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What The Pros Use – King of 2 Miles Edition

Earlier this week I traveled to watch the King of 2 Miles rifle competition (Ko2M) at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. It’s one of the few matches where great shooters from across the country gather to push the limits of what is possible with small arms as they engage targets out to 2 miles (3,520 yards). It was interesting to see what the top shooters were using in terms of equipment and gear, and I’ll share a summary of that in this post. In subsequent posts, I’ll go into more detail on some of the issues these shooters have to address, and share some of their tips along with new products they’re using to overcome those obstacles and ring steel at extreme distances.

Basics of King of 2 Miles Competition

The goal of the King of 2 Miles competition was to push what was possible in terms of cold bore shots, first round hits, and extreme distance target engagement. This is NOT about having unlimited sighters to walk your shots onto the target. You have just a couple of shots to hit a target, or you won’t advance. This is primarily a 3 man team event, with one person pulling the trigger, another spotting impacts and calling corrections to center the next shot, and the last man with an eye on mirage to help call the changes in wind speed and direction. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, here are the distances and target sizes:

  • Qualification Round
    • 1,689 yards: 1 cold bore shot, 16” circle (That’s just under 1 MOA at almost a mile!)
    • 1,547 yards: 5 shots, 24” x 37” rectangle
    • 1,719 yards: 3 shots, 24” x 37” rectangle
    • 1,890 yards: 3 shots, 30” x 37” rectangle
    • 2,095 yards: 3 shots, 30” x 37” rectangle
  • Finals
    • 2,615 yards: 1 cold bore shot
    • 2,727 yards: 5 shots, 33” x 41” rectangle
    • 3,166 yards: 5 shots, 42” x 54” rectangle
    • 3,525 yards: 5 shots, 48” x 60” rectangle

The rules are a little complex, but you’re essentially rewarded more points for early hits and further distances. For example, in the qualifying round you were allowed 5 shots on a target at 1547. If you hit it on the first shot you’d be awarded points equivalent to 5 times the distance (5 x 1547 = 7,735), but if you didn’t hit it until your last shot you’d only get 1 times the distance. So the multipliers are 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 when engaging a target 5 times, and 3, 2, 1 when engaging a target with 3 shots. (View Complete Rules for 2018 Ko2M)

JJ Rock ELR Rifle

For context, the winner ended up hitting every shot but one in the qualifying round and a few others only dropped a couple more shots than that – which is just ridiculously good! That’s very impressive considering the changing wind conditions we experienced, especially when you realize the bullet’s time of flight can be more than 6 seconds! Go ahead and count that out in your head right now, and think about how long the wind has to act on the bullet.

During the King of 2 Miles in 2016, no shooters were able to connect with targets all the way out to 2 miles. It’s certainly a lot harder than it sounds, especially when given just a few shots and under the pressure of time constraints and competition. In 2017, the winner, Derek Rodgers, was the only shooter to connect with the 2 mile target. This year, 3 shooters connected with targets all the way out to 2 miles in the finals, which shows the advancements we’re making in ELR. Here’s the 3 shooters who rang steel at 2 miles:

The Shooters & Common Equipment

ELR competitors come from all kinds of backgrounds: F-Class, 1000 yard Benchrest, former military, long range hunters, and even a few of us guys who shoot Precision Rifle Series style tactical/practical field matches. In fact, this year the King of 2 Miles was won by Robert Brantley, who comes from the PRS world! But regardless of what shooting discipline they come from, all the shooters share the same genetics that triggers dopamine to flood our brain when we hit a target really far away – and we instantly want to see if we can hit something even further! We’re all addicted to pushing our limits!

The equipment for this type of shooting is very niche. A rifle that is optimized to engage targets at extreme ranges won’t likely be practical for many other applications. Since this is still an emerging sport and people come from various backgrounds and shooting disciplines there is still a significant amount of diversity when it comes to equipment.

While there is a lot of diversity, I’ll try to quickly summarize the specs and gear that were common among the majority of the competitors. While this isn’t intended to be exclusive, it represents what you’d notice a lot people using if you walked around the match or watched several competitors shoot.

  • Cartridge: 375 CheyTac or 416 Barrett
  • Bullet: Lathe-Turned Solids (The 400gr Lazer was popular for 375 caliber, and 500gr Lazer was popular for 416 caliber.)
  • Stock/Chassis: Large stocks, such as the McMillan BEAST or Manners LRT (although there were some chassis too)
  • Scope: Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 or 7-35×56
  • Bipod: Phoenix Precision
  • Total Rifle Weight: 34 lbs. (This is the average weight of the rifles for the top 25 shooters, although they ranged from 23.6 to 44.7 lbs. This weight reflects their “ready to fire” configuration, including optics, bipod, etc.)

