This article is part of a series that is taking a deep dive with 6 of the most dominant precision rifle competitors in the world over the past several years. We’ll learn what gear they run and why they feel those things give them the best chance of winning. They also share lots of shooting tips and strategies along the way! (View which 6 shooters and what all will be covered.)
This is Part 3 of the spotlight on Austin Orgain, who is the winningest precision rifle shooter of the past 5-7 years. Austin Orgain is a two-time Precision Rifle Series (PRS) champion and has the highest total accumulated PRS points over the past 7 years. The PRS is the major league of competitive long-range shooting. Austin was the PRS Overall Season Champion in both 2020 and 2021. He was the 2017 National Rifle League (NRL) Season Champion and won the 2020 Armageddon Gear Cup (AG Cup), the annual rifle match with the biggest cash payout that always attracts the best talent. If you had to name one guy that has consistently dominated precision rifle shooting over the past 5-7 years – that would be Austin Orgain. (Learn more about Austin)
These spotlight articles are all based on literally hours of conversation that I had with Austin. Thanks, Austin, for being willing to share your expertise with the rest of us!
The previous article covered exhaustive detail about Austin Orgain’s competition rifle that he used to win all of his titles over the past few years.
This article will focus on:
- How Austin calculates his ballistics
- How he tests and trues his ballistic solution to match his actual impacts in the field
- How he writes down his dope (adjustments for elevation and wind) for a stage at a match
- How he references and uses that info while he’s on the clock
How do you calculate your ballistic solution? Hornady Ballistic App with 4DOF + Kestrel 5700 Elite Weather Meter with Applied Ballistics
To calculate his ballistics during a rifle match, Austin uses a combination of the 4DOF Calculator in Hornady’s free Ballistic app alongside a Kestrel 5700 Elite Weather Station. Austin said he only uses the Kestrel to measure the wind at his position and gather all of the atmospheric data that he feeds via Bluetooth into the Hornady Ballistic app on his iPhone. Then, he uses the Hornady app to calculate his elevation and wind holds for each target on a stage.
Do you use the 4DOF drag profile, a G1 BC, or a G7 BC to calculate the ballistics on the Hornady app? Austin: “4 DOF.”
Why do you use the Hornady app instead of simply using the ballistics from the Kestrel? Austin: “Simply the ease of use. The app makes it super quick and easy to get the data I need.”
The touch interface and big screen on your phone make it much easier to interact with the ballistic solver and see the outputs you need. While the Kestrel is a great tool and is what 76% of the top shooters use to calculate their ballistics (see the data), the Kestrel screen is only 1.3” wide x 0.8” tall (1.0 sq in). On the other hand, a typical iPhone screen is 5.5” x 2.5” (13.8 sq in), which is 13 times bigger – plus, a phone screen has better resolution, color, and a rich touch interface – instead of being limited to only interacting with the software with 9 simple buttons like the Kestrel.
So, you aren’t using the Hornady 4DOF calculator because you think it’s more accurate than the Applied Ballistics one? Austin: “No. If it were that, the Kestrel with 4DOF runs the same ballistic program as the phone app – so I could use that. In my experience, whether you’re using a 4DOF drag model or custom drag curve with Applied Ballistics or even just a G7 BC on either Hornady or AB, you can almost always get it to true up any of those well enough to win a match.”
How do you true your ballistic solution to align with your actual impacts in the field?
Austin: “I do almost all of my load development over a chronograph to measure the velocity, so I pretty much have that dialed in and know my velocity before I go out to true my ballistics. When I’m trueing my ballistics, I like to shoot at 3 distances: 1) 400 yards, which is a shorter distance. 2) 700 yards, which is kind of a mid-range distance for us. 3) 1100-1200 yards, which is a longer distance in the PRS. The range at my house only goes out to 900 yards, so I am typically limited to that for the longer one – but ideally, I’d be able to check it a little further. I want my data to line up with my actual impacts at all 3 of those distances. To do that, if what the ballistic calculator says doesn’t line up with the short or mid-range, I’ll adjust the velocity until it does because the bullet’s velocity is more of a driving factor when it comes to ballistics out to around 700 yards. If my dope lines up at the close and mid-range but not the long one, I’ll adjust the drag of the bullet because that is more of a driving factor for your ballistics at those longer distances.”
