these days, long-range shooting is “in,” with many shooters working hard to expand their range envelopes. There’s a lot to this. Knowledge of trajectory, art of reading wind. Cheek weld, breathing, consistent trigger press.


Craig Boddington

These days, long-range shooting is “in,” with many shooters working hard to expand their range envelopes. There’s a lot to this. Knowledge of trajectory, art of reading wind. Cheek weld, breathing, consistent trigger press. At distance, all the little things matter. However, in all field shooting, getting steady enough to take the shot is critical. Just how steady one needs to be is a relative thing; depends on distance and size of target. Successful field shooters learn how to get steady—enough—from a wide variety of field positions.

Sticks tripod P-Dog: Prairie dog “practice,” using three-legged African shooting sticks, broken down for a sitting position. If you can hit prairie dogs consistently, no big game shooting is daunting.

In a few days, I’m headed to a near-annual prairie dog shoot in eastern Wyoming with friend Gordon Marsh, proprietor of this site. We’ll start shooting from portable benches, not as steady as a concrete bench, but better than any field position. A prairie dog offers a target about two inches by six. At 300 or 400 yards, not much to shoot at.

For field shooting, the prairie dog is the best teacher I know, not just because the mark is small, but because of windy prairie. Doesn’t take much breeze to blow a light varmint bullet clear off the mound. I was fortunate to do a lot of prairie dog shooting when I was young, great training. I still look forward to every refresher course. Typically, I’ll shoot for a while off the bench. Great for precision, but limited learning from the great teacher. After a while, I’ll rove the edges of a colony, shooting from field positions. Hit ratio goes down, but this is the best training of all.

The Javelin bipod/tripod system from Spartan can be variously configured, including as a dead-steady fore-and-aft system

For most long-range shooters, a bipod is a primary stability tool. With practice, prone off a bipod is almost as steady as the bench. Tricks include loading the bipod with forward pressure, using a light sandbag under the butt to get the height perfect, then using a daypack under your supporting elbow. Many long-range shooting instructors stress use of a bipod. To a fault, because no single solution works under all conditions.

Sticks fore-and-aft P-Dog: Boddington “working out” with fore-and-aft sticks in a prairie dog town. This was the first time he used this type of sticks. Steep learning curve but, once you get the hang of them, the stability is marvelous.

Late spring is also the start of peak safari season in Southern Africa. Not uncommon for me to train on prairie dogs, then get serious on plains game. This year I’m going straight from Wyoming to Mozambique. Here’s something prairie dogs and plains game have in common: Prone-off-bipod isn’t a good solution for either. Where we shoot prairie dogs, sagebrush gets in the way, precluding prone. Sometimes you can lay on top of an old mound and gain a bit of elevation. Just be careful of flopping down on the prickly little prairie cacti. And be mindful of prairie rattlers. In Africa, all plants have nasty thorns and low vegetation often precludes a prone position. Never mind the creepy-crawlies that might be on the ground.

Sticks fore-and-aft: In South Africa’s Eastern Cape, these hunters are set up to take a long shot off of fore-and-aft sticks. Look at the typical vegetation; this is why African hunters use elevated shooting sticks…to get above that stuff.

I’ve carried bipods in open country since I was young. The Harris bipod was the original and still excellent, attaching to the fore-end via the front sling swivel stud. For pronghorns, I like models with extending legs long enough for a sitting position, getting you over low vegetations. With the popularity of long-range shooting, there are now many options from several makers. These days I usually carry a light carbon fiber Javelin bipod, either on my belt or accessible on my daypack. The Javelin attaches via a strong magnet that replaces the front swivel stud, quickly available when needed, not on the rifle when not.

I’m not an extreme-range shooter on game, very much a “get as close as I can guy.” For sure, I won’t back up to take a shot! However, I’d rather have a deliberate steady shot at distance, rather than risk bumping an animal.

Sticks-fore-and-aft practice
Sticks fore-and-aft practice: On the range in Mozambique, PH Ben Rautenbach demonstrates how to set the rifle on fore-and-aft sticks. With practice, this new breed of shooting sticks can essentially double one’s effective range off of stick.

While I take few animals from a classic prone-with-bipod setup, I still find the bipod a useful tool. Often, I’ll put the legs on a rock or log, or on top of a pack to, to get the height right, or to get over low vegetation. Any potential field shooting positions, no matter how weird, can be practiced on the range…or in a prairie dog town.

The problem with bipods or any other favorite shooting position: Too easy to get complacent, married to one shooting solution. I’ll have a bipod in Wyoming, keep it handy in Africa, doubt I’ll use it over there.

Using two sets of sticks on a wide-open Mozambique floodplain, Boddington took this hartebeest at 425 yards. With one set under fore-end, the other under buttstock, near-benchrest stability is achieved.

Last few years, in larger safari camps. I’ve been surprised at how many Americans bring long-range rigs to Africa, suggesting to me that I haven’t appreciated the breadth and popularity of the extreme-range movement. Mostly good. Fast 7mms and .300s with heavy bullets are perfect for African plains game,. Good scopes help everywhere, and there are places over there where you can reach out: Hills, mountains, deserts, floodplains. However, I’m disturbed by the number of hunters I see who struggle because they expect to lie prone with bipod, like their instructors taught them. For this I blame American shooting instructors, awesome technical marksmen, but lacking in either field experience or imagination.

Sticks-chicken wing
Sticks-chicken wing: The “chicken wing”: Using a second set of sticks under the shooting-side armpit. Amazing how much extra stability this offers

Set-piece prone with bipod rarely works in Africa. There are good reasons why African hunters have long relied on three-legged shooting sticks. Fast to set up, fast to get into position. Standing on sticks, you are above the thorns, and can take shots impossible from lower positions.