Many may not be familiar with these big bore cartridges, so here is a photo comparison of these popular rounds alongside more common cartridges:

Cartridges Used By the Top 10 Shooters

I asked all shooters who qualified for the finals which cartridge they were using. Here are the results:

  1. Robert Brantley – 416 Barrett
  2. John Buhay – 375 CheyTac Improved
  3. Paul Phillips – 416 Barrett
  4. Duncan Davis – 375 CheyTac
  5. Gene Nowaczyk – 375 CheyTac
  6. Tom Manners – 416 Barrett
  7. James Foster – 375 CheyTac
  8. Rudy Gonsior – 375 CheyTac
  9. Libert O’Sullivan – 375 Libert. This is obviously a wildcat that Libert designed himself. The case is based on a shortened 50 BMG that is necked down to 375. For more info visit 375Libert.com.
  10. Jeff Heeg – 375 Warner. Jeff explained this to me as a wildcat that is basically a 50 BMG case necked down to a 375. He said he was originally running 193gr of Hodgdon 50 BMG powder, which pushed a 400gr bullet at 3,355 fps!!! Unfortunately, barrel life was under 200 rounds on his first barrel, so on this second barrel he switched to a cooler burning powder that still produced good pressures. He was anxious to get home and see how the throat had worn over the match.

Best Extreme Long Range Caliber

For more historical context, the 2017 King of 2 Miles was Derek Rodgers using a 375 CheyTac, and the 2016 King of 2 Miles was Mitch Fitzpatrick using a 375 Lethal Magnum. This post isn’t intended to be an exhaustive cartridge comparison, and although I’m tempted to dive into that we’ll leave that for a later post and move on to other equipment these guys were using.

Equipment Details From Top 5 Shooters

I gathered detailed information from the guys who finished in the top 3 for the 2018 King of 2 Miles, and got some photos and basic info from a few of the other top finishers. I really just did this by walking around and talking to the guys, so I appreciate the competitors being so willing to share with the rest of us. It was really interesting to see how diverse their equipment choices were.

I want to be clear: I’m not saying these guys finished on top because they had the best equipment. Many other competitors had similar setups, and a few may have even had better equipment. These top shooters are world-class marksmen that have likely spent A LOT of time at the range, their team (spotter and wind coach) communicated well, and they were able to perform under pressure when all the eyes were on them. While you obviously need capable gear to be competitive, I’d say those things I just mentioned may be more directly correlated to where someone finished. And some other guys just had bad luck. If you were randomly assigned a time to shoot in the qualifying round when there happened to be a lot of switching winds and updrafts, you were out of it before you knew what happened! It was a heart-breaker to watch some of those guys go down. But, it is always interesting to see what the top guys chose to compete with, so here we go!

1st Place: Robert Brantley with Team Manners

Robert is one of the nicest and most humble guys you’ll meet. Robert works at Manners Stocks, and most of his competition experience has been in the Precision Rifle Series. He’s a guy that is easy to root for – very unassuming and always has a smile on his face. Robert seemed sincerely surprised at how many targets he was able to connect with, because he said they’d just put that rifle together the week before the competition. The barrel was an old, shot-out barrel that Moon Roberts at Crescent Customs re-chambered for them, and Robert shot the rifle for the first time less than 24 hours before they packed up to leave for the competition in Raton. He said the barrel only had 17 rounds on it when they pulled into the Whittington Center! If that doesn’t surprise you, this might: Tom loaded the ammo he used for the finals the night before in his hotel room. 😉 Despite all that, it was some excellent shooting and world-class results. Congrats, Robert!

2nd Place: John Buhay

John Buhay ELR Rifle

John is another extremely friendly and helpful guy. He never seemed to get tired of my incessant questions! I could tell there was a wealth of knowledge in John’s head, so I felt fortunate to have a conversation with him. John is from Pennsylvania, and has been an active part of the 1000 yard Benchrest community there. John made it a point to tell us the rifle he was using was actually his hunting rifle. He had used it to take clean kills at some pretty unbelievable distances.

I asked John if he had any tips for new shooters that wanted to get into this, and he suggested they spend some time getting comfortable shooting prone. He said the last time he’d shot prone was last year at this same match! He seemed to make it through it alright. 😉

3rd Place: Paul Phillips with Team Applied Ballistics

Applied Ballistics ELR King of 2 Miles

Paul is a big promoter of ELR, and very passionate about the sport. Paul is the Adjutant of the US Rifle Team, and an accomplished shooter on a number of levels. He’s won several national and world championships, and has broken over 45 NRA National Shooting Records. Paul was a coach on the winning team for the 2016 and 2017 King of 2 Miles.

4th Place: Duncan Davis with Team JJ Rock

Duncan is one of the founders of JJ Rock, a new company whose initial offering is a SuperXL action designed for this exact type of ELR application. Duncan came into the finals seeded in 6th place, but rang a lot of steel WAY out there – including the 2 mile target – which helped him finish 4th overall.

5th Place: Gene Nowaczyk with Team Cutting Edge

375 CheyTac Rifle Bolt KnobFinally, here are the final scores for all shooters from the 2018 King of Miles (Download PDF version):

2018 King of 2 Miles Results

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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  1. I’ll keep this one short. Outstanding article.

    • Jean-Paul Voets

      Hello Every one
      excellent article!!!
      What spotting scopes do the spotters use ore dont ? With tacticle reticles ?

      • Great question. I’d believe the majority of guys were using a spotting scope with a tactical reticle, especially those on a team serving as the spotter calling corrections. I’ve just decided that I won’t buy a spotting scope that doesn’t have a reticle in it anymore, and I heard a couple guys there echo that sentiment. If you’re using it for shooting, then having a reticle is a must-have for calling corrections.

