New Shooters 101: Data Collection
Long range shooting is all about the details. The more we pay attention to and document all the variables the better we will become. Long range shooting explained simply is applying the fundamentals of marksmanship consistently while properly compensating for environmental conditions and effects. It doesn’t matter if you are a new shooter or an experienced shooter, recording all the data you can will help make you more proficient.
D.O.P.E. (DATA OF PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENTS)
D.O.P.E is a term used often in the long-range community. It refers to the data of previous engagements and is a data book used to track your rifles performance at different ranges with different wind speeds and values. As you collect and true your data you will have a reference to help get more accurate shots on target faster. What data is important?
When collecting data one of the first things I like to record is the Density Altitude where and when I am shooting. Living in upstate New York I can experience low density altitude in the cold winter months and a much higher density altitude in the warm summer months. Density Altitude can play a large roll on your adjustments and knowing how your rifle will perform and having data for multiple density altitude bands is very important for getting first round hits at distance.
Density Altitude requires you to have the following information: Temperature, Barometric Pressure, Altitude, and Humidity. Apps like the Applied Ballistics Tool Box can then calculate your density altitude.
Below are 4 range cards for my .308 shooting Prime 175 GR OTM ammunition at 2592 fps. All range cards use a 10 MPH wind at 90°. The density altitudes represented are 0, 3000, 6000, and 9000.
Wind is quite possibly one of the biggest factors to consider when shooting at long-range. The wind at your position and the wind at your target can be doing completely different things. The more data you collect on the wind the better you will become at shooting in the wind. Fine tuning you ability to read wind down range takes practice and documenting the times you are right as well as the times you are not will help you get more comfortable shooting in the wind.
I like the clock method of reading the wind as it helps me remember my full values, 1/2 values, and 0 value. The Magpul Quick Reference cards have a helpful card pictured below that also gives you the necessary data to gauge wind through your scope down range.
Below are examples of wind at a full value, 1/2 value, and 0 value. All winds are at 10 MPH and based off my .308 shooting Prime 175GR ammunition.
If you shoot in practical precision matches or find yourself out hunting having to set up hasty positions it never hurts to document things that will make you a more proficient shooter. While you are practicing shooting off a barricade you will quickly find what works and what doesn’t. Knowing how to build a stable position quickly can have a lot of benefits when you are on the clock at a match or when time is against you to get that trophy buck. Another great option is to have someone take video or pictures while you are shooting. You can review them at home and break everything down good and bad to improve on your next trip to the range.
Call your shots
Another common practice with data books is to call your shots. Using a data book you can document where you think the shot went before confirming where it actually landed. This can help you self-diagnose what you did wrong. Everyone pulls shots and misses, however knowing why we pulled the shot or missed is what will help us improve. Did you miss call the wind, jerk the trigger, or fire from a rushed position when you could have made it more stable? Knowing what to work on at the range is a lot better than wasting ammo with no game plan.
Having a good data book is obvious when we talk about collecting data. I personally recommend the Magpul Precision Rifle Data Book 2.0 as well as their Quick Reference Cards. I reviewed them previously here.