The problem with traditional three-legged sticks: They are never perfectly stable, a short-range solution. How far depends on one’s ability, and amount of practice. Most people can quickly become deadly to at least 150 yards, somewhat farther with practice. Wife Donna is awesome off sticks; despite my 40 years of practice to her 20, she’s steadier than me. Even so, 200 yards is a long poke off sticks.

Sticks-buddy: Stability off sticks can be enhanced by having a buddy grasp the sticks and offer a shoulder for the shooting elbow. Good trick to practice on the range.

With today’s equipment, many people want to shoot farther and can. There are tricks that help. A second set of sticks under the rifle butt can create a near-benchrest situation. Or, under the shooting-side armpit, what the instructors at the SAAM shooting school call “the chicken wing.” Or stabilizing the shooting side elbow. Can’t do much to change Africa’s terrain and vegetation, but this stuff, too, can be practiced at home. Never forget, all position practice can be done with a .22, reducing cost, blast, and recoil.

Last few years, many African PHs have abandoned traditional three-legged shooting sticks in favor of newer designs with additional struts that support both butt and fore-end, what I call “fore-and-aft” sticks. Sounds awkward, but they work. Like everything else, they require practice, but dual butt and fore-end support greatly enhances stability and extends range. Just how much depends on the person (and, always, how much practice), but I’m convinced they essentially double effective range off sticks. Not as steady as prone-with-bipod, but in the African context, they work.

Donna Boddington practices off traditional three-legged shooting sticks with a .22. Donna is unusually steady off sticks, but three-legged sticks alone offer a short to very-medium-range solution.

With enough practice, I’m not sure there’s a limit. There are now several varieties of these fore-and-aft sticks. The first ones I saw was “4 Stable Sticks” out of France. At first I thought they were the work of Satan, but after I got the hang of them, I saw the value. Since I use prairie dog shooting as training for big game, I took a set to Wyoming a couple years ago and used them for my “roving” prairie dog shooting. A few weeks later, I used them in Africa. With a bit of practice, amazing stability.

Prone with bipod
Done right, prone with bipod is almost as steady as a bench. Useful position to master, but not practical in many field situations

I figure: If I can consistently hit prairie dogs with confidence at a couple hundred yards, then no shot at a big game animal should be daunting. I’m surprised at how frequently I’m now seeing these “fore-and-aft” sticks in Africa: I’ve encountered them recently with Zambeze Delta Safaris in Mozambique (awesome on the floodplains); and at both Frontier Safaris and John X Safaris in the Eastern Cape. Longer shots are likely there because of terrain relief, but low, prickly vegetation makes shooting prone problematic.

2023 kudu off sticks 500 yards
2023 kudu off sticks 500 yards: NOTE: LAST REFERENCE IN TEXT. Boddington and PH Fred Burchell with a good East Cape kudu taken using fore-and-aft sticks at 500 yards, a near-impossible shot off traditional three-legged shooting sticks

Last year, at Frontier, PH Fred Burchell was using fore-and-aft sticks. Last evening, near sunset, several kudu cows boiled up out of a canyon, followed by an excellent bull. Old friends, Fred and I are a good team. Sticks up, rifle steady, Fred ranging. I got on them quickly, but they were all mixed up in fading light, no chance for a shot, distance increasing. Finally, on top of the far crest, they separated. The bull lagged, 500 yards, quartering away. Take it or leave it. Common sense said to leave it, but I was steady, and both I and the rifle had been shooting well. The shot felt good, looked good, but of course they trooped over the skyline.

Bipod P-Dog
Gordon Marsh uses an old prairie dog mound to get a bit of elevation. Watch out for cacti and rattlesnakes.

The bull was stone dead just over the ridge. For me, that would have been an impossible shot off traditional three-legged sticks, and no way anyone could have shot from prone. Doubt I could have done it without practicing on prairie dogs. Which I’ll be doing in a few days, then moving onward to plains game.


For most of us, a day at the range is just plain fun. Sure, most of us have an agenda: Improve skills, group loads for accuracy, check zero for an upcoming hunt.


Craig Boddington

For most of us, a day at the range is just plain fun. Sure, most of us have an agenda: Improve skills, group loads for accuracy, check zero for an upcoming hunt. For some, banging away is pure pleasure, because shooting is fun. It’s fun for me, too; I go to the range for all those reasons.

Range Day starts with loading the truck…and making darned sure nothing that might—possibly—be needed is left behind.

And more, because range day is also serious work. As a gunwriter, I’m always fighting (and juggling) deadlines. Some articles are hunting stories. Others are gun stories, and many, with hunting guns, are a mix. Whichever, range time is important, and precious.

Reasonable weather is almost essential, a big problem in many parts of the country, sometimes impossible on winter days in Kansas. I’m often asked why we haven’t pulled out of California completely. Grand-kids are good reasons, and I often cite the year-around hog hunting that I love. Range days are more good reasons. The range I use, on a friend’s ranch not far from town, is up a deep canyon, cold in winter and blistering hot in summer, but protected from most winds. Except for infrequent rainy days, I can shoot in at least marginal comfort throughout the year. Honest, the ability to get in a range day almost any time I need to has much to do with how I’ve been as prolific and productive as a gunwriter all these years.

Boddington prefers to clean at the range…which means cleaning gear must be hauled. Usually shooting multiple calibers, he brings his full cleaning kit, ensuring he has all the brushes, jags, and patches needed.

Now, it isn’t like stepping out the back door and shooting, as I can do at the Kansas farm (when weather allows). The range is too far from the house to run back and forth. I have to be organized, and make sure I have everything I need.

