Long Range Shots
By Dennis Sammut
President of Horus Vision
San Bruno, CA –-(Ammoland.com)- In 1999, I planned a trip to test the improvements to my invention, my baby, the third-generation prototype ultra-long-range Sammut Custom Reticle.
My trip took me to Limbunya, a remote two-million-acre outback cattle station (as ranches are called down under) located in the southwest corner of Australia sprawling, sparsely populated Northern Territory.
Limbunya, like many cattle stations in the Northern Territory, is plagued by problems with feral donkeys and camels that threaten the ranchers’ livelihood and the local eco-systems equilibrium. If a rancher fails to address the feral animal problems sufficiently, the government hires a helicopter hunter and sends the bill to the farmer.
In 1999, I contracted with Bill Penfold of Hunt Australia, an outfitting firm, for what would be my seventh culling safari. I have personally taken over 2,000 animals on these cull hunts, which are not without their dangers. The brush is infested with venomous snakes and spiders. Twice, I had uncomfortable close encounters with King Browns, very aggressive and deadly snakes.
I arrived at Limbunya in the early afternoon. Within three hours I was at the station’s airstrip with my steel measuring tape. Using stakes, a heavy hammer, and two guides, I laid out a precise 800-yard range marked in 100 yard increments.
Once our range was set up, our party zeroed their rifles. After a hearty meal and a peaceful night’s sleep under the Southern Cross, we set off on our safari. This was a one-on-one hunt, each hunter with his own guide in a separate vehicle. We would each cull in a separate area of the 3,000 square-kilometer ranch.
My weapon was a 32-inch barrel rifle custom built by Glen Pearce of Pearce Quality Rifles in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It was chambered for the 300 Warbird, and sported a Schmidt and Bender 4 – 16 power by 50mm scope fitted with my ultra-long-range Sammut custom reticle.
The blazing Australian sun high overhead and slightly behind me, I had a picture view of the target. My surveyor’s ribbon and anemometer indicated a 7 o’clock, 8 to 13 mph wind, just brisk enough to prevent those nasty Australian flies from landing on my face and neck, but not too strong to make the shot. Conditions were nearly perfect.
I settled into shooting position, resting my rifle on the vermiculite-filled bags on the hood of my Toyota Landcruiser. Bracing myself against the left fender, I slowly increased the scope to 16 power and brought the target into sharp focus – a group of feral donkeys standing near some brush.
Using the reticle’s built-in range finder, I carefully calculated the range based on the height of each donkey’s shoulder from the ground. Since the donkeys varied in size, I took five varied measurements and averaged them to 1,370 yards; the animals were just over ¾ of a mile away.
Horizontal line #7 provided the correct holdover for that range. I had previously adjusted the reticle’s windage and elevation values for each of its 13 lines. After arriving on the Australian ranch, I had readjusted the values of those lines by shooting at various targets.
One donkey moved away from the group, stopping on some dry, bare hardpan, facing me. This was perfect; if I missed, I could easily see where the bullet struck. Then, if necessary, I could use my reticle’s unique built-in second-shot correction feature.
I adjusted the scope for a 10 mph wind and, moving my left hand to the scope’s variable power ring, I slowly reduced the power until the mirage decreased to within a reasonable limit. I loaded a single 3000 Lazzorini Warbird Cartridge (7.62 x 82, 92.7 grains of RL19, fitted with a Remington 9 ½ m primer, and capped with a Moly-coated 200-gr Spitzer boat tail bullet) and gently closed the bolt.
I locked myself into a position where my rifle and I became a single unit. I raised the rifle until horizontal line #7 and the central vertical crosshair overlay the donkey’s chest, compensating for bullet drop in one easy step. To account for wind deflection from the 7 o’clock breeze, I moved my rifle slightly to the left, visually traveling along horizontal line #7 to the first hackmark right of center. Keeping my right eye on the target, I opened my left eye for a brief glimpse of my gun-leveling device to be sure I was not canting my rifle.
I began to control my breathing, careful not to inhale any of the flies buzzing around my head. I gently began to squeeze the 2.5 pound trigger. After the recoil, I repositioned the rifle and scope and saw a lifeless donkey with what appeared to be a chest shot.
When I examined the carcass up close, I saw that it was a perfect head shot instead of the intended chest shot. It may have been my error, or a slight updraft, or some unknown factor. My reticle had worked, though; this 1,370 yard kill was my longest shot at a donkey to date. I had taken shots at longer ranges, but only at inanimate objects. My longest balloon “pop” was at 1,800 yards. I have absolute confidence that my rifle, ammo, scope, and skill enable me to consistently make one-shot kills at extended ranges. Wounding animals is unacceptable; if I can’t make the shot, I don’t shoot.
This long-range shot was the culmination of months of work, both back in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Australia. the pre-trip portion was devoted to improvements to the prototype custom reticle and grid that I had used ont he previous year’s hunt in Australia. During that 1998 hunt, I had carefully recorded muzzle velocities, weather factors, and notes on every aspect of the performance of my prototype reticle.
Successful long range shooting depends on such prep work. I averaged 1998 weather information to prepare for the 1999 hunt (see Appendix A). The atmospheric differences probably account for the difference in muzzle velocity in the SF Bay Area vs. the Australian outback. I averaged 18 shots from 3 rifles, and found variance in muzzle velocity large enough to significantly affect holdover (see Appendix B).
In the movies, snipers make kills at a mile or more simply by squinting to dramatic music and taking a few seconds to aim. Those of us who have made such shots know better; consistent extended range kills depend on careful preparation that gives you an intimate knowledge of your equipment and the shooting conditions.
It is a science as much as an art, and I couldn’t be happier with my instrument, the Sammut Custom Reticle.
Appendix A: Atmospheric Conditions in Limbunya
All values entered into ballistics software designed for use with my reticle.
- Barometric Pressure: 28.45 (unadjusted for altitude)
- Relative Humidity: 22%
- Temperature: 95 o F – 106 o F
- Elevation: 1,500 feet
Appendix B: Muzzle Velocities, comparison between San Francisco Bay Area and Australian Outback. All Measurements reflect feet/second.
30-06 Federal Classic 150 gr Remington Extended Range
- San Francisco: 2,907 (based on a 10 shot average)
- Australian Outback: 3,110 (based on a 6 shot average)
300 Winchester Mag 190 gr Remington Extended Range
- San Francisco: 2,889
- Australian Outback: 3,075
300 Warbird Handload
- San Francisco: 3,425 (based on a 6 shot average)
- Australian Outback: 3.446
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