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October 19th, 2021

Four Good Tech Articles from Shooting Sports USA

Shooting Sports USA

NRA publication Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA) has thousands of articles online, all free for the reading. Many of these stories have been written by top competitors, including National and Olympic Champions. You will find SSUSA articles spotlighted every week on the NRA Competitive Shooting Facebook page. We recommend you bookmark that page as a valuable resource. Here are four notable SSUSA articles that have been featured on Facebook this month. Go to SSUSA.org to see even more current articles, with new content every day.

Shooting Sports USA Mirage Read optics scope

Here is an insightful, fairly lengthy 1850-word article about the phenomenon we call mirage. The article explains how and why mirage appears, how it can best be monitored, and how mirage can indicate both wind velocity and direction. Top competitors follow the adage “Mirage is your friend”, because mirage can often be the most important indicator of wind variables — sometimes even more important than wind flags. “The mirage is more sensitive than the flags since it has less inertia and momentum”, wrote Desmond T. Burke, in his book, Canadian Bisley Shooting, an Art and a Science.

Well worth reading, this SSUSA article talks about the properties of mirage. Here is a sample:

“Mirage — can make all the difference between a shot landing squarely in the X-ring or being victimized by an undetected downrange breeze. The true power of mirage is found in its ability to betray the subtlest of breezes downrange. Its fluid movement… can not only provide wind direction, but speed as well.

Typically, the ability to detect mirage is maximized on warm, sunny and sultry days. Expect mirage to be most pronounced in mid-morning or early afternoon, although it ignores these rules with regularity[.]

Mirage is extremely powerful at identifying winds of less than 12 mph, particularly those gentle breezes subtle enough to not even bother moving the flags.

When there is no wind, or a gentle head or tail wind, mirage will appear to be ‘bubbling’ directly up from the ground. Many call this ‘boiling’, and it is probably the easiest of all to detect.

As a general rule of thumb, when wind speed increases, overall height of the waves produced by the mirage is reduced. Large peaks and valleys in the waves mean that particular mirage is being driven by a very slight breeze. Conversely, crest size is reduced with wind speed, making it harder and harder to detect, until the mirage disappears entirely at somewhere around 12 miles per hour. In other words, the taller mirage’s waves appear, the slower the breeze.”

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

Shooting Sports USA barrel maintenance break-in procedures Glen Zediker

Authored by the late Glen Zediker, this article covers barrel break-in procedures. It is particularly useful for dealing with factory barrels. We CAUTION readers — with outstanding, hand-lapped custom barrels from top barrel-makers, you may want to do very little break-in — clean sparingly and keep barrel heat low. Do NOT use abrasives aggressively. On our Krieger and Brux barrels, we simply wet-patched every 2-3 rounds for 20 rounds and the barrels shot superbly from the start with minimal fouling. But for factory barrels, a moderate break-in process may prove beneficial.

Zediker explains: “Lesser, lower-cost barrels are going to have more pronounced … imperfections within the bore[.] These imperfections are largely tool marks resulting from the drilling and rifling processes. And if it’s a semi-automatic, like an AR-15, there might be a burr where the gas port was drilled. The goal of break-in is to knock down these imperfections, thereby smoothing the interior surface.”

Shooting Sports USA pistol cartridge kaboom safety blowout

As one who has experienced a cartridge case-head blow-out with a 9mm pistol, this Editor is very conscious of the risks involved and the damage a blow-out can do to the pistol, to the magazine, and (worst of all) to the shooter. Even with new brass, the possibility of a case failure is always present. And even if the case remains intact, we’ve seen primer failures that create a dangerous jet back towards the pistol shooter. That’s why shooters should always employ protective eyewear whenever they shoot.

Shooting Sports USA revolver forcing cone repair damage

We love our wheelguns, but there’s no doubt that forcing cone damage can occur, particularly with hot loads and if your cylinder-to-barrel gap is excessive. This article explains how to inspect your revolvers, and how to mitigate the likelihood of forcing cone damage. The article also explains how to clean your revolvers properly. This is very important to avoid build-up of lead and powder residues.

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May 7th, 2021

The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters — Improve Your Wind-Reading

wind reading book Camp Perry Miller Cunningham

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

Readers often ask us: “Is there a decent, easy-to-comprehend book that can help my wind-reading?” Many of our Forum members have recommended The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters by Linda Miller and Keith Cunningham.

New Edition Released in May 2020
A NEW hardback edition of The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters was released a year ago in May 2020. This 144-page book, first published in 2007, is a great resource. But you don’t have to take our word for it. If you click this link, you can read book excerpts and decide for yourself. When the Amazon page opens, click the book cover photo (labeled “Look Inside”) and another screen will appear. This lets you preview chapters from the first edition, and view some illustrations. Along with the new hardback edition ($19.48), Amazon offers a Kindle (eBook) edition for $14.99.

Other books cover wind reading in a broader discussion of ballistics or long-range shooting, such as Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting by Bryan Litz. But the Miller & Cunningham book is ALL about wind reading from cover to cover, and that is its strength. The book focuses on real world skills that can help you accurately gauge wind angle, wind velocity, and wind cycles.