Often, I take a half-dozen firearms to the range. A couple I need to run through their paces for articles. Always, a .22 to practice with while barrels are cooling. Maybe a favorite hunting rifle to check zero, or to group a new handload recipe. At least one pistol or revolver, just to keep my hand in. Oh, sure, I’ve gotten to the range and realized I forgot to grab ammo for one or another, or maybe I forgot a spare scope in case I want to make a switch.

Boddington’s “range” tool kit is small and simple, including a small set of gunsmithing screwdrivers and bits, and multi-tools.

If I forget something for a gun I need to write about, that’s an expensive waste of time. So, I try to be organized. I make lists—guns, ammo, gear—and I check them off while I’m loading the truck. As for gear, I don’t need to haul everything. We have a little range house that holds targets, rests for the bench, shooting sticks, staple gun with lots of staples.


Most of what I need to bring stays in my Range Bag. Hunting buddy Gordon Marsh, proprietor of this site, and our mutual friend, Bill Green, spent a lot of time creating the “Boddington Gear” ( you’ll find on this site: Soft gun cases, range bags, and more. Available in good waxed cotton and excellent buffalo leather, I’m really happy with these products. The real point is: A great deal of thought went into the design.

The Boddington Gear range bag, available in buffalo leather or waxed cotton, is roomy enough to hold almost anything needed, including range spotting scope with bench tripod.

Good soft cases are essential to protect and safely transport valuable firearms, but my writing business truly depends on the range bag. I designed it large, because I haul a lot of stuff back and forth to the range. Side and end pockets are roomy enough to hold handguns in rugs…and a staple gun. I carry a spare in the range bag, ‘cause I’ve had them quit just when I needed to change targets.

Most of us who care about accuracy save targets, either to compare or brag about. I’m big on this, because when testing firearms, I have protocols to meet, as in “five five-shot groups with multiple loads.” I must save targets, so I can measure groups and photograph them later. I have two options. The range bag has a built-in file folder, not just for targets, but for instructions and other printed info. And, I have my buffalo leather target case, a cylindrical tube that allows me to roll up targets and save them with no damage. (Don’t save targets? It’s also a perfect fit for a straight-ocular-lens spotting scope.)

Good soft cases are essential for transporting and protecting valuable firearms. Boddington put a lot of thought into his soft gun cases and likes the results.

Now, regardless of what range bag you prefer, here’s the stuff I cram into mine for almost every range day. A small set of gunsmith tools, so I can tighten up screws or switch out an optic on the range as needed. A PAST recoil shield, used religiously for shooting off the bench with almost anything from .30-caliber up. Our Marine Corps mantra was: “Pain is good. Extreme pain is extremely good.” Sorry, but we shoot better when recoil doesn’t hurt, so at the bench I sissy up. Light, beanbag sandbags, so I can get my benchrest support exactly right. Also, a big leather “competition” shooting glove for the supporting hand. In my case, the right hand, because I’m left-handed. I use it on the bench, and in prone, to snuggle the butt against my shoulder, and to make fine elevation adjustments, keeps the rear sling swivel stud from barking my hand.

Naturally, shooting glasses and earmuffs! A spare left-hand strap on cheekpiece so, as needed, I can get the cheek-weld just right, often essential with unfamiliar test rifles, especially with today’s ever-larger scopes that must be mounted higher. And, down deep in one of the pockets, spare batteries—for any device you carry that might need a battery!

On the range with the MagnetoSpeed chronograph, measuring bullet speed with electromagnetic impulses. This is it; the case is underneath the monitor. Light, compact, fast to assemble and easy to use, this chronograph lives in the range bag, and can be taken anywhere.

Since part of my range days involve “test guns,” I carry a digital trigger pull gauge. Mine is from Lyman, stores multiple tests and yields the average. A chronograph is another essential device, invaluable for handloaders and long-range shooters, and a required work tool for me. The Oehler 35P has long been the gold standard; I’ve had one for 40 years, love it because it yields all needed data on a printout. However, the Oehler is bulky, stores in its own separate hard gun case, and takes time to set up. A few years back, I got a Crony, compact and easy to use, range-bag compatible. My buddy, who owns the ranch and thus the range, also has a Crony, keeps his in the range house, so it’s available on that range. The Oehler and Crony operate off skyscreens, detecting the passage of the bullet. The Oehler is absolutely accurate, but skyscreens are finicky in some light conditions.

The range Boddington uses most frequently has various rest options for the bench, but he keeps several lightweight “beanbag” sandbags in his range bag so he can adjust for a perfectly steady rest.

Recently, I got a MagnetoSpeed, measuring speed with electromagnetic sensors. The MagnetoSpeed Sporter now lives in my range bag. Inexpensive, weighs little over a pound, and folds up into its 12×3-inch case, about the size of a cigarette carton. It attaches to the barrel in seconds, stores up to 12 shots in a string, and yields High. Low, Average, Extreme Spread (ES), and Standard Deviation (SD). Mostly a rifle guy, MagnetoSpeed does almost everything I need, and can even go on hunts, to verify velocity and thus long-range data as atmospherics change.


Note that I said “almost.” MagnetoSpeed cannot be used with suppressors. And, since it attaches to the barrel, is not compatible with semiauto pistols with full-length slides. I just ordered a LabRadar, awesome device, measuring speed with Doppler radar. It will work on almost anything…except shotguns (multiple pellets confuse the radar).

Although fairly compact, LabRadar is a bit large for my range bag, so I’ll carry it separately when I need it. That’s not the only thing I carry separately. My camera(s) go in my daypack, along with binocular, or in a camera bag. The range spotting scope has a small tripod that fits handily in the bag, but if I intend to do some “setup” shots, I take a tripod for camera use.

