LRI Long Range Shooting Course:
(For the photos that went along with this review, check out the page I first published them on here)
500 Miles to nowhere. I left Ogre Ranch after 9AM… a late start… Friends and Family delayed, but quite honestly I was reluctant to leave my boys. I wanted to bring them with me.
The drive was long but not bad at all… crossing the 500 miles I went through some of the most gorgeous country I’ve ever seen. Oceans of grassland, dotted with Pronghorn. So many antelope that I couldn’t believe it. There was a Speed Goat everywhere I looked. Most of the trip I’d see them individually, but as I moved further north east, I began seeing them in larger groups. Even a good sized group that could have numbered about a hundred. I’ve not seen that many in one group in almost fifteen years.
LRI is located near Lance Creek Wyoming. Now, you guys know I bust on Vernal, Utah for being a small town. Vernal is cosmopolitan compared to Lance Creek. I’ll try to remember that next time I complain about the lack of good eateries in Vernal. In about a week once this is through.
LRI HQ is a simple steel building that was built in a week. Hastily done, but accommodating. Plenty of room for everyone, plenty of space. The bathroom has a door, there is a shower, urinal, toilet, sink, and there is a Washer and Drier. Everything one needs. Military bunks that could have been taken straight from Ft. Benning’s Harmony Church, where I did my Boot Camp way back when. Brought back nightmares of Drill Sergeants in Campaign Hats. Luckily those nightmares did not materialize as Shep and his crew of Instructors are casual and laid back.
September gave us a cold snap so this first night, it was cold. As it would be every night of the course. All of us gathered the night before class started so we could start first thing Monday morning. We bullshitted that night, and we could see our breath while speaking. The space heaters can not keep up. This is why LRI has no scheduled winter courses. While it was chilly, it wasn’t too cold. We were told to bring layering clothes for cold weather so no one was uncomfortable. If you got too cold, Shep’s dog, Ruben, could come over and give you a friendly hump to warm you up.
After driving all day, everyone was just happy to be able to walk around and bullshit. Most guys at there are former military, so everyone had stories to tell. Looks like a good group so we’ll have a good class once in starts first thing in the morning.
We woke up and had chow at 7:30. A great breakfast. We had some class time on the fundamentals and got damn near overwhelmed with information and mathematical formula. Because our class was small, we got through the bookwork quickly. Theory is just that until you put it into practice. Since the weather was on our side here, we decided it was time to head out to the range.
We went to the 100 yard range for zeroing. We worked some drills that I wont get into because they are LRI intellectual property. One fun training drill that I will talk about is the Colored Dot game. There are 4 colors, and rows of four in different patterns, and this was on four different target boards. You get your name called, you get a color called, and you shoot that colored dot on that row, on each target board as quickly as you can. It was a lot of fun and a good challenge.
We had a lot of discussion regarding the critical importance of tracking your cold bore shots. Lots of misinformation out there floating around the Gun Shop Commando Circuit about what a Cold Bore Shot is. What I didn’t know was just how far off those CBS’s can be… and the importance of tracking them. Reason being, so when you make a CBS, you know where it is going to hit. This is why you have to be consistent with your cleaning routine, because it has an effect on your CBS. Drastic effects. These effects were different for each rifle at the course. I never really thought about the CBS like this before. Another reason to keep a Data Book – for each of your rifles.
The food here is fantastic… Chow time isn’t your normally chow hall mess. Larry is a Master Chef… a Grilling Ninja. You will not be disappointed when you drag yourself back in from the range and smell the food he’s been cooking up. Hot coffee and water for Tea or Hot Chocolate was always ready and waiting.
Our days start out at the 100 yard range where we work the FBI Drill and track our CBS. Once that was done we move out to the long range course. We checked our zero at 200 yards and found where we were hitting at distance. This day was about finding our Scope Dope from 200 yards out to 600 yards and hitting at those ranges became clockwork. We discussed Max Point Blank, Wind Drift, and we worked drills between 4, 5, and 600 yards. We also worked on Sniper – Spotter Teamwork.