        The spotters I remember seeing were lots of the Swarovski with the digital reticle or the one with the binocular eye-piece adapter, the Leupold Mark 4, the Hensoldt Spotter 45, and a couple of Nightforce Spotting scopes. The only one of those that I don’t think you can get with a reticle is the Swaro with the binocular eye-piece.


  2. Cal, thanks for covering this KING OF 2 MILE SHOOT, these guys had the best equipment and did a great job of placing 1ST to 5TH place. This match would be something to watch.
    I may just go there in the next KING OF 2 MILES, just to watch these guys shoot.
    that would be fun. Good Reporting ,Cal.

    Thanks Cal

    • Thanks, Elmo. It was a lot of fun to watch, but I hope to shoot it next year … that’d be even better! I’m building one of these big bore rifles, so this was a trip for me to learn what guys are using and as always I want to share that with the rest of the community.

      I would be hesitant to say that these guys finished on top because they had the best equipment. Lots of guys there are very similar setups, and a few may have even had better equipment. These top guys are world-class marksmen that knew their equipment, communicated well with their spotter and wind coach, and they were able to perform under pressure when all the eyes were on them. While you obviously need capable gear to be competitive, I’d say those things I just mentioned are more directly correlated to where someone finished. And some guys just had bad luck. If you were randomly assigned a slot where there was a lot of switching winds and updrafts in the qualifying round, you were out of it before you knew what happened. It was a heart-breaker to watch some of those guys go down.

      Hopefully I will be able to grab a spot in 2019 and we’ll see you out there!


      • If you want to borrow a rifle I could lend you a .375 allen mag its pushing 350smk’s at 3300fps. I have load data with a SD of 4fps, you’d just have to deprime and reload the brass. Its wearing a 3-27S&B. on a 40 moa rail.

      • Wow, Matt. That sounds like a SWEET setup, and a generous offer. I already committed to a rifle build, but you should come compete with that.

        One of my closest friends has a 375 CheyTac with a Schmidt & Bender 5-45×56, which is a very similar scope. He loves it. Spotting shots and reading mirage is very straight-forward with the crazy sharp clarity on those scopes.


  3. keep up the good work.

  4. james oevermann

    Thanks Cal!

    How do you know about theses competitions? I would love to just come and watch.

    What I read.
    1st 44.00 lb
    2nd 37.6 lb
    3rd 42.00 lb
    4th 35.4 lb
    5th 32.00 lb

    Big ass gun with big ass bullets. Oh yea skill of the person.

    Again Great article.

    • You got the gist of it, James. Pretty ridiculously big guns. But that helps tame the recoil, and increase inertia should help you be more precise. And these guys were skilled. There were a few spotters and wind coaches there that I was impressed with too. It wasn’t just the guy behind the gun. It was definitely a team sport.

      I appreciate the encouragement. Glad you enjoyed the read.


  5. Fantastic article and something for us newbies to the long range precision game to aspire to achieve.

  6. Cal, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time; this is my first comment. Thanks for all you do.

    I have a question: In the finals round, I’m curious why the 4th, 5th and 6th place finalists didn’t seem to shoot all of their tries. Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks, David. That’s a great question. This gets back to my comment about the rules being a little complex. So not all of their shots are reflected on the score sheet … only those that they were rewarded points for. In the finals, you had 5 shots at each target … at least for points. Really you had 15 shots total (excluding the cold bore shot, which didn’t count for points). In the finals, if you were firing at the first target and missed it the first 5 shots you could continue to send rounds at it and if you hit it wouldn’t count for points, but you could move on to the next target and possibly hit it for points. Look at Rudy’s score for example. It actually has 0’s across Target 1 and 0’s across Target 2. But Rudy did eventually hit Target 1, but just didn’t do it within the first 5 shots, so he didn’t get any points for it. But I know he must have hit it, because he moved on to Target 2. It looks like he never engaged Target 3 (the 2 mile target), so he probably ran out of hits 15 rounds before he was able to connect with Target 2.

      Hope that makes sense. Like I said, it’s a little confusing. What’s funny is the qualifying round worked differently than that. You had 5 shots on the 1st target in the qualifying round (again, excluding the cold bore target), but if you didn’t hit within 5 rounds you were done. You couldn’t keep sending rounds at it to move on. It seems like they could unify or simplify that stuff, but then again … it’s easy to be a critic. I just appreciate these guys putting on the match.

      If my explanation doesn’t make sense or you want more detail, I published the full set of rules they had posted there on a cork board: 2018 King of 2 Miles Rules.

      Thanks again for the encouragement. Glad you’ve found my blog helpful.


  7. Hi Cal,

    interesting as always, and can’t wait to hear how you fare next year with your new build
    following up on my previous post on the challenge and practicality, I”ve compiled some stats on hit % for this event:
    top 5 top 10 top 20
    1547 88% 80% 77%
    1719 80% 67% 61%
    1890 75% 63% 62%
    2095 58% 46% 47%
    2727 28% 30%
    3166 20% 20%
    3525 20% 20%

    It appears that up to 2100 yds, hits are very probable after the CB shot (which almost all shooters missed, but obviously was for wind determination)

    Beyond that, the hit % drops precipitously. With the two longest targets getting hit an average of once per 5 tries, statistically it appears more random than deterministic. That’s not to impugn the ability of these incredible shooters at all, but with TOF of 5-6 seconds, atmos effects introduce too much “noise”, and simply overwhelm shooter ability. It becomes luck, which shouldn’t dominate any competition.

