“Three-quarter minute, right wind, send it when ready.” The Army Special Forces trained sniper peered down the spotting scope at his target, lining up a 1,006 yard shot for his teammate. At this distance, many variables had to be accounted for: muzzle velocity, bullet weight, bullet length, bullet diameter, the rate of twist, twist direction, elevation, station pressure, temperature, bullet spindrift, wind direction, wind speed, it doesn’t stop there. The shooter, moments earlier, adjusted the parallax on her long range scope, settled in with proper body position, exhaled evenly and paused to squeeze the trigger with just the pad of the index finger. At the sound of the crack, the 140 grain 6.5 Creedmoor bullet left the suppressed barrel and arced downrange nearly 8 feet above where it left. The spotter watched as the vapor trail created a parabolic curve and landed squarely in the steel-plated chest of the target. “Great shot, dead bear!” The shooter lifted her head up from the rifle, her perfect smile shined as she admired her first 1,000-yard hit. Just three hours earlier, this dentist from Florida had never taken a shot past 300 yards, and now here she was, lobbing projectiles at over half a mile with pinpoint accuracy. Can you expect these kinds of results from a long range shooting school?
Stephanie Baya, DMD, isn’t a “shooter”. While she enjoys hunting, she does it to put quality protein in her freezer, not for sport. The shooting part is just a means to an end. I should know, I began training Stephanie to hunt around 8 years ago, when we first met. At the time, she was very afraid of firearms, it took quite a while to get her to fire a 22 long rifle because of a bad experience she had as a child with a heavy recoiling handgun. In the last 7 years, Stephanie has learned to take wild game with rifle, shotgun, and bow. In late December 2017, Stephanie took her longest shot to date, a 306-yard attempt on a mature whitetail doe. Her shot hit the deer low, just below the heart, which led to a poor blood trail. We recovered the deer, with a little help from a four-legged friend, but Stephanie wasn’t happy with her performance. So, when I set out to find a long range shooting school near me, I was pleased to learn there was a world-class facility that was easily accessible and open year-round.
James Eagleman is the lead instructor for the Barbour Creek long range shooting school in Eufaula, Alabama. James served the United States as a sniper and sniper instructor for 27 years and during this time he taught thousands of long range shooting classes. He does what all great teachers do, which is distill very complicated subject matter into learning objectives that civilian snipers and those interested in long range hunting can easily understand and apply.
James took Stephanie through 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of shooting over two days of long range shooting school and the results speak for themselves. Stephanie made shots on the steel plate and silhouette targets from 300 to 1,006 yards with unbelievable accuracy. Her first 3 shot group at 1,000 yards was 2.5 inches. That is ¼ MOA and is the equivalent of putting three bullets in the same hole at 100 yards. How was that possible? Here’s a hint: EVERYTHING matters.
“James took Stephanie through 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of shooting over two days of long range shooting school and the results speak for themselves.”
Level 1 long range shooting school began with instruction on proper shooting technique for long range hunting. Guess what? I’ve been teaching Stephanie to shoulder her rifle incorrectly. Although the rifles we were shooting look similar to the bolt action rifles we are all familiar with, there are subtle differences in stock design that allow the shooter to place the recoil pad directly on the pectoral muscle, as opposed to in the bicipital groove. Why is this important? By placing the butt of the rifle on the pectoral, the shooter has a more vertical (and comfortable) head position which leads to less torquing of the rifle and shooter fatigue at the neck and eye. This, along with proper front and rear support, breathing, grip tension, and parallax adjustment all play into consistently hitting targets 10 football fields away.
After coaching her shooting technique, James taught Stephanie various lessons on external ballistics, like MOA (minute of angle) and how to adjust and hold for wind. Ever wondered how the wind is calculated downrange? James teaches how to use mirage, the heat waves leaving the earth’s surface, to determine not only wind speed but direction as well. No mirage? James teaches two additional methods for learning to hold for wind, a critical component of long range hunting. Bottom line, don’t get in this guy’s (or any of his students) sights.
Every important detail of equipment function and selection is covered. The first epiphany for me was in the stock design. Barbour Creek Long Range shooting school has designed their custom long range hunting rifles with stocks specifically designed to reduce muzzle flip. Ever wondered why you lose sight of your animal when you take the shot? You don’t with their rifles. Not only does the design help you stay on target, but it results in recoil that goes straight back into the shooter as opposed to downward. Stephanie shot over 100 rounds of 6.5 Creedmoor over two days and she was never bothered by recoil. There is a tremendous amount to learn about long range hunting equipment. James was great about teaching the 20% that makes 80% of the difference and leaving the minutiae for another day. We learned about bedding type, bullet types, terminal performance standards, ballistic coefficient, factory vs. handloads, shot placement, ethical killing ranges, gravity, environmental effects, even the earth’s rotation and how all of these effect bullet placement! It all adds up when you step out past 500 yards.
“Barbour Creek Long Range shooting school has designed their custom long range hunting rifles with stocks specifically designed to reduce muzzle flip and reduce recoil”
And step out past 500 yards you will. But do you know what was the astounding part to me? We had fun! I’ve done my best to keep shooting and hunting enjoyable, but I’ll be the first to admit, shooting 100 rounds from a high powered rifle isn’t my idea of a laugh-out-loud extravaganza. Why was it so much fun? Basically, it boils down to people, equipment and location.
The staff at Barbour Creek makes sure you learn something. Bring your own rifle and they will advise you on the right load, let you try your rifle on the range, and tell you how you can modify your weapon to start stretching your killing distances. While giving your equipment a test run, you can also use the latest and greatest long range scopes, ballistic rangefinders, and custom long range rifles to see how they compare to your current setup.
Did equipment make it fun? You bet. Shooting suppressed allows the shooter and their spotter to speak in a normal tone and shoot without the need for ear protection. Not only that, the soft recoiling rifles were great for adolescents or shooters who shy from recoil.I left feeling confident that Stephanie and I could make ethical shots out to 800 yards on wild game. Not only that, the lessons I learned I will pass down to my son if he decides to hunt with me someday.
So that brings me to the facility itself. Barbour Creek’s long range shooting school is set on over 1000 acres of agriculture and timberland near beautiful Lake Eufaula. The “shoot house” as they call it, is a climate controlled facility completely equipped with everything a shooter needs to learn long range hunting. No sweating, or freezing, or swatting at bugs. There is ample room for a large group to shoot and learn in the large classroom right next door.
And what about accommodations? What about the rest of the family? We were treated to delicious southern cooking, 3 square meals a day, and relaxation afterward in the beautifully restored farmhouse. We even brought along our little one and remained in complete comfort. Eufaula has beautiful antebellum homes, Lake Eufaula has wonderful fishing, and the beaches are only a 3-hour drive away. This long range shooting school is in a really great spot to make it part of a bigger trip if your partner isn’t into hunting (lucky me, mine is!).
If you have more interest in long range hunting, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter HERE and stay tuned as we take a deeper dive into some of the ins and outs of long range hunting. If you want to get educated fast and start shooting now, give the folks over at Barbour Creek a call to set up a school for you or your group.
Important Contact Information:
Barbour Creek Long Range Shooting School
200 Self Rd. Eufaula, Al 36027