I’m eating so much good food, I feel sick. My bad knee is kicking my ass. I came to the course with a torn meniscus and ACL tendon, so moving is done with gritted teeth and Tylenol. The LRI Staff were accomodating and while I moved slower, they made sure I didn’t miss anything without holding up the rest of the class. If you have some sort of health or mobility issue, LRI can still work with you so you come away knowing how to get the most from your rifle. In spite of my pain, I’m enjoying everything. CBS, FBI Drill, and we worked from 700 to 1000 yards. Once we found our scope dope for each range… yes, at this point we were already hitting at a Grand. Brilliant! Shooting at a grand, I got scope bit hard enough to cause bleeding. Jason, one of LRI’s former Marine Snipers, asked me if I needed a bandaide. “Fuck a bandaide,” I said, as I jacked another round in the chamber and hit the 1000 yard plate. This just taught me a lesson to be mindful of crawling up the stock.
Now that we can shoot, we have to push it further. To start out on the next phase, first we had to learn how to draw a Range Card. This is basically a map of your field of fire. On this you jot down your ranges to anything out there… target reference points, any identifiable features… known ranges. Also include your scope-dope for those TRP’s. Makes things easier. I’ll leave the details of drawing a good range card to the Masters at LRI. There is a lot more to it, and there are different kinds of range cards you can draw. While this is a standard practice for military operations, it has applications outside of the military. If you are a hunter, you can draw up range cards of your fields of fire from your favorite tree stand or hunting blind. If you are a police sniper, take the time to draw range cards from likely positions from landmarks such as roof tops or towers… having that information at your fingertips could come in very handy in the future.
While we were doing drawing our range cards, the LRI instructors removed the field markers on the rifle range, and scattered the targets around… they were no longer at known distances. 10 steel plates, numbered, and we had to estimate the ranges and jot down our estimated scope-dope for each. Then we did an evil little drill where we have to shoot each plate based on our estimates. Marine Snipers do this all the time… this is their bread and butter as Marty, one of the instructors, explained. The way you do this is with your mil dot reticle in your scope, working a math formula, and there you go. My problem is that I didn’t have a Mil Dot reticle. I had the Rapid Reticle from PFI. There is a way to mil out ranges with the PFI scope – but we didn’t cover this. This was the first time that my brilliant PFI RR800-1 scope became a handicap. You have to shoot a score of 80. I lead the class with an 84 on the first drill.
I was hoping someone would give me a Negligent Discharge and accidentally shoot me in my knee. It kept me up all night… again… We had an MRE for lunch the day before, which means I couldn’t take my normal morning constitutional. Evidently I wasn’t the only one. Farting was abundant. Thank goodness the wind had picked up to clear the air.
We of course did the CBS tracking with the FBI drill, worked some more unknown distance drills, and then we went out hunting.
I’ll just give you the highlight reel now…
The Vehicle Assault Course. The LRI Assault Jeep is a monster. Huge tires, big cage for stand up shooting while on the move… which is perfectly legal at LRI. Not in Utah. Damn it. For this course I used my SIG 556. I rocked the course, not just hitting each target, but double or triple tapping each one – just because I was having too much fun.
Town Raiding. Six of us jumped into the LRI Assault Jeep and we went raiding prairie dog towns. Jason spotted a coyote and called out for me to shoot it. My rifle wasn’t at a friendly angle and thanks to the roll bars in the Jeep, I couldn’t move my gun into a better position fast enough, so Jason shot it. I didn’t mind at all. It was a good shot and the coyote didn’t even twitch. Matt and Shep then had to step coyote excrement as Jason posed for a photo, holding up the dead coyote. Shep clipped the ears for the bounty which is 25 bucks.
