Of all shooting disciplines ultra-long range shooting requires the most concentration, dedication and practice, but it also requires the most specialist equipment. Choosing the best scope for 1000 yard shooting will require a very specific idea of what you need and want from your equipment. Some people like scopes which can zoom, others prefer scopes with fixed magnification, some want target turrets to adjust their scopes, others would prefer bdc reticles or mil dots to allow them to make adjustments without having to adjust your zero.
1000 yard target shooting may have its roots in military competitions such as the Wimbledon Cup, the highlight of which is the 1000 yard high powered rifle competition, which encourages excellent marksmanship through competition but it is gaining in popularity amongst recreational shooters and more target clubs and associations are being established all the time to provide more opportunities for 1000 yard shooting.
- Picking a Calibre For 1000 Yard Shooting.
- Scopes for 1000 Yard Shooting
History of Long Range Shooting
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that to make shots at up to and beyond 1000 yards you need to use very most powerful cartridges such as .338 lapua magnum and .408 CheyTac that are specifically designed and intended for long range shooting. While modern developments in ammunition are a great boon to long distance shooters it’s important not to forget the possibilities offered by more traditional calibres and cartridges.
The equipment and methods associated with long range shooting are often pioneered by the military, just like most advancements in firearms technology over the years and if we look at a list of the longest range sniper kills in history there are still kills from the later 1800’s. One from the Civil War using a muzzle loading whitworth rifle was made at over 1300 meters and in 1967 Gunnery Seargent Carlos Hathcock of the United States Marine Corps made a kill at 2500 yards using not a state of the art sniper rifle but a .50 calibre browning machine gun that he had built a special scope mount for and fitted with an 8 power unertl scope. In fact it was Hathcock’s use of the Browning machine gun and its .50 calibre round for sniping is what inspired the later development of .50 calibre precision rifles such as the Barret M82 rifle, originally developed in the 80’s it was designed as an anti-material rifle but is now also used for anti-personal sniping and were first sold to the Swedish Army in 1989 before being adopted more widely by other nations armed forces including the USA and Canada.
Picking a Calibre For 1000 Yard Shooting.
New comers to the sport of long range shooting are easily convinced into thinking that massive magnum calibres and specialist cartridges like the .338 and .50 calibre are essential for accurate long range shooting but in actual fact you don’t need a hugely expensive CheyTac intervention system as there are plenty calibres suitable for long range shooting that are much more affordable as well as more comfortable to shoot than the hard recoiling rifles designed for extreme long range shooting. The ubiquitous .308 is a fantastic 1000 yard cartridge as is the .30-06 which was the sniper round of choice for the American military through two World Wars.
One of the very best options for the 1000 yard shooter is the 6.5mm creedmoor a round designed specifically for 1000 yard shooting. It was produced in a collaboration between ammunition maker Hornady and Creedmoor sports. The round was designed by Dave Emery, a ballistics scientist working for Hornady and Dennis DeMille, the vice president of product development for Creedmoor Sports. The round was released in 2007 and had been designed specifically for long range shooting but also to be as comfortable to shoot as possible. Rather than a massive cartridge like the larger magnums the 48.8mm long cartridge case can be accommodated in short action bolt guns and AR platforms. This makes the round much cheaper than the larger calibres luckily for US Special Operations Command, who after extensive testing decided to adopt the 6.5 Creedmoor as the new cartridge for their semi-automatic sniper platforms, such as the M110 and H&K G28, as an alternative to the 7.62x51mm NATO (.308) cartridge. Rifles chambered in 6.5 creedmoor are due to be phased in in 2019.
As well as outperforming the .308 and universally praised .260, although only narrowly, the creedmoor proved to double your chances of hitting a target at 1000 yards, increasing effective range by half, recoiling less and riding wind better than the 7.62 round. The round takes advantage of the excellent aerodynamic performance of the long slender 6.5 mm bullets which have been very popular for many years in cartridges such as the 6.5x55mm and 6.5x284. Another advantage of the 6.5 creedmoor is the fact that it doesn’t recoil so hard that it will put beginners off shooting.
