Tag Archives: rifle shooting

REVIEW: A Long-Range Story: Hornady 4DOF Ballistics Calculator

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Here’s a new ballistics calculator that takes four important ballistic factors into account, not just BC, to provide radically more precise calculated bullet flight figures. Here’s how it works…

4DOF

by Richard Mann

The new Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator is so precise because it combines what Hornady calls the Four Degrees of Freedom. In other words, it takes into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack to generate a drag coefficient.

4 DOF

Recently, a few magazine editors visited for a week. Egos were on display and opinions were as thick as brass on the range at Gunsite Academy. The purpose of this get-together was to test about two dozen rifles, some purpose-built for connecting at extended distances. I have access to a 1,700-yard range and we spent the day there. My 17-year-old son, Bat, served as the official “range rat.”

After our 500-yard testing was complete, I told my associates I needed to get the DOPE (data of previous engagement) on my son’s African rifle. This would save a trip back to the range and give him some time behind the gun as payment for the support role he’d been filling.

The previous evening we had chronographed the Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X load for the 6.5 Creedmoor my son would be using. That velocity, along with the bullet and related specifics were entered into Hornady’s 4DOF ballistic calculator, which is available online. I’d printed the results and our goal was to confirm elevation come-ups out to 500 yards. Amazingly, this was done with 5 shots; my son connected center target at 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards. The data generated by the Hornady 4DOF calculator was spot-on.

Bat was having fun and shooting well, and since he now had the attention of the visiting editors, I figured, what the heck, he might as well try 700 yards. His first shot at 700 was about 2 inches high so he made a .25-MOA correction and fired again. Center hit! Now he really had their attention.

The next farthest target was at what I was told was 1,100 yards, and Bat asked if he could take a poke. I was skeptical and worried he’d blow the impression he’d already made on these experts, but figured the boy deserved a chance. The Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data called for a 38.25-MOA adjustment at 1,100 yards. I got on the spotting scope and told him, “Send it.” He did, and he missed high, by what appeared to be several feet.

I Instructed Bat to walk the reticle in the Bushnell 2.5-10X Engage riflescope — yes, this was a 10X riflescope — down 1 MOA at a time. At 3 MOA below center, I called the shot just left. (Wind is a terrible thing at 1,100 yards.) My instructions were to keep the same elevation hold but to also hold 2 MOA off the right edge. He pulled the trigger six times and achieved six hits. The onlookers were stunned, I however, was confused.

With the 4 DOF calculator from Hornady you can input your data and go to the range with total confidence it will be precise. Of course, remember, garbage in, garbage out. You have to input the right information.

4DOF printout

How could the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data be so correct out to 700 yards and be off so much at 1,100? A range finder and a return to the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator answered the question. Instead of 1,100 yards, the target was at 1,048 yards. Resetting the Hornady 4DOF calculator to display come-ups in increments of 10 yards, it showed the proper correction for that distance to be 35.25 MOA. With our original 38.25-MOA correction we were 3 MOA or about 33 inches high. Had we known the correct range to the target, the 4DOF-generated data would have allowed for an easy first or, since we had a bit of wind, second-round hit.

What makes all this possible is the math and mechanics behind the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator system. Its four degrees of freedom, taking into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack, allow trajectory solutions to be calculated with a drag coefficient instead of a ballistic coefficient (BC). It’s also the first publicly available ballistics calculator capable of determining the accurate vertical shift a bullet experiences as it encounters a crosswind, which is known as aerodynamic jump.

By using Doppler radar and actually shooting bullets, Hornady calculates the exact drag curve for every projectile in the 4DOF Bullet Library. (Currently there are more than 100 projectiles from Hornady, Lapua, Berger and Sierra.) BC can change as velocity changes, a drag curve doesn’t. Explained simply, instead of using BC, which gives you a snapshot of a bullet at various distances; Hornady has created a video of the bullet’s flight. This allows the 4DOF calculator to predict drop with perfection at any distance, every time.

The takeaway from all this — the one that’ll matter to you and your ammo — is that the Hornady 4DOF ballistic calculator is extraordinarily precise. Taking data this exact to the field on a first try is as rare as 17-year-old boys who can hit at 1,100 yards, six times in a row.

