Chronograph And Ballistics | Long Range Hunting Tips
The following hunting tips will help improve your long-range shooting skills. Next time you practice your shooting, see how much your accuracy improves.
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In this article:
- Difference Between Short Range and Long Range Shooting
- Hunting Tips for Handloading
- Hunting Tips: Ballistic Calculators and Velocity
- Chronographs: The Bottom Line
Hunting Tips for Calculating Ballistics with a Chronograph
Difference Between Short Range and Long Range Shooting
Even experienced hunters can use a few hunting tips from time to time. For example, learning to hunt and knowing how to use a chronograph can be a huge help in long-range hunting.
Many hunting tips don't include the use of a chronograph, but it is an important tool for calculating ballistics and shooting more accurately.
There is a huge difference between how to go hunting and shooting at a close range versus long-range hunting. There are different things to take into consideration and different shooting strategies to use.
The hunting tips in this article will focus on long-range shooting. Keep reading to improve your shooting and hunting skills.
In long-range hunting and shooting, knowing your bullet's velocity is a major factor in calculating ballistics. Ballistics is the flight characteristics of an object (in this case, a bullet.)
To find out your velocity when long-range hunting, you need a tool called a chronograph.
What is a Chronograph? It is an instrument that measures the velocity, or speed, of objects.
I am currently using the Pro Chrono. It measures velocity from 22-7,000 ft per second and records up to 9 strings of 99 shots each, then review the data to find average velocity and extreme spread. It isn’t the fancy but it does the job for me.
Most people mount their chronograph on a tripod but some use a table. I have shot my bow, muzzleloader, and rifles through the chronograph. It is definitely a tool I won't go without.
Whether you hand-load or purchase factory ammunition, you can learn to hunt knowing the limits of your firearm by using a chronograph. Some manufacturers give you an idea of velocity, but it's not always accurate.
Every rifle is different, and factors such as barrel length can affect velocity. Reloading manuals may tell you a velocity based on their test rifle, but in my experience, rifles can differ from the ones in the manuals.
The only way to truly know your velocity is to chronograph your shots.
Hunting Tips for Handloading
Let's go into a little more detail about handloading.
Handloading (sometimes called reloading) is assembling your own components together rather than buying factory ammunition at the store.
Ammunition consists of primer, brass, powder, and a bullet. Load development is the process of narrowing down the best load works with the specific firearm you are testing.
The best load is going to give you the tightest grouping. A grouping would be 3 or more bullets fired from the same distance at the same target using the exact same components and measurements.
Handloading has many advantages over buying factory ammo. You have more variety of combinations than you would be buying factory ammo, which gives you more options to meet your specific shooting needs.
You can lengthen the ammo to fit your specific rifle and use your choice of bullet and powder combination to give you better accuracy.
Hunting Tips: Ballistic Calculators and Velocity
Another tool you will need to use along with your chronograph is some type of ballistic calculator. There are many different websites that offer them free online.
Most bullet manufacturers have a calculator on their website. You can also get ballistic apps for your phone.
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Just because a load gives great velocity out of the barrel doesn’t mean anything. You need to know if it has the velocity you need it to at the point of impact.
Velocity only measures speed, and speed isn’t what kills an animal. What kills the animal is energy, which is a combination of velocity and weight.
To find out what energy you have at specific yardages you need to know your velocity. As your velocity drops so does your energy.
You also need to find out the minimum amount of energy required to take down the type of animal you are hunting. Knowing this information will give your maximum effective range where you can take down the animal you are hunting ethically.
This number also varies depending on the weapon you are using. For example, a bullet needs a lot more energy than an arrow.
Once I started using a chronograph, there were many loads and powders I simply didn’t want to test any further because I wasn’t happy with the velocity they were producing. There were loads that gave some great groupings, but if they didn’t have the energy I needed at the yardage, they were of no use to me.
Another advantage to knowing your velocity is the ability to calculate your bullet drop. If I have two loads similar to each other in the grouping, and load A hits the target 10 inches lower at 400 yards than load B, it might be something to consider. Here's a chart comparing the drop of two bullets.
It is also nice to know how many inches low your bullet will hit at specific yardages. As you can see in the following drop chart, using a .270 the shooter zeroed their rifle at 200 yards and at 400 yards the bullet is hitting 20 inches low.
The chronograph also gives you velocity spread information. The velocity spread can also be useful in narrowing downloads.
If you have two loads with similar accuracy but one load has more consistent velocity from shot to shot, this might help you make your decision.
For example, let's say Load A’s velocity is 2938, 2983, and 2912. Load B’s velocity is 2977, 2982, and 2984. The velocity spread of Load B is tighter spread.
Different primers can give different velocity. Different bullet seating depths also affect velocity.
In the end, many factors affect velocity, and velocity is a key ingredient in the process. Without knowing your velocity you don’t know your energy or your drop.
Chronographs: The Bottom Line
I won’t test my loads without a chronograph because it ends up wasting my time.
Make sure you have a live battery and you might want to take a spare. After the effort you put into reloading at home, the last thing you want is to get to the range and find out your chronograph is useless.
Also, pay close attention to the set up to make sure your bullets aren’t going to hit the chronograph. You would be surprised at how many people have shot their chronograph.
My chronograph keeps track of the information, and when I get home I plug in the numbers into a ballistics calculator and see the results. There have been many times I end up changing my load because of the information I have gathered from the chronograph.
Watch this video by ResponsibleCitizen64 about how to use a chronograph in measuring bullet velocities:
In the end, each user has their specific needs, and it is up to you to decide. If you are hunting fairly close range, it might not make much of a difference but the farther out you get the more it matters and might be the difference between which load or factory ammo you end up going with.
Does the article give you enough information for long-range shooting tips? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 10, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.