by Adam Wilson
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to South Florida to team teach a new precision rifle course, Riflecraft 450: Extreme Long Range Precision Rifle training program at the ALTAIR Training Solutions facility with Ashbury Precision Ordnance Mfg. (APO). Ashbury, well known for its patented SABER® modular rifle chassis and high performance precision rifles, has worked closely with experienced precision rifle training specialists, combat veteran military snipers and professional hunters to construct a series of unique Riflecraft marksmanship courses for its many clients.
This particular APO Riflecraft program was a custom course being taught by myself and Matthew Peterson, Ashbury Precision Ordnance’s Product Development Coordinator for client Jim Field. Field recently purchased a custom ASW-375CT Ultra Long Range (ULR) Precision Tactical Rifle from Ashbury after only being introduced to long range shooting in 2015 at a class I taught at the NRA Whittington Center in New Mexico. Field is a retired apparel industry executive and former cowboy action shooting enthusiast who considers ultra-long range shooting a new and compelling challenge he can work towards overcoming.
Working together as a team over several intensive days, the three of us quickly surpassed our initial training goals and Field ultimately went on to shoot an impressive .042 MOA group at 775 yards and an exceptional .171 MOA 3-shot group at 1,956 yards on IPSC full size 18”x24”steel chest plates. Due to his strong-minded determination Field also achieved consistent impacts on a 2,223 yard target which to say the least was impressive, as was his shooting over the entire week. What makes these results even more impressive is the fact that he isn’t a veteran competitive rifle shooter or even a combat experienced Sniper. In fact Field has zero military or law enforcement long gun experience and had only nine days of precision rifle training prior to this course. Jim Field you see is a spirited 68 year old example of youthful American inspiration!
As a student I’ve been on the receiving end of the “cookie cutter” approach to firearms training and know how frustrating it can be when every shooter is treated the same regardless of skill level. Experienced shooters often feel they aren’t being pushed to surpass previous limits and novice shooters struggling to grasp the fundamentals many times feel left behind due to a lack of much needed attention. One method to avoid this issue is to clearly outline individual training goals and each student’s expectations for the class prior to launching rounds down range. As this Riflecraft course was a private offering we were able to identify his training goals and work towards those goals throughout the week. Field you see is keenly interested in making an ultra long range shooting world record attempt as an individual, seeking new ways to challenge himself and inspire others along the way!
As this Riflecraft training program progressed, the three of us soon realized this week wasn’t about breaking in Field’s new rifle, or even shooting a 2,223 yard target, it was about laying the foundation for greater things. At one point I told Field “I don’t care if we don’t successfully engage every target out here as long as you understand the core concepts of precision rifle marksmanship at the end of the course. Conceptual understanding of the principals of long range marksmanship is more important than simply hitting the target.
Ultimately I want you to visualize each trigger press is ‘the’ 4000 yard target.” The goal wasn’t to simply check off all the long range targets at the ALTAIR facility’s 2 mile long rifle range, it was about building Field’s confidence, skills and ability to consistently engage a target at 4000+ yards. Focusing on the individual client like this isn’t always an option in a larger group setting, but Riflecraft programs are design to do just that. The focus of good training should always be on the student and facilitating their goals, not simply achieving baseline standards through cookie cutter instruction. We set out to instill fundamental precision rifle marksmanship skills which could be built on to help Field achieve his personal best no matter what that “best” actually is…
This is the very reason Ashbury works to limit the size of each of the Riflecraft course; we want to insure each student has a positive hands-on long gun learning experience and departs with confidence in their precision rifle shooting skills. Instruction is offered in personalized settings for individuals or small groups to enable each client to learn how to “push-the-envelope” on their rifle marksmanship skills and the capability of their precision rifle, optic and ammunition system. The end result should be a client that understands how to set-up, maintain, and dial-in their rifle so that they can achieve first round hits out to the practical limit of their rifle system or effectively dispatch varmints or big game animals as hunters.
In my opinion the APO Riflecraft programs are exceptionally well constructed rifle marksmanship training programs extending from newly minted rifle owners to experienced extreme long range shooters and hunters. Riflecraft programs focus on the clients success by combining solid a curriculum, hand crafted APO precision rifles and the requisite support equipment, taught by professional and congenial competitive shooters, military instructors, professional hunters and shooting experts. Each having a demonstrated ability to coach students to obtain their optimal performance on the range under actual field shooting conditions, not just in a formal “square range” setting.
APO clients have the unique option when attending Riflecraft training to bring their own rifle which is very much encouraged, or arranging for the use of a selected APO premium hand built Asymmetric Warrior (ASW), Tactical Competition Rifle (TCR), SuperSport or SABER® Precision Rifle (SPR) in calibers from .223 to .50BMG. Each APO rifle is equipped with a premium Leupold, Schmidt-Bender, or Nightforce optic day optic with either MOA or MIL reticles. Other precision shooting equipment can also be rented, such as ballistic software(s), PDA’s, weather meters, laser range finders, suppressors, tactical tripod spotting scope kits, night vision, thermal weapon sights and many other important long range shooting accessories. I was most impressed with the thought that goes into making sure back-up equipment is immediately available should a client’s rifle or kit crap-out on them. APO goes all out for every client making sure they deliver a quality training experience!