Check it out HERE

Download the app HERE for iOS

Download the app HERE for Android

Shooting Skills: Shooting The Breeze, 3

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Putting it together: follow these suggestions and lose your fear of the wind!

Glen Zediker

Up to here we’ve talked over the influential factors wind brings with it. Here’s how to take it right back to the wind.

First, there are two essential “types” of shooters with respect to how they adjust for the wind on each shot. Dopers and chasers. I’m a chaser. A doper, wind doper, is one who carefully studies inputs and makes what amounts to a unique correction for each round fired. I say unique because it takes more time. They constantly evaluate and calculate the influence and often do much of it using one of the hand-held wind-meters talked about earlier.

I’m a “spotter-chaser,” which is actually a tad amount demeaning term branded on my style by the dopers. Technically I’m not really “chasing the spotter,” which means adjusting based solely on the position of the last shot. No. I’m anticipating a needed change based on observation between shots, but I’m doing it quickly, and I use the spotter location to confirm or modify my setting. That tells me if I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing. (A spotter is an easily-visible disk on a spindle that’s inserted into the location of the last shot hole by the folks pulling targets in the pits.)

Remember what was said last time about wind cycles? Usually there’s between 6-8 minutes before a cycle repeats, a little more or a little less. I want to get all my rounds downrange, if target pit service allows, during one cycle. Shooting into a build-up, watch for indications of a wind velocity increase. If the wind is moving left to right, I don’t want to see anything too close to the right edge of the 10-ring; I hedge a half-minute of angle or so to guard against losing a shot that direction if there’s an increase I missed, but not hedging so much that I’ll be too close to the left edge if I misread and overcorrect for a pick-up.

Pick one indicator, stay with it.

David Tubb
Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. David Tubb demonstrates.

There are resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. It’s also how to know when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

wind zero
Shooting into and through a buildup is a good strategy. My plan is to hedge against losing a shot “out” so I normally have an “insurance click” on to guard against missing an increase in wind value, and also hoping a sudden decrease doesn’t bite me and land one inside the wind. 10s win. Clearly, being able to honestly and precisely call a shot is a huge asset. That’s the only way to get good feedback from the last shot location.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. Once a string starts it’s ones and twos, back and forth. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and that’s why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

Speaking of getting on target. If it’s an NRA High Power Rifle event, you’ll get two sighters. I put my best-guess correction on before the first sighter, plus two clicks extra into the wind. Example: it’s quartering left to right and I’m guessing 2MOA, so that’s 8 clicks in the “left” direction, so I put on 10. That’s how I find out if I saw what I thought I saw. Then, and this is very important: Make a full correction off the result of that first sighter! Put the clicks on that would have centered that shot. The exception is if there was a notable change sensed between the first and second, but, even so, first sighting shot location lets you know if you got the value (what the wind is worth) under control. There’s one more round to go before you’re on record, so interpret from that and start the string.

sighter correction
Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.

If you’re not at an organized event, having a spotter helps! Getting someone to watch for impacts while you shoot is a huge time-saver.

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles available for download visit ZedikerPubllishing.com

Shooting Skills: Shooting the Breeze, 2

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Adjusting for wind effect first comes from collecting information. There are two main components and one very important key. These three steps are essential. Keep reading to learn more.


Glen D. Zediker


Learning to shoot well on a windy day involves inputs. A lot of inputs.

Pretty much: wind speed and wind direction are the combining key factors that determine how much sight correction or “hold off” (if you prefer) is needed to get to target center. Speed and direction inputs combine to make a decision on the correction amount. Speed and direction, in tandem, have compounding or offsetting influences on the amount of correction. If either changes, the correction changes.

For instance: if the direction changes and the speed stays the same or the speed changes and the direction stays the same, it’s just more or less correction. But it’s imperative to keep in mind that these are linked.

Most shooting ranges, if construction plans made it reasonably feasible, are set up facing North. That helps. Head- and tail-wind components are less influential than the cross-wind component.

