Rifle shooting, any shooting really, starts with a good, basic zero. Nowhere is that more important than in 3GN Long Range competition. Different top-level shooters take different approaches, though the ballistics of .223, combined with the ranges encountered in this format, suggest stretching past the typical 100-yard zero.
“For .223 I would recommend 200 or 300 yards,” Burdick said. “The .223 falls off rapidly past the point and nearly all of the 3GN LR targets are at those ranges or farther. A zero near the average range of most of the targets makes sense because when holding over, the amount of holdover is reduced, putting the targets closer to the middle of the optic where the image is clearest and suffers from the least amount of distortion.”
Watch any movie on snipers, and you’ll no doubt see the shooter dial up when making windage and elevation calls. And no doubt that’s the best recipe for success with a cold bore shot when it matter most. Competition shooting, however, presents a different challenge, and the ranges are such in 3GN LR where dialing up isn’t necessarily the best plan.
“Being a time-plus event, I would recommend holding over on everything,” Burdick explained. “This is a big part of why I encourage a different optic (for Long Range) than a 3-Gun optic. (Bullet Drop Compensator) BDCs are a handicap. Accurate holdovers are essential and are best done with a Mil or MOA reticle, with equally spaced divisions that can be correlated rapidly to a dope card. Scopes with good reticles for this game are available starting in the sub-$300 range.”
Trajectory is just physics—but wind … wind is pure voodooJoe Burdick
With a good zero established, now it’s time to get out and practice. While shooting off the bench and prone are great, you gotta get into some funky shooting positions to do well at a 3GN LR match. The mad scientists building all the fun will require you to get out of your comfort zone.
“The most important aspect to practice is building a solid position with two or more points of contact, such as bipod and rear bag or barricade and strong side knee in reverse kneeling,” Burdick said. “Practice establishing that position quickly, and then executing a smooth, consistent trigger squeeze.”
Zero, trigger control, position shooting practice—alright, now it’s time to let it rip. Get ready for some challenging shooting, especially for those that haven’t engaged targets this far while on the clock during competition.
“The most obvious challenge is the extended range,” Burdick said. “This is new ground for 3-Gunners, target shooters and hunters. The good news is that trajectory is constant and easily recorded. Have it recorded in your kit in the form of a table or dope card. There are several good phone apps for this
“Usually the thing that separates the accomplished long-range shooter from the novice is wind-reading ability,” Burdick continued. “The targets are fairly generous and most ranges are between 300 and 700 yards, but wind will still be a factor that must be accounted for. Know what the wind does to your bullet and plan accordingly. A Green Beret sniper once told me, ‘Trajectory is just physics—but wind … wind is pure voodoo.’”
For those preparing for an upcoming 3GN Long Range match, or any match for that matter, there’s one piece of advice, beyond being safe, that applies to all, regardless of long-range shooting experience: Be realistic, and have fun.
“Have realistic expectations,” Burdick said. “This is not an easy game. It will challenge you to build on your 3-Gun rifle skills and add a new dimension to your shooting. Have fun!”