I’m sharing a series of posts on ELR shooting, but I didn’t want to jump from the long-range rifles in mid-size 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges that I normally talk about straight into the extreme, super-high-performance 375+ caliber rifles used to engage targets at 2+ miles. Instead of just presenting the extremes, I thought it’d be helpful to first share a rifle setup that is somewhere in between. Then in later posts I’ll get into the more specialized setups used to push the boundaries of what is possible with shoulder-fired rifles.
In this post, I’ll share the details of a rifle I built that is optimized for engaging targets from 1000 to 2000 yards. It can obviously hit at shorter ranges, and I’ve used it to score a first-round hit in competition out to 2,640 yards (1.5 miles). But as I was making design choices for this rifle, I had steel targets from 1000 to 2000 yards in mind. I plan to use this in the upcoming Q Creek Extended Long Range PRS match (more on that towards the end of this post). Here’s an overview of the rifle setup:
I actually have barrels in both 338 Lapua Mag and 300 Norma Mag for this rifle. I can swap the barrels between the two cartridges in less than 20 minutes with just a few basic tools. The rifle started life as a custom Surgeon Remedy .338 Lapua Rifle that I bought from EuroOptic.com. They still have a couple of rifles in stock that are identical to the setup I bought. I’ve added and changed a few things on the rifle as I’ve been using it over the past 18 months. I’ll walk through each part of the rifle and explain the thought process behind the design choices.
Action & Chassis
From the start, I was drawn to the Surgeon XL action for the rifle build. While I intentionally avoid “brand allegiance” and always use whatever I believe is the best at the time, I’ve used Surgeon 591 short actions extensively in the past, and love their integral recoil lug and integral picatinny rail. They also run extremely smoothly, and I’ve used them for thousands of rounds in harsh environments (i.e. field conditions with lots of blowing dust and even rain) without a single failure.
The Surgeon 1581 XL action is designed for larger calibers, renowned for strength and accuracy, and packs a lot of compelling features. As I mentioned, it has an integral recoil lug and integral picatinny rail for mounting the scope. The long range game is all about shot-to-shot consistency, and when you stretch to extreme distances that becomes even more critical. For those parts to be integral, Surgeon must start with a larger block of steel and the machining takes more time (both add cost) … but it means the end product has less moving parts and fewer points of failure. If you think about it, the system you are using to aim at a tiny target far away comes down to looking through your scope, which is attached to your rings, which is attached to a rail, which is attached to the action. That is a lot of interfaces, and the smallest slip in any of them will keep you from getting repeatable hits. An integral rail simply eliminates one of those interfaces as a potential point of failure, which gives me a little peace of mind. It also seems like the integral rail adds some strength and stiffness to the action, although who knows if that translates to any measurable improvement in precision.
The integral rail features 30 MOA of taper or cant. It’s common for actions to have either 0 or 20 MOA of cant, but because this action is built for larger calibers and longer ranges it was designed with a little more so you’ll be able to use more of the elevation adjustment in your scope (more on that in the scope section).
By integrating a massive 0.450” recoil lug into the action, Surgeon created a longer 1-1/8” x 16 tenon thread and strengthened the entire free-floated system. Frank Green, one of the original founders of Bartlein Barrels, recommended using a barrel with a 1.350” breech diameter on the Surgeon XL. Why? The threads are 1.125″ diameter on that action, so if you went with a standard1.250” barrel diameter you’d only be left with about 0.060″ of shoulder on each side, which just isn’t much meat. A 1.350” diameter barrel leaves more material at that critical juncture where the barrel tightens up against the receiver face.
Not only is the recoil lug massive, but the action is square on the bottom instead of round, similar to the iconic Accuracy International (AI) action. I measured the bottom of the Surgeon XL action to be 1.42” wide, which is about the same width as the Accuracy International AX Chassis. AI actually makes a proprietary version of that chassis specifically for Surgeon to use with this XL action, and they pair together perfectly. When I bought this rifle last year, the only way to get your hands on the proprietary chassis was to buy a complete rifle built by Surgeon. But a few months ago AI started offering their chassis with the Surgeon XL cutout to consumers (can buy AI chassis for Surgeon XL here).