1. Estimate Speed
Being a competitive shooter and, therefore, an admittedly unashamed gamesman, employing some sort of short-cut electronic trickery comes first to mind. A wind meter is the fastest and surest way to get a start on a number. There are very good hand-held meters available, and these range in cost, convenience, and complexity levels. Some provide vauable additional information (such as density altitude), the use of which will be talked on another time.

wind meter
Learning to read wind speed comes only from experience, but something like one of these Caldwell-brand units jumps the learning curve way on up in a hurry. It’s simple, accurate, and well worth the less than $100 it costs. This is the Cross Wind Professional Wind Meter. See more HERE.

Visible indicators are simply observations. If it’s a shooting range, and if there are wind flags, look at the angle the wind is standing a flag out to, divide that by 4 and that’s a close approximation of wind speed. Of course, that depends on the flag material, and so on. Wind flags mostly help sense direction.

I know this is a serious cop-out, but experience is really the only teacher. There’s an old-school wind estimation guide first published eons ago that provides some input on guessing wind strength based on environmental clues. Click HERE to download an updated copy of the “Beaufort Scale.”

Stop! The wind doesn’t always blow the same the entire span of the range. Especially in the West, it’s plenty common to see faster or slower velocity areas between the firing line and the targets. Trees, ground clutter, topography, and so on, all create either passages or obstructions to the flow of the wind. Up to 600 yards, wind nearer the shooter should be given more weight; beyond that distance, wind strength nearer the targets is likely to exert disproportionate influence on the bullet. Reason is a matter of bullet velocity at the point of more or less wind impact. To be clear: even if we’re seeing relatively calm conditions at, say 500 yards, but it’s a tad amount gusty up close to the muzzle, early deflection of the bullet compounds to exert a stronger influence the farther the bullet travels.

range wind speed
Wind doesn’t always blow the same across the full depth and breadth of the range. Up to 500-600 yards, give a little more weight to the wind behavior (speed mostly) nearer the firing line. And, keep in mind that you’re shooting down a one-target-width corridor! Pay attention where it matters.

2. Determine Direction
This should be easy. However! Direction can change just as can speed. It’s not normally going to swap, but rather will vary in fractional shifts. A ticklish wind is a “fishtail” that waffles between 11 and 1 o’clock.

range flag
If there are flags on your shooting range, they mostly function to indicate wind direction, but can be a clue to wind speed: divide the angle by 4 and get an approximation of speed in miles per hour. Call this one 18 mph.

3. Find The Pattern
This may be the most important advice I can give on wind shooting. Wind cycles. Rarely does it blow at a constant and steady rate for very long. Wind cycles every 5-10 minutes. It builds, then peaks, then drops, then as implied, it runs the cycle again. That doesn’t necessarily mean it goes from calm to windy; it goes from windy to windier. But it will change, and most often will do so predictably. Watch the wind for a spell, running a stopwatch, and make notes on what you’re estimating for values at the high and low in the cycle.

At a tournament I want to shoot into a build-up, or, in other words, start my string at the low point in the cycle. And I also want to shoot all my rounds within the timeframe of the cycle! We have 20 minutes at the 600-yard-line, so scheduling can be an important part of strategy for this yard-line.

wind cycle
The most important thing I can tell you about wind: It cycles! Pay attention before you shoot and time the highs and lows you see. Chances are this pattern will repeat over and over at least for the next hour or so. This knowledge is also a huge help to varmint hunters.

If you know what amount a 10-mile-per-hour crosswind will (is supposed to) move your bullet at some distance, interpret the initial correction from that. If you guess the wind at 5 mph, take half of it; if the angle is less than full-value, reduce the correction as discussed last time by the fractional value, like half of the estimated amount for a wind that’s moving from 4:30 to 10:30.

clock face
For reference…

None of this is finite. Reading wind is more art than science. Next time I’ll talk about how to put all the inputs to use and keep all your shots on target.


Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles available for download visit ZedikerPubllishing.com

Shooting Skills: Shooting the Breeze

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Longer-range rifle shooting isn’t easy, and it’s more difficult when the wind is blowing. Here’s a head start on learning to determine and correct for environmental conditions.


Glen D. Zediker


When I very first started up working with Midsouth, I had quite a few folks writing and requesting to learn more about shooting, and, specifically, NRA High Power Rifle competition. It did my heart good to learn that these folks knew my name and associated it with that venue. HPR has been the main focus of my shooting career. That background is the reason I began the “Shooting Skills” portion of the newsletter, and for a few installments upcoming I will oblige to further go a little deeper.