Whatever cartridge and rifle combination you settle on for your 1000 yard shooting rig though you are going to need a top of the range scope for the best results.
Choose a Scope
Whatever calibre and accessories you choose for your 1000 yard shooting rig you will need a high quality scope if you are serious about hitting targets at long range at all let alone competing against other shooters.
Specialist optics for long range shooting is invariably expensive, although there are some more affordable options if you are serious about tight groups at 1000 yards you really do need to consider the high end specialist scopes by manufacturers such as Shmidt & Bender and Nightforce Optics.
There are two categories into which you can group scopes you would consider for long range shooting; dedicated target shooting optics and multi-purpose optics that would be suitable for shooting at multiple ranges and for long range hunting. Dedicated target optics will often have fixed magnification and generally won’t feature complicated ‘BDC’, Bullet Drop Calculator, reticles as when shooting at a fixed range those extra aim points won’t be all that useful. BDC reticles are more useful if you are engaging targets at multiple ranges and need to do so quickly such as during a 3 gun competition or practical rifle shooting, BDC reticles are also most commonly made for combat calibres such as .300 blackout, 5.56mm (.223) and 7.62mm (.308) which may not be all that useful for 1000 yard shooting, except the .308 which is a very capable long range round.
Other than the reticle of your optic, if you are going to spend what might amount to thousands of dollars, there are a few other things you need to consider;
Magnification isn’t necessarily the most important feature of scopes for 1000 yard shooting but it does help when it comes to aiming at small targets or when trying to build groups at long range. A fixed power scope might be appropriate for shooting at fixed distances but for more versatility at multiple ranges a variable power scope will be a good option. Beware of cheaper scopes with very high magnification as to get clear images at high magnification you need excellent quality glass for the best light transmission and clear images. You will come across scopes with magnification up to 40x but 20 times is normally adequate for most purposes.
Bright, clear images through your scope are dependent on the light transmitted to your eye by the scope, larger objective lenses help improve this light transmission and are particularly important if you are shooting at 1000 yard in tactical or hunting scenarios. Larger objective lenses, up to 56mm, are popular on scopes for long range shooting but do remember that larger objective lenses require higher scope mounts so that they can be properly mounted on a rifle. These high mounts mean that to get the best, most comfortable, shooting position with a good cheek weld on the stock of your rifle you will need to look for a rifle with a stock designed for target shooting and potentially an adjustable comb and cheek piece to bring your eye up to the level of the scope without having to hold your head at an unnatural angle.
These are essential for shooting at extreme range, particularly if you are going to engage targets at multiple ranges. If you are setting up a rifle and scope combination which will only ever be used at 1000 yards on the range these might not be so important but if your rifle is zeroed for a shorter range, as a rifle for hunting or tactical purposes probably will be, without target turrets for making adjustments you might have to aim so high that you wouldn’t even see your target and hitting it would be a matter of luck. Being able to adjust the point of aim using target turrets makes extreme long range shots possible without so much guessing required but also allows you to return your scope to its original zero without too much hassle.
Yes, low profile turrets
Scopes for 1000 Yard Shooting
NightForce Optics 5.5-22x50 NXS Riflescope
Nightforce optics are some of the most ruggedly built scopes on the planet and they aren’t afraid to test their products to the absolute limit. Their tests are absolutely brutal but there is no doubt that the products are rugged and will put up to the most severe conditions in the field.
Their rugged, bomb-proof build quality makes these perfect for tactical long range shooting and for hunting but also means they are more than capable of putting up with the brutal recoil of magnum calibres and specialist long range rifles.
The NXS model features adjustable zoom from a modest 4.5 for spotting and scanning up to a very respectable 22 times magnification which offers maximum precision. A 50mm objective lens gathers plenty of light even at dusk and dawn and the target turrets allow you to make any necessary adjustments for range and wind without having to hold over or under. The reticle is NightForces own NXS MOAR which provides extra points of aim and aids in calculating range and windage adjustments. These allow you to make final last minute adjustments in gusting wind or for a target which might have moved slightly since making your major adjustments.
Another aid to shooting in low light is the illuminated reticle which twinned with the 50mm objective makes shooting at dusk and dawn straightforward.