I’ve used Accuracy International chassis in the past on my short action rifles, and I believe they may be the most comfortable chassis. They’re adjustable in practically every way imaginable. When you’re able to adapt the rifle to fit the shooter, it will almost always improve the shooter’s performance. The only drawback of the AI chassis was weight. Historically they’ve been heavier than traditional stocks, and most other chassis options. But, AI has come out with newer versions with skeletonized butt stocks and were able to shave some weight in other places too.
On this rifle, I actually liked the idea of some extra weight. One of my goals for this rifle was that it’d weigh at least 20 pounds when fully loaded. It ended up topping the scales at 22 lbs. and 7.7 oz. fully loaded (as shown in the photo above including optics, bipod, empty magazine, and other accessories), which is perfect for my application. The weight of this rifle makes it an absolute pleasure to shoot. I’ve seen some guys with rifles chambered in large magnum cartridges that weigh as little as 12 pounds total, but I don’t want to shoot that rifle. The recoil on something like that will whip your hair back and be punishing over a long day of shooting. I dare you to fire 100 rounds out of one, and see how you feel the next day. If you have a large magnum in a lightweight rifle, you have to practice A LOT to avoid flinching. Now is a 22 pound rifle practical? Not for hiking up a mountain, but that’s not what I built this rifle for. I primarily use it at the range or at competitions to plink steel targets far away, and at those places I usually only have to carry it a couple hundred yards from the truck. I’ve also taken it hunting when I was in a spot where I could lay prone and overlook a large area. I wanted this rifle to be comfortable to shoot, and be optimized to put a bullet precisely where you want out to 2,000 yards.
One cool thing about this AI chassis was the stock folds onto the same side as the bolt. Most folding stocks fold to the side opposite the bolt, but this one was originally developed for SOCOM’s Precision Sniper Rifle contract, which required that it fold bolt-side. That is nice, because it captures the bolt and leaves one side of the rifle flat. It’s more pleasant to carry, because you can have that smooth side against your body when it is slung or loaded in a pack.
The folding chassis is especially nice on an ELR rifle, because these setups are usually very long. This rifle measures 50.25” long with the muzzle brake. When I use a suppressor it’s 57.25”! But when folded, the length is reduced by 10” and is more manageable to transport. I typically shoot with the muzzle brake, which means the rifle folds down to a compact 40”, which is shorter than most of my other rifles. In fact, I bought a Storm case for it with custom foam cutouts that allow you to store it folded and that case is more compact and easier to handle than all of my other rifle cases.
The only downside I’ve experienced so far with this action is it requires a single-stack magazine. It is designed to use the AICS 5 round 338 CIP magazine, and there isn’t a compatible 10 round magazine available. If you use this in matches like the Wyoming Extended Long Range PRS Match that can be a drawback, because stages require you to take 8 or 9 shots each – which means it requires a mag change while you’re on the clock. That’s not impossible – but not ideal. That’s one of the reasons I have a SAP Magnum 2-Round Holder attached to the action for quick access to a couple more rounds.
I considered the AI AX rifle, which is similar in many ways. One bonus with the AI rifle is it is compatible with their double-stack magazine, which is available in a 10 rounder – in fact, it comes with one. AI offers pre-chambered barrels in 300 Norma, 338 Lapua, and other cartridges that you can spin on without any additional gunsmithing or fitting. That platform is worth considering if you’re looking to buy a similar setup. I strongly considered it, but decided to go with the Surgeon XL action … although it was a close call.
Cartridge, Bullets & Barrels
I originally bought the complete rifle from EuroOptic.com as a custom Surgeon Remedy .338 Lapua Rifle. EuroOptic.com still has a couple of rifles in stock that are identical to this setup. The Surgeon Remedy is a custom-built rifle made from the best components available. The pre-built rifle I bought features the Surgeon XL action in the proprietary Accuracy International AX chassis with a 27” Krieger barrel with Surgeon PSR Muzzle Brake, and a Jewell trigger. It is a really sweet setup, and honestly very similar to what I’d have specified if I’d have built the rifle from scratch. I shot the rifle exactly like it came for several months. The only thing I don’t love about it is the thread pattern on the muzzle is 3/4×28, which isn’t as common as 5/8×24 or even 3/4×24.