|Distance (yards)||Description||What do I change if the data doesn’t match my impacts?|
|400||Shorter Range||Adjust Muzzle Velocity|
|700||Mid-Range||Adjust Muzzle Velocity|
|1100-1200||Long-Range||Adjust BC/Bullet Drag|
“Realistically, with how good everyone’s guns tend to shoot today, if you are within 15 fps on your muzzle velocity, you’re going to be fine. At the longer distances, as long as your drag is pretty close – you should be good, regardless of whether you’re running a BC, 4DOF profile, or custom drag curve.” – Austin Orgain
What do you calculate and write down for wind on a stage?
Austin: “It depends on what the stage is. Let’s say we have a 5-target troop line that goes out to 1,000 yards. I write down a minimum of 3 wind calls. I’ll take out my Kestrel weather meter and figure out what I think the minimum, average, and maximum wind speed might be that I’d experience on the stage. I want my middle column to be my average wind. Let’s say my minimum was 8 mph, average was 10 mph, and max was 12 mph. I like to do either 2 or 3 mph increments, depending on how far my further target is. I don’t want the space between the wind holds I have written down to be too far that I end up having to do math on the clock during a stage to get my in-between values. So if I do 2-3 mph, I’m probably not going to be more than 0.3-0.4 mils difference on the wind holds I wrote down, and it’s pretty quick math on the fly if you need to hold between 2 wind columns.”
When you are shooting a stage at a match, it’s crucial to be able to watch your impacts and use what you see to fine-tune your wind call and apply that to the next target. Here is how Austin makes use of the multiple wind columns during a stage: Let’s say he starts the stage by holding for a 10 mph wind (the center wind column) on the first target at 400 yards, so he holds 0.5 mils. His first shot hit, but he noticed it hit slightly downwind on the plate. He may already know the plate is 0.3 mils wide, so he needs to add another 0.1 mils to his hold. While he did get an impact with the 0.5 mil wind hold (and probably would if he shot that again), he should have held 0.6 mils to perfectly center the target. So that is what he holds on the second shot on that 400-yard target and nails it dead center. Look at the dope card above and notice that he started with 0.5 mils (roughly a 10 mph wind shown in the middle column), but to get perfectly centered, he needed the hold in the right column, which was 12 mph. Now, as he transitions to target 2 at 600 yards, he will stay in the right column and hold 0.9 mils. By switching columns, he is applying what he learned from the first target to the 2nd one. Let’s say his first shot on the 600-yard target was dead center, but his second shot was towards the upwind side. That means he needs to hold a little less wind. Austin might use his reticle to measure the distance from the center of the target to where his bullet impacted, and let’s say he measured 0.15 mils. That means the hold to get dead center would have been around 0.75 mils – which is back to the center column. So, as he moved to target 3 at 750, he would stay in the center column, and for his first shot, he would hold 1.0 mils. If the wind holds steady, he might stay in that center column all the way out – or he might jump to one of the other columns if he sees that his bullet isn’t perfectly centered on the target. Austin is always trying to adjust his next impact to center and then apply what he learned on the last shot to the next one.
This is one of the biggest ways a pro-level shooter differs from an amateur: If an amateur shooter gets a hit on a target with a hold of 0.5 mils, they are going to almost always send a follow-up shot with the exact same wind hold. They may not have seen where it hit. Honestly, when an amateur shooter is on the clock, everything is coming at them pretty fast. (Ask me how I know! 😉) The amateur shooter might be hitting on the edge of the target, but they will just keep that same hold and hit an edge until they slip one off the edge and miss – and then they’ll typically say, “The wind screwed me on that stage!” But, a pro-level shooter’s top priority is to spot their exact point of impact and then figure out what their next wind hold should be to bring that impact to the center of the target. They are going to do that on virtually every shot – which gives them a slightly higher probability of a hit, and over 200 shots in a match, that slight difference in probability stacks up more points.