    I dont see this changing until rifle systems can get the TOF down by 50%, similar to the 16-1800 yd TOFs where hit % is quite high, and deterministic. Recoil of such systems would probably be unmanageable. These rifles already have more than double the recoil of a 300WM class weapon (around 40 ft-lbf given competitor performance numbers above).

    I know this wont be a popular post, but it seems current systems are only practical (50% hit probability) to about 2300 yds.

    • Well said, Paul. Those are some interesting stats. I love that you put those together. It made me smile, because that looks like something I’d do! 😉 I don’t know that I 100% agree that “it becomes luck”, but I do agree that if someone is shooting in changing wind conditions that it will overwhelm the shooter’s ability. If wind is shifty, then 5 to 6 seconds of flight time is just too long of a window for things to change. In calm conditions, this is absolutely doable, so your comment that currently systems are only practical to about 2300 yards may be too general. That was true for the conditions at this years Ko2M, but all of this is highly dependent on our ability to predict and estimate wind. It isn’t as much about how high the wind speed is, but how consistent the wind speed and direction are. If it’s 20 mph, but consistent – you can still get hits. If it’s gusting from 10 to 20 mph, and varying from 11:00 to 1:00 or 5:00 to 7:00 … you might as well pack your stuff up. At that point, it’s absolutely luck, because it is no longer about reading the wind, but being able to see the wind in the future … which sounds much harder!

      Unfortunately, the Whittington Center is not known for it’s calm or consistent winds!!! It’s actually legendary for the opposite of that. Your point actually makes me wonder if these should be hosted somewhere else. There are places in the country that have more calm and consistent winds. We might see the percentages shoot up in those locations, and even be able to step out the distance at some point.

      I will also say that some of the shooters had a much quicker pace than others, and those people seemed to perform better. Coming from a PRS background, I was shocked at how slow of a pace most guys had. They’d send a round, see where they missed, but then it would be 30-60 seconds before they sent another one. By that point, the data they gathered from the last shot and the correction they need to apply is gathering dust and quickly becoming invalid. So you’re basically sending another round to gather intel on the conditions again … and then they’d take 30-60 seconds to send another one and allow their data to expire again. It was really tough for me to watch. It seemed like some of the best shooters kept a deliberate pace, especially when they got to those targets with the really extended flight time. That was definitely true for Robert, and you can see a few other guys had “Time Bonuses” which I believe was the number of seconds remaining on their allotted time. Some wouldn’t even stay in the scope to watch the impact, but would instantly start loading another round after the trigger broke and they did their follow-through. They’d rely on their dedicated spotter to see the impact, give them the correction, and as the shooter they’d be ready to send the next one. If all the shooters did that, you’d see higher hit percentages.

      Paul, thanks for getting me thinking! I appreciate your comment, and really like your analysis there. Pretty interesting. … and hey, don’t worry about being popular. The truth is not always popular, but it’s what we all need.


  8. Congrats to Robert Brantley. You described Robert to a T. I have shot matches with Robert for years and what a great guy! Thanks for the information.

  9. Excellent write up, I’m still fairly new to the PRS events so I think I’ll be devoted to the smaller 6 and 6.5’s for the next few years but this is definitely something I want to eventually try. Would love to go and watch this in the next year or two.

    • Thanks, Jeff. Personally, I’d stay the direction you’re headed. I am about to build a big 375, but I know I’ll shoot it less than 5% as much as my 6 and 6.5’s. Those are my practical, mid to long-range cartridges … which are still a lot of fun to shoot. I’m fortunate to have a lot of cool rifles, but those are the ones that come out of my safe most often. I still put thousands of rounds a year down those. I asked many of these guys what kind of barrel life they were seeing on their big bore rifles, and over 90% of the guys I asked didn’t know because they only had a few hundred rounds on the rifle. I change barrels on my 6 and 6.5’s at least once a year, because I’m shooting so many rounds down them.

      I just wanted to confirm that you’re on the right track, at least in my opinion. If I just had one precision rifle, it’d be a 6 or 6.5. These are monster rifles seem fun, but are pretty niche and too expensive (and too much recoil) for most people to enjoy pumping thousands of rounds down them.

      And you should totally go watch it. This seems to be a sport that is more well-suited to be a spectator sport than PRS. They had a viewing tent setup right by the firing line with a big screen TV showing cameras on each target at 4k resolution. It was pretty ridiculous. Dozens of other guys were lined up watching through spotting scopes, and many of them were like me – they weren’t there to compete, they just came to watch and enjoy the show. I think that is one of the big reasons this will pick up steam dramatically over the next couple years. It’s fairly niche right now, but I bet matches like this become really popular over the next 5 years.


      • I’m curious about how you have updated your older 6, 6.5, & 7mag custom rifles since your original post describing their builds. It sounds like they have seen a lot of rounds and I’m sure they have been upgraded.

      • Absolutely, Jonathan. I’ve shot out more than a couple barrels! I was planning to do an update on my primary competition rifles I am running after the ELR posts and a review on the Vectronix Terrapin X that I’ve been working on. I’ve changed a lot on the rifle I’m using in PRS-style matches, and have been running my current setup for a year and love it. The 7 mag hasn’t changed a whole lot, but I could give an update on that one as well. You are just confirming I need to do that update. So stay tuned for that.