Honestly, I’ve never had more confidence in any rifle than I do in my Surgeon Remedy 338 Lapua. With very little effort, I found a load using Berger 300gr OTM Hybrid bullets with extremely consistent muzzle velocities (standard deviation of just 3 fps!). I own several high-end precision rifles, but this is the first one I’ve ever experienced where it seems like the bullets are somehow magically attracted to the targets. I joked with a friend that it feels like I could shoot in the opposite direction and the bullet would somehow still find the target! It seems to make me shoot better than I really am. I’ve literally used it to draw a smiley face on a target at 1415 yards. You know you have something special when you’re not just trying to hit the target, but draw a picture on them! 😉
Last year, I shot in the Texas Ultra-Long Range Match, which was the competition with the longest distance targets in Texas (at least at the time). It included targets scattered from 500 to 2,640 yards (1.5 miles), each competitor was allowed up to 3 shots to hit each target, and you engaged multiple targets within a set time over a few stages. If you hit a target on the 1st shot you received 15 points, if it you got it on the 2nd shot you’d get 10 points, and if you hit it on the 3rd shot you got 5 points. With the spec rifle I bought off EuroOptic.com, I cleaned the entire match and set the course record. I hit EVERY target on the FIRST shot all the way out to 2,640 yards! That included some tiny “bonus” targets, like a 12″ circle at 1445 yards. And all that was in 14-17 mph wind that was switching from 10:30 to 12:30. Check out that flag whipping behind me in the photo! A few shooters were using larger cartridges like CheyTac’s and the 50 BMG, but I was the only competitor to connect with the 1.5 mile target. If I’m 100% honest, I doubt I could make a perfect run like that again. It certainly all came together for me on that day, but it shows what the rifle platform is capable of!
I shot that first match with the 338 Lapua barrel that came on the rifle, but I also bought a couple of Bartlein barrels that I had chambered in 300 Norma Mag by Wade at Stuteville Precision. Here is a comparison of those two cartridges alongside other common cartridges:
So why go with the 300 Norma Mag? I’ve wanted one ever since I read an article Todd Hodnett wrote about it in SNIPER magazine in 2012. Since that time I’ve become friends with one of the guys who contributed to the early development of the 300 Norma. He owned the first rifle to be chambered in it in the United States, and he’s had several rifles chambered in it since then with some impressive results. It seems to offer a lot of promise, and of course even more recently USSOCOM adopted it as the cartridge for the new Advanced Sniper Rifle – so many are becoming believers!
Another reason I wanted to try the 300 Norma was because that sweet 338 Lapua ammo I worked up with the 3 fps SD is too long to fit inside the magazine. DOH!!! Unfortunately, that isn’t unusual for the really long, heavy-for-caliber bullets used in ELR shooting, but it means I have to load them one at a time. While that works for some matches, being able to feed ammo from a magazine can clearly help when you’re under tight time constraints.
When developing a load for the 300 Norma, I was originally going to try Berger’s 230gr Hybrid bullet, because at higher muzzle velocities the ballistics looked promising compared to the 338 Lapua. While the 230gr Hybrid does have a slightly higher BC than the 215gr Hybrid (G7 BC is 0.368 vs 0.354, according to Berger), the higher BC of the 230gr didn’t seem to give enough edge with the velocities I was found to improve over the ballistics of the 215gr Hybrid. Also, in conversation with the guys at Applied Ballistics about the 300 Norma, they mentioned in their observations it seemed like the 215gr Hybrid passed through the sound barrier more cleanly than the 230gr bullet, which made it more predictable and effective into subsonic ranges.
I’ve been shooting the 215gr Hybrid from my 300 Norma for over a year now, and I’ve met a ton of people using that bullet in the Norma, including top-level competitors and U.S. Special Forces. The two seem to be made for each other!
