There have always been a niche group of shooters pushing the limits when it comes to distance. But over the past few years, advancements in manufacturing combined with better understanding and tools around predictive ballistics have ushered Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting into the mainstream. A decade ago, the few shooters who could hit targets at a mile or more were considered super-human. Today, distances once considered impossible with shoulder-fired rifles can now be hit on-demand by just about any shooter with the right equipment and desire to learn.
I’ve been a long-range addict for several years now, but that has primarily involved targets from 400-1200 yards in PRS-style matches and hunting. I’d occasionally stretch out to distances of 1 mile or a little more, but it was rare. Over the past 18 months, I’ve become intrigued by ELR. Getting first round hits beyond 2,000 yards requires some specialized knowledge and tools, and a radically different rifle setup than what you find at PRS-style matches. While the fundamentals of marksmanship and a few other things still apply, there may be more differences between ELR and PRS shooting than similarities. It’s certainly a different game all together! I’ve been fortunate to have conversations with a few of the shooters leading the way when it comes to ELR, and I thought you guys might like to join me in learning about the current trends in ELR shooting.
Instead of jumping straight into the super-niche rifle platforms used for engaging targets out to 3500 or 4000+ yards, I’ll start by looking at rifle setups that are effectively the middle-ground between those extreme rigs and the precision rifles I typically write about that are chambered in mid-sized cartridges like 6.5 Creedmoor and 6×47 Lapua. That middle-ground rifle chambered in cartridges like the 300 Norma Mag are ideal for engaging targets from 1000 to 2000 yards. These kinds of rifles represent what the top shooters are using for matches like the Q Creek Extended Long Range PRS match that is coming up in a couple of weeks in Wyoming.
I’m also working with Bryan Litz and the team from Applied Ballistics on a subsequent post that will focus on the super-high performance rifle builds and gear those guys are using this year. The Applied Ballistics Shooting Team represent the cutting edge when it comes to ELR (winning the King of 2 Miles competition 2 years in a row), so I was excited when they agreed to help me share the equipment and tools they’re currently using to push the limits of what is possible. I’ll also share some of their tips on how to get started and lessons they’ve learned along the way.
But, let’s start this series of posts by clarifying what we’re talking about when it comes to “ELR” shooting.
What is ELR Shooting?
There are a lot of opinions out there on what “ELR” is. Because it’s still a new and emerging field, there isn’t much standardization around it yet. When someone hears the term “ELR” they might think of “Extended Long Range” or “Extreme Long Range.” Some even use terms like “Ultra-Long Range,” and may use all those terms interchangeably – which makes it even more confusing!
If you asked 100 shooters what is “long range” compared to “extended” or “extreme” long range, you’d likely get 100 different answers. But the diagram below is a rough approximation of the distances many shooters and competitions relate to these terms.
Clear as mud?! 😉 The blurry lines can make it difficult to even have conversations around these topics. In fact, not having a standard language can hinder the progress of this emerging sport. That’s exactly why the guys over at Applied Ballistics started ELR Central. ELR Central is not a governing body. Their goal is to contribute to the advancement of ELR by creating a common language, sharing knowledge, and encouraging best practices. The role of ELR Central is not to restrict anything, but rather to share information and best practices for the benefit of the sport. With that said, here is how Bryan Litz from Applied Ballistics (pictured behind the rifle at the top of the post) answers the question “What is ELR?”
ELR may mean something different for a .308 Winchester shooter as compared to a .50 BMG shooter. Where is the threshold between normal long range and Extreme Long Range generally considered to be? The fact is that range becomes “extremely long” at different distances depending on the performance of the rifle you’re shooting. … I’ve suggested a possible definition for ELR shooting as: Shooting beyond the supersonic range of your particular rifle system. Although this definition is good in the sense that it connects to the performance of any rifle, it fails to provide an easy, simple answer to the question: What is ELR? Based on this definition, ELR is somewhere between 700 yards and 2700 yards, depending on rifle system and atmospherics.
In polling many ELR shooters from around the world who engage the sport in various ways, there is a general consensus that ELR is in the neighborhood of 1200 yards to one mile (1760 yards) and past, with 1500 yards being a good middle ground that most can accept as ELR distance. At 1500 yards, most normal rifle/cartridge/bullet combinations of .30 caliber and under are all transonic or very close at 1500 yards. To remain supersonic to ranges substantially past 1500 yards requires a larger caliber like .338 or .375 caliber which are both very common in modern ELR events, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For our purposes, we’ll consider ranges of 1500 yards and greater to be what defines ELR.
While some may not 100% agree with that definition, I believe in this case being unified is more important than being “right.” Since there is already so much confusion around what we’re even talking about, I suggest we all adopt that definition: ELR stands for “Extreme Long Rage” and refers to distances beyond 1500 yards. We’ll resign “Extended Long Range” to a secondary term that is more loosely defined to be somewhere between “normal” long range and “extreme” long range.
Through the next couple posts, I’ll share some info related to the specialized rifles and gear top shooters are using to engage targets into these extreme distances. Stay tuned!