  10. Great article as usual. Your site is a great source of information…. greatly appreciated!!!

    • Thanks, Bobby. Glad you found it helpful. Honestly, I’m interested in learning about this stuff myself, which is why I went. I just wanted to try to share what I found with anyone else who might be interested in this stuff. I appreciate the encouragement.


      • Cal
        Again all you do is appreciated. I am sure like some my work schedule does not allow me to devote as much time as I would like to shooting and reloading. I am thankful for all the effort you put into researching ,

  11. Did any of the competitors use anything other than Applied Ballistics for their ballistic engine?

    • Hey, Hunter. I would bet that was likely, but I only know the top 5 used the Applied Ballistics engine. With 50 shooters there, I’d bet at least a couple guys were using something else. Think about it, this crowd is definitely not a the kind of people who go mainstream. They’re forging a new extreme sport, which typically attracts the rebels … so I’d be shocked if somebody was using a different ballistic engine if for nothing else than to say they didn’t use the Applied Ballistics engine. I really mean that. That’s the kind of people who gather for things like this.

      But at those distances you absolutely HAVE to customize your firing solution to the atmospheric conditions (temp, pressure, humidity, etc.) or you won’t be close to a first round hit. You can’t just use the same static dope card you printed off for hunting season. That’s especially true for guys traveling from far away to Raton, which is pretty high up in the mountains (DA was 9000 ft during the finals). While there are a few tools out there that allow you to do that fairly easy, the Kestrel with Applied Ballistics or the Garmin with Applied Ballistics were the only things I noticed guys using. There are apps on the phone, but I didn’t have any service at the Whittington Center and most phones don’t have on-board sensors for pressure, so the majority of apps pull that data from a nearby weather station. But if you don’t have data service, that can be a problem.

      So in short, I don’t know for sure … but probably! 😉 Great question though. I wish I had data on all the guys who competed, but I don’t. Unfortunately, this is all I have.


  12. Well done article. Thanks!

    I noted only zeros and ones in the cold bore column. Did everyone engage that target or does the zero also include did-not-attempts?

    I also noted that on the final day there were 4 shooters that had no hits on the first target. Two of them shot the second target and 2 did not. What gives?

    • Great questions, Oscar. Yes, everyone did attempt the cold bore shot. Only a few hit in the qualifying round, and nobody hit in the finals. I think everyone tried it because it didn’t count for points, but it could give you a wind call for your first target for record. There was also a McMillan TAC 50 given away to one of the guys who hit the cold bore target. They drew out of the names of those who connected, which is a good incentive to sling some lead at it.

      The second question is a little more complex. Someone else asked a similar question, and here is what I told them. I think it will answer your question to:

      This gets back to my comment about the rules being a little complex. So not all of their shots are reflected on the score sheet … only those that they were rewarded points for. In the finals, you had 5 shots at each target … at least for points. Really you had 15 shots total (excluding the cold bore shot, which didn’t count for points). In the finals, if you were firing at the first target and missed it the first 5 shots you could continue to send rounds at it and if you hit it wouldn’t count for points, but you could move on to the next target and possibly hit it for points. Look at Rudy’s score for example. It actually has 0’s across Target 1 and 0’s across Target 2. But Rudy did eventually hit Target 1, but just didn’t do it within the first 5 shots, so he didn’t get any points for it. But I know he must have hit it, because he moved on to Target 2. It looks like he never engaged Target 3 (the 2 mile target), so he probably ran out of hits 15 rounds before he was able to connect with Target 2.

      Hope that makes sense. Like I said, it’s a little confusing. What’s funny is the qualifying round worked differently than that. You had 5 shots on the 1st target in the qualifying round (again, excluding the cold bore target), but if you didn’t hit within 5 rounds you were done. You couldn’t keep sending rounds at it to move on. It seems like they could unify or simplify that stuff, but then again … it’s easy to be a critic. I just appreciate these guys putting on the match.

      Great questions!


  13. Hi Cal. Another informative, detailed acticle. Well done. I find the varied equipment list facinating. It will be fun watching these fellas find their way and see how that list settles out over the next few years.

  14. Why wasn’t Bryan Litz on the AB team as a shooter or coach? I see he did shoot but placed 23rd

    • Hey, Josh. Bryan was there, but they changed the rules this year so that you could only be a wind coach for one shooter and a spotter for one shooter. The Applied Ballistics Team had several shooters, so they had to rotate who the spotter and wind coach was between all those guys. Last year that wasn’t the case, and they could just have their best wind coach and best spotter for all their shooters, but they changed the rules up a little this year so the team had to adapt. Bryan just wasn’t on the team that made it to the finals.


  15. Cal,
    I always enjoy and admire your work. I can’t imagine shooting 2 miles. My personal best is 1320 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor. Not in the same league as these guys! Unfortunately we can’t even shoot that far now due to land being sold. However it is nice to read about the equipment and dream of being able to do this some day.
    Please keep up the great work!

    • Stephen, that’s still an accomplishment. I’d bet 99% of shooters have never shot out to 1000 yards, so you’re in the 1%! And having access to a place to shoot out that far is a real problem with ELR. I actually plan to speak to that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned. You should come out and watch the match next year. It was pretty fun to just be a spectator and watch these guys.