All other factors being equal, it is your ability to read the wind that will make the most difference in your shooting accuracy. The better you understand the behavior of the wind, the better you will understand the behavior of your bullet. — The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters

wind reading book Camp Perry Miller Cunningham

The Wind Book for Rifle Shooters covers techniques and tactics used by expert wind-readers. There are numerous charts and illustrations. The authors show you how to put together a simple wind-reading “toolbox” for calculating wind speed, direction, deflection and drift. Then they explain how to use these tools to read flags and mirage, record and interpret your observations, and time your shots to compensate for wind.

I believe this is a must-have book if you are a long-range sport shooter. I compete in F-Class Open and when I first purchased this book and read it from cover to cover, it helped me understand wind reading and making accurate scope corrections. Buy this book, read it, put into practice what it tells you, you will not be disappointed. — P. Janzso

If you have one book for wind reading, this should be it. Whether you’re a novice or experienced wind shooter this book has something for you. It covers how to get wind speed and direction from flags, mirage, and natural phenomenon. In my opinion this is the best book for learning to read wind speed and direction. — Muddler

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
February 9th, 2021

Reading Mirage to Determine Wind Speed and Angle

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

How to Read Mirage as a Wind Indicator

Note: This article was written by Glen Zediker. Sadly, Glen passed away in October of 2020. However, you can still order his books from Midsouth and read his articles in the Midsouth Blog.

Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. In the photo below e you can see 11-time National High Power Champion David Tubb using a spotting scope set up for his left eye.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope
David Tubb sets up his spotting scope so he can easily see through it with his LEFT eye, without shifting his head and body position.

There are multiple resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. Here’s another tip — the boil can predict when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope

You don’t need to spend big bucks for an effective spotting scope to view mirage. You can get the Vortex 20-60x60mm Diamondback angled spotting scope for just $399.99 from Midsouth. That’s complete with 20-60X zoom eyepiece. Though inexpensive, the Vortex Diamondback is popular with many competitive shooters and hunters. No, it doesn’t offer the sharpness of an 80mm Kowa Prominar or Swarovski spotting scope, but you’ll pay $2400+ just for the body of those high-end optics.

Choice of EyePiece — Wide-Angle LERs Work Well
I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

Read FULL ARTICLE in Midsouth Shooters Blog

sighters spotting scope mirageMaking Corrections with Limited Sighters
Here’s a Tip for NRA High Power matches where only two sighters are allowed: “Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.”

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen, who passed away in 2020, was an NRA High Master who earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

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December 10th, 2020

Wind Reading Wizardry — Key Concepts from Emil Praslick III

Berger Bullets Applied Ballistics Wind Reading Zero direction speed windy

Emil Praslick III is widely recognized as one of the greatest wind wizards on the planet — a master at identifying wind value and direction, and predicting wind cycles. As coach of the USAMU and top civilian teams, Emil has helped win many high-level championships. In the three videos we feature today, Emil, who works with Capstone Precision Group (Berger, Lapua, SK, Vihtavuori) and Team Applied Ballistics, explains how to determine wind direction and velocity using a variety of indicators. Praslick, now retired from the U.S. Army, was an 18-time National and 2-time World Champion coach with the USAMU.

Video ONE: Wind Theory Basics — Understanding “Wind Values”

In this video from UltimateReloader.com, Emil explains the basics of modern wind theory. To properly understand the effect of the wind you need to know both the velocity of the wind and its angle. The combination of those variables translates to the wind value. Emil also explains that the wind value may not be constant — it can cycle both in speed and velocity. Emil also explains some of the environmental conditions such as mirage that can reveal wind conditions.

Emil Praslick III Berger SWN Wind calling reading

Video TWO: Determining the Direction of the Wind

Key Point in Video — Find the Boil
Emil explains how to determine wind direction using optic. The method is to use spotting scope, riflescope, or binoculars to look for the “Boil” — the condition in mirage when the light waves rising straight up. The wind will generate that straight-up, vertical boil in your optics when it is blowing directly at you, or directly from your rear. To identify this, traverse your scope or optics until you see the boil running straight up. When you see that vertical boil, the direction your optic is pointing is aligned with the wind flow (either blowing towards you or from directly behind you).

Video THREE: The No Wind Zero Setting

In this second video, Emil defines the “No-Wind Zero”, and explains why competitive shooters must understand the no-wind zero and have their sights or optics set for a no-wind zero starting point before heading to a match. In order to hit your target, after determining wind speed and direction, says Emil, “you have to have your scope setting dialed to ‘no wind zero’ first.”

Emil Praslick III KO2M

Coach of Champions — Emil Praslick III
SFC Emil Praslick III, (U.S. Army, retired) works with Berger Bullets and Applied Ballistics. Emil served as the Head Coach of the U.S. National Long Range Rifle Team and Head Coach of the USAMU for several years. Teams coached by Emil have won 33 Inter-Service Rifle Championships. On top of that, teams he coached set 18 National records and 2 World Records. Overall, in the role of coach, Praslick can be credited with the most team wins of any coach in U.S. Military history.