Here are the loads I found to be most consistent from my barrels:
|300 Norma Mag||338 Lapua Mag|
|Bullet||Berger 215gr Hybrid Target||Berger 300gr Hybrid OTM Tactical|
|Powder||86.0gr Hodgdon H1000||90.0gr Hodgdon H1000|
|Primer||CCI 250||CCI 250|
|COAL (Base to Ogive)||2.85”||3.03”|
|COAL (Avg. Base to Tip)||3.62”||3.86”|
|Muzzle Velocity||3055 fps (26” barrel)||2755 fps (27” barrel)|
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Honestly, with these two loads there isn’t a ton of difference between the 300 Norma and the 338 Lapua, in terms of ballistics or hit probability. The 300 Norma does have slightly less recoil. I shot both out of the same rifle on the same day, and it is noticeable if you’re paying attention – but it’s not much difference. I’d estimate the 300 Norma might be 10-15% softer in perceived recoil with these loads.
I used the Applied Ballistics Analytics software to calculate hit probabilities on a 15” circle at 1000 yards and a 36” square at 2000 yards with both of these loads. (For more info on how this analysis works, check out this post.)
You can see the hit probabilities for the 300 Norma Mag and 338 Lapua Mag loads are very similar for the scenarios I ran. If you shot 100 rounds with each, you might hit 1 or 2 more times with one over the other – which is definitely “in the noise” in a real-world environment. Here is a dope comparison for these two loads (75 F, 26 inHg, 50% humidity):
|300 Norma 215gr Hybrid||338 Lapua 300gr Hybrid|
|Transonic Range (yards)||1,750||1,750|
|Subsonic Range (yards)||2,095||2,150|
|@ 1000y (mils)||5.73||6.93|
|@ 2000y (mils)||19.09||21.43|
|10mph Wind Drift|
|@ 1000y (mils)||1.16||1.11|
|@ 2000y (mils)||2.98||2.77|
|@ 1000y (fps)||1,987||1,887|
|@ 2000y (fps)||1,191||1,212|
I fired a few five-shot groups with both barrels recently, and the 338 Lapua averaged 0.55 MOA, and the 300 Norma averaged 0.66 MOA (shown). While those might not sound impressive, when you’re shooting out to 2000 yards group size just doesn’t affect hit probability as much as you’d think. For example, I ran the WEZ analysis on a 36″ square at 2000 yards with the same parameters as above, except in one scenario I set the rifle precision to 0.66 MOA and then I dropped it to 0.20 MOA – and it only increased hit probability by 0.8%! That big improvement in group size didn’t even equate to a full percentage point! Consistent muzzle velocity, accurate range, and wind reading ability seem to be the biggest things that impact hits in this game.
The 300 Norma Mag is flatter shooting, especially inside of 1000 yards. So when range uncertainty is high or reduced recoil is a high priority, it could be the better choice. The 338 Lapua Mag carries more energy at all ranges, but the difference grows with distance. By 2000 yards, the 338 Lapua load packs almost 50% more energy. Earlier this year, Lapua announced they’ll start offering brass for the 300 Norma Mag, so there are top-tier components available for both.
One cool thing about this setup is I can choose which one I’d prefer to run, and then swap the barrels in less than 20 minutes. All I need is a torque wrench, barrel vise, and Surgeon action wrench (works for any Remington 700-based action). All those tools combined cost less than $200.
Scope & Mount
For the scope, I went with the Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1 with Horus Tremor3 reticle. I own a few brands of scopes, but I’m always searching for the best one for the job. When it comes to ELR, the first thing I’m looking for is a lot of elevation travel. Have you ever been dialing your scope for a long shot and you run out of clicks on your turret? That sucks – ask me how I know! 😉 On that 1.5 mile shot I made in competition last year, I was using a Schmidt and Bender PMII 5-25×56 at the time, and my setup only had 24.0 mils of elevation adjustment – but I needed 43.0 mils for that shot! That means I dialed the turret as far as I could, and then had to hold over the target another 19.0 mils. Luckily I had a Horus gridded reticle, so it wasn’t a problem to hold both 19 mils of elevation and 4 mils of wind. But to be able see 19 mils of the grid, I was forced to zoom out to 9x, which obviously isn’t ideal when you’re trying to hit a target at over 2600 yards! Of course it all worked out, but it just made it harder than it had to be. That’s why I upgraded the scope and mount since that time to this improved setup.
My Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1 has 37.0 mils of elevation travel available, which is a ton of internal adjustment compared to most scopes. For those who speak MOA, that is the equivalent of 125 MOA. Nightforce’s advertised specs say it has 100 MOA of travel, but they must be an under-promise/over-deliver kind of company, because I measured mine to have 25% more. When it comes to ELR scopes, the Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 seems to be the most popular at this point because the total elevation travel is generous compared to other scopes, as well as the higher magnification. Being able to zoom in to 35x is convenient. I’ve been using 5-25x scopes for years, and that extra 10x magnification is noticeable. Do you need it? Nope. Obviously you can hit a target at over 2600 yards at 9x! But I certainly prefer to dial up to 35x when given the option.
But just because the scope has 37.0 mils of internal adjustment doesn’t mean you’ll be able to dial that much. If you mount it on a straight rail without any cant or taper, your 100 yard zero would be around the middle of that elevation range. That means you’d only experience about half of that elevation travel (around 18 mils). My goal was for my 100 yard zero to be at the bottom of the scope’s adjustment range, so I could take advantage of as much of that mechanical adjustment as possible. That’s why I decided to use an ERA-TAC Adjustable Inclination Mount, which allow you to customize the amount of forward cant on the scope to effectively use the full range of the scope’s mechanical adjustment. Simply loosening the cross bolt and adjust the angle within a range of 0 to 70 MOA (in 10 MOA gradations). The mount is very stable due to self-locking thread inserts.
So if the scope has around 125 MOA of travel, I should dial the mount to 60 MOA and be close to the bottom, right? That’s what I thought, but I went out to the range and wasn’t close to being able to zero at 100 yards. Then I remembered the Surgeon XL action has 30 MOA of cant built into the integral rail. So I needed to dial the mount down to 30 MOA. Then with 30 MOA in the rail and the 30 MOA in the mount, I’d have that 60 MOA total I was looking for. And sure enough, it was perfect. Today I have 36.3 mils of elevation travel available. I have just 0.7 mils under my 100 yard zero, which means I’m very close to the absolute bottom of the travel for my elevation adjustment. Bingo!
With this setup, I can dial over 36 mils of adjustment with my turret and still hold the crosshairs dead center on the target and stay zoomed in at 35x magnification. With the 300 Norma that will allow me to take shots beyond 2600 yards. But I also chose the Horus Tremor3 reticle (watch Todd Hodnett’s video on the Tremor3), which means I have a grid that allows me to hold even more elevation if needed. At 35x I can see about 5 mils of the grid below the crosshairs, if you dial back to 20x zoom you can see almost 10 mils of the grid (similar to what is shown in the image), and if you dial down to 10x zoom you can see up to 20 mils of the grid. So if I have 36 mils of mechanical adjustment in the scope, plus up to 20 mils that I could hold-over, that means I have a total of 56 mils of elevation available! For my 300 Norma load, that would take me out to 3000 yards! I can’t say I’ve stretch it out that far, but that’s at least what the ballistics computer says. The 215gr bullet would be traveling at just over 800 fps by that point. Could you hit something at that distance with it? It’d be a low percentage shot, but at least I wouldn’t be limited by my optic/mount setup.
I prefer to zero my rifles at 100 yards so that I don’t have environmentals/atmospherics potentially adding noise to my zero, and I also think it helps keep some practically to the rifle. But, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t decide to set the bottom of your elevation range at a different zero. For example, I could decide to set my zero to 1500 yards and adjust my scope mount so that all 37 mils of mechanical adjustment were available from that baseline. One of the cool things about the adjustable ERA-TAC mount is that is fairly quick to do, and I don’t need to buy another mount to customize it for my application.
As you can tell, carefully pairing your scope mount to get all you can out of your scope’s mechanical adjustment is a huge deal when it comes to ELR. One veteran shooter I know had a custom mount made for his ELR rifle so that it zeroed EXACTLY to the click at the bottom of his elevation travel on his specific scope. That may be extreme, but this is an extreme sport and you obviously don’t want to leave a bunch of travel in the direction you aren’t going to use it. This becomes even more critical as you try to engage targets out to 3500 or even 4000+ yards. It actually becomes one of the biggest issues you have to address. Luckily there has been a lot of specialized gear released over the past couple years to help with that at those extreme ranges, and I’ll touch on those in an upcoming post.