Austin: “If it’s really gusty, I might even go one more column above and below what I measured, meaning I’d have up to 5 wind columns written down before the stage starts.”
Austin: “Really, I don’t ever write down more than 5 wind columns. If I need more, then I start spreading out my values a little more and might do 4 mph or even 5 mph increments between columns.”
Austin: “Not to make it overly complicated, but I actually base what winds I write down not just on the wind speed but also the wind direction. If I’m shooting at 1,000 yards in a full crosswind from 3:00, I may need smaller increments, like 2 or 3 mph between my columns. However, if I’m shooting in that same wind speed, but the wind angle is coming from 1:00 or 5:00, then I can actually have bigger increments between my wind columns (maybe a 4 or 5 mph difference) because that more shallow angle means the gaps between my holds is still very small (under 0.4 mils even at distance).”
Compare Dope Card Example 3 above back to Example 1. Both examples have 3 wind columns. Example 1 covers 8-12 mph from 3:00, and Example 3 covers 6-14 mph from 5:00 – and the max gap between the wind holds at the furthest target is 0.33 mils in both cases. That shows the net effect of a more shallow wind angle, which basically helps you cover twice as big of a range for wind without the gaps between your columns getting too large that you might have to do math in your head on the clock.
Austin: “How many winds I write down and how large of gaps I’ll allow between them may even vary based on the size of the targets on the stage, too. If the target at 1000 yards was huge and 0.6 mils wide, then it might be okay to have 0.5 mil gaps between your wind columns. But, if the stage has targets that are only 0.3-0.4 mils wide, you don’t want 0.5 mil gaps between your wind columns, or it will take longer and more brain bandwidth to process what I need to hold in between. You know everybody gets dumber on the clock. Everyone is instantly dumber when the RO says, ‘Your time starts now.’ So the least amount of math you have to do on the clock, the better off you’ll be.”
“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is get enough information down that you’re covered for about anything you might see and without having to do any math on the clock – but also not having too much information to try to sort through while you’re rolling on the clock. So it’s kind of a balance between those two things.” – Austin Orgain
Where do you write down your adjustments so you can reference those while you’re on the clock shooting a stage?
While it may vary some by stage, what Austin writes down is similar to the dope card examples above. He handwrites all of that stuff on a pre-printed card with a grid of rows and columns, shown below, and then puts that card in an Under Armour QB Wrist Coach that he wears on his forearm. That makes it easy to reference at a glance as he is shooting a stage.
Under Armour QB Wrist Coach & Blank Dope Cards: This is the system Austin uses to write down his elevation and wind adjustments before a stage and then reference those while he’s on the clock.
Sharpie Retractable Ultra-Fine Tip Permanent Markers + Pen: For writing down his dope card before a stage.
Rite In The Rain 3” x 5” Weatherproof Spiral Notebook: If you’ve ever shot a match in the rain, you know how tough it can be to keep your stuff dry and write down your dope. Most people aren’t prepared for it. This notebook and the paper in it are designed to work in the rain.
Next Up: Everything Else Austin Carries At A Rifle Match
Alright, that wraps up all the exhaustive details about Austin’s rifle! The next article will share all the stuff that Austin carries with him during a big match, including shooting bags, what optics he uses to spot for other shooters and check conditions downrange before he shoots, and any tools, backup parts, or other gear. So stay tuned for that!
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Other Articles From Austin Orgain’s Shooter Spotlight
This is part of a series of articles spotlighting Austin Orgain. Here are links to all of those articles:
- Part 1: Intro to Austin & His Recent Experiment with the 25×47 and 25 GT
- Part 2: Austin’s Complete Rifle Setup
- Part 3: How Austin Trues His Ballistics & Calculates His Dope At A Match
- Part 4: Everything He Carries At A Rifle Match
- Part 5: Austin’s Reloading Setup & Process
- Part 6: Strategy & Shooting Tips
You also might be interested in checking out the shooter spotlight I recently published on Austin Buschman, too.