Building off our last episode of Buckin’ Out we’re taking our rifles to the range to learn what we need to know about field testing a rifle. There are a few tips that will get us on target and zeroed faster so we know we’re taking a clean shot come hunting season.
Have a Bench and a Rest or Sandbags to Start
When starting to sight in your rifle it’s important to try and eliminate human error when taking your first shots. We opted to rest our rifles on a Champion target rest but even a couple of sandbags would suffice. Heck, some people even clamp their guns down via vice clamps for accuracy testing. Where a clamp or more traditional lead sled takes the most human error out of the equation it also takes the recoil out as well.
Recoil plays a factor in how much I may want to take the gun out and shoot it, so the rest made for a better choice. Eliminating the human error allows you to start from a place of confidence and then work with scope until the rifle is zeroed.
Pick Your Targets
There are as many target manufacturers these days as there are deer in the woods but there are a few things to look for when picking a target for sighting in. Shoot and see targets are good for those with aging eyes while other targets offer multiple places to zero. If you’re a new hunter, like me, then a life-sized target showing the vitals of the deer could prove to be helpful. It makes me more confident knowing I’ve practiced and studied where the vitals were on a target like this before hitting the woods for the first time.
We chose targets from Hornady and Delta McKenzie but there are plenty of different targets that will do the job. Paper pie plates can even get the job done. It’s all about how confident you are with the range you’re at and the rifle in your hand.
Shoot the Way You Plan to Hunt
Once the rifle is zeroed and ready to take a deer it's important to remember to shoot the way you plan on hunting. If you plan on shooting off sticks in a ground blind then shooting every shot off the bench rest doesn’t do you a ton of good. I plan on mixing it up between a tree stand where I’ll shoot off sticks and a more refined hunting hideout where I’ll take my shots from the bench. I decided to shoot both ways and was surprised to find how difficult shooting off the sticks was.
Similar to the style of hunting you’ll also want to make sure that the final zero tests are done with the ammo you plan on hunting with. While it’s acceptable to zero your rifle with cheaper training ammo to start you’ll still want to make sure you stay zero with the ammo you plan to hunt with. Being 100% confident in your shot placement will lead to a better hunt.
I started the range session with six different rifles to test. After going through all of them I got my selection down to a Remington 700 in 7mm Rem Mag and a Sauer Fieldshoot in 6.5 PRC. The Sauer offered more customization and had less recoil than the Remington, but I ended up going with the classic.
The rifle fit me very well with no need to do any further customizations. I felt like my cheek was in line with the comb perfectly and the LOP was just right for me. While the 7mm Rem Mag did kick quite a bit it was mitigated because the rifle fit me so well. I’m also more confident I’ll be able to source 7mm Rem Mag faster than 6.5 PRC, with the latter being the newer and more in demand cartridge right now.
I would have loved to have taken each one of the rifles hunting, but since this is going to be my first time I wanted a proven platform in a caliber that will cause a deer to drop.
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