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April 3rd, 2020

How to Watch Mirage and Trace with a Spotting Scope

Nikon MEP-30 Reticle Eyepiec
Nikon offers eyepieces with reticles for its flagship Monarch Fieldscopes. Eyepiece reticles help spotters call shot corrections with precise click values (MOA or Mils).

Spotting Scope Video mirage tipsUsing a spotting scope seems simple. Just point it at the target and focus, right? Well, actually, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you want to watch mirage or trace, and that involves different focus and viewing priorities. Along with resolving bullet holes (or seeing other features on the target itself), you can use your spotting scope to monitor mirage. When watching mirage, you actually want to focus the spotting scope not on the target, but, typically, about two-thirds of the distance downrange. When spotting for another shooter, you can also use the spotting scope to watch the bullet trace, i.e. the vapor trail of the bullet. This will help you determine where the bullet is actually landing, even if it does not impact on the target backer.

In this video, SFC L.D. Lewis explains how to use a spotting scope to monitor mirage, and to watch trace. SFC Lewis is a former Army Marksmanship Unit member, U.S. Army Sniper School instructor, and current U.S. Army Reserve Service Rifle Shooting Team member. In discussing how precision shooters can employ spotting scopes, Lewis compares the use of a spotting scope for competition shooters vs. military snipers. NOTE: You may wish to turn up the audio volume, during the actual interview segment of this video.

Permalink - Videos, Optics No Comments »
February 21st, 2020

‘Sights, Wind and Mirage’ in Shooting Sports USA Archives

Wind Reading Quadrant High Power

Vand Zande wind readingIn the digital archives of Shooting Sports USA, we’ve found some great features that deserve a second look. A few years back, Shooting Sports USA published Sights, Wind and Mirage, an outstanding article that explains how to judge wind speed/direction and adjust your sights accordingly. Authored by highly respected shooter Ernest (Ernie) Vande Zande, this article is a definite “must-read” for all competitive rifle shooters — even those who shoot with a scope rather than irons. Vande Zande’s discussion of mirage alone makes the article well worth reading. Highly recommended.

CLICK HERE to Read “Sights, Wind and Mirage”
by Ernie Vande Zande

Invaluable Insights from a World-Class Shooter
The article covers a wide variety of topics including Wind Reading, Mirage, Effects of Sight Canting, Quadrant Shooting, and Sight Adjustment Sequencing. Vande Zande offers many jewels of insight from his decades of experience shooting and coaching in top level tournaments. U.S. Shooting Team Leader at the 1996 Olympics, Vande Zande has set more than 200 records in National and International competition. He was the Smallbore Rifle Prone Champion at Camp Perry in 1980. An International Distinguished shooter, Ernie has been on nine Dewar teams and he was a member of the USAR Shooting Team from 1982. No matter what your discipline, if you are a competitive rifle shooter, you should CLICK HERE to read Sights, Wind, and Mirage.

Vand Zande wind reading

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills 2 Comments »
January 21st, 2020

“Mirage Is Your Friend” — How Mirage Can Reveal the Wind

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

Mirage as a Wind Indicator

Read FULL ARTICLE in Midsouth Shooters Blog

by Glen Zediker
Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. In the photo below e you can see 11-time National High Power Champion David Tubb using a spotting scope set up for his left eye.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope
David Tubb sets up his spotting scope so he can easily see through it with his LEFT eye, without shifting his head and body position.

There are resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. Here’s another tip — the boil can predict when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope

You don’t need to spend big bucks for an effective spotting scope to view mirage. You can get the Vortex 20-60x60mm Diamondback angled spotting scope for just $399.99 from Midsouth. That’s complete with 20-60X zoom eyepiece. Though inexpensive, the Vortex Diamondback is popular with many competitive shooters and hunters. No, it doesn’t offer the sharpness of an 80mm Kowa Prominar or Swarovski spotting scope, but you’ll pay $2400+ just for the body of those high-end optics.

Choice of EyePiece — Wide-Angle LERs Work Well
I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

sighters spotting scope mirageMaking Corrections with Limited Sighters
Here’s a Tip for NRA High Power matches where only two sighters are allowed: “Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.”

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is an NRA High Master who earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Permalink - Articles, Optics, Shooting Skills 1 Comment »
December 7th, 2019

How To Read Mirage — Expert Advice with Diagrams

South Texas Mirage Reading article

This was one of our 25 Most Popular Articles in 2017. We’re repeating it for those of you who may have missed it the first time around. Diagrams from SouthTexasShooting.org.

South Texas marksmanship trainingThere is an excellent article about Mirage on the South Texas Marksmanship Training Center (STMTC) website. This article explains what causes mirage and how mirage can move the perceived aiming point on your target. Most importantly, the article explains, in considerable detail, how you can “read” mirage to discern wind speeds and wind directions.

Mirage Is Your Friend
While hot days with lots of mirage can be frustrating, mirage can reveal how the wind is flowing (and changing). If you learn how to recognize and read mirage patterns, you can use that information to shoot higher scores. That’s why many leading long-range shooters tell us: “Mirage is your friend.” As the STMTC article explains: “A mirage condition is not a handicap, since it offers a very accurate method of perceiving small wind changes[.]”