Boddington keeps a PAST recoil shield in his range bag, and also carries an extra strap-on cheekpiece, invaluable for adjusting comb height…especially with the larger scopes used today, which must be mounted higher.

I like to clean at the range, either when finished, or between series of groups. For most of us, the range bag easily holds a jointed rod and everything else, but since I’m usually hauling multiple firearms in various calibers, I usually throw in my big Tipton cleaning set, about the size of a large toolbox. If I have it, I know I have all the right-size brushes and jags.

Most of us have calm, relatively focused range sessions with just a couple of firearms. The range bag probably has adequate room for all the ammunition needed, but my life doesn’t work that way. On my range days, I may have firearms chambered to a half-dozen different cartridges…with multiple loads for each. I put all my ammo in a separate box or bag, so I can keep it sorted, use one at a time…and then put back when I’m finished with that firearm. However you do it, there’s one cardinal rule: Just one caliber/cartridge on the bench at any time!



Craig Boddington

Previously, this column discussed the process of “sighting in.” If you’re happy, then we’re done; it’s time to head for the deer stand! We’re going to assume we have enough accuracy to reliably hit a deer’s vital zone at whatever distance we might shoot. The vital zone of even a small deer offers about an eight-inch target, so extreme accuracy isn’t essential for much for field shooting.

Boddington’s Jarrett wears a Leupold scope with a CDS turret, calling for a 200-yard zero. The left-hand group was shot at 200 yards, ensuring a good starting point for dialing with a 180-grain SST load.

Hey, I love tiny groups because they instill confidence, and I love to ring steel at long range. However, I’m unlikely to shoot at a game animal much past 400 yards. Most of my shots at game are much closer, and many of us rarely need to reach past 200 yards. Theoretically, if your rifle is producing one-inch groups at 100 yards (one Minute of Angle or “MOA”), then it should produce two-inch groups at 200 yards, four-inch groups at 400 yards, and so on. Considering the size of the vital zone, one MOA is more accuracy than essential.

Boddington’s rifles wear iron sights
: Some of Boddington’s rifles wear iron sights…and a few have worn barrels. Either way, extreme accuracy isn’t possible…and unnecessary for a lot of field shooting. With excellent paper-plate accuracy at 50 yards, this old .300 Savage would be just fine to 150 yards…if Boddington could see the front sight well enough!

Actual groups usually get larger as distance increases, so I don’t mind having more accuracy than I really need, but let’s be reasonable and practical. Even today, with the best rifles, optics, and ammo ever, not all rifles can produce one MOA accuracy.

Tight groups instill
Tight groups instill great confidence, but sub-MOA groups aren’t essential for most field shooting. This Savage 100 .30-06 is more than field-ready: The excellent right-hand group is two inches high at l00 yards; the bullet will be “on” at about 200 yards

Not a train smash; 1.5 MOA is plenty for most field shooting. Most modern rifles will do at least this well, and that’s “good enough,” at least at normal field ranges. I have older rifles that are “two MOA” rifles.  Also not a problem. I hunt with them, but only in close-range situations! With such rifles, I usually do my zeroing on ten-inch paper plates. In that context, “paperplate accuracy” is good enough! Regardless of the accuracy you have to work with, and the ranges you might consider shooting, you still must decide exactly where to leave your rifle zeroed before you head afield.


Traditionally, most of us leave a rifle zeroed slightly high at 100 yards, to take advantage of the bullet’s trajectory. Here’s how this works: There are two straight lines, line of bore and, slightly above, line of sight. Both are straight, but the path of the projectile is curved. Gravity starts working on any projectile as it leaves the muzzle, and air resistance slows it down. As distance increases, the projectile falls ever more quickly, eventually striking the ground.

: Gordon Marsh of LG Outdoors
Gordon Marsh of LG Outdoors at his bench, checking handload velocities with a Lab Radar, a wonderfully accurate tool that uses Doppler radar to measure bullet speed.

If line of bore and line of sight remain parallel, the bullet will never cross the line of sight and no zero can be achieved. Using sight adjustments, we actually zero so the line of bore and line of sight slightly converge. Line of bore remains straight, while the projectile’s path is curved. With line of bore tilted slightly upward relative to line of sight, the projectile’s curving path crosses line of sight twice, once at short range and again farther out. In between these points the projectile’s path will be above the line of sight. The point at which this distance above line of sight is greatest is referred to as “mid-range trajectory.”

Springfield Waypoint in 6.5mm
On the bench with a Springfield Waypoint in 6.5mm PRC. The scope is a Zeiss 2-12X; the big 56mm objective requires the scope (line of sight) to be considerably higher than line of bore. Height of the scope is a critical factor in good ballistics data and must be correct.

The steepness of the trajectory curve depends on velocity and projectile aerodynamics. In establishing final zero, we usually try to use that curve to best advantage, extending the ranges at which we can shoot without having to worry about holding off the target (above or below) to compensate for that curving trajectory.

There should be little mystery about the actual trajectory curve. For generations, printed ballistics charts have yielded this information, usually suggesting various sight-ins at 100 yards (the bullet’s first crossing of line of sight), and telling us greatest height of trajectory, and where the dropping projectile crosses line of sight again, and yielding bullet drop at various ranges as the decline accelerates.

On the bench with a Jarrett rifle
On the bench with a Jarrett rifle in .300 Win. Mag. Boddington’s California range is hot in summer, cool in winter, and always near sea level. When figuring ballistics data for open-country hunts, he estimates expected temperature and elevation. This works fine for the ranges he shoots at game, but guesswork isn’t good enough for extreme-range shooting.

