Written by Tyler Frehner
This is a question commonly asked and also happens to be a very important one.
First off, dont go out and spend all your money on what you think you need. My suggestion is to attend a local match, and observe or bring what equipment you already have and shoot. Precision rifle shooting is full of people who will bend over backwards to help each other out. This goes double for new shooters. Almost everyone at these events is willing to help you and let you try out their equipment. Just make sure you are careful and respect it! This will provide you with the opportunity to see what you think is necessary before spending your hard earned cash. Often times what you think you need and what you actually need dont line up with each other. With that being said, lets start out with the equipment that most shooters use.
First and foremost, you need a rifle. Most commonly, shooters in this sport use Bolt-Action rifles but you will also see the occasional Semi-Automatic (most-commonly referred to in these circles as gas guns). Next up is picking an appropriate Caliber. This is a major topic of debate and there really is no right answer. For the most part, the rules are: any caliber between .224-.308, and must be slower than 3200 fps. Surprisingly, the more experienced shooters rarely use the larger calibers like 300 Winchester Magnum. Most experienced competitive shooters tend to stick to 6.5mm (6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington to name a few) or 6mms (.243 Winchester and 6 Creedmoor). There are many reasons why you should stick to these calibers, but it usually comes down to recoil management and ballistics. Dont get too bogged down on this. Bring whatever rifle you have to begin with, and you can upgrade a little at a time for the things you need, as it suits your budget. Another feature that precision rifle shooters value in their rifles is having a detachable box magazine. Buying a chassis or a stock with bottom metal to accept a magazine are two ways to gain this feature.
The next major component is the optic. Scopes are adjustable in either Milliradians or Minutes of Angle. Either one is fine, but you will see that the current trend is Milliradians. The first key feature is having an optic that has externally adjustable turrets, to compensate for elevation drop and wind drift. The next feature is the scopes reticle. Reticles allow for accurate measurement of targets and allow for holdovers and shot compensation. There are many different kinds of reticles and it is important that you choose one that appeals to you. There are also two major different types of scopes, which are first focal plane and second focal plane. The difference being that first focal plane reticles do not grow or shrink even though it appears that it does. Ultimately, this means that with a first focal plane scope there is one less calculation to make when measuring with the scopes reticle. Choosing a quality optic is very important, and again, one of the best ways to find what you like is to check out all of the shooters optics at a match. They will all be willing to help you out and are flattered that you are interested in their equipment.
Another vital piece of equipment is a bipod. Look to the shortest bipods (usually 6-9 inches) that allow you to swivel the rifle and to adjust for cant. Bipods are great for shooting prone, but they can also be used to push or pull on an obstacle to gain stability when you are unable to shoot from the prone position. Other things that are helpful are shooting bags. These bags are used to help build a solid shooting foundation in different positions or off different obstacles. There are many different types and sizes. When you go to your first match just take a small one for rear support. To get started, a rear bag can be made out of an old sock filled with rice. At the match, ask to borrow another persons bag and see what you like. Also pay close attention to how shooters use bags to build solid shooting positions on the barricade or obstacles. This will be a huge advantage to you if you can master shooting this way.
Lastly, is ammunition. Most serious shooters reload in order to obtain ammo that is tailored and more consistent to their rifle. However, in recent years, several companies have released factory ammunition that is purposely built for match shooters and for a reasonable price. Specifically, this ammo is widely available for 6.5 Creedmoor. In order to get consistent elevation drops down range, most shooters utilize a Ballistic Program. There are many of these programs available for your smart phone and aren’t too costly. Many of these programs can account for elevation drop, wind drift, moving target speed, environmental changes, and even for scopes that dont adjust perfectly.
Final Words of Advice
There you have it. One mans opinion on what you need to get into this awesome game. If there is only one thing you can take away from this article it is this… just go out and try a local shoot. Local shoots are so much fun, and the shooters are VERY welcoming! Almost all of us went out thinking that we were going to mop the floor against other shooters, because we thought we were the bomb! In reality, at that first match, we saw so many things that we had never even considered that could be done, but was done and with skill. This sport is fun, very humbling, educational, and a doorway to an amazing community.
To find local shoots in your area, go to nationalrifleleague.org at the clubs section. If there is nothing in your area, go to Facebook and request entry to National Rifle League Members. If you ask, we will help you! The long range shooting community is a group of amazing people that are too willing to help each other and have each others backs.
Below is a list of companies who sponsor the National Rifle League. We would humbly ask that when considering spending your hard earned money that you spend it with these companies who never forget to give back to the community. They are the ones behind the scenes the make this all possible:
Rifles Actions and Rifle Builders:
Stock and Chassis manufacturers:
If you are in need of a quality pistol or carbine:
General Shooting supplies: