Long-range shooting is all the rage these days, and fortunately for the physics-challenged hunters among us, it’s also now easier than ever. The biggest challenge for most people who want to shoot long is learning (and remembering!) how to calculate ballistic compensations with the mil or MOA systems, which correct for bullet trajectory, drift and wind (see “Gunning glossary” at bottom of page).
The math behind long-range shooting simply scares some people off, and that’s understandable—it’s complicated. I had trouble understanding mil and MOA for years, until I finally took a long-range shooting course at Rob Furlong’s Marksmanship Academy in Edmonton and learned how to calculate trajectory drop compensation. After a day in the classroom, we hit the range and put the theory into practice. It works.
Granted, the average hunter isn’t going to take a course to learn how to shoot long range—most hunters don’t even read the instruction manual for their scopes or rifles, after all. At best, they’ll watch a video on YouTube, but it just isn’t that easy to learn. Sure, there are some apps for your phone to help dial in on a critter, but dead batteries, reception and inclement weather can make them unreliable. Thankfully, optics companies are now developing products to make long-range shooting much easier, without having to do any of the pesky calculations.
On a recent mule deer hunt, for example, I made a 540-metre-long shot on a big mule deer buck using a combination of Bushnell’s Fusion 1 Mile ARC rangefinding binoculars and Elite Long Range Hunter riflescope. The first of its kind, this pairing is ideal for hunters who want to shoot long, but don’t want to learn the science behind it.
There’s a wide application for this system, especially for hunting in open country where long shots are possible. And anyone hunting mountains, river valleys or places with steep terrain will appreciate the angle compensations, taking the guesswork out of where to hold on a target. Here’s how it works.
The binoculars have a built-in rangefinder that can range objects out to 1,760 yards, and I’ve found it will give a reading when most handheld rangefinders won’t. The larger objective lenses, combined with being able to hold the binoculars with both hands and stabilize my arms against my body, helps produce the consistent, accurate readings.
I like the ARC (angle range compensation) feature, which calculates angles and automatically adjusts for the up or down angle. If you’re hunting in the mountains or on steep banks of a coulee or river valley, for example, you can range a deer and know exactly where to hold. It won’t matter whether you’re shooting uphill or down, the angle compensation will be calculated and provided instantly.
The real benefit of the Fusion binoculars, however, is the information it provides for the most popular calibres and bullets. Using ballistic coefficient and load data, the binos provide a digital readout showing the line of sight, angle and bullet drop, as well as information for holdover of up to 199 inches. Just match your calibre and load to the relevant ballistics group setting (consult the charts at www.bushnell.com to determine the proper group setting), and the binoculars do the rest, telling you not only how far away your quarry is, but also how far you need to hold over the desired point of impact. The holdover can be set to read in centimetres or inches, and can be used in tandem with the MOA or mil adjustments on your scope.
If you’re not about to run out and buy a new pair of these binoculars, the technology is also available in the stand-alone Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ARC rangefinder. It offers bullet compensation, seven times magnification and bullet-drop/holdover information in centimetres, inches, MOA and mil.
To make long-range shooting even easier, Bushnell introduced the Elite Long Range Hunter riflescope, making it compatible with the information provided by the Fusion binoculars. It’s a 30mm, one-piece tube with 4.5-18x power range and a 44mm objective lens, but the real magic is in the turret, which has 0.1-mil click adjustments with 10 full mils per revolution of adjustment. It’s also available with 0.25-mil adjustments.
Now, before you roll your eyes because there’s no way you are going to learn to use mil adjustments, let me explain why you don’t need to: Bushnell has married the information from the rangefinder with the turret on the scope, so all you have to do is sight in the scope and adjust the turret after ranging your quarry. Here’s how simple it is.
On the binoculars, match your calibre and load to the relevant ballistics group setting, then choose 100 or 200 yards or metres when asked what distance your rifle is zeroed for. Next, adjust the bino settings to provide bullet adjustment in mils, rather than inches or centimetres of bullet drop. Now when you range your target, in the bottom of the display you’ll see the exact mil adjustment you need to make on the riflescope’s turret in order to be dead-on.
On my mule deer hunt, for example, I ranged the deer at 540 metres, and with the steep uphill angle, the binoculars told me to make a 1.8-mil adjustment on my scope turret. So I dialled it to 1.8, adjusted my parallax, settled the crosshairs on the buck and successfully made the kill shot. It only took a matter of seconds, and I didn’t have to calculate a thing. All I had to do was turn my scope’s turret to a specific number. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.
Ardrossan, Alberta, contributor Brad Fenson has mastered the art of the long shot.
Unfamiliar with the ballistics terms “holdover,” “mil” and “MOA”? Here’s a brief explanation of each.
Holdover is the measurement that compensates for bullet drop. If a .308 drops 36 inches at 400 yards, for example, you need to aim above your desired point of impact by 36 inches.
Short for milliradians, mil is an angular measurement used to correct bullet trajectory. All 360-degree circles have 6.2832 radians, and there are 1,000 mils per radian. Therefore, a circle has 6,283.2 mils, each one equalling approximately 0.057296 degrees. If you have a riflescope with mil adjustments, each click represents 1⁄10 mil, which equals 0.36 inches or .9144 centimetres at 100 yards.
Another angular measurement, MOA stands for minute of angle (each degree in a 360-degree circle is divided into 60 minutes). To calculate MOA at any distance, multiply the distance in yards by 1.047 and divide by 100. The answer will be your holdover.