CLICK HERE to Read Complete Mirage Article

Mirage Illustrated with Diagrams
With simple but effective graphic illustrations, this is one of the best explanations of mirage (and mirage reading) we have found on the internet. This is a “must-read” for any serious competitive shooter. Here is a brief sample from the article, along with an illustration. NOTE: the full article is six times longer and has 8 diagrams.

South Texas Mirage Wind Diagram displacement

The term “mirage” as used by the shooter does not refer to a true mirage, but to heat waves and the refraction of light as it is bent passing through air layers of different density. Light which passes obliquely from one wind medium to another it undergoes an abrupt change in direction, whenever its velocity in the second medium is different from the velocity in the first wind medium; the shooter will see a “mirage”.

The density of air, and therefore its refraction, varies with its temperature. A condition of cool air overlaying warm air next to the ground is the cause of heat waves or “mirage”. The warm air, having a lower index of refraction, is mixed with the cooler air above by convection, irregularly bending the light transmitting the target image to the shooter’s eye. Figure 1 shows (greatly exaggerated) the vertical displacement of the target image by heat waves.

South Texas Mirage Reading article

Heat waves are easily seen with the unaided eye on a hot, bright day and can be seen with spotting scope on all but the coldest days. To observe heat waves, the scope should be focused on a point about midway to the target. This will cause the target to appear slightly out of focus, but since the high power rifle shooter generally does not try to spot bullet holes, the lack in target clarity is more than compensated by clarity of the heat waves.

Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink - Articles, Optics, Shooting Skills 2 Comments »
May 25th, 2019

New Carbon-Wrapped Barrels from Helix 6 Precision

Helix 6 Precision Barrel carbon fiber proof research

Are you looking to shave POUNDS from your hunting rig or varmint rifle? There is a new option for folks looking for a weight-saving, carbon fiber-wrapped barrel. You’ve probably heard about Proof Research. That’s a good company that crafts good products. But now Proof Research has some competition — Helix 6 Precision in Washington State.

Helix 6 Precision Barrel carbon fiber proof research

Helix 6 Precision crafts button-rifled, carbon-wrapped barrels in both conventional and “pre-fit” configurations. Pre-fits are offered for Savage rifles as well as the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) series. These pre-fit barrels are not cheap. A 6.5 Creedmoor RPR pre-fit costs $995.00, while the Savage pre-fits are also just under a grand. The conventional barrel blanks cost $895.00 in .224, .243, .264, .284, and .308 calibers. The larger .338 caliber barrels run $945.00.

Helix 6 Precision Barrel carbon fiber proof research

While Helix 6 barrels do offer significant weight savings, the founders of Helix 6 say low mass wasn’t the number one design goal: “Accuracy was paramount and weight reduction was secondary. We’ve taken the industry’s most advanced carbon fiber engineering and pushed the technology further with our proprietary … carbon fiber process.”

The founders of Helix 6 Precision say they build some of the best carbon/steel hybrid barrels on the market: “Our unique carbon fiber-layup design dampens barrel harmonics for better accuracy. Each barrel is cut from a 416R stainless steel core, and carbon fiber-wrapped using the Helix 6 Precision’s advanced process. This creates match-grade accuracy barrels with high heat dispersion that are 30% lighter than a steel barrel of the same contour. The bores are … hand-lapped for precision accuracy.” Helix 6 claims its barrels are “lighter, stronger, and faster cooling than anything else available on the market.”

Myth vs. Reality — What Carbon Can and Cannot Do

Carbon fiber is formed using thin strands of carbon bonded together with a plastic polymer resin. The resulting material is very strong and light weight. There’s a reason Formula 1 cars are crafted with carbon-fiber composites. But is a carbon-wrapped barrel the right option for you? Here are some factors to consider:

Weight Savings — There’s no doubt that a carbon-wrapped barrel will weigh less than an unfluted stainless steel barrel with identical length and contour (outside diameters). Helix 6 claims a 30% weight reduction compared to a conventional stainless steel barrel. That’s significant.

Accuracy — Carbon-wrapped barrels are NOT commonly being used for F-Class or Benchrest competition. However, Proof Research carbon-wrapped barrels have performed well in PRS competitions in the hands of top shooters. So, we can conclude that carbon accuracy is good enough for the PRS/NRL tactical game, at least at the local club level.

Heat Dispersion — Carbon-wrapped barrel-makers claim their hybrid design disperses heat better than an all-steel barrel. Some independent testers disagree, saying: “hold on now — the carbon actually acts as an insulator, so more heat is retained in the barrel”. The jury is still out. One thing that is true is that the carbon barrels seem to generate less mirage from barrel heat. Ask yourself, “if less heat is coming OFF the barrel, where is that heat retained?” But the reduced mirage could be a function of the black woven surface which may release heat differently than polished steel.

Standard, Pre-Fit, and Custom Barrel Options
Helix 6 Precision barrels are available as pre-fit barrels for both Savage and the Ruger Precision Rifle in many popular long-range cartridges. Barrel blanks are sold in five calibers from .224 to .338. Helix 6 can also thread and chamber a barrel for any precision rifle. Helix 6 Precision also builds one-off barrels to fit individual needs.