Today, ballistics programs and smartphone apps yield the same information, and allow us to input altitude, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and more, all of which increase in importance as range increases. Printed data assumes a standard measurement of line of sight over line of bore (height of scope). Electronic data allows us to input this. With the larger (higher-mounted) scopes in vogue today, that measurement must be accurate.

PH Poen van Zyl and Texan John Stucker
PH Poen van Zyl and Texan John Stucker at the bench in Mozambique, checking zero on Stucker’s .375. With a crocodile hunt in the offing, we adjusted our zeros very carefully to be exactly dead-on at 50 yards.

All data, whether printed or electronic, assumes that the starting velocity is correct. Barrels vary in length, and there are “fast” barrels and “slow” barrels. For truly accurate data, it’s essential to use a chronograph to check the speed of your load in your rifle.

gnarly spike on his Kansas farm.
Boddington was delighted to take this ancient and gnarly spike on his Kansas farm. The rifle is a Mossberg 464 with AimPoint red-dot sight. The rifle was zeroed at 50 yards, the shot about the same distance

Fortunately, the vital zone of a big-game animal remains a large target! None of this stuff matters much if your goal is to shoot your buck from a favorite treestand, like in thick timber at my Kansas farm. When I’m setting up a rifle for an open-country hunt, you bet I measure height of scope and check velocity! Effects of altitude and climatic factors are less critical…until you get past normal shooting distance, or you have extreme variations. In preparation for fall hunts, I do my summer shooting in hot, low country. I make a guess on anticipated altitude and climatic factors, run the data, and zero accordingly. This has proven adequate for the ranges I shoot at game…but isn’t precise enough for extreme-range work!


Whether at 25, 50, or 100 yards, a dead-on zero with a modern rifle cartridge is the first time the bullet crosses the line of sight. Farther on, it will be above the line of sight and, as the curve steepens, it will cross line of sight again somewhere downrange.

It is not true that “dead-on at 25 yards” will be close to “on” at 100 yards. This is possible with slower cartridges, and with iron sights or low-mounted scopes. With faster cartridges and higher-mounted scopes, I’ve found that a 25-yard zero will usually strike too high at 100 yards. A 50-yard zero comes closer, especially with low-mounted sights. I often zero iron-sighted rifles and scoped big-bores at 50 yards and call it done, knowing that I’m unlikely to use such rifles much past 100 yards. However, with today’s big scopes, I find that a 50-yard zero is usually three or four inches high at 100 yards. This puts the second crossing of the line of sight ‘way out there, and creates a mid-range trajectory as much as six inches above line of sight. For me, this increases risk of shooting over an animal (or hitting too high).

John Stucker and Boddington with Boddington’s Mozambique croc
John Stucker and Boddington with Boddington’s Mozambique croc, taken in September 2021 with a Blaser .375 H&H. The Nile crocodile must be taken with either a brain or spine shot. All rifles were zeroed dead-on at 50 yards; Boddington’s four-hunter group took four big crocs…anchored with one shot each.

For close-range work, there’s nothing wrong with a 100-yard zero. Depending on cartridge, “dead-on at 100” will be on again at 150 to 175 yards, with little mid-range-rise. More common is to zero a “couple of inches high” at 100 yards. You can study ballistics charts and programs, and you should. Depending on your cartridge (and load, and bullet), a zero of two to 2.5 inches high at 100 yards will put you dead-on somewhere between 200 and 300 yards. You shouldn’t have to hold low at closer range, and you shouldn’t have to hold over until nearly 250 yards. In my youth, Jack O’Connor was our greatest gunwriter. His consistent advice was to zero “two to 2.5 inches high” at 100 yards. I believe his formula remains sound, and that’s the way I usually zero for general-purpose use. Most important to me: I never establish a 100-yard zero any higher than that, because of the risk of shooting over at “medium” range!


These days, dial-up turrets are all the rage, and they change the game. Some systems require either a 100 or 200-yard zero as the starting point. If you intend to dial the range, then I assume you may be shooting at some distance. I don’t like a 100-yard zero in open country, simply because you must start holding over (or dialing) at fairly close range. With today’s optics, dialing is precise, but fraught with human error: You must dial correctly and, if you don’t shoot, you must remember to dial back to zero. (Trust me, everybody forgets now and then!)

Leupold CDS
With a good scope, dialing the range or holdover is the most precise method, but the data must be correct and verified by shooting at actual distance. This CDS turret is for a .300 Weatherby Magnum load at a measured 3185 fps with 180-grain SST. The 6000 feet elevation and 30-degree F temperature reflect anticipated hunting conditions.

I’ve used several systems with good results, but a favorite is Leupold’s Custom Dial System (CDS), with turret calibrated to my load at a stated altitude and temperature. On these, again, I strike an average of most likely conditions. My CDS is based on a 200-yard zero. At 250 yards I’ll usually hold slightly high on the shoulder, keeping it simple and taking advantage of that large vital zone. I normally don’t consider dialing until about 300 yards.

If your system is based on a 200-yard zero, then you should check zero at the actual distance, so your starting point is verified as correct. Then, if you’re serious about shooting at longer ranges, you need to verify your data all the way out. This is a stumbling block for many who don’t have ready access to a “long” range. Sorry, whether published or electronically generated, data cannot be considered valid until verified by shooting at actual distance. The farther you might consider shooting at game, the more critical this becomes!

Rigby 7x57 groups
: This Rigby 7×57 groups about 1.5 MOA with this load, a 139-grain Interlock at 2700 fps. Zeroed two inches high at 100 yards, the bullet will be “on” at 200 yards, so a dead-on hold will work to about 225 yards.