Finally, I’ll mention a couple of accessories I’ve added to the rifle. First, when shooting long range you need a bubble level – period. Todd Hodnett says more shooters miss at long range because of rifle cant than any other reason. While most things in this game are very expensive, cant is something you can address for less than $100 by simply adding a level. I like the Accuracy 1st scope level, because the curved design provides more granular resolution. The use of the ceramic ball eliminates the inherent flaws associated with air bubble levels, which at higher temperatures and pressure will compromise the bubble size causing level inaccuracies. Typically air bubble levels need 3° to 5° to even register movement; however, the Accuracy 1st level will read movement down to just 1°.
I use the Hawk Hill dope card holder for competitions. Just before I shoot the stage, I’ll calculate my elevation adjustments and wind holds for all the targets, and write those down on an index card. I’ll typically bracket the wind, meaning I write down the holds for the lowest and highest winds I expect. Then I’ll clip that index card to the holder to keep my dope right in front of me as I shoot. I’ve been running Hawk Hill holders on my PRS match rifles for a couple of years, and they’re pretty ideal. It just makes one less thing you have to worry about while you’re on the clock. You’ll never have to break position to see your dope.
I conducted a massive field test of muzzle brakes a couple of years ago. I used high-speed sensors to record the effective recoil reduction of 20+ muzzle brake designs. I tested them on 4 rifles from a mid-sized 6mm up to a 300 Norma Magnum. What luck! 😉 Want to know the results? Buy this muzzle brake! It’s the Fat B* Gen II from American Precision Arms and it provides ridiculous performance, reducing recoil by 46%!!! (View test results)
I also bought a Thunder Beast 338 Ultra suppressor to use with this rifle. I use the muzzle brake most often, because suppressors cause the barrel to heat up faster, which isn’t ideal when you’re firing a long string of shots at practice or a competition. But while the muzzle brake decreases the recoil, it increases the concussion. On big magnums, after a while the concussion can be more punishing than the recoil … especially if you’re beside one and not behind it. Shooting this rifle with a suppressor is much more pleasant for everyone involved. So if I’m planning to shoot with friends or won’t be firing long strings, I spin on this suppressor. Thunder Beast suppressors are among the best on the market when it comes to long range precision work. They’re expensive, but absolutely worth it!
Q Creek ELR PRS Match Coming Up!!!
I used this rifle in the Q Creek Extended Long Range Match last year, and plan to use it again there in a couple of weeks. The upcoming Q Creek ELR PRS Match is being organized by Scott Satterlee and will be at the Q Creek Ranch in Wyoming on June 16 & 17, 2018. The ranch is MASSIVE at over 875 square miles!!! Yes, you read that correctly – that’s 560,000 acres. There are more than 25 countries in the world that are smaller than that! The ranch features some of the most stunning landscape you’ll find, and is an ideal place for a match like this. Here are a couple of photos I took at last year’s match:
The entire match is prone, and you have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to fire 8 to 10 rounds per stage at around 2-4 different targets per stage. Compared to the typical run-and-gun PRS matches, that is a relatively relaxed pace. The whole course is wheel-chair accessible, which allowed at least one disabled vet to compete, which I appreciate. The property is so large that it allowed Scott to pick some really cool places to shoot, and he setup the course of fire in a really clever way. You’re never more than a couple hundred yards from your vehicle. You shoot a wide variety of stages, with many designed to mimic hunting situations. There are steel targets in the shapes of elk, coyotes, goats, turkey, and even some kangaroos, Sasquatch, and unicorns. Scott tries to keep it fun!
My favorite stage from the 2017 match required you to shoot a 50% goat target at 1185 yards, and once you hit it you’d transition to a moving wolf target that was setup as if it were approaching the goat you just shot. That’s right, a moving target at 1185 yards! The full-size wolf was around 6’ long from tip of nose to tip of its tail, so you had somewhat generous real estate left to right, but not much margin for error up and down. That was one of my favorite stages that I’ve ever shot in my life! So much fun!
You’ll shoot uphill, downhill, across canyons, and in a variety of wind conditions. Wyoming can get pretty windy, but June temperatures are ideal. Unlike other June/July rifle matches, this one was really comfortable. The match ran very efficiently, with minimal wait times over the two days.