On an interesting note, calling in coyotes with commercial made calls didn’t work here, but pounding around in the Assault Jeep, blasting Hard Rock, scaring wildlife in six counties evidently does. On the other hand, using these calls, Mule Deer respond with gusto. We tried to hunt coyotes… and I used a small arsenal of my best calls. Didn’t call one bloody coyote in with them… but two doe Mulies came in at a dead run. Frantic, they were. They got within 20 yards of me, standing up in the open, and they just looked at me with their ears up… it was like they were saying “What!? What is it?!” They snooped around, walked past Matt and then wandered away. I’ve never seen that before.
Another thing I never saw before was a hawk who swooped in for a strike on a prairie dog that I was about to pull the trigger on. He swooped in and perched right there stretching his talons… magnificent bird.
Lefty-Twofer. Jason had a brutal shot which nailed a P-dog sitting in a perfect side on shot position. His bullet clipped the dog in the back of the neck and severed the spine letting the head fall forward unattached. Because I spent a lot of time rolling in Jason’ Chevy in the Shotgun position – I had to shoot left handed. This proved to be a challenge, but no handicap. I made some fantastic shots. The best one was two head shots with one bullet, left handed. These little P-Dogs would be instantly turned inside out in a very violent, graphic manner. It was a horror show.
Now, this was all done shooting 55 grain V-Max bullets with my Savage .22-250 which Rob Bonacci, LRI’s Armorer sorted out for me… The bloody gun could extract a fired shell, but not eject it. He fixed that. Then gave it a tiger stripe camo paint job. And he put a target crown on my carry pistol. Rob is a fantastic gunsmith who really knows his craft. If your gun has a problem, Rob will fix it.
The other students there were solid good guys. Good shooters. Travis and Chris from Magpul Dynamics, with their purpose built sniper rifles. Dimitri from LA. Matt from Min. Matt was the most improved shooter, coming in with his new hunting set up. A Weatherby Vanguard in .300 WSM topped with a Nikon Monarch BDC rifle scope. He couldn’t get that gun to group at all at first… yet went away owning anything out to a 1000 yards with authority. Dimitri, man… he shot group at 1000 yards that was about 5 inches with a .308 using factory rolled ammunition… Federal Gold Match. I about fell over when I saw that. The instructors are good people… Shep, Marty, Jason, and Rob did a great job and put on a course that I will never forget. Larry with the cooking… Stan Wolfe… what can I say about Stan? The man is an institution… he is developing a new mounting system for optics on long range guns that allowed me to hit at 1100 yards – easily – in high wind. He’s Old School Marine, being a Veteran of the Korean War. Stan has come out to each and every LRI course, and while not a student of the course or an instructor per say, he had a lot of wisdom he passed on to anyone who wanted to listen.
Then there is Ruben. An insane Wire-Haired Griffon… which is a hairy sort of sporting bird-dog. The floor was his territory, so don’t leave anything on it… or on your bunk in easy reach… or your sleeping bag with arousing looking lumps. Because Ruben would either steal it or hump it. Including old men such as Larry and Stan. Oh, this was funny.
Ruben was easily distracted with a laser, I found. He would chase it with determination. The trick is to get him chasing a laser, then lead it under or behind the couch and turn it off to make it look like the dot was hiding. Ruben would be occupied with this for a good long time. So if you get Ruben interested in something that belongs to you… get him to hunt that laser dot and he’ll leave you alone.
I had a great time at LRI and I was reluctant to leave this shooter’s heaven… As the road from LRI turned back from dirt to pavement, the music on the radio changed to the news, and instantly I was back in the real world.
I look forward to going back as soon as I can.
Gear Observations: Dimitri was a genius when he busted out elbow and knee pads… and then a saint when he let me use them to help my busted knee. I think brining knee and elbow pads is a great idea… and I would recommend bringing them. Since you spend a great deal of time in the prone, bring a pad of some sort to lay on.
The Remington XCR Compact Tactical performed very well… but it wasn’t perfect. First thing I had to get done was to build up a check rest. This allowed me to be more consistent with my positioning. I had a hard time loading the 4th round in the magazine. Sometimes it would load #4 with no problem, other times, it would jam it up and you would have to dump all the rounds. The good trigger got better as the class went on.
