Hints for Long Range Riflemen

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The Elcho Shield was first competed for by England and Scotland in 1862 during the National Rifle Association’s Annual Rifle Meeting held on Wimbledon Common, Surrey, England. The match featured teams of eight shooters firing 15 shots each at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. In 1865 the match was expanded to include an Irish Team.

The Captain of the Scottish Team for many years was veteran rifleman Horatio Ross. His letters encouraging Scotsmen desirous of “becoming a first-class shot” were published in the press. That of 11 April 1864 gave hints “intended more for young men who have not as yet taken part in public competitions than for our old and experienced riflemen.” This advice is still relevant today and worthy of reprint and study by the long range rifleman. Ross wrote:

Your first step should be to purchase a match rifle with all the modern improvements, and made by a first-rate gunmaker. I recommend you to practice chiefly with aperture sights, my experience having satisfied me that they have a great advantage over the old bead sight for target practice.

Buy a considerable quantity of powder of the number and manufacturers recommended by the maker of your rifle. Mix it and replace it in the canister. You will, by taking this trouble, be certain of shooting at all times with powder of equal strength.

Weigh every charge of powder carefully before going to the rifle range; for, unless you attend to this, your shooting will be irregular.

Keep very careful memoranda of your shooting, noting the point whence the wind blows, its strength, the state of the atmosphere, the light, and the height of the barometer.

Begin at 800 yards, and when you can command the bull’s-eyes, note the elevation of your sight; and if the wind is blowing across the range, make a similar memorandum of the number of hundreds of an inch required by the wind-gauge to correct the lateral deviation.

Before leaving the first distance, fire a good many experimental shots, raising and lowering your elevation one-hundredth (100th) of an inch each shot, and making similar alterations on the wind gauge. Note particularly the effect of their alterations, as by doing so you will be able, when shooting in a match, to correct errors of elevation or of allowance for wind.

Go through the same process at 900 and 1000 yards, and occasionally practices at 1100 and 1200 yards, as nothing strengthens the eyesight more than shooting at very long ranges.

If you attend to these hints, you will in a few weeks have memoranda applicable to every description of weather, and will know before you fire a shot the elevation and allowance for wind which are required.

Horatio Ross

P.S. – In speaking of altering your sights by hundreds of an inch, I am calculating on your rifles being provided with Vernier’s scales, without which it is impossible to make fine shooting.

Source: The Scotsman, 14 April 1864

Horatio Ross’s fourth son, Edward, was the winner of the first Queens Prize match held at Wimbledon during the NRA’s Annual Prize Meeting in 1860.