some form of choice, either a small and a large target or an easy and a hard shooting position, the shooter must choose before shooting which to use, with the large/easy giving 1pts per impact and the small/hard 2pts. The scores from all of the stages are added up and then a first second and third prize are given for the various divisions for that match, they then put the scores through a unique scoring system, which factors for variables such as bad weather or particularly hard stages, to give each shooter league points. To be on the scoreboard for the year each shooter must shoot at least two matches at two different venues, shooters that go to more than two get to use their top two scores.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to all 5 matches this year, and what an experience. The venues are in some of the most remote and spectacular places in the UK, after a bit of a shaky start to the year due to equipment failure I ended the year on a high, I can honestly say it’s some of the best shooting I’ve ever done. Unlike in a few other shooting disciplines I have dabbled in, Precision Rifle doesn’t require all the gear and a rifle that shoots a keyhole all day at 100m to perform well. The right kit helps of course, but practice is everything.
This year I used a Ruger Precision Rifle in .308 with a Schmidt and Bender PM2 5-25×56 SFP, and although I handload I stop load developing as soon as I get to 0.5 inch at 100m and a muzzle velocity extreme spread in the low teens, and not once have I missed a shot that wasn’t me shooting badly or miss reading the wind. I honestly believe with the right shooter the PRL could be won by a £1000 rifle with factory that groups 1 inch at 100. Which is very refreshing, I can hold my head up and say all the shooters that beat me did so because they were better shooters that but the time and effort in, not because they spent more money than me, and by far the best part of every match is the people I have shot with, I’ve made some amazing friends getting involved in PRL really feels like joining one big family.
If you’re reading this article and think PRL sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, then there are a few essentials, without which you can’t compete, the first is a rifle and a scope that will dial or hold over out to 1000m by either having built in turrets with adjustable elevation and windage or a reticle which has a measurements built in.
The second is having some means of getting reliable ballistic data for your round as knowing what your round will do at distance is not only an important safety aspect but also first round hits are the secret to winning in PR.
There are two ways to get accurate data: data of previous engagement (DOPE) and Ballistics calculators.
DOPE, requires no special equipment other than a pen and pencil, every shooting session is recorded in minute detail, elevation, wind conditions, pressure temperature, and the elevation/windage required to hit at every range, a good DOPE is achieved through shooting in all conditions at varying ranges, to provide templates for future engagements. Every time you shoot, you mark down where the round landed how much adjustment or hold over you had so that the next time you’re presented with a target at that range in similar wind, temperature and weather conditions you know exactly how to ensure first round hits.
Ballistics calculators can be put onto phones, Handheld GPS systems, wind meters and laser range finders, they use muzzle velocity, the ballistic coefficient of the bullet being fired and the atmospherics to calculate the adjustments, elevation and windage, needed for a particular target, all that’s required of the shooter is to enter in the muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient and the atmospherics to get an accurate result, so even come with data for factory ammunition pre-loaded into them for you to use. But they are only as accurate as the information entered into them, so ideally the muzzle velocity should come from a reliable chronograph, or if you already know your elevation for that range some calculators are able to work out MV ; a means to measure local atmospherics is also essential, especially wind, kestrel make some amazing devices, but there are wind meters that attach straight to your phone through the headphone port.
Although both done correctly will give excellent results, the ballistics calculator is the preferred method for most precision rifles shooters for their versatility and ease of use.
Personally I do both, I have a ballistics calculator on my phone, (I use IStrelok but there are dozens of other apps out there) and whenever I practice I record everything in my data book, that way if for whatever reason my battery dies I have a good reliable back-up. I also find the data book to be a great way to track performance whilst training, gives something to improve on every time I go out.
I get asked fairly frequently what shooting kit I take with me to matches, to carry everything around, a match can involve quick a bit of walking between stages, I use an Eberlestock to fit both my rifle and all my gear.
In it I carry my data book made by US tactical supply, a decent supply of pens and sharpies to mark down my scores; my Practical Precision UK barricade bag, pillow bag and wax rear bag; an ammo binder to carry 50 rounds; a spare 10 rnd Magpul magazine; a leatherman MUT and an Allen key set; bottle of ballistol Oil; and my Manfrotto tripod.
The three bags each have a separate function: the barricade bag is a heavy bag sharped like a V that’s used for resting the forend of a rifle on a barricade or obstacle to provide a nice stable platform to shoot off and avoid any bouncing of the rifle from hard on hard surface contact when recoiling; the pillow bag is a big light bag that is useful for putting under your arm in a kneeling position in order to mitigate any wobble while aiming; the rear bag is used under the butt of the rifle to again provide a nice firm stable shooting platform in the prone.
In my milspec tailor range belt, I carry 2 magazines, Kestrel for reading atmospherics and wind, ear pro, 2 x 20 round ammo holders, a Flagazine breach flag to show my rifle is clear when not shooting, and a small squirt bottle of talc for reading wind direction.
Not all of this kit is essential, the only thing I could honestly say I couldn’t live without would be my Kestrel, barricade bag and a spare magazine, the rest are items I found make getting those much sought after impacts a lot easier.