  16. Cal:
    In preparation for my own long-range shooting, 17HMR at 200 yards. I purchased a Phoenix Precision bipod. If it is good enough for these guys, it is good enough for me.

    I was interested in the position of the bipod attachment on the stock. A “free floating barrel” is a misnomer like “muzzle velocity” because a barrel is a clamped tube. The clamp may be the receiver, stock or perhaps something else. In any case the clamp will vibrate when a shot is fired. In fact, every part of the weapon system will vibrate. In addition, how the weapon system is supported will influence the vibrations. Quantifying how much each part influences the whole is the question. Who will be the modern Harold Vaughn doing a detailed Finite Element Analysis combined with experiments using hundreds of MEMS sensors, digital recording-signal processing to compare theory with experiment?
    I observed that most of the shooters affixed the bipod near the front of the stock or on a spigot just in front of the stock. Does the location of the attachment point have a significant effect on the barrel vibrations? If so, do these guys experiment to determine the optimal location? Or is it a matter of rifle handleability? Or simply where an attachment point is possible?

    Many lessons were learned from bench-rest shooting. It would seem many will be learned from long-range and beyond long-range shooting.

    As always, an interesting and informative blog.


    • Great questions, Rick. We need a Harold Vaughn of our generation, but I’m not smart enough to fill those shoes!

      I’m not sure about why they chose that location. It could be that is just what people have always done. I noticed Duncan’s was a little further back than normal, and I was wondering if that was just so he could adjust it more easily from a prone position. It seems like bipod attachment point is a fulcrum, and the further out it is the more fine-grain control you’d have at the butt of the rifle. That might make it more forgiving of minute movement, or give you a little tighter control of the exact point of aim. But those are my guesses, honestly I can’t speak for these guys. I’m brand new to all this, and just trying to learn it myself!


      • Cal:

        I agree with your comments. Attachment location would seem to have an insignificant effect on barrel vibrations but would have effects you described. The location would be a trade-off of precision and time when moving the POA.

        Has anyone considered long-range competition where time is a factor. For example, two teams compete. Their stations on the firing line are, say, 25 feet apart, as are their target downrange so as to have as identical environment as possible. The target location must be determined, with the target greater than some long distance. The teams start behind their firing position and deploy on a start command. The team that rings steel first wins. However, if a shot is missed there is a mandatory waiting period before another shot can be taken. Now accuracy is important but also time. It would be most interesting to learn “teams” with a single shooter do against teams with multiple members.

      • That’s an interesting idea, Rick. I haven’t heard of a competition like that. The couple ELR matches I’ve attended have had set time periods that are fairly reasonable – you don’t have all the time in the world, but you also aren’t too rushed. Hitting targets that far is hard enough (and the hit percentage low enough) that tighter time constraints might make it VERY tough. But your head-to-head idea is interesting, because competitors would impose their own pace … so whatever you think is as fast as you can go, but still ring steel. I like the strategy part of that for sure. I bet we say a few formats of matches start appearing for ELR as it gains popularity. My guess is there will be 10-20 of these kinds of matches annually within the next 3 years. It’s a fun sport, and I bet it catches on with more people. So we’ll see. Maybe you’ll inspire someone reading the comments to try out that match format!


  17. Congrads to John Buhay. I find it remarkable that John finished a spectacular second, without a team?

    Nice article,

    • Yep. I believe he did have a spotter during the finals, but not during the qualifying round. John is a great shooter. No telling how many rounds he’s sent downrange. Great guy too. It really is impressive he was able to be that competitive without a team.


  18. Cal – I noted that one shooter, Bob Faber (shooter #18 on the charts), hit the cold bore target and had 5 hits on Target 1. So 6 straight hits. That appears to be end of his shooting. Any info on what happened – assumed he had it nailed and left it for others to have fun or? Thanks.

    • Well, that’s a great question. Honestly, I’m not sure. The only thing I can think of is he could have had an equipment malfunction. I wasn’t there on Day 1 of qualifications, so it may have happened before I got there … because I don’t remember seeing it.

      Bob, if you’re reading this … can you enlighten us?

      Sorry I couldn’t be helpful. I’m just as confused as you! 😉


      • Bob hit the cold bore and then all five on the first target at a good pace.

        Then he re-adjusted his scope and settled in for the next target, he accidentally aimed at the third target and fired a round off realizing the mistake he corrected his aim point and fired two rounds at the second target with no impact indication. I think the second target being blank on the score card versus zeros has thrown many speculations as to what happened.

      • Thanks, Jeff. That makes sense. I’ve done the same thing more than once in a competition, so I totally understand. Thanks for filling us in! … and congrats for placing in the top 10, buddy!


  19. Hey Cal:

    Every time that I read your report of an Extreme Long Range competition, I think that you could not do any better, yet you keep doing it better. Thank you and thanks to all of the commenters for a great insight into this King of 2 Mile Competition.

    Congrats to all of the competitors. Clearly they have invested lots of time and money in preparing for this competition.

    • Ha! Thanks, Capt. Now if only I could shoot as good as I write! 😉

      I know not everyone can cruise over to the match to watch. I’m fortunate to live just 5 hours from the Whittington Center. I just thought I’d try to share a little of what learned and experienced with people who might be interested, but couldn’t make it.

