Gear > Optics

The Long and Short of It

Long-range shots are easier with a riflescope designed to allow for your bullet’s drop. Here’s a roundup of new ballistic reticles and how they work.

Shooting at long range is not an art, it’s a science. You, your rifle and your ammunition are a joint venture in advanced marksmanship and practical ballistics. And you, my friend, are the weak link in the chain—the unreliable, inconsistent, error-prone human that you are. Don’t take it personally, but your hardware is much more predictable.

Given that you are among a host of variables in long-range shooting, we’re going to eliminate you, your rifle, its trigger, your ammunition, the weather, the wind—every possible factor but one. Our sole focus will be on a key piece of gear that can dramatically affect your ability to make one-shot hits at long range—your riflescope.

To address the problem of making consistent long-range hits, scope manufacturers have developed a category of “holdover” riflescopes that contain special reticles to compensate for your bullet’s trajectory. These reticles replace the old “Kentucky windage” method of holding over a deer’s back and hoping your bullet drops into its boiler room.

Ballistics 101
You already know that if you’re going to hit a whitetail at 400 yards with a typical zero of “2 inches high at 100,” then youneed to hold over the deer. But how much? Do you hold on air … or hair? What about wind? New reticles can help you extend your personal range. We tested six brands of scopes with what are commonly called “drop-compensating reticles.” But before we introduce them, we need to review some basics about long-range shooting, and the basics begin with ballistics........

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