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting, New Product 2 Comments »
May 23rd, 2019

Savage Offers Expert Advice on Updated Website

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

Savage Arms has completed a major overhaul of the Savage website. Now the SavageArms.com site is more mobile-friendly and easier to navigate. Savage has expanded information on its rifle products, and also updated the Expert Advice area. This section of the website offers informative technical articles/videos, as well as numerous helpful tips for hunters.

You’ll find 30 informative topics in the Expert Advice section of the updated Savage Arms website. Below are FIVE of our favorites. Click each item to view the full text and linked VIDEOS. Even if you don’t own a Savage, these features are useful. And all new shooters should definitely check out the Advanced Optics selection. This features a good video covering mirage and light refraction.

1. Advanced Optics — Stan Pate

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

Light refraction can wreak havoc on your ability to connect with a target at extreme long range. Stan Pate offers some good advice concerning mirage and refraction.

2. Gun Motion Management — Patrick Kelley

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

3. How to Mount a Scope

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

4. How to Sight In a Rifle

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

5. How to Adjust the Savage Accutrigger

Savage Arms Expert Advice website tech tips

Permalink - Articles, - Videos, Optics, Tech Tip No Comments »
August 8th, 2018

Reading the Wind — Expert Advice from Emil Praslick III

Berger Bullets Applied Ballistics Wind Reading Zero direction speed windy

In today’s feature, Emil Praslick III of Team Applied Ballistics explains how to determine wind direction down range. Praslick, now retired from the U.S. Army, was an 18-time National and 2-time World Champion coach with the USAMU. Emil is consider by many to be one of America’s greatest wind readers — a master when is comes to identifying wind value and direction, and predicting wind cycles.

Video ONE: Determining the Direction of the Wind

Key Point in Video — Find the Boil
Emil explains how to determine wind direction using optic. The method is to use spotting scope, riflescope, or binoculars to look for the “Boil” — the condition in mirage when the light waves rising straight up. The wind will generate that straight-up, vertical boil in your optics when it is blowing directly at you, or directly from your rear. To identify this, traverse your scope or optics until you see the boil running straight up. When you see that vertical boil, the direction your optic is pointing is aligned with the wind flow (either blowing towards you or from directly behind you).

Video TWO: The No Wind Zero Setting

In this second video, Emil defines the “No-Wind Zero”, and explains why competitive shooters must understand the no-wind zero and have their sights or optics set for a no-wind zero starting point before heading to a match. In order to hit your target, after determining wind speed and direction, says Emil, “you have to have your scope setting dialed to ‘no wind zero’ first.”

Emil Praslick III KO2M

Coach of Champions — Emil Praslick III
SFC Emil Praslick III, (U.S. Army, retired) works with Berger Bullets and Applied Ballistics. Emil served as the Head Coach of the U.S. National Long Range Rifle Team and Head Coach of the USAMU for several years. Teams coached by Emil have won 33 Inter-Service Rifle Championships. On top of that, teams he coached set 18 National records and 2 World Records. Overall, in the role of coach, Praslick can be credited with the most team wins of any coach in U.S. Military history.

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip No Comments »
September 22nd, 2017

Seeing Bullet Holes at 1000 Yards — the Ultimate Optics Challenge

Pentax PF 100ED

Pentax smc-xw 10mmWhile attending the CA Long Range Championship a few seasons back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.

At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards. No lie…

That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.

The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmThen I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.

The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)

Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.

Chromatic AberrationChromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).

The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.


CLICK HERE to view LARGE PHOTO that shows aberration more clearly.

If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $3900 Leica APO-Televid 82) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.

The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-883 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).

EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.

Permalink - Articles, Optics, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
March 9th, 2017

Using Mirage to Read the Wind (Spotting Scope Technique)

wind mirage spotter spotting scope

Mirage as a Wind Indicator

Read FULL ARTICLE in Midsouth Shooters Blog
wind mirage spotter spotting scopeby Glen Zediker
Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. In the photo above you can see 11-time National High Power Champion David Tubb using a spotting scope set up for his left eye.

There are resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. It’s also how to know when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope
You don’t need to spend big bucks for an effective spotting scope to view mirage. You can get the Kowa TSN-601 Angled Body for just $249.00 from B&H Photo. An eyepiece will run another $275.00 or so. Though relatively inexpensive, the TSN-601 is used by many top marksmen.

I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

sighters spotting scope mirageMaking Corrections with Limited Sighters
Here’s a Tip for NRA High Power matches where only two sighters are allowed: “Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.”

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is an NRA High Master who earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Permalink - Articles, Shooting Skills No Comments »
February 22nd, 2017

Mirage Is Your Friend — Great Article on Reading Mirage

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

South Texas marksmanship trainingThere is an excellent article about Mirage on the South Texas Marksmanship Training Center (STMTC) website. This article explains what causes mirage and how mirage can move the perceived aiming point on your target. Most importantly, the article explains, in considerable detail, how you can “read” mirage to discern wind speeds and wind directions.