This will be the 3rd year for the Q Creek ELR Match. In 2016 it was won by Matthew Brousseau, and then Jon Pynch won the 2017 ELR match. Both were using a 300 Norma Mag from Surgeon Rifles, so obviously it’s a pretty ideal setup for this match. Here is a look at the rifle Jon used to win the match last year:
What’s really interesting is that both of those guys who won it were using factory Nexus 300 Norma ammo! When you start stretching out to extreme ranges, ammo consistency becomes critical. But apparently, Nexus ammo is capable of competing right alongside handloads. The Nexus ammo also uses the Berger 215gr Hybrid bullet. If you want to try some out, use the coupon code “TRYNEXUS” to get 10% off your order.
I went back through the course of fire for the 2017 Q Creek ELR match and graphed the target distances to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. The average target distance overall was 1,012 yards, with the closest at 466 yards and furthest at 1722 yards. 80% of the shots were from 610 to 1413 yards. Keep in mind this was for last year’s match, and who knows what Scott has in store for us this year.
Of course, big 375 caliber cartridges in 40 pound rifles are far more common for Extreme Long Range matches like the King of 2 Miles. But the round count in those matches are closer to 20 rounds than 150. Here are Bryan Litz’s thoughts on the ideal rifle setup for a match like the Q Creek ELR:
Round count can be an important factor in the course of fire for an ELR match. For those with super high performance dedicated ELR guns with short barrel life, the matches which require 50 or 100 rounds of ammo to complete are much less appealing than the lower round count events. It’s not uncommon for some matches to cross-over from normal long range PRS style into the ELR territory. Matches like the Nightforce ELR PRS at Q Creek Range have the majority of targets under 1200 yards, but also have a substantial number of targets at 1500+, possibly out to 2000 yards. A PRS match like this which has ELR components is an interesting challenge from an equipment perspective. What’s the best suited rifle for an event like this; something that’s optimized for the intermediate long range targets like a 6mm, 6.5mm, or 7mm which is common in normal PRS matches, or a dedicated .375 caliber ELR gun? With targets from under 1000 to over 2000 yards and a round count over 100, neither extreme is likely the best option. Rather an event like this may call for a middle ground, something like a 300 Norma or 338 Lapua which has the performance to reach 2000 yards, but is also practical to shoot a high round count including intermediate range stages.
It’s clear that the ELR dedicated matches are the far end of the spectrum in terms of performance. The rifles which are built and optimized to compete beyond 1500 yards are not likely to be practical or useful in any other applications. The PRS style matches with ELR components are great ways to explore the versatility of different rifle platforms in search of the best of both worlds.
So obviously, Bryan and the two guys who won the match in the past are all thinking along the same lines and came up with the 300 Norma. I’ll be using my 300 Norma again this year, but I also think a 7mm magnum might be ideal for this match. Something with less powder capacity than the Norma like the 7mm SAUM might offer reduced recoil for spotting shots, and be just as optimized for that window from 610 to 1413 yards that 80% of the targets fall into. There are many high-BC 7mm bullets to choose from, which would “cheat the wind” like the 215gr Hybrid does. I asked the match director, Scott Satterlee, about the cartridges that have led in the past, and he said while he is also running a 300 Norma Mag personally, he suspects that we may see a trend down towards the 7 magnums for these types of matches. I was already thinking that before I talked to Scott, but he mentioned it before I could and confirmed my suspicion. While the Q Creek match was originally the only ELR match in the PRS, there are a few others that popped up this year. This style of straight-forward, 100% prone match with targets way out there is so much fun, and I’d be shocked if we didn’t see more and more come along. I live in Texas, and am traveling all the way to Wyoming for the 2nd year in a row to be part of it, and can’t wait!
At the time this was published there were around 40 open spots remaining for the Q Creek match. Go here for more info: https://practiscore.com/nightforce-elr-prs-at-q-creek/register
Upcoming Post: Applied Ballistics Team Tips & Rifle Builds!
I’m working with the team from Applied Ballistics on an upcoming post that will focus on the super-high performance rifle builds and gear those guys are using this year. The Applied Ballistics team represents the cutting edge when it comes to ELR shooting (winning the King of the 2 Mile two 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. Stay tuned!