*Range Estimation*
By Pointman

There may come a time when you only get one shot at a target, and you may need for this "one shot" to get the job done. One of the most important considerations of long range marksmanship is range estimation. Proper ranging is critical because even the flattest shooting cartridges really start to drop after about 500 yards. Ranging errors of even 50 yards at extreme range can mean the difference between a hit and a miss. Therefore, if your team is set up as a sniper team, or if you have been assigned as the team designated marksman, it is a good idea to take the time to learn the basics.

Assisted range-finding

About the best method for range-finding today is to use a laser range-finder available from several different companies. These units have really come down in price the last few years. Most are good out to 600 to 800 yards but are available for 1000 yards. Basically they work by sending a laser to the target then receiving the reflected energy, making calculations, and displaying the range in the viewfinder. The battery life seems to be quite a while, although it's always a good idea to carry spares.

About the only complaint I have about these is that they are not really built to take a lot of abuse. I've taken my Tasco to the field several times, but have always been careful about the way I carried it .I made a good carrying case for mine by acquiring a GI saw pouch and gluing some half inch foam rubber around the inside, top, and bottom. This pouch can either be attached to my LBE or the ruck as needed.

Another type of ranging device is what I call an optical rangefinder. These look like the old 110 cameras and work by shifting lenses back and forth until the target becomes clear and then you read the range. These have been around awhile and are a lot cheaper than the lasers, but they are not as accurate for the average guy. They also are available in different sizes, from archery range to 1000 yards.

A third device for rangefinding is found in some riflescopes. The one that I have experience with is the Redfield Accu-Trac. This is really designed for hunters, but can serve our purpose too. When you look through the scope you see two horizontal lines above the crosshairs; these are called stadia lines. The distance between these lines is supposed to represent 18 inches. You use these lines to bracket a deer's body (or other 18-in. object) by adjusting the zoom ring on the scope then read the scale below to find the range. These work fairly well, but require the target to stand nice and still for you and take some patience to make sure the stadia lines are bracketed correctly.

The last type of aided ranging also involves a riflescope. This type of scope has a mil-dot reticle. A mil is an angular unit of measurement and it is well beyond the scope of this article to try to explain how to use this system to estimate range. There is really no quick and easy way to explain how this works without visual aids, and since I don't yet have a scanner we will move on to some more conventional methods for when you don't have your fancy gear with you.

Unassisted range-finding

The most common method of unassisted ranging is the "football field" method. Most people know this technique because it is fairly easy to visualize the length of 100 yards. Just estimate the number of football fields between you and the target and you have your range. A tip to use if the range is further than 500 yards is to pick a point halfway to the target, count the hundred yd increments to that point, then multiply by two.

If you are setting up an ambush site, you can simply pace the distance from your hide to the kill zone, of course this technique has serious drawbacks, such as giving away your position and the position of the planned kill zone.

You can use your map to estimate range if you know the exact location of you and the target. Just measure the distance with a protractor, however it's quite hard to be precise using this method.

You can use manmade structures if they are between you and the target and they are spaced at regular intervals. Utility poles are a good example, if there are 5 poles between you and your target, and you know that these poles are spaced at 75-yard intervals, then the range is 375 yards.

There are other methods you can use, but the ones outlined here are the most widely used and effective. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you are using one of the unassisted methods, have more than one team member estimate the range or use more than one method if by yourself, and get an average.

Nothing new here, just some ideas from my brain housing group that I remember from my jarhead days. I hope someone will learn something that can help them one day.


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