Mirage Is Your Friend
While hot days with lots of mirage can be frustrating, mirage can reveal how the wind is flowing (and changing). If you learn how to recognize and read mirage patterns, you can use that information to shoot higher scores. That’s why many leading long-range shooters tell us: “Mirage is your friend.” As the STMTC article explains: “A mirage condition is not a handicap, since it offers a very accurate method of perceiving small wind changes[.]”

CLICK HERE to Read Complete Mirage Article

Mirage Illustrated with Diagrams
With simple but effective graphic illustrations, this is one of the best explanations of mirage (and mirage reading) we have found on the internet. This is a “must-read” for any serious competitive shooter. Here is a brief sample from the article, along with an illustration. NOTE: the full article is six times longer and has 8 diagrams.

South Texas Mirage Wind Diagram displacement

The term “mirage” as used by the shooter does not refer to a true mirage, but to heat waves and the refraction of light as it is bent passing through air layers of different density. Light which passes obliquely from one wind medium to another it undergoes an abrupt change in direction, whenever its velocity in the second medium is different from the velocity in the first wind medium; the shooter will see a “mirage”.

The density of air, and therefore its refraction, varies with its temperature. A condition of cool air overlaying warm air next to the ground is the cause of heat waves or “mirage”. The warm air, having a lower index of refraction, is mixed with the cooler air above by convection, irregularly bending the light transmitting the target image to the shooter’s eye. Figure 1 shows (greatly exaggerated) the vertical displacement of the target image by heat waves.

South Texas Mirage Reading article

Heat waves are easily seen with the unaided eye on a hot, bright day and can be seen with spotting scope on all but the coldest days. To observe heat waves, the scope should be focused on a point about midway to the target. This will cause the target to appear slightly out of focus, but since the high power rifle shooter generally does not try to spot bullet holes, the lack in target clarity is more than compensated by clarity of the heat waves.

Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink Shooting Skills No Comments »
September 5th, 2016

SSG Sherri Gallagher — How to Read the Wind Video

Reading Wind Sherri Gallagher

Sgt Sherri GallagherThe ability to read the wind is what separates good shooters from great shooters. If you want to learn wind-doping from one of the best, watch this video with 2010 National High Power Champion (and U.S. Army 2010 Soldier of the Year) Sherri Gallagher. Part of the USAMU’s Pro Tips Video Series, this video covers the basics of wind reading including: Determining wind direction and speed, Bracketing Wind, Reading Mirage, and Adjusting to cross-winds using both sight/scope adjustments and hold-off methods. Correctly determining wind angle is vital, Sheri explains, because a wind at a 90-degree angle has much more of an effect on bullet lateral movement than a headwind or tailwind. Wind speed, of course, is just as important as wind angle. To calculate wind speed, Sherri recommends “Wind Bracketing”: [This] is where you take the estimate of the highest possible condition and the lowest possible condition and [then] take the average of the two.”

It is also important to understand mirage. Sheri explains that “Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air, based off the temperature of the ground. These layers … are blown by the wind, and can be monitored through a spotting scope to detect direction and speed. You can see what appears to be waves running across the range — this is mirage.” To best evaluate mirage, you need to set your spotting scope correctly. First get the target in sharp focus, then (on most scopes), Sheri advises that you turn your adjustment knob “a quarter-turn counter-clockwise. That will make the mirage your primary focus.”

Permalink - Videos, Competition, Shooting Skills 5 Comments »
December 23rd, 2015

Shooters’ Stocking Stuffers — Eight Budget Gifts

Christmas is almost here, so today we’re featuring a hand-picked collection of “stocking stuffers” for precision shooters. So as not to bust your holiday budget, all of our selections are priced under $10.00. These items are handy tools that you’ll use over and over again at the range and/or at your loading bench (so you’re allowed to buy them for yourself, even after Christmas). Our AccurateShooter staffers use most of these items, including the Loading Blocks, Ballistol, Mirage Shades, Crocogators, and Barrel Bags.

Gifts $1 to $5 


Surveyors Tape
$1.99
Shooting Glasses S&W Safety
Safety Eyewear
$1.99
Hood quick estimator group size gauge
Hood Kwik Estimator
$2.50
Sinclair Barrel Mirage Shade
Barrel Mirage Shade
$4.95

Surveyors’ Tape. Always watch the wind when you shoot. Inexpensive, Day-Glo Surveyors’ Tape (aka “Flagging Tape”), attached to a stake or target frame, makes a good wind indicator. It will flutter even in mild breezes, alerting you to both angle and velocity shifts. This should be part of every range kit. Don’t leave home without it.

Safety Eyewear ANSI Z87.1. Yes you can get ANSI-approved Safety Eyewear for under two bucks. At that price you should pick up a half-dozen sets, just so you have extras. We recommend that shooters wear eye protection at all times when handling firearms. This eyewear special is offered by CDNN Sports. Call 800-588-9500 to order.

Hood Kwik Estimator. Here’s a very handy tool to measure your 6mm groups. Bracket the group within the diverging lines of the Kwik Estimator and you’ll instantly get a good approximation of the actual group size. No more trips to the tool box for calipers. The inexpensive Kwik Estimator fits in a shirt pocket. (Thanks to Boyd Allen for this suggestion.)