Wind.

That’s one of the first things that comes to anyone’s mind when High Power is the topic. Describe the tournament course of fire and when you get to “…then 20 rounds at 600 yards…” that one creates a tad amount of anxiety in the imagination.

600 yard shooting
t’s a big, wide, windy world out there. There are several influential factors beyond wind speed and direction, and this series will piece them all together to provide a picture of how to anticipate wind effect on your bullet.

First comment is almost always, “How do you shoot that far with iron sights?” And that’s easy: the target is huge! The aiming black or bullseye is scaled up to a diameter that provides a clear reference to position the sight. And then the next is, “What about the wind…” Well. First, it’s really not that difficult. Second, it’s also really not that easy. You need to know a few things, so here’s where we’ll start.

To be sure, organized competition is not the only venue where learning to shoot in the wind helps. It’s a skill that anyone who fires across more than 200 yards worth of real estate needs to develop. It’s a little easier in a shooting contest because there’s some feedback to work with: holes in the target.

There are two influential components to wind, and, “influential” means the effect on moving the bullet. Speed + Direction. There are good ballistic programs and apps now that provide approximate values: input the points (bullet ballistic coefficient and wind speed) and get a fast answer. That answer is liable to be incomplete, and by that I mean it’s rare indeed to dial in the given solution and hit the target. One at a time we’ll look at other factors which, taken all together, will get you a whole lot closer on that first shot.

The better apps allow also for angular extrapolation, and that is important. Otherwise, if you’re looking at a table the drift amount will be for a “full-value” wind, which is blowing at a right angle or perpendicular to the rifle barrel. Straight crosswind, 9-o’clock to 3-o’clock, or vice versa. If there’s an angle involved, reduce the amount of anticipated drift based directly on the angle: if the wind is angling from, say, 8-o’clock to 2-o’clock we’d say that was a “half value.” From 7-o’clock to 1-o’clock that’s closer to a “quarter value.” So if the drift table says 12 inches, half is 6 and a quarter is 3. At 600 yards it doesn’t really matter if the wind is coming in or going out: head- or tail-winds have little unique influence on the bullet.

And speaking of, there is a different set of “rules” for 1000 yards and more, or maybe I should say different applications or emphases. The reason is because the bullet has slowed down that much more.

At minimum you’ll need to know the advertised BC or ballistic coefficient of your bullet and its muzzle velocity. I wish I didn’t have to continually offer up all the “maybes” and qualifications, but I do because they exist. The actual realized or demonstrated BC of any bullet varies day to day, often during the day. Velocites can also change a bit for varied reasons. However! None of this honestly really matters to the score and that is because the combination of BC and velocity just gets us “close” and finds a place to start from. Ballistics is a finite science, but there are no finite results. With experience you’ll see that BC is really mostly a way to compare different bullets; its value in making truly accurate and finite corrections is limited.

David Tubb 115 RBT 6mm
High-BC profiles are a big bonus, but there’s no magic bullet. The reason better bullets are better is not because there will be less correction on the sight. That doesn’t really matter all that much. Why they are better is because they are less affected by an immediate and perhaps unforeseen change in the wind stats. They are deflected less by, say, a 1 mile-per-hour shift. Shown is a 115 RBT 6mm developed by David Tubb. It’s slick…

All this is affected by air density and that’s a whole other topic for a whole other time. And there’s another list of inputs that each have an influence, and that, again, is why this little series is a series.

Dang. There’s a lot to talk about and I’m pretty much out of space. That’s what “next times” are for. I’ll keep this going long enough to provide some genuine help.

Understand that arriving at a sight solution that keeps the shots in the center involves more input that any “drift/drop” equation can provide.


Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Zediker Publishing. Glen Zediker has worked professionally with some of the greatest shooters on the planet, and he does pretty well on his own: Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, please check ZedikerPublishing.com

Shooting Skills: Take a deep breath…

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…then let it out and read this to learn how to maximize on-target accuracy and consistency…


Glen Zediker


We’ve talked about what I call the “true fundamentals” of shooting. Put the sight on the target and pull the trigger without moving the sight… And we’ve talked about some of the mechanics, like natural point of aim, sight picture, and the trigger itself, that combine to assist this goal.

david tubb
Holding still sometimes takes more thought, and effort, than we might realize. Shooting well is a truly multi-faceted task that shooters like 11-time National Champion David Tubb have attended to through miniscule details, like being aware of the physical state continually while performing.

