Setting up a budget-priced scope for long range .22lr shooting –By Simon Gillice
- 13th Jan, 2020
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Shooting a .22lr is a great way to improve your shooting, it’s relatively cheap, quiet, low recoil, and you don’t need a 100 metre or 200 metre range to do it. It is also great shooting practice – primarily because of the additional time it takes a .22lr projectile to leave the barrel after the rifle is fired.
A .22lr will punish bad shooting habits more than a larger calibre shooting supersonic ammunition. Most people tend to limit their .22lr shooting to well inside 100 metres and never attempt shooting one past that distance. However, I’ve found that shooting a .22lr to 200 metres and even more is a lot of fun and excellent practice for longer distance shooting with bigger calibres.
Recently a number of long distance .22lr shooting competitions have started to emerge, and some involve targets at random distances shot under field conditions.
Most, if not all the advice given to long range shooters using larger calibres applies to long range .22lr shooting as well; eg, use a quality rifle and scope, quality ammunition, dial the elevation into your scope, adopt a good shooting technique, and learn to estimate wind and atmospheric effects, etc.
It is a huge advantage to have a well defined aiming point when you’re shooting at targets at extended distances. Trying to hold over a random sized target an exact distance is very challenging to do consistently; eg, needing to hold 75cm over a 15cm bullseye.
“At the range I make sure I have a good 50 metre zero. I recommend this zero for the same reason a 100 metre zero works well with a centrefire rifle – the zero distance is long enough to be accurate but short enough to not be noticeably effected by atmospheric variables (pressure, temperature, etc.).”
From a 50 metre zero a .22lr shooting subsonic ammunition will require approximately 30MOA or 9MIL of elevation to be on target at 200 metres. Many cheaper scopes will struggle to consistently dial up this amount of elevation. They will also most likely require a canted scope base to ensure this amount of elevation range is available.
This article will focus on setting up a cheap scope for longer range .22lr shooting without needing to dial in the elevation after you have initially zeroed the rifle.
RIFLE & AMMO
My rifle is a Mauser 107, bolt action .22lr. My father bought it for me when I was only seven years old and shortened the stock to suit. As the years passed and I got bigger the stock was extended again and again. These Mausers are great little rifles for younger or smaller stature shooters to start with due to their light weight and small grip. They also come with an excellent two-stage trigger.
I use Lapua Polar Biathlon .22lr ammunition in it for target shooting. This ammo is subsonic and shoots great in both my .22lrs. Many .22lr rifles will shoot well with a particular type of ammunition and this may not be an expensive brand. Try a few different ammunition types in your rifle and see what shoots the best within your budget.
DIALLING IN THE RETICLE
The scope I use is a Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40mm with a mildot reticle. These scopes retail between NZ$200 and $300. The reticle is in the second focal plane which means it does not change size as you zoom in or out. The reticle is meant to be dimensionally correct at 9x (denoted by the “9” on the power ring being a different colour). I use the reticle to hold over out to as far as I can on 9x before reducing the scope power and continuing to use the last mildot.
At the range I make sure I have a good 50 metre zero. I recommend this zero for the same reason a 100 metre zero works well with a centrefire rifle – the zero distance is long enough to be accurate but short enough to not be noticeably affected by atmospheric variables (pressure, temperature, etc.).
Once the rifle is zeroed I shift the target back to 100 metres to record how much the projectile drops from the 50 metre mark. I find I need to hold 2.4MIL (8.1MOA) high to hit bang on at 100 metres. I enter this information into a ballistic program to confirm the projectile velocity as 1025fps.
With this velocity the program tells me that a 4MIL hold over will hit a target at 125 metres. Past this distance I will need to reduce the scope power to continue to use the reticle to hold over.
The formula to work out how much to reduce the scope power is a straight forward ratio:
|SPA x A|
SPR = Scope Power Required
A = Aiming Point Hold Over
SPA = Scope Power where the hold over is correct
HOR = Hold Over Required
For my example I want to use the 4th mildot under the centre of the cross hairs – this mildot is 4MIL at 9x power. This means for my example “A” is 4MIL and “SPA” is 9x power.
My ballistic program estimates I will need 5.4MIL of elevation to hit a target at 150 metres. Using the above formula this means that to use the 4th mildot I need to reduce the scope power to 6.7x power (9x4/5.4 = 6.7). Similarly at 200 metres the program estimates that I will need 8.8MIL of elevation. This means I will need to reduce the scope power to 4.1x power (9x4/8.8=4.1) to use the 4th mildot.
If you are setting up a scope this way you should validate the ballistic program estimates by testing the elevation holds at a few known distances. Most likely you will need some minor adjustments to get everything set up properly. Once validated I wrap a bit of masking tape around the scope magnification ring to mark the distances on, to simplify adjustments in the field.
With a reticle in the second focal plane on a variable power scope this method will still work with most reticle types. It will also work with a scope where the reticle is true at a power other than the maximum; ie, a 4-12x scope where the reticle dimensions are true at 10x.
This method will also work for larger calibres at longer distances as well. There are a couple of variations to this method of dialliing in a scope, but I find this the most simple.