Sinclair Barrel Mirage Shade. For high-volume varminters, and competitors who shoot fast in warm weather, a mirage shield is absolutely essential. This prevents hot air rising off the barrel from distorting the image in your scope. The aluminum Sinclair shield can be trimmed to fit, and comes with stick-on Velcro attachments. Two lengths are available: 18″ for short BR barrels, and 24″ for longer barrels.

Gifts $6 to $10 


Dewey Crocogator
$6.50
Ballistol multi-purpose gun lube
Ballistol Aerosol Lube
$8.99
Sinclair Barrel Storage Bag
Sinclair Barrel Bag
$9.95

Sinclair Load Block
$9.99

Dewey Crocogator. The Crocogator tool, with knurled “teeth” at both ends, is simple, inexpensive, and compact. Yet nothing zips though primer-pocket gunk faster or better. Unlike some cutter-tipped primer pocket tools, the Crocogator removes the carbon quick and easy without shaving brass. One end is sized for large primer pockets, the other for small.

Ballistol Aerosol Lube. Ballistol is a versatile, non-toxic product with many uses in the reloading room. We have found it is ideal for lubricating cases for normal full-length sizing. It is clear, not gooey or chalky like other lubes. It is very, very slippery, yet is easy to apply and just as easy to wipe off. As you lube your cases, the Ballistol will also clean powder fouling off the case necks. For heavy-duty case forming and neck expansion, we’ll still use Imperial die wax, but for every-day case sizing, Ballistol is our first choice. It also helps prevent your dies from rusting and it even conditions leather. Ballistol is a favored bore cleaner for Black Powder shooters because it neutralizes acidic powder residues.

Santa Christmas Stocking giftsSinclair Barrel Bag. If you run a switch-barrel rig, or take spare barrels to a big match, this simple but effective barrel bag will protect your valuable steel. The bag is moisture-resistant vinyl on the outside with a soft, quilted interior to protect the barrel’s finish and delicate crown. There are two sizes: one for barrels up to 26 inches, the other for barrels up to 31 inches. Both sizes are priced at $9.95 per bag. That’s cheap insurance for those priceless barrels.

Sinclair ‘Poly’ Loading Block. We’ve tried wood and injection-molded loading trays, and we prefer Sinclair’s white polyethylene loading blocks. They featured chamfered holes properly sized for the particular case you reload. The blocks are heavy enough to be stable on the bench, and the “dishwasher-friendly” material is easy to clean. The standard Poly Loading Block holds 50 cases, while the Competition Loading Block holds 25 cases with a tray for empties. For a bit more money, there’s also a Heavy-Duty 50-case model with an extra-thick 1″ base.

Permalink Hot Deals, Reloading 1 Comment »
July 2nd, 2014

One Dollar Do-It-Yourself Mirage Shield

make your own mirage shield for rifleWant to shoot better scores at your next match? Here’s a smart, inexpensive do-it-yourself project from the good folks at Criterion Barrels. For less than one dollar in materials, in just a few minutes you can create a handy, effective mirage shield, custom-fitted to your favorite rifle.

All precision shooters should be familiar with mirage, a form of optical distortion caused primarily by variations in air temperature. Savvy shooters will use mirage as a valuable tool when gauging wind speed and direction. Natural mirage is unavoidable, but there are many techniques designed to limit its influence in long-range marksmanship.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

A form of mirage can be produced by the barrel itself. Heat rising from the barrel may distort sight picture through your optics, leading to erratic results. Mirage caused by barrel heat can be reduced dramatically by a simple, light-weight mirage shield.

How to Make a Mirage Shield

A mirage shield is an extremely cost-effective way to eliminate a commonly-encountered problem. Making your own mirage shield is easy. Using old venetian blind strips and common household materials and tools, you can construct your own mirage shield for under one dollar.

Materials Required:
1. Vertical PVC Venetian blind panel
2. Three 1”x1” pieces adhesive-backed Velcro
3. Ruler or tape measure
4. Scissors or box cutter
5. Pencil or marker

1. Measure the distance from the end of the receiver or rail to the crown of the barrel.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

2. Using a pencil and ruler, measure the same distance and mark an even line across the blind.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

3. Cut across the line using scissors or a box cutter, shortening the blind to the required length. (Remember, measure twice, cut once!)

4. Expose the adhesive backing on the loop side of the Velcro. Center and apply the Velcro strips on the barrel at regular intervals.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

5. Expose the adhesive backing of the fuzzy side of the Velcro.

6. Place the blind on the upper side of the barrel. Apply downward pressure. Once the Velcro has secured itself to the barrel, separate the two sides. Proceed to mold both sides of the Velcro to fit the contour of their respective surfaces.

7. Reaffix the blind. Barrel related mirage is now a thing of the past!

make your own mirage shield for rifle

How to Remove and Re-Attach the Mirage Shield
Removal of your mirage shield is accomplished by simply removing the blind. You can un-install the Velcro by pulling off the strips and then gently removing any adhesive residue left behind using an appropriate solvent. (Simple cooking oil may do the job.) Caution: With fine, high-polish blued barrels, test any solvent on a non-visible section of the barrel. Before storing the gun, re-oil the barrel to remove active solvents and residual fingerprints.