Finally, if you’ve traveled some distance—by any means—it’s important to check zero when you arrive at your hunting destination. There’s no consistency about how much (or how little) rattling around may cause a shift in point of impact, so it’s always worth checking. On long, tough hunts, I’ll usually check zero every few days, for sure if the rifle has been dropped! I also recommend checking zero after an inexplicable miss. It’s terrible for the ego, but great for peace of mind to know for sure it was your fault! When planning ammo for a distant hunt, factor in enough to check zero about three times!  

SAFARI ED “You don’t know what you don’t know.” NOW YOU CAN LEARN! By Craig Boddington

Africa remains the hunter’s paradise. She offers the greatest variety, and a safari is truly the world’s last great adventure. And, if you shop well, the world’s most affordable big game experience! In the wake of the pandemic, Africa is opening up. The game is almost always abundant, but with so little pressure for nearly two years, more plentiful than ever in many areas. Africa’s outfitters and their staffs—and Africa’s wildlife—need your business. And many of you need to get out. The opportunity is there, and the timing has never been better!

Cape buff-shot placement
There’s something about dark animals that confounds the human eye, making proper shot placement difficult. Safari Ed can’t cure the problem, but offers visuals and suggestions that will help

Planning a safari is a big step! Some African hunts are admittedly expensive…but not all. The cost for a memorable, life-changing plains game safari can be similar to a guided elk hunt in the Rockies, or a caribou hunt in Alaska. However, hunting Africa is not free, and cannot be compared to “do-it-yourself” public land hunting. As a visitor, you must hire a licensed professional hunter…who will have a staffed camp and hunting areas. A safari is thus an investment in memories. Taking the plunge can be daunting, so it makes sense to prepare well and, the more preparation, the more successful you will be…realizing the most from your investment!

So, what are the best ways to ensure safest possible firearms handling when crawling in on an animal? Safari Ed offers suggestions!

So, how do you prepare? There have always been great books on Africa, and countless magazine articles. Today there are excellent videos and films, but there’s never been “everything you wanted (and needed) to know” in just one place. Which is why my old friend Conrad Evarts and I created Safari Ed!

Boddinton _ Hunting _ Cert
Today, the required Hunter Safety certification is almost universal in the United States. Boddington still carries the California Hunter Certification card he received at Camp Pendleton in 1975.

When I was a youngster, “hunter education” was in its infancy, and not yet required in my home state. My first “hunting training” was when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton; I needed a Hunter Safety certification to get a California hunting license. Since then, Hunter Safety has become almost universal in the United States. In some states the requirement depends on birth year and rolls forward a year every year. All US states reciprocate in accepting an approved course so, no worries, I still have my tattered 1976 California Hunter Safety card…and I carry a copy with my hunting license.

Today’s courses are more standardized, often with a mixture—or choice—between on-line and classroom training. The up sides are obvious: We want all hunters, not just new hunters, to be safe, ethical, and more successful. The down side, especially in some areas, is limited availability of required classroom instruction. We are all aware of the necessity to recruit new hunters, and difficulty in obtaining required certification can be a roadblock.

Hunting_ Cert_ 2
Caroline Boddington with her first game animal, a California wild hog. Obtaining the required Hunter Certification delayed her first hunting experience for several months because of limited availability of course.

American delays and inconveniences are nothing compared to what prospective hunters must undergo in some countries. In Germany, it takes a year or more of weekly night courses to obtain a hunting license. Passing the final exam is pretty much a one-shot deal, and failure carries a major stigma. Gordon Marsh, proprietor of LG-Outdoors and Wholesale Hunter e-commerce sites, took the year-long curriculum when he was a young soldier stationed in Germany. The framed license holds a place of honor on his office wall. I am not aware of any “hunter-training” requirements as rigorous as Germany’s.

Required hunter training is much more rigorous in Europe. Shooting tests are often required; this Finland’s “running moose” target, required in order to hunt. The target runs on a track and is shot standing unsupported at 100 meters.

Even there, temporary licenses can be granted to visitors. However, in many European countries one must pass a shooting test in order to hunt. In Finland, I had to pass the “running moose” shooting test; in Sweden, it was the running boar. The target moves on a track—not so slow—and shooting is standing, unsupported. Not so easy!

Safari Ed wasn’t intended to be difficult, or to put anyone on the spot. Instead, it’s informative, fun, and visual, hundred-percent on-line. It will answer a lot of questions, many you probably hadn’t even thought of.

Gun_safety_ 2
A big difference between Africa and the hunting most of are used to: In Africa, hunters are rarely alone, often with a professional hunter and multiple trackers. This changes gun handling protocols.

I was young when I went on my first African safari. Like most young people, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. For a person my age (mid-20s), I’d done a fair amount of hunting, but I also wasn’t as experienced as I believe myself to be. I made a lot of mistakes on my early safaris because I didn’t know what I didn’t know! I’d read everything I could get my hands on, but in those days, there was no internet and no outdoor TV. Today, these resources are invaluable…but I wish there had been Safari Ed, a focused program that addresses both the specifics of African hunting…and the differences between Africa and the hunting most of us are familiar with.

Safety is safety…but, in Africa, when should your rifle be loaded?

Safe gun handling is what it is, and is fairly universal, so (as an author) of Safari Ed, I’d be the first to agree that basic firearms safety is a review. However, in Africa you are almost never hunting alone, so there are important nuances…including gun safety while stalking, tracking, even crawling!

Shooting is a bit different, too. Before I landed in Kenya I’d never even heard of “African shooting sticks. Today they are more common…but they remain in almost universal use across Africa. I still see a lot of first-time African hunters who have done little practice shooting off sticks. So, Safari Ed is rich in what I call “stickology!”

