And So Much More!!
By Jim Kuiken
Some of you may remember my article “Full Circle”, where I talked the beginnings of my 30-year career in the Marine Corps, when I was first introduced to long-range precision shooting, and the pure satisfaction I got from
“The exacting science (mixed with a little art) of long-range precision shooting; the concentration and extreme discipline; mastering demanding techniques; growing and perfecting my skills; extreme physical demands of not only the shooting, but the conditions under which that shooting was conducted; the stalking skills and challenges…and most of all, for me, the autonomy and self-reliance of being out there, dependent on no one, but everyone depending on you – protecting your fellow Marines and accomplishing not only tactical, but strategic goals in the overall mission and battle plans.”
The reason I had written that article was because I was SO ‘friggin’ excited that I had been invited by Guy “Jackson” Valerioti, Owner-Operator (and primary instructor) of Ghost Firearms Training, one of the premier firearms training companies on the market, to attend their Long-Range Precision Course 1 (LRP-1). It was all I could talk about on my Facebook page, LinkedIn, my weekly Recap email, etc., etc… And it turned out to be an absolute blast!!
Finally, after over 40 years, like the title of the article says, I was going to get to go full-circle, back to where I started, doing something I loved and found so satisfying (and challenging) – long range precision shooting.
I could “barely control my excitement in going full circOf course, having lived the life I’ve lived…many of my friends are irreverent smart @$$es, so at least one of them had to say “sounds like a great opportunity! make sure that you share if "you've still got it"”. (If you want to know if I do, skip the next few gun geek paragraphs and go to the end...or if you have the patience of a precision shooter, don’t skip down, just read through).
When I received the invitation, Guy said that it was an honor to have me come to the course, and that I was going to be able to teach them something. I wrote him back, and said that it was quite the other way around. I was so excited they’d invited me, and they were going to teach me a lot! Today’s shooting is much more advanced, and the equipment and techniques are so far advanced that it is like muskets compared to lever-action repeating rifles…
In my day, with the equipment Marines were shooting (back in the early – mid ‘70’s), the equipment was a lot different, and in an operational situation, a 300-yard shot was a bit of a challenge, but a 600+ yard shot was phenomenal… Forgive me for getting a bit technical, but here is what Marines were shooting way back then.
An M40A1 Sniper System (a converted Remington Model 700 bolt action rifle with a 5 round built-in internal box magazine), Weight (w/scope) 14.45 lb, Barrel Length 24 in, Glass bedded Hart Barrel, 6 Lands and Grooves, Rifling RH 1:12" twist, Stock McMillan HTG A1 fiberglass stock, Redfield Accu-range 3-9x40mm scope, shooting M118 Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail (FMJBT) 173gr 7.62 mm (NATO) Match Grade ammo, with an “official” effective range of 800 meters (Marines know it was more like 1000).
Now, with the current equipment and techniques, a 600-yard operational situation shot is somewhat standard, and a 1000-yard shot is challenging (but there have been successful operational situation shots out to two miles!!).
Here’s what I brought to the range to shoot this time…a lot different than the ‘70’s…
A Savage 10 GRS, 6.5 Creedmoor Bolt Action precision rifle, Weight approx. 14.5 lbs (with scope and bipod), Overall length 44", 24" floating heavy fluted threaded barrel, 5/8x24 muzzle threads with 1:8" twist, detachable external AICS-compatible 10 round capacity magazines, AccuTrigger adjustable trigger, GRS adjustable stock, and a Vortex Viper PST (GEN II FFP MRAD 5-25X50) scope with illuminated reticle set on a 20 MOA rail, shooting Hornady 6.5 mm Creedmoor 140gr ELD Match rounds.
Ok, I know that’s all highly techy, and very interesting to gun enthusiasts…but the long and short of it is that it is a LOT different, because of the rifle, the rounds (bullets) the incredible scope, using bipods (which I never had before), and the fact that I had someone helping me with spotting my rounds and calling the wind…which was a luxury way back when.
We slept at the Mifflin County Sportsmen's Association clubhouse there at the range in Lewistown PA, were fed some fantastic food while we were there, and the first day started out with classes from Guy and Paul (who was the spotter for our group) about some of the technical aspects of shooting, our scopes, rifles, weather and windage, etc., etc. All VERY interesting and informative.
Then we got down to driving brass tacks (yeah, I know that’s a mixed metaphor)…starting with confirming our rifle’s zero (aiming point) at 100 yards, and then through the first day, using stationary shooting, as well as a few shooting games to challenge us (and insert a lot of fun and interest – although I was fine with just shooting, it had been so long, and I was back in “the zone”), we walked our shooting out to 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, and 700 yards. I
They even threw in some really fun night shooting, using laser light designators and our illuminated reticles (the little cross-hairs and indicators inside our scope lit up so we could see them at night).
The second day started out early, and it was crisp and beautiful…although it did warm up through the day – which changes your bullet flight characteristics, so you had to compensate for that as well – which only added more challenge and fun! We re-shot most of the yardages from day one, but a bit more quickly, and then by mid-morning, we were out to 800, 900…and yes, finally…out to 1000!
At 1000 yards, there were a couple of targets – a silhouette (upper torso and head shaped) steel target, and a slightly oversized head shaped steel target. We got to spend time shooting at that range, and then we got to knuckle down and go for the head shot.
With Paul spotting and calling windage for me (how much I needed to change left or right because of how the wind was acting at all ranges between me and the target), I got into the zone, used the B.R.A.S.S. technique from my very first marksmanship lessons in boot camp almost 44 years ago…and fired the shot, aiming for the center of the target (the nose area).
HIT!! It was just to the left and slightly down from the nose, and when we got up there at the target, you could see the bullet strike – only two inches off the nose at 1000 yards!
Needless to say, the trip was great, the shooting was fantastic, and the comradery of others who love to shoot was the highlight of the trip – both during the days while we shot, and in the evening around the fire with the stars overhead, talking about shooting, giving each other a hard time, maybe even “hypothetically” enjoying a beer or two, in the company of people that share the love of the outdoors lifestyle – like Guy, Paul, Mikey and the others – who quickly became good friends.
I had come full circle, back home.