The PFI RR800-1 scope was brilliant. I really like this scope, and I really like this rifle/scope combination. The accuracy potential is impressive. The yardage marks in the scope made hitting much easier. You still have to find your range, calculate your wind… and your scope will tell you where to hold for the shot. Because you zero this scope for 100 yards, and the one hundred yard line is so high, it is a little different holding the gun on that mark… you naturally want to hold for 400 yards, the center of the reticle. But don’t do it… hold where PFI suggests and you will be DNO… Dead Nuts On. That is, you will be DNO if you bring ammunition that falls within PFI’s suggested performance range. Unfortunately I brought the wrong ammo for the task at hand. I brought with me Winchester Super-X 150 grain cartridges. Here is what I learned. The rate of twist is not good for 150 grainers and Winchester Super-X loads are inconsistently loaded. This is a statement that I make in the same tone as saying getting kicked in the balls hurt. It’s not just obvious, to you, but it’s obvious to all those around you. The ballistic coefficient of these soft points are horrible. They have roughly the same drag as a Pontiac Aztec with the parking brake on. They bleed energy to the point that after about 500 yards, the bullets hardly any mark on the steel plates we were shooting at. You will want to use heavier bullets, and you will want those loads to be Match Grade… regardless of weapon or caliber. If you can’t get Match ammunition, get the next best thing…. and by that I mean not ammunition from Remington or any Winchester White or Silver boxes. Get Hornady. If not Hornady TAP, then Hornady Custom. If you can’t get Hornady, then Black Hills. If you can’t get Black Hills, then get Federal Premium or Federal Fusion. These rounds have higher BC’s than others, and more importantly are loaded more consistently. Don’t skimp on your ammo, get the best you can. Not just that, but get a lot of it. I went through damn near 400 rounds. That’s a lot. If you reload, pay extra attention to your loading and craft each cartridge with the utmost attention to detail, using the best components… and make sure they work in your set up.
While, the ammunition that I used was different from PFI’s suggestion, The PFI scope worked quite well. At 100 yards, I zeroed for the 100 yard mark. At 200 yards, the scope was DNO. At 300 yards, this is where the ballistics departed from PFI’s ranges and to hit at 300 I held for 250 yards. So I found my Dope for 300. I wrote that down in my data book.
Did I mention your data book? Bring a new one to this class… and consider starting from scratch if you already have one you are working on. Because the cats at LRI are going to give you more information that you are going to want to track. Go to staples and get a small spiral bound note pad, a good pen, and a mechanical pencil for drawing range cards.
LRI showed us a few interesting things. One being, scope failures. We had a number of scopes shit the bed at the LRI course. We had a Burris crap out on one individual. We had two Leupold Mk IV Tacticals go down. I had a Leupold Vari-X III fail me… luckily it was zeroed when it stopped adjusting so it’s stuck… but where I needed it anyways. So I’ll deal with that later. Does this mean Burris and Leupold scopes wont hold up? Not hardly. Anecdotal evidence is just observations regarding one scope on one gun and you don’t know what may have happened to the scope before the failure. I have seen these scopes on other guns go through hell and back. Eventually, every scope will fail. That’s just going to happen. It’s only a matter of time. My Vari-X III is an ancient early example of the breed. It’s been fired more than any scope should have to endure.. and it’s still shooting. Hell, I killed 4 prairie dogs with it on my lunch break after I zeroed another gun. One thing that can lead to an early failure of a scope, is improperly mounting. The rings and scope have to be aligned perfectly or you get uneven pressure and stress through the tube. There are lots of very subtle factors at play here… but they amplify each other during recoil. Another thing that can lead to a failure is environmental stresses. Are you leaving your scoped rifle in your trunk during the heat of the day, then shooting the hell out of it? Do you thing that scope will live a long life like that? We can’t control the process of manufacture or the quality control that went in to your individual scope… but we can control how we treat it. Your scoped rifle is a precision instrument… you have to treat it as such.