Three-legged “African shooting sticks” are in almost universal use on safari. Safari Ed spends a of time, with demonstrating videos, on “stickology.”

 Africa is a huge continent with tremendous variety of wildlife. All African hunting isn’t the same, and there are many options for the modern safari. So, we broke Safari Ed into segments. We start with hunting the non-dangerous game, the antelopes, pigs, and zebras. The “plains game” safari is far the most common today, also the most affordable. Then we move up to buffalo, on to hunting the great cats, and then elephant. The final segment is the aquatics: Crocodile, hippo, and the semi-aquatic antelopes, collectively requiring some of Africa’s most specialized hunting.

Packing tips
Throughout, Safari Ed offers tips on essential and special equipment…along with packing tips!

In all the segments you will find basic information on the animals and their habitats; conservation notes; hunting techniques; shooting and shot placement; recommendations on rifles, cartridges, and sights…and special equipment. There are other places to go to help shop for your safari but, when you go, you’ll be more ready, more successful, and you’ll have more fun if Safari Ed is part of your preparation!

Visit the Safari Ed website Click Here


This old Savage 99 in .300 Savage passes the “paper plate test” easily. Provided the terrain doesn’t require long shooting, older rifles like this should put meat in the freezer with no problem.
This old Savage 99 in .300 Savage passes the “paper plate test” easily. Provided the terrain doesn’t require long shooting, older rifles like this should put meat in the freezer with no problem.

American rifle shooters have long been obsessed by accuracy and velocity, demanding more of both than is really necessary. Mind you, neither are bad things, although it depends on what you’re doing. In target shooting, accuracy is everything, although shooting disciplines and target sizes vary widely. In hunting, let’s be honest, the vital zone of a deer-sized animal is not a small target, and it’s exactly the same size at 40 or 400 yards. If you can consistently hit a volleyball or a ten-inch paper plate you should have venison for the freezer. That vital zone looks smaller and, for sure, becomes harder to hit as distance increases, but it’s still a large target.

This is the level of accuracy that you simply must have for a serious varmint rifle, in this case Boddington’s Ruger No. One in .204 Ruger. Groups like this probably aren’t essential for most big-game hunting…but they build a lot of confidence!
This is the level of accuracy that you simply must have for a serious varmint rifle, in this case Boddington’s Ruger No. One in .204 Ruger. Groups like this probably aren’t essential for most big-game hunting…but they build a lot of confidence!

Obviously, different situations require more or less accuracy. I shoot the occasional coyote on the Kansas farm, and we wear out the armadillos because they dig up the yard, but an annual prairie dog shoot is my primary varmint hunting. A prairie dog is about three inches from back to belly so, that’s the window you must hit, and we do some of our prairie dog shooting beyond 400 yards. A one-inch group at 100 yards, what we call “Minute of Angle” (MOA) can be expected to naturally disperse to four inches at 400 yards…without taking into account wind and wobble. One MOA accuracy isn’t good enough for prairie dog shooting.

Continue reading “ACCURACY AND VELOCITY By Craig Boddington”



Craig Boddington

The two most popular actions in the U.S. must be John Browning’s Colt 1911 pistol…and Gene Stoner’s Armalite 15, long shortened to AR15 (which does not stand for “Assault Rifle”). Dozens and dozens of large and small firms make (and have made) firearms based on these actions. All self-loading actions have sharp limits on the size of cartridges they can accept. The .45 ACP cartridge was developed for and around the Colt 1911. Browning and his team must have done a good job because, 110 years later, the .45 ACP still rules the 1911 world. Although easily adapted to 9x19mm (and expanded to 10mm), the Colt 1911 frame has spawned few other pistol cartridges.

AR15 Rock River groups: Boddington’s “ranch rifle” is a left-hand Rock River AR in 5.56mm. It has served well from varmints to deer, and both availability and choices in ammo are strong suits of the .223/5.56mm.
AR15 Rock River groups: Boddington’s “ranch rifle” is a left-hand Rock River AR in 5.56mm. It has served well from varmints to deer, and both availability and choices in ammo are strong suits of the .223/5.56mm.

The AR15 action is also not new. Developed in the 1950s, it is fast approaching retirement age. Formal acceptance of the AR15 and its “final” cartridge by the U.S. military came in 1963. That cartridge was “Cartridge 5.56mm Ball M193, already released to the public as the .223 Remington. Then and now, the .223 is a great cartridge. It is not as inherently accurate as the .222 Remington, but the military specs required more velocity. This led to the .222 Remington Magnum…which led to the .223.

Old-timers (including me!) lamented the loss of the M14 and its 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester), more powerful and offering greater range…at cost in rifle and ammo weight and recoil. Right or wrong, the deal was done, and for decades the AR15 platform and the 5.56mm/.223 Remington were inextricably linked. However, there has been much recent development in “AR-compatible cartridges.

Continue reading “TOP THREE AR CARTRIDGES”


Across the country, it’s deer season! For some the best of the season is behind us, but for most American hunters the best part of the season is yet to come. This depends on where you live, depending on the season. Which, in turn, depends on local weather, deer densities, and management goals. Limits are based on the same! My friends in the Deep South tend to have amazingly long and lavish seasons, usually with multiple bucks allowed and lots of doe tags.

Brad McCarty 2019: Brad McCarty took this old, downhill buck from a Texas-style tower blind in Boddington’s largest food plot. At about 175 yards, this was one of the longest shots of 2019’s charmed season. Using a 6.5mm Creedmoor, his buck was down on the spot!
Brad McCarty 2019: Brad McCarty took this old, downhill buck from a Texas-style tower blind in Boddington’s largest food plot. At about 175 yards, this was one of the longest shots of 2019’s charmed season. Using a 6.5mm Creedmoor, his buck was down on the spot!