Another crucial and largely unknown element is controlling breathing. Right. That thing we do to stay awake and alive. Breathing can be a calculated technique among competitive shooters, and that is because the state of the body in the framework of making a shot is a defining element in the effectiveness of the shooting platform. That platform, by they way, is you!

I’ll break it down, and then offer a few suggestions on how to incorporate a better understanding of the dynamics of maintaining human oxygen supply.

When we are breathing when doing nothing in particular but living, we’re not taking the deepest breaths we can when we inhale, and we’re not expelling all the air we had when we exhale. We’re also not breathing in and out, in and out, in and out in constant successions. We breathe in to a comfortable level. Hold that a bit. We breathe out to a comfortable level. And then we hold that state for a bit. Then we very naturally breathe in again. These cycles are on a balanced rhythm, and a relatively shallow cycle. It’s a lot different than when we’re doing something strenuous, like running.

So. To fire a gun from our most stable state, make the trigger break in what shooting coaches call “the natural respiratory pause.” That’s the state between exhaling and inhaling. From a “human machine” standpoint, that’s when the body is most calm and stable.

breathing cycles for best shooting
Learn to use the natural pattern of your breathing to experience the most effective (steadiest) hold. When we breathe normally we don’t inhale as much air as we can hold and then blow it all out, and we also don’t breathe continually in and out, in and out. Rather, we simply inhale and exhale to levels that are comfortable to us. Take aim and fire the shot when you have reached what some call the “natural respiratory pause,” or the natural resting point prior to inhalation where we are “using” the oxygen we have retained.

It’s a narrow window. That window of opportunity varies widely depending on a lot of factors, but some experience dry-firing will show you where you stand.

When the body needs more oxygen, there are a few symptomatic results that get in the way of a steady hold. There are more eloquent ways to say it, but we get “the shakes.” The wobbles, the heaves and hos. It’s an unmistakable sensation. Visual acuity also diminishes. And, also, since we’re trying to finish something important (hit the target) anxiety takes over when we’re not getting cooperation between target and sight locations. Essentially, there’s an urge to slap the trigger and “get it over with.”

Do not “take a deep breath and hold it…” That supplies oxygen, to be sure. But it also creates tension in the body. Trying to keep that breath held has as bad an effect on stability as does trying to not breathe back in.

Breathing during a shot continually changes the location of the sight. Try it and you’ll see. Filling the lungs, emptying the lungs, both change the posture. From prone, it’s easy to see the effect on the vertical location of the sight. This, by the way, is the root of the “consistency” element of breathing. It’s very important to the goal to fire shot after shot after shot onto the same point.

Firing shots in succession, keep breathing, just time the shots with the natural pause. For a Rapid Fire event string in NRA High Power Rifle, which isn’t all that rapid (either 60 or 70 seconds to fire 10 rounds) I take a breath between each shot, and then settle down to my holding point. Now. Really rapid succession, like bam-bam-bam, it’s possible to fire quite a few well-directed rounds off of one pause. If that’s not enough, experiment with learning to take very shallow breaths in and out during the duration of the hose-down. I’ve used that “tactic” on very windy days when the standing position hold was a tad amount fluctuating, to avoid frequent restarts. It “works” for a couple of attempts to get a breakable sight picture, before muscle fatigue sets in.

Speaking of: there’s no question that the better physical condition someone is in, the better able they’ll be to extend a steady hold. Pulse also factors mightily: a beating heart moves the rifle. This is really evident shooting prone from a sling-supported position. A regular breathing pattern with no overt highs and lows combats heart rate increases. Taking in huge amounts of air prior to mounting up a rifle actually can backfire; that often causes a “spike” in body movement about 15 seconds afterward. Pulse quickens and becomes more intense when oxygen levels drop.

Main point here is do not “over-hold.” When you’re out of air, you’re out of time. Break it down, and start it again.


For more shooting tips and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com; all are free to download.