If you were born in the 60’s, 70’s or earlier, you probably never imagined shooting something past a couple of hundred yards.  I grew up shooting my Dad’s lever action .300 Savage with iron sites.  I hunted with that for many years without ever even considering a scope, and thinking that if I hit something at 200 yards I was ready to be a military sniper.  My how things have changed in my way of thinking when it comes to shooting long range.  It’s changed with even shooting in general.    

I developed a love for bow hunting many years ago, and that was my primary form of hunting for a very long time.  My intrigue for guns was reignited when I was introduced to the theory of long range shooting while guiding some elk hunters in Colorado.  Little did I know that this group of hunters would change the way I think about guns, long range shooting, and in the long run, cost me a lot of money.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was hunting with a shooter by the name of Jim Bauer, that would eventually achieve nine 1000 yard National Championships, two 600 yard National Championships, two 2 gun National Championships, and is still to this day, the only person ever to shoot a perfect score at a National Championship match.  During that hunt I sat in camp and would marvel at the guns they had.  Not only were they “sexy”, but I couldn’t believe how much they cost.  I remember thinking to myself “I could buy a lot of really nice bows with that kind of money”.  Several years after that exposure, I was invited to meet up with Jim Bauer and a group of friends from Kansas at the National Varmint Hunters Jamboree in Pier, South Dakota.  I was excited to try my hand at any distance greater than 200 yards but I didn’t have a gun to shoot, and I was pretty sure that my old .300 Savage was not going to cut the mustard.  After several conversations with Jim Bauer, and another Kansas friend by the name of Jake Hesse, Jake ordered me my first real long range shooter.  It was a Savage model 12 F Class in a 6BR platform.  I bought the best gun I could afford at the time and actually sold a Swarovski spotting scope to pay for it.  I topped it with a Vortex scope and away I went to South Dakota, which is where I made the naïve yet infamous statement while watching others shoot the balloon course of, “that doesn’t look that hard”.  To this day, I still get harassed about that statement.  Needless to say, I didn’t do very well during those 2 days of shooting but I did learn a whole new respect for the sport and had an absolute blast doing it.  That weekend proved to be the beginning of my love of long rage shooting.   

A couple of years later, on a trip to Kansas to hunt turkeys, I really went over the deep end with this long range habit.  Jim has one of the coolest setups for shooting and load development that I have ever seen.  It makes the ones in the magazines look small and insignificant.  I’m pretty sure that his gun room would rival the number and calibers of guns in any Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Wharehouse.  On that trip, I was able to sit down with Jim and get a crash course on load development, shooting techniques and the real nitty gritty of cleaning a true competition rifle (yes there is a special way to clean your gun).  I learned where to place the trigger on the pad of your finger, how to maintain target acquisition while loading in rapid fashion, rapid cycling of rounds to maintain consistency down range, and many other things.  I did my best to take notes that day but there was so much information, I knew that I would forget the vast majority of it.  When the time came to head home, Jim came out to my truck with a gun case.  Inside that gun case was a very sexy gun that Jim had named “Slytherin”, due to the python paint scheme that it had on it.  It was a custom gun assembled with a Krieger barrel, Stiller action, and a Shehane stock in a .300 WSM platform.  He told me that I wouldn’t be able to compete in 1000 yards with the Savage 6BR and then gave the gun to me.  I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe what had just happened.  That stuff only happens to other people, not me.  All I had to do at this point was put an optic on top of it that would do it justice.  

To make a long story short, after multiple monthly phone calls, purchasing my own reloading equipment and shooting hundreds of rounds through Slyterin, I was ready to try my hand with the big boys.  That year I met up that with Jim Bauer, and the rest of the Kansas gang, in West Virginia for the 2012 1000 Yard National Bench Rest Championships.  It was during those several days of shooting and learning that I really gained a love for long range shooting.  I was beginning to really understand the complexity of shooting, from the gun specific load development right down to the concentricity of the casing and dividing those cases up in groups by tenths of grains.  I spent time at Shot Show with the Kansas gang (they all shoot together) and learning all about bullets, primers, powders and anything that had to do with shooting.  My downfall was that I was getting in to the sport when powder, bullets and primers were is short supply.  If you weren’t at Cabelas on the day the powder was delivered you didn’t get any.  So that put a damper on the amount of shooting I was doing.  I continued to shoot but an average bench rest tournament required you to load, and be prepared to shoot, 400 rounds.  Having that much supply on hand proved to be a real challenge.  

The love and passion of long range shooting for this small town redneck has been a work in progress over a 10-12 year span.  The thing that attracted me to this sport is the complexity.  From building the right rifle, to finding the right recipe for bullets, to correcting all of the bad shooting habits I have learned over the years, it’s a lot of fun.  It reminds me a lot of bowhunting to a certain degree.  In bowhunting, it all has to come together to be successful and harvest game.  The same can be said for long range shooting.  From skill, to the right bullet, to fine tuning a rifle, it all has to come together to be successful.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to shoot a 4” group at 1000 yards to enjoy the challenge, and you don’t have to own a $5000 gun to hit what you’re aiming at at 1000 yards.  You can do it with an out of the box Savage for less than $1000, scope included.  I know, I have one of those.  My advice to those that are just starting out, or to those that are stuck in a rut with load development or technique, is to find a great mentor.  I have been extremely fortunate to have one in Jim Bauer.  Like a “wine snob”, I guess you could say that I have become a gun snob.  As for this redneck, this sport has a permanent hold on me.