While long-range shooting and long-range hunting involve taking down targets and game animals over long distances, the two are fundamentally different.
This post explores these differences to help shooters practice each activity safely and responsibly.
What is Long Range Target Shooting?
The National Rifle Association (NRA) defines long-range target shooting distance as 1,000 yards and mid-range target as 600 yards.
People pursue long-range shooting for different reasons including;
- To improve accuracy and precision
- To hone their long-range shooting techniques and strategies
- To enjoy it as a recreational activity
- To participate in long-range competitions
What is Long Range Hunting?
Long-range hunting involves shooting game animals at distances beyond 500 yards.
Most shooters define long-range hunting distance as 300 yards.
That said, this definition may vary from one hunter to another depending on their skill level and hunting ground.
In places like North Woods, for instance, seeing through 150 yards under thick forest cover can be a problem.
Conversely, it’s not uncommon for long-range hunters to spot coyotes at 500 or 1,000 yards in the green fields of the South or vast open spaces of the West.
People engage in long-distance hunting for various reasons, including;
- The challenge of tracking and stalking big game animals over long distances
- The thrill of the hunt
- To get a sense of accomplishment
- As a means of sustenance
- As a way to conserve wildlife, manage animal populations and other environmental factors
Animals hunted over long ranges include big game animals such as deer, elk, and smaller varmints like coyotes and prairie dogs.
Long-range shooting and long-range target hunting require almost similar skills and techniques.
You need rock-steady rest on your rifle's forehand and under the buttstock for accurate long-range shots. At the range, you can achieve this by using a bench or shooting from a prone position.
You can establish a steady rest on the hunting ground by using your backpack, a bipod, shooting sticks, a wadded-up jacket, or the ground.
In addition, longer shots require minimal movement. On the bench, this means ensuring your non-shooting hand stays off your rifle.
Meanwhile, your shooting hand thumb should point forward instead of being wrapped over the top of your rifle.
That way, you don't have to squeeze and torque your rifle. Aim to deploy the shot at your natural respiratory break between breaks.
Remember, even the slightest body movement affects your shot's accuracy, for long-distance or mid-range targets.
One of the main differences between long-range shooting and long-range hunting is the equipment.
Extreme long-range shooting requires specialized rifles and optics designed for accuracy and precision at distances of 1,000 yards or more.
Long-range rifles sport a heavy barrel and stock for stability and comfort during long periods of shooting.
In addition, long-range shooting requires a high-magnification spotting scope for a clear, detailed view of the target at long distances.
On the other hand, long-range hunting requires rifles and optics that can offer a combination of accuracy, portability, and durability.
The right rifle for hunting over long distances is lighter and more compact than one for target shooting.
Most hunting rifles use shorter, more versatile optics, such as the Stealth Vision Scope. A good long-range scope must handle a wide range of hunting conditions.
Optics are arguably more crucial than the gun in long-range shooting environments, and now isn’t the time to go cheap.
You need quality glass offering specific features for accurate shots over longer ranges. The Stealth Vision Scope, for instance, boasts the patent-pending anti-cant green light technology to deliver sniper accuracy for big game and targets over 1,000 yards away.
The scope offers plenty of options for holding elevation and windage if need be. The convenient power adjustment ring allows you to change your zoom magnification from 5x to 30x, making it one of the best rifle scopes for long-range game hunting.
The ability to read the wind is what separates good long-range shooters from great ones.
Even though the wind may not be a factor at shorter distances, it’ll affect the bullet drop at 1,000 yards.
Reading the wind is essential for long-range shooting and long-range hunting at the muzzle, your target, and various intervals between the two. You can achieve this using a range timer.
It’d be best to dial for elevation and hold for windage in long-range shooting situations. In addition, you’ll need to use your reticle’s hash marks to the left or right, depending on how the wind behaves.
It is crucial to consider how many MOA each hash mark represents, especially if you have a spotter on the bench calling the wind for you.
Long-range shooting and long-range hunting caliber may be different.
The type and caliber of a firearm can affect its accuracy, precision, and power at long distances, factors that can be crucial for target shooting and hunting.
A larger caliber can deliver greater accuracy and precision at long distances, making it ideal for long distances.
Further, a larger caliber is heavier, so it's less prone to wind and other weather conditions that can affect the bullet path.
Additionally, a larger caliber may have a higher ballistic coefficient, enabling it to retain velocity and energy over long distances.
A smaller caliber may be ideal for long-range hunts because it can deliver enough power to kill game animals at long distances and is less likely to cause excessive damage to the meat.
Because of the lower mass, a smaller caliber can transfer its energy to the target without over-penetrating. Besides, the bullet may have a flatter trajectory, making it easier to aim at long distances.
It's important to note that the caliber of a firearm used for long-range target shooting or hunting can also be affected by other factors, such as;
- The type and weight of the bullet
- The length and type of the barrel
- The design of the gun's sights or scope
It's also worth mentioning that the regulations governing the use of firearms for long-range target shooting or hunting may limit the caliber or rifle you can use.
It's always best to check with your local government agency or firearms association for more information on the specific regulations in your area.
The Bottom Line
Long-range hunting and long-range shooting involve hitting targets over 500 yards.
However, learning the differences between the two can help you decide which equipment to use and techniques to deploy to hit your target or game animal with precision.
While the differences highlighted here aren’t the only ones, they’re some of the most fundamental.