      I’m really excited about the next couple posts. I’m going to go into a few of the things that make ELR challenging, and explain tools and techniques these guys are using to overcome those obstacles. I think it will likely be the most educational and helpful posts of this series, but I feel like I’ve needed to lay some foundation before I dove into those things. It’s a whole different set of challenges than traditional long range, as I’ve found out. Bryan Litz has graciously agreed to help me with those posts, and we’re collaborating on them now. I can’t wait to share those. They may not be as interesting as the “What The Pros Use” for some readers, but these next posts will represent the bulk of what I’ve learned so far as I’m researching ELR, and I haven’t come across anything that systematically itemizes all the aspects I plan to cover. Pretty cool stuff, so stay tuned!


  20. Cal – Once again good stuff!! Did anyone use the 338 Lapua Mag or it’s siblings or does it just not have the ballistics to get out that far accurately?

    • Great question, Jay. Last year there were some 338 caliber rifles (e.g. 338 Lapua Mag, 338 Edge, 338 Norma Mag), and even one or two 30 caliber rifles (even including one 300 Win Mag). But this year I didn’t talk to anyone using anything smaller than 375. There might have been someone there shooting something smaller, but I just didn’t hear anyone doing it. I heard rumor that the match staff kind of discouraged it when you registered, although I don’t know if they denied anyone spots based on that.

      Interestingly enough it isn’t the external ballistics that keep people from being competitive with 30 or 338 caliber rifles, it’s being able to spot the impacts to make corrections. As I mentioned in my last post, I was in an ELR Match last year and got a first round hit at 1.5 miles (2640 yards) with a 338 Lapua Mag. So it’s capable out to that distance, although it’s a low percentage shot. But to stretch it to 3000 or 3525 yards like some of these guys were shooting would make it really tough to spot your impacts. The 375 and 416 calibers just carry a lot more energy down range, and still make a pretty sizable impact on dirt or even rocks way out there. If you can see where you hit, then you have a chance to measure your correction to center the next shot … but if you don’t see your splash you are sending the next round blind, and your hit probability shrinks to near zero. At least in the Ko2M, success is largely dependent on second shot corrections.

      I almost mentioned that in the article, but I plan to go into more depth on that in an upcoming post. So great question! You’re reading a chapter ahead! 😉


  21. Hi Cal,
    Thanks for the great article!
    Just curious, have you ever thought of putting together a comprehensive guide/book/article on wind reading? I have a feeling that with some of the wind coaches you mentioned, there would be a ton of valuable info to share/sell. On different facebook pages, some people say to just get out their a lot and experience the wind, and others say there is much more to it than just getting out. If you are in the second camp, I bet there is much to be learned. Thanks again for all you do!

    • Thanks, Brandon. Glad you enjoyed the article.

      I don’t consider myself a wind expert to the level that some guys are, but I have thought about putting something together. I think it’d have to be digital, because I think you’d be able to illustrate things with video that could really help people see what you’re referring to. I can see both sides of the “camps” you’re talking about, but there are some practical things you can teach people. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of smart people who have showed me little tips or nuances they use. Honestly, it’s just not as much “black magic” as some people think. At the end of the day, even the best wind coaches are still making an educated guess.

      I can remember when I finally felt like I “saw it”, and that was at the Gunwerks Long Range University a couple years ago (I wrote a post about that experience). They had a large portion of classroom teaching to help you understand how the wind moves over various terrain features, and then we also got to watch little experiments in the field that helps you see how the wind was moving. But here’s an excerpt from that post on what I felt like was the most valuable part:

      But, the most valuable thing was just the interactive conversation with James while we all sat behind spotting scopes looking down range. A student might say, “Hey, I’m seeing ____, does that mean …?” James might answer “Yeah, you see how it is …” or “No, if you’re seeing that you’re focus may be set beyond the target and you’re seeing an optical illusion. You should …” We were fortunate to have some strong, switching winds during our few days in Wyoming. Often the wind would pick up or change direction, and students would eventually say “See that?! It looks like the wind just picked up closer to 12 mph” or “It looks like the wind switched from 4 o’clock around to 7 o’clock.” During all this we were in an enclosed shooting area with big garage doors flipped up, which forced us to make calls based on what we were seeing downrange and not what you felt at your location.

      So I guess I’m in between the two camps. There are some practical things you can learn, but the best teaching is probably going out in the field with someone who knows what they’re doing and can communicate and teach that to you. I know there are some technical problems with trying to capture mirage on video, but I still think you could simulate it well enough to communicate the concepts.

      In case it’s helpful, here is the best online teaching I’ve come across:

      . Once again, it comes from the guys over at Gunwerks. They have pretty good graphics and teaching to help you get a basic understanding.

      I’ve been collecting good illustrations and wind studies over the years, so one day I might do a series of posts on that. I appreciate the suggestion.


  22. Cal:

    A final set of questions.

    First, what is the resolution of the spotting at 2 miles? That is, can the spotter tell the shooter the impact was 2 yards low and 5 yards to the right of the center of the target? Then does the shooter use a ballistics calculator to calculate the corrections, a ballistic turret or change the POA based on experience?

    In principle the elevation is deterministic. In practice what are the most significant unknowns determining elevation before the “ranging” shots? Seems one needs long-range WEZ software to sort the relative significance of the variables before the match.

