At 2.35 Miles, This Is The Longest Rifle Shot Ever Recorded In Competition

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 4 months ago

Outdoor Life.

Ryan Cheney, a 41-year-old competitive ELR shooter from Conway Springs, Kansas, just made a couple of those shots that are going to be tough to top. In a competition last weekend, Cheney put two impacts on steel that were jaw-droppingly impressive.

He hit a plate at 3,592 yards—which itself was a record hit for a .33-caliber projectile—but then managed to drop a shot on a piece of 6-foot by 6-foot steel at 4,134 yards, which is 2.35 miles. Here’s his account of the achievement, which took place at the Spearpoint Ranch in Barnard, Kansas, on March 27.

“The day started off late. We had fog until 10 a.m. and couldn’t shoot until it cleared off. My squad started on targets five and six (T5 and T6) at 2,073 and 2,203 yards. You had to hit T6 at 2,203 to advance to the far plates. I had some elevation issues with target six because of the 17 to 26 mph 4:30 wind. It was squirrely, pushing the bullets high or dropping them low because of the hilly, uneven terrain.  Luckily, I hit it on the fifth and final attempt to be able to engage the bonus target 3,592 yards. The rest of the targets from T1 to T4 went well, and I cleaned T4, going 5-for-5 at 1,942 yards.

“Then came the bonus plates at 3,592 and 4,137. In order to shoot at the 4,137-yard target, you had to hit the 3,592-yard plate first. The first four shots, my spotters and I saw the misses as I got closer and closer to hitting the plate. On the fifth and final shot at 3,592 we didn’t see where it went, so I grabbed my gear and left the firing line thinking I had missed.

“That’s when I was approached by another shooter who said I hit the bottom right portion of the plate, and I looked through his spotter to confirm. I could definitely see a splash from my 300-grain Hornady A-Tip on the steel. I talked to the score keepers watching the target cameras and they confirmed they could see what looked like an impact on the plate as well.

“About 30 minutes later, after the other shooters had cycled through, I was able to get back on my gun and try for the long plate. The sun had just set and it was pretty dark looking through my Nightforce ATACR scope fitted with a Charlie Tarac Macro Charlie optical prism. I had dialed all the elevation in my scope, 33 mils above my zero, and had an extra 35 mils thanks to the prism. Even so, I was holding 10 mils over the target, for a total of 78 mils of elevation. [Editor’s note: At 1,000 yards, this puts the shot more than 200 feet above the ground.] I had to zoom out to about 17x in order to do that, putting the 11-mil mark on my Mil-C reticle right at the bottom of the image. I had also dialed 6 mils of right wind, the max my scope allowed, and had to hold an extra 1.2 mils more into no-man’s land for the 7.2 mil windage correction. [Editor’s note: That’s about 90 feet of wind drift at 4,134 yards.] Luckily, Steve Ream and Rusty Newton worked together to spot for me, and brought me onto the plate to make a fourth-round impact. At that point, I could barely see anything. It was dark and, at 17-power, that 6-foot plate at 4,100 yards was very small.

“After the match we went downrange to check the plates, and sure enough, there was a single, beautiful lead splash on both targets.

With custom rifles and high powered scopes and a lot of practice, combined with very meticulous hand loading, these guys are just getting better and better at putting shots a very long ways down range.


Comments

  1. On March 30, 2021 at 4:13 am, Show Me said:

    It’s more like lobbing artillery shells, at those distances. I’ve never watched this in action, but the tilt of the gun must be obvious at that point. Amazing stuff.

  2. On March 30, 2021 at 10:19 am, Luke said:

    Very impressive. Where I live it’s hard to comprehend. Lots of trees, hills and valleys. 600-1000 yards is hard find or shoot.

  3. On March 30, 2021 at 5:22 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Show Me

    Re: “It’s more like lobbing artillery shells, at those distances. I’ve never watched this in action, but the tilt of the gun must be obvious at that point. Amazing stuff.”

    Your description is apt. At short-medium ranges, high-powered rifles are line-of-sight, direct-fire weapons – as the military calls them. Fairly-flat trajectory, hence mostly line-of-sight use. But as ranges lengthen, these become more akin to indirect-fire/high-angle/non-LOS weapons such as mortars or howitzers and other forms of heavy artillery.

    And note, that the flatter the trajectory, the less real-world penalty for misjudging the range. But as ranges lengthen into the thousands of yards and then miles, the trajectory of the projectile becomes increasingly parabolic, morphing into what the military calls “plunging fire.” Such use demands precise range and other calculations for effectiveness in the field.