In the West and Midwest, we’re usually not so blessed. Deer densities are lower and the populations are more fragile. A “one-buck” license is more common. Whether you’re in South Carolina (where, uniquely, some counties still have no limit on bucks). Or, in Kansas, where we are a strict one-buck state, it makes sense to make every buck tag count. But it really doesn’t matter: The odds are with the deer! Whitetail or mule deer, there is no hundred-percent deer hunting in North America!

Dan Guillory 2019: Dan Guillory’s 2019 Kansas buck was the best of the season. Although genuine tracking was not required, this buck probably ran the farthest of any 2019 buck…despite a perfect lung shot with a 7x57.
Dan Guillory 2019: Dan Guillory’s 2019 Kansas buck was the best of the season. Although genuine tracking was not required, this buck probably ran the farthest of any 2019 buck…despite a perfect lung shot with a 7×57.

PIG POWER by Craig Boddington

Just after sunset we came around a bend in the trail. The pig was standing in deep shadow under an oak, good-sized, solitary, probably a boar. That’s about all we could tell, and that was enough. Donna’s shot looked good, but the pig rolled into a little depression just out of sight. Donna and our rancher friend, Tony Lombardo approached and immediately backed up…fast!

44 hog: This ugly hog was taken in a wild melee with dogs using a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. A big, open-sighted revolver is a great choice for hound hunting where shots are sure to be close, but not versatile enough in many situations.
44 hog: This ugly hog was taken in a wild melee with dogs using a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. A big, open-sighted revolver is a great choice for hound hunting where shots are sure to be close, but not versatile enough in many situations.

The first shot was fine, but the pig didn’t accept that and was almost on top of them before it dropped to a quick second shot. It was not exactly a close call, but several exciting seconds! In fading light, we hadn’t appreciated that this was a really good boar, burly and heavy, with four inches of thick, sharp tusk showing above the gum line.  

AG110923: A good-sized Texas porker, taken with a Winchester Model 71 in .348. Big-bore lever-actions are dramatically effective on hogs and fun to hunt with, but the aperture sight on this rifle limits range and, more importantly, becomes almost when the light goes.
AG110923: A good-sized Texas porker, taken with a Winchester Model 71 in .348. Big-bore lever-actions are dramatically effective on hogs and fun to hunt with, but the aperture sight on this rifle limits range and, more importantly, becomes almost when the light goes.
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The lever-action is part of our heritage, as American as apple pie, motherhood, and John Wayne. In rifle tastes, many of us have gravitated to super-accurate, flat-shooting rifles; others to adaptable, fast-shooting (and also accurate) semiautomatics. I’m okay with these, but as I grow older, I find myself circling back to lever-actions! 

A very good blacktail buck, taken with a Winchester M88 in .308 Winchester. Though not designed for lever-actions, the .308 has been chambered to a number of lever-actions…and there are few things that can’t be done with a .308.
A very good blacktail buck, taken with a Winchester M88 in .308 Winchester. Though not designed for lever-actions, the .308 has been chambered to a number of lever-actions…and there are few things that can’t be done with a .308.

The Winchester 1894 and Marlin 336 alone account for ten million rifles! The majority of these, thus the majority of lever-actions, were chambered to .30-30. Although mild by today’s standards, the .30-30 remains a fine deer cartridge! 

No lever-action is an extreme-range platform. Depending on which action or model, lever guns are hampered by some combination of pressure limitations, action length, two-piece stocks, tubular magazines, and sight restrictions. Over time, many of these problems have been solved, or at least mitigated: All Henry, Marlin, Mossberg, and Savage lever-actions can easily be scoped, as can all Winchester 1894s since 1982, when “Angle Eject” came in. Historically, blunt-nosed bullets with poor aerodynamics had to be used in tubular magazines. Hornady’s Flex-Tip bullet with compressible polymer tip solved this, instantly improving ballistics. 

Boddington used a Winchester M88 in .358 Winchester to take this Shiras moose on a tough-to-draw Wyoming permit. Although definitely not fast, the little .358 is a powerful cartridge that hits hard with little recoil.
Boddington used a Winchester M88 in .358 Winchester to take this Shiras moose on a tough-to-draw Wyoming permit. Although definitely not fast, the little .358 is a powerful cartridge that hits hard with little recoil.
Continue reading “THE VERSATILE LEVER-ACTION? By Craig Boddington”

Why not a .270?

Here’s a riddle: What cartridge is faster, more powerful, and shoots flatter than a 6.5mm Creedmoor…with similar recoil? And, is chambered to more rifles, with a wider selection of factory loads and component bullets? 

270 lineup-light: Left to right: .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .270 Winchester. All of these are great deer cartridges, but the .270 is far and away the fastest, most powerful, and most versatile of the group.

At the moment, it’s not true to say that everybody wants a 6.5mm Creedmoor. Right now, everybody wants whatever is ideal (or marginally suitable) for defending the hearth and home against virus-ridden zombie hordes. But I have to believe both happy and sane times will return, and we’ll spend more time thinking about hunting seasons past and looking forward to seasons ahead. I assume the Creedmoor Craze will continue, and everyone who wants a new hunting rifle will be longing for that amazing phenomenon, the 6.5mm Creedmoor. 

.270-general purpose: Left to right: .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum. All of these are acceptable elk cartridges, with the .270 and 7mm-08 good minimal choices, but fully adequate at moderate ranges.
.270-general purpose: Left to right: .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum. All of these are acceptable elk cartridges, with the .270 and 7mm-08 good minimal choices, but fully adequate at moderate ranges.
Continue reading “Why not a .270?”