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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist
The wild boar photo accompanying this week's column is no fluke and is proof of the hunter's knowledge of his rifle and scope. The animal is a huge Russian Wild Boar killed on Tejon Ranch last week at, incredibly, 710-yards. The hunter, local shooter Allan White, did his accuracy homework, took one planned shot and dumped the 300+pound tusker in its tracks across a canyon on an opposing hillside. Now some people might call that a stroke of incredible luck while others might be disgusted at the chance of crippling and losing the big hog, but to today's modern era riflemen, the shot, believe it or not, was pretty much a no brainer.
Serious riflemen are quickly finding out that their Daddy's scope-fitted rifles, once the pinnacle of common accuracy out to ranges occasionally exceeding 300-yards, are no longer the cat's meow when it comes to today's long range, accurate scopes. With the advent of computer technology in the field of ballistics, huge gains in ballistic programs now allow for unprecedented, single shot, big game shooting at ranges once thought to be impossible for anyone other than a trained Marine sniper.
We're not talking about luck any more, but far superior accuracy out to ranges exceeding 1000-yards that allows a common man to place a bullet inside of a 6-inch circle on nearly every shot at almost any reasonable range. "Kentucky Windage", where a rifleman guesses the distance to his quarry and then holds an approximate distance over the target to compensate for bullet drop, no longer enters a shooting scenario or equation.
So how do the new era scopes and rifles work? Actually, most rifles sold today are inherently accurate enough right out of the box, keeping sub-minute of angle groups under 1-inch at a hundred yards being no problem. Calculating distance, bullet velocity and the ballistics of a particular load and then combining the factors into a lethal combination once the bullet has left the barrel has always kept shooters from consistently delivering at ultra-long ranges.
Enter the newest thing in modern day scopes.
Many scope manufacturers now build superbly engineered optics with built in, calibrated, long range systems.
"Leupold Scopes," for instance, has created their 'Custom Dial System' (CDS) and placed it in one of their better selling scopes, the 'Vari-X III' series. CDS is a custom tailored long range shooting solution and bullet drop compensation dial system that takes most of the guesswork out of long range shooting.
Here's how it works. Once the shooter has one of the new scopes in his or her possession, he mounts the piece to his rifle and simply sights it in so the bullet is on paper. He then removes the compensation turret, returning it to the manufacturer with the following information:
1. elevation where shooting is expected to take place
2. chronographed velocity of the bullet (feet per second at the muzzle)
3. type and weight of bullet you are shooting so they can determine the 'ballistic coefficient' of the bullet, i.e. "Barnes TTSX .277 caliber, 130 grain"
Once the company has the information, they will return a newly compensated scope turret to the shooter for easy replacement. The shooter must then zero the rifle at exactly 100-yards and he is ready to shoot long range targets.
Using a range finder, he first checks the distance to the target. When he wants to shoot at 200-yards; he simply clicks the turret to the 200-yard mark and holds dead on. Ditto the 300-yard marker, and so on and so on until the maximum effective range of the cartridge or rifle is achieved.
So, is the rifleman's new equipment worthwhile and is it ethical? Personally, I like the idea of hitting where I aim at any and all ranges and my next scope purchase will definitely carry all the niceties (price increase is only about $60 over the regular 'Vari-X III' price).
However, I also feel an animal should be hunted and dispatched as quickly as possible, and there are a lot of things that can go wrong under less than ideal long-range situations, such as crippling or wind influenced misses when things go south.
Getting close to prey has always been part of the entire hunting adventure, but I do understand the necessity for occasionally reaching out to touch one. I take a long shot every now and then, but only if conditions allow it.
I'm also aware that a lot of opportunities one might find while hunting out of state require some distance shooting, but to simply add a 'CDS scope' to one's rifle just to plink at some noble elk or mulie on another mountain range isn't fair at all.