Permalink Tech Tip 2 Comments »
May 28th, 2014

Spotting Scope Resolution at 1000 Yards (in Ideal Conditions)

Pentax smc-xw 10mmWhile attending the CA Long Range Championship a while back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.

At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards.

That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.

Pentax PF 100ED

The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmThen I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.

The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)

Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.

Chromatic AberrationChromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).

The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.


CLICK HERE to view LARGE PHOTO that shows aberration more clearly.

If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $3900 Leica APO-Televid 82) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.

The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-883 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).

EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.

Permalink Optics, Tech Tip 11 Comments »
July 22nd, 2013

Great Article on Reading Mirage

South Texas marksmanship trainingThere is an excellent article about Mirage on the South Texas Marksmanship Training Center (STMTC) website. This article explains what causes mirage and how mirage can move the perceived aiming point on your target. Most importantly, the article explains, in considerable detail, how you can “read” mirage to discern wind speeds and wind directions. With simple but effective graphic illustrations, this is one of the best explanations of mirage (and mirage reading) we have found on the internet. This is a “must-read” for any serious competitive shooter. Here is a brief sample from the article, along with an illustration. NOTE: the full article is six times longer and has 8 diagrams.

The term “mirage” as used by the shooter does not refer to a true mirage, but to heat waves and the refraction of light as it is bent passing through air layers of different density. Light which passes obliquely from one wind medium to another it undergoes an abrupt change in direction, whenever its velocity in the second medium is different from the velocity in the first wind medium; the shooter will see a “mirage”.

The density of air, and therefore its refraction, varies with its temperature. A condition of cool air overlaying warm air next to the ground is the cause of heat waves or “mirage”. The warm air, having a lower index of refraction, is mixed with the cooler air above by convection, irregularly bending the light transmitting the target image to the shooter’s eye. Figure 1 shows (greatly exaggerated) the vertical displacement of the target image by heat waves.

South Texas Mirage Reading article

Heat waves are easily seen with the unaided eye on a hot, bright day and can be seen with spotting scope on all but the coldest days. To observe heat waves, the scope should be focused on a point about midway to the target. This will cause the target to appear slightly out of focus, but since the high power rifle shooter generally does not try to spot bullet holes, the lack in target clarity is more than compensated by clarity of the heat waves.

CLICK HERE to Read Complete Mirage Article

Mirage Is Your Friend
While hot days with lots of mirage can be frustrating, mirage can reveal how the wind is flowing (and changing). If you learn how to recognize and read mirage patterns, you can use that information to shoot higher scores. That’s why many leading long-range shooters tell us: “Mirage is your friend.” As the STMTC article explains: “A mirage condition is not a handicap, since it offers a very accurate method of perceiving small wind changes[.]”

Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink - Articles, Competition 3 Comments »
March 21st, 2013

Mirage Shields — Not Just for Benchresters Anymore

AccurateShooter Mirage ShieldMirage shields really do help you hit your targets more reliably. Novice shooters may wonder “Why does that guy have a venetian blind attached to his barrel?” Here’s why. As the barrel gets hot, the heat from the barrel rises up, cooking and distorting the air directly in front of the scope’s front lens. In essense, the rifle creates its own nasty visual mirage, right in the worst possible place. You can have a $4000.00 custom rifle and a $2500.00 scope but if the air in front of your scope is distorted, it can literally move your apparent point of aim on the target relative to your cross-hairs, causing you to miss the shot.

As our friend Boyd Allen observed: “Varminters should use mirage shields. Think about it. You’ve invested thousands of dollars in a fancy varmint rifle and quality scope. You may have spent hundreds of dollars traveling to the varmint fields and spent dozens of hours loading up your ammo. Without a mirage shield on your barrel, once that barrel gets hot, you WILL get mirage effects that can make you miss a shot.”

So, we’ve established you need a mirage shield to shoot your best when the barrel gets hot. You can make your own shield from a scrap blind, or purchase a ready-made plastic or aluminum shield. Sinclair Int’l offers 2″-wide, white mirage shields in 18″ (#06-7200) or 24″ (#06-7300) lengths for $4.95. Shotmaster 10X offers a variety of Patterned Mirage Shields, starting at $6.00. These include a Patriotic theme and even Tiger Stripes:

ShotMaster 10X mirage shields

Camo Mirage Shields for Tactical Shooters and Hunters
Though tactical shooters should use mirage shields for long-distance, slow-fire stages, for the most part, tactical shooters don’t bother. One reason is that mirage shields CAN detach if you’re crawling around in the bush. However, for many tactical shooting situations, a mirage shield IS both practical and recommended. And now, for the first time, tactical shooters can get mirage shields in camo patterns to match their rifles. These camo shields should also be popular with varminters and long-range hunters.

ShotMaster 10X mirage shields

At the request of AccurateShooter.com, Shotmaster 10X created a line of camo-pattern mirage shields (see above). Made of 2″-wide aluminum strips, these are available in 18″, 20″, and 24″ lengths. The camo-pattern shields come complete with Velcro attachments, and start at $8.50 for the 18″ length. The 20″ models are $9.50, while 24″ shields are $11.00.

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