Lot of folks attend shooting schools and weekend training events each year. However, only a small percentage of them will go to Rifle Camp. By Rifle Camp, we mean a dedicated precision rifle training course. The gear list for 1-day Concealed Carry class is pretty simple: gun, ammo, magazines, holster, comfortable clothes, that’s about it. When it comes to training with a precision rifle, the list is a bit more complex.
During the next couple of pages, we will attempt to clarify and simplify the preparation process for attending Rifle Camp or a dedicated precision rifle shooting course. This list will not be exhaustive, but it should give the new rifle shooter a good place to begin.
Rifle and Ammunition you Need for Rifle Camp.
We will address the rifle and ammunition topic first, as most people have already dedicated the majority of their thought process to this section. The primary purpose of a precision rifle class is actually two-fold. First, the student will be given the instruction at rifle camp, training, and coaching that is required to teach them how to deliver well-placed, single shots on target, at varied distances, on demand. That portion can be accomplished with any rifle. In the Marine Corps, students use an issued rifle that is identical to all the other rifles on the range.
Part two of the primary purpose of a precision rifle course is to give the shooter the opportunity to use their own gear; rifle, optic, ammo, and apply all of the aforementioned training. When a citizen brings their personal rifle set up to a course, they leave, not just with the fundamentals of precision rifle shooting, but with a firm understanding of the capabilities and potential limitations of said gear.
Rifles for Rifle Camp.
Most any rifle can be used in a precision rifle course or rifle camp, from .223 Remington to .50 BMG (BMG is restricted on many ranges due to the damage it does to steel targets). From a cost perspective, the .223 Remington rifle is the most economical. You get more bang for the buck. Medium rifle calibers, such as the .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor drive up the ammo bill. Magnum caliber cartridges; .300 Ultra Mag, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum are generally chosen by people with either serious disposable income or those spending taxpayer money.
The Ruger American rifle in .223 Remington is a good alternative for someone looking for an entry level precision rifle that they can afford to shoot. Average retail price is around $469, minus optic.
The Savage Model 110 bolt-action rifle in .308 Winchester can be had from $459 to around $649 depending on the particular features of the gun. Again this is a good entry level gun in a medium rifle caliber.
The Patriot Revere rifle from Mossberg can be purchased at an MSRP of $875 (lower at some dealers) and it is chambered up to .300 Winchester Magnum.
You Need a Good Set of Glass for Precision Shooting.
Generally speaking, if you are serious about precision rifle shooting, you should spend about the same amount of money on your glass as you did your rifle. Yes, I know many people choke on that advice, but I said if you are SERIOUS, and if you’re attending rifle camp you probably are. Any knucklehead can throw rounds down range at 75 yards, that does not take much skill. How about 100, 300, 500, or even 1000 yards? The $89 discount scope from your local store is not going to cut it.
The issue with rifle scopes is that there are just so many that it can be a very confusing issue for the shooter. There are potentially a hundred companies online selling riflescopes, what is cheap and what is actually a good deal? I will not recommend glass or riflescope of which I have no experience. Here are a few that I have used over the years.
Glass we Recommend.
Brownell’s Match Precision Optic® (MPO) gives you the critical functions found on a high-end target rifle scope – without the high-end price.
The Burris Predator scope has external adjustments and is a solid, entry price optic. I recently used one to shoot prairie dogs beyond 300 yards. The price point is around $300.
A Leupold VX-3i rifle scope will not break the bank, but it is not entry level either. I have been using Leupold products for over 25 years, toured their factory, and have supreme confidence in them. The VX-3i version is priced just under $900.
Nightforce Optics have a stellar reputation with US Military and Law Enforcement, the SHV series will give you the clarity and adjustments to shoot extreme long range. Expect to spend around $1300.
When matching your scope rings to your rifle, do not go cheap. It makes no sense to have an $800 rifle, a $700 scope, and then bargain shop for rings. After all, the rings are the only thing keeping the glass attached to the gun.
I have used Vortex 30mm rings and never been disappointed. Expect to pay around $50.
Range Gear at Rifle Camp.
When attending a precision rifle camp, do not expect to spend much time sitting at a shooting bench. You will likely be prone, kneeling, or sitting. A solid, quality shooting mat is a good investment. There are many mats available. I have had good success with the ones from MidwayUSA.
The Pro Series competition shooting mat is a solid piece of gear and will run you $50 or so.
Depending on the type of rifle camp you attend, a good pair of knee pads may pay dividends. A good friend of mine once said, “Knee pads are cheap, new knees are expensive.” I have had great success with Alta Brands.
The Alta Flex knee pads are adjustable and fit over your range pants. Cost; about $25
Every shooting academy or rifle camp that I know of, will run their training rain or shine. You need to be prepared for wet and windy weather. That means some kind of quality rain suit or jacket. Unfortunately, my favorite Blackhawk rain suit is out of production. I know a lot of military instructors who swear by Frogg Toggs gear.
A Frogg Toggs rain suit is flexible and not too heavy to be worn while shooting. Expect to pay about $40 or so.
Every precision rifle course I have attended required the shooter to have a notebook to record their progress and dope (data on personal equipment). I have been using some type of Rite in the Rain notebook for as long as they have been available. Price: about $12 for a 3 pack.
Binoculars are a Rifle Camp Must.
Every precision rifle shooter should have a compact set of binoculars to go with their kit. Though perhaps not an absolute for rifle camp, you will need them eventually. Like the rifle scopes, there are so many models that this can be confusing.
The Vortex Crossfire set is good as a general purpose, entry level binos. Price: around $140
While working as a Military Contractor, I used Steiner MM1050 binoculars, they are rugged and reliable and offer excellent clarity. Price: about $500
For those with disposable income, Swarovski SLC binoculars offer amazing clarity and quality. However, they do not come cheap. Price: about $1600.
Parting Thoughts for Rifle Camp.
The great thing about being an American is a wide variety and array of gear that is available to every citizen. Of course, the greater the number of choices, the more confusion there can be for a new precision rifle shooter. I hope this piece has given you something about which to think.
As for other items to take to Rifle Camp, be sure you have comfortable and rugged boots or shoes. Take two pairs with you. If one set gets wet, they won’t likely be dry by the next morning. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing that will allow you to get in and out of shooting positions. Also, be ready to protect yourself from prolonged exposure to the sun.
Finally, the most important thing that you can take to Rifle Camp, or any training school will be an open mind. Check your ego at the door. Take ample notes, ask lots of questions, and soak it all in.
Professor Paul Markel
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