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April 7th, 2022

Reading the Wind — Terrain Effects, Mirage, and Anomalies

Steven Blair F-Class Wind Tips

At the request of our Shooters’s Forum members, we’re repeating an excellent article by Steven Blair on wind reading. Steven, a top F-Class shooter, talks about mirage, topography effects, tail winds, and other subtle factors that can cause frustration for shooters. Steve explains that wind effects can be complex — there’s more going on than just velocity and angle. You need to notice things like berm locations and effects of temp changes over the course of the day.

Wind Reading Tips for Competitive Shooters
by Steven Blair, Past California State Long Range F-Open Champion

Assess the Terrain and How the Wind Will Interact with It
Before you begin a match, take a few minutes to look around the range at the terrain, any obstructions, range topography (berms and backstop), and trees, buildings or structures that could affect wind flow over the range. Imagine what might happen if the wind was from the left or right, headwind or tailwind. Depending upon the direction, significant effects may be seen on range. A head or tail wind may ripple across the berms, causing elevation changes, both high and low. A tall side berm, like the east side berm at Ben Avery, may cause turbulence when the wind comes from that direction. Blocking features might shield most of the wind but a break along the range can funnel strong gusts through the gap with no other indications. Take a few notes about the effects of different wind directions and refer to them if the prevailing direction changes. (Tip courtesy Tony Robertson.)

Steven Blair F-Class Wind Tips

Use a Spotting Scope, Even When Shooting a Scoped Rifle
A good spotting scope can “see” mirage much more clearly than even an expensive rifle scope. Take your spotting scope to the line and position it as sling shooters do, close enough to use without much movement. Focus the scope approximately 1/3 of the way down range or where the most significant wind effects are likely to occur. Take a quick look while waiting for pit service, glance at the flags and compare to your scope sight picture. I often see ambiguous indications at the target through the rifle scope, but see a clear indication of wind direction and speed through the spotting scope at the shorter distance. When shooting the Arizona Palma Championship at Ben Avery last weekend, I was scoring while the wind was coming from the east. Shooters up and down the line were out to the left, losing points. Mirage at the target looked moderate and the flags weren’t indicating strong wind. As I focused the spotting scope back, the mirage suddenly looked like it was flowing twice as fast around 500 yards than it was closer or farther. It wasn’t until I realized that the access road cut through the berm there that I understood what was happening. (Tip courtesy Gary Eliseo.)

Steven Blair F-Class Wind Tips

Don’t Over-React to Something That May Be an Anomaly
On ranges with sizable berms, a headwind or tailwind can cause significant elevation problems. It is generally not possible to see or predict when this will occur. When the conditions exist that cause elevation changes and other competitors are experiencing the same problem, the best strategy is to ignore it. Certainly, avoid shooting when the head or tail wind is gusting, the same as you would in a crosswind. But, if you react to random, range-induced elevation changes, the only likely result is to make it worse. Whether the problem is caused by range or ammunition, maintain your waterline hold until you have evidence that something has fundamentally changed.

Steven Blair F-Class Wind Tips

My .284 Shehane will usually require a click or two down during a string as the barrel warms. That is normal and manageable. But, if your shots are just bouncing up and down in the 10 ring, leave it alone. The same is also true of an occasional gust pushing a shot into the 9 ring. If the conditions have not changed and one shot just went out, it may be the result of a random occurrence that was not predictable. (Tip courtesy “School of Hard Knocks”.)

Adjust Spotting Scope Focus and Magnification as Needed to View Mirage vs. Target Details
In F-Class we only need to see mirage, spotters, and scoring disks. That does not take a lot of magnification. My scope is a Nikon 25-75x82mm ED. It is a superb scope for the money and makes it trivial to see minor variations in mirage. It is good to have the high magnification available, and it can always be reduced if necessary. I use different power settings for different situations.

Steven Blair F-Class Wind TipsSetting Magnification Levels
During a match, in very good viewing conditions, I set my spotting scope at 75X, full power. The mirage is more subtle in the morning and greater magnification is needed.

During a match with heavy mirage I set my spotting scope at about 40X. I have no problem seeing mirage, even at this magnification.

When practicing at 300 yards or closer I set my spotting scope at max power (75X) so I can see the little 6mm holes from my 6BR rifle. I usually need to focus back and forth between shots to see both bullet holes and mirage.

Steven Blair, 2012 California State Long Range F-Open Champion, has been shooting since childhood and competing for over 30 years. Before retiring, Steve spent 16 years in Engineering and IT with General Atomics. He has held Engineering and Marketing positions with several firearms companies and worked on projects from pistols to 155mm howitzers.

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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.

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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.

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