Schmidt and Bender PM II High Power 5-45x56mm (34mm tube)
Schmidt & Bender might just be the best scope manufacturers in the world, they produce truly world class optics for hunters and tactical marksmen alike and are very hard to compete with. Their PM II High Power may well be the ultimate scope for long range shooting.
It was developed according to the requirements of the US Special Operations Command for long range shooting in a tactical role. These products cost a lot of money but they really do provide fantastic performance and quality.
This model features target turrets just like the NightForce NXS but unlike the NightForce these are low profile turrets deliberately made so that they don’t snag on clothing, equipment and undergrowth so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up or knocking your scope of zero as you crawl into a shooting position, perhaps in a tactical marksmanship scenario dragging your rifle behind you in a drag bag. The risk of snagging you rifle as you move through undergrowth is very real and while this doesn’t completely stop the issue it certainly makes things easier.
The 45 x magnification provides pin point precision even when shooting at extreme range and this combined with the oversized 56mm objective and 34 mm tube will provide excellent light gathering characteristics and fantastic performance even in the worst of light conditions. The 34mm tube also adds extra strength to this very rugged scope.
Leupold mark 8 3.5-25x56
I have been using Leupold scopes for years for hunting and am absolutely delighted with them. . they make some of the very best scopes around and certainly aren’t quite as expensive as some of the top of the range Schmidt & Benders.
I have nothing bad to say about Leupold scopes and the vast range of products they offer aren’t only suitable for mounting on the .243 that I use for hunting deer but for just about any shooting discipline. The features of this ‘Mark 8’ by Leupold read like a wish list of perfect features for a target shooting optic. The adjustable magnification will allow you to scan for targets or shoot at closer range at low power and zoom in for very precise shooting or for longer range targets.
Choosing this scope isn’t as simple as picking one up off a shelf, you will also have options when it comes to the style of reticle that you want, many high end scopes will offer multiple reticle options allowing you to choose the very best style of reticle for the shooting you intend to do.
Burris XTR II 5-25x50 (40mm tube)
Burris offers a fantastic package with this XTR II, at a very competitive price too, you’ll struggle to find really fantastic optics for 1000 yard shooting for much less than a couple of thousand dollars but this scope coming in far more affordable than some of the over-engineered options designed to meet military requirements for ruggedness.
Its 50mm objective lens coupled with a 40mm tube provides excellent light transmission for shooting in low light conditions and to give you an excellent image. Despite its massive objective lens the rest of the scope is still compact making it far more manoeuvrable and easy to carry than some of the larger options. As well as target turrets it also features a side mounted focus and adjustable magnification. In addition to its excellent features the protection of a Burris lifetime warranty just proves that the manufacturer stands by their product and can give you great confidence in the product.
Vortex Optics Golden Eagle HD 15-60x52
Vortex Optics are a growing force in the optics industry, founded in 2004 they don’t have the pedigree of some of the other manufacturers whose scopes feature in these recommendations but have been building a fantastic reputation amongst shooters. The Golden Eagle HD is specifically designed for competition shooting, particularly for disciplines such as bench rest and F-class where shots are taken from a rested position.
Rather than the traditional ¼ inch adjustments at 100 yards this scope for precision shooting offers 1/8 MOA adjustments for maximum precision. The potential problem with such high magnification, there is no other scope on this list that can offer 60x magnification, is that to give high quality clear pictures at such high magnification lots of light needs to be transmitted to your eye by the scope. To achieve this the objective lens is a full 52mm and the lenses are made to the highest possible tolerances and coated with the anti-reflective coatings to allow maximum light gathering and transmission.
There have never been more options for the 1000 yard target shooter when it comes to optics but the choices can be overwhelming. These five options though are some of the best on the market and any one of them would serve you well for shooting at 1000 yards. Some of these models have the flexibility and versatility to be useful for shooting at all ranges or for ranges beyond 1000 yards while others are more appropriate for fixed, known distances such as is the case in competition target shooting.
Whichever scope you choose though you will need to invest a lot of time and energy at the range on targets to be successful shooting at 1000 yards so get out there and do some shooting.