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Precision Shooting at FTW Ranch

Making ethical shots on game is the goal of hunters around the world. Skill and the right equipment can make that happen, but not by accident or as an afterthought.

This was the focus of an event by SCI Corporate Sponsor Christensen Arms at the FTW Ranch in Texas, noted for its SAAM (Sportsman’s All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship) program.

The event was similar to a series of “Quest” events by Christensen Arms at the SAAM facilities on the FTW Ranch in Texas. Future Quest events are set for October 7-11, November 4-9 and December 2-7. For more information, visit christensenarms.com/product/quest.

During the two days of shooting, we sighted-in rifle rigs and then engaged targets from 250 yards to a mile.

I used two different rifle rigs during the event. One was Christensen Arms Ridgeline in 6.5 Creedmoor with Leica AMPLUS 6 3-18x44i scope, and the other was a Christensen Arms Modern Precision Rifle (MPR) in 6.5 Creedmoor with Leica PRS 5-30x56i scope. Ammo was Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor 147-grain ELD Match load. 

Both rifles were quite accurate. The sighting-in target at 100 yards for each rifle showed a three-shot group of roughly a half-inch (I didn’t measure the groups exactly, but the overlapping bullet holes made a single hole in the middle of the target that looked like a ragged, single .40 to .50-caliber hole).

That level of accuracy is needed for long-range shooting because there are many other factors involved in hitting the intended target at long range than just the accuracy of the rifle rig (although absent such accuracy, the other factors magnify the prospects for missing the target or hitting it marginally).

One benefit of those two particular days was that the wind was blowing virtually all of the time we were shooting — ranging from 5-10 miles an hour, to two or three times that.

There is no way to become proficient in judging and compensating for wind drift like actually shooting in the wind in the presence of instructors who are able to explain what happened when a target was missed and how to correct for the effects of both wind and distance.

We couldn’t have hoped for better weather conditions in which to train because the winds sometimes were steady from one direction and other times they were swirling and changing direction between the shooting positions and the targets.

Instructors at the ranch included former Special Ops instructors along with individuals who have had decades of worldwide hunting and marksmanship experience.

Dave Knesek, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, and Efren Hernandez, who has been an instructor at the ranch for 11 years, helped me throughout the entire event and what a help they were!

Not only do they know their stuff, but they also knew how to communicate effectively and efficiently. They were able to spot problems and provide effective remedies in real time as we were shooting. That’s nice.

Shooting the Christensen Arms rifles was a rewarding experience in its own right. Everything about them seemed right, everything worked right, from the precision of the trigger pull/letoff to the straight-back recoil that makes it easier to stay in the gun after the shot should there be a need for a follow-up shot. These are the kinds of things that separate good rifles from great rifles, and these were some great rifles.

“Established in 1995, Christensen Arms is focused on incorporating top-tier aerospace materials and processes into production — resulting in some of the most lightweight, precise and accurate firearms in the industry and around the globe,” Christensen Arms reported, as a manufacturer of state-of-the-art precision firearms and custom carbon fiber barrels.

FTW Ranch and its owner, Tim Fallon, have guiding philosophies that apply to any kind of hunting anywhere in the world: “Because you only have one first shot!” and “It’s the hunter’s job to kill an animal instantly with the first shot.”

And that is where long-range precision shooting comes into the hunting field. The objective is not to go on a hunt, thinking about making an 800- or 1,000-yard shot at an animal.

Rather, it is developing the ability to hit targets at those ranges with the thought that in being able to do that, that hunters will be able to make effective shots at normal hunting distances every time.

For example, if a hunter and his or her rifle rig is capable of making a 600- to 800-yard shot on targets consistently under varying environmental conditions, then that same hunter can be confident of making an ethical 200- or 300-yard shot on game anytime, anywhere.

One drill during the two days of shooting that was particularly enlightening was when we engaged targets from 200 to 400 yards from all four shooting positions: prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.

The idea was to see what each shooter’s level of competency was from each position as a way to indicate how that shooter should limit shots when the shots need to be taken from any of those positions.

And, a number of shooting aids were available like bipods, shooting sticks, packs and the like. The idea is to use whatever is available to steady the rifle for the shot.

This same ethic was involved in other drills where we used rocks, trees and anything else handy when making initial shots, as well as making quick follow-up shots.

It was fascinating to watch as those in the group followed the many instructions and were able to hit targets way out there consistently.

Other writers in the group included Sean Utley, Mike Dickerson, Alfredo Rico, Tyler Ruhland and Guy Sagi — great guys and some pretty good shooters.

Helping coordinate the event from Christensen Arms were Stephen Graham, senior vice president of marketing, and Jeff Bradley, brand ambassador.  As always, FTW Ranch owner Tim Fallon was a gracious host, as well. —Steve Comus

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