Given some of the best precision rifles available, premium optics, match grade ammunition and gifted instructional staff we are able to ensure even the most novice shooter will successfully engage large and small targets at a variety of distances with confidence. Whether new to rifle sports or an avid, long-time shooter – APO puts the student front and center during each Riflecraft experience.
We had bouts of rain and intense sun, during the program which is completely typical for south Florida weather that made training really interesting! As we planned each days shoot schedule we had to closely monitor mirage at the longer ranges. It was not uncommon to watch 50lb steel chest plates shimmy and move one mil or better laterally with wind gusts at ranges of a mile or more due to heavy mirage.
The final shot during the course was a steel chest plate at 2,223 yards which just happens to be a new long range shooting record for the Altair Training Solutions facility. As an instructor I believe in ending training on a positive note in order to reinforce what we’ve accomplished in training. Early on in training Field struggled with building a stable firing position and recoil mitigation. One of the training goals I set was getting to the point where he was able to spot his own impacts and call a correction as necessary after taking the shot. If he was able to do that consistently it was a clear indication he was building a stable firing position and applying the fundamentals correctly. It also helped tremendously that his super magnum rifle which was launching 350gr pills at approximately 3,000 fps recoiled like an un-braked .308Win so he was not beat up each day of training by his rifle.
On the afternoon of day three, I watched Field dial up his Schmidt Bender 5-25x56 PM-II optic to 21.6 mils and put an initial wind adjustment of 0.9mils(R) for the full value wind at approximately 8 mph. He then loaded the bipod on his rifle, slowly pressed the trigger to the rear and pin it in place as the rifle recoiled. Just about 3.5 (give or take) seconds after breaking the shot he called out “impact!” and Matthew on the spotting scope confirmed the rounds impact on target. Field had progressed to the point where he not only applied the fundamentals perfectly; he also successfully spotted his impact at 2,223 yards through his rifle scope. Quite an achievement for a relatively new shooter. I laughed happily and told him to drop the magazine, clear the rifle out and place it on safe. We had accomplished our goals for the course and set Field up for success as he prepared to train with Cory Trapp out at Gunsite Academy who would be taking him into the next phase of extreme long range shooter training.
Success in many things is largely dependent on gathering the right talent and putting in the practice. Field, Matt and I were able to surpass our initial goals for the training course and ultimately ended up setting the long range club record at the ALTAIR facility. Personally, I call that a success. This was a direct result of selecting a shooting range that allowed us to tailor the training to the client, Matt and I working together as a team to leverage our experience as shooters and Jim Fields’s unwavering dedication to perfecting the fundamentals. Field stayed motivated when mistakes were made and always strived to focus on what was important, learning and moving forward towards his goal. I always enjoy teaching but working with a student whose set a specific goal, developed a plan to achieve it and is actively working to fulfill that plan makes everything seem easy.
It was a pleasure working as a team to enable Field to lay the foundation for his ultra-long range target world record attempt. We spent three days fun but intensive days breaking in the rifle and calibrating the weapon system to the computer’s Field Firing Solutions ballistic software while engaging targets from 100 to 2,223+ yards. Watching Field work through the drills Matt and I gave him; shooting three and five shot groups under time, checking scope calibration, all helped in refining his skills and assisting with his growth as a shooter is one of the best experiences I’ve had as an instructor. The biggest take away from the class was the value of consistently applying the fundamentals. During the three days we spent training I watched Field prove it doesn't matter if you're shooting Ruag Swiss-P 69gr Target .223 ammo at 100 yards or a 350 grain .375CT projectile at 2,223 yards, you need to focus on applying the fundamentals and driving the rifle. Otherwise you are simply spending time on the range making a lot of noise converting live rounds into empty casings…
After our week training together in Florida Field headed out to Gunsite to work with Cory Trapp in an Extreme Long Range one-on-one program conducted in the high desert. I’m happy to hear he excelled while training in Arizona and is continuing to train for his goal of a world record attempt of 4,000+ yards. Matt and I are looking forward to working with Field again. It’s important to remember two things when it comes to precision rifle marksmanship; Focus on the fundamentals and in the end its math, not magic.
About the Author
Adam Wilson spent 13 years on active duty service in the U.S. Army. During which time he served as a Scout, Assault Team Leader, and Sniper. He has 3 combat deployments to Iraq during which he supported combat operations throughout Baghdad, Sadr City, Mosul, and Tal'Afar as a Sniper. Prior to leaving active duty in 2013 he was assigned as a Brigade level Small Arms Master Gunner and oversaw all advanced marksmanship training in addition to the training and employment for all Snipers assigned throughout the unit.
Adam is still serving as a member of the U.S. Armed forces and currently assigned as a Sergeant First Class (SFC) and Senior Instructor at the Texas Army National Guard Regional Training Institute (RTI) where he is responsible for conducting Small Arms Master Gunner, Short Range Marksmanship, Squad Designated Marksmanship training courses.