By Justin Moore
Paso Robles, CA – -(Ammoland.com)- At the end of April, Tim Frampton (Weatherby Marketing Coordinator) and I flew out to Gunsite Academy to take a 3-day class on long-range shooting.
When we landed at the Phoenix airport we met up with 3 industry writers; Guy Sagi (Shooting Illustrated), Richard Mann (every magazine out there), and Andre’ M. Dall’au (Harris Publications) and caravanned out to Prescott, Arizona with Tim O’Connor of Leupold.
The following morning the final member of our party, Andrew L. Butts (columnist for PoliceOne.com), met up with us at the hotel for a quick bite to eat then we jumped in our black SUVs (reminiscent of a presidential motorcade) and made our way to Gunsite.
Upon arriving, there was no need to seek out directions or ask where we needed to go, our instructors were waiting patiently for us as we pulled into the parking lot. To say that they exuded professionalism is an understatement, and every instruction for our entire stay was clear and concise. Right away we were in our classroom talking about safety. Our instructor, Walt Wilkinson, and the Rangemaster, Mike Moore, briefed us on what we were going to be covering and the safety procedures they expected.
The next step was picking out the firearm, our pride and joy for the next 3 days, a Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 TRR RC, chambered in 308. Then we received our optics, a Leupold Tactical Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm with a Mil-Dot reticle. Tim O’Connor then took the stage to teach a class on advanced optics and how to properly mount and zero a scope.
Trust me, no matter how much you know about scopes, Tim will still tell you something you didn’t know before.
After lunch, we made our way to our first range session. Black Hills Ammunition was nice enough to co-sponsor the event and they sent us A LOT of ammunition to use.
Their participation was greatly appreciated because the combination shot outstanding!
We were shooting 180 grain Nosler AccuBonds out of the 308s, and our goal by the end of the afternoon was to have our scopes dialed in out to 200 yards. Mission accomplished, with ease.
The following morning we were back in the classroom where Walt was teaching us long-range shooting and spotting techniques and practices.
After a couple of hours we made our way to a new range that was polka-dotted with steel targets throughout the high desert sage and juniper, just waiting for us to make them sing with a copper and lead projectile. With the help of our instructors, we all got our D.O.P.E. (Data On Previous Engagement) out to 800 yards before lunch.
Kryptek, another co-sponsor of the event, sent us a prototype of one of their new lightweight hunting jackets and pants to try out in the high desert of Arizona.
Not only was it cool enough to wear throughout the day but I also noted how well the pattern mimics the terrain. No wonder the Army is considering their patterns as a replacement for their current lineup.
We then made our way to Sniper Ridge, a small ridge overlooking a dry creek bed with camouflaged targets at various ranges and elevations. Just looking at it generated the same feelings as a 5-year-old getting to experience Christmas morning, birthday presents, and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies all rolled into one.
Five different firing points were located down the ridgeline and we were told where the targets were located, approximately. Finding the targets and making them ring from 250 yards to just over 900, was an adrenaline rush that none of us will soon forget.
The biggest surprise was how much fun spotting was; being able to find a target, judge the wind, tell the “monkey” to send the bullet, watch the vapor trail curve wide then straight back in to hear the loud metal “gong” was instantly gratifying.
For the final afternoon at Gunsite we brought out the really long-range stuff, a couple of Mark V TRR Custom Magnums chambered in 338 Lapua. The ranges of the targets varied from 900 to just over 1300 yards, and for those ranges, our instructors volunteered to spot for us. Winds were gusting upwards of 15 mph quartering towards us which made the shots a little more difficult however with very experienced spotters calling the wind we had no problems hitting center mass. Of course, good optics helped our shooting immensely.
The Mark Vs had Leupold Tactical scopes mounted, a Mark 4 ER/T 6.5-20x50mm M5A2 with an H58 reticle, and a Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm M5B2 Illuminated Tremor2 (the Mark 8 will be available sometime in June).
The ammo we were using for the Mark Vs was Black Hills Ammunition loaded with 300 Grain Sierra Matchkings, which were being pushed to 2800 fps. That’s 5,223 foot-pounds of energy! The 308 shooting a 180-grain projectile at 2700 fps has 2,913 foot-pounds of energy for comparison.
Gunsite Academy goes above and beyond in every aspect. The level of knowledge and professionalism is unmatched and their training is the culmination of countless years of training and field experience. The three-day class that was given to us was really two or three classes that each comprise of 3-5 days, so we missed out on some very critical training due to time constraints but Walt and Mike were very good at compressing a lot of material into a short amount of time.
I look forward to my next trip to Gunsite.
About Justin Moore
Justin Moore is the Assistant Director of Marketing for Weatherby, Inc. and has been in the hunting and shooting industry since 2003. Justin grew up in rural Eastern Oregon where his father, an employee of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, frequently had him in the field working with wildlife biologists and on the family farm before he was even able to attend school. www.weatherby.com