    Or is the real biggie the wind and all other variables are a tertiary or less effect?

    Thanks, Rick

    • Hey, Rick. Great questions. While I can’t speak for all of the spotters, most of them use a scope with a reticle in them that has subtensions that match the reticle and adjustments on the shooter’s scope (i.e. mil or MOA). So when they spot an impact, they measure the distance from the impact to the center of the target, and might call out a correction like “You need to come up 0.4 mils and right 0.8 mils.” There is even an art to that, because often guys over correct. While you can’t ignore where the last impact hit, it’s also common for guys to “chase” a shot that strays one way or the other. You have to think about your group size relative to the target size. It’s just easy to miss on one side, and over-correct and miss on the other side. There isn’t a lot of science to that part, but I heard at least one spotter call out “you were 1.5 minute high, good wind” and I’d been watching and really thought that may have just been a shot that had a little higher muzzle velocity, because the rest of his shots were all much closer on elevation on the target. So I remember thinking in my head, “Oh, man. Don’t over correct!” Just a couple seconds later the shooter said “I’m not going to chase it. I think I’ll just adjust half of that amount.” … sure enough the next shot was centered. That shooter was Paul Phillips, so obviously he’s sent a ton of rounds downrange and knows better than me, but I appreciated that he wisely laid up there. I’m not sure if many other guys noticed that, but it was impressive. It’s an art to know when to adjust the full amount and when to lay up a bit. You don’t want to miss on the same side twice, but then again you don’t want to miss the target on the other side either! It’s all about putting what you just saw together with the previous shots and coming up with an educated guess on how your group is forming and what it’d take to center that group on the target.

      Typically when a spotter calls out a correction, the shooter will just hold it or might dial it. I watched the ELR Shooting with Applied Ballistics DVD a few months ago, and I think they said they will dial the initial elevation and windage corrections and then just hold fine corrections the spotter calls out based on previous shots. That’d probably be my strategy, but I’m sure other guys are successful with different strategies.

      The most significant unknowns are definitely surrounding wind. In Raton, there are updrafts that can throw you off target vertically … even if you forget about the horizontal component of the wind. There are guys there with all kinds of rangefinders, and I think the ranges that were provided were measured with 3 or 4 military-grade rangefinders in the $10,000+ price range, so I doubt any of the ranges were off by more than a couple yards (although that matters at that distance). The problem is there isn’t any way to get the PERFECT range at those distances (that I’m aware of). There will always be a little error in the measurement, and that can throw off your elevation too. I don’t have the WEZ on the computer I’m on right now, but I’m pretty sure being off by 1 yard at that distance is enough to throw you off target. Also being off in muzzle velocity by just a couple feet per second can throw you off too. You also have to take all the secondary ballistics elements into account (i.e. Coriolis, spin drift, etc), or you’ll be off target. You can safely ignore those at most “traditional long range” distances, but not in ELR. Additionally the drag model you’re using has to closely match your actual impacts, or you’ll be off target. That may take a more sophisticated approach than what it takes to get hits inside of 1500 yards.

      I ran all the WEZ analysis a couple weeks ago on this, thinking the same thing you are. I plan to mention more specifics of what I found in subsequent posts. When you are talking about ELR, the priorities do change. It’s much less about raw precision (i.e. small groups), and the priorities become wind, range, and extremely consistent muzzle velocity.

      Great questions … you’re really leading into what I plan to cover in the next few posts. I’ll talk about all those kinds of issues these guys have to overcome, and a few of the tools and techniques they’re using to do that. Great job setting me up! 😉 Stay tuned!


  23. Hey Cal,
    I dont follow many blogs: lots of opinions, lots of anonymity, and not a lot of context. I never miss a post from your blog. I check back frequently and often reread many of your posts. Your posts are always level-headed but passionate, technical but understandable, comprehensive but not exhausting. I greatly appreciate the work (and money!!!) that you put into your blog. I am an aspiring gunsmith/long range shooter and greatly enjoy the technical details you provide. One of my favorite posts was the one a few months ago about your African safari. Africa has fascinated me for many years. I would love to go there, and would also very much love to go on a safari there. In the post, you had mentioned that you were going on a mission trip to Kenya prior to the safari. If you have the time, I would love to hear details of that trip as well. I’m sure you have some great stories from that trip tool. Feel free to shoot me an email anytime. Thank you again for all your effort.

    • Thanks, Raymond. That means a lot. Glad the content has been helpful and interesting. The Africa safari was definitely a departure from anything I’ve ever done before, so it was fun to write about. Experience of a lifetime for sure … although I hope to go back in the next year or two.

      The mission trip I went on to Kenya was amazing as well. I got to take my wife, two little girls, and a large group of people I work with. The organization we visited is called Christian Ministries in Africa and they’re remarkable. They operate many ministries across six East African countries including church plants, orphanages, feed centers, medical outreach and much more. The company I lead supports that organization financially (and my family also does personally), so it was really cool to go see it on the ground and just love on some of the kids they’re serving. I’d visited that same organization 10 years earlier, and to see the growth was staggering. God is doing some really cool things in Africa. If you haven’t ever been, I’d highly recommend it! It will change you forever!

      Christian Ministries in Africa 2017