    Artillery fire-control is not a new science, but a fairly mature one. With the advent of long-range heavy land-based and naval artillery in the 1880s and 1890s, the artillery specialists (naval and ground forces alike) were forced to go back to their calculus and other advanced mathematics in order to solve the computations necessary for accurate shooting at ranges approaching twenty miles, in the case of the largest and most-powerful 14-to-16-inch naval guns.

    That’s why the fighting tops of battleships are so high above the water: To enable their spotters and lookouts on those observations platforms to have a better chance of spotting the fall of shot with the aid of high-powered spotting scopes and binoculars and also to account for the curvature of the earth at those distances.

    Likewise, the optical range-finders are so sited as to permit as unobstructed view of the target area as possible. Such sights – such as coincidence range-finders – are often constructed such that two lenses are separated by some distance form the base of a triangle,which then serves as the basis of the trigonometric problem for determining range. Using stadia lines of known calibration inside the optical viewfinder, and known dimensions of enemy ships, for example, then it is possible to calculate an accurate range to target and devise a firing solution.

    By the time of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and the naval battle of Tsushima, the world’s best navies had already mastered long-range gunnery to a great extent, and could score hits at ranges far out of reach only 10-15 years before.

    At first, such calculations were done by hand using slide-rules and other relatively crude devices, but by the time of WWII, the first electro-mechanical firing computers had been invented. Radar then revolutionized the field yet again. “R-a-d-a-r” meaning “radio direction and ranging.” By war’s end, extremely accurate first-round salvos were possible from battleship main guns, even at extreme distances and under conditions of darkness, fog or smoke which impeded visual contact.

    So, although naval and land-based gunnery is a mature science, those developments haven’t trickled over to small arms to any great an extent until fairly recently. The technology of long-range and extreme long-range rifle-fire, optics, range-finding, target observation and other areas had to do some advancing first.

    The Global War on Terror has really pushed these advancements forward a great deal, thanks to the fact that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan both were – or became – “sniper’s wars” with ample opportunities for ELR shooting. And the purse-strings for R&D funding – both private and public – were loosened a great deal as a result. In 1990, a 1,000 yard shot was still considered impressive; today, the longest confirmed sniper kills on record are out past two miles, and even the little old lady down the block can ring steel at a grand, without any problem.

    Long-range shooting is both an art and a science, thanks to the fact that not all of the variables can be controlled for in real-world and real-time applications, especially the wind. Measurement and modeling of down-range winds has gotten much better than it used to be, but it is still far from perfect. Cold-bore shots and first-round hits are still very difficult even for the best pros, at extreme long-range, and there’s still plenty of luck involved.

  4. On March 30, 2021 at 6:35 pm, Frank Clarke said:

    A rule of thumb for calculating the distance to the horizon is to take the square root of the observers eye and multiply by 4/3 (the actual formula is more muscle-y).

    To see FOS at 20 miles, the observer has to be about 260 feet high. Are battleships that tall?

  5. On March 30, 2021 at 8:54 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Frank Clarke

    Re: “To see FOS at 20 miles, the observer has to be about 260 feet high. Are battleships that tall?”

    Observing the fall of shot, i.e., splashes from misses, may not be possible at that extreme of a distance, or possible only under some conditions. It is possible somewhat closer, and given the immense size of the largest men-of-war, they also can be seen at long ranges.

    Far as how tall a battleship is, I have seen the U.S.S. Missouri berthed at Pearl Harbor, and her main-mast is quite high above the water. Of course, being radar-equipped, she relied on technology more than the human senses, to direct fire. But I don’t know the figure for the height of the upper-most observation positions, maybe one of the former navy or coast-guard people reading this will chime in.

    Apparently, others find such questions fascinating intellectual exercises, since this is what I found with even a cursory search on the subject:

    https://www.mathscinotes.com/2017/12/earths-curvature-and-battleship-gunnery/

    But returning to being able to see long distances at sea, even the unaided eye is capable of perceiving much if atmospheric conditions are good, and with a camera equipped with decent lenses, that range is extended. This can be shown easily via reference to combat photos and film footage taken at sea during various battles. A ship as large as a carrier or battleship is – or can be – visible from miles away. If it is running at flank speed and has a large bow-wave – that also aids in the task. And its wake and the smoke from its funnel also serve as visual aids.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published March 29